Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little Background Information

As promised, Wednesdays I'll be sharing with you about our family's finances.  You've been waiting on the edge of your sits for this, haven't you?!  I thought I'd start off with a little background information before moving on to where we are now.

I got my first job as a sophomore in high school.  I was a bus girl at a local restaurant.  I worked every Friday and Saturday.  I was a hard worker.  I eventually started waiting tables there on Saturday mornings, a lot of the time still coming in on Fridays or another night during the week to bus tables when they needed me.  At one point during high school I was getting to work at 6:00 am on Saturday mornings, going straight to my ballet rehearsals in the afternoon, and coming back to work to bus tables in the evenings because they were short staffed.  There were a lot of great things about my job, my co-workers being the top.  There were also some not great things about my job, but I'd rather not dwell on those.  After all, I kept that job for eight years (among other various jobs that I had), quitting only three years ago when I decided that I wanted to be home more often. 

All of that to say, I worked a lot during high school, along with my dance classes (some times five days a week of that), church, and friends.  With all that working, I saved up some money, too.  I wasn't a massive penny pincher, never wanting to spend any money, but I feel like I was fairly frugal.  I had to pay for a few of my own bills, like my car insurance, gas, and part of my dance tuition.  Other than that, most of my money went to savings, except if a few times a month I went out with friends.  I was off to a good start!

Enter: Husband and three absolutely, completely, amazingly wonderful, handsome, charming little boys.  Boys (all four of them) that I immediately fell in love with.  I'm in college at this point, and all my savings background went out the window.  I met my future family and all I could think about was giving them anything and everything they wanted.  And, I did it.  My now-husband was on the tail end of his divorce, and his finances were not so great because of that.  And you just could not say no to those three little boys.  At the time they were three, four, and seven.  They really were, and still are (in this maybe a little biased step-momma's opinion), the cutest things God has placed on this earth.  So, I spent.  And spent.  And spent.  Then, I spent some more.  Oh, no more money available right now?  No worries, I'll just get a credit card (back then, if you were under 20 and still in college full time you could still get your own card) and pay it back.  I think you can guess how that story went. 

Just to give you an example of what life was like back then, we loved, and still do, going to the movies.  Today, however, I am much more savvy about it.  I always take our own candy from Wal-Mart, instead of buying the overpriced box of candy from the theater.  Disclaimer: I realize that some of you may consider this to be unethical.  Maybe it is.  But, I do it.  And, I think the majority of us do.  I told y'all that I'd be sharing the real me on this blog! Heck, sometimes I've even brought in bottles of soda.  If not, we get two to share between the five of us, we don't all need one.  Popcorn?  If we get it, it's a small one and we share.  Yahoo! had a free coupon for your smart phones all summer for free popcorn.  Never paid for popcorn at all this summer!!  We joined the rewards program through our theater to earn points for free concessions and tickets.  I try to find deals for movie tickets through different deal websites.  We go for matinees when we can, too.

Back then?  Well, I knew nothing of coupons or rewards programs or anything of the like.  Bringing candy in from somewhere else?  That thought had never crossed my mind.  Sharing items?  Those kids were just too cute, they each deserved their own candy and popcorn.  So, they got it.  And they got the waaaaaaaaaay overpriced Icee's.  And nachos.  And anything else they asked me for.  I can't even begin to remember how much that first movie trip to see Shrek 2 cost us.  It was obvious that I was in way over my head.  I was 18 and no real world experience.  Thankfully, God had placed me on my now-husband's hear as the one he would marry.  My husband, and those three boys, waited patiently while I figured things out with money, cooking, homemaking, laundry, etc.  I firmly believe that we never stop learning these things, and that it's when we become content in our skills and stop stretching ourselves just a little bit further than we feel capable that apathy and/or pride can set in, but that's for another post altogether!  So, I still don't have it all figured out, but I've got a better grip on things than when I had absolutely no experience.

Luckily for my husband and I, we worked out some of our financial issues.  Movie theater trips are not nearly as expensive anymore.  I don't have to buy all our food pre-packaged or boxed anymore, so we save some money there, too.  But, we dug ourselves a bit of a hole back then with my newly found spending habits combined with my husbands poor financial situation from his divorce.  Fast forward a few years and add on top of that my student loans from one and a half years of a pricey, private Christian college, a car payment on a car we never should have bought, and an eating out and store credit card habit, you can understand that we are not  where we need to be. 

I can't tell you exactly where we are because it's been forever since hubby and I have sat down together to go over our money and look at our financial big picture. I know we have debt, and I don't want any.  I want to be an example to our kids about how money should be handled.  I want to be able to help those in need, instead of knowing that I can't because of that last trip to Pizza Hut.  I want to stop having to pay our bills using the "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul" method.  I want to be a good steward of the riches that God has blessed us with.  Deuteronomy 10:14 tells us, "Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it."  Nothing in the earth "belongs" to us.  It belongs to our Creator, in Heaven, and I can honestly say that I don't think he would be very pleased with how we are choosing to use His money.

Here are our financial goals for this week:
  1. No eating out this week.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, this is a huge pitfall for us.  We have, in the past, literally spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in a month eating out.  Add on top of that the perishable food that I've bought but didn't cook since we went out (yes, I've defrosted meat and then not cooked it and had to throw it away), and the amount of money we have wasted in a year is ridiculous.  We have set a goal for ourselves that we are able to eat out twice a month.  I think this is realistic for us.  We will never be one of those families who eat out just once or twice a year.  We enjoy the food and the experience of dining out.  It's part of who we are.  However, we recognize that we need to limit this activity, not only for our budget, but it will have a positive impact on our heath, too.
  2. To sit down with hubby and take a look at our finances and get a realistic picture of where we are.  This time next week I should be telling you all about our debt, and a plan to get out of it.
That's where we are in a nutshell.   I would love to hear any of the struggles or sucesses you are having in this area of your life.  What's worked?  What hasn't?  Feel free to share it with us!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apple Cider Pork

Here is the recipe used for last nights dinner.  It is adapted from a recipe found at All You Magazine.   I really loved this, and my husband liked it, too.  It definitely is a sweeter dish, so be aware of that. I served mine with broccoli and carrots, but a sweet potato (baked or mashed) would make this the perfect fall meal!


  • 4 center-cut bone-in pork chops.  I have no idea how thick they were.  They looked pretty thin.  I just buy whatever is on sale at the time.
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage, a little more or a little less depending on your taste.  I used a little less last night, and thought it could have used more.
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider


  • 1. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Push onions to edges of skillet and add chops. Cook, turning once, until browned, about 6 minutes total.
  • 2. Sprinkle sage over chops and pour cider into pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chops are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove chops from pan, raise heat to high, and boil sauce until reduced and thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour sauce and onions over chops and serve.

Gratituesday: Hand-me-Down Clothes

Yesterday, late morning, I was pulling up to a friend's house and walking around to their back porch.  Sitting there on their table was a huge trash bag and Rubbermaid full of clothes her kids had outgrown.  Sweatshirts, pajamas, shorts, t-shirts, pants, bathing suits.  As I looked through the clothes finding the right sizes and the styles that I knew our boys would want to wear I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my friend that she would offer these clothes to us to go through.  I didn't take everything.  Pajama pants the littles already have about three pairs each of, so we're good there.  Not everything was a style that the kids would like.  And, there were other people, too, who I know could be blessed by getting some free clothes.  But, I did come home with a nice, big bag of clothes for the kids.  And, every article of clothing I brought home yesterday represents one less thing I have to buy for the boys in the store.  Over and over again I could tell you stories of how our amazing friends have blessed us when it comes to the kids.  Today, though, I am grateful for the friend who offered me clothes and helped me lower our clothing expenses this fall.

But, I'm not done yet!  This story is two-fold.  I am beyond thankful that we are blessed with children who understand the limitations of our budget.  They know we simply cannot afford to buy them the nicest most expensive clothes.  They're okay with wearing hand-me-downs and clothes from other people. They're okay wearing shorts from Wal-Mart.  I know that some kids might not be okay with that.  I am eternally grateful that ours are.  Now, that's not to say that our kids are poorly dressed.  Not to toot my own horn (well, okay, maybe just a little toot), but our kids are dressed pretty darn nice.  Our oldest, who a few years ago graduated out of the kid's sized clothing and has moved on to adult sizes has all name brand t-shirts purchased from PacSun.  But you know what?  No shirt he wears cost me more than five dollars.  I shop when the clearance shelves go on sale.  Seriously.  I find it's harder to find as good of deals for him as I can for the littles, but such is the nature of life.  Adult clothes are simply more expensive.  For the littles, they get new stuff, too.  Old Navy has been one of my favorites for their clothes.  Their kids clearance rack has been a life saver.  One thing that I'm adamant about is that my kids wear good, name brand tennis shoes.  A) I think they are a better quality and will support their feet better and last longer, as I like to pass them down from kid to kid if they are not too worn out.  B) We are an Adidas family.  It's just the way it is.  I blame my husband.  However, this weekend I was able to buy the littles each a new pair of Adidas tennis shoes for $15 each.  That's what happens when you head to the outlets and utilize the clearance section and buy-one-get-one-fifty-percent-off.

Well, this post has taken an unexpected turn.  What started off as a simple Gratituesday post has turned into a bit of an explanation of how I clothe my kids in a mix of hand-me-downs and clearance rack finds.  So, to recap: I am thankful for friends and family who generously share their clothes with us to keep our clothing budget for three growing boys under control. I am also thankful for clearance and sales on clearance and being able to dress my kids fashionably, but on a budget.

Head over to Heavenly Homemakers for more Gratituesday!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Menu - 9/19-9/25

Here is our menu for this week:


Hubby: Eggs/Bacon, Bagel w/Cream Cheese, Peanut Butter and Banana Whole Wheat Toast, Homemade PopTart, Banana Muffin (all breakfasts served with a piece of fruit)

Meagan: Bran Flakes and Banana, Berry Smoothie, Bran Flakes with Raisins, Overnight Oatmeal, Berry Smoothie

Weekend: Homemade Waffles and Fruit, Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls and Fruit


Hubby: Leftover Pizza, Buffalo Chicken Wrap, Salad, Tuna x 2 days (all lunches served with a piece of fruit and chips)

Meagan: Salad x 3 days, Peanut Butter Bread and Fruit, Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie 

Weekend: Cheese Cubes, Pepperoni Slices, and Italian Bread; Wings with Homemade French Fries, Celery and Carrots


Apple Cider Pork Chops with Stuffing and Broccoli, Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner), Chicken Thighs with Mustard Sauce with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots, French Dip Sandwiches with Mashed Potatoes, Lasagna with Salad, Pizza with Salad, Leftovers

So, there you have it!  Our menu for this week.  Menu planning works well for us because it makes me think ahead.  If I don't have a plan, even if I have enough food stocked in the house to make meals for the week, I won't.  I won't think about it until it's dinner time, and then I'm probably too tired or too stressed out to actually make dinner.  The result?  Dinner out.  A lot.  I mean, a lot.

Also, when I make a plan, it enables me to make a better grocery list.  When I'm not making a meal plan for the week, I would often just wander aimlessly around the grocery store, picking up things here and there that I thought I might like or I thought we might need (more often than not, we didn't).  The result?  Wasted time and money at the grocery store, along with an unhappy hubby who foots the grocery bill. I'm also able to plan my meals around what I have already in the freezer and the store sales.  The result of that?  Less money at the grocery and a happier hubby!

Another big plus of menu planning is that it enables me to feed my family better.  I'm trying really hard to cut down on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and processed foods.  I can explain more about that later, but the point is I want to feed my family good for them food, that I make.  There's a sense of comfort knowing exactly what your hubby and kids are putting into their body.  If I'm not menu planning I often have to rely on fast food or per-packaged/boxed/canned food. The result?  Lots of HFCS along with all kind of ingredients going into our bodies that I don't even know what they are.  And that, my friends, does not make me happy!

I've found a lot of great reasons to menu plan.  The fact remains that I haven't always done it.  It's a new(er) skill for me than for some of you out there.  I've only been at it for maybe two years?  And it's been very off-and-on at that.  I hate, hate, hate, loathe, despise, cannot stand, feel negatively about....however you want to say planning!  I hate having to sit down and decide what we're eating for the week.  The main reason?  I always feel like we're eating the same thing.  Stick around long enough and you'll notice how often pizza makes an appearance on our menu.  However, I am recommitting myself to it.  It is the right thing to do for our family.  To help me out, I'll be joining Keeper of the Home's Stephanie in her six week, "Plan It - Don't Panic" menu planning challenge.  It officially starts next week, but some of us are starting this week.  Maybe you'll join us?

What are your thoughts on menu planning?  Do you have any tips?

Welcome to my Blog!

I love reading blogs.  I've always wanted to have my own, and I've started out a couple of times.  And, I've fizzled out every time.  It's always been a haphazard attempt, with no real plan as to what to write about, when to write about it, or why I was writing about it.  If you know me well, you know that sounds exactly like me.  However, no more!  I do have a plan; I know what I want to write, when I want to write about it, and why I'm writing about it.  Go me!  So, here's the details, in case you're wondering:

What I'm Writing About: 

"They" say you should always write about what you're passionate about.  If you try to write about something you're not passionate about, you will fail.  So, for me, that thing is my home and family.  I love homemaking and raising a family.  Please, please, please notice that I did not say that I'm good at it, just that I'm passionate about it.  I've pretty much realized that I'm a failure at a lot of things, but it is by the grace of our living Creator that I can get through the day.  However, I believe in the Proverbs 31 woman, and that with God's help every day I get a little bit closer to actually being that woman. For me, it's not just a checklist of things I have to do to be the model wife/mother/Christian/etc.  It's a lifestyle, a mindset.  That being said, you'll hear a lot about our meals, how I'm trying to change our diets for the better, my 3 wonderful step-sons and my amazing husband, my quest to take better care of our home, our parties that I love to plan, and how we are raising our kids and how I'm dealing with not so much strength or dignity with my husband's ex-wife.  I'll try to limit the latter.  I'm not here to bad mouth anyone, but it is a huge part of our life, and I want so desperately to handle it gracefully, but I know I fall short.  

When I'm Writing:

I plan to write a little something each day.  That shouldn't be too hard, right?  But, to give it some structure, here's what you'll find each day of the week (including, but not limited to):

  • Monday is Menu Plan Monday!  So exciting, right?  Today you'll find our menu for the week, with link ups to any recipes.  I'll talk more about this on our first Menu Plan Monday and about why this is so important for me, and about the fact that I really do loathe making a menu plan.
  • Tuesday will be Gratituesday.  A cross between gratitude and Tuesday.  Get it?  I first heard about this on one of my all-time favorite blogs, Heavenly Homemakers.  It's just a chance to reflect on what we are grateful for, in a world where it is so easy to caught up in the negatives.  And, I'd love for you to come and comment and share what you are grateful for or link up to your own blog.
  • Wednesdays will be all about our finances.  My husband and I would love to get out of debt.  We're not necessarily doing the best job about doing the right things to make that happen, but a little online accountability never hurt anyone, right?  
  • Thursday will be my day to share with you if I've done any freezer cooking for the week, what I made, how long it took, recipes, successes and failures (the many that I'm sure to have!).  I love cooking and freezing food to have on hand.  I've normally done just breakfast items or bread, but I'd really like to expand.  I'd also like to do it once a week, even if just for an hour (a la Crystal at Money Saving Mom).
  • Fridays I'll share specifically about how my relationship with God is going.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  What I"m doing for devotions, and books I'm reading, inspirational articles, struggles I'm having, what I hear God saying to me, etc.  
  • Over the weekends I don't plan on doing a whole lot of blogging.  This is family time, time to recharge for the week, go out and have fun, reconnect with my hubby, and head to church.  I will, one day over the weekend, share with you my goals for the coming week, and you can share yours with me!
Of course, this is not all I will write about.  I can't wait to share with you all about my amazing family, for starters!   But, it will give you an idea about what to expect.

Why I'm Writing:
I've gained a lot of knowledge, insight, and inspiration from other people's blogs.  I hope to be able to do the same thing for other people.  I'm a pretty transparent person, and so you'll learn a lot about who I am from this blog.  You'll hear about my successes and my failures.  You'll probably hear more about my failures than my successes!  I firmly believe in the Word of God, and I love the story of Esther, and I love Esther 4:14:
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?
We've all got a reason for being where we are, when we are there.  I believe that God put me in my life  and the lives of those around me for a specific reason.  I'm exactly where I'm meant to be.  You are exactly where you're meant to be.  Sometimes, though, it's easy to loose sight of that and to grow weary.  I know I have.  We can all be an encouragement to one another, holding us up when we feel too weak to go it alone.

Like I said earlier, I am striving to become the Proverbs 31 wife.  I know there are a lot of other women out there who are striving for the same thing. We all come in different shapes and sizes, different backgrounds, different living situations, different husbands, different expectations.  What works for you, may not work for me and what works for me may not work for you.  This is a place to come get ideas, picking and choosing what works for you, and leaving the rest.  This is my story, so don't feel like you have to fit into a certain mold to be following the will of God in your life.
I hope that everyone can learn a lot from this blog, even if you don't have a relationship with Christ.  You'll hear a lot about that, but the lessons you'll learn about cooking, eating well, housekeeping, budgeting can be applied no matter what your beliefs. 

So, friends, that is about it!  I'm fairly new at this, so I hope you'll stick with me while I try this out.  I hope that you'll learn a lot of new things, and I know that I can learn a lot from you, too!