Thanksgiving Trip Part #1

After our last trip to Michigan, that you read about here, I will be the first to admit that I was not at all excited to plan or start out on a second this year. But I am very pleased to say that we have enjoyed this trip.  We did have several bit of excitement on the trip up. The first of which was totally my fault, or I should say my lack of ability to back a vehicle. After checking gas prices, we stopped in Virginia to fill up. I did not check behind me as I had to quickly move the van to a different gas pump and managed to back into a very large green pole with two warning signs on it.  The good news is that the only damage was to the brake light that never worked right any way but now will need to be replaced for a third time  this year.  The only excited on the OHIO turnpike came at the end when I tried to hand over a Canadian quarter, I am still trying to figure out where I got one to start with? The trip itself lasted about 15 hours which was not bad considering we stopped every two hours or so.

We spent Wednesday shopping, at Bronner’s and Birch Run so at least I enjoyed the day. I have been able to find some awesome deals that  I may share in a separate post later. Thursday was spent playing in the hotel pool and with family, just the way it should be!

Menu Planning and Other Random Thoughts?

It has been a very long time since I  talked/shared an actually menu plan. I can definitely say that we try to complete menu planning at least once a week. This school year planning  has fallen on Sundays or at least on the weekend. After some trial and error, what works best for our family is to plan not only dinners for the week but to also go ahead and stock up snacks in book bags in addition to getting at least a working list of the girls lunches ready, depending on what is actually on the list, we also try to get several of these lunches made ahead of time.

In addition to the “regular” menu planning that I am talking about above, we also try to have at least an idea for what we are going to do on the weekends as well. I have found that if I don’t think ahead and plan for at least one meal on the weekends, we end up going out to eat.  We realize that beginning next Saturday, we will be eating out ALOT!  At least one meal on Saturday and Sunday, with at least 2 meals eaten out starting on Tuesday due to travelling. Combine this reality with the idea that I don’t want to leave food in our refrigerator while we are travelling  and menu planning was a must this week.

A limitation that has played a huge part in the plan for this week is that I have really been trying to eat from our pantry over the last several months (since September).  I can honestly say that we have the least amount of food in our house today then we have had in several years. I have purchased only things we are out of  and mainly fresh veggies and fruit, for the past several months. This has helped to reduce the grocery budget to under $600 a month however it is also starting to be a little bit challenging for menu planning. I decided last week not to purchase fresh items this week in addition to the other limitations.

Sunday-                    Breakfast  choice of leftovers (sausage stuffed crescent rolls, French toast or baked oatmeal.
Lunch- cowboy beans and cucumber relish. Beans were a left over from the fridge.
Dinner- Spam (fried) and Mac and cheese deluxe.

Monday-                    Breakfast- egg casserole (Made of Saturday to use up spinach and eggs)
Dinner- Tomato soup for kids, Broccoli and cheese soup for adults.
Tuesday                    Breakfast-  choice of cereal, toast or grits
Dinner- Breakfast casserole
Wednesday                Breakfast- leftovers casseroles or choice of cereal, toast or grits.
Dinner- Kids will be eating at church, Matt and I will find either leftovers or I am thinking of making oyster stew for myself.   (Will plan to use leftovers for lunch).
Thursday-                   Breakfast-  Eggs and sausage
Dinner- Squash Lasagna
Friday-                        Breakfast -choice of cereal, toast or grits
Dinner- Kielbasa with rice (Matt’s dish).
Saturday-                    Breakfast- French toast- (if enough bread left) or finishing up any other leftovers of breakfast food.
Lunch- Zach is at a birthday party and Girls are going to use Book-it coupons.
Dinner- Mexican rice and fried apples- if any are left to be used. May also look at leftovers and eat up anything that needs to be finished.

The girls lunches have already been planned out and I have 2 days of Lily’s prepared and 3 days of Kendall’s.

Because of our date night next week, I have already planned for both snacks and lunches on Monday.  Next Monday night dinner will be Hamburger Helper because we don’t have any left-overs from it.

Sunday, I am planning a baked oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch most likely at my parents and dinner is our night out with McDonald’s for the kids.

As you can tell, nothing fancy is happening but we are continuing to eat very well!

Financial Update

Life is about choices, this is actually one of my favorite saying and also something that is very true in every aspect of life. I also can add to this by saying that not every choice is good and bad or even good and better but it is always a choice. There have been periods in my life when what I spent money on was not a choice. The reason, after paying bills such as electric, water, mortgage etc, there was little or no money left to cover food much less anything else like new towels or eating out.  However, this is no longer the case.  I am not saying that we have a lot of money or even that we are spending our money in the best way possible but I am very thankful to say that we definitely have a choice in how we spend our money.

This  is the time of year, when I start looking at the budget and reworking and figuring out what the priorities  are  for not only November and December but also for the next year.  My work is going through some major changes as well especially with benefits.  So I definitely am looking at changing things up next year.  My cost for insurances in all forms is actually going to be lower in addition to the small raise. Given these conditions I have decided to start investing in our retirement fund. I am really nervous about this decision simply because it will be money that is “out of reach” for the short term. We, Matt and I, have discussed this decision and feel like it is the best one at this time.  I will meet with an advisors next week and for the first time ever will be investing in our future instead of the present. Along the same lines, I am adding a line item for saving as well. My goal with these decisions is to keep living on what I am making this year and place the “raise/additional savings” out of sight and out of reach.  I am still working on the number but hope to share a sample budget prior to January.

In more present financial news, we are currently doing very well with our financial goals for the month!

         1. Emergency Fund to $2000.  I know this goal will not be met this year but hope/plan to add $100 to this by the end of the month.

  2. Groceries: Spend $600 a month . Spending for the month is $390 which does include 2 Sunday newspaper subscriptions, ($130). We will be leaving in less than two weeks so I am planning to try and clean out our fridge because I can’t stand to waste food! The only purchase that I anticipate for the trip itself is Diet Cokes and maybe waters.

 3. Gas: Spend $400 a month with any remaining to be move to Auto fund for repairs. So far we have only spent $120 for gas. I did pay our auto insurance for 6 months but this was from money that has already been saved! As you will notice below, I am setting a budget for our trip which will be all inclusive.  Prior to the trip, we will be having the oil changed and adding a power outlet for the DVD player, both these items will come from this budget.  We also plan to purchase a new set of tires but this cost will be included in the trip cost.

4. Michigan Trip Budget: $2000- This is actually a very high budget for us when traveling but the current plan is this will include the cost of new tires in addition to hotel, gas, food and entertainment.

Random Tuesday Thoughts

  • We survived family photos with 13 people including 7 “kids”. I will post some of the sneak peak that the photographer has posted for Wordless Wednesday tomorrow. So far I have been very pleased with the ones I have seen so I am hoping that we will have lots of awesome pictures to use for Christmas presents and such.
  • My work schedule has gotten very very lean in November, so far I am enjoying the extra time off because it is allowing me to catch up on things and also prepare for our trip. This week I have 2 half days off in addition to my normal Thursday.
  • We are planning to leave for Michigan in 13 days, before leaving I have to get a new schedule up for Children’s church and I would like to get my snow village up as well
  • Matt and I have a huge date night planned to go to “Garth Brooks” concert in Greensboro. This will be our first true date night in over a year, only down side is this is exactly 2 days before we are leaving.
  • Kendall is one determined child, she has managed to pull her 2 front teeth in the last 6 hours. I guess I should be glad that she waited to after family pictures to accomplish this.
  • I have finished all my Christmas shopping except for the couple that involve family pictures that are mentioned above. And I already have Christmas cards purchased!
  • I like to have seven random thoughts in a random thoughts post just because it makes it seem right. Therefore I will plan a huge budget update for Thursday or Friday of this week.

If You Give…

If you give a kid a new playhouse, the playhouse will need a new roof and a coat of paint. And if you put a new roof on the playhouse you need to also put a new roof on the out building that sits beside it.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender (1)And while you are looking at paint and roofing supplies, you decided that a quick remodel of the bathroom is needed so you decide to tackle that next, see the pictures. So once you get the bathroom finish and move the toys from the playroom into the playhouse then you must rearrange the playroom.

FullSizeRender (2)And since when you are rearranging the playroom, you realize that the love seat now fits and it needs a rug under it, you decide now is the time to replace the living room floor since both these items are from the living ……….and then you realize this all must be finished before family pictures on Sunday.    This is the story of my life!

As you can probably imagine we have been working like crazy the last two weeks on these projects. The playhouse needs to be rotated and leveled, which my brother is going to help with. And we are so very close to finishing the living room floor that I will post pictures of both as soon as they are finished!

Another Chicken Day

Yesterday, we picked up more chicken from Zaycon foods. After some debate, we decided to purchase another 120#. Last year we purchased the same amount but spent a lot of time and energy just figuring out what to do with it. Overall, the chicken lasted our family around 10 months. This year, our order was delay by one month due to “higher” prices so in reality we have been out of chicken for around 3 months now. iwas able to find some on sale but it still was more expensive and of a lesser quality than what we purchased from Zaycon.   Luckily I was able to get an awesome deal because I had ordered early, spending an average of $1.77 a pound of boneless skinless chicken breast.

Here are most of the details of our first purchase last October. I spent the better part of a week, planning and organizing for this. I can honestly say that I was more than disappointed with the results, most of the recipes were just ok and I did not leave myself with any raw chicken to make things that we did enjoy as a family. So this was a major part of the decision to scale back and simplify this year.  I decided to only make recipes that I knew we enjoyed. I also scaled back on the portions to eliminate a lot of the leftovers and to give a better variety.

I started planning on paper on Thursday and both Matt and I did a shopping trip to different grocery stores on Friday am. In total we spent $63.91 on ingredients that I could not pull out of the stockpile to use.  I am most pleased with the fact that we used a lot of items already on hand and even with the additional purchase stayed under budget for November.  Total time this year was probably 10 hours. I was up at midnight finishing up the meals but we did not receive the chicken until 4pm and had to stop for over an hour to get the kids dinner and baths on Saturday.

A total of 277.09 was used for the 70  meals that we created.  Here is the list of items that we have mostly frozen for use in the next year.

12 bags of grilled chicken- we doubled the portion of each bag with the idea that we can always use the leftovers for salads, wraps and sandwiches. I actually counted these as 24 meals.
5 bags of raw chicken breast cut into normal size portions.
18 bags of shredded chicken- each bag contains 2 cups. Let me just add that I LOVE my Kitchen Aid mixer for this.
5 meal of crockpot chicken- 1 pineapple chicken, 2 café rio chicken and 2 garlic lime chicken. The recipes are linked here.
2 meals of chicken enchiladas- We had one for our lunch today and it was AWESOME!
4 Chicken Broccoli casseroles-check the recipe tab if you are interested.
4 Chicken pie bases- the tops will be added the day we cook.
8 Frozen chicken fried rice meals.