Goals and My Word for 2015

 

5281453002_ab257fec82_bphoto credit

I’m not one to make New Year resolutions, as I find that they just end up being dropped about midway into January.  Instead I like to think about the past year, what worked, what didn’t, what did we struggle with, and what do we need improve.  I do this for many areas of our life including our budget, travel, faith, homeschool, kids activities, goals, work schedules, home maintenance, long term goals and more. This is a great way to get started planning for the new year and figuring out what worked, what you would like to work on and what just didn’t work at all.  It’s also a great way to remind yourself of your long term goals.  Where you would like to see yourself, your family in the next few years.

As always I get out my handy little notebook and jot down some notes as I think about those areas of our life.  I also jot down the trips I know we have for the year, the extra expenses that may be coming up, and anything else that I can think of that needs my time and thought.

I like to then go through each of these areas and make a short list (2-3) of the most important things that need to change, be improved upon or maybe just remembered. These are my goals for the new year.  I limit these to a short list so that they will not become overwhelming.  If I have a few items I want to work on, I do my best to narrow it down to just 2 or 3.  Some of these things are a quick fix, but others will need to happen over time, and having them in my little notebook reminds me throughout the year.

You see, I am a planner by nature.  In order for things to happen, I need to plan for them.  I do not do well flying by the seat of my pants, but really does anyone?  Flying by the seat of my pants with a budget makes me incredibly nervous.  I think we would be lucky to have food on the table and a roof over our head.  Is this you?  Do you often find your life is frazzled and out of order?

The most successful people and businesses have plans.  That is how they got where they are.  They decide what works for them and what doesn’t.  They meet, they discuss and they make a list of things to change.  I feel like this is a great plan for everyone.  It will surely take some stress out of your life!

If you are one that always finds things popping up, has bills overdue, finds yourself without money right before a big trip, I encourage you to take some time to do a little planning.  Get yourself a notebook and think about the things that are always out of order and leave you feeling frazzled and distraught.

While your at it, pick a word to make as your focus for the year.  Choose one word to focus on for the year.  Something you want to remember, something that you want of focus on for the year.  For me this year it’s TIME.  I want to focus on giving more of my time to my girls, more of my time to my family.  I want to use my time more wisely, instead of wasting it on trivial things like the couch and tv.  I want to spend more time outdoors, because I love being outside.  Our time here is limited, so I want to make the most of it I can.  Make memories.

What would your word be for the year?

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Goodbye 2014 …… Hello 2015

R wreath

Let me tell you 2014 was great, but I look forward to so many things in 2015!  So hello 2105!  You came too fast, but that’s okay, I’m ready for you.

It’s no doubt been an interesting year here for us, if not wildly busy.  We made so many memories and had so many special times together, and we are looking forward to more great times and more special memories in this new year.

I bet you are all wondering why I haven’t been able to post since late October, so here it goes.

We have one internet /phone company available to us where we live.  Can you say big monopoly? Well, when they put in DSL, they failed to plan for all the people that would be using it and just kept adding people onto already full devices.  Not to mention the increased popularity of sites like Netflix, You Tube and Amazon prime, which further slowed things down.  Things had gotten so bad that it was taking hours to put up one blog post.  I just couldn’t get it done, not with homeschooling and everything else that needed to be done.  I was stressed.  I want this blog to succeed very well, I love what I do here, but I couldn’t get this internet problem fixed, nor did I have sufficient time to get it tackled.

Finally over Christmas I had it.  I called our internet/phone provider, I talked to others, I did research and I came up with a plan.  We got the internet at the house moving a bit faster, but it all depends on our community usage.  It usually gets faster when the kids all go back to school!  I am currently using it now, but in the event of complete failure again, I made some changes with AT&T to be able to use my phone as a hotspot, and increased our data package.  It was hard for me to do, as 2 of our phones were unlimited, but this will be better for our whole family, and our bill went down a bit.

I was able to complete my Christmas shopping with my hotspot and tablet on the porch and in the yard with only 1 bar!  Much better than my home service.

Now we are looking into a cell booster that does not use internet, like the ones Wilson offers.  We currently have a microcell from AT&T that works great, but it requires internet to work.  So for us, no internet, no signal.

Once I get the booster in and see how it goes, we will be totally backed up!  We may even ditch this home internet/phone we have that costs over $80 a month for nothing, and increase our data plan a bit with AT&T if needed.

So I just wanted you all to know that I am back!  I can post on the go when we are traveling with the girls now.  I can post while I am watching them at practice, I can make more use of my down time and I love it!  I am really excited about many things I am going to bring to the blog in 2015 as well as some really big plans and changes that my family will be making this year.  I plan to tell you guys all about it.

I will also be making some changes to the blog here and there, so let me know what you guys think as you see these new things!

I hope you will all be as excited and interested in all this as I am.  Thanks for being a part of Practicing Frugal!

Happy New Year everyone!

Dianna

DIY Washing Machine Repair

I’m going to be completely honest here and tell you that my washing machine needed this part replaced a while back, but since it was still functioning I didn’t worry about it too much.

It all started with the washer still running when I lifted the lid, and then it progressed to the washer just stopping mid cycle.  It was pretty easy to figure out that it needed a new lid switch.  The lid switch makes the washer start and stop when the lid is lowered or raised.  After my research, I found out it can make the machine just stop running too.

ordering

I ordered my part from Appliance Parts Pros by searching by model number and the name of the part I needed.  The lid switch and shipping came in at under $25, after using a code I found on retailmenot that saved me 5%.

lid switch

The part arrived in just a few short days and I was ready to get that baby put in.  Any Momma knows that being without a washing machine for just a few days can lead to disaster in the laundry department!

DIY Washer Lid Switch Repair

I watched the video on Appliance Parts Pros explaining how to replace the lid switch. I was able to get this project done in less than 10 minutes and with 2 tools (screwdriver and pliers).  This was probably the easiest replacement I have done.  Not that any of them are hard when you have so much information available at your fingertips.

If you would like to see my process for figuring out what is wrong with an appliance, check out this post on DIY Dryer Repair and this one on how I Called The Appliance Repairman.  

We always try to fix these appliances ourselves so that we can not only save as much money as we can, but prolong the life of our appliances.  Many repair jobs performed by a professional could cost so much that one might consider getting a new appliance, or even worse, go into credit card debt to get a new appliance.

I hope that this post may encourage you to try to do some DIY repairs to help save your family money.

Have you ever performed a DIY appliance repair?  Tell us how it worked for you.  What resources did you use?

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Sewing School 101

{this moment}

I’m joining SouleMama for {this moment}.

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

helping hands

grandpa

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Freezer Recipe: Coconut Lime Chicken

coconut lime chicken

Lately I have been trying to fit in a little experimenting with some freezer recipes in all that spare time I have.  That was quite funny wasn’t it?  Well, we are all in the same boat at times.  Short on time and long on a list to do, but we can always prepare a freezer meal or two at a time.  I find it much easier and just as rewarding to get a meal or two in the freezer while I am already cooking something else.  Freezer meals make life easier and keep us out of the drive thru line.

For me it is helpful to have any recipe ready to go whether it is a freezer to slow cooker recipe, freezer to oven recipe or a freezer to grill recipe.  After publishing the post on Meal Ideas For Busy People, I decided it was time to try this recipe.  I kept looking at it thinking it was going to be easy to get in freezer and quick to cook.  It also goes along well with our family’s quest to overcome rising grocery prices.  I mean, I can buy chicken at rock bottom prices and have this prepared and ready to go in the freezer. Many times I find chicken breast or thighs near the sell by date for a big discount.

This delicious Coconut Lime Chicken recipe is a tasty freezer to grill recipe that deserves your attention, and was great paired with lime rice and a vegetable.

I used boneless chicken breasts, but you can also use boneless thigh meat.  Thigh meat is dark meat, but will usually be a bit moister after grilling.

This recipe was adapted from the original recipe at Living Well Spending Less.

coconut lime chicken ingredients

 

Coconut Lime Chicken (Coconut Lime Chicken Printable PDF)

Ingredients:

Juice from 4 Limes
¼ cup olive oil
1 Can Coconut Milk
4 Cloves Garlic, pressed
¼ tsp Ginger
2 tsp Seasoned Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
4 – 4 1/2 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs
2 Gallon Size Freezer Bags, labeled with recipe name, cooking instructions and date

Trim chicken and divide equally between 2 freezer bags.  In bowl, wisk together lime juice, olive oil, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, seasoned salt and pepper.

Divide the liquid mixture between the two freezer bags of chicken.  Flatten to get as much air out as possible without leaking out mixture, and then seal bags.  Store in freezer until ready to use.

Thaw in refrigerator overnight and then grill about 6-8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your meat.

HINT:  If my chicken breasts are thick, I will often butterfly them (cut thickness in half) before freezing. 

freezer coconut lime chicken

I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as we did.  My kids are already requesting that I make it again.  Since it was so easy, it will make the list of go to recipes.

What are your thoughts on freezer recipes?  Do you have a favorite you would like to share?     

making a habit out of living frugal…..

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September Groceries: The Final Total

My computer has been acting up like crazy here, and our TDS DSL mimics that of the old dial up service we used to have, so blogging has been tough lately.  You guys know I love adding pictures, and that process has been making blog posts considerably slow. I am working on a fix/replacement for this, so please just bear with me!

My first shopping trip was a huge success, which resulted in no extra trips to the store for something that was forgotten! That was a complete blessing, as we are so busy this time of the year that I hate to spend the little extra time I have in the store.

I did have one revelation during the first two weeks, and that was to make my grocery shopping trips twice a month instead of every two weeks.  Like I said earlier, we are pretty busy, things come up and shopping doesn’t always happen every two weeks or necessarily even need to be every two weeks, so I think twice a month will be best for us.

Menu planning and deciding how much of everything I need did take a bit longer with the first trip, but I knew how much I needed of most things we buy by the time the second trip came around, so it was much easier.

Right now we are going to stick with the $600 a month grocery budget and see how that goes. Our budget includes food, cleaning supplies, paper products, pet food, toiletries, over the counter medicine, and some car maintenance items.

The budget feeds 4 of us, which includes an 11 year old the size of most adults and we also often buy or prepare items for our oldest daughter who is away at college.

Sams Trip

I let K help take inventory of the items we had in the pantry and freezer before we went shopping.  This was our extra homeschool lesson for the day, and she really enjoyed helping out and learning all at the same time.  She also helped make our menu plan and list of all items needed.  It was fun teaching her how to plan a menu based on what you have and what is on sale.

We spent $88.08 at Sam”s on the items pictured above.  I was able to get about 6-8 months’ worth of allergy medicine for $29.87!  This probably kicked my grocery totals over for the month, but I won’t have to buy it for several months!

I really love getting my butter at Sams.  I just throw what I don’t need right now into the freezer, and we never run out.  The 4 pack was $11.48, which is better than the store brand at most stores I shop at.  Butter is one of those grocery items that are rapidly rising in cost these days.

Kroger Trip

The 50 lb bag of dog food I bought didn’t quite make it in the picture, but other than that, this is everything we got at Kroger for a total of $83.29 after using $11.96 in coupons.

I was able to get the Bagels for free from a Kroger home mailer coupon given to me by my dear step-mom, and I also got the pot pie for free after loading it onto my Kroger card the previous Friday.  If you didn’t already know, Kroger offers a freebie every Friday; you just log into your Kroger account and add the digital coupon to your card. It’s just that simple…..and free.

walmart1

Walmart was my last stop of the day.  Sorry the color is funky in some of the pictures.  It was getting pretty late by the time I got the shopping done, unloaded, lined up for pictures and then put away.

I’m hoping 5 gallons of milk is going to make it until the next shopping trip.  I’m not sure I can fit much more in the refrigerator, and I don’t really like freezing milk.

walmart2

The Kellogg’s cereal was being loaded in the buggy to be pushed up front when we got to Walmart.  They were selling it for $1 a box, and of course I had $1 off 3 coupons, making it just .67 cents each after coupons.

I have been getting quite a few of those Go Go Squeeze applesauce packs lately, and I figured that many of you might be wondering about this new trend.  They are on sale for $1.98 at Walmart now and I have been using many (as many as I can get a hold of) $1 off coupons to get them for $.98 each.  My kids love these for ballpark snacks and they are awesome for our homeschool group field trips.  Sometimes convenience items just have to make an appearance, but I always like it when they are healthier versions.

walmart3

walmart4

We used $12.80 worth of coupons, and price matched the soup, grapes, Libby’s vegetables and the orange juice.  I also received a whopping $.17 back from submitting my receipt to the Walmart savings catcher.

Our final total for Walmart was $257.11.  This was a bit more than I had hoped for, but considering all the extras I bought this week (oil, oil filter, medicine), it’s not too bad.

The week prior to this I had made a run into Sam’s while we were in the area and spent $11.53 on a big jar of pickled okra, 9 pack of raisin english muffins and a 10# bag of sugar.

In the end, the total for the final trip(s) of September was $440.01, making the grand total for September $672.86.  While I did go over budget by $72.86, I had that money in my grocery account from during the summer months when we were away from home a lot.

If I continue to go over budget, I will either plan cheaper meals or think about increasing the budget some.  In the end it will all depend on the family budget, food waste and what kinds of food we are eating.

What is your budget and family size?  If you don’t mind sharing.  

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September Groceries & Menu: First Trip

I have a love hate relationship with the grocery store.  I love to save money on food and other things my family needs, but I really hate taking the time to go get it done.  So early last week I decided that I would start planning my menu and grocery list for two weeks. That’s right, I will buy two weeks worth of groceries and make it last.  During the week I do not have a regular grocery trip, I will supplement with a quick produce, milk and bread trip if any of that is needed.

Let me tell you, this has been great for my sanity.  You see things have been pretty crazy around here between end of summer trips, school starting, planning our homeschool year, bills, budgets, college costs, and the list can go on.  Not to mention I was missing my thyroid medicine too much and began feeling really tired and groggy.  I am now making sure I get my medicine every day, and I will get my levels checked next week.  We have our first month of school planned, and I feel much better.

So, last week I planned the menu, made the list and set out for our first trip of 2 weeks worth of groceries.  I budget $150 per week, and will continue putting that much into my grocery account each week, which will give me my $300 for every two weeks.  I will adjust the budget along the way as needed for the recent steadily rising food prices. Meat is really going to be a big budget problem this year.  So I will be really trying hard to stock up when there are sales of the meat we use a lot.

September Groceries 1

September Groceries 2

September Groceries 3Those cans of chicken, tuna and beans are for hubby’s lunch and dinner.  He’s trying to eat less.

September Groceries 4

September Groceries 5

September Groceries 6

I did all my shopping at Walmart for the week using price matching and $10.00 in coupons to make my final total for this trip $232.85.  Under budget so far for the month of September.  That’s a good thing!

I feel like I didn’t have to spend too much more time planning for 2 weeks of meals and a two week list.  I was even able to add a couple meals to the freezer, which will be an upcoming blog post, but we gotta taste them first.

So onto the menu for the two weeks:

Breakfasts don’t change much around here, so you may always see some of the same items.

french toast
cereal
oatmeal
eggs and toast
muffins
fruit and yogurt

Lunches

Cheese Quesadillas
Sandwiches
Cheese, crackers and fruit
Smoothies
Noodles
Leftovers

Suppers

Sloppy Joe’s, chips and pickles
Scalloped Potatoes with ham
Coconut Lime Chicken
Lemon Chicken in slow cooker with rice and a veggie
Meatballs, hashbrowns and corn
Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Mashed potatoes and corn
Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake
Chicken, Broccoli Rice Casserole

Leftovers
Meals out of our house X 3

Extras

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Pudding
Banana bread
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Phew, I made it and so far we haven’t had to add anything, but never fear that if we do, I will keep you updated so we can keep the budget totals correct.

How often do you grocery shop?  How do you prepare for your trips?

making a habit out of living frugal…..

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