Friday, September 19, 2014

The last debt before the mortgage.

Have you ever listened to Dave Ramsey explain his formula? If you haven't, you need to google him ASAP. I'll wait. For those of you who have heard of him, hubby and I decided we would get the student loans taken care of once and for all!

His student loans are supposedly going to drop off/away after so many years because he works for the government, but really...will that actually happen? No idea. So we decided to tackle the student loan cloud hanging over our heads.

What is I doing to help pay off this loan? Well, first of all, I applied for 3 different part and full time jobs at my kids' school district. If I happen to land a job and day care, (yay) but if not, then that's quite alright. I actually love staying at home. Or maybe I could work just until we get the mortgage paid off :) and finally work on my novel full time. I believe in having goals.

As for this student loan...we need a second car. Hubby is working away at as much overtime that they will actually let him (since it's a rare thing in his work universe). We are hoping to buy a second car with that overtime. We could put it towards debt, but we're starting to need that second car for emergency trips and kids' activities. We've gone three years with just one car and believe me, I'm not applying for another loan. I've been eyeing a $3,000 Buick. Yes, a grandma car. Why does Grandma own a Buick? Because they were actually built before Ford, so you know they're more reliable than Ford and I owned one in my college years. The only reason I sold  my Buick was because we moved to Smoggy California (different transmission or engine or something).

Anyway, paying off this student loan isn't going to be easy. By our calculations, now that the only family car is paid off, if we put that extra money towards the student loans, it will be paid off in 16 months.

I posted a few things my fellow MOPS moms swap page telling them my family is trying to pay off student loans and you know what? I was able to sell my son's old Duplo legos for $15. Not a huge amount of money, but hey- every penny is worth it.

Check out that debt thermometer on here! Just to show how our progress is going.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is a Dehydrator Worth It?

A dehydrator takes the water out of food, creating a way to lighten your load or space. It helps spices to remain almost forever, backpackers to carry weeks worth of waterless meals in their backpacks, and water out of fruit and meat for snacks.

An average dehydrator costs around $30. Is it really worth it? Well, let's look at the cost of spices at the grocery store. Let's take basil for example. I bought a fresh basil plant in early March. We're halfway through April and it's still producing leaves. We bought a sweet basil plant at a local nursery for $2.50.

Granted, the pot, soil, and water costs money, but its a small enough amount that it really doesn't add to much since the plant is so small. It's not like we're using enough water to fill a bathtub or anything. I'm a huge fan of gardening and when you plant even just one plant, like spices, it's well worth the money.
Any old dehydrator will get the job done :)

After cutting off the leaves, you should wash them (and make sure there are no bugs or insects on them).
Put a plastic tray (usually for fruit leather) on the bottom tray. This will catch all the crumbs when they are dehydrated

Place the leaves in an even layer on your dehydrator tray.

Wait 3-4 hours, but check them once in awhile. I tried dehydrating fresh strawberries one time and I actually burned them! So keep an eye on your special leaves.

When will they be done? I don't have fancy buttons on my dehydrator, but when they crumple when you touch them, they're done. Kind of like bacon.  Place them in a ziploc and have a kid crumple them to the size you want them.
Fresh organic basil

Back to the original question: is a dehydrator worth it? A regular container spice container of basil is minimum $3.00 around here. I bought the basil plant for $1.99 and have gotten at least 2 spice containers full from just one basil plant without adding any miracle grow or anything.

So the answer is yes. Over time, you can dehydrate many things...for mucho cheaper than the grocery store. Plus, who needs to keep buying the same spice container? Although they are handy...

Other uses for a regular $30 dehydrator:

Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds
Dried Fruit (Grapes-Raisins)
Meat Jerky
Spices (Basil, Parsley, etc)
Flowers (who knew?)

A great website for more dehydrator uses: 

Definitely a kitchen investment! You can use all that extra money towards your debt and create some kitchen or craft experiments :)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthday Girl Turns 6...on a budget

This month our daughter is celebrating her 6th birthday. Granted, birthdays are a huge deal for kids and some parents. For us, we really cannot afford to celebrate it at Chuck E Cheese, Pump it Up, or any party planning place. So what does our family do? We went to the park.

Have to have cupcakes to celebrate!
Not only did the kids get a workout on the playground equipment, I brought along Capri Suns (back of the pantry), bottled water, goldfish, snap peas, carrots, and craisins.

Does anyone look like they are having a horrible time? Not after homemade cupcakes ;)

Not only does this help your local park, but it helps your local economy too. What a way to celebrate a kid's birthday! Even the parents were excited about the beautiful weather and getting their kids outdoors to run around. The girls ran around playing freeze tag while the boys played on the equipment.

The only downside is parents want to drop off their kids...with only two adults there. Watching them is okay, it's the getting hurt part I worried about. Most parents were okay with this. Or maybe they can trust me since I volunteer in my daughter's classroom.

Financially, how did we do? The only thing I bought extra were the things I did not have which was... surprisingly nothing. I could have sent party favors home, but you know what? We didn't have the extra money. So I used what I had and there were no sad kids there. They got veggies and crackers, a small drink, and a cupcake. See- no big, lavish, expensive party for 2 hours. $10 to rent the shelter (I think) and basic snack foods with cupcakes. Win-win for everyone!
I put "Gifts Optional" on her birthday invites- she got so many gifts!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today's Grocery Trip

As I went to the grocery store today, I was beaten down mentally. It had nothing to do with the grocery store. It was my kids. Payday is today and I went to the bank drive-thru, pulled out grocery money, and promptly headed to the store.

Lo and behold, its spring break and these kids of mine are nightmares! I'm not trying to be mean, but they are those kids who throw a fit at almost anything. If one kid wants a chicken nuggets, the other wants pizza. It's night and day.

My oldest, who just turned 6, sat in the cart as my 4 year old pushed the cart into one of those glass refrigerated doors. Seriously? Usually he is good, sweet, and helpful. Quite the opposite today. Then there's my oldest. She tries to be a people pleaser, but the "do you remember" and "can we get that?" questions are endless. Or how about the 4 year old's mindless questions and "why"? "Why do I need to wash my hands?" "Why do I have to pick up my room?" "Why do I have to match my clothes?" The latter part bugs me. I went into the store looking for 6 items. I came out with over double that.

Ugh! Hubby is gone out of town and with little to no breaks for myself, how can a SAHM stay sane when just going to the grocery store? Granted I could let them watch Netflix on my phone, but going to one store shouldn't require entertaining them.

Luckily we did get everything we needed, plus I found some natural meat on sale at Fresh and Easy today :)  After all, I was NOT taking my kids to another store. Part of today's expensive trip included meat: ground beef and pork.

Ground Beef: $6.99 for 1 lb. Yay! Plus its grass-fed so I don't need to drive all the way to Trader's Joe for 1 pound of decent meat. I usually make this last for two meals and double up on the veggies or rice for filler.

Pork Tenderloin: Regular price: $6.04 on sale for $4.53 for 1.21 lbs This will make 1-2 meals for Taco meat in the crockpot. Goes great with quesadillas, Spanish rice, and refried beans to extend the meat.

Hope this helps and I WILL definitely be grocery shopping solo next time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

SAHM Income?

As a SAHM I'm not 100% a mom. I spend my very valuable time researching aka web surfing for DIY projects and experiments, writing a novel, submitting manuscripts to various agents, cooking, baking, sewing, teaching (my kids), volunteering at my kids school, photographer, and keeping my kids the ways of the world. Yes, I punish them with hard work.

So what the heck can I do to make an income from home? Let me know if you find that answer. I honestly have no clue. I know that if I had any sort of income from home, I would do it and excel at it as long as it doesn't involve other people. Ironic, isn't it? We have all these medical bills to pay off each month and to be honest, it's downright scary.

I've tried cake decorating, creating craft kits, and jewelry making for a little extra cash, but now I'm an official photographer. Is it for every stay at home mom? No. I'm not trying to dissuade you from becoming a photographer as a stay at home mom, but you need to have more than just a camera. You need personality.

Moving from the Midwest four years ago, I wanted to open a retail shop, but the costs to start one up are astronomical- on top of baby daycare. So after learning to decorate cakes, I found out I could not legally bake from home and now that California has the cottage food law, I can't have my dog or kids anywhere near the kitchen. Is that even a possibility?

Jewelry making was a joke. We have half shag beige carpet and with those seed beads getting sucked up in the vacuum, it's not a pretty sound.

On top of this all are kids. All the way from diapers to "Mommy, I want to help!" Then comes the crying and/or disasters from both me and the kids. Then hubby's infamous, "What's for dinner?" *bangs head on kitchen counter* Because I don't do anything all day, right?

This led me to photography. Hubby got me a really nice camera and said, "I know you can do something with this." Yes! A nice, great photograph-taking machine! I snapped pictures of the kids non-stop, learning the functions, researching various poses, props, locations, the whole nine yards.

You can take amazing pictures with your expensive camera. You can take amazing pictures with your inexpensive camera. It doesn't matter what equipment, props, or backgrounds you have. What matters is your marketing. I seem to know a little about everything, but yet I can't find a stable way to produce an income because I hardly leave the house. Being that one car family limits when I can leave the house in the suburbs during the day, but on the weekends and evenings, photography allows me to leave everything behind and focus on my job.

As for editing, I like to write and edit in silence, so that limits my time to nap time and bedtime. I can give 100 people flyers, postcards, and business cards with only 1 or 2 who will maybe respond. Unless you know people wanting pictures, don't waste your time saving for an expensive camera.

You need to be outgoing (and good with kids if you want to photograph kids) and get to know your community-build a network. This will block out the other photographers and keep you above the already saturated SAHM photography market.

I love taking photographs, don't get me wrong, but don't make my mistake by being introverted and almost anti-social. You have to jump right in and keep going no matter what it takes to get ahead of the game. I love taking nature photography-one of the hardest photography genres. I've never sold one nature photograph due to not meeting new people in my community who could possibly help me out.

So think about if a home business is the right choice for you. I know its not for me. I'd rather be making/creating something, not marketing and forcing sales. I would love to be able to make an income from home, but I probably won't make any if I continue to not meet new people in my community.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April's First Half Grocery Bill

The month of April I had to buy household cleaners, snack foods for my daughter's class, and get ready for a birthday party this Saturday. How am I going to do that with $400 this month? Well, in reality, I only have $200 until the 15th (second paycheck).

Did I make it to the second paycheck before running out of money? Nope. But I have learned a few things along the way.

We did have to skip on getting party favors (bag of marshmallows, carrot, raisins, and pretzel sticks) to make an Olaf. We can't afford to get small waters for kids ("melted snow"), but we do have two pitchers that we can make Kool-Aid in one and another for water, so we can do the "melted snow" thing!

What did we buy? I can hear everyone asking.
Winco: Gluten Free Chocolate Cereal (for the kids) $3.57 Kid's breakfast
             Organic 1/2 gallon mik                                 $3.48
Fresh & Easy: Green Enchilada Sauce                      $2.39 (should really learn how to make it)
             Organic Apples 4pack                                  $3.99 snack
             Sour Cream                                                   $2.79
             Red Onions (4 or 5 pack)                              $2.49
             Tortillas    (not sprouted or wheat)                $2.69
             Avocados <3 <3 <3  Too many                     $7.78
             Annie's Snack Mix (Clearance)                    $2.00
             Vine Tomatoes                                              $1.99
              Dried Fruit Cherries                                     $6.59
              Dried Fruit Apricots                                     $5.49
              Snickerdoodle Cookies                                $ 2.69
Trader Joe's
              Ground Beef, Grass Fed    1 lb.                    $6.99
              Pork Sausage, Sweet Italian                         $3.99
And Sam's Club
              Jimmy Dean Egg Sandwiches                     $10.78
              Mexican Cheese Shredded 5lbs                   $15.12
              Canned Anaheims 2 Cans                            $4.86
              Parsley Flakes                                              $3.88
              Nutty Bars (Daughter's School Snack)        $3.48
              Brown Eggs, Cage Free   18pack                $3.98 (probably only thing organic in my cart)
              Snap Peas                                                     $4.78 (snack and birthday party)
              Colby Jack Cheese Block                            $8.98 (snack, cooking, and birthday party)
              Bananas                                                        $1.36
                                                       Grand Total:     $116.14

Wow. What a difference compared to last week! Daddy and Daughter were complaining there are no snacks for school and work. *rolls eyes* Hubby was also complaining how empty the fridge looked when he opened it. It was the day before I went shopping and creating a meal plan before going really, really helped. I was able to get what I needed- minus junk food for the party.

 Sam's Club was the biggest money sucker of them all. It may look like I spent a lot there, but I was able to find items for Saturday night's dinner, plus some food for other Mexican food dinner nights (that can be frozen). I know I should have gone there in the first place- shame on me! I'm suppose to be buying healthy and organic. What the heck happened? A

Next week we will be heading somewhere...can I buy organic on my weekly allotment? Can Jenn get back on track?

It should be easier now that the birthday party is done, out of town guests are gone, and household supplies are made. Whew. Yay vacation time!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Birthday Party Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the big birthday party for the 6 year old. What all am I doing to celebrate this and stay on budget? Well, I found I have the ingredients for 24 cupcakes (no idea how many are going to show up). I have a bag of carrots, enough sugar for a pitcher of Kool-Aid (need to get rid of it), and

The carrots will be disguised as "Olaf's Nose" for the "Frozen" movie themed celebration. I don't have enough bottles of water for everyone, so I'll make Kool-Aid in a big pitcher and have a smaller pitcher of filtered ice water (melted snow). I'll also throw a bowl of goldfish and voila- the kids can go play and run around.

It's 80+ degrees here in the Bako, so I'm praying the spraypark area will be turned on. What a way to celebrate a "Frozen" themed movie! Ha!

I have no party favors and very little decoration. I was able to cut out some snowflakes out of construction paper and I will randomly tape them around the park for the kids to find. I have no games planned since its a park. Kids can play with each other on the equipment.

The funny part is one of the moms called and actually asked if she could just drop off her kid and if any other boys were there. I told her I wouldn't feel very comfortable since it's only my husband and I at a large park at this party. I'm not going to stress myself out over the decor, games, food/drinks, and entertaining a bunch of 4-6 year olds. Parents should be there to watch their own kids and kiss their boo-boos. Not me. It will only be there for 1-2 hours. Granted this mom had to work and Dad could bring him for a bit, but this is a gifts optional and play at the park.

This mom has more to life than spending hundreds of dollars and time on one 1-2 hour birthday party for a 6 year old. The rest of those moms can spend extravagantly on their kids all they want to make their kid happy, but that makes kids and moms think they have to outshine the others and make each year "bigger, better, and more expensive."

I'm not that mom. I can't afford to be. If you're one of those moms, that's fine. We, as a family, have decided to stick to a strict budget and have realized we don't need things to make us happy to enjoy life.

My morbid opinion: its the moms that should be celebrating they made it through all that labor and that their child has survived however many years old/long.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


No one really knows where you're going to land up in one, five, or even ten years. Ten years ago, I wanted to be an architect. Five years ago I wanted to be done with my college degree, and last year, I wanted a business where I could stay at home with my kids while they were at school. Sounds like everyone's dream doesn't it?

I've got my bachelor's degree and change diapers for a living. I wanted to be an architect and I build towers of legos. As for a business...I have an official photography business. Does it allow me to work part time and be at home with the kids when I need to? Yes. Do I have a lot of customers? Not one. But that's okay. It's not about the money. It's about being able to spend time with the kids, have a somewhat clean home, and able to cook for my family.

Hubby pays the bills, so any luxuries will have to wait until either my "business" takes off or I get a "real job". I'm okay with that. Yes, I've struggled with wants, but in reality, my family is a phone call, Facebook message, or Skype away. I've learned to adapt and get rid of the excessive junk out of my life through the past years.

I'm not close or even Facebook friends with every person I meet. I have my acquaintances, close friends, and family somewhat nearby. I didn't become an architect by profession, but have built a worthwhile home and life around me. What more could a girl ask for?

We are currently putting over $400 extra towards our car debt and then once that is paid off, that extra $750 will goes towards paying off the student loans. This will take around 2 years. 2016. Then my daughter will graduate high school in thirteen years. We have so little time with them in the grand scheme of things. So let's sit back and enjoy the ride as we get rid of those debts and enjoy life as its suppose to be. :) God and life is good.

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Week of April with $200 out of $400

$400 per month on groceries. Yes ma'am. Or sir. Whichever you prefer. $400 to shop for all natural/organic products.

Right now, we really cannot afford to buy a whole cow or poultry straight from the farm. It's literally hundreds of dollars. Well, maybe not for 1-2 whole chickens.

Vons, Albertsons, Save Mart, Wal-Mart, and other big chains are starting to carry all natural meats, eggs, and dairy along with their organic produce. Granted organic produce is absolutely not the best quality (its still in the grocery store nevertheless), but you still have to look around. Yes, you can drop $100 per week at a health food store like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. But really, where do we shop to find the best deal?

It depends on what your plan is. Yes, that nasty P word. You must meal plan before you buy anything. Otherwise you will drop that $100 and try to figure out what you're going to make each day. Who wants that stress?

Meal planning usually takes place on Sundays. It doesn't matter what time, but this gives me time to figure out how much and what I need to get me through the week.

It's quite easy and if you have a hard time meal planning, check out (I am not an affiliate). I did use their free trial, and you know what? It's simply amazing. If we weren't on such a tight budget, I would definitely use them. If you are trying out a new diet, you can search Pinterest, other blogs and websites and actually bookmark the recipe. The best part about It even makes a shopping list for you!

After you get your meal plan written out, find a store you like best and watch their sales. I know there aren't a ton of organic produce, meat, or dairy on sale every week, but when there is, pick up a couple extra items if you can freeze them for later. If not, then don't worry about wasting your money.

I personally hate shopping at Wal-Mart, Albertsons, and all those big national chains. I dread giving them such big portions of my husband's hard earned paycheck. So what store <i>do </i>I shop at?

I love Fresh and Easy for their organic, reasonably priced, smaller sized stores. I can get in and get out rather quickly. They always have a large selection of almost everything organic in their store. Some items are priced higher than others, but hey, I'm not buying everything that says organic. If I'm in a quick pinch, they do have organic-not raw- milk. They have organic honey, organic syrup, along with non-organic foods (for when hubby goes with me-bad idea).

As for flour, I purchase sprouted flour at a local health store. We have a Lassen's that carries their whole wheat sprouted flour in the bulk section. I love bulk bins! Especially when this particular flour costs $4.19 per pound (don't tell hubby). My body cannot tolerate white flour (no gluten allergy), so I buy this when I know I will be baking something (tortillas, bread, etc.). I still am working on learning how to bake with this flour, so bear with me!

We also did try drinking the grass-fed milk. My son loved the cow on the front and how can I tell him no to milk? The only weird thing about it was the lumps in your glass (cream tidbits). Other than that, we loved the flavor! Cost: $5.69 for half gallon.

Another awesome find at Lassen's was their selection of One Degree sprouted grains cereals. They had four or five to choose from! :) My tummy was so happy! Add this to the grass-fed milk and my body loved me. Now since this cereal is a little expensive, only I eat maybe 1/2 a cup of cereal. Not kids. I'm not big into sugary cereal and cannot stand the taste of cornflakes, so this was perfect for me. Cost: $5.69 for a 12 oz box.

Early this month, I ran out of laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent! Agh! Not a good thing when your brother is coming from Washington! So for these items, I get my washing soda, borax, and lemi-shine from Winco. They do have organic dairy, but I have yet to see any organic produce besides lettuce. I will write another post on household cleaners on here soon!

What has Jenn bought so far?
Lassen's: Ancient Sprouted Maize Flakes Cereal  $5.69
          Grassmilk, Whole, Half Gallon                   $5.69
Fresh N Easy: Eggs, Brown, Cage Free Dozen     $3.99
          Bananas (Not Organic)       6 bananas         $1.14
          Organic Mini Cucumbers                            $2.99
          Organic Carrots                                           $1.69
          Organic Kale (won't buy again)                  $2.99
          Organic Apples                                           $1.99
Winco: Washing Soda            3 boxes @ $3.15    $9.45 (seems really high compared to the last time I bought it)
       Borax                                                              $3.97
       Fels Naptha                6 @ $.97                      $5.82
       Spicy Tuna Roll    tsk tsk tsk                          $4.98 (how did that sneak in there?)
       Lemi-Shine                 2 @ $3.97                   $7.94 (ouch)
       Cream Cheese (school snack)2 @ $1.78       $3.56
       Non-Organic Baby Carrots (school snack)    $ .98
       Whole Olives (school snack)     3 @ $.98      $2.94
       Sliced Olives                   2 @ $.58                 $1.16
                           Bring your own bag                  -$ .06

                              Grand Total:                            $71.94

                                                 $200.00 (first half of month)
                                               - $71.94

                                                127.00 left for groceries until next week. I always put all my change into the piggy bank to go towards debt at the end of the year (hubby doesn't know this).

That's not too terrible is it? Other than the household cleaning supplies and school snack- I'll have to show you what I made with these three items. Big hit with 5 year olds!

Although my brother is coming into town this week, we also have a 5 year old turning 6 that I have to buy groceries for... all for $127.00 Can we manage feeding three adults and two young kids until the 15th?

Even if you don't have these stores or enjoy swiping your rewards card at other stores, you can always shop for the conventional clean 15 at regular grocery stores. <a href="">Here </a>is the full list of the EWG's clean list. The numbers with the lower number have the most pesticides. Yuck! Eating organic should not be considered a trend.

Clean 15:
andpoint of pesticide contamination:

    Sweet corn
    Sweet peas
    Cantaloupe (domestic)
    Sweet potatoes

Not a lot of these are on our weekly shopping list :( Sad.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Monthly Budget


As you know, we are a one income family. Hubby makes around $63,000 per year. So how do we make it in this golden state? Prayers and patience. Our kids do not get everything they want. Heck, we don’t even have cable, but we are thinking about getting internet in our house. :)

So what does our budget look like? Well,  if you’ve been reading my earlier posts, you already know we spend $400 on good quality natural food.

Bako Depot’s Budget:
Salary            $63,000
Housing         $1,015.00
Car payment $750.00
Car Insurance $74.00
AAA              $0.00
Cell phone     $156.00
Netflix           $9.00
ATT/ Internet $0.00
PG&E           $49.00
Water             $51.00
Gas                 $69.60
Student Loans $156.00
Ret/Life Insur $280.87

Grocery         $400.00
Gasoline (Auto)
DMV/Smog Check
Car Maintenance
Kids Activities
Home Improve/Tools
Dining Out
Medical Bills
ATM Withdrawal

Salary         $3,430.06
Expenses    $3,010.47
Leftover Funds $419.59

That $419.59 is the rest of the paycheck to pay for dining out, clothes, tools, medical bills, and absolutely everything else. It’s really not much, is it? Lately, that $400 leftover has been going to $6,000.00 medical bills from hubby and they are still coming. This is why I’m afraid to get the mail! Everytime he goes in, which is often, it usually costs us $300. Granted we have really good insurance, but it takes a plan to get anywhere including out of debt.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

$400 a month for groceries?!

$400 per month for groceries. Yes, you read that right. Is it possible to spend this much on a family of four? Yes! As long as you are careful and don't overspend, it really is possible.

Why only $400? Well, that's our budget. We have other bills to pay as well. Granted not every extra dollar is going towards debt (because of our erratic medical bills), but we have two kids 4 & 5. There's a lot of times we have to say "no" to toys, candy, movies, trips, etc.

How are we surviving on $400 per month for groceries?

First things first, I do not use coupons. That's right. Absolutely no driving to pay for a newspaper, scanning the inserts for desired items, and cutting until your hand falls off. I tried that. I found I actually spent more money at the stores using coupons. 99.9% of coupons are for processed junk. Granted, I occasionally saved 50%-75% by matching coupons to store sale ads for a certain shampoo and soap for hubby, but I've only been able to do that maybe two times. Therefore, store coupons are not allowed in our house.

How to maintain a grocery budget (of any amount):

1. Look at the family budget and decide what is allotted for groceries. I've heard of people spending $400-$1200 on food per month and wonder where their money is going? Well, duh.

2. Cut out the junk. No soda, no candy, no treats. Period. None of it is good for you! It's called junk for a reason. Plus, you know what you're putting into your body when you cut out the junk.

3. Meal Plan. Now I'm not the best at planning a week's worth of meals, but we try our best to sit down together and plan out what we want to eat. This way no one complains about why we aren't having T-Bones for dinner every night. There's several meal planning websites out there. You'll have to decided which ones you like best. (I'll write more about these later).

4. Check out your local CSA (another post later). These are well worth the price- and the best part. Very affordable! You also get to try new foods. Ours includes fruits and veggies in every week's box. I've never had so many oranges this past winter!

We ordered a the large "food box" and it cost $38.30 per week. They had a smaller box for around $25 I believe. I could be wrong, but still- very affordable for any family. All I had to do was pick it up (or someone else if we were out of town). Fresh organic food per month for a large box: $153.20 per month.

So,  $400 for groceries
     - $153.20
       $246.80 leftover for dairy, grains, household cleaners, etc.  Definitely more than enough to last the month!

5.  Try your best to resist the lure of expensive meats. Meat is the most expensive item in the cart and when you're eating all natural, it's sometimes twice or triple the cost of conventional meat. How to curb the extra cost?
         a. Check out your CSA. We found our farmer's market prices to be astronomical in prices, so we checked out a CSA and were so happy with it.
         b. See if you can split the cost of a cow at a local farm with friends or family
         c. Most importantly, buy only what you need. I noticed the other day that my Sam's Club started carrying all-natural chicken. Now, that's not my top choice for chicken, but it's all we have in our area for fresh/natural chicken. It comes in a twin pack and I plan to use one for a rotisserie chicken and the other, cut it for parts for other meals.
          d. Eat less meat. I know this is really hard for most of us, especially my family, so incorporating more veggies and some grains will do great to fill up the family.

6. Don't stress. It took me a few months to realize how to cut costs and stay on track. Nothing is achieved overnight.

7.  Try a garden- even if you only plant just one plant, it will cut costs. A packet of seeds will cost maybe $2, but if your plant is taken care of, you'll save a ton of money if you get 10+ tomatoes or strawberries off that plant! Plus, it teaches science if you have little ones. Two for one deal!

To recap, look at your budget, cut out junk food, meal plan, check out your local CSA, watch the cost of meat, and don't stress! At first I stressed about eating healthy and staying on budget, but once I figured out what my family likes best, we decided what not to buy (kale, swiss chard), and can focus on more positive things: spending time with the kids and not stressing about a healthy dinner (as my 5 year old daughter calls it). Or supper-as my mother calls it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 30-April 5 Menu Plan

Hubby is gone until Friday night, so I created a menu plan that will feed the three of us. I'm not going to worry about a sparkling house today, although I have family coming to visit! Maybe tomorrow...

Sunday: Egg Burritos
              Wings, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots
              Steak, Zuchinni with onions and garlic, mac-n-cheese
Monday-Friday: Oatmeal or Toast
              Leftovers or PB &J
              Leftovers or Freezer Meal made in crockpot (pretty big meals)
Saturday: Soft Boiled Eggs and Toast
             Quesadillas (usually with leftover meat and veggies)
              Baked Chicken, Green Beans, cooked Carrots

A no hassle week with lots of veggies shoved in there! ;)  Shouldn't cost a lot

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tomorrow is April!

Tomorrow is a new month! Yes, I love new months. It's kind of like a new year, a fresh start. Plus a clean air filter in our house.

Last week, we planted the garden. Quite the variety of crops and I promise to take pictures soon of it. I am trying to keep the chickens out of the garden since they keep trying to eat our strawberries! A couple strawberries are near ready, so this year might be a fight to the death between the chickens and I.

Tomorrow, we have the possibility of rain :) Very exciting since we are in one of the worst droughts in history.

Speaking of rain, last Saturday, the wind blew fiercly and rain poured almost all Saturday night. On the positive side, the house was quiet. Very quiet. The kids were in a tent in the middle of a rainstorm. Yes, we are trying to toughen up our kids. Haha not true, but there's some days are just like today, frustrating.

I keep toying with the idea of getting a job and every time I make a pros and cons list of going back to work, I find myself making excuses. Excuses such as: we need a second car, hubby travels a lot, hubby's continued medical appointments, gas being around $4/gallon, etc. Another part of me says that I should wait the 2 years. Agh! If I only had an income, we could pay off the debts much faster and start saving for a second car or actually fix the fence that is laying on the neighbor's trees. You know, typical home improvement stuff.

Hubby doesn't mind knowing needs fixed. He just wants to do the fun stuff and he doesn't have to look at all the bugs- I mean problems- everyday. I'm committed to getting out of debt, but at what cost?

So there's my two cents for today. Today is payday and I get money for food. Because that's all I shop for anymore.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Meal/Menu Planning.

The goal is to get out of debt. We will be in 2 years. However, when there's only one of you wanting to get rid of debt now, it's a lot harder. What's this got to do with menu planning?

Well, it's a great way to cut back on the grocery expense. Another reason is I am trying to incorporate more organic and natural foods into our diet. Can I do this on $400 per month? With meal planning,  I think it's possible.  We'll see how April's grocery budget goes while planning and purchasing healthy food for a busy family of 4.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Year!

Alright, alright. It's 2014 and I haven't written a post in months. Horrible. Well, it's a new year, but not a new me. Yes, you heard that right. I'm still the same DIY, gardening, writing, photographer person.

2013 did not end well starting in October. The lovely government furlough hit (hubby is a government employee) and since hubby would be off a few days, we decided to take our Kindergartener out of school a couple days and go up to the in-laws. While there our dog Frankie had an emergency surgery on his foot- he got a foxtail embedded between his toes that first weekend. During that weekend, hubby didn't feel well. As in his food would return where it entered after every meal.

We drove home to Bako, thinking it was just queasiness. He would bring his meal back up and he felt fine. We figured it was no big deal. So Monday rolls around, I get my food box, found I had 6 heads of lettuce and a bazillion pomegranates, so I ask the neighbor if she would like them. She agreed and I ran them over to her. Well, I didn't run, but you get the picture.

We chatted and I left to get the Kindergartener from school and walked back home to find hubby vomitting non-stop for over an hour, knowing he didn't eat much earlier and nothing was in his stomach. Trying not to panic, I called my neighbor (and it seems the world stops whenever there's an emergency over the phone) who I gave the food to and I tell her what was happening and if she could watch the kids. She said she could and I ran hubby to the Urgent Care.

After waiting nearly 30 minutes in the urgent care, they gave him fluids and other meds, only to send him home with a prescription and still hurting. I mean his pain was a 10 out of 10. Fortunately they ran blood tests and called me later.

I ran to Walgreens to fill his prescription, and since I had to wait I figured I would go to the grocery store next door and get some broth (since that's what the doctor said to feed him). I parked the car in the parking stall when my phone rang. It was the doctor from the Urgent Care telling me to drop everything and get hubby to the Emergency Room immediately. There was something majorly wrong with his pancreas.

I called my neighbor, and thank God, she kept the kids. Flying down the road, trying to avoid bumps, dips, and any movement, hubby clutched his abdomen awaiting an explosion inside.

Needless to say, I took hubby to the Southwest Mercy and was there all night, transfered to Mercy Downtown and spent his furlough, plus 23 days there. Hubby was discharged October 30 and when his JP drain stopped draining, we drove to UCLA (Ronald Reagan) hospital and spent our 8th anniversary and Thanksgiving there, November 18-December 17. Forgive me if the dates are wrong. Either way, it was a long time to be in the big city, missing our kids, getting drains, incisions, and prodding surgeons all over your husband. I was lucky in that UCLA has all private rooms and was able to shower everyday and walk to grocery stores. All while the kids had numerous babysitters and family members for the rest of the year.

Miss L, our kindergartener, missed 17 days of school, but was able to do an independent study so none of those days she was absent. We could have made it through the past 4 months with our Bako jewels and family members.

I thank God each day I have with my kids, family, and home. There really is no place like home.