Wednesday, January 30, 2013

February Meal Plan...

After much trial and error, I have discovered that doing a monthly meal plan works best for me.

  • I only have to sit down once to create a meal plan - not four or five times.
  • I have an idea of what we're doing the entire month which works out perfect for a busy schedule.
  • I can shop ahead - if I plan on making chicken alfredo, chicken enchiladas & grilled chicken in a month I can look for larger packs of chicken, which are often less per pound than smaller packs. 
  • I like to shop every two weeks and knowing what my plans for the month are help me stock up when things are on sale.
I use a calendar for my meal plan - I like to be able to see each day on the calendar and I enter what we are having for dinner as well as any activities going on that day.  And I always write in pencil because I usually end up changing at least a couple of days during the month.

Here's what my February looks like:

Cheesy chicken vermicelli & steamed broccoli 
Chili & salad
Tortellini w/marinara, salad, bread
BLT's & fruit
Chicken enchiladas & salad
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, broccoli
Baked potato bar & fruit
Homemade macaroni and cheese
Salmon, rice, grilled red, green & yellow peppers
Chicken sausage, veggie tray
Baked Ziti, salad, bread

Pretty basic stuff this month due to sports schedules.  On those nights I like to have quick & easy options that I can serve in shifts.  A couple of those days I will make sandwiches (usually grilled cheese or tuna).

For breakfasts I do cereal or oatmeal during the week and eggs on weekends.  Lunches for LM & me are sandwiches.  My husband eats lunch out most days at business lunches.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Spend February 2013 Edition

It's that time of year again here at September Acres.  It's No Spend February!  I believe this is the fifth year we are doing this and I am more than ready.  The rest of the family is not quite as excited though - as with past years.  But they know it's coming...

I call this a 'no spend' month but realistically it's more of a 'controlled spend' month as I still buy some groceries (perishables, for example) and pay for LM's gymnastics lessons.  But other than that things get pretty frugal around here.

Here's what no spend February means for us:

  • No vacations.
  • No extra-curricular shopping activities.  This is a big one and probably the one place that most unnecessary spending occurs.  Those trips to the Target dollar spot really add up and will be cut out this month (and maybe beyond).  We've also just come off Christmas and birthdays so no one needs anything.
  • No eating out.  As in years past, we'll go  if we're being treated but that's it.  This could be good for our waistlines as well.
  • No activities that involve spending.  Trips to the movies & bowling are out but the park is okay.
  • Eating from the pantry.  Over the past few months we've built up our pantry and now it's time to use what we have.  We also try to use our personal care items that we've accumulated over the year.  I can usually go for the month or more without purchasing shampoo, lotion, etc.
I pick February as our no spend month for a couple of reasons: first, it's a short month!  Second, we have been spending for the previous months on things like Christmas and birthdays and it all adds up.  

February does present one challenge for us - an out of town hockey tournament.  Luckily, we know about this far in advance so we can plan (and save) for it.  Our hotel stay is paid for using our rewards points from Marriott and the hotel provides a complimentary breakfast.  Our other meals are eaten at the rink where the host team puts on a fabulous feast all weekend.  It's much more reasonable than eating at a restaurant and tastes much better.  We bring waters, gatorades and snacks from home.  The rink is at a huge park providing lots of play space for the kids when they're not playing a game.  It's also usually warm enough to head to the pool after a long day.  I feel like we do a pretty good job of spending as little as possible during this weekend.

I actually love having a no spend month - it makes me realize each time we do it how much unnecessary spending goes on around here.  And how little we really need to live and be happy.

Do you have a no spend/controlled spend month?

Linking up to Wendy's Frugal Friday.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On Being Under the Weather...

Luckily, I do not often get sick.  As a mom it's really hard to have any down time and keep things running smoothly.  But yesterday I just didn't feel well.  I don't think it's the flu or a cold but not being a doctor it's hard to tell.  I'm feeling a bit better today and should be able to resume my normal activities.

But yesterday was another story.  Unfortunately, LM had a dentist appointment after school that I couldn't change on such short notice.  I tried to lay low for the rest of the day.  That was a bit hard since the members of my family didn't realize that I seriously did not feel well.  At the end of the afternoon I had had it and finally said 'what do I need to do or say to make you understand that I don't feel well' and that I wouldn't be doing the following:

  • I am not going out to the car in the dark to search for your library book.
  • I am not washing clothes 'for fun' so you will have your favorite hockey pants.
  • I am not making anything else for dinner other than soup & baked potatoes.
  • I am not tallying up the Girl Scout cookie form 'right this second'.
  • I am not picking up after you.
All of you moms surely get my point.  Most of these things can wait (except maybe dinner) and will.  Or they can do it themselves.  Now there's an idea....

How do you handle 'sick days'?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Field Trip...

When we went to Utah after Christmas we had a big day planned with my sister in Salt Lake, starting with a trip to the Capital Theatre  to see The Nutcracker.  It was LM's first time to see it and she was pretty excited.  She wasn't super excited to dress up, but that was part of the deal. 

We all loved the ballet - The Nutcracker is always a good one in my opinion.

We then headed over to the Clark Planetarium before dinner.  LM loves planetariums as much as I do.  We spent time walking around looking at the exhibits.  The above photo is LM walking on the moon.  She also walked on Mars, which was right across the hallway.   We definitely plan on going again.

After dinner we headed over to Temple Square to see the lights.  Us - and a large portion of the state of Utah.  It was packed - and one of the coldest nights of the year.  No matter how crowded and cold, it's always a beautiful sight.  I never get tired of walking around the lovely grounds.

We walked around the City Creek Center  until we desert dwellers couldn't stand the cold any longer.

It was a lovely afternoon and evening with some good company.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Warm Up...

Over the past few days we've had the coldest temps in 20 years here in Arizona .  Many other parts of the U.S. have been breaking records as well.  When it's that cold out I always love a nice warm meal at home.  But putting that nice warm meal on a cold plate is no fun.

To keep things warm I pop my (microwave safe) plates and bowls in the microwave for a little warm up.  One plate warms up nicely in about 30 seconds.  If I am stacking up 3 or 4 I'll start with 60 seconds and add more time until the plates are to my liking.  You don't want them too hot though or your food will cool off before you can handle the plates. :)

I also love warming up my mugs for tea or hot chocolate (we still have our hot cocoa bar up)

How are you keeping warm in the frigid temps?

Friday, January 11, 2013

52 Week Money Challenge...

One of the most popular new year's resolutions has got to be 'saving money'.  A noble resolution for sure, especially after the holiday spending frenzy many of us go on from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.  While I didn't make any resolutions this year, I am always interested in tightening our belts after the holidays.  

I kept hearing about this 52 Week Money Challenge.  The idea is to save $1 for the number of the week we are in during the year. $1 for week one, $2 for week two and so on.  If you are faithful in doing this you will have $1378.00 by week 52 of this year.  Pretty neat, isn't it?  

The woman behind this challenge is a lot like many of us.  Meet her here. 

I have seen ideas about reversing this challenge by saving the $52 the first week, $51 the second week, etc.  The theory behind this is that during the last weeks of the year, we tend to have holiday expenses making it harder to set aside $40 plus each week.

Even more interesting is the hybrid idea of this challenge where you save as much as you can each week.  Just cross off what you've saved each week so there is no duplication. For example: I sell some no longer used video games one week for $30 -  I would take that money, apply it to week 30 and cross it off the list.  Alternatively, if we have an unexpected expense one week, I can pick a smaller number to put in the jar.  I find this way kind of fun - it makes it more of a game.

I think this will be fun & challenging.  Imagine have $1000 in cash to spend at Christmas - no credit cards, no waiting for payday - just money you have diligently saved throughout the year.

I'm in.  Are you?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why I didn't make any resolutions for 2013...


Every year I make New Year's Resolutions - they're usually the same old ones: get organized, lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, eat less sugar, be nicer - probably many of the sames ones other people have written down.

Every year I get off to a pretty good start.

And then reality sets in.  The days get busier as school starts back up and we get back into our routines.  Routine sounds great until it gets slammed by a doctor or car maintenance appointment.  The three mile walk gets replaced by the three hour wait at the dealership.  And there goes my 'exercise every day' resolution. And then I feel guilty.

So, this year there will be no resolutions.  I know what I need to do to and writing down a list of things or putting them out there in a post doesn't make them happen.  I don't plan on being a sloth for the whole of 2013 but if I learned anything in 2012 it's that life happens, plans change, best intentions go out the window and life goes on.  With or without resolutions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Little Adventure....

LM and I planned to drive back to Utah with my sister after Christmas so she wouldn't have to drive alone.  A few hours into the trip and along the only 15 mile stretch without cell service, we had a tire problem.  We were lucky that a nice lady and her daughter stopped while my sister was walking to get cell service and was able to call her husband (after 10 minutes on hold with AAA) to have a tow truck come pick us up and take us to St. George to get the car fixed.

Deciding to make the best of the situation, we took a few pictures while we waited.  We could have been stuck in a worse place, don't you think?

I have always wanted to stop here for a photo shoot and lunch (we were within walking distance of the picnic area) but this wasn't quite the way I had planned it.

It was a chilly but beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.

And below is our ride to St. George.  Yes, four of us were stuffed in the cab of that truck.

After  lunch and a visit to the Santa Clara public library we were on our way, arriving at our destination about fours hours later than planned.

Luckily, the car is fine and so are we.  Things could have been much, much worse and we are thankful that all turned out well and we had a little fun on top of it.  And we'll always remember the trip.