Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planning a No Spend Week

Planning a No Spend Week or: How to Save Extra Money when You Don't have Extra Money

As a large(ish) family living on one income, I’m always looking for ways to save money and lower our weekly and monthly expenses. Through talking to other woman, reading books, blogs and my own trial and error process, God has blessed us with many different ways to save!
I recently have been using another method to save money, called a no spend week. My no spend week is a chance to save a little money in addition to whatever Daniel brings in. Admittedly, my no spend week savings go towards… “fun” money. 

We often have a little extra left over at the end of each week, and unless there is something we are in need of or some unforeseen bill or expenses, that’s our “extra” or fun money for the weekend. We don’t do much, normally it’s a weekend breakfast out as a family, gas money to take the Jeeps out to the beach or date night money. So although there is that extra amount, I hate spending our family fun weekend money on say, a new rug. Daniel always encourages me to use what we have if I find something I like (he is so generous and giving!) but I know that the kids and us will have more memories from being at the beach for the day, than say me getting on them for stepping on my new rug with muddy shoes! So, my no spend week is a way for me to have a little fund that I can use to buy things for the home or keep hidden away for a rainy day,  it’s a mini savings that won’t take away from the money we put into savings or take away from our weekend fun money budget!

What is a no spend week?:

* A no spend week is where you do just that, don’t spend anything that week! 
Normally each week I carefully budget our $160 to account for all meals for the five of us for the week plus groceries like toilet paper, diapers, pet food, ect. I plan our weekly menu and shop for that week.

* During my “no spend week” I don’t go shopping for anything but some fresh fruit and some milk. That’s it! So for my first week of trying out this method, I saved myself about $140.00! Of course you could take it one step farther and buy nothing, but I get very picky about milk and we eat so much fruit that it would be almost impossible for us not to buy any fruit in a week.

Planning your no spend week:

 Now I say that my first week I saved $140.00 but that took 4-6 weeks of preparation. It‘s a simple plan, you just need to be diligent about keeping stock of what you have and not use the food you are preparing for your week of not buying anything!

I’m sure there are many people who could do this in less time or on a bigger scale, but this plan is specifically for anyone who doesn’t plan on spending anything more than they normally would in a week’s time.

Here is step by step how to plan your no spend week:

Week 1-4

* Buy what’s on sale! This seems obvious, but pay attention to anything that is at a super low price and stock up! If fruit is on sale (and often there is something at it’s peak of ripeness so the price is dramatically cut down.) buy it and freeze! Sale prices on specific items seem to rotate every 4-6 weeks. Our local grocery store has a sale on our favorite bread once a month or so, instead of $1.88 it’s $0.88 that week. So I always buy twice what we need, so I can stash a weeks worth of bread in the freezer for later but I still haven’t spent a penny more than I normally would have.

*  Check out the clearance carts! Lots of small town grocery stores will have a cart or part of an aisle dedicated to clearanced out food. (It’s often just discontinued items or dented cans) this can be a hit or miss, but if you check them every week for 4-6 weeks and stash away at home anything you buy from the clreaenced aisle, you normally have a nice little stash of food for cheap!

*Always divide up your snacks! I keep 2 plastic shoes boxes in my pantry. One at eye level and one larger sized one (with a lid) way on top in back of the pantry where no one can see it! When I buy a box of nutri grain bars, I dump them all into the main shoe box and stash 2 in my secret shoe box. If I buy pop tarts, all but one pack goes in the snack shoe box. When I buy mini pretzels or animal crackers, ect. I divide the bag up into a bunch of sandwich size ziplock bags and always stash a bag away. At the end of the month for my so spend week, I always have plenty of filler snacks on hand!

*Freezer meals! This is one of the biggest ways to save money! In order to have enough dinners for your no spend week, you have to squeeze out about 1 to 2 extra dinners a week from your normal budget (without spending extra) . This can be done fairly easy as long as you are willing to get a bit creative! For example, If I’m making meatballs, I add a little oatmeal and some cooked rice to the recipe. Because of that I can then add in extra tomato paste, egg and anything else the recipe calls for. So one pound of ground meat can quickly turn into 2 pounds worth of meatballs. (and they taste just as delicious, I promise!) IN fact, I almost never cook ground beef by itself anymore. By adding finely shredded carrots and onions, you can gain about an additional half pound of “meat” from one pound of ground beef, plus your sneaking in carrots! When I do that, I divived the meat portion for whatever Im making in half and freeze the rest of the meat for tacos.

French bread pizzas are another good cheap and yummy freezer meal. You can normally pick up French bread for cheap on the bakery sale rack. (once again, not spending anything extra) Then just slice the bread lengthways, top with sauce cheese and whatever toppings you have and bake half and freeze the other half for later!

So that’s how you squeeze out extra dinners, just 1-2 a week and before you know it you have a stash quickly built up!

* I also do this with breakfast! Make extra pancakes, freeze half, make extra French toast, freeze half. Using the extra ingredients doesn’t take away enough from our pantry to send me to the store for anything more, but that is at least 2 breakfasts worth sitting in the freezer.

Week 3

By the last 2 weeks of prep, I start to take stock of what I have in my pantry and what I have already saved specifically for my no spend week. I build a menu based off of that then make a list of what meals or snacks I’ll still need. I don’t need much and can easily squeeze what I need out of the budget for the next 2 weeks.

Week 4

Make hay while the sun shines! Basically, if you’re like us, there are always some weeks you have more money than others. The weeks that hubby got a little overtime or less bills were due that week, that’s when I take the few extra dollars and buy an extra thing of toilet paper or an extra package of diapers and stash away for later. With all this meal planning don’t forget other household necessities!

Week 5

On the last week I make sure we have the bulk of the freshest food, like extra fresh vegetables and lots of eggs. We eat eggs often, (scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, hard boiled, in cooking…) so I’ll buy a pack of 5 dozen this week (around $9.00) and that will be more than enough for this week’s menu and next week.

Week 6

Bask in all of your hard work and money saved! Since my menu is already planned out, I don’t even need to do that this week, yet alone grocery shopping! Like I said, I do keep a little grocery money on hand ($20.00 more or less) but the rest is there to do what we want! Not only that, but I didn’t realize what a break it would give me the rest of the week as well. Other than sometimes whipping up a side dish, I really didn’t cook all week! I would pull a dinner out of the freezer the night before and stick it in the fridge, then throw it in the oven right before dinner. No prep, no cooking, no dishes yet we still had a good home cooked meal each night.
Breakfast was just as easy! The weekend was pretty much breakfast casserole or quiche and during the week if we wanted French toast, I just would use the toaster to dethaw and heat it up!

As long as you are willing to put in a little extra effort with meal planning and have some patience, you can easily save $150 or more depending on your weekly grocery budget. This has really helped me save some money, what are some of your favorite sneaky ways to save money?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Before & After Entry

I have so many posts rolling around in my head! As usual though, things are always busy and finding time to sit down and write posts for my blog usually take a back seat to other things. like, Pinning on Pinterest, I'm sorry to say :) But here we go with the first of many posts on..... how home renovations have been going! (and by renovation, mean lots of paint :) But seeing my friend (and cousin... in law! ) share all of her inspiring home projects have inspired me to share and come up with my own!

The first project to share.....
The Entryway!

I forget how old this house is (we rent) but I can tell you, many, MANY renovations were done in the 1970 and 1980s! And I don't mean the cool, vintage vibe of the 1970s. More like dark gloomy colors and lots of stained, peeling wallpaper.


Now, cost is a big factor in the changes to our home. We only plan on being here a short while. So in addition to saving for our dream home (That, God willing, will be a nice piece of Texas land to put a pond in and have a cow :) We don't want to get "to comfortable" renting and seeing this as home. But, after living in an apartment for 5 years and never doing much to that, we really want to make our home really feel like "Our home" and reflect us.

I'll be share some of the deatils about the decor, but this is how our entryway currently looks:


So much more lighter, refreshing, and airy! I still have many things I want to do, like paint the trim and get a mirror and some larger pictures. But right now, I'm really just liking the airy and more "us" feel of everything. :) 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Day in Our Home and Some Recipes!

So tonight I have been unable, or just  unwilling to go to sleep. Although it's been a long crazy day and I'm exhausted and my feet hurt, I just lay in bed not wanting to sleep. It's not even that my mind is racing, I feel perfectly peaceful, calm and collected. But that's just it... the calmness! The Peace! The still gentle quietness. I know once I close my eyes it will all slip away the moment I fall asleep. And although my sleep will most likely be a restful one, it still seems like I sleep for a moment and all of the sudden the alarm goes off and another whirl wind of a day starts! 

Today was pretty "average" in all the wonderfulness and tragedy that comes with staying home with young children. So in case you were wondering, this is what a average weekday looks like at our house....

5:00 Wake up! Hubby gets ready for work while I make coffee and prepare his lunch. We get to talk and snuggle just a few minutes before he is out the door! I also let out the dogs and feed that kittens and dogs.

5:45 Shower, get geared up for the day, make our bed. Drink coffee! Eat some peanut butter.

6:15 Spend some time with God praying, giving thanks and reading His word. This is so very necessary for me! This quite time in the mornings with my bible and coffee is what keeps me grounded for the day and is the well in which I draw hope and patience for later on!
You know those woman are so patient and slow to wrath? Come to find out, that's not me....  But God picks up where I let off!


7:00  Quick check on emails, blogs, facebook, and Pinterest!

7:30 First girl wakes up! The second girl isn't far behind! (One always seems to need a little more sleep than the other. :) We all lay around a little and usually watch Micky Mouse Clubhouse on the couch together.

8:00 I make pancakes! I make all that we need for today plus what's left in the rest of the box. That way I can freeze the rest for a day when we are short on time!

8:30 Caleb is up! He was up a bit ago but seemed content so I let him be so I could finish making breakfast. Once I go to get him though, I find out he has peed through EVERYTHING! 

8:45 The baby is clean and the bedding is all tossed in the laundry room. I make the girls pancakes and hold Caleb while he drinks some milk. (although he is weaned, he still like to sit on me most mornings cuddled up and drink his milk.) The girls finish their plates, I get them seconds and make Caleb up his plate of pancakes.

9:15 Clean breakfast up, Go hang up laundry on the clothes line, start a new load of laundry. We all spend time together in the living room playing/ I write out my goals for the day. We all eat a snack of fresh blueberries! 

10:15 Suntan and bug spray on! We all go outside to play before it get's too hot out. We fill the girl's pool up so they can play in it later. We play with the hose and chase each other around the yard. Caleb finds handfuls of mud and proudly brings them to me :) The Girls dance in the water :)

11:00 Inside, dry off, Caleb gets changed and put down for a nap.

- The girls and I clean the living room top to bottom. We pick up and put things away. They take turns dusting and washing the windows. 
- The girls pick up the mess in the hallway/ foyer area. I sweep
- I tidy up the bathroom and sweep. Girls feed the pets and clean the litter box (Diana loves that job 0_o )
- Go outside to take the laundry of the line, fold it, hang up a new load and start another load of laundry!

12:00 Eat lunch! Mostly fresh fruit and sandwiches for the girls.

12:45 Do a little school! (Very, very laid back school. But learning none the less! :) 

- Practice letters and sounds
- Practice writing out letters
- Do a few pages from pre K and Kindergarten workbooks.

Us girls just talk, write in our notebooks and play.

1:30 More suntan lotion! (Brutal South Texas sun!) 

I bring fitness and cooking magazines along with my pen and notebook. The girls swim and play in their pool while I plan my freezer cooking.
I bought extra food last week so I can cook a bunch of extra dinners for convenience and in anticipation of my no spend week. (More to come on that later!) 

With 9 pounds of chicken breasts and a pound of ground beef I plan my dinners:

- 2 9x13 pans of lasagna roll ups


- 2 9x13 pans of wild rice and chicken with slivered almonds


- 2 9x13 pans chicken, green beans and potatoes

- 1 gallon bag of chicken breasts, onions and vegetables for the crock pot

- 1 gallon bag of lightly breaded rosemary and Parmesan chicken strips.

Since I pulled out all the meat earlier in the day and everything is just about de thawed, surely I can whip up most of those meals in an hour or so after coming inside... right? :) 

I almost call my mom and sisters, but instead spend time talking to the girls while writing out my list :)

2:15 Come inside. dry off! have a snack. I hear Caleb up but wait to get him until the girls go down.

2:30 The girls get tucked into bed for quite time and spend some down time cuddling with their kittens.

 I get Caleb after putting them down. Diaper change then lunch for the little man! 

After getting cleaned up I spread toys on the floor and we play with cars then I scoop him up and cuddle and play and swing him into the air and be silly!
I can't but help think of the dishes and my dinners. But remind myself that the reason I stay at home with my kids isn't to have a perfectly clean home and a bunch of things accomplished (though being at home instead of working helps me get more done around here! ) The reason I stay at home is to lavish much love on all my children! The rest will always be there.

3:15 The girls get up. All the kids eat a snack. They play and hang out while I divide my attention between playing/checking on them and cleaning the kitchen and dining room and do all the dishes.


The dishes, they smile at me!

4:00 PBS Wild Kratts starts ( Two 30 minute animal shows, the kids love it!) They watch tv while I start browning the hamburger meat, slicing the chicken breasts up and cook a few batches of lasagna noodles. (I need a bigger pot!)

I prepare the filling and lay out the pans for the lasagna dinner. The kid's show is almost done so I have the girls help me! I knew it would be messy and take longer, but decided to go for it anyway.

I brought Caleb's play pen into the kitchen and set up 2 little "stations" so each girl could help with one pan and I stood in the middle to help them.

Oh My.....

I knew this would be messy, but the mess far exceeds even what I anticipated! The girls have food everywhere, they are starting to fight and Caleb's fussing has turned into crying. The dogs are chasing the cats and fighting over all the food on the floor and totally under foot.

5:45 Dinner finally ends up in the oven and I freeze the other pan. The kids get cleaned up I give them a snack because I know dinner is going to be late and then clean up the mess in the kitchen. (Most of it, anyway)

(Random things that often happen when I go to the bathroom)

6:00 Hubby is home! Kids get crazy we try to talk over them and then dinner is done!

6:30 Dinner time!

7:00 We finish dinner, Daniel chases the kids around the living room while I sit and watch them all and laugh. Daniel and I literally sit and talk for 10 minutes before the kids start to meltdown. He turns on the tv, they all chill. I start the bathwater for all the kids to take a bath and gather dry diapers and pajamas. By this time the kids are calm and hubby has fallen asleep on the couch. (He worked almost 12 hours outside in the 100* heat! Poor man :( )


7:30 Bath time (Crazy time!)

8:00 Kids are all out of the bath, dried and ready for bed. Hubby is still lightly sleeping so I go ahead and tuck the kids in. I put Caleb down and give him some milk and sing him a song and then go to the girls room, tuck them in and pray with them. Diana's prayer is that she is so thankful we got to do school and Ellie was so happy we got to play outside :)

I put away away dinner and prepare Daniel's lunch for the next day. I take care of the dogs and change into comfy pajamas myself. I check my emails and hubby wakes up!

8:45 Although still somewhat early, we are both exhausted and decide to get ready for bed. By the time we actually finish showers, talking, laying out clothes for the next day get something to drink ect... it's 9:15 when we actually go to bed.

9:20 The hubs is already asleep and I'm laying in the peace and quite. I can hear the bull frogs outside and the moon light is shining bright and streaming through the window into our room. So peaceful! I feel as if I could lay here and enjoy the quietness all night. But 2 minutes in and I'm already feeling myself fall asleep. Except, I'm really not. I have gotten out of bed and have been on line for 2 hours! So before much more time passes, good night all!

                                     source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/384846730627826191/

*Next Day Edit*
Note to self: When you're exhausted, go stinkin to bed! There is a reason why God lets us feel peaceful and tired at night, it's so we can go to bed and get some sleep and not be dead tired and grumpy the next day! :)