Sunday, December 27, 2015

Life insurance

As a young person I may seem gullible to salesmen who have a quota to meet so, it was no surprise when I was reeled into a life insurance sales pitch one day when I went in to pay my car insurance bill Phoenix in tow. She was a chubby 3 month old and obviously my whole world.  

I listened to the agent to be polite but after I left the conversation weighed heavy on my heart. 
The next day I called back on my lunch break to schedule an appointment. I wanted to wise up so that I could go home and repeat the sales pitch as best as I could remember to my husband who would undoubtedly be skeptical. 
I understood that it was another bill but I also understood as a young couple it's much easier to count on a monthly bill than an unexpected expense. 

I don't want my children to suffer because I am not made of money. If they want to cash out their policy someday for a wedding or to go to school I want them to have that option. Or, God forbid I want to have peace of mind that should something unspeakable happen we have a plan to fall back on. 

When I got pregnant again one of my first thoughts was "will be able to afford two policies?" To me "no" wasn't an acceptable answer. 
Our insurance premium is outrageous every month with two vehicles insured under full coverage and the life insurance policies but I really think it's the responsible thing to do. 

I know how expensive life can get and often as a young person you are limited based off the amount of money you have. Then, you are limited on how much you can make if you don't have the education that's needed. 
To give my children a broader horizon would mean the world to me. I think it's the best gift I could give. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Untold advice

When you find out you are expecting EVERYONE has advice and stories to share. So, how is it that there's still SO MUCH that you weren't warned about?
With Phoenix my biggest struggle at first was the recovery. I was foolish enough to think as soon as I gave birth I would have my body back. Little did I know it would be awhile before I felt normal again. 
This time around it has been an adjustment everywhere! Going from a family of three to a family of four has been a huge change. 

Getting out of the house takes forever and I feel like we pack up half the house only to get half way there and think of something we forgot! 
I change a million diapers. 
Getting everyone bathed is a circus attraction. 
The laundry and dishes multiply like rabbits. 
I measure time in feelings.. It's crazy how little I can get done in the hour I have before feelings IF he can be safely put down (his sister is sometimes a terror!) 

So anyway.. Here are a few things no one told me that I'm learning on my own. Maybe they can help someone else. 

Babies will cry. Period. Don't take every tear personally. As long as you are trying to make it better you aren't a bad parent. 

You will be SO tired! You'll find yourself feeling your toothbrush to determine if you brushed your teeth today or even smelling your Pitts hoping there's deodorant. 

There is no definite answer. When you are a parent Google is NOT your friend. Everyone has heir own opinions, success and horror stories. What worked for someone else's kid may or may not for yours. Ask people you trust that have kids before you turn to the web. 

Ask them BUT don't feel obligated to do it their way! You are the parent. You will have to make the decisions for your child and be able to live with them. 

Don't be too proud. As a mom there will be a lot of weak moments and embarrassment. Don't take yourself too seriously. Sing along to the cartoon, let yourself cry, ask for help, play dress up and eat the plastic food at tea parties. 

Perfect is impossible. Your Pinterest crafts won't always look like the picture, the toys won't be organized, books will be missing pages, you will loose socks.. Loose the socks and keep your mind! Don't stress the little stuff

Find the time. To rest. To spend one-on-one time with each kid. To have fun. 

Don't be down on yourself. Find confidence. Be the best mom you can be! That starts with being the best you you can be. 

Take some shortcuts. I am the cheapest person EVER. I will buy pretzels and chocolate because it's cheaper than buying chocolate covered pretzels. Then I will stay up way too late making them. I've had to learn to sometimes buy the already cooked rotisserie chicken, instant mashed potatoes or boxed Mac n' cheese. 

My idea of "ready" has been reinvented. These days I am happy if I've showered and have on clean clothes. Make-up is optional and clothing is more about comfort than making a statement. It is important to be clean and sometimes do a little extra for your husband but don't feel like you have to look amazing all the time. 

Take lots of pictures
Snuggle a lot
Practice patience
Pray often
Journal your ugly thoughts then throw them away
Alternate fun with productivity 
Make your marriage a priority. Your husband is your teammate. Raising kids won't work if you don't give your relationship the nurturing it needs. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The second time around

I'm not going to lie, when we found out I was pregnant again I was extremely freaked out! Phoenix was only 7 months old and we were in no way ready. 
I knew it would be a strain financially, on our marriage and we were already lacking in room. 

To be honest (again) I wasn't really excited until I held him for the first time. 
My eyes filled with tears the second I heard his cry and my heart was drastically changed. I let go of my preconceived notions and became more open to God's plan for our little family. 

We are only a week in and I'm not so naive as to think it will all be roses (it hasn't been) but it also hasn't been as terrible as I had made it out to be in my mind. 

Labor was much less scary because I knew what to expect. 
Recovery has been smoother
I'm already adjusted to not sleeping so it isn't as drastic as last time
I learned from my mistakes on breastfeeding with Phoenix so I feel like I am doing much better there
I wasn't under the allusion that my body would go back to normal right after the baby so I'm not constantly looking in the mirror and frowning
Phoenix taught me to "major on the majors and minor on the minors" I'm not concerned with organizing his dresser, pretreating every stain, researching everything or comparing him to other babies his age. I'm just letting it all happen. I'm spending some time on the couch cuddling my kiddos and only doing things when I'm not exhausted. The house isn't a mess but it's not spotless. 

There are still going to be scary or stressful moments but I'm choosing to make an effort to embrace them. I cannot change how things have happened and I don't want too. God has given us two beautiful children. Though they may only be 14 months apart, they are gifts and I will treat them as such. 

I do regret that I haven't had the chance to spoil Phoenix as I wanted too. Raise her as my little girl for longer but I know she will always have a friend in her brother. 
There won't be as many jealousy issues, she will grow up sharing and be okay with it because she's never known any different. They will experience so much together and we will still be young when they are grown so we can enjoy them longer and meet their children. 

Being a mom of two at 21 isn't exactly what I had planned for myself but God shows me on a daily basis that the world doesn't revolve around my plans (thank goodness) He knows what we can and cannot handle. He promises to only give us what we can handle. So, here we go. Rusk- family of four! And to think it all started with two kids falling in love only 3 short years ago

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I was once a social butterfly.. So creative, loved to write. I was always painting, taking pictures, singing and playing jingles.. Now I can't remember the last time I wrote, danced, sang a special or played..
 Who am I? I feel estranged. I thought I was finding myself. Instead, I've never felt so lost. My whole life is working, paying bills, chasing a munchkin and remembering to take my pills. 

Don't get me wrong, I love her dearly.. I don't love myself and the person I've been lately. I have no passion, hobbies or alone time. I can't shake the worry, I'm always behind. 

Was I meant to marry at only 19? Trade my dreams of being a student for a life so prudent? I see my friends who are off having fun.. Sometimes it's hard not to wish I was there too. 
I could have been graduated by now, career and financially set. Should I have done that before I had my kids?

Who else at my age is creating meal plans, staying up late to do chores and always making plans? None that I see.. I feel like it's just me. I know this is what I asked for but sometimes I wish to just be free. A day to sleep in, eat out, have fun. 
I want back the me that I once was.. So creative, so fun. I don't like how stagnant I've become. 
I want to be romanced, wearing clothes that fit.. Feeling beautiful and young again. I don't want to be seen by him as the tires mom.. I don't like always wondering what's wrong. If this is the life we've made I pray we will at least learn to get along. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Entertaining on the fly AND on a budget

our dear friend made plans with us yesterday to come over for the day. I was excited as we haven't seen him for awhile and offered to make lunch/dessert. At the time, I had no idea what I was offering to make! Let's see what I was able to pull together from what I  already had.

We all know pasta is a dish that can easily feed several "on a dime"but you don't want your guest to feel like they're just eating what You could throw together. There are simple things you can do to "spruce it up" and still stay within in your budget.
This dish was $4 and easily fed all three of us with some to spare.
I used:
8oz cooked elbow noodles
Left-over sausage from breakfast and 1/4lb ground beef
1cup pasta sauce
1/2 onion and 4 diced mushrooms
1 1/2c shredded mozzarella

I browned the meat with garlic powder and parsley and put it on a towel to drain the grease. Then, using the same pan I sautéed the mushrooms and onions (this is a great way to make your clean up easier and marry the flavors!) I stirred all that together with the sauce and mixed it in with the cooked and drained pasta. Then, topped it with some freshly shredded mozzarella in an 8" baking dish. Closer to time, I put it in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Then, I pulled some bread out of the freezer the night before to thaw. I've been saving these breadsticks. They were only 1.00 from the deli and hold well in the freezer until I'm ready to use them. They only take a minute in the oven.

For dessert, we had blackberry cobbler. Cobbler is SO easy and versatile. I had 2 cups of blackberries that had been picked and washed.
For the dough I sifted together
1/2c sugar,
1cup flour,
2tsp baking powder
and then added 1/4c melted butter and about 1 cup of milk.
 I poured the berries on top, sprinkled with sugar and then drizzled over 1/2 cup water.
This will create a "syrup" when it bakes in the oven.
This also goes in at 350 in a greased 8-9" baking pan.
so, I just put it in the oven with the pasta and kept an eye on them both as their cooking times are a little different. 

Entertaining is SO fun and doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. More often than not, friends just want to hang out. Food is always a plus BUT if they are true friends, they are there for the company! (I could make a sandwich and Jeff would thank me then offer to wash his plate!)

We also spent some time cooling off in the pool after lunch. Phoenix loves her uncle Jeff.
He bought her an early birthday present! I'm probably more excited than I should be but we needed a baby gate! Like with the food, gifts don't have to be expensive or fancy. I love practical gifts! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Two more weeks and two mouths to feed (on a budget)

Guys!! This week I did very well! Not only did I stay on track with our budget, I got some "extras" for FREE! I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't let you in on a little secret.. Dollar general (with a clipping from previous visits receipt or a digital coupon) gives you $5 off a purchase of $25 or more! So this week I hit dollar general first to see what I could get from my list.. Here's what I bought there. 

2 for $1.00 taco seasoning and country gravy 
1.00 instant rice
1.00 hamburger buns
3.00 protein bars
2.00 paper plates
2.00 toilet paper
1.00 paper towels
5.00 charcoal
1.00 pancake mix 
2.00 instant potatoes
2.00 cereal
3.00 dr pepper 
1.00 tortillas 

So, my total was a little over $25.00 and I got $5.00 off! Can't beat that! :)

Then I was off to Walmart to get the rest of my list.(notice, I made sure to get only dry goods from dollar general)
5.00 rotisserie chicken 
3.00 burritos
3.00 potatoes
3.00 green onions, onions, mushrooms
3.00 ham steak- price matched from harps
4.00 ground beef
.88 stick butter- price matched from harps
2.00 potato wedges
1.00 biscuits
2.00 sausage
3.00 mozzarella 
4.00 chicken fried steak

Here we go.. 
The buns will be used for a few meals.
 First, I am using 1/2 the chicken to make chicken salad sandwiches
1/2 the ham steak will be used to make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches 
(They will both be served with a side of potato wedges)
The other half of the chicken will be paired with rice, eggs and veggies to make chicken fried rice
The other half of the ham steak is for breakfast. I'll make eggs with veggies and cheese

The potatoes are for potato soup (I keep the other ingredients stocked at home because they can no longer be found at Walmart)

I will use 1/2 the sausage to spruce up the country gravy and serve over biscuits
The other 1/2 sausage will be used with the mozzarella to make a pasta bake (I keep pasta odds-and-ends to make this) and I have some breadsticks in the freezer that I got for super cheap!

We will have pancakes one morning with whatever eggs I have left 

The ground beef will make 3 meals!! I've discovered that I can get 32 meatballs from a pound which is 3 meals, 5 each! I'll serve with the mashed potatoes, left-over breadsticks and gravy or veggies

The chicken fried steak comes in a package of 5.. Which is two meals for both of us and a left-over to be creative with. One day I'll use the remainder of the hamburger buns to make sandwiches

The other day I will use it in a more traditional sense.. With potatoes and gravy
A package of burritos (8) is two meals and sometimes a few left-over. I like to bake them and melt cheese over the top. 

We also have cereal and protein bars for a snack or easy breakfasts. 

Shopping doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Stick to a list and portion control! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Two week shopping trip.. $47.00!

Two weeks have passed since my last shopping haul.. It's time to go back! We are getting another two weeks worth of groceries for two adults. Once again I'll be showing my shopping list and the meals in making from it. 
Sticking to the list and budgeting is key to success.. I'm hoping to help others eat well and save money!

2.00 potatoes (I seriously get a different kind of potatoes everytime I buy them.. It all depends on what I am doing and the price)
1.00 frozen veggies (great value)
3.00 pizza (I buy Red Baron or Tony's)
3.00 ice cream (great value)
1.00 cool whip
1.00 bread (great value)
2.00 flour
2.00 powdered sugar
2.00 sugar
2.00 gravy: 1 brown, 1 chicken
1.00 blueberry muffin mix (found with cake mix. Even the name brand is very inexpensive. Makes 6 muffins or 6 pancakes)
2.00 cereal (I usually get the off brand of honey nut Cheerios, frosted flakes, frosted mini wheats or raised bran) 
2.00 paper plates (50 foam plates fro 1.83 great value)
2.00 dr pepper (2 2 liters)
1.00 biscuits (great value)
2.00 orange juice (great value is the brand I get. It's a smaller jug but it's just for me to take vitamins with..Usually anywhere from 1.25-2.00)
2.00 cream cheese (the off brands are anywhere from 1.58-1.78)
5.00 rotisserie chicken (precooked from Walmart deli)
4.00 bacon I got hotel because I had a coupon
4.00 ground beef (the pound I get is usually around 3.64.. But it all depends on the fat content.. The leaner the meat, the more expensive)
3.00 lunch meat (I compare prices between great value and Oscar Meyer)
3.00 kielbasa (Ekrich farms)

Grand total: $47.60

Meals from this shopping trip:
Meatballs potatoes, gravy (2 meals)
 1lb ground beef makes several meatballs for us. I do the prep work, half it and put back one half, make the other. They freeze well and reheat well

Chicken with  gravy and veggies

Chicken with potato salad... 
I bought a rotisserie chicken which is enough for two meals. The first time I will serve with gravy and some of the veggies I bought.. It's our go-to meal once we have unloaded the groceries because it's still warm and it's easy.  The other I will use the potatoes to make potato salad and toss the chicken in some BBQ I have at home.

Kielbasa potatoes and peppers

Kielbasa and Mac and cheese..
 I halved the kielbasa to get two meals. The package I get is a pound. So once again, 1/2lb let meal. For one meal I will sauté the kielbasa and serve with Mac and cheese. The other meal will be a potato, onion, pepper and kielbasa hash

It won't be too much longer and this won't work for us! Haha. The last time we shared a little Tony's pizza I was still hungry BUT it encourages me to have some fruit or salad on the side instead of eating more pizza to get full. And you can always add more toppings before baking to spruce up a frozen pizza

Cinnamon donuts.. 
These are an easy breakfast. You take the prepared can of biscuits, cut holes from the middle and pan fry or deep fry. Then roll in cinnamon and sugar. I'm sure you could even bake them. Just dip the top in melted butter then sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar

Cereal and fruit

Sandwiches and chips (2 meals) 
when I buy lunch meat I buy enough for 4 sandwiches (2 meals)
Pancakes eggs and bacon..
 I'm using my blueberry muffin mix to make pancakes (yes, you can do that.. Just add a little more water or milk Han the packet calls for) and I'll be serving it with half the bacon. 

Ramen stir fry .. 
This is where the other half of the frozen veggies will be used. Toss together with some ramen and soy sauce for a yummy meal
French toast and bacon.. 
I'll use the remaining bread from the sandwiches to make French toast and serve with the remaining bacon

I'll also be making a treat that I've been craving.. Peanut butter pie! I have graham crackers and butter at home for the crust and peanut butter. so, I only needed the cream cheese, powdered sugar and cool whip to complete the filling. 

I like to keep baking goods stocked so I'm topping off my flour and sugar. They are the base to almost everything. There are mornings where I want to make pancakes, waffles, crepes, muffins or some other baked good and it helps to have what I need!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ramen stir fry

This is another super cheap, easy, quick and versatile meal. It can be made with any veggies, any meat (or no meat) and feeds anywhere from  one to several people. 
What is it? Ramen stir fry!
I made this for Dylan when we were dating and he called it "poor people food" which makes me laugh.. It really is that affordable though. 

For us I use 
2 packs of ramen, 
1 bag of frozen veggies 
a few tablespoons of soy sauce. 
Its $1.60, feeds two and there's usually some left over. 
Sometimes I add a chicken breast or fresh veggies which makes it a little more but it's still so cheap!
And as I said, easy! I cook the ramen in a pot by itself (without seasoning) then in another pan i sauté together the veggies, 1 seasoning packet and soy sauce. Once the noodles are cooked I drain the noodles and toss them in with the veggies for about a minute until well coated. 
Viola! A yummy meal that can be made in no time. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Call me MARTHA!

We all know the story of Martha and Mary the sisters who are as opposite as they come (as sisters often are) 
Mary is found tending to guests more personal needs and feelings while Martha is concerned with every detail being just perfect and is upset with her sister for not sharing the same concern. 

I've found myself in situations taking after both but more often than not I lean towards Martha. I am by nature a very organized, driven, type A kind of girl! While I get upset with myself (because I'm a perfectionist.. Comes with the type A) I have to remember that this doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, IF you can keep yourself under control every event, church, family, friend NEEDS a Martha to take care of details. 
It takes organization to make things run smoothly.. It takes those who are "Mary-minded" to make things fun, relaxed and memorable. 
Now.. Notice I said IF and that's a big if! If you cannot, you'll do the opposite of what a good host does (make the guests feel welcome) you'll end up driving everyone away. You see,
It's okay to clean the house before guests come over.
 It's not okay to awkwardly stare at their dirty shoes making them feel so uncomfortable they eventually take them off. 
It's okay to plan the meal based off the food triangle, calorie intake or whatever else your OCD heart has decided makes a meal "perfect"
It's not okay to force them to use a coaster at the table
And so on so forth. 
Jesus recognized the sisters, their differences and their strengths. He created both Mary and Martha. He knew we needed balance in the world. He didn't take them by the ears and tell them to "just get along" as our mothers do when we quarrel with our siblings. He simply explained that neither one of them were in the wrong they were only doing as He created them too.
I've been praying that God will give me the balance I need. My mind and heart are almost always at war with each other. My mind is strong, goal oriented, planning endlessly and my heart is soft. 
I want to help others and I know if I can find that balance I can do so much good. God doesn't just want me to think and plan ways to provide.. He wants me to have a heart for his people and a willingness to accept His plans over my own. Set aside the list, step-by-step and daily routines. 
God wants me to recognize that not everyone is  like me.. That's okay too! God calls everyone to serve in different ways. We aren't all worship leaders, we aren't all nursery workers, we aren't all kitchen staff, we aren't all janitors. 
BUT we ARE all children of God. We have inside us the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us do what would be impossible otherwise. Let's utilize that to be more like the servants He calls us to be. Leave behind our worries, inadequacy and accept His help to mend our flaws. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No Harsh chemical way of cleaning! Tips and tricks

I am a neat freak.. It's no secret. I'm also pregnant which can make things a little difficult.. No oven cleaner, bleach, comet. 

Does that mean I stop cleaning? No! It means I find safe alternative. Some of these items that I'll be using are things you probably already have in your home for cooking. Others, you have for cleaning but haven't thought to use for anything other than their original purpose. 

Let's get started! Cleaning tips, tricks and alternatives to harsh chemicals. 

For tile- 
I use one of two things to get my role clean. I either place windex in my spray mop when I'm feeling lazy or I mix vinegar with baking soda and scrub the floors prior to mopping. You'll be amazed the difference it makes! Especially if you're really dedicated and take a toothbrush to the grout. Or, resolve works wonders on grout
For your fridge-
There's also a few options for your fridge. Warm soapy water works for your everyday cleaning. However; the spilled, sticky messes need more help. Use 1 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of hot water mixed with essential oils (optional) 

Countertops, washer and dryer tops- 
mix a little cream of tartar with water. This also works wonders for small appliances (toaster, waffle iron..etc)
Vinegar, baking soda and your iron can act as a carpet cleaning solution and "steam cleaning" this works best for oil-based stains. You can sometimes just use the iron to remove stains 
There are SO many things you can use to clean your toilet. Baking soda, vinegar, toothpaste, citric acid, borax, washing soda, windex, dawn dish detergent 
Air vents, window units and many other places in your home contain filters that need cleaning. Use your vacuum hose attachment!
I make a mixture with 5 T of baking soda, 5 T dawn dishwashing detergent (I've found that it works best) and 4 T vinegar. It really works wonders! Just as effective as oven cleaner, safer and you have what you need already to make it! Once cleaned you can add a little wax to prevent some messes in-between cleaning. 
Glass stovetop-
Use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide
The mixture mentioned above works great for your shower. I just double everything so I'll have enough to take care of the whole shower and the shower head. 
Microfiber furniture-
Got stains? Take care of them with a little rubbing alcohol and a warm, wet washcloth
Vent covers-
After they're cleaned rub them down with some car wax to prevent dust build up

Uses for dryer sheets (other than the obvious) 

this simple household product can replace bug spray! I was overjoyed that it actually works. Previously I could only use one bug spray without an allergic reaction but there's still the sticky left-over feeling. Use dryer sheets! Rub them on legs, arms, feet..wherever!

Use them to scrub sinks, toilets, shower, countertops, the fridge. I do so with a little water or soap. The "woven" texture grabs dirt and grime lifting them away. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Groceries for two for two weeks

It's no secret that groceries can be a big expense.. Whether you have a small or large family. It's also something that you can only cut back on so much.. You gotta eat to keep going!
However; you can switch brands, use coupons, ad match or use portion control in your favor. 
I do a little of each! But most importantly I ALWAYS have a battle plan. This helps more than anything. It's easy to walk out of the store with more than you really need. 
Make a list and stick to it! More than that, make a list, correlate it with a meal plan for that week to make sure you haven't missed anything (because runs to the store to pick up "one thing" never really happen)

Dylan has been the sole bread-winner for almost a month now and gets paid bi-weekly which means I have to plan ahead to make sure all our expenses are taken care of in a timely manner. Groceries are no exception.
Today, for the first time I made a two-week shopping trip. When it was all said and done I left the store with 10 lunches/dinners, snack foods, paper goods and breakfasts
Ignore my awful handwriting and scribbles. The point of this picture is to show my battle plan.. The list. This is the secret to the success. 
I know when I go into the store how much I've allowed to each item based off the brands I usually buy, I know what I need and where I'm going. Distraction is your enemy in a supermarket.. The "NEW" signs and "limited time offer" can easily become a stumbling block. 

From this list I got 10 meals. Let me show you how. 

Meals 1&2 
country fried steak. I buy a bag that contains 4 5 oz patties. We each get one and a half per meal. I serve it with the instant potatoes, corn and gravy
Meal 3
I used 4 of the chicken tenderloins (of the 8 found in a 1.25lb package) with the cream of chicken and crescent rolls to make a casserole which I serve with green beans
Meal 4
I used 2 chicken tenderloins and made my own chicken strips to serve with Mac and cheese
Meal 5&6
From one pound of ground beef I can make 4 hamburger patties which is two meals for us, 1 each. I seve them on a roll with potato wedges
Meal 7
With the shell noodles, bacon bits and Alfredo sauce I make a simple pasta dish
Meal 8
I always keep mayo and other condiments at home so to make a tuna salad sandwich all I had to buy was tuna! Once again, this is served with potato wedges
Meal 9
Grilled chicken and orzo (had some orzo at home from last week) or you could use the left-over shell noodles and Alfredo 
Meal 10
Mac and cheese with bacon bits

The cereal makes a quick breakfast, I almost always have eggs and bread so it's no big deal to make a French toast bake. 
The cake mix and icing was for our gender reveal this weekend in case you're trying to find how I used that..

Paper towels- price first
Toilet paper- angel soft
Great value- cream of chicken, potato wedges, green beans and corn, gravy, cereal, Alfredo, shell noodles, crescent rolls and bacon bitsv
Tuna- star list (2 for around $1.00)
Hawaiian rolls (I buy the small package with 4 since we are only two people in case you were wondering how it was only $1.00)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The fast food trap and how to avoid it

After VBS tomorrow we have errands to run. VBS ends at noon.. Lunch time!

 It would be all too convenient to go through Taco Bell or KFC. In fact, it sounds great! But, we need to save money and eat right! Not to mention, it's NEVER a good idea to go shopping hungry!
Here's my plans for tomorrow to keep our bellies full, wallet a little fuller and still enjoy ourselves! 

First is breakfast:
Blueberry oat muffins with a honey drizzle! Muffins are easy to take on-the-go, tasty and inexpensive. 
Aren't they cute?

For lunch I wanted to use some things we already had, either make it ahead to reheat or find something that was easy to throw in the microwave at church. We ended up with a little of both. 
On the menu:
Sausages in buns (I had two left. They're easy to microwave and will keep well in the fridge)
"Famous potato salad" as Dylan calls it. We both love potato salad, it's the perfect make-ahead dish and I found a way to transport it easily, mess-free and pre-portioned. 
I used more things I already had. Potatoes, made in my potato express..(I used red potatoes this time which have a very thin skin so I left most of the skin on with the exception of blemishes) I keep mustard, mayo, salt, pepper, onions and pickles in the fridge always so this was super convient (sometimes I use celery or green onions instead of pickles if I've already bought them for something else)

And now to show you how potato salad can be picnic-ready, so to speak. I found these cute little containers awhile back at the dollar store and I already had plastic forks from our camping trip. After I put in the desired portions i fastened on the lid and simply added a piece of scoth tape to secure each fork! 
This will be easy to clean up when I get home and super easy to make in the microwave at church.
When you make something you can look forward too you really don't feel like you're missing out at all. 
Stay strong, friends!!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Homemade toilet fizzies!

Yes, I know.. I've gone off my rocker! Making stuff I could buy. 
Ah well! I'm having fun.. That all that matters, right?

You will need
1cup borax
1/4cup baking soda
10-15 drops of any essential oil
1/2 tsp vinegar
1taespoon of hydrogen peroxide. 

Just like with baking, keep the wet and dry ingredients separate. 
Use a fork to destroy any clumps in the baking soda. 
When you're ready to combine, do so in increments. This will fizz-up and doing it all at once would make a huge mess. 
It will look like this once it's combined. 
You can use whatever you would like to scoop them out.. I already had the tablespoon out so I used it. 
Scoop out on to foil or parchment paper
If you'd like, you can spritz the fizzies with equal parts of water and vinegar. This will create a crust. 

Let them sit and dry for a few hours  keep in an air-tight container. 

When ready to use simply drop in toilet, let dissolve and flush!
Or you can place some in the back of the toilet. Your choice. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Family get-togethers: keeping it simple

My favorite family events are the one that only request you being a side. It's cheaper and easier to be creative. The possibilities are endless! 
However; it's also easy to get carried away. I always want to impress and make something new or fancy. From experience I've learned that it's best to keep it simple, stick with what you know or do a test run before the event. 

This year for the 4th of July I decided to make 3 items. All new to me but seemingly simple. 
1. Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole
2. Pots de le creme in a cake-box pie shell served with whip cream
3. Garlic breadsticks. 

I had seen a few things here-and-there that inspired each recipe. They all looked/sounded fool-proof! So, off I went. 
Taking my own advice, I made each the day before so my "taste-tester" and food critic could give them a try, thumbs up or thumbs down. 
We were pleased with everything! And keeping true with my passion, all were inexpensive to make!

I found these breadsticks for crazy cheap! They were just under a dollar for 6. I cut them in half to serve 12 then melted 1/2 of butter which I already had and put in my herb blend. I drizzled the butter over the top and baked for a few minutes before the event so they could be served warm. 

The hashbrown casserole was honestly for my benefit.. I'm addicted to it and was dying to see if I really could make it at home! The conclusion, I totally can!! Tastes just like it! 
1 large bag of frozen hashbrowns 
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 stick of butter (melted)
1 10oz can of cream of chicken
1 cup of Colby cheese (shredded)
Salt and pepper to taste
The total cost was under $5.00 and it was SO simple to make. You combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, spread evenly into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 375* for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. 
I did add green onions and parsley (really, just because I had some I needed to use and it sounded good.)

Lastly, the dessert. 
I saw this pots de le creme recipie on the pioneer woman one day and jotted it down to try. It's really easy and cheap so I decided it would work for the 4th. 
All you need is:
A blender
4 eggs
12oz semi sweet or milk chocolate chips
1 cup of HOT strong coffee
Tsp of vanilla
Add in the chocolate chips and eggs. Pulse until the chips are broken up a bit. Add in the vanilla and coffee slowly from the top until it's smooth. Place in the fridge for 2 hours before serving to chill. 

Easy, right? And cheap! All I had to buy was the whipped cream for the top and the chocolate chips so it was around $2.00

There was just one problem.. She served hers in individual wine glasses. I was not about to buy several wine glasses to only use once. Especially knowing I had nowhere to put them! So, I improvised by making pie cups.. From cake mix! 

You will need, 
1 box of cake mix (I used vanilla)
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1tbs butter DO NOT MELT

Mix ingredients until crumbly. Place on floured surface, roll out, cut into rounds and place in a mini muffin pan. Bake at 350* for a few minutes until golden brown. These were cute, easy to eat and cheap. I paid $1.00!! 
I came up with 40something.. I'm leaving the whipped cream until the very end.

(Please note all these prices are based off of already having coffee, vanilla, eggs and butter)

I hope you've enjoyed your 4th of July celebration. Don't forget to have fun with the family! Be safe and feel good about what you bring! You'll always be the best chef in your kitchen ;)

My little "helper"

Homemade laundry detergent

I love to save money wherever I can. Laundry seems to be a big expense! It's one of those things hat you'll never stop doing. So, why not try to find ways to save? With all the detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, stain removal, the energy to run a washer and dryer. Not to mention my skin irritations that limit my choices it was a NO BRAINER to not only give up the dryer/use a clothesline but to make my own detergent. 
Here's the story:
$6.00, 2 gallons, 15 minutes and hundreds of loads!!

All you need is:
1 bar of soap (this is what will add the fragrance and color of the detergent so it's okay to be choosy)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
2 gallons of water
(This is a LOT cheaper after the first time you make it. I get several cups from each box)

Large pot
Cheese grater
Long spoon
2 empty gallon containers

This is the first step. My favorite! You simply grate one bar of soap!
Then, add to your large pot with 1 gallon of water. Heat this until the soap dissolves. If it hasn't congealed yet let it come to a boil. Then 
pour in the borax and washing Soda. Stir again until dissolved and Pour the last gallon of water. Leave in the pot together until it's cool. 

Using your funnel pour the detergent into your empty gallon containers. 

This detergent goes a LONG way. You will only need 1/4cup per load of laundry. It IS compatible with high efficiency washing machines and cleans well. 

Some bars of soap react differently. If you find yours is overly thick you can add more water. If you don't think it's thick enough, boil it longer. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Easy breakfast bake

Dylan loooves French toast.. It's probably his favorite breakfast of all time. The bar is high. (His mother makes it very well) 

but this morning when he wanted it I wasn't prepared. I had no bacon or sausage to go with it and not enough bread to make it a meal as is. So, I got creative! Here's the good news, he approved! Said we should make it like this from now on!

I used the little under 1/2 a loaf of Texas toast I had left and a few slices of regular white bread. I diced them into equal sized pieces and put them into the bottom of a greased 9" pan. 
Then I wisked 5 large eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon together in a bowl. 
I poured the eggs on the bread and squished the bread down so it was coated with the eggs. 
Then, it got tricky.. I wanted to make a strussel topping but didn't have any flour left. So, I improvised. I mixed quick oats with brown sugar and put pats of butter on top. (It worked)
Placed in the oven at 350* for 20 minutes until the eggs were done. 
Topped with syrup right before serving. 

Here's the before and after. 
Let me know if you try it and what you think! 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This is and isn't my kind of dish. 
It is because it's pasta! It's cheap and it's easy. 
It isn't because it's tuna.. Dylan loves it; however, so I make it sometimes. 

For this dish I used a little mustard, mayo and soy sauce wich I already had. 
Some diced green onions,
Small shell noodles,
1 can of drained tuna
Salt, pepper and garlic powder

So the total cost was about $3.00 and I still have some green onions and shell pasta left for another dish! 

This is pretty straightforward:
1 tsp mustard
2tbs mayo
Salt, pepper and garlic to taste
Diced green onions
Mix with cooked and drained pasta. (I used 2 cups since it's just us. If you're making more you'll need to adjust the mustard, mayo and maybe use 2 cans of tuna) 
Fold in drained tuna (1 can)
Chill and serve!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stuffed shells

This is a recipie that you will fall in love with for the following reasons:
It's super easy
It's cost effective
It tastes  like it could have come from a restraunt!

What you will need:
1 bag frozen spinach (thaw and drain, if desired)
1 small container of ricotta cheese
Jumbo shells
Pasta sauce (I use Ragu)
Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese for the top. 
Salt/pepper/garlic to taste 
It only took about $5 to buy those items! To make it even better I have shells, pasta sauce and cheese left-over to make more or another dish. 
So, for 4 servings I spent $5.00.. When you break it down this meal really is cheap. 

As I said, it's also really simple to make. 

I cooked the shells, 
combined the salt, pepper, garlic, ricotta and spinach together in a bowl and placed a generous spoonful in each. 
Then, to top it all off I added sauce to half (Dylan doesn't care for it) and mozzarella cheese. 

Since the shells were already cooked it didn't take long at all to bake. I used my best judgement with 10 minutes @350* and they turned out great. 

when baking, cover with foil

I hope you'll give it a try, enjoy it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A peek inside: the major move

If you've followed me very closely lately you've heard me speak of financial stress.
 I was at a place in my job that I was losing more than I was making. I loved my job but couldn't sacrifice providing for my family. 

So, after a few long talks with Dylan and some math we decided the best thing for our family at the moment was for him to work as much as he could at his current job and pick up some other things on the side as needed.
 This takes a lot of stress off the car and our gas fund (with us both using the car for work it's 100 miles a day and about $90.00/week in gas..) Not counting the insurance, loan payment, oil, tires and everything else it takes to keep the car going! 
My paychecks over the course of a month weren't even covering what's listed above and we have bills other than those. 

I'm still warming up to the idea of staying home. My type A personality tells me "if you're not working, you're a lazy bum. You aren't contributing"
While this isn't true and my husband doesn't tell me these things it's something I'm working through. 

I have to remind myself that me not working at that job is what's better for us right now. It's saving us money (not having to pay a babysitter, borrow a car on the days Dylan can't ride his bike or has to go in early, extra gas..) it's allowing Dylan to work more which he wants to do, it takes some stress off me trying to find a full-time job while pregnant (many employers done like to hear "by the way, I have to leave soon for maternity leave" 

and it helps me to be a better mom. This, is my new priority. 
Up to this point in our relationship I have ALWAYS been the bread-winner in the family. Even if I made less per hour I have worked more hours by having a full time job or two jobs. I felt accomplished because I was making money for my family.. What I didn't realize until it was too late were the sacrifices I made to do that. Sure, I missed some fun stuff but that's not what I mean. I've missed my baby!
Phoenix is almost 9 months and apart from maternity leave (I took 3 weeks after she was born) I can count on one hand the amount of days I have stayed home with phoenix by myself. It's sad really.. 

She prefers her daddy, said his name as her first word and takes after him very much so. As much as it hurts to admit, she may even reach for my mom over me. 
I'm always the "bad guy" the one that tries to keep her clean, gives her medicine, makes her go to bed at a scheduled time every night or doesn't let her play with her food.. 
By the time I got home from work, changed, kissed my husband goodbye until 1 a.m, did a chore (laundry, dishes, vacuum, scrub the shower or dust..etc) it was time to give her a bath and put her to bed. 

I'm not far in at all but I can tell it will be a journey. One that I will learn from, grow from and carry on to our baby #2.. 
I will return to the workforce after having the baby (unless someone would take me before then) and of course if it would be profitable for my family. I'm proud to see my husband work hard to pay the bills but I'm not so ignorant to think that it's 100% practical at our age, given our "skillset" this is a temporary "fix" that we will make work.. I'm not giving up my dreams of going to school and having a career. It's just once again on hold. 

God has a plan. 
There is always a way.