Eating on Vacation

As a family, one of the things we enjoy doing together is travelling. This works out well with the girls competition cheerleading in addition to Matt’s family being so far away and in several different states. By far, the most expensive aspect of traveling is food.  I have tried several different methods over the past several years to reduce this expense. I am very please with how my latest method work on our trip to the Myrtle Beach for the cheer competition.  Since December, I have been purchasing and earning gift cards to use on this trip.  I am excited that we ended up feeding 6 of us for each meal.  Gift cards were purchased each month and taken from our regular grocery budget. Total spent on food for four days for six people is $438.31 or $18 a person per day. However the actual amount spent is $174.86 or $7.28 a person. Since we normally do not eat out but once a month, this trip was definitely a treat and we managed to contain our cost!  I am planning to continue using this month as it does reduce our cash outlay and increases our enjoyment!

Below is a break down of each day.

Thursday- Breakfast at home!, Lunch KFC $24.71, Dinner P.F Chang’s $87.10  Total $112

Friday Breakfast IHOP (purchased gift card) $50.00 with tip. Lunch  Chili’s (purchased gift card) $40 with tip    Dinner Olive Garden to Go (used Buy One Take One) $37.86 Total= $127.86   Total cash $37.86

Saturday- Cracker Barrel (gift cards/no purchased) $54.00   Lunch- Left-overs or home made chicken nugget Lunchables      Dinner Steak and Shake  (gift card purchased) $50.00 with tip.  Total = $104.00  Total cash $0

Sunday Breakfast McDonald’s $24.45 (used McDonald app for savings)  Lunch Appleebees (gift card purchased) $49.00 Amanda paid the tip for this. Dinner- Wraps in parking lot. We did stop for TCBY yogurt $10.00 used gift cards and Krispy Kreme Donuts $10.34.  Total = 94.45  Total cash $35

March in Review

I am super behind on blogging for the month. Our cheer trip threw me off, in addition to our crazy busy life. I am hoping to get up several post in the next day or so.

Debit Reduction: This month our overall debt increased by $175. This is sad but because our trip was the last couple days of the month it had a negative effect. I will establish a goal to reduce our debit by at least 200 next month.

Blog Post: 14
Days on Treadmill: 0  Everyone feel we should get credit for the day we spent walking at the outlet stores.

Groceries- $220- This is a great success! I am hoping to keep spending down to $300 for the month of March. My favorite sale of the year is on but other than a trip to Costco this should be our spending for the month.

Gas: $370 spent. This is over-budget, we purchased new windshield wipers for all the vans and our trip to the beach is included on this purchase.

Earnings:  Matt and I combined for a total of $180 this month from our apps and Swagbucks. This is a higher number than both February and January.

I am a bit frustrated with us raising our overall debit but we needed and enjoyed our trip to the beach. I have high hopes for April, small changes over a long period of time always works.

Saving on Saturday 3/26/2017


Today has been a good day. One of the main reason is that I was able to check off most if not all of my to do list!  In the process, I have been putting my idea of each little bit helps into practice. The list of the ways I am saving today is a great starting point for anyone who wants just a little extra.

  • My laundry goal for today is 15 loads, I currently have load number 13 in the washer. The ONLY reason that I have been able to complete so many loads is by hanging things up to try. I did SEVEN load of bedding today and all went outside. These would take at least an hour and half each to dry in the dryer so there is 11 hours that my dryer did not run. I also washed my uniforms, I chose to hang these as they last much longer and actually look less wrinkled. I also have a load of sweaters laying around drying. Spring is here and I seriously doubt I will be wearing most of these again. Total savings 15 hours of dryer use = $5
  • The heat is off!  I actually have a window open. The goal of course is to make it 6 weeks without use of heat or air. This will place us in mid May. By eliminating heat and air, our electric bill should drop below $200 for both April and May!  Total savings= $100
  • The kids spent a hour or so this afternoon painting wooden items for our outdoor sign. I was able to purchase these last year after Easter for 50% off. Hopefully I will get them hung and pictures posted for Wordless Wednesday. Total savings= $2
  • The girls asked for some flowers to place outside their playhouse. I decided to check out a local discount store this afternoon instead of heading to Lowes. We found flowers for $1.79 a six pack and dirt for $1.99 a bag. The girls enjoyed planting these flowers and even if they all die, I can replace for the same cost I would spend to purchase at Lowes.  Total savings= $10
  • I also stopped by the SAVE ALOT store to grab 6 cases of Diet Coke. Total savings= $6
  • Ate at home for all three meals today.  I made French toast for breakfast and also some croutons for salads to use up bread. Lunch was leftovers so that is the meal I am going to count toward saving! Total savings = $20

How did you save today?

5 Things Friday 3/24/2017

  1. I am starting to really enjoy my work schedule. I have two really long days on Tuesday and Wednesday but Thursday is my day off. I switched things up a bit and Friday (today) is designed to be a shorter day. This actually is giving me time in the morning at home to get ahead and I am home by 5 so dinner is very easy to enjoy.
  2. Matt is working Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. This is a great thing but it also means that I have some extra chores to finish as we have a competition next week and will leave on Thursday for a mini vacation.
  3. One of our planned activities for our  mini vacation is shopping at an Outlet Mall. I am very excited to grab a couple of Nike gift cards using Swagbucks. My goal is to get at least one pair of shoes for FREE!
  4. I have ended up shopping quite  a bit this week. Including two trips to Walmart and a trip to Food Lion and a trip to Lowes.
  5. Food Lion is changing things up and running my favorite sale of the year. This is the quarter back sale. I made a trip on Wednesday night and plan to make at least 3 more in the next month during the sale. This week I did a total of 3 transactions spending $57.

Monday Menu Planning 3/20/2017

I am very hopeful that Spring has finally arrived and will be staying around for awhile. This week, we have 3 baseball practices, 2 nights of cheerleading for each of the girls, piano, church and Matt will be working 3 nights this coming week.   Thankful our breakfast choices have definitely improved after a trip to Aidi on Sunday.

Breakfast–   Saturday-Breakfast burrito bowls.  Sunday- limited choices Monday-choices Tuesday- Spinach egg cups  Wednesday- Baked oatmeal. Thursday- choices .   Friday- Choices.  Choices include :  poptart , fried bologna,  eggs, grits, left-overs , toast or cereal.

Lunch- Zach and Kendall have sandwiches, chicken nuggets, , homemade lunchable and salads. I am taking left-overs this week. Nothing new or exciting here. I have gotten slack with taking my lunch so I already have a salad packed for Monday!

Dinner-  Saturday Sandwich and chips Dinner- Dinner out for  Haley’s birthday
Sunday- Lunch- Hamburger and hot dog’s at Mom’s   Dinner- Gumbo over rice
Monday- Grilled chicken pasta and mandarin orange salad
Tuesday- Chicken Enchilada
Wednesday-  Beef and Broccoli
Thursday-  left-overs or homemade pizza
Friday- Breakfast casserole.

Counting My Blessings! 03/13/2017

Both Lily and Kendall participate in competition cheerleading. This continues to be a choice that we make as a family to participate and pay toward. Matt often works events at the Coliseum to help fund this activity. I will be the first to say that it is EXPENSIVE. Just as an example, we pay $110 tuition in addition to competition fees, chorography fees and of course the cost of uniforms. The above fees are paid directly to the cheer gym but they do not include the cost of travel, food and admission to events.

On Sunday, we planned to attend an event at UNC- Charlotte to watch Lily compete, in the normal budget this is a relatively cheap event. First off the travel is less than an hour. Next the advertised admission price was $10 for adults and kids under 10 are free. Usually  we pay $20 for adults and $10 for each kid that is not in the competition. Parking fee run around $10. Finally, I have been saving gift cards for the past 4 months to pay for meals while we travel. Our plan was to stop at Applebees and use gift cards to pay for the meal.

I ended up spending a total of $5 yesterday, this is a HUGE blessing!  First no fee to park, next up was no cost for spectators!  This is highly unusual and  amazing even to save $30 made me smile.

After the completion, we headed to Applebee which was very close to UNC-C. The experience was BAD!  Waiter with his underwear showing, our table need to be refilled with both Ketchup and Sweet n low, no knives to cut food with, wrong food or food not cooked correctly, used kid’s menus and sun directly in my eyes. Needless to say not a good experience, I spoke first with the manager and then with a area manger who after hearing our experience, covered our meal. I count this as a BLESSING!   I did not expect or anticipate the entire meal being covered but it was a BLESSING!  I left a small tip because the waiter did refill glass but his serves was equal to the setting.

An estimate of the total BLESSING we received yesterday= $100!

5 Things Friday 3/3/17

  1. We are all so tired. I thought it was just me until both Zach and Kendall fell asleep on the way home last night. I am hoping that we can all catch  up with a less busy than usual weekend.
  2. I have reduced my hours at work, in hope to achieve that work/life balance that everyone is talking about. So far so good as I was able to work just half a day today!  It is amazing how much better I feel!
  3. I am starting to feel as normal as I think I ever will. We have slowly worked on getting things back on a schedule. I was even able to ask and got approval for my days off through next November at work. I still need to locate a place to stay on part of our trip to Michigan but at least we are definitely going.
  4. The weather has been really warm and I definitely can feel the spring fever starting for me this means starting to plan for my garden. I am really excited that mint, rosemary and oregano survived and will not need to be purchased. I am really hopeful that the dill will return as well. Beside purchasing plants the only expense we will have this year is the purchase of dirt.
  5. Zach face seems to be healing. We will really be able to tell on Monday night when we remove the glue.  I am working to prevent infection and so far it has not appeared.

5 Things Friday


  1. This week has been a real struggle for me both physical and mentally. I am exhausted but can’t sleep.
  2. I filed our tax returns last week and are expected to see the refund in the next week. I am grateful to have this process behind me this year and thankful to be able to pay off some of our debt as well.
  3. Lily has a cheer competition on Saturday but otherwise I am planning to enjoy a not so hectic weekend.
  4. The weather is very mild and we spent a lot of time last weekend working outside, in fact the square foot garden is prepared except for adding a layer of wood to make some extra soil base.
  5. The cow we purchase in December is some of the best meat, I have ever eaten. We enjoyed T-bone steaks for Valentine’s Day dinner and they were so tender we could almost cut with a fork.


Sad                                                        Exhausted
Sad                                                            Tired
Unbearable                                              Peaceful                      Exhausted
Sad                                                               Quiet

Relieved                                Sad

Last Friday morning the unthinkable happened, my father had a massive heart attack and passed away. This was totally unexpected and unacceptable. We are all struggling to make sense of this. Today is Tuesday, I know that I can’t change what has happened and things are being to make at least a little sense. We have accepted that we are not going to be fully functioning for a long time. We also have realized the need to love and support each other. Today, my mother is able to live alone and thanks to God’s provision which is nothing short of a miracle, she is financially able to continue with a “normal” life. I am fortunate enough to have two additional days out of work. I will return to work on Friday, never returning to normal.  I miss my dad, I miss the time he should have spent with his grandkids. I am sad for myself and my mother.  As you can probably tell my emotions are all over the place but above all I am EXHAUSTED. I am not sure when or how much I will blog over the next weeks or months. I am certain we need to continue to work toward a more steady financial place but not sure what that place will look like. Random words on a page, seems to fit my life right now.

Thursday Thoughts/Update 01/26/2017

  • Kendall is student of the week, but her classroom name of “Super Hero” of the week is way cooler. As part of her celebration, Lily and I joined her for lunch today. I am so proud of her behavior, her grades and her loving spirit.
  • I am exhausted this week, it has been a rough week at work. In addition, we have had an activity every night this week. We leave Saturday morning to travel to Lily’s first cheer competition of the season. I need to get us all packed today on my day off.
  • Low Spend challenge- The month of January is quickly coming to an end. I have spent $162 on groceries. I did purchase a gallon of milk today, with this we should not need anything else. This is $12 more than I planned to spend this month but feeding a family of 5 for less than $200 is considered a victory not matter how you look at it.
  • Eat out of the pantry challenge-  The most exciting news of the month is that now all of our food is in the kitchen. We have finally cleaned out enough to fit everything in our kitchen pantry instead of the pantry and extra closet in the shower room.  I am making a list of items we are out of. My plan is to use my reward from my “Costco Visa” to purchase these items. I am going to try and stick to a $100 budget otherwise.
  • Both our electric bill and water bill are extremely high. After some checking, we realized that we have a small water leak out front that Matt fixed himself. The water bill is $12 higher than our highest so fixing the leak should return it to normal. We also figured out that the emergency heating strips for our heat pump were not working. The parts were covered under warranty but the labor for installation was $80.