Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Saving Money

This weekend I went to the Basic Rider Course to learn how to ride a motorcycle.  I sat at the "girls table".  There were 4 of us.  The gal who sat next to me was single and in her late 40s.  The gal across from her was married and about the same age.  At one point, I mentioned my blogs and reading a lot of books.  I mentioned that I write posts about saving money.  The gal next to me looked at me like I had two horns on my head and a big red nose.  She said to me, "What's there to say about saving money?  You just pay yourself first."  She essentially meant that before you spend anything, you should make sure you save some money and set it aside.  She was a bit more hard core about it, I think than the way I've phrased it, though.

When I was a teenager, a friend of my dad's gave me similar advice.  "First, give 10% to God.  Then, give to yourself and save 10%".  Though my dad wasn't a Christian, his friend was.  I always thought his advice was good advice.

I don't think the gal I spoke with on Saturday was a Christian.  I say that because of the general gist of our conversations and when I asked her if she went to a particular church--she simply said no.  She didn't say that she went to another one instead.  Her priorities with her finances were different from mine as they also were different in her whole life which was reflected to me in many things she said.  I want to share some vagaries about her life.  She is a single mom who was married for over 10 years.  She has several children.  I asked at one point if she had ever stayed home with her kids while she was married or if she had always worked.  She responded with a quick "I've always worked" in a tone that said "of course".  I responded by saying that I post about little ways I find to save money since I stay home and homeschool while my husband works.  So, we're a single income family.

There are many ways for families to approach money and finances.  One way is for both parents to work so that you have enough money to purchase whatever you want and need.  Another way is for parents to choose to live more frugally on one income so that one parent can stay home with their children--whether for homeschooling or to take care of their children and get them where they need to go.  I appreciated the book, Miserly Moms, because Jonni McCoy and her husband went from being a 2 income family to 1 so that she could stay home with their kids.  When you choose the second route, sometimes the one income earner does make a lot of money and there isn't a great deal of need to be very frugal.  But, I think that more often than not, living on one income requires all involved to be frugal and fiscally responsible.

I don't think that "saving money" is as simple as giving to yourself and making sure you save.  We all have habits that guide how we live and how we spend every day.  It is those habits and daily choices that we make that determine whether we are really saving money and being good stewards of what our families have.

One of the things I love actually about saving money is the good feeling that I get from it--the satisfaction that comes from the feeling I am honoring my husband's hard work at his job and that I am making the most of what my family has by shopping and using/consuming things wisely.


I posted a quote on the sidebar by Spurgeon that a friend posted this morning on Facebook.  I thought it was a very good quote relating to finances and being a good steward.  There are many times when I'll see something on sale or want something that costs a little more.  What I'm realizing is that it's better to have just enough and not more than I need.  It's wiser for a lot of reasons, but if I (or my children) have too much, then we do not feel as grateful for what we have.  It is so easy for pride to sneak in and for us to take things for granted that are truly blessings from the Lord--we have not been given these things because God thought we deserved them, but because He wanted to bless us out of love.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thoughts about Pizza

It's funny, but for many years now, I've thought that the most economical way to feed a family pizza is to order cheese and not opt for the extra toppings.  But, this week, I really wanted pizza that wasn't plain.  So, I ordered one large cheese for the kids and one large that was half chicken and pineapple and half meatball.  Usually, I eat 4 pieces of pizza.  I have realized that I eat a lot--I think it's all the running around after my kids that I do each day.  But, the other night I only ate two pieces!  One chicken and pineapple and the other was cheese.  The piece with chicken and pineapple filled me up.

Here's the conclusion I came to:  maybe I was wrong.  Maybe cheese is the best option for kids--since that's what they love.  But, for adults, it's wiser to get one or two toppings on the pizza--particularly if one is a meat or chicken topping.  It will make the pizza a lot more filling for adults.  I suppose it's not probably healthier to eat two pieces with sausage than 3 pieces with plain cheese.  But, I think two pieces (health and money wise) with chicken is better than 3 pieces with plain cheese.

I know it probably sounds silly that I think about things like this, but I do. =)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inexpensive eBooks


I got an email with the link above today from Waterbrook/Multnomah.  They've listed the books (and the prices) that they're going to sell for cheap prices for the next 6 months.  One of the readers is Amazon Kindle.  You can download a program to read Kindle books from Amazon on your PC for free here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

Last spring friend asked me about one of the books that's on sale now (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World).  I haven't read it, but I know friends that have enjoyed that book and Bad Girls of the Bible.

Just thought I'd pass it along... =)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stoplight Salad Recipe

I talk about Simply In Season alot.  There is a weekly newsletter that you can suscribe to and they will send you one recipe a week.  For some reason, most of the recipes they've sent are not the ones I'd first recommend to try.  But, this week, the recipe is for Stoplight Salad.  We really liked this salad.

The recipe is here:  http://www.worldcommunitycookbook.org/season/recipe.html

It's a great recipe to make and then serve with warm tortillas for a main dish.  We eat a lot of tortillas--it's one of the ways my roots in Southern California have never left me.  But, this is a great salad that's a cool salad for when you don't want to heat up the house.  Warm the tortillas on a cast iron pan on the stove or between a few paper towels in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Put 3 tortillas in the micro at a time probably.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Budgets are tricky things to me.  On one hand, they can be stressful to have, but not having one is also stressful.  My husband and I had another conversation about our budget today.  Not necessarily fun, but it was good.  In the end, we cancelled our date and the expensive dinner we had planned out.  It's a little sad, but the right thing to do.

The sentence from Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson is ringing in my head.  "Just because we can afford something doesn't mean we should."

Could we have done dinner tonight?  Yes.   But was it the wise choice?  No.

I've been considering putting the girls in gymnastics this year.  I had already settled on only ballet instead of ballet and jazz.  I think that I'm going to tell Sami that we'll do gymnastics next summer.  I know she and Autumn would love it, but it comes back to our budget.  Homeschooling isn't cheap =)  There are ways to save money, but there are always ways to spend it, too!

Making good choices and saying no to ourselves and our kids isn't easy, but it is being good stewards.  I know I'm not the only one to have to make these choices.  And if you're making choices like these, please know that you're not alone--I'm right there with you!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fruit Crisp Alteration

Simply in Season really is one of my most favorite cookbooks.  After berry picking yesterday, I made an apple/blackberry/blueberry crisp.  At first, I thought the recipe must be mistaken, but it wasn't.  The baking time was cut in half from a typical crisp.  What they did was this:  the recipe used a deep dish pie pan instead of an 8x8 pan.  It was baked at 375 for 30 minutes instead of an hour or a little more for a regular crisp recipe.  This is a great tip for saving energy and for heating the house less on a summer day when all the wonderful summer fruits are in season!

Eating Healthy is Expensive!

It is cheaper to buy chicken nuggets or a hamburger than a sub sandwich.

It is cheaper to get a frozen dinner than the ingredients to make pasta and sauce.

It is cheaper to eat canned vegetables than make a salad.

It is cheaper to buy white sandwich bread than make wheat bread at home.

It is cheaper to eat at Taco Bell than to make tacos at home.

It is cheaper to make Kraft Mac and Cheese than to make macaroni and cheese from scratch.

One big reason I think we eat so many convenience foods is that they are cheaper.  It costs more to cook from scratch--for just about anything.  The one exception I can think of is comparing eating at home to eating at a sit down restaurant.

A few years ago a friend of mine started doing weight watchers.  She was floored by how much she had to adjust their food budget, since both she and her husband were doing it.  The increase in fruits and vegetables that she needed to buy shocked her.  She had been (and still is) a huge coupon shopper.  She saved a lot of money cutting coupons every week.

I was updating our budget this week.  It floors me how much we spend on food every month.  It has doubled in the last 5 years.  We did also add 2 children to our family of 3 five years ago.  Even so, food costs have gone up a lot.

So, is it worth it to budget more for food?  Or should we eat more convenience foods?

I think it's worth it.  I think you can cut back on splurges and spend that money on eating healthier instead.  In the long run, it's so much healthier for you and your family.  And food made from scratch does taste better, I think.  There's so much salt (a ton!!) in prepared foods along with artificial sweeteners and preservatives.  None of which seem very good for us.

I know there are extras in our food budget.  I like to chew gum.  I like to make cookies for us and to share.  We like fish and shellfish (more expensive items).  And my husband just told me that he likes to have sandwiches with deli cold cuts (not the least expensive item).  Knowing those are my splurges, I try to be careful about them.  I clip coupons for gum.  I watch for fish and shellfish to go on sale.  And I go to the deli counter at BJs--which is far cheaper than anywhere else.  I like to get the Kretschmar Honey Ham thinly sliced for $4 a pound.  And sliced American cheese there is only $3.49 a pound (I think it was $6.49/pound the last time I checked at Giant).

I see so many kids overweight today and it worries me.  I think we need to be careful about what we feed our kids and what tastes/penchants we are encouraging in them about food.  In my last post, I wrote about high fructose corn syrup.  It's expensive to get away from it.  It means a lot more cooking from scratch.  And it's often hard.  But, I think it's worth it.  I believe it's worth it.

One of the ways to get more fresh fruits and vegetables is to find affordable farm stands or farmer's markets.  Another is to do pick your own and freeze the fruits of your labor or make jam.  Another is to get good cookbooks with easy recipes that make you want to cook from scratch.  Good cookbooks really can make life easier and help you know how to use more fruits and vegetables in your cooking.  It's a good investment.  Another way is to avoid temptations.  Find a few quick items that don't have all the artificial stuff in them that you can feel good about eating when you need them.  It will stave off the temptation to eat out when you don't feel like cooking.

The final way that's coming to my mind is to have a plan.  This is one that I'm always working on.  I'm organized, but not regimented.  I am continually trying to be good about sticking to my plan and my goals.  It's so easy for me to get mired down in my day to day life that sometimes I forget why I'm doing what I'm doing. And when I forget--it's easier for me to slide.

I hope this entry makes sense.  I'm afraid my mind is beginning to ramble--which is a clue to me that I better scoot and go drink my coffee!

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Recently, I mentioned to my mother in law about how we try not to eat anything with corn syrup--or at least minimize our consumption of it as much as possible.  She asked why.  At the time, I couldn't remember the answer.  Then I was reminded in my Simply in Season cookbook yesterday.

Basically, high fructose corn syrup is not processed by our bodies as well as sugar.  Over the years, the increased percentage of high fructose corn syrup in our foods has correlated to an increase in the obesity rate in our country.  Basically, since high fructose corn syrup isn't processed as well, it sets off a series of reactions in our body (the liver releases enzymes) that tell our body to store fat.

The correlation is disputed by some.  But, high fructose corn syrup is highly refined and so much sweeter than sugar.  What I remember from so long ago about sugar is that the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave.  So, it is very logical that high fructose corn syrup would make you crave more.  Something less sweet just isn't going to satisfy the craving.

My logic has always been that it isn't just high fructose corn syrup's fault.  I think as a society we started eating more when we craved more.  As a culture, we are taught to question everything and everybody and essentially to be cynical.  One of the downsides of cynicism (thinking you can see the truth when everyone else is bamboozled) is that you feel more right and it feeds into the feeling of being justified to have the freedom to do whatever you want--and that also means eating whatever you want.  That may sound like a strange line of thinking, but as adults we don't want to be told no and we don't want to tell our bodies no.  And if we really want to do something we (as a society) are good at being cynical and not believing the other person who tries to warn us that it isn't a good idea.

High fructose Corn Syrup makes things taste good--really good actually.  Super sweet.  But, that doesn't mean that it's good for us or that we should eat a lot of it.

It's very interesting to me that studies are now coming out saying that diet soda won't help you lose weight.  The artificial sweeteners change your metabolism and your body so that you gain weight actually.  http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=4271246&page=1

So, I think that's the long or the short of it =)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Berry Picking

If you're in Maryland, here's some helpful info about berry picking.  We went blueberry, blackberry, and peach picking today.  It was far easier than I expected!  Honestly, it was a lot easier than strawberry picking.  I have been a bit intimidated to do it before, but I'm glad I finally did it this year.  It went well.  I picked 4 1/2 pounds of blackberries, 5 pounds of blueberries, and a bucketful of white and yellow peaches.  The kids picked a few, but they enjoyed themselves.

We went to Spring Valley Farm on Rte 1.  The website is here:  www.springvalleyfarm.com  If you go north on rte 1 and go over Conowingo Dam.  Pass Rte 222, and then it's just a little bit farther up on your right.  There is a good sign, but start watching for it once you pas rte 222.

The prices for this season are:
$2.65/lb for blueberries
$2.50/lb for blackberries (and they were sweet, not tart)
$1.00/lb for peaches (white and yellow cling varieties)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Easy Chai from scratch

I was reviewing a cookbook this week on microwave cooking.  In the cookbook was a recipe called Chai for One. I googled it to see if I could find it online.  I did, or at least one very similar.
Here's the recipe link:  http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/drink_chai.html
The spices in the recipe in the cookbook were halved.  So, I would start with them halved and then try them doubled and see which you like better.  The cookbook also used evaporated milk instead of sweetened condensed.  I think that's why the spices were doubled in the recipe online.  I have a cup in front of me (made with have the spices and evaporated milk) and I added 3 Tbsp of the mix to a cup of tea plus two spoonfuls of sugar since I like it sweet.  Keep the mix in a jar and it should keep for up to a month according to the cookbook I read.  I think next time I'm going to try the recipe I linked to online with the sweetened condensed milk.

I'm so glad to find a good recipe to make chai from scratch!  I like decaf chai and it's been hard to find a good decaf mix.  The powdered mixes have extra stuff in them and are usually caffeinated.  I think it will also end up saving me a lot of money =)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Flower Girl Dresses

My brother is getting married in September and their wedding is straight out of a bridal magazine.  The challenge I recently faced was finding (more) affordable flower girl dresses and shoes.  The dresses my future sister in law first suggested were $150 each--which times two is $300!  Plus shoes, shawls, tights, etc....

So, I emailed the two homeschool networks I'm a part of and one person emailed back a great website to me.  I  found two dresses that I thought would look good on the girls and emailed a picture to my future sister in law.  She liked the more expensive of the two ($55 vs. $45), but $55 is still so much better than $150!  I am very thankful for this.  I ordered the dresses and they arrived a few days later.

This is the dress I found:
The website is:

I did google and look for a coupon code for the website and found one at the time for 5% off.  It saved me $5 so I was thankful for every little bit.

The one downside if you have questions is that if you try to call them by phone, they won't answer.  They will however return your email, if you email them.  At first, this made me anxious, but the dresses arrived just fine and they fit the girls perfectly!  The girls are thrilled (and so am I) for God's provision!

I also found white glittery shoes at Target (that are really ivory) on clearance for $6.50 a pair.  I bought 2 sizes for each of the girls since the wedding is 3 months away.  Even so, the total for the shoes was $26 instead of $30 for one pair of ivory dress shoes online.

The other little blessing the Lord helped me find was 4 rolls of ivory ribbon and a yard of ivory fleece for $2.  I plan on making shawls for the girls.

I was very apprehensive about how much it would all cost and though it is still expensive, it is far better than it could have been!  My estimate is that if the dresses were $150 and the shoes $30, the total would have been  about $400 instead of the $132 that we spent. =)  Thank you Lord for your provision!