Let’s Talk Christmas

I know it’s July and with this beautiful summer weather Christmas seems eons away. In reality though Christmas isn’t all that far away and before you know it the local radio stations will be playing our favorite Christmas songs around the clock. While Christmas is a time for joy for many people it can bring a great deal of sadness and frustration especially when it comes to finances. Even the most frugal of families can feel the pinch when it comes to Christmas which can suck the joy right out of the holidays.

This year I want to make Christmas as stress free and as joyful as possible. I want to spend time with friends and family without the stress of finances hanging over my head like a cloud. I have decided that this year I am going to start planning for Christmas in July. With 24 weeks left until Christmas this gives me the opportunity to save $1000 by simply putting away $42 a week. My goal is to save a $1000 by Christmas to help pay for Christmas presents, host my annual Christmas party and so I can give a little extra to those in need. I have recently kicked an expensive coffee habit so I know that I can work the $42 into my budget.

If you are reading this and thinking it sounds like a good idea but $42 a week isn’t in the budget think about putting aside $20 instead. In 24 weeks you will have accumulated $480 and that can go along way towards easing the burden that holidays often put on our finances.

Let me know in the comments below if you already have your Christmas fund started. When do you start planning for the holidays?

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Are You Afraid of Leftovers?

Over the years I have encountered a strange phenomenon among men and women my age and that is an unnatural fear of leftovers. I happen to be really good at saving money on my food budget and when people ask me the secret to my success they are usually appalled that I make my family eat leftovers. The funny thing is that these same individuals love to fill their shopping carts with expensive frozen dinners because I guess that is their idea of “fresh food”.

Recently, I had a conversation with a woman about leftovers and she told me that she would never feed her family leftovers because they are gross, flavorless and unhealthy. She had no issue with cooking a homemade meal for her family but instead of packaging away the leftovers for another meal later in the week or storing them in the freezer she just throws them out. When I think of the amount of food this family waste as well as the wasted money it makes my brain hurt. I attempted to explain that leftovers are nothing to be afraid of and in fact are a great way to serve healthy food on a budget. In fact, having leftovers on hand saves time and dishes later in the week when schedules get hectic.

I don’t think I was very successful explaining the benefits of leftovers but it has compelled me to sit down and make a case for them in writing. If you are afraid of leftovers and stumble upon this post I hope you will reconsider the idea of cooking with leftovers.

Leftovers do not have to be gross, flavorless or unhealthy. When you make a casserole and you have leftovers refrigerate or freeze within two hours of serving. This will maintain the quality of the food and prevent bacteria from growing. I agree that bacteria riddled food is gross but proper storage prevents this from happening. I will link a great article below from the FDA that provides some guidelines for food storage.

When it comes to flavor most food will taste better the next day because it has had time to meld flavors. For instance, chicken noodle soup is great day one but it is way better day two because it has sat in the fridge with the veggies and spices melding flavors. When you throw out leftovers you are missing out on a wonderful culinary experience.

Eating leftovers is not unhealthy unless the food was unhealthy to start off with. A leftover chocolate pie isn’t going to gain nutritional value overnight just as a lasagna isn’t going to lose nutritional value overnight. Making food from scratch gives you the opportunity to create recipes that are healthy and nutrient rich. A homemade lasagna is going to be lower in sugar and salt when you compare it to a pre-packaged frozen lasagna. We know that excessive salt and sugar consumption can lead to a whole lot of health problems and unfortunately the convenient pre-packaged meals are saturated with sugar and salt.

Leftovers are nothing to be afraid of as long as you educate yourself on proper food handling and storage you can safely reuse leftovers. I love using leftovers because it gives me a break later in the week when I need to make a fast meal. Not only does this save me time it also saves me on kitchen cleanup because I am just reheating not creating the meal from scratch. Using leftovers can be fun as well it’s an opportunity to get creative. Over the years I have learned how to take leftover chicken noodle soup and turn it into chicken pot pie, creamy chicken and noodles, and chicken spaghetti. Leftover pulled pork is not only great on sandwiches but you can stuff baked potatoes and top with cheddar cheese for a whole new meal.

As you can see leftovers are not that scary and can be a great tool if used correctly to save you time, energy and money. If you are still on the fence consider this if you are feeding your family a steady diet of pre-packaged freezer meals then you are already eating leftovers. These meals are pre-cooked and frozen only to sit a month or two in your local grocery store before being purchased. They are full of sugar, salt, MSG, and other preservatives that give me chills. Skip these chemical laden leftovers and start reheating your home cooked meals. It really is the best thing you can do for your family and your budget!

https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm529509.pdf

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Grocery Budget and the Bulk Store

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Today I took my monthly run to Costco to pick up my bulk items like toilet paper, paper towel and other random household items where buying in bulk makes financial sense. Over the past year I have learned what to buy and what not to buy at Costco and this has helped me avoid the trap of overspending. Unfortunately, while I was waiting to check out I witnessed a common situation where someone had attempted to do all of their grocery shopping at Costco and blew their budget. The lady in front of me had filled her basket with meats, cheeses and produce as well as some household items. When the cashier gave her the total of $400 I thought she was going to pass out right there in the line. Instead of assessing her purchases she swiped her card and left the store in what appeared to be shock.

Stores like Costco, Sams Club and other bulk stores are a great way to save money on household items and random groceries but you have to be strategic when shopping these stores. First never attempt to do all of your grocery shopping at a bulk store because this is a great way to overspend. Second make sure you know the unit cost of items that you buy on a regular basis because this will help you make an informed decision. Unless you have a very large family that can consume bulk produce before it goes bad do not purchase produce from a bulk store. My last tip is to avoid impulse buys if it isn’t on your list walk away and take a day or two to think it over. The seasonal department is the best place to encounter items you feel you must have so either avoid this section all together or practice will power. If you see something that appears to be a great deal take the time to investigate other stores and make sure it’s the best deal first. You can always go back and grab the deal later in the week.

I love Costco and often refer to it as “Disney World for adults” because it really is in my opinion the most wonderful place in the world. While I enjoy my Costco membership I have learned that not everything in a bulk store is a great deal and you have to be pretty choosy if you are working with a tight budget. It’s so very easy to overspend in bulk stores because you could purchase your entire shopping list in one convenient place but you will pay for that convenience. When it comes to items like paper goods, trash bags, laundry soap, dish soap and pet supplies you can find amazing deals in bulk stores.I have even snagged some pretty awesome deals on clothes, shoes and books at Costco.  You can find additional deals within the grocery aisles but you really have to hunt for them. Remember just because a deal is advertised as a “deal” doesn’t necessarily make it so. Things like cookies, crackers, cereal, chips and other snack items are often over priced and would be best purchased at your local grocery store.

If you often find yourself overspending at the bulk stores take a look at the things you are buying to see if you are really getting the deals. Take a notebook and jot down prices at your local store as well as the unit price so you can really compare the prices. I know it sounds like a lot of work but make it fun. Leave the kids at home with your spouse or a babysitter, grab something from your local coffee shop and stroll down the aisles at your local grocery store writing down prices. You don’t need to record every price in the store just on the items you buy weekly. Whenever you are out shopping this little record will help you determine if you have found a deal or if you should pass it by.

They say the one place American’s spend the most money is on their grocery budgets and I believe it. Life is hectic and we often find ourselves overworked and tired so a simple run through the grocery store never feels like a simple endeavor. This is why it is so important to plan your shopping in advance with a meal plan and a shopping list. When you do shop stay focused, stick to your list and really pay attention to prices. You will be surprised how a few simple steps can save you money in the short term and how it can really add up in the long term.

 

 

Introducing Blackberry Ridge

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We are about to do one of the craziest things we have ever done in our entire lives. We are in the process of packing up our life in the Midwest and moving to our property in southern Tennessee. This past weekend we spent a few days visiting our property and mapping out our ideas for our mountain side homestead. This was my first time visiting Tennessee and I have to say that it is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. I was enthralled by the rolling landscape, the southern hospitality and the serene quiet of our little woodland property.

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We found this property just around Christmas time and fell in love with the pictures of the property. After a great deal of research and phone calls to ensure this wasn’t a scam we put down our deposit without actually setting foot on the property. Thursday night we loaded our little car up and made our first treck down to the property. When we arrived in Tennessee it was just after 7pm and after checking into our hotel we couldn’t help ourselves we had to see our property even though darkness had fallen. The drive out to our property was exciting but we were also feeling a bit uncertain. Once we arrived we got out and took in all that we could see with flashlights and the uncertainty grew. We went back to the hotel with heavy hearts not sure if we had made the right decision. Having lived in Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio we weren’t prepared for how hilly Tennessee really was and we were expecting our property to be a tad more level.

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After a long night of sleep we drove back out to the property to see what we had with the light of day. The second time viewing the property washed away all of our uncertainty. We fell in love with the property all over again and spent the day walking our property line and exploring our little wood. One of the things that I love about the property the most is the running stream there is nothing more soothing than the sounds of water bubbling over rock and stone. During our exploration we discovered a hidden pond full of aquatic life and a bubbling spring. This property is definitely wild and it is going to take a lot of work to clear areas for our house, gardens and chicken coop but I know in my heart that it will be worth it in the long run. A lot of people would walk away from this property because of the hard work needed to make this a livable spot but we are up for the challenge. In fact I have never been more excited to do anything in my entire life.

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While enjoying our future home we noticed some physical changes with ourselves and our children. Every one of us battles congestion and allergies and for us it is just the way of life but within hours of being in Tennessee our congestion cleared. My husbands dry eyes improved and our youngest kids who have “allergy shiners” lost their black eyes. In fact my daughter who is rather pale had a healthy pink glow that we had never seen before. The fresh mountain air is so clean and pure and obviously much healthier than the air we breathe in Toledo that I think perhaps our overall health will improve with this move.

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I am so grateful to have found this property and already I am accumulating ideas for our future home. We applied for an address and began kicking around ideas for naming our property. When we were exploring our property we kept getting tangled up in these rose bush like vines growing up around the trees. We weren’t sure what these were but after some online research we discovered that we have wild blackberries growing everywhere. This inspired the name for our property which will now be known as “Blackberry Ridge”. I can’t wait to go back down in a few months to harvest some of those blackberries and make a delicious jam.

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So as you can see this is pretty crazy moving our family hundreds of miles to a wooded property in Southern Tennessee. While it may be crazy we feel that God is moving us down this path and that this move will be the best thing for our family and especially our kids. We want them to have a safe environment to run, skip and play. We want them to learn valuable skills that will build character and make them appreciate the things in life that really matter. So while it may be crazy this will be an adventure that our family will remember for a lifetime. Our hearts are filled with hope and joy as we plan out the details that will help us down the path to “Blackberry Ridge”.

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Homeschooling on the Run!

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Have you ever had one of those days where you have your day planned out and then something happens and everything gets flipped upside down? Well, I have those days quite a bit, I feel like I am always on the go and sometimes this creates issues with my homeschool routine. Luckily over the years I have learned the value in flexibility and have learned how to homeschool on the run. This skill came in to play the other day when my brother needed a last minute babysitter for his little ones. I packed up my three kids and grabbed a couple of resources that I could use to finish out our homeschool lessons for the day.

I find that the best way to be ready for last minute emergencies or general routine upsets is to have a basket with resources that I can quickly grab. For instance, we are working on the American Revolution so I keep several books and handouts in the basket in case I need them. This basket is kept updated with books and resources that correspond to the topics we are studying. I also keep a few pencils and pads of paper in the car for moments when homeschooling on the run is necessary.

Another great resource for homeschooling on the run is YouTube. On YouTube, you can find a number of documentaries for free that cover a wide range of topics. You can also find educational cartoons, songs and you can even listen to books. I keep a playlist titled homeschool and whenever I find content that I know my kids will enjoy I add it to that playlist. Most cars these days allow you to connect your phone through the speakers via Bluetooth but if your car doesn’t have this feature you can invest in a wireless Bluetooth speaker that will play content from your phone or tablet. This is truly a great way to homeschool on the run and not only are your kids learning but they are being entertained as well.

I also like to engage my kids in lively discussion as we homeschool on the run.  This is a great way to see how much information they are retaining and to review pertinent information. You can also practice math facts and spelling words and trivia as you are going down the road. One day we were in the car for an extended period of time and I had the kids making up silly poems about random nouns. This was a lot of fun and we created some very interesting poems that day.

If you are in a season of life where you feel like you are constantly on the go and feel like your homeschool is suffering give homeschooling on the run a try. Find resources, games and audio content and keep them readily available for those days when life gets hectic. The greatest perk of homeschooling is that you can homeschool anywhere and everywhere. It doesn’t matter if the learning happens at the kitchen table, in the car, on the beach or at the home of a friend. The only thing that matters is that you keep those kids learning even on the run.

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Additional ideas for homeschooling on the run…

*listen to a podcast

*hear a book with audible or another audio book service

*madlibs

*educational dvds/cds

*listen to music… classical, jazz, big band etc.

*listen to theatrical plays

*learn a foreign language

 

There are so many great resources out there and most of them can be found for free. Have you found a great resource that would help others homeschool on the run? If so please share in the comments below.

Puberty Stinks!

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Puberty stinks literally and figuratively! It all started back around Christmas time my husband and I noticed that an odd odor was coming from our oldest child who had just turned twelve. We purchased him his own supply of deodorant and explained the importance of personal hygiene. We expected the odor to go away but it only got worse this is when my husband took our son down to the health and beauty aisle a Walmart to purchase additional tools to battle the stench. They came home armed with manly soap, a large scrubby brush and a loofah. During their outing my husband again went over the basics of hygiene and we crossed our fingers and pinched our noses hopeful that we had won the battle. Unfortunately, we were not victorious and the stench continued in fact it seemed to get worse.

I really didn’t know what to do and I could tell that it was really beginning to bother him as well. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about kids bullying him at school since he is homeschooled. Still this was a difficult situation for the entire family and it made simple things like car trips almost impossible. Finally, after months of battling this atrocious smell my father suggested that we try an antiperspirant instead of deodorant and he recommended a brand that he liked. I wasn’t super hopeful because at this point we had tried pretty much every product sold over the counter but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try one more product.

At first it didn’t seem to be working but now I can say with confidence that after several days of use my son now smells human. I can give him a hug without my nose and eyes watering and we can ride in the car without having to crack a window. This is why it takes a village to raise a child. It is so important to have people around you that you can trust to provide sound judgement especially in moments like these when your own judgement is being addled by a gruesome stench.

If you happen to have a pre-teen that is being followed by a similar odor I am here to tell you that it is normal and there is hope. Sometimes you just have to keep trying different soaps and deodorants/antiperspirants until you find the one that works best for your child’s personal chemistry. Just remember to keep air circulating at all times and never I repeat never turn on the heater in the car without cracking the window first!

 

 

Are You Interested In Running Your Own Business?

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Are you interested in not only running your own business but bringing in part time or full time income into your household? If the answer is yes I would like to invite you to join my Avon team. One of the reasons that I really enjoy running my Avon business is that I can grow my business online which means no door to door sales. It also means more time with my family and in fact my children are learning business practices watching me run my own business.

Selling Avon also allows me to enjoy discounts on products that I already purchase for my home like shampoo, bath soap and makeup. You are in control of your business and you can make your business a side hustle or a full time career. Avon provides excellent resources and classes that will help you build your business and achieve success. Along the way Avon offers great incentives and opportunities to earn trips to fabulous destinations.

As an Avon Representative you will not be pressured into recruiting and instead of a high pressure environment you will only find support. I am truly honored to work with so many great men and women and over the past few months I have learned a great deal and every day my business grows.

If you are interested in becoming a representative visit the link below to learn more and sign up to be a beauty boss. If you have any questions drop me a comment below and I will be happy to answer those questions for your.

https://www.youravon.com/becomeARepp=MBBaR&c=MBBaR&s=MBBaR&shopURL=hecticeclecticmama

 

Avon does NOT conduct animal testing.

You CAN Cook!

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When my husband and I first got married almost 13 years ago I did not know a thing about budgeting or meal planning. This lead to us spending an exorbitant amount of money on groceries every week and put us deeply into debt. It took hitting rock bottom for me to realize that I needed to change the way we were doing things and this is when I began my education into home management. I realized that I needed to reduce our grocery budget and I had two options stop eating all together or make food from scratch. I enjoy food too much to give it up all together so I decided to start making as much as possible from scratch. It didn’t take long to see the benefit of making meals instead of buying processed food.

Over the years I have had people ask me how I am able to save so much money on groceries and when I explain how, I get the same token excuse, “I wish I could do that but I just can’t cook”. I have talked with moms who are spending $250 a week on microwaveable food because it is quick and easy but unwilling to try a different approach because they don’t think they can cook or simply don’t want to try. The truth is anyone can cook it just takes a little confidence, patience and motivation. The motivation part is easy if your trying to save money but I understand that confidence and patience can take a little time to acquire.

My advice is to start small don’t attempt to cook everything in your cookbook instead find a few simple recipes and practice those. Once you have them down you will feel more confident and with confidence comes patience. Soon you will be confident enough to tackle a variety of recipes. You may even find that you enjoy cooking because not only are you saving money but your feeding your family food that is actually good for them. Even if you don’t find enjoyment in cooking for your family you should still do it because like all chores it is necessary. Processed foods aren’t meant to be consumed at every meal despite what advertisers may tell us because they are too high in sodium, sugar, fat and too many chemicals to list.

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If your grocery budget is out of control and your freezer is packed with frozen meals than this message is for you. In order to get control of your budget you need to scrounge up a few recipes and get into your kitchen. I know that it’s scary but in this wonderful world of technology you can find YouTube videos, blog post and Pinterest boards to help you navigate your kitchen. YOU CAN COOK! Your family will appreciate it, your health will appreciate it and you will appreciate the extra money in your pocket book. Start the New Year off with a plan to live better and feed your family better food.