Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monthly Menu Plans

Last month, I decided to start doing a monthly menu plan on the advice of The Grocery Shrink (By the way, f you haven't read her ebook or blog, I encourage you to check it out!). Not only has this been much easier than I originally thought, it has made my days and weeks less stressful and allowed us to save a bunch of money by avoiding eating out due to my not knowing what to make for dinner.

I was able to quickly fill in all the meals by assigning each day of the week a theme. Here are some of my themes:

  • Mondays: Soup Night
  • Tuesday: Big Meat Night
  • Wednesday: Group Meal Night
  • Thursday: Crock-Pot Night
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza Night
  • Saturday: Grilling Out Night (Until summer ends that is)
  • Sunday: Easy/Leftover/Freezer Meal Night
You can view our family's September Menu Plan here.

Monthly menu-planning makes it easier to take advantage of early sales for meals later in the month, and it actually reduces the time spent shopping. Less money is wasted on impulse buys and more money is saved or allocated for stockpiling the pantry.

I am loving this new method of menu planning! Of course, life often gets in the way of seeing this plan completely to fruition, but having an idea of what to do has helped so much!

How do you menu plan?

Friday, August 26, 2011

14 Months of Breastfeeding

Today marks the 14th month anniversary of breastfeeding my daughter. It's a wonderful day.

If you would have told me I would make it this far back when she was a wee little newborn, I probably would have laughed! I never thought I would be able to stick with something so challenging and so life-altering for so long. I never would have thought I had the strength to endure low-supply issues, growth spurts, bottle rejections and night nursing every 2 hours for 9 months straight. But God has seen me through it all, giving me the strength I didn't know I had, as well as blessing me with those little moments of pure bliss while nursing that encouraged me to stick with it even when it was hard.

Breastfeeding my baby is the most accomplished thing I have ever done. I am so proud of myself, because I know many other mothers struggle and are not able to make it nearly as long as I did. I count myself blessed to have had this experience. I feel more empowered as a woman, wife and momma. I was able to provide the sole nutrition for my baby for the first nine months, giving her the precious gift of mother's breastmilk that will continue to positively affect her entire life. And I'm thoroughly convinced, that I if I can do it, anyone can!

Although I have made it this far, this will probably be the last day I nurse my daughter. She is moving on, and my supply has vanished in order to properly provide for our new growing baby. I was able to continue to nurse the first 5 months of this pregnancy, something I never thought I would or could do as well. But now the time has come, and I will be enjoying this break before another baby comes along and changes my life in new, wonderful ways.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Summer Harvest

Today we worked on weeding our flower beds and tearing up the spent vegetable plants in the veggie garden. After some further research, we decided it would be ok to harvest what we could from it, as long as the veggie is thoroughly washed and cooked (our cat has used it as her litterbox). After harvesting a small roma tomato as well as a large yellow squash, we decided to go ahead and stake the poor tomatoes who were struggling to hold themselves up!

First harvest of August:

Successfully staked tomato plants: (note: we used existing pieces of wood laying around in the garage, so the cost of staking 8 plants was completely FREE)

Lovely La Roma tomatoes:

Nicely growing Better Boys:

Staked tomato patch from front:

Bell pepper who was previously suffocating under all the unstaked tomato vines:

Now, least you think our garden is all up and running, please take a moment and view the other side. A weedy mess indeed. The far right bed we actually completely ripped out, where the 2 squash plants previously resided. It was just not going well (lots of cat poo), and we need to restore that soil anyway. The middle bed is a project for another day, but you can see one lonely tomato plant staked in the middle. I'm not entirely sure that one will survive amongst all the grasses attempting to take over, but we'll see.

And here is our brush/compost pile after all the weeding today. You can see the remains of several ill-fated broccoli and lettuce plants:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peanut Goes Camping

Recently, we took Peanut camping with her aunt and uncle who live far far away in Virginia. We decided to meet halfway in Pennsylvania, at Laurel Hill State Park (which was gorgeous BTW!).

Peanut walking along the beachy lake with Daddy C:

Peanut splashing in the water! This girl loves to swim!

She also went on her first bike ride with Daddy C and I! Here she is in her seat! She kept saying "weee!" all throughout the ride! So cute!

We went hiking to a dam and could not resist cooling off in the water below! Peanut practically dived right in, getting soaked in the process!

All 3 of us hiking! Peanut is busy look at the water in the background, haha.

We had a great trip spending time relaxing at the campsite and catching up with family. Peanut did not sleep the best the first night (we arrived at the site very late), and the second night it had started raining around dinnertime, turning our campsite into a mudsite, unsuitable for a walking toddler! So we got an emergency hotel room and let Peanut stay up late! It all turned out for the best, and next time, we'll know to take the weather seriously when it calls for a chance of rain (or at least have a backup plan arranged). Peanut thought the hotel room was so much fun though! Of course, this girl thinks everything is fun.

I can't wait for our next camping adventure, although next time it will likely be somewhere a bit closer so we don't arrive so late and also free of rain!

Do you enjoy camping? How often do you go?

Weekly Coupon Savings

On Sunday, I went shopping at Kroger and Rite Aid to pick up some free items and good deals. Below is what I got for absolutely FREE at Kroger after coupons:

I used 3 $0.50/1 coupons for the Crest, 2 $0.50/1 coupons for the Ivory soap, as well as a Free Kroger Soup, Free Pantene, Free Digiorno for One, Free Quaker Chewy Bars and Free Butter coupon! I love trips like this!

Total Cost: $0.45 (tax)
Total Saved: $23.63

Next, I headed to Rite Aid, where I actually spent some money. I have not shopped at Rite Aid in MONTHS, so I had no UPs to use. However, we needed several of these items so I went ahead and got them:

Total cost after coupons: $17.57
UPs earned for next trip: $2
Total Saved: $27.25

That was actually more than I had planned on spending, but we were out of dishwasher detergent and I needed to get some. I can never seem to find spectacular deals on it, so I figured 50% off with a coupon was pretty decent. I also needed Ziplock baggies and deodorant. The ziplock baggies admittedly are a splurge, but I have recently started reusing and washing them when possible, so they go much further than one use. This will probably be enough for at least 2-3 more months hopefully.

Have you gotten any good deals recently? What is your favorite drugstore or grocery to shop at?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Walgreens and CVS Savings!

This month I am working on building up a stockpile of toiletry items as well as shelf stable food. Rob is going to build me a storage shelving unit for our basement to help make it easier to store it all. After comparing sale prices of storage shelving with the cost of building one ourselves, we figured we would be saving approximately $20-25 building one. We plan on having the 6ft by 3ft structure (with 5 shelving units) built by the end of this month.

In the meantime, I have been back at couponing full force lately. Yesterday I scored big at Walgreens and CVS by using coupons as well as the various store promotions. Here is what I got and what I paid:

  • 4 12-packs of Cottonelle Toilet Paper
  • 1 Goody Hair Clip
  • 8-pk of Crayola Washable Markers
  • 12 oz bottle of Complete Multi-Purpose Solution
  • 1 box of Mac and Cheese
Total Spent after rewards and coupons: $12.50
Total Saved: $40+

  • 2 Skinny Cow candy bars
  • 1 Gillete Fusion Razor
  • 1 box of Kashi Cereal
Total Spent after rewards and coupons: $3
Total Saved: $16

We should be good to go on toilet paper until later this fall! This helps me to only pay the lowest possible price on such a frequently used item. We also have plenty of contact solution to keep our eyes in good health! I am so thankful for coupons and the items we can get for nearly free- it really helps stretch our tiny budget quite a bit.

Do you use coupons? Why or why not?