Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Back on the Bandwagon....AGAIN!

Whelp, we're trying again to make a go with this whole Financial Peace thing.  I think we have a better plan in place this time and more cooperation all around, so I'm really hoping it sticks....although the whole process tends to stress me out.  One of the hardest things for us is the fact that both of us having fluctuating income.  Because of that we've budgeted completely differently this time and I'm hoping that becomes part of the key to our success.  We've budgeted bills, groceries, toiletries, gas, etc. off of our lowest average pay and then are trying to do some irregular income planning for our lump sum and needs and elective expenses (medical, school, gifts, car repair/tags, home repair, entertainment/eating out, etc.).  In other words anything over and above our low pays will be allocated either by greatest need or percentage in order to fund those lump sum items.  Most pay periods we will have more money than we've budgeted for, so hopefully this will all work out well in the long term providing we haven't left out any major expenses.  We don't have a solid plan for quick debt payoff yet, but do have a plan to pay off our small card soon and roll that into the only other card that we have.  If we weren't planning to do braces for both girls this year we could probably knock out both credit cards this year and then tackle the car payment next year, but for now those things are going to have to wait.  We do pay a bit more each month than the minimum and rolling the smaller card payment into the bigger one will give us a start.

What all of that means is that we willing be living off of a tight grocery and gas budget each month. Occasionally when we have extra I'll use it to add some staples to the pantry and freezer to help on those months that we might be stretched thin.  We will be attempting to spend $450 every 4 weeks on groceries, toiletries, vitamins/OTC meds, dog food, cleaning supplies, etc.  Basically, that will need to cover anything that I purchase at Sams, Aldi and WalMart on a recurring basis.  Here's how I plan to do it:
1) Cut back on paper towel use.  We have plenty of extra towels and washcloths.  I also bought some fabric a long time ago to make cloth napkins with.  Maybe I'll make good on that...
2) Cut out as much canned goods as possible.  I'll be cooking with dried beans, frozen and fresh vegetables as much as possible.  I get most of the dried beans and frozen veggies at WalMart and most of our fresh at Aldi and Sams.
3) Cooking from scratch more often.  I'm not much on convenience foods as it is, but I have LOTS of whole wheat and the supplies to go with it, so I need to cook up some breads and muffins to keep us from buying those things.  I might try my hand at English Muffins, tortillas and bagels if I'm feeling adventurous anytime soon.
4) I'll be back to making my own detergents and forgoing fabric softener for a vinegar rinse instead.  I'm considering making my own dryer balls and using a little essential oil on them to add a fresh scent to our laundry, since that's what I'll miss the most about softener.
5) We're using a good bit of essential oils already and have greatly decreased the amount of OTCs we're using and Dr. visits we're requiring.  I'm hoping to learn more ways to use these and begin to make our own facial cleansers, toners and moisturizers as well.  I'm fairly certain I can do that with things that I typically have on hand.
6) Cutting back on meat.  We'll be having an occasional meal without meat.  Probably a couple of times a week we'll skip it by having stir fried veggies over rice, baked potatoes or a veggie plate with cornbread.  We all like these meals so it won't be a big deal and will make things a bit cheaper.
7) When we do have meat here's how we'll do it:  We have a good bit of venison in the freezers so we won't be buying much, if any, red meat.  I can usually get pork loin and boneless skinless chicken breast at Sams for $2ish a lb. We bring those home and slice them and freeze in meal sized portions or grill the chicken to have ready for salads and wraps.  I'll also be buying whole chickens to boil (making my own broth) and shred.  I can usually get at least 4 meals out of one chicken (things like soups, casseroles, dumplings...etc.)
8) Cooking for the freezer:  When we opt for convenience foods or eating out it's usually because I didn't plan well or ran out of time.  I'm hoping to get some dried beans cooked and frozen as well as some breads.
9) I'll shop every 2 weeks with a meal plan.  I'm planning every meal including snacks.  This way there is not much if any waste, we know what we have and we don't end up buying things we don't need.  That'll mean that I need to inventory what I have each week before I make the menu plan and then the grocery list.
10) Plan, plan, case you didn't notice that seems to be the running theme here.  I need to plan things well and try to forsee our needs, so I'm not splurging out of convenience.  We'll be taking our lunch and eating in the van on co-op/errand days instead of indulging by eating out.

I'm certain that some tweaking will be in order.  Good Ol' Dave Ramsey suggested that it may take 90 days before all the kinks are ironed out of our cash flow budget.  I'll try to hop back in here from time to time to share what's working and what isn't.  Please feel free to share your money saving tips with me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vitamins, Oils and Tonics. Oh My!

We've been working toward a healthier lifestyle for quite some time and we truly still have VERY far to go, but recently (since it became clear that our new affordable "health care" may not only make our insurance more expensive, but may make it more difficult to see the doc or afford that visit) we've realized the need for natural alternatives.  I've tried some things that have worked quite well recently and wanted to share them.

This is the first year in quite some time that we have decided not to take the flu shot.  We took it for years because I have a daughter with asthma, but we did notice that we had the flu (albeit fairly mild versions of it) almost yearly while taking the shots.  I've never been one of those people that believed the shots caused the flu (and still really don't since we'd get it quite some time after the shot), but since we almost never got it prior to the shot and my daughter's asthma has settled down I just didn't have peace about taking the shot this year.  In my quest to find out how to avoid it I've found that first and foremost are vitamins.  Take a good multi-vitamin and supplement with additional vitamin C and D.  I recommend doing your research to determine how much you'd like your family to take.  Also, I could not stomach multi-vitamins for many years.  I tried many different kinds and tried taking them at bedtime, or name it....I tried it.  They made me feel awful.  I just wanted to share that I have discovered that I can take almost any kind of gummy vitamin without any ill effects....including Omega 3 (fish oil).  So, if you tend to have trouble with multi-vites you might consider trying a gummy version.  We use Vita-Fusion.

There is one other thing that we try to use somewhat regularly as a preventative and we take in larger doses at the first symptom of any illness.  It's Olive Leaf Extract.  We typically take two a day to prevent and 4 (or sometimes more) when we're sick or coming down with something.  My former chiropractor (he moved far away...I'm still sad) told me about it.  He used a brand called Olivir, but I needed a cheaper alternative, so we usually use Nature's Way.

Now I wanted to share a couple of things that we've found that help with symptoms.

Essential Oils:
I'm somewhat new to essential oils and am just learning what some of them can be used for.  Here's what I have experience with so far:

Thieves Oil - You can search the name for the legend behind the blend, but basically it's a blend of essential oils that is believed to be strong enough to help prevent catching the plague....while I don't know much about the plague I do know that I've had relief from using thieves oil and we enjoy the scent.  There are some popular blends under a few different names, but they can be very pricey.  The least expensive that I've seen of what's called Therapeutic Grade is made by a company called Plant Therapy and their version is called Germ Fighter.  I haven't used their product yet, but plan to order some of their oils very soon.  I have been mixing my own for a couple of years.  You can find several different recipe versions online, but the one that I use calls for equal parts lemon oil, rosemary oil, clove bud oil, eucalyptus oil and cinnamon oil.  The brands that I have of those individual oils are Aura Cacia and NOW.  In the winter I place a few drops in a pot of water on the stove to add some moisture to the air and I'll add it to a humidifier or vaporizer.  

Eucalyptus Oil-
This works great as a decongestant.  You can add it to vaporizers and humidifiers as well and also make your own vapor rub.  (We've found that vapor rub on the bottom of your feet can help to quiet a cough.)

Peppermint Oil -
This can work as a decongestant as well, but we have found that our favorite use for it is to relieve headaches.  We also found this weekend that if you smell it and rub it on your stomach with a carrier oil it will help relieve nausea.  My husband used it three times last week for a headache and nausea (he actually asked for it once) and it worked every time.  I also like to add a drop to my hot chocolate.

Last week I started coming down with something that would have ordinarily lasted a week or two and had me in the Drs. office getting a steroid shot within the first couple of days.  I immediately started the Olive Leaf Extract 4 times a day and put thieves oil (mixed with olive oil as my carrier oil) on the bottoms of my feet, my chest and my neck and under my nose at least twice a day, but more often if I needed it to alleviate my coughing and congestion symptoms.  I added a couple of drops of Eucalyptus to my chest, neck and under my nose to help as a decongestant. One day I had a headache that would not go away, so I got out the peppermint oil and put a little under my nose, on my forehead and on my temples (with olive oil) and it worked.  Not only did my "illness" not even last a week, I did not have to take anything over the counter (other than Ibuprofen all week).  It also kept me from really feeling sick.  I had symptoms all week (congestion, sore throat, headache, coughing), but they were mild and I'd only have one or two at a time.  Normally something like this would have me in bed for a couple of days, but short of a couple of naps and one evening of feeling pretty rough these things made it very manageable/tolerable.

Here are a couple of other things we've found to be very helpful:

Honey - A teaspoonful of Honey can help to quiet a cough and sooth a sore throat.

Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar - (My favorite brand is Braggs)
This has TONS of helpful properties....Google ACV remedies or benefits

Tart Apple Cider: For a sore throat or cough I like to mix 1 Tbsp. honey, 1 Tbsp. ACV and a dash of cinnamon to a coup of hot water.  This tastes a bit like a tart cup of Hot Apple Cider.  Adjust the amounts to your tastes.  If you think it's gross you won't drink it, so add more honey or less ACV until you've found the combination that you enjoy.  I think it's yummy this way, but have to add more honey for my son.

Homemade Cough Syrup: For a cough make a homemade cough syrup out of equal parts honey, ACV and lemon juice.  No real side effects from this one so we take a teaspoon as needed.

My disclaimer:  I'm no Dr. and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express.  All of this info has either been gleaned from friends or my own Internet research.  This is what has been working for myself and my family.  Do your own research....check with your Dr. if medication interactions or other health issues are a concern. 

Where to buy:  I have found that Amazon and Swansons usually have very good prices, but you'll need to look through their products.  I've provided links to some of these things.  You should be able to tell which words to click on.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tis the Season. To Be......BUSY!

One of the most frustrating parts of this time of year is how very busy it tends to be.  We've been invited to two Christmas parties by my husband's employer, 5 events through our homeschool covering or with our homeschool friends, 5 events/parties with our church family (and some practices that go along with one of those events) and a couple of other miscellaneious Christmas related events....and none of that counts any of the traditional family/friend holiday gatherings, work, homeschooling, shopping, holiday traditions (parades, craft shows, etc.) or regularly scheduled church events.  Seriously....If we let it the schedule for the month of December could get COMPLETELY out of hand.  While I strive to find the joy in each of the events we attend and chalk the fellowship up to part of the celebration of Christmas, I have learned that I just have to say no sometimes.  Sadly, this is often not popular and people sometimes just don't understand.  I actually have considered planning some things in my home and inviting friends and family and have just decided that I will not contribute to the scheduling craziness, so I will purpose to do those after the holidays.  We all really need to make a point to spend time with each other throughout the year and not feel so obligated to plan so many holiday gatherings.  It's honestly (to me) not the decor or the gift giving or the jolly ol' man that take our eyes off of the reason for the season.  Our chaotic schedules tend to do that for us.  Just something to think about.....and please know that if you invite us to something this month and we say no, it isn't because we don't love you or even that we don't want to's just that we want to get through the holidays with our sanity intact and keep our eyes firmly focused on Jesus.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ready or Not...

This week has included a couple of meetings that have sent us slightly reeling in a new direction that none of us were quite ready for.  A couple of years ago I attended a meeting to learn about high school transcripts and what kind of courses I needed to make sure were on them in order for those transcripts to benefit my children when it comes to college admissions.  I was cool with that.  Didn't seem too hard and didn't really make things seem like a short time table.  However, this week we attended two college prep meetings and those meetings have our minds swirling in many different directions and left us all wishing we could SLOW life down.  I'm SO not ready for my girls to be grown.  I cannot even fathom what life looks like after they've graduated from high school and I am honestly scared that I'm not going to handle it well.  So, if you see me in public and I walk past you with a glazed look in my eyes and without speaking, just know that I have thoughts of PLAN, PSAT, SAT, ACTs, scholarship applications, transcripts, aptitude tests, career decisions, college choices, but espcially my little girls growing up flooding my mind.  Lord, help me!