Thursday, March 20, 2014

Our New Budget for 2014

2014 Budget!




Rent                      $475
Phone                    $  75
Electric                  $ 50
Car insurance       $106
Propane                $  75
X-box live           $  20
Netflix                 $    9
Gas for Truck      $110
Food                    $450


 Total of             $1350 a month


Above is our basic needs that goes out and comes out of hubby's wages.  We do get some child support each month as well that is NOT included in this budget and goes for some extra things that are not on a survival budget. I do not include child support in a budget simply because it is not always dependable.  Also we generally make some extra cash from turning in scrap metal, larger work checks than budgeted, and other extra income streams that help go towards making life a little more "juicy" and easier to breathe.  Last years budget worked quite well of for us for the most part, the one thing that we did not for see was propane costs that skyrocketed through the roof but it all has ended well. This year there are a few increases in bills such as higher electric costs due to our last years purchase of a washer and dryer along with a small chest freezer so I did plan on that! So still on a survival only budget but as I said, I always know there will be extra income from a variety of sources and this is what adds flavor to our lifestyle.


I am also going to be working hard to strive for a more minimalist lifestyle this year and plan on selling off a lot of extra items to help de-clutter and de-own!  We now have a 2 year goal of Moving to Hawaii that a lot of this extra money will be going towards! So exciting times to look forward too!


On a side note, as harsh as winter was, and our chickens sheltered but not in a great chicken coop, it was quite a wonderful surprise they survived this winter, we did not loose even 1 to the cold severe elements!  Spring has brought out many creatures looking for an easy meal and targeting them as they themselves are desperate to find food and fatten up again ( our deer look scrawny and pathetic!)  but so far we have managed to chase them off and keep them from a kill. Our chickens continue on and we are seeing eggs again with longer days and warmer weather!


On another side note, my hip went out about a month ago and has kept me from being able to sit at a computer and blog, but it is much better now and cancer wise I am doing FANTASTIC! Now time to catch up on blogging once again AND spring cleaning!  


Oh and we can SEE GROUND AGAIN!  So happy to see snow finally leaving and a few wonderful sunny 40 degree days! Happy happy happy Dance!


How has your March been going?



Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mid Month Update

Well February is always better, in large part because it is tax refund time! I would also like to take a moment to thank a few generous readers for donations that helped tie us over until we were able to get our refund! It has been a very long difficult winter. But the end is near and it is time to start relaxing into spring!

The weather has warmed up some, we have had a few cold nights at just below zero but nothing like the negative 30's of January. The days have been in the 20's, we have been seeing sun again and I hear it is suppose to be in the 40's by Thursday!

While we got a propane fill up in January ( 200 gallons at $460) the frigid temps make quick use of the fuel and I had to order our next fill up already, with a propane shortage this meant my order for another 200 gallons is costing us $705 ! YIKES that is double from what our summer fill up was but good news is we got our refund to cover that expense. Now I just have to wait for them to deliver it ( up to 5 business days now, they increased that part too!) But we will remain warm for the remaining winter and hopefully March will bring beautiful spring temps and lots of sunshine!

For this month all bills have now been paid and caught up again, so now I have to sit down and get a new budget made out for this year. Really it should have been done at the first of the year, but sometimes it is hard to force yourself to sit down and face the music! It is much easier to do when everything is caught up and you can then create a budget on just regular bills.

We will be switching auto insurance soon as this will save us around $30 a month!

Each day I feel better, stronger and more alive so it is getting easier to take care of business again and it is a great feeling. Being idle is not good for my mentality, I need to feel productive!

I have been making lots of meals from scratch again, although I still need to create a healthier menu!

We need to get physically active , did I mention it was a long winter without being able to go outside?

January Stresses have ended, February blessings abound, and life is oh so good!

Looking forward to getting our financial house in order again and who knows, I may just have the energy and strength to get back to making money projects this year!

Hope your February was as blessed as ours!

Do you have goals for March yet?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thankful for February!

To be honest, January just plain sucked, no matter how I looked at it and I could not be happier that it is finally OVER!  We always seem to struggle through the winter months, December, January and then into February until tax refund time. Yet while the struggle is not so new to us, this year seemed particularly hard and almost seemed like I had challenged the Universe so it was bent on revenge!


I started the beginning of winter with the whole, No Matter What I shall see the beauty in winter...... yeah well that was fine and very beautiful in December.....but then January found me cursing it and the polar vortex. January was just plain unbearable and had me wishing for a life in the Desert somewhere, anywhere really that was warm.  It was like the more I tried to see the beauty of winter, the more mother nature brought even colder temps until I caved and began to loathe her!  Pipes dripping constantly to prevent freezing, cold air constantly blowing right through the house, cold nights causing restless sleep and just plain irritable moods by everyone closed inside from it being too cold to go anywhere. I seemed to totally lose that sunny positive disposition I usually do pretty good at maintaining and literally just wanted to take a paycheck and run away.......far far away!


I also made the comment to hubby how I would not stress about finances and trust our needs have always been met and would continue to do so. November was a fantastic month and I actually got all our Christmas shopping done in November before Thanksgiving. Well the universe started digging and throwing more and more at us until again I caved and started giving in to anxiety, stress and wanting to just run away.

Hubby's hours got cut, bringing only part time hours for pay checks, since Thanksgiving really. They increased back to full time for the whole of 1 or 2 paychecks but mostly he is only getting around 55 hours on a 2 week pay period! Like minimum wage is not hard enough on full time hours!  They have been the worse they ever have been and I chalk that up to the cold keeping people at home so business was really slow over the cold winter months.

Receiving his W-2 showed us he actually made 2,000 LESS than the previous year which meant he only made 13k for the whole year.  Add in child support and food stamps and that brought us to a  thankful 20k for 4 people.

To top everything off we still had a day or two of frozen pipes to deal with and now a kitchen sink that won't drain ( but not due to it being frozen ironically)

Michigan is also seeing a propane shortage so hiked up the prices, my mom just told me she just got charged 3.95 a gallon , we need a fill up very very soon and will be looking at well, way too much for a 200 gallon minimum order fill up! I already had to get 200 gallons in January but now have to turn around and get more which means a whole extra tank from what I normally order in a year.  A whole extra tank and double the expense......LOL yeah that sounds about right. While I usually do not feel poor, I must admit, come January for the first time in a long, long, long time, I felt poor and I felt every struggle and strain of the stress poverty can bring. I am hoping if I can continue feeling better and better, I may be able to turn that around yet and yes I know that true wealth is not always monetary and I am very wealthy and full of abundance in love, family and other areas...it helps to have enough to not have to worry in the winter months. Unfortunately we can not leave Michigan for another 2 years due to visitation/custody laws but it is being planned for!

There has been a lot of other things going on as well too, little things that have added up to getting behind in other utility bills, and just plain going wrong adding to stress and frustration.

But I am thankful to be alive to be able to stress! LOL

Yup it has been a hard year indeed , and my heart truly goes out to those that are far worse than us, because this winter has brought strain and hardship to so many, it makes my heart ache. But I got our taxes done several days ago and should see the benefit of that mid February.

Yes January is OVER Good Riddance and Thank God!

I Truly hope your January was not one of hardship and struggle and was blessed instead!

Now back to my usual sunny self............

Monday, January 13, 2014

Staying Home: How Long is too Long?

How long does one typically stay home before going stir crazy and needing to get out of the house? When did going out on a frequent basis start?


I know growing up, we lived 13 miles out of town and went through long periods with no vehicle, which meant most of our time was spent in our house or on our 7 acres. We did not go out to eat but once in a blue moon, usually when my Dad would stop on the way home from a visit with my mom in hospital. I am not sure but I would most likely say it was to try to take our minds off a not so pleasant visit, where her possible death may be looming in our heads.


I remember going to the movie theatre twice, once when I was 5 and again when I was around 13. Our typical outings would have been a few miles down the road to the swimming hole or country drives where my mother enjoyed genealogy work in the cemeteries or to view the fall colors. Entertainment usually consisted of us going to someone's house or them coming to ours. Church and School was our other outings.


When my parents divorced and we had no car, we went out only once a month when my grandma would come to take us grocery shopping. Beyond school, if we wanted to get anywhere we walked, sometimes this meant for me, a 5 mile walk to the local country party store, then later to my boyfriends house.


This stayed with me into my adulthood where I am very comfortable staying home in large chunks of time. Living rural means I don't want to spend the money for frequent trips to town. I really never stop to think that how long I will stay home, especially in winter months would not really be considered normal by today's standards.


Last Wednesday on the 8th, I was contemplating whether I wanted to brave our heat wave of 16 degrees, after a 30 below polar vortex to go out shopping or wait for warmer weather towards the weekend. I started thinking, when was I last out of the house? I was a little surprised, when I realized the last time I had been out of the house, was December 5th! When I revealed this on Facebook, people asked how I could do that without pulling my hair out and drooling off in a corner.


I guess it comes down to, when I am freezing all the time, the last thing I want to do is go outside where it is even colder, usually windy and go  run errands. Being cold is NOT my idea of fun.


I also enjoy being home, after all a home is suppose to be your sanctuary and for me it is, it is my place to feel warm, cozy, love and laughter with people I enjoy  spending time with. I have 2 amazing teens that are wonderful company, 2 dogs that are the best companions, beautiful snowy country scenery out my back door and a wonderful best friend for a husband who is home by 1pm every day. I have a computer for contact with people in other areas of the world, and Netflix at night to lose myself into a story where real life disappears for 2 hours. LIFE IS GOOD right here in my tiny home and baking and cooking are my winter things to do! I also have tons of books on my kindle that I have been reading so for me it is all good!


Now hubby, he goes out 5 days a week to work, then whenever I need a few things he goes 1/2 mile from work to the store and picks it up for me, and then comes home and feeds the chickens on days I think it is too cold. He knows I am having a hard time staying warm this year so he has been great about making sure I do not have to go out and be cold. I will occasionally go out and feed the chickens on days it is 30 or above. So until the weather gets warmer I limit my outings to major grocery shopping day which is once a month, and doctor appointments........... other than that, I shall continue on in hibernation mode.


I know staying home that long is not for everyone, for some they have a need to get out every 2 weeks, 4 days or some even daily. That is okay and it is a good thing to  know your limits on what you can take without driving your self nuts. For me 1 month is really not too long at all and I was not even stir crazy when we finally did get out on the 8th.


But I am always curious to know about others...........so tell me, how long do you normally stay home in between getting out of the house?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Living in the Moment


I have always been a planner, goal oriented, focused on productivity, over achiever, lover of charts, budgets, to do lists, notebooks, financial statements, dreamer, and what ever else people like to do to feel they have some control over their lives.

The End of December found me coming down off my month long Holiday Spirit and I am still alive High and put me face to face struggling with goals for the New Year. I have always, always used the last week of December to goal plan for the year, 5 year, 10 years and sometimes even beyond plans.

Oh I have some loose ideas all rattling around my head but have not been able to bring myself to write it down and actually make a commitment. It seems that this year, for me, goals are a huge conflict of interest. It part because it is truly hard for me to see myself beyond a year block of time, when you are told over and over you are not curable, just treatable and that the average life span of someone facing stage IV breast cancer is 30 months from the day of diagnosis.

Yet when I was diagnosed I was so far advanced that 30 months was more like 3 to 6 months and I beat those odds. It has been a year and I am still here..... I think I need to host that as an annual party!
So okay, I can now see myself very much here and a part of 2014, but 2015 is still an unknown factor, way too blurry and way too far in the future for me to predict. This has made goal planning a very difficult conflicting struggle for me!

This is not necessarily a bad thing, after all my main goal for 2013 was simply to survive which I did pretty fantastically if I do say so myself! Cancer brought an ability for me to be amazed each and every day I managed to wake up. Not only did I manage to wake up every day, but after June, started feeling better and better with each passing day.

Part of my OCD with planning and goals was always motivated by the phrase "Without Goals you wander aimlessly about, never getting anywhere." But for now in my life, maybe that's the whole point! People worry all the time about financial security, building up a retirement fund for 20 years down the road, having a plan and a map to get there and then enjoying the journey.

For me my journey is living in the moment because when I really think about it, living in the moment has never steered me wrong. People complain all the time about living pay check to pay check, about being poor, having ill health, and a multitude of other things.

But when you think about it, it all comes down to the fact that LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and it is in the moment, we can see that. Besides if I look into my past, each time and every year I planned things out, things never went according to plan. Something always came up to change our course, always.

While I have ideas floating around and even bumping into each other around my head, I am not going to  commit to any of them at this point.

2014 for me will be living in the moment,  relishing in how beautiful Life is and see where it takes me.  Oh I will still be looking for ways to increase my  health, reduce expenses, finding free or low cost pleasures, building deep connections in my relationships and things of that nature, but it will be in a very loose format, there will be no plans for future destinations.

This does not mean I won't plan anything out, it just means I am not going to fret about it and may or may not only use a simple outline for the year ahead, make use of 30 day or other type challenges and such.

Mostly this just means I plan on making use of each amazing moment I am gifted and when I can see myself a part of 2015, then I will discuss plans for 2015. For right now I see myself a part of 2014 and this is where my focus is.

There certainly is something to be said for simply living in the moment and living for the moment, nothing less, nothing more.

I look forward to sharing our adventure this year, already I feel excitement in the air!

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top Posts for 2013

Well shall we take a peek at the top blog posts for 2013?

Coming in as number one with the most views was:

1.) Blogs From Those on Low Income This interestingly enough was not only the most viewed post, but doubled the numbers for any other post I wrote, not to mention it was one of my more recent posts at that. 

2.) No Air Conditioner Here Baby came in second, seems everyone tries to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, who knew? ha ha!

3.) Why Our Tax Refund is so Large  almost tied with number 2, many assume you are not claiming the correct exemptions when you get too large of a refund. This post shows that is not always the case and the Earned Income Credit can really boost the working poor refunds when they have qualifying children.

4.) Staying at a Low Paying Job comes in number 4 show casing that sometimes, there are reasons some stay at a low paying job rather than seeking higher pay some where else.

5.) Family Members and Their Financial Roles came in the bottom of the top 5 but still worthy of note.


So there you have it, these are the posts that were the most viewed, the most read and hopefully the most enjoyed. If by chance you missed them, take a moment of reflection and go ahead and read them now.

Cheers to an Epic 2014 Everyone, make the choice to make it amazing, joyful, peaceful, full of love and take full authorship of your story!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lentil Loaf


1 cup lentils
2 cups water
24 crackers crumbled
2 eggs...
8 ounce block of cheddar cheese shredded or cream cheese softened
1/2 cup ketchup, spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1 onion chopped
1 teaspoon prepared minced garlic or garlic salt
pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or basil

Cook lentils in water gently boiling in covered pan for 30 minutes. Mash lentils with potato masher add eggs, 1/2 the cheese , 1/2 the ketchup, spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce and the rest of the ingredients. Spread into a greased 13 x 9 casserole dish, flattening top with spoon. Spread remaining tomato sauce on top, spread remaining cheese on top and put in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What? It is Only December?

Well I do declare December is not playing around and is in it to win it! Yeah Randy says that on American Idol, but you know, it seems like a fitting phrase because:

Baby its COLD outside!

December has brought Michigan some wintery frigid weather that is usually way more typical of January and February. If you live in the Upper Peninsula where my adult daughter still lives, way over and up by the  Keweenaw peninsula, they have been getting dumped on with snow too along with single digit temps!

Thankfully I am in Central Michigan and while it has been in teens and single digits by nights, we only have about an inch of snow on the ground, although that may change with some accumulation being called for Saturday as the 5th storm to be named already this season hits our area. This same storm may dump 2 feet on my brother who lives in New Hampshire!

Bitter, Cold and oh yes going through our propane tank like there is no tomorrow! I do believe we may be looking at a whole extra tank of fuel this year for the first time due to how cold it has been and is still really early in the season! I have been checking the gauge every few days. At the same time I am humbled this time of year knowing how blessed we are to have a roof, heat and warm beds and I can not help thinking of the homeless, hoping they can find a warm bed out of this bitter cold. It is a very sobering thought to me.

This kind of weather also means it is:

Cold and FLU season baby!

So yeah my kids got sick with sneezing, soar throat sniffles, got better just in time to catch another one and now with them being sick, I am starting to have my nose run too. So time to stock up on cold medicines, oranges, cough drops, Vick's vapor rubs and chicken noodle soups!


Then of course back to the issue of frigid temps, leaves us leaving our faucets all slightly running so everything does not all freeze up. We do have electric tape but it never seems to be enough when the temps get as low as they been. So in order to prevent everything from freezing up we leave the hot and cold water both slightly running, not a whole lot, it is actually an art form to get them dripping JUST RIGHT! LOL. Enough to keep water lines and drains from freezing but  not so much the pilot light to the water heater has to come on continuously! Yeah it is an art form!

Of course December always brings short and crappy hours for hubby where he ends up coming home 2 to 3 hours early almost every day. Awesome we get to spend more time with him but a bitter disappointment on pay day! But so far this year still has run fairly smooth and we have nothing but blessings to count.

This is also the time of year for chili making, turkey cooking,  holiday baking and anything really that will get the oven working for a few hours to help heat up the house and warm the bellies! A huge hit this week was Egg Nog Fudge! It is very sweet and rich but OH MY is it ever yummy!

The only other thought with this cold weather is that every time I hear or see one of our chickens I can not help but think how grateful I am not to be a chicken right now! Brrrrrrrrrr Brrrrrrrrr and Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr that's all I have to say on that!

May the odds forever be in your favor.........






 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tis the Season

Hope everyone is kicking December off in the joyous spirit of togetherness and holidays that it is intended for. I do not really see it as a "day" but a frame of mind I have mostly tried  to stay in all year round, pretty successfully for the most part too I may add! We tend to do things a little differently in our home and do not always wait to open gifts and actually this year did that portion yesterday with the kids.

I have been posting daily holiday music up on my facebook page, and today we go food shopping where I decided to look at my pinterest candy board and pick 2 things a week I want to make with the kids. This week will be Mud balls and Peppermint Fudge!

I have been letting the negativity of others roll off me like oil on water, after all if they are negative and grumpy that is really on them and not my problem. Looking back at where I was last December, I have nothing but joy in my heart..... not only am I alive but I am doing well and I have an amazing family to celebrate that with so I make sure I start each day with a smile on my lips before I even get out of bed each morning.

I refuse to get grumpy due  to winter, I am determined to enjoy winter this season and focus on all the wonderful things that go along with that. I refuse to let stress enter into any part of my days, worrying will not do anyone any good so I choose to relax into the frame of mind where I know all our needs will be met. Life is good.

It may be frugal, it may be mundane , it may seem like the same things going on each and every day to where it seems for a bit I have run out of things to talk about here on my blog. But it is my LIFE and life with my loved ones is really Amazing and to be cherished.

Looks like winter is trying to move in today as I type this up, where  the  wind is blowing strong and the colder temps coming to town........... rather than get grumpy I plan on going food shopping , coming home to a wonderful hot meal, snuggling under blankets, watching movies and drinking hot chocolate with my kids.  

I have been busy posting tons of ideas on Pinterest to help us have a wonderful 2014 and yet at the same time have been enjoying being present in the moment knowing that how we feel about things is really a choice. How we take action or react is a choice, how we choose to see the world, is a choice. While I may not be able to see too far into the future , I can see myself very much part of 2014 at that, is so exciting, I can not even begin to describe!

Of course I do need to get better about writing more here on my blog again! I need to make posting on a regular basis part of my 2014 goals! 

Wishing everyone a Loving, Generous, Joyous Season! May your light shine so bright the rest of us need to put on our shades!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Creamy Chicken




Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. basil
pepper and salt  to taste
2 T. olive oil
3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can green beans drained
2 large yellow onions chopped
2 or 3 T. Sour Cream
2 or 3 T. Blue Cheese
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cup milk


Directions:

Mix flour, ground red pepper, garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper together in small bowl. Place in a gallon sized zip lock bag and put aside. Cut chicken breasts in 1 inch pieces and put in bag with flour mixture, shaking to coat chicken pieces.

Heat oil in large fry pan and place chicken and onions in it frying until chicken pieces are browned (about 20 minutes). Add green beans and continue frying about another 5 minutes or so until chicken is done. Add Sour Cream and Blue cheese in and slowly start adding the milk stirring constantly until it is a nice gravy consistency ( about 1 1/2 cups milk.) If too thick add a little more milk.

Serve over mashed potatoes, egg noodles or biscuits.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gifting a Minimalist

While I have a long ways to go to where I could be considered a Minimalist, I am working towards it as one of my goals. A life of Simplicity is attractive to me for a variety of reasons and I have been working slowly on decluttering and deowning. Our home is small, and due to people constantly giving us stuff, we have way too much. Stuff we do not need and just taking up very valuable space and with this in mind we have been putting our foot down telling everyone that unless we specifically ASK for something, not to bring it, we don't want it. I have no good way for getting rid of it so it just continues to add to the stuff we already do not have room for.

I want to be a Minimalist and lead a life of Simplicity.

So with that in mind, yet people generally wanting to be helpful or giving, what do you gift the minimalist family? If STUFF is not wanted, then what does make appropriate gifts?
While I may not be able to speak for all, I can say what my family would enjoy which would be....


  • Food Products- organic produce, nuts, olive oils, spices, sunflower seeds, old fashioned rolled oats, baking cocoa, fresh pineapples, fresh coconuts, coconut milk, coconut oil, ,  any flour other than white flour, raw honey, maple syrups, molasses............ you get the gist, any real consumable food that is not processed or enriched....well unless it is a banana split gift basket with ice cream, bananas, whipped topping and of course all the toppings included! :)

  • Gift Cards- Gift cards are always a great gift for the minimalist as they can be used up and used at places the frugal minimalist may not usually indulge in. This could be Walmart or Meijer gift cards, GameStop, gas cards, restaurant gift cards, coffee shops, or others,  just make sure the gift cards you get are places that exist locally for the person you are wanting to gift. It would be kind of pointless to gift a gas card if the nearest gas station for that card is 50 miles or more away. Make sure it is local.

  • Toiletries and Paper Products - Toilet Paper, Paper Plates,Paper Towels, Kleenex,  Bath Salts, Lotions, Shampoos, Soaps, after shave, fabric dryer sheets, Pretty Journaling Paper or Stationary,these are all consumable and will be used even if they are not normal purchases for themselves.

Basically you are looking for things that can be consumed and used up or that will allow for pleasant experiences. Since we value family connections and want to put the focus on building memories other things that a minimalist may enjoy would be:

Cash
Day or Year Passes to  Amusement Parks
Museum Tickets
Zoo Tickets/ Passes
Concert Tickets
Ultimate Fighting Tickets
YMCA memberships
Movie Tickets
Your TIME ( the best thing evah is just making the effort to come hang with us!)
Living History tickets

Bus Pass ( if they live in an area of public bus transportation this may make a lovely gift item!)

Classes ( sometimes they may want to take some kind of class like a cooking class, art class, pottery or some other type.)



Now from time to time there may actually be a material item that the minimalist is wanting so be sure to ask from time to time.

Scented Candles also can make a nice gift, at least for woman minimalists because they wonderfully scent the air, lift spirits and again are consumed and used up.

Someone with a fire place or wood burner in their home would appreciate pinecone fire starters, they are easy to make and are a nice gift.

If you simply take a moment to be a little creative, it really is not that difficult to gift the minimalist on your list. Just ask yourself 2 simple questions....

Is it Consumable?  or  Does it provide a pleasant experience?

If the answer is no, then that is a sign you need to keep thinking and looking until you can answer a yes!

In the meantime, do not take it personal when the minimalist request everyone to not bring "STUFF" when they come to visit, it really is about them wanting a beautiful, organized home and living a life of simplicity. Stuff builds up and accumulates making it more work and less enjoyable. Less sometimes indeed is more and we would like more time, relationships, connections and a life of value than burdened down in objects. Gifting a family who is wanting a less cluttered lifestyle, just takes a little thought and consideration for suitable gifting.

Minimalism is growing at a very rapid rate as people are embracing the principles behind it, so many of you may find your gifting through out a year will find at some point at least one minimalist on your list!

Happy Gifting! 





Wednesday, October 23, 2013

That Time of Year: Preparing for Winter

Yup, the cold wind, rain and talk of snow has already moved into our corner of the world here in Michigan. Michigan winters can be challenging all in it's own right and usually for me a stressful time of year I don't enjoy all that much. Throw a Mobile home into the mix and it makes things even worse. Mobile homes are terrible for winter living, lacking in insulation, hard to heat and just plain cold. The wind blows right through the walls, your heat is being wasted in a multitude of areas and the floors are like walking straight barefoot on ice. Trying to keep it warm and heating along with holidays, is usually very stressful for me and I am like an eagle keeping an ever watchful eye on the propane tanks gauge. I really stress more than I should though because almost always we somehow always manage to stay on top of things.

This year I also   have the added problem of not being able to regulate my body temperature very well and the cold is already really getting to me. I can not layer up too much because then a hot flash will hit and I will be boiling hot for a few minutes stripping off my layers!

Despite all the odds seemingly stacked against us though I am determined to enjoy this winter and all the beauty and warmth winter can bring! I am not going to stress AT ALL and I am going to ENJOY the winter season!

To start with we are doing all  the usual preparations that come with this season.

The heating tape is on our pipes, which works pretty good at keeping pipes from freezing. We only have to drip the faucets when it gets to the 10 and below temps.

Hubby got plastic up on some of the windows yesterday, the side where the wind almost always comes from anyways.

The plastic on the windows are getting finished up today, all together we have 2 large 12 foot long windows. One is at each end of our trailer and then 6 other windows total. These windows are quite leaky and let a ton of cold windy drafts in so plastic over them is a complete MUST for the winter season.

After plastic is put up over the windows we then cover them with blankets or heavy curtains.

We had our propane delivered a few days ago before the cold hit for our 300 gallon tank. With the tank sitting at 25% that allows for the minimum delivery of 200 gallons that cost us $393. In a typical winter we will have  to fill this 2 more times at the 200 gallons each before winter is over.

I still need to get the outlet plugs and cover up a few mouse holes along with using that expanding foam insulation in a few areas.

If this was our place there is a ton more things I  would do that I either can't in a rental or do not want to put that much work or money into a place that is not ours.  But for now the little things we do help keep fuel prices down and us more comfortable and that is what matters!

So cheers to the Winter Season, may you be warm and blessed this season!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hot Chocolate Mix



This is enough mix to fill large ice cream bucket!

8 cups powdered Milk
3 cups baking cocoa
1 cup French Vanilla powdered Creamer
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

Put everything large plastic Ice Cream bucket and mix well, store with lid on it.

To use, place 4 Tablespoons of mix to 1 cup boiling water in cup and serve.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Family Members and Their Financial Roles

I have a Home Economics book that is a compilation of all the old textbooks for Home Economics for vintage advice from the years 1900 to the 1940's, yet this book itself was printed in 2010. One of the things it talks about that I like is the fact that:

"Every family member should be contributing to either A.) Earn Money or B.) Save Money."


When I posed this question to others I heard many replies back that their kids were too young to understand the concept of money, the mom mostly handled all the frugal activities and the dads did not help in the area of savings ( although mostly mentioned he was working.)

The message was lost.

"Each member should contribute to either earning money or saving money."

If the Dad is working well then he is contributing by earning the money. However this does not mean then that the wife and mother should take on the whole role of the savings end when there are children in the house.

This is something I myself have been contemplating on knowing we have missed this mark of involving each and every member. Oh we discuss, they go shopping with us, they know some of the things I do and are very aware of our financial circumstances and choices. But we miss the mark on each member having active roles.

It does not matter if a child is too young to understand the concept of money or not. A  child who has learned to walk can be given active roles in order to help save or earn money. Having a concept of the money itself is irrelevant. However I can see that for the truly frugal house, or those struggling through financial hardships, how very beneficial everyone having an active role could be.

Most children feel very grown up and proud of themselves when given "jobs." You just have to figure out age appropriate ones for them, the older they are the more they would be capable of. To save money for example, you may give a 2 or 3 year old the "job" of checking each room several times a day to make sure lights are off. They could help rinse out cans for the recycling center.

There are many opportunities around the household to either earn or save money, such as picking up returnable cans, helping reduce garbage output, reduce electric bills, help make homemade cleaners, help with meals from scratch, grinding grain ( if you grind grain), clipping coupons, locating sales in flyers........ of course it depends on the ages what tasks you may want to give them.

This also applies to earning money, there are many ways children can earn money, it may not be much such as picking up returnable cans but it is something. Other tasks with creative thinking may bring in much more money.  While it may go to a household fund, you may even consider letting them keep some of the earnings they contribute for themselves and help teach them how to manage their own money.

A family that works together, flows smoother for sure and helps each member understand financial choices better. By getting everyone actively involved in this manner, would certainly ease some of the burden off the main financial guru of the home. I think for the most this has become a lost art of the home economics.

This is going to be one of my families goals for November......... how about you?

Does each member have a earn or save role in your home or does the earning and saving only fall on the adults shoulders?

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Octobers Food Costs = $300

We went shopping on the 5th to do our once a month large shopping day, purchasing everything we needed for Octobers menu. I did forget hot sauce and cranberries as we were tired and just plain tired of fighting the large shopping crowd that day. Seems like everyone in town was shopping! I was very pleased with the final result of our menu cost though......

$300 for a family of 4 for a whole month of food!

Now we will of course have to get milk and bread as we run out throughout the month and some fresh fruit but that is pretty much it. We have $150 left for food so I figure the $50 for these items and the remaining $100 I can use for either reduced meat sales or to build up my prepping pantry. Not that I am preparing for the end of the world or anything but I would love to have a stocked pantry that could last several months to a year.

As for spending the $300 for the month, that actually is a figure I am tickled pink with for a family. That is actually on the high side too because it was not JUST for what was on the menu which only covered dinners. I have 8 lbs. of rolled oats at home so I did not have to worry about that but I did have to buy other things.

While I won't list every single thing I bought for the $300 (the receipt is a mile long!) I will give you and idea of some of the items we purchased for that money.

Honey ( always pricey)
25 pounds of sugar ( tis the baking season)
6 pounds apples
lots and lots of fresh produce such as cabbage, carrots, bananas, brussel sprouts, green peppers...
40 pounds of potatoes ( hey they were on sale for $3 a 10 pound bag!)
Heavy cream ( again always expensive)
6 packages of bacon
24 cans of tuna
Apple Cider ( my only splurge and so worth it!)
Blue cheese
mozzarella cheese
cheddar cheese
Walnuts
Raisins

Okay, Okay you get the point and that does not even cover a 1/4 of the list but those were some of the major ones that stick out for me.

No cold cereal  was purchased or anything so we did pretty good! The one thing I do plan on going back for Tuesday ( other than the 2 items I forgot!) would be some large pumpkins while they are on sale so I can cook it up and freeze the puree.

Okay, so I am off to go make some pumpkin bread and granola cereal this morning! Have a fantastic week you all!

What are you making from scratch this week?

 

Friday, October 4, 2013

October's Menu!

I pretty much am only planning out the Month of October's dinner menu.

For breakfast and lunches we will have a variety  of granola cereals, smoothies, yogurts, toaster pastries, banana breads, pumpkin breads and muffins all made from scratch.

 Dinners:

Sat. Oct.5 –   New England Dinner Gratin


Mon. Oct.7-   Twice Baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Arugula Salad

Tue. Oct. 8-   Chili



Fri. Oct. 11- Homemade Pizza


Sun. Oct. 13- Blue Cheese Mushroom and Onion Potato Gratin w/ arugula salad

 

Mon. Oct. 14- Waffles and fresh fruit salad

Tues. Oct. 15- Black Bean Burgers

Wed. Oct. 16- Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, green beans (Hubby B-day)

Thurs. Oct. 17- BLT Pasta

Fri. Oct. 18-   Leftovers

Sat. Oct. 19- Split Pea and Ham Soup

Sun. Oct. 20- No Mayo TunaSalad with twice baked Sweet Potato’s

Mon. Oct. 21- Creole Rice, Sausage and Cabbage Soup

 

Repeat Menu
 
Happy Fall you all, what is on your menu this month?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My October To Do's

 October To Do List
For How Low Can You Go Frugal Challenge on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/howlowcanyougofrugalchallenge/

1.) Go No Poo ( shampoo)
2.) Give up T.P. for washable cloth  ( only me and only pee)
3.) Winterize Home
4.) Make Granola Cereal
5.) Make Hot Chocolate Mix
6.) Make Sugarless Strawberry Jam
7.) Menu Plan
8.) Have 4 Family Financial Meetings
9.) Make Crockpot Yogurt
10.) Make Mayonnaise
11.) Make Almond Butter
12.) Make Toaster Pastries
13.) Make Quick Breads (banana and pumpkin)
14.) Make Ketchup
15.) Make Laundry Soap
16.) Earn an extra $100
17.) Winterize Garden Beds
18.) De-clutter and De-own all items in house that are not necessary
19.) Catch our bills up
20.) Get propane delivery
21.) Plan Halloween Fun Night
22.) Plan Thanksgiving Meal
23.) Work on Homemade Christmas Items
24.) Purchase 1 to 3 Christmas Presents
25.) Spend $250 on Food for the Month and Use the other $250 for prepper food storage

And there you have it, sounds like I am pretty gun ho about getting back in the saddle from the looks of this list but I know I can do it! One of my major goals for October is my heading towards the minimalist lifestyle, to get my belongings to fit into a duffle bag............ not something I expect my family to follow me on but for me, that is MY goal!

While I am usually frugal by nature, I always see room for growth and developing new skills in order to improve these skills. There seems to be layers of comfort, and each time you get to a level you become comfortable with, it can be a fun time to try to stretch those comfort levels!

Contrary to what many believe, we are quite comfortable in daily life, we lack for nothing, our needs are met and the things we value most are always in the forefront. Since material items, wages, income and things do not define our status in society for us, we follow our drum of values, which for us are connected meaningful relationships, celebrating the abundance of the earth on a daily basis, the miracle of life, and following joy.

So coming back into the scene and brushing myself off after being knocked down this year, I am back stretching those very levels of comfort in order to reduce costs, yet again as much as I possibly can.

If you like don't forget to join us on Facebook at our How Low Can You Go Frugal Challenge Group!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Blogs from Those on Low Income

I was asked yesterday about whether I knew of other blogs out there other than mine here, from people living on low income and doing okay. So I checked the few I knew about and found they had either taken a turn for the worse and removed their blogs or simply quit writing. There never was many however this left me in surprise with mine being pretty much the only one I am aware of putting me into a financial writing league all my own.

There are tons of financial blogs out there sure, even ones living on less, minimalists, those making a lot of money but living on little. There are those who make good money but are frugal in order to pay off high debts. There are those making awesome money that don't believe in being frugal, but rather making more money.  Several blogs about living pay check to pay check which is a tad over 75% of Americans now so no surprise there.

When I discovered the few I knew no longer existed, I went on a search and still really turned up nothing. I seem to be the only one ( although I know this can not be true) blogging about living as a family on a very low income doing okay, maybe not great, but certainly okay!

There could be several reasons for this:

A) Most on our wages are NOT doing okay and have not learned how to live within the tight constraints of this type of income.

B.) A sense of Shame, many have a feeling of shame when it comes to poverty wages and who would want to write about something they feel ashamed about? This is a sad truth for many, although there is NO shame in poverty wages, many can not help but feel that way.... I blame in part for how the politicians have made society believe about us, and the whole illusion of the American Dream that makes many always feel a lack in their life if they are not obtaining that dream.

C.) They  do not know how to start a blog and lack the skills to blog in our modern technology of electronics, because they can not really afford a whole lot in this area!

D.) Many especially in rural areas just don't have access to the internet at all!

E.) Many in this income bracket have such a high stress over finances and are struggling to the point they feel isolated, alone and that they have nothing to share.

I am sure there are other reasons as well that I am not mentioning but what ever the case this truly saddens me. We are at a point where so many Americans are still struggling, that have not bounced back from 2008, that are desperate and that could really benefit from others writing about living and raising a family on low wages.

The more people share, the more others can learn from and find their happiness no matter what their wages are. If nothing else, ease their stress levels and learn to live a little more comfortably! We need more writers and bloggers talking about how we make it and be willing to go to extremes in order to make it work, while we try to improve our lot, yet happiness and joy being our goals.

Now I know a lot with decent incomes read my blog and I am very grateful that I inspire the higher income groups as well. But I just think it would be nice, if there were others out there writing about raising a family with income under the poverty line.

Do you know of any others out there besides mine? Please share the links in the comments below!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Building Character

Anytime a knot tangles in the vision one has for their life, me and hubby have a joke where we will laugh and say "Building Character Baby! Just Building Character!" It is true, that nothing builds character faster than true hardship or even tragedy in ones life. Hardship carves out a hellacious obstacle course where you can persevere to maneuver it until you work your way out altogether or give up. Tragedy forces you to either withdraw from the world and shrivel, or to seek out and find the blessings with in, filling your heart with gratitude. Through either one, FEAR can outright paralyze one into inaction altogether, freezing one into a block of time that fails to move forward in any direction.

Much how the wind or a river carves its way throughout the landscape, carving out pieces of art to be changed forever, what life throws at individual does the same thing. Chiseling away a grand work of art, a Masterpiece that will ooze beauty and lightness or the darkness of a troubled mind. Poverty, cancer, large debt, divorce, loss of a loved one, crime, money pit homes, terminal illnesses, bad relationships, low self esteem, unforeseen evictions, severe weather. All these things and more can bombard an individual with hardships unimaginable to others. It is how one handles  them which determines what kind of character will be built.

Your mind needs to be strong to create a piece of art, rather than be broken yet how we meet hardships, boils down to choice. We have a choice in how to feel about it ( our emotions) as well as what we will do about it ( the physical ) and it is always about choices. We can choose to meet each sense of hardship with humor and positive intent and fill our hearts with gratitude.

Greeting life, bills, terminal illness, judgmental people who don't agree with your lifestyle choices, where you live, your work, all the difficulties and struggles each day brings......can all be met with grace, dignity and joy, with a positive mind. These are choices one can make no matter what their circumstances may be. I am not saying meeting life this way is easy, for it is not always easy, the harder life knocks one may get, the harder it can be, but it is still a choice.

By making the choices to not be a victim and taking a proactive role, choosing carefully our emotions on how to feel about our situations and deciding the actions we want to take to change or overcome things, reduces feelings of stress a hundred fold.

It seems when we follow more of the negative side of thoughts and actions, stress builds as if in a pressure cooker, ready to explode all over everything at any given moment. Being paralyzed by fear can be even worse, more like a volcano ready to erupt. The end result for either one of these, are usually quite disastrous. Yet many people tend to easily fall into these spiraling down emotions and choices. Positive thinking seems so much harder and so many are wrapped in a world of being victim, they do not realize they are in control of their feelings and actually have choices.

Instead of complaining how you hate being broke, do something about it and truly open your eyes to all the blessings around you. Choices

Instead of treating someone who has terminal illness like they are on death row, with no hope left and nothing to offer the world, treat them like someone who has an amazing story to share and let your light engulf them with love and laughter. Choices.

If you have had large debt forever and a day, complaining constantly and fear taking hold of every part of life, change it! It is what it is, learn, grow, laugh, move on and change today. Choices

Grace, Dignity, Humor and Positive attitudes, these are all the building character traits that hardship could be chiseling out from you. Your Choice,  what kind of a Masterpiece do you want to create?

I absolutely love our life because I choose too, how do you choose yours?
 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Before Shopping Photos #2







You may remember our Before Shopping Photos a little over a year ago, before receiving SNAP when our monthly grocery amount averaged $250 a month for a family of 5. You can refresh your memory and see that post HERE.

For the last 6 months we have been receiving 575 a month ( which now has gone down for the next 6 months  to $505) for a family of now 4. This is a whole lot of food for us and as you can see, puts us at a much better standing at the end of a grocery term, right before the major shopping day around the 5th of each month.

The first photo shows the  small chest freezer we purchased at the beginning of the year with a 25 pound bag of flour, several bags of homemade stock and some fries. Items were transferred from here to fill the freezer above the refrigerator so that the chest freezer had room for that days shopping.

The next photo is the fridge freezer after the chest freezer had been combined in it. It is full and has no room in it for more. It has frozen fruits,  veggies, a pork loin roast,  a duck, a whole chicken, chicken breasts,  sweet potato fries, pork chops and a steak that was on sale.

The next photo of the refrigerator, well  that is actually pretty empty but has milk, butter, eggs and some condiments left.

Then we get to the cupboards that has oatmeal, sauerkraut, soups, relish, tomato paste, jelly, raisins, and some rice a roni boxes (my sons friend gave us them as it is not something I would buy).  The one cupboard I forgot to take photos of, has fresh potato's, brown rice  and 10 pounds of rolled oats..

All in All I had 2 weeks worth of meals still at the end of the month, breakfasts and dinners were covered, however we were lacking things for lunch  although I could have fudged that for a little by making muffins, waffles, biscuits and banana breads as I have bananas frozen already for that purpose.

As for the duck, my hubby and kids have never had duck before so I wanted to give them that experience as this country girl loves a good duck! While it is pretty expensive, I was able to purchase it due to how frugal I am in general for grocery shopping.  It is in my freezer for a special occasion dinner, and this is the only meat I purchased last month that was not on sale.  All the other meats were drastically reduced and I pick them up through out the month when I see them at the greatly reduced prices which builds up our food  inventory at home.

All in all , the food stamps certainly puts us in a much more comfortable position at the end of a food shopping period and we plan on building up our food  inventory in a very substantial way over the next 6 months when our goal is to get back off of the food stamps.

How long would your food stash last if that was all you had?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sour Cream Fresh Fruit Salad

Sorry no photos, I was so  hungry I wanted to eat and forgot to take a picture! LOL



3 apples peeled, cored and diced
3 plums, pitted and diced with skin on
1 banana sliced
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup citrus tangerine/ orange juice
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon



Put everything in a medium bowl, stir well and chill for an hour prior to serving!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Frugal Fun Family Afternoon!

My daughter starts feeling really bored and trapped when we stay home for far too long of stretches and everything follows a simple basic mundane routine of each day blending together in sameness. She is a very active 12 year old who loves creativity and newness so this is to be expected. She does not accept me having cancer or our finances being an issue as an answer, or a good answer anyways. Now granted sometimes this means she just wants us  to spend some family time together playing board games or doing something together. Other times it means she is desperate to get out of the house and go do something fun! I can't say as I blame her,  I think most of us feel this way from time to time especially for  those of us who really stay home a good share of the time.

So when my chemo was cancelled for the second week in a row this past Tuesday due to my white cell count still being low, I decided to take full advantage of us having 2 whole days off as a family including hubby! I  had $35 to our name, so knew it had to be frugal  is as frugal does! My 15 year old son had been asking to go to Game Stop for a few weeks now. We do not go that often because it is in another town 30 miles away, the same distance as my hospital for chemo trips but in the opposite direction! We had already put the gas in our truck though for chemo prior to it being cancelled!

So I had hubby and the kids  go through all  their Xbox 360 games  to gather what they no longer wanted or played which brought up a dozen games to return for store credit. We went to Game Stop and took  our time with no hurrying or rushing where we had enough store credit for each member to choose a new video game. They love going here and for 4  new video games  the out of pocket expense to us was only .70 cents! WOOT WOOT!

Our daughter also loves clothes shopping and at 12 let me tell you she has been growing continuously so always needs new clothes. There happens to be 2 thrift stores in the area of Game Stop, a Salvation Army and a Good Will. She got to go to both and found a couple items at each, I also was able to find a like brand new pair of jeans at Salvation Army. I was happy about this because other than a couple of sweat pants hubby got me at the start of chemo treatments, I only had one black pair of corduroy pants that fit me that again was purchased after loosing a bunch of weight from the cancer.

Then stopped by Walmart to pick up a couple things for dinner at home. All in  all we only spent $15 while the kids enjoyed their afternoon out, even our 15 year old son enjoys going to thrift stores. At home they all played their new video games with each other while I fixed a nice dinner.

$15 for an afternoon day of fun for family of 4, not so bad!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

HELL YES edition

Well it has been awhile since a really good  cancer update, the days still get away from me and the time seems to fly by without much getting done other than facebook fun LOL. I am real good a little blurbs and update on facebook most days so if ya like go ahead and look me up and send a friend request!

Now for all the nitty gritty details.

I have had 3 scans where between the first 2 scans, yes it was working, you could visibly see some shrinkage of the tumors. The third scan not only showed a much faster and noticeable shrinkage between the 3rd and 1rst scan but the difference between the 3rd and 2nd scan was like night and day! HUGE difference! The tumors in my lungs are all gone completely. There was a part of my liver that was a huge solid mass originally that is now just a small spot. You can see LOTS of healthy liver between fairly small tumors now. Originally you could not see any liver and the tumors there were huge, larger than the one on my breast even which was the size of an orange! ( You can not even feel the one in the breast anymore either which is tremendous)

Also my liver counts have been PERFECT for several weeks now! Ta Da!

For most of July I have felt WONDERFUL, much like my old  self again and I am back to being sassy, full of zest and rearing to go with a build up of energy, I don't like sitting around for months doing nothing! All that did was get me addicted to Facebook because that was all about the only thing I could do other than watch my movie at night before bed!

I am suppose to go every week since they changed my chemo to just one drug as June had proved too much for me and rendered me a mess that could not even lift my arms or hands. But that has been pretty much go 2 weeks in a row then 1 week off because my white blood cells drop and leaves me at risk  for getting sick easily.

There is also talk of and END DATE woo hoo! I will have one more scan around August 20th and seeing what that shows, my doctor may be able to give me an end date for chemo then I will be placed on a hormone treatment that will be just taking a pill . This means I will only have to go see my doctor about once a month she says......... OH HAPPY DAY THAT WILL BE! 

So yeah all is good, it may be pinching our finances tighter than I would like, but I have not stressed at all over that because it has been so worth it !

Kicking Cancers Butt one day at a time!

On a totally unrelated note, since everyone voted for me to condense all my blogs into this main one here, that is what I will be attempting to do so be patient while I try to make that happen in an organized manner! LOL

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Staying at a Low Paying Job

                                                       
                                                         "Supporting Hubby's Bald Head"




Sometimes staying at a low paying job is worth the consequences and after weighing the options, one continues on in such a job. We are at this point.

Some days, on my good days I wonder...... am I good enough to go back to work? I seriously consider it and think of what jobs in our area are available for the afternoon shifts. This is the shift I would be able to work with only having one vehicle..... a shift that would ensure me and hubby working alternating shifts and only seeing each other in passing. Yet every time I even THINK about such a feat...... I get a reality check with a chemo crash lasting anywhere from 2 to 5 days. Or I even get a bad month like pretty much all of JUNE that tells me NOPE not even close to being ready for the work force yet!

On another note hubby has revealed to me his desire to look for a better paying job and we have discussed this in great length. It almost puts us in a catch 22 situation where it boils down to right now, we are stuck with what we have.

Yes his job at the moment is low paying, he has made raises in the 3 years he has been there that brings us to just .25 cents above minimum  wage. Yet because he has been there for the length he has been there and because he is a very hard working dependable employee they look at him as family. This gives him the freedom to get whatever days off he needs to take  me to treatments and also no worries for last minute notices of not being able to work for my emergency room visits.

They are very aware with what we are going through as a family and they freely give him the flexibility we need right now.

A new job may pay better, but would most likely not offer that kind of flexibility as a new employee that has to prove himself yet as a loyal and dedicated worker. If we lived within walking distance from the hospital, it would be a different story , but we don't it is a nice little drive and hubby makes sure he takes me just in case I have a reaction to the chemo and can get back home.

So far now we continue on for it is what it is and we are very thankful his job has been so generous and kind to us and giving us what we need to get the treatments as we need them and as they change throughout all this time. Hubby is even now in a competition and if he continues winning....they have even offered to take me to chemo for him so he can go to the main event if he gets that far in the competition!

Sometimes the benefits that go beyond the paycheck, makes it worth staying put. :)