Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Menu Planning Made Easy!

There is nothing worse then looking at the clock and realizing it's almost supper and you have no idea what you're going to make. This is what I lived with for many years and when I did plan the meals out, it was the same meals every few weeks. I had little desire to cook because the food wasn't exciting to me.

I tried a couple different meal planning services out there but found I hated getting the recipe lists and grocery list and not being able to use several recipes. There were several we wouldn't eat, I didn't have time or it was impossible to adapt to be dairy free. It felt like a waste of money not being able to use what I paid for.

Well a year ago I came across a deal on Build a Menu. I figured I could try it out for a few months and see what I thought. Since it's been a year, I'm sure you've already guessed that I really like the program and I do!

So what is so great about Build a Menu?
  • Well I love being able to choose from many different recipes for many different diets. We use as many gluten free and Trim Healthy Mama recipes we can and also a few that make my husband happy. Plus they rotate recipes every few weeks so you don't get a massive list of recipes.
  • Recipes we love, we heart and it will be in our favorites folder and we can use it anytime.   
  • There are 3 different types of plans: Classic, Done for You, and Premium. Classic is what we have. You chose from a limited amount of recipes, Done for You is what you expect. The menu is planned for you. Premium gives a the massive list of recipes from their database.
  • After I've picked my menu, I get a grocery list with an estimated cost. I love this feature. If you have three recipes that you need 1/2 a bag of cheese, it will combine it so you are only buying what you need.  
  • I can pick from grocery stores near me or there is an any grocery store choice. Recipes are chosen based on sales at those particular stores, saving you money.
  • Part of your membership goes to support charities. Mine is set up to support Compassion International.
  • Forget your list at home, don't worry just download the app! I love this and use it when I'm cooking.
So are you curious to check it out? I'd appreciate it if you clicked through my affiliate link by Clicking Here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

You Need a Budget

When we first started budgeting I used the program from Dave Ramsey. It was an okay program and I used that for the first year or so. The problem with that particular one was that I couldn't fund my vertical envelopes to accumulate since we budget for things year round. It also didn't allow you to put in a transaction and split between categories.

One day I read a blog post where someone was introduced to You Need A Budget. I figured it wouldn't hurt to take a look and use their free month trial. It was so worth my time as a love this site. It is so user friendly and has the features I was missing with other programs I had tried in the past.

So here are my 5 favorite things about YNAB:
  1. I can fund my categories in advanced. I know how much we will spend per year on a certain thing, like insurance, and split that into monthly payments. When the bill is due I have the amount already set aside. This also works well with our seasonal employment. I can fund our winter account during the summer. The program tracks all of this for you, other programs I used and checked out, didn't. I had to keep track of things myself.
  2. I can split a transaction between categories. I really love this. How many times do you buy toilet paper, clothes, and groceries. I have a better idea of what I'm spending my money on when I can split categories.
  3. There's an app for it! Who doesn't like being able to quickly enter in a transaction as your waiting for the kids to buckle. This makes bill time go much faster. You can also check to see where you are, especially if you are a family who lives pay check to pay check. A quick check will tell you, yes you can buy that item or no you have to wait. Plus you AND your spouse will have access to your budget.
  4. You can set up recurring payments. There are several bills that come out of our account automatically and are the same amount every month. You can set that transaction to repeat monthly or weekly. Again it makes bill time easier as I don't need to enter in all the information. I can just check that yes it went through.
  5. I have access to a summary of what was budgeted last month, what was spent last month, average budgeted, and average spent. This makes it easy to adjust our budget if we have been spending too much the past few months or too little.
If you want to try out You Need A Budget click on the link here and we both get a month FREE!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Budgeting Today

We've been on a strict budget for years now. In the process we've paid off almost $50,000 of debt in the first 18 months, kept ourselves from getting behind for the winter, saved up money for a down payment on our new house, and watch God reward us for our obedience.

It hasn't been easy. Our first year and a half we had a bare bones budget. Our grocery budget was almost nothing which meant a lot of beans and rice and other very cheap meals. We spent no money on vacation and used all our tax return on bills. There was no fun money for movies and dates. We buckled down and got that debt paid off leaving us with almost $1,000 a month extra to put towards other things.

We used the snowball effect to pay down debt and boy did it snowball. When we started we had a couple payments left on my husbands emergency room ride, which was only $100 a month. It doesn't seem like a lot but when the next lowest payment was a little more then a $100 a month and you are making almost 2x payments every month, it gets paid off quickly. Within a few months we had an extra $300 that we put towards medical bills. That summer we were sent a letter that stated if we paid XXX amount, our bill would be forgiven. They took like 40% off our bill! I don't know how we did it, but we found that money. Now we had about $600 that was going to my last student loan. It took a year to pay it off but we did it.

There was such a relief when that last bill was paid and we had that extra cash in hand. We started saving for vacations, enrolled our kids in activities, paid extra on our house, and had plenty of money set aside for the winter when my husband is unemployed.

I have become more aware of what money was being spent on. We were in control of where our money was going and being spent, instead of the money controlling us. I cannot tell you how important it is to set a budget and stick with it. Get debt paid off and make your money work for you.

Check back on an upcoming post on what budget program we use.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Apologia Review

We are now in year 3 of Apologia science. If you have never checked them out, you need to. When asking other homeschool friends what they have used for science, most often the answer is Apologia.

Why is one of the more popular? Well I can't say for sure what others think but I can tell you what my top 5 reasons for loving this curriculum.
  1. Along with normal science, it teaches apologetics. Why is this important to us? Even though we believe in creationism, it is a theory. Apologia spends time showing where there is evidence for what the Bible says about the creation and animals.
  2. It is not dumbed down. For me this is super important. I hate curriculum that is a waste of my time and my kids time. It is written on a 6th grade level, but there are so many activities that younger kids can participate in. Because it is not dumbed down, my 3rd grader has a large vocabulary and a higher reading level partly due to reading her science book. My younger kids can also participate with their sister despite being a few grades lower.
  3. There are so many Try This sections that allow kids to gain a deeper understanding of topics that are being discussed. There is also an experiment at the end of each lesson that can be really fun.
  4. Because it is a popular curriculum choice, there are a lot choices in extras. Apologia has journals that go along with the books. For elementary you have one for the younger students and one for the older. The journals are packed full of fun activities. If your kids are more lapbook type kids check out Christian Book Distributors. We have purchased the lapbook for the Human Anatomy and Physiology rather then the journals. We always purchase the experiment kit you can get on Christian Book Distributors as well. It is worth the price so that I don't have to get a package of something just to use one item.
  5. It is so much fun! I never liked science in school (unless it had to do with math) but for some reason I love learning along with my kids. I can't even tell you why. Maybe they just pick much more interesting things for you to learn about.

There is no doubt we will continue to use Apologia as our science. We love it and all enjoy it!

If you use Apologia or have in the past, I'd love to hear what you think about it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Dollar Shave Club Review

A few years ago I started hearing about this new subscription company called The Dollar Shave Club. I finally after hearing about it and people who have liked it, I finally signed up.

There is always an amazing deal for signing up. Right now they are running a $5.00 starter box which includes the handle, 4 blades, and a full size of their shave cream. I figured it was a great deal and worth trying out.

Here are my immediate thoughts below:

Ready to try it out ? Click Shop Here and get your first box today.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Adventures

Last summer we moved out to a beautiful 14 acre house in the middle of nowhere. This has always been our dream and for us to be able to achieve this dream years before we thought possible, is so exiting and humbling. Both my husband and I knew we wanted our kids to have a childhood like we did, with room to explore and discover.

With this new move has come new adventures. We are in the process of making this a nice little hobby farm that's inviting to family and friends as well as giving us space for things we need. We are starting small, or so I thought, with just chickens and gardens. My husband in his usual fashion went a little bigger then I had planned with 3 gardens. One is all fruit that was already on the property, a garden in the middle of the pasture for corn and vines, and another large garden with everything else. Although we often joke that we're going off the grid, our hope is that we will be able to use a land for our needs.

My idea of needs are more in the what kind of animals can we get that will feed us and large gardens and orchards. My husband is more in the frame of mind of what can I build. His mind is always going and that means something fun and interesting is going to come out in the end.

One thing I've felt God laid on my heart since the day we moved in, was that our home should be a place others feel welcome. We've already hosted events and opened up our home to new friends and old. Our place can become a ministry if we let it and with all the blessings God has given us, it can be a ministry both Sam and I can be apart of.

So what new adventures have we taken on this past year? Well we have a 100 feet slip n slide, 3 gardens, 6 cats and counting, 10 chickens, and a love for four-wheeling the trails through our woods. We hosted a camp out, a slip n slide party, and several one on one with friends.

My husband still has plans for a go-cart track and I have a desire to try out goats. What will this next year bring? Who knows. God can bring lots of interesting things our way.

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Weight Loss Journey

I've tried before to lose weight with some success. I've counted calories and tried diet food and like most diets, it just didn't work. I'd lose a few pounds and then nothing. It was work and I was eating almost nothing. I was tired and miserable and HUNGRY!

I've started a new journey and whether I lose 2 pounds or 20, I feel good about what I am doing. A fellow mom I've gotten to know a bit over the past few years through our daughters, posted on Facebook one day about her struggle with weight. For some reason I had completely forgot that she is a trainer and the fact that she's struggled since her last baby has finally given me hope. I'm not alone in this.

I've spent most of my adult years fearing being overweight. One side of my family has many overweight aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my mom. I've seen them all struggle, especially my mom, and I never wanted to have to deal with the ups and downs she has. I don't yo-yo as much as some but the fear of gaining too much weight brings me to a fear of eating. Where some eat when stressed, I don't and that's not any healthier.

I know it's going to be a lifelong struggle, as lifestyle changes aren't very easy. I just need to take things one day at a time and make small changes. So what kind of changes am I going to make?
  1. My goal is to exercise 5 days a week
  2. Use the group I'm in to feel encouraged and not alone
  3. Make better choices when we eat out even if it costs more (we are a dollar menu type family)
  4. Skip the chips at potlucks and grab a bunch of veggies and fruit
  5. Replace as much white processed food items with whole grains and sprouted bread
  6. Meal plan every meal and figure out when best to eat which food groups
  7. When I'm not feeling hungry but haven't eaten much, give myself a Shakeology
These are all a work in progress but I feel like even these small changes are worth making. I may eat more calories then I should from time to time but if at home I can maintain or lose weight by making healthy choices, I am victorious.

So where did I start? One year ago I was 160 lbs. At 5 feet tall, that puts me in the severely overweight category. Where do I want to be? If I can get to 120, eat healthy, and exercise regularly, I'll be at a place where I can maintain. Where am I now? I can't weigh myself daily or I get obsessed, but about 3 weeks ago I was at 148. The most exciting thing wasn't the two pounds I lost in a month but instead the inches. I lost 8.5 inches! Half was in my waist and hips. It may be slow but as long as it's going somewhere positive, I'm all in. 

I have to do this for me and my family, not the fear that's been chasing me my entire adult life.