Monday, March 29, 2010

Money Monday - Planning Meals

Our grocery budget is out the window. We were done spending money 10 days ago with no food in the house. Needless to say, we'll go over.

We also just got hit with a $425 car inspection. Blech.

Oh well, such is life.

I want to talk to you today about meal planning. I know I've mentioned it before, but it's important if you want to keep your grocery budget down. You won't be buying random things at the grocery store.

Here's how I do it.

When I know that I'm going to need to go shopping, I get out my recipe stuff and my coupons. I have a zip up binder with a note pad and pockets in it for my coupons and my list. On the right side of my paper I write suggestions for dinners as well as breakfasts and lunches.

Then on the left side of my paper, I write down what I need to buy at the store.

Since I know what we'll be eating, I can clip coupons that I'll use or even search for some online at direct product sites. It's a fabulous money saver. Then, you don't go to the grocery store wandering around with other stuff on your mind. In that case, you end up throwing random groceries into the cart!

This is also helpful with children who distract you! It'll keep you on task and they can even cross items off of your list! It gets them involved.

What does the picture below have to do with this post? Not much. It's just cute and reminds me of summer! (Even though it was taken in the middle of winter - but in ORLANDO!)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spiritual Sunday - HOPE

Psalm 25:3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.

Don't give up.

Enough said.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday - Whole Wheat Pancakes

People think Bisquick makes pancakes so much easier. I just don't get it. You're still adding all of your liquid ingredients. It basically saves you from adding baking powder and salt. It's just as easy and so much healthier to make your own from scratch. (And don't get me started on the frozen ones - All I'll say is that I've never bought them.)

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Honey
3 Tbsp Oil
1 Cup Buttermilk (I used plain unsweetened yogurt, or you can let 1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar sit in a glass of milk for 5 minutes as a substitute)
2 Large eggs

Stir honey and oil together in bowl.

Add milk and eggs, beat well.

Mix dry ingredients into the liquid just until moistened.

Cook on a lightly greased griddle/pan over medium heat. Flip when little bubbles start popping up on the edges. Cook for 1-2 minutes more.

It's just so easy and the nutrition is astounding.

If you get 8 pancakes out of this batch, eating 2 of them will give you the following nutrition:

270 calories
14 grams of fat (2.5 saturated)
250mg potassium
3.7 grams of fiber
9.3 grams of protein
Only 7.6 grams of sugar

Other brands of frozen pancakes have around DOUBLE the sugar as well as less nutrients. Try this one! You can even freeze you're own for easy breakfast during the week!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Family Friday - Discipline

Last Friday, we talked about consistency and how crucial it is in discipline. This week, I'd like to look at and basic discipline strategies.

First you need to decide what behavior requires discipline and what things you'll let go.

I firmly believe in the time out strategy because it works for us (as a first step).

Ever since Hannah was 15 months old, we've employed the timeout strategy. When she would touch the buttons on the TV repeatedly, she would have to sit in a the chair (with us sitting next to her) for 1 minute. Eventually she realized that she'd be confined if she did not listen and she stopped touching the TV buttons.

Now, Hannah's up to 4 minutes in time out. It is recommended that kids spend one minute per each year of age in time out. If she doesn't calm down, or if she starts throwing things or mouthing off, her time out gets bumped up until she calms down. She's spent as long as 30 minutes in her room.

If she refuses to go into time out, she will be warned again, and as a last resort, I am not totally opposed to a paddle on the bottom. I'm NOT a fan of spanking. Usually it doesn't work and creates more aggression in Hannah - so it's avoided.

We also have, on a case by case basis added or altered punishments for her. She's gone to bed at 6:30 without dessert (which is tragic to her), we've taken away TV and her DS, and we've left places she enjoys.

Last year we went to the pumpkin patch with her friends. Hannah had a terrible attitude. She was cranky and rude. So we left. Was it hard? YES! I wanted to stay! But it spoke volumes to her that I'd stick to my guns. She now knows that we WILL leave if she doesn't behave.

You'll should only have to do this one or two times. Kids learn quickly! But, you need to be ready to do it! This may mean time out in a grocery store (we've done it.) Consistency every time lets your child know, they will not win. It's hard!

Finally, the most important part of discipline is making your children understand WHAT behavior was wrong and how to ask for FORGIVENESS for their actions

When we put Hannah in time out, we tell her why she's there. After her time is up, we go back into her room and ask HER why she's there to see if she understands what she has done wrong. Finally she must apologize for her actions - even if that means calling her friends or apologizing to those outside the family. We then have hugs and kisses and the behavior is forgotten...until the next time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Sad

I think I'll squeeze my baby a little tighter today. I'm thankful for God's blessings.

For months we've been praying for a little boy named Ethan. I believe he's only 3. He has cancer.

Every night we pray for him with Hannah. We don't "know" the little boy but we feel like we do because with think of him and pray for him so much.

Hannah's devotional last night was about waiting for God to answer our prayers and how difficult it is to wait. And I brought up Ethan and how we pray for Him without knowing God's plan.

Well, I just received an email that none of the treatments are working, the tumor has grown back and the cancer has spread throughout his body. There's nothing more "they" can do for him and hospice has been called.

My heart is just broken. This just isn't fair.

I know there is nothing "they" can do for him, but I believe in a God who is bigger than "them." I pray God decides to do a major miracle in this little boy. Stun the world. I know He can do it...I just don't know what His plans are.

Please pray for little Ethan and his family. God knows what he's doing.

How the HECK am I going to tell Hannah this?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Family Friday - Consistency in Discipline.

Having a four and a half year old daughter, I frequently say that her behavior is like a roller coaster. She goes through up times and down times - like we all do. For weeks she'll be my sweet, obedient, polite little girl, and then faster than I realize what hit me, I've got defiant, angry, frustrated, rude little girl on my hands.

During the down times, it seems like nothing I'm doing is working. She'll refuse to go into time out and she has to have the last word - which Matt can't stand. I on the other hand let her have it, because I spent years having that as my goal in an argument (as my parents would confirm)!

We have levels of punishment of course. I feel like I tend to be stricter on Hannah than other people are with their kids, but I have a low tolerance for disobedience and disrespect. It is our job as parents to teach our children how to obey God. They learn that by learning how to obey their parents.

When she chooses to be defiant, Hannah will spend a lot of time in her room (as seen above).

Whatever discipline method you choose, stick with it. Even if it seems like it's not working, be consistent. Eventually, your child will get the point and understand that they will lose and the consequences will be enforced. Don't be wishy washy and don't go back on what you say you will do. Even the youngest kids see right through empty threats. Do not make threats your kids KNOW you won't keep. (i.e. "You will stay home while we all go to the park if you don't behave.") Your child knows you will not keep him home alone, so don't make threats you're not ready to enforce. Be ready to stick to your guns when you're child challenges you, even if it means you ALL stay home from the park.

Your discipline strategies will change and develop over time. Next week on Family Friday - we'll discuss discipline strategies.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Uncertainty

Is it possible to be thankful for uncertainty?

I don't know if it actually is or not, but I'm trying to give thanks in all situations. At the moment, I'm not sure where the direction of my life will lead in a number of areas.
Who isn't thankful for the sun and warm temperatures we've been having in the north east. This is a photo of our house just a week ago. All that rain washed away the mounds of snow that still overtook the house. Now I can see green grass and tulips sprouting (even though I ripped out all of my perennials last year and put plastic down.)

In the same way, God uses the rain in our lives to wash away all that hinders us, so that the green grass underneath is that much sweeter.

Be thankful in your uncertainty today. Maybe, just maybe God is washing the crud away so you can readily welcome the beauty He reveals.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Money Monday - Back to Basics Part 5b - How to make a few extra bucks

Last week we talked about budgeting and getting $1000 into your emergency fund.

Here are some ideas on how to make a few extra bucks for that to happen:

Get a second job.

Babysit kids inside your home.

Clean houses.

Work at a day care.

Sell things you don't need on craigslist or ebay

Have a garage sale.

Make money doing something you really love. (gardening, pet sitting, scrap booking, cooking, crafts, sewing)

Cancel/reduce cable

Raise car/health/homeowners insurance deductibles and/or search cheaper plans

Plan meals to reduce grocery budget (go meatless some nights)

Stop buying junk food/pre packaged food

Turn your thermostat down a few degrees (we keep ours at 60 most of the time in the winter)

Shut lights off!

Take quicker showers to reduce water bills

Combine errands so you use less gas

Stay home more

Clip coupons, shop at discount stores like Aldi for as much as you can

Sell cars with high balances/payments and drive a cheap car - (take out a small loan if you're upside down)

There are just a few. Get creative!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday - Honey Oatmeal Wheat Bread

I got this recipe here! Please visit for a great blog and more awesome recipes!

Honey Oatmeal Wheat Bread
The best bread if you can eat gluten!!
Visit Nicki at to see more of her AWESOME bread recipes.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Family Friday - Are you doing too much for your kids?

I often find (and am shocked when I do) that I do things for Hannah that she's totally capable of doing herself.

I think this is true for all kids - little and big.

Hannah's brain soaks up everything! When I tune into it, I'm amazed at how smart she is.

I didn't realize until a couple of months ago that she's capable of (and should developmentally be able to)  putting on her own coat and zipping it up.

She can read, make her own bed, put dishes away, and pour her own glass of milk, run the hand mixer all by herself, do fractions (measuring cups) and addition. I don't say this to boast, I say this because I'm shocked at what ALL little minds are capable of!

I also have to add: Last week she said to me, "Mom, do you know that your bum is your gluteus maximus?" What in the world??

Every kid is different, but today I want to encourage you to stop underestimating your child's abilities, no matter how young or old. Give them a little more responsibility and guide them through learning something new. They'll feel good and so will you!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Stay warmer in the winter

I got this from Real Simple and although I don't have ceiling fans in my house, I would TOTALLY use this tip if I did.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Money Monday - Back to Basics Part 5 - Start Your Budget

It's time to start telling your money where to go! When making your list of expenditures for the month, keep in mind that anything extra is going to what we call:

BABY STEP ONE - Mini Emergency Fund (check out for ALL baby steps)

Since you're going to stop using credit (right??) you need a safety net for emergencies. So once you're caught up (meaning you're not late or behind) on your bills, you can start throwing extra pennies each month into a savings account. 

"But I don't HAVE extra money!" Find it, do it, make it happen. I don't really care about excuses or why you CAN'T do something. If you want financial freedom, get off your butt and make it happen. We were there. Matt was commuting 3 hours per day by BUS into the city before coming home and going straight to a second job until 10 or 11 at night. I don't want to hear it! Find a way to make a few extra bucks to get $1000 in the bank!

Ok, sorry for the rant.

First four things you put on your budget this month:

Food: Figure no more than $100 per person in the house (try to go less). We did HALF of that while getting out of debt.

Utilities: lights, water, gas



Then list your bills and subtract them against your monthly take home. Whatever is left goes toward your emergency in a basic savings account.

You'll need to update your budget each month with your spouse. 

Do it together and make sure you're on the same page.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spiritual Sunday - Overwhelming Writer's Block??

I feel like I have a lot I want to talk about today, but nothing comes to mind!

Some things I that are on my mind, but that I have nothing to say about are:




I think these are area of my life that are being a little shaken...not destroyed...but shaken.

I'm just feeling like my views all these years on these things are being changed...they're just not right. The pieces aren't fitting together. I have no revelations on what they should be. I still believe in the value and importance of all of them...I'm just confused about where I fit into them.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Matthew 13:58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 6:30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday - Parmesan Rice Bake

This recipe was AWESOME!

I recommend it for any side dish you need to make for a gathering. It's easy and you can't mess it up.

After you bake it, I suggest putting it under the broiler for 6 minutes on high until the top browns.

Set oven to 350°F.

Generously grease a 11 x 7-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients with a wooden spoon, mixing very well to combine.

Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered or covered for 25 minutes or until set (over baking will cause a heavier denser texture if you prefer a lighter texture then bake just until set).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Family Friday - Story Time Live

Last week we had the opportunity to go to Nick Jr.'s Story Time Live. SO MUCH FUN! Hannah got to see Dora, Backyardigans, Kai-Lan, and Wonder Pets. She had a blast. She watched the show while we watched her! When they asked the kids, "Who's your favorite Super Hero?" Hannah yelled out "MY MOMMY!!" HOW CUTE IS THAT?? 

Hannah's Aunt Audra loves to get her tickets to shows. She's seen Dora, the Wiggles TWICE, and now this show. They are a blast!! Hannah's gotten to do more in her childhood than I ever did! Maybe that's the benefit of being an only child (so far).

I really love to spend time with my family...since I think it's the best one on the planet and all...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful for my little girl, her sweet face, her spunky attitude, and her love for people.

I'm thankful for my husband, who takes such good care of me. This past Sunday when I was so sick, he cleaned the entire house, went to the store to buy me pineapple juice, played with Hannah all day, cleaned the bathroom and got a bath ready for me, served me every meal in bed etc etc etc....

He is super human folks...and he's all mine :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wellness Wednesday - Home Remedies

Hannah and I have been SO SICK this past week.

We've been battling coughs, fevers, congestion and the achies! YUCK!

Here are some of my personal tried and true remedies when you feel yucky.

Mix 1 tbsp honey with 1 tsp cinnamon:
              Good for Sore Throat/Cough
              Tastes really good!
              Safer than medicine
              Repeat as often as needed

Pineapple Juice
             Good for Sore Throat, all over achies
             Has more vitamin C than OJ and is less acidic making it easier on the belly
             Keeps you hydrated

            Makes it easier to breath
            Keeps your throat from getting overly dry

Chicken Soup
           It feels so good on your throat
           It's proven to make you feel better!

Vicks (or the baby natural Vicks)
          Slather a thick layer on feet under clean socks
          Good for reducing Coughs

          Ok, this isn't a home remedy, but sometimes you just need a little push to feel better.

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Easy way to eat more veggies.

I really do hate DOING the tip I'm about to give you, but when I do it, it makes life SO MUCH easier and we eat a lot more veggies instead of having them go bad in the fridge.

When I get home from the store (or the next day) I take all of my grapes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, etc and I wash and slice them all. For the grapes, I'll wash them, remove them from the stems and put them in a large zip top baggie with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Sometimes, if I'm feeling extra zealous, I'll individually pack sandwich baggies full for Matt to just grab and take to lunch.

This makes it so much nicer if I want to snack on some veggies and hummus, or if I want to chop some up into a salad.

Take a little extra time now, to save some later

Monday, March 1, 2010

Money Monday - Back to Basics Part 4 - Track Your Spending

I'm very happy that we'll be getting TWICE as much as I expected from out income taxes this year. That puts us back in the race to having $15,000 saved by July! In fact, I believe our basic emergency fund will be complete NEXT MONTH, two months earlier than we expected.

Anyhow, in continuation of the Back to Basics Series and in honor of the first day of a new month, we're going to TRACK OUR SPENDING this month!! If you want to refresh yourself on the last few weeks, follow the links below.

Week 1  - Organize a Space
Week 2  - Balance Your Checkbook 

Week 3 - Stop Using Credit

Starting today, write down every dime you spend...Every PENNY you spend. Keep track of all those drive through coffees and every milk and bread stop.

Don't be surprised if you're shocked at what you have before you at the end of the month. You'll likely be baffled at the amount of money you spend on groceries and fast food runs. Don't be discouraged. Facing these realities is part of the early and necessary steps to financial freedom. 

At the end of this month, figure out all the categories you'll need to start a budget based on this month's spending. Your budget will change monthly. You'll have to look ahead regarding, gifts, special events, and quarterly bills such as car insurance or taxes. Also, make sure you give yourself (and your spouse) a FEW dollars to blow on whatever each month. And by A FEW, I mean $20 bucks each (max) until you make some headway on that debt!

When you start budgeting, expect failure!! I said it. You will fail for the first couple of months. You'll wonder why it doesn't work and you'll be angry and want to give up. DON'T!! Just trust me...Months 3-6 will start to clear up and you'll get into a groove. Don't expect to cut your grocery budget in half or quit eating out altogether in the first months. Make modest adjustments until you become comfortable with following a budget.
Please trust me on this. If you want to succeed, you MUST TAKE BABY STEPS!

But for this month - all you're doing is tracking spending!

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