Menu For March

February was harsh for us. The flu, car repair, dryer repair and an adult child making choices that forced us to make hard decisions. We had so many financial hits that we were a bit stunned and left with nothing in the bank (again). The bright side is we are still debt free and we have plotted a course to get the emergency fund built up again.

The family has revolted over the set weekly meal plan so I have done a new meal plan for March. We have my birthday and our anniversary as special meals. I am trying two recipes from the Jazzy Vegetarian Classics cookbook to mix things up even more.

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner Snack
1 Oatmeal Ramen Fruit Fish Cakes, Brussel Sprouts Popcorn
2 Grits Sandwiches Veggie Sticks Sp.Rice w/Blk Bean Special Item
3 Pancakes Potato Salad Nuts/Seeds LO Spaghetti Veggie Sticks
4 Muffins Shrimp Fried Rice Rice Cakes BPs w/Broc Nuts/Seeds
5 Cereal Tuna Casserole Smoothies Corned Beef and Pots Rice Cakes
6 Potato Hash Leftovers Popcorn LO Beans and Rice Popsicles
7 Toast Ramen Fruit Nachos Popcorn
8 Oatmeal Sandwiches Veggie Sticks Pizza Fruit
9 Grits Potato Salad Nuts/Seeds Potato Soup Special Item
10 Pancakes Stir Fry Rice Cakes Greek Salad Veggie Sticks
11 Muffins Veg. Soup (Tom) Nice cream Lentil Loaf, MPs, Veg Nuts/Seeds
12 Cereal Potato Salad Popcorn LO Beans and Rice Smoothies
13 Potato Hash Tuna Casserole Fruit Walnut Stuffed Portobello Rice Cakes
14 Toast Leftovers Veggie Sticks Enchiladas Popcorn
15 Oatmeal Ramen Nuts/Seeds It. Veggie Saute Fruit
16 Grits Sandwiches Rice Cakes Scalloped Pots and Veg Special Item
17 Pancakes Baked Entrée Popsicles Potato, Cabbage and Carrots Nuts/Seeds
18 Muffins Chili Popcorn Jazzy Shis Kababobs Nice Cream
19 Cereal Potato Salad Fruit Veggie Fajitas Rice Cakes
20 Potato Hash Tuna Casserole Veggie Sticks Spaghetti (new) Popcorn
21 Toast Leftovers Nuts/Seeds Steak/Portobello, BP, Salad Fruit
22 Oatmeal Ramen Rice Cakes Potato Soup Veggie Sticks
23 Grits Sandwiches Smoothies Stir Fry Special Item
24 Pancakes Grilled Veg Salad Popcorn Veggie Stew Jello with Fruit
25 Muffins Sandwiches Fruit Mac and Cheese, Veggie Nuts/Seeds
26 Cereal Potato Salad Veggie Sticks Burritos Rice Cakes
27 Potato Hash Tuna Casserole Nuts/Seeds Lasagna, Salad Birthday Surprise
28 Toast Leftovers Rice Cakes Nachos Smoothies
29 Oatmeal Ramen Nice cream Pizza Veggie Sticks
30 Grits Sandwiches Popcorn BPs with Sauted Veggies Special Item
31 Pancakes Fried Rice Fruit Taco Salad Nuts/Seeds

January 2018 Goals

To help me make progress on my goals I have broken down each part into sub goals. This month my overall goal is to be more organized.

For my prepping:

Read self reliance/homesteading books

Develop our family emergency plans

Prune the apple trees

Order seeds

Put cash in get home bags

Watch videos on cold weather prepping and survival

Learn to make char cloth

Learn to find North with the stars

Scan and make copies of important documents

Consumption v Production:

Try one new baked good recipe per week

Buy only things we truly need

Buy meat for January from local group home

Water Use:

Switch from taking daily baths to daily showers

Energy Conservation:

Use only line drying for laundry – except towels and sheets

Research plans for solar oven and dehydrator

Home Grown Economy:

Blog weekly

Instagram twice a week

Research home inspector and realtor education requirements, career prospects etc  for future job

Zero Waste:

Start using canning jars for fridge storage

Personal Growth:

Yoga and meditation at least three times a week

My 2018 Goals

I like to start the year by reviewing the goals I set for the last year. I ask myself what I really want my life to look like in twelve months, five years and ten years. It isn’t a fifteen minute exercise and does take time and thought. Then I write down the steps that will move me in that direction. Here is my overview of my goals for this year. Each month I will post my steps to help achieve those goals.

Consumption v Production

1 – Reduce packaged goods

2 – Increase bulk buying

3 – Plant and maintain a garden

4 – Reduce meat consumption to 2 times a month (organic and local)

Water Use

1 – Capture more grey water for plants and garden

2 – Reduce baths to once a week and shower the rest of the time ( shower time of 8 mins)

3 – Buy and install rain barrels

Energy Conservation

1- Reduce kWh used

2 – Purchase rechargeable batteries

3 – Buy solar charging panel for phones, batteries, etc

4 – Walk more often to enable walking with boys to Hyvee or Price Chopper

5 – Reduce car use to 2 or 3 times a week (for me and boys)

6 – Build a solar oven and solar dehydrator

7 – Replace clothes dying rack and clothes line

Homegrown Economy

1 – Write blog weekly

2 – Instagram 2 times a week

3 – Explore other lines of income

4 – Attend HOA meeting

5 – Identify local orgs that align with our goals for governance, eco protection, child/animal welfare, social justice and minimalism

6 – Find a spiritual community

7 – Explore non-violent communication and discipline

8 – Reduce all expenditures

Zero Waste

1- Invest in glass containers

2- Get second recycle box

3 – Reduce trash and increase recycling

4 – Transition to organic/homemade cleaners and toiletries

5 – Donate one bag of decluttered items per week

6- Try and buy nothing new – buy used or do without

7 – Attempt to not spend any money not budgeted

8 – Shop locally for goods and services (small biz v big box)

Personal Growth

1 – Practice yoga and meditation 3 times a week (Jan – April) 4 times a week (May – Aug)  5 times a week (rest of the year)

2- Read 1 nonfiction book per month

3 – Get anger issue under control

4 – Better body image

2017 Money Review

One of my New Year’s Day habits is to take my budget book and total up how we spent our money. I know there are apps out there that would track and total it all for me and I have considered keeping it in spread sheet format but I haven’t found one I really like more than pencil and paper. Just like my review of 2016, the figures came as a shock.

Some of the biggest budget killers were unavoidable. We had $3428.73 in medical bills. It all happened in the first two months of the year. The bulk of it was for a child’s surgery. I am happy to say her quality of life and the years of dealing with a medical issue are now in the past and she has been doing amazing since then. The rest was an ER visit for me. I hadn’t been sticking to my dietary restrictions like I should and paid for it physically and financially. This time I got very serious and the issue has been resolved. Total spent : $3428.73

The next biggest drain was home repair. We lost a hot water tank in January that required replacing along with rework of some piping that needed to be brought back up to code. In the summer we replaced the windows on the second floor. We had needed to do it for years. The winter of 2016 we had mold and ice on the inside of the windows. It was bad for our health and heating bills. This year it has been the coldest in several decades and I am happy for the windows. Total spent: $7162.21

Our cars are all at least 14 years old so we had quite a bit spent in repairs. When you consider the fact the amount was for four cars it seems a bit more reasonable. Total spent: $ 3514.90

The remaining parts of the budget were under our control and I really didn’t seem to have much discipline in retrospect. I exceeded our grocery budget by $1602.36. The fix to that is I will no longer shop using the debit card but use cash only. I am also reducing what I buy. If it’s a sale but it just sits on the shelf it isn’t a good deal.

Our memberships were $1673.68. We sat down and reviewed which ones we are going to let lapse. We have two warehouse club memberships and hardly used one so we are letting it go. We have memberships to several local attractions but the kids are a bit burned out on going to them so we will just budget for a trip here and there but let the memberships go.

The other budget items were reasonable. The total showed we had exceeded our budget goals by $19573.84 over the year. I had brought in extra income so all of it was cash flowed. However seeing that number in print was a shock. I learned from this that even if I think I am doing pretty good there is room for improvement.

Simplifying My Routine

The changes in our life have caused me to reevaluate a number of things. One area of our finances that has been the hardest to deal with is our food budget. I have tried so many methods to try and save money but it seems I am spending hours trying to squeeze every little penny that three days a week are centered on shopping. I find it too time consuming with little return.

To start with, I reassessed our meal plan. I pared it down from a two week rotation to one week. This will cut down on the number of ingredients I have to have on hand. It makes the shopping cost more predictable and easier to stay on budget. I am shopping Aldi first for the bulk of what I need. The remaining items will be bought where they are cheapest. I am not shopping tons of loss leaders to stock up any longer. Most of our stores place small limits on the number of items you can buy at the super low cost so it doesn’t make sense to make a special trip for a handful of items. Using this new method, the time I spend dragging kids around shopping has gone from six hours a week to about two every other week.  Broken down even further it is only an hour on one day and an hour another day and that includes driving time.

(Day: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Snack)

Sunday: Breakfast Bread/ Fried Rice/ Spaghetti/ Rice Cakes with Spread

Monday: Grits/ Leftovers/ Baked Potatoes/ Trail Mix

Tuesday: Toast and Fruit/ Tuna Casserole/ Beans and Rice/ Yogurt

Wednesday: Oatmeal/ Ramen and Veg/ Potato Soup/ Cereal Bar

Thursday: Smoothie/ Potato Salad/ Chicken and Rice or Noodles/ Popcorn or Chips

Friday: Hashbrowns/ Sandwiches/ Veggie Soup/ Special Treat

Saturday: Cereal/ Sausage and Rice/ Stew/ Sweet Snack

There are side veggies or fruit added to most meals. There are fresh fruits and veggies at child level so they are always able to get that if they fill hungry between meals. I don’t limit them on the fresh produce.



A Week of Setbacks

The week we got back from camping started a terrible week for us. To start with, our alpha guinea pig boar was acting strange. He is normally very aggressive and active, not in a bad way but in a top dog sort of way. I woke up and he was lethargic, breathing shallow and making cry noises. His brother made the same cry noises prior to us finding he had bladder stones. I called the vet immediately. He had no openings and recommended another vet. That vet had an opening but was an hour away. The hubby came home from work to watch the boys while I drove the piggy to the vet.

It didn’t have a positive outcome. He had cancer and pneumonia. There could be no treating him that would give him any quality of life. The expense was covered by our pet fund so the expense wasn’t a consideration. We decided the kindest thing to do was to end his suffering and put him down.

Emotionally it was so hard. The past few years we have had several animals (including a 17 year old cat) have to be put down due to illnesses and disease. That comes with having senior pets I suppose. We plan their medical checkups and special diets just like we plan for ours. At this point we have agreed that when our last guinea pig passes we are taking at least a year to recover emotionally from all the loss.

The next set back came when the wiring in our 18 month old dishwasher melted. It’s no longer safe to operate so we are back to washing dishes by hand. Normally that is not an issue but our sink faucet bolts have seized and will no longer turn side to side and so is stuck dead center over the divider of the two compartments of the sink. The house sinking fund is pretty thin so we won’t replace the dishwasher. We bought a new faucet and had the plumber come out to cut out the old one and install the new one. While he was here we had to pay to bring the shut off valves up to code. Cost us twice what I thought it would when I thought it would be a simple swap out. The house fund is now at zero.

Lastly, another adult child has moved back home. Normally not a problem but she brings a significant other with her. The person they were staying with decided they could no longer crash with her and she told them they had ten minutes to get their crap out of her apartment. I’m glad they are some place safe and out of a stressful situation but we had to cancel a day of plans to rearrange the house to give them room. We are now a household of seven.

I’ll take a few days to process the events then I will move forward with rebuilding our sinking funds and adjusting our budgets. The adult children and the friend will all need to sign new household rules and agreements so that there are clearly defined responsibilities and expectations on all sides.

We Rented an RV

Our family has never had a vacation. The hubs and I didn’t even have a honeymoon. We have been thinking about a short get away for several years but with finances and special needs to consider it seemed more of a hassle than a reward. A family member suggested renting an RV.

Why an RV? The noise of people walking down the hall keeps me up all night as I am an extremely light sleeper. We also have several food allergies that prevent us from eating out the majority of the time. Having a kitchen and fridge solves that problem. We have looked at extended stay hotels and house rentals but the cost was more than I was comfortable with.

With that in mind we begin to look into renting an RV. Since we also needed to stay close to home, we opted to rent a fifth wheel that is permanently set up in a campground a few minutes from home. The cost was less than a regular hotel room. It was close enough to run home and check on our pets. We also agreed before we left that if it was too much for either of our little guys we would just check out early and head home.

There were a few hiccups. First, when we arrived the place was ice cold as we had temps below freezing. We tried to warm the place up but after a half hour of no warm air from the furnace we called the front desk. In minutes they came out and discovered the gas canisters were empty. New ones were installed within twenty minutes the place was cozy.

The second thing we discovered was no hot water. Again we called the front desk and the handyman was there quickly. He figured out that when the gas ran out that the pilot light on the water tank went out as well and needed to be relit. That was an easy fix and we soon had hot water.

The place advertised free television but the reception was terrible. That didn’t bother any of us. We had planned for no television and had brought games to play as a family. There was also so much to do outside the rental. The campground had a bouncy pad, bike rentals and free mini golf. There is also a swimming pool but it was way too cold to enjoy.

The boys enjoyed everything at the park. We even took a few side trips to explore parts of our area we had never been to. It was such a pleasant experience that we started to see it is possible to travel by renting an RV or by hopping campground to campground.

Household Cleaning

Our house is never spotless. It is, however, cleaned on a schedule that keeps it from becoming filthy. I also try to clean so that we keep ahead of any colds or illnesses so the whole family isn’t brought down by it.

Vac 1st Floor Sweep Porch and Deck
Vac Couch Dusting
Wipe Down Kitchen Weeding and Yard work
Sweep/Mop Kitchen Filing and Shredding
Table Stairs Laundry
Front Room Car Clothes Up
Sweep Pantry Vac All Floors Ironing
Switches & Knobs Bath 1
Sweep/Mop Baths Bath 2
Laundry Bath 3
Clothes Up
Towels Out  Disposal
Beds Made
Glass Swap Trash Ads List
Sweep Garage Set School Goals
Trash Patrol Pull School Work
Ads List Coupons (cut, pull, up)
Walls Set Next Weeks Work  

I try to leave Saturday free to catch up on anything missed during the week and to do bigger things that require a second adult to do. It is also our grocery day on weeks we shop and our family day on the weeks we don’t.

Our Daily Schedule

In our house one of the keys to keeping things flowing is a schedule. It isn’t something etched in stone that you can set your watch to, but it does guide how our day flows. There are usually two or three days of the week where only the early morning and evening part of the day stays the same but we mix up the middle of the day to attend homeschool group or appointments.

Daily Schedule

4:45 – 5:15           Wake up, tea, emails, review to-do list

5:15 – 5:30           Chore or declutter

5:30 – 6:00           Switch dishes, make lunches, more to-do list work

6:00 – 6:30           Morning reading, get school items ready, personal work

6:30 – 7:00           Make breakfast, more to-do list work

7:00 – 8:00           Breakfast, paper, rest

8:00 – 8:30           Make beds, brush teeth, get dressed

8:30 – 9:00           Work Books

9:00 – 9:30           Stretching and snack

9:30 – 10:00         Art or music

10:00 – 10:15      Exercise break

10:15 – 11:00      Group Work

11:00 – 11:30      Lunch and clean up school items

11:30 – 12:00      Daily project or school computer work

12:00 – 2:00         Free play or field trip

2:00 – 2:15           Snack time

2:15 – 2:45           Chore time

2:45 – 4:30           Free Play and one on one time (games, reading)

4:30 -5:00             Make dinner

5:00 -6:00             Dinner

6:00 – 7:00           Baths

7:00 – 7:30           Snack and computer free play

7:30 – 8:00           Pick up living room and calming down time

8:00                        Brush teeth, bedtime story


The little ones are usually fast asleep by 8:45. I am then able to get myself to bed by 9 p.m.

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