November 30, 2009

Exercising and Staying Fit

I grew up exercise deficient.  In other words, we were couch potatoes.  We ate sweet rolls, donuts, meat and gravey.  Well, you get the picture.   I married a runner.  Not just any runner, but a marathon runner.  He has run over 12 marathons.  He ran the Boston Marathon twice.  I am not a runner.  I tried it once and did not like it.  In fact, I did not really do any type of exercising until a few years ago.

I did not have any trouble maintaining my weight until my youngest child was born back in 1993.  After 18 months of saying "well, I just had a baby," it was time to face reality.  The extra 15 lbs. that was still on me after the baby was born was not going to magically disappear overnight.  I finally reached the "disgusted" phase when I saw a picture of myself on vacation in 1994.  That sent me to Weight Watchers and over the course of a few months I lost the weight and kept it off for the most part for several years.

Then I hit my mid 40's and the weight was coming back on.  I tried Weight Watchers again and lost some of the weight and was satisfied but I hated being on a diet. I finally added exercise as a daily part of my routine.  This was a couple of years ago.  I like to walk and I would get up in the morning and go for a nice long walk.  However, it wasn't enough.  I am not a type of person who likes to workout at a YMCA or a gym.  I prefer to work out by myself or at home.  We had cancelled our Y membership since we weren't using it so we used the money to purchase a Bow Flex weight machine.  I started lifting weights and was amazed over time at how I was able to increase the amount of weight I was lifting.

Then came the winter of 2007.  I was getting up in the morning and walking and I would also walk over my noon hour.  That year we had the worst winter in decades.  In fact we got more snow in Iowa than my mother got in Western New York.  I got up every morning and walked through several feet of snow to get my exercise in.  When the summer of 2008 rolled by I told my husband that I could not go through another winter of walking outside like I had gone through the previous winter.  We purchased a BowFlex Power Tread.  I used it all last winter faithfully until this summer.  What got me off track?  My husband is the local High School Cross Country coach and they practiced at 6:30 a.m.  Instead of "Power Treading" in the a.m., I walked his dog for him. 

Do you know what happened?  I started to gain some weight and my muscle tone started going south.  Clothes were not fitting the way they fit back in July.  Walking was not enough.  The Power Tread gave me a better work out, burnt more calories and helped me stay fit.  I started back on my exercise routine three weeks ago.  My routine is to walk the dog at noon, Power Tread in the afternoon for 30 minutes while I am watching a talk show that I enjoy, walk the dog in the evening with my husband and lift weights twice a week with the BowFlex.  Last week we had company and so I did not exercise as much.

We opted to not spend money on a YMCA membership over the past 10 years and put that money towards work out machines that we have at home.  When we made that decision we made it clear to ourselves that we needed to use these machines and that they could not be collecting dust in the basement.

For me this has been a great choice.  This morning I got on the scale and my weight is up about 3 lbs from the holiday.  I will get back on track with my exercising and watching what I eat this week.  I wasn't going to deny myself the pleasure of pumpkin and apple pie last week and candied yams.

I began this post with the fact that exercising on a regular basis is not part of my background.  I have to work at it.  The one thing that has worked for me is that I have found a fun way of getting exercise into my daily life at home.  Yes, I love that Power Tread.  In half an hour I walk 1.7 miles; burn about 385 calories and walk the equivalent of 93 floors. Since making exercise a daily priority, I have not had the sicknesses that I used to have during a year. 

With our present income situation I would have probably still purchased the Power Tread but I would have researched any used machines that were available for purchase.  If money was still a problem, I would have continued to walk but would have definitely needed to increase the mileage and pace.

As to my stats:  I am 5' 5" and I have an average weight of 142 lbs.  The funny thing is that I weighed 145 lbs. back in 1994 when I went to Weight Watchers.  The difference?  It isn't necessarily the weight that is a problem for me, it is muscle tone.  When I exercise regularly I stay toned and am able to fit into my clothes.  However now that I am 50 years old I am facing a big challenge with middle age and being pre-menopausal.  I will never be svelte.  I never was.  However I feel I am a normal woman with a normal weight.  I wear anywhere from a size 8 to a size 12 depending on the cut and style.  I have one trick I use to keep me on track.  There are 3 skirts in my wardrobe that I put on about every two weeks or if I think I am starting to look flabby.  I will never get rid of those skirts. If I can fit into those skirts and look good no matter what the scale says, then I know I am okay.  

As to food, one meal out of the day is a salad.  I usually have a sweet red pepper with dark greens, carrots, some cheese and the salad dressing of my choice (in moderation).  For breakfast I have a Nature Valley PB granola bar.  However, these have become too expensive and I am researching making my own peanut butter granola.  I usually have this in the early morning with a cup of coffee and then if I am hungry mid morning I have half a granola bar to carry me over until lunch time.  Since these have a lot of whole grains, I usually feel satisfied.  This is what I had for breakfast when I was working and have done so for 4 years.  I think it has become routine so I am not too tempted to snack when I am home and food is more available to me.  If I feel the need to snack, I try to snack on some dry cereal.  For supper I eat whatever I want to eat in moderation, including dessert, and then try to cut off all eating after 7:30 in the evening.

I will always battle my weight and keeping it down.  I at least feel that no matter what, I have overcome being exercise deficient and at least can say that I am living a much healthier lifestyle no matter what the scale says.  The end result is I am healthier and that perhaps will save me money in the end at the doctor's office over the years.

November 26, 2009

Anniversary and Goal Setting

For the first few years of our marriage when it was our anniversary we would go out to eat and in the middle of dinner we would discuss some financial goals.  We have not done this in years.  On November 29th we will be celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary.  Kind of weird - married 29 years on the 29th.   We will be celebrating this day with our two sons and daughter in law and we will all go out to eat.  Right now I would settle for a hamburger at a fast food restaurant but we have set aside some money for a meal at an actual restaurant - probably Applebees.  (We rarely eat out.)  It is hard talking about food since today is Thanksgiving and I am stuffed from eating a wonderful turkey dinner. 

This year I am reinstituting the financial goal setting discussion for the following year.  I have a hard time setting goals and then following through on my own.  I am getting better at this.   Talking money is hard.  Facing financial failure by not having a financial plan and avoiding financial discussions is disastrous.  So when we get back from dinner or perhaps the next day we will set aside some time to go over some financial goals for next year.

I know of one challenge already.  My husband's employer is passing on an increase in insurance to the employees.  The extra expense will be $31.00 every two weeks beginning in January.  We have no expectation of a raise this year.  He didn't receive one last year and frankly we are so happy that he has a job.  In fact his salary decreased this year and with my job loss, we have had a significant reduction in income.

So our monthly income just decreased by $62.00.  What are we going to do to make up for this loss of income so that we don't sacrifice the amount of money that we are using to pay down bills or put in savings?  This is the type of discussion that we will have.

I know - romantic isn't it?  We can have the discussion by candlight I suppose.  This discussion represents that we are a team.  We live together as husband and wife and we are responsible to each other for the decisions that we make.  Talking about goals and what we face brings peace of mind to me.  It means we have a plan and that makes me feel secure and loved.

November 25, 2009

Grocery Challenge

I have spent extra money stockpiling big grocery deals during November.  I had been stockpiling prior to November but I was able to do this and spend approximately $75 to $80 per week.  During November I found myself in the midst of some really great deals so I increased my budget and spent around $115 per week.  I thought about the challenge that I needed to give to myself and I have decided that I will budget $20 to $25 a week for groceries until January 1st.  I know I can go longer (probably to the end of January or into February) but I am comfortable with this time frame and can extend the goal later.  In looking at the pictures I have posted it is evident that I can go a lot longer and truthfully I need to use up some of the meat that is in the freezer.

So far this week I have spent $12.71.  I think that I will only need to buy some milk before next week and that is all. Any money not used this week I will stash in my money jar and if it remains unused I will put it into savings at the end of the challenge.

Now comes the fun part.  On Saturday I will spend some time and actually make up menus for the following week.  I haven't been doing this as I have been deciding the night before what we would have to eat the next day and take meat out of the freezer and such.  I'm actually looking forward to doing this as I know this will help to extend the food that I have in the freezer and pantry.

I am posting pictures of my basement pantry and my freezer (I really need to organize this a little better).  We live in a very old house so I have stored many of my pantry items in rubbermaid bins.  I found the heavy duty plastic shelving at Wal-mart for $14.00 and would buy 1 set of shelves everytime my husband got paid.  I always take a permanent marker and mark the expiration date on any item that goes into my pantry.  I do this when I am unloading groceries and it does not take much time at all.  I am almost out of laundry soap but I have purchased several bars of Fels Naptha that were on sale during the summer as I plan to make my own laundry soap. 

In looking at these pictures remember that I started stockpiling in March and have been using the items and adding to them as time goes on.  So here are the pics. 

Note the old computer table with folding chair.  I plan to sit there and make up my menus so I can take stock of what I have. 

This is how I store my flour and sugar. 

I have 5 bins of cereal.

I remember this sale - 99 cents for a 42 oz. container of oats.

I must have close to 30 - 1 lb. bags of pasta.

The freezer picture doesn't do justice.  I have almost 45 lbs. of ground beef along with a turkey, beef roasts, pork roasts, a ham and a lot of chicken. 

I took a lot of kidding from my family when they saw my t.p. supply.  T.P. hasn't been on sale since September so I am glad I stocked up when I did.  These are 12 double roll packages of name brand t.p. that I paid between $4.00 and $4.50 for each package.

Well - that is it.  A long post, with a lot of pictures.  I am posting this to show that I have made a major change in my life this year in the way I purchase groceries for my family.  It has taken planning and I have had to come up with a strategy.  I will never, never go back to the way I used to shop. 

Baking Pies

We are having Thanksgiving at my in-laws tomorrow and I am baking the pies.  There will be 7 adults and 2 small children.  In previous years I would provide several pies so everyone could have their favorite.  I would then bring home the leftovers and after a couple of days I would end up throwing out a lot of uneaten pie.  This year I am baking a pumpkin pie, an apple pie and 2 pecan tarts.  My father in law and my DS love pecan pie and instead of baking 1 pie for the two of them I am opting for two tarts.  I will have some leftover pie to bring home and that will come in handy as I am making a turkey dinner on Friday so we can have turkey leftovers.

Over the past couple of years Sara Lee and Mrs. Smith's pies have always been on sale for as low as $2.00 a pie (without a coupon).  This year is no different.  I love to bake and being home I now have the time to bake pies.  It probably costs more for me to bake a homemade pie this year (but not by much) but it is oh so worth it.  As a little girl I watched my mom make pie crusts and roll the dough out.  I have never been afraid to make my own pie crusts and if the edges don't look perfectly pinched, it doesn't matter.

I am approaching this holiday season differently than in years' past.   I have time to enjoy the season.  For the first time in years I will be able to decorate at my leisure, I will be able to bake cookies and make candy before Christmas Eve.  I will be able to get the presents purchased and wrapped way ahead of time.

Years ago in sheer frustration due to the many tasks that were pulling me every which way I told my husband that I was beginning to hate Thanksgiving and Christmas because of all the things I had to do.  His response - "Then quit doing it."  The point he was making to me was that I was missing what it was all about.  He was so right.  I quit baking a lot of cookies and settled on the good ole standby sugar cookie.  I made 1 kind of fudge and I cut back on not making a Christmas ornament, put up minimal decorations and scaled back to what I could handle being a working mom.  This included buying store bought frozen pies.

So this afternoon as I was baking pies my mind raced back to when I was a child with an apron wrapped around me, sitting on a stool next to the table watching my mom rolling out pie crusts.  The one thing I have missed for years was the baking that I had always loved.  Now this year I can return to what I love and that is homemade pies and goodies.

To anyone who reads this may each and everyone of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2009

Some Random Thoughts

I wrote in a previous post and some comments about how not spending money is something new I need to learn.  Today I was thinking how in this present recession it is a easier to talk about cutting back and not spending money than if we were living in more prosperous times.  People identify with not spending money right now.  In fact I think you could say that it is quite in fashion.  What will happen in a few years (or sooner) when we are out of this recession and when unemployment goes down? Will people go back to their old spendthrift ways or will they stay on track?

I have encountered several people over the past few weeks who have asked me if I am home for good or if I will be going back to work in a few years.  I usually respond with "I am taking time off from the workplace for a few years."  Today I told someone that I have no intention of going back to work.  I have been a little afraid to admit this to people as I knew I would be countered with not contributing to the household income.    After all I have skills, I have experience and when the economy rebounds I would be able to find a job, but why would I?

I love my new life here at home and it is not temporary.  I have experienced so much peace and contentment in my life since I have been home that I would find it very hard to give up.  God would have to write it in the sky.  

My favorite time of the day lately has been when I walk the dog - usually at noon time.  We live a couple of blocks from our town square and I watch people hurry to go to lunch and run around.  I smile and look at our dog and think, there is no amount of money that could draw me away from this.

Thanksgiving is this week.  Our family has much to be thankful for.  We have a home, my husband's income is adequate to cover our needs, we have not been sick and we have friends and family.  I am also thankful for my Christian faith, my relationship with God and am reminded at this time of the sacrifices that were made for me.  Simple living and learning to live frugally have brought more joy to my life in the past few weeks than a paycheck ever did.

It is my prayer and hope that everyone experiences the joy of thankfulness that I am experiencing during this season.

November 21, 2009

Groceries and savings

I have taken a new approach to grocery shopping over the past month.  Before that I had been using the Grocery Game to help me decide what was a sale and so on and when to stock up on a rock bottom sales price.  I had been using coupons from the Sunday paper, in store coupons and had started to dabble in some online coupons. 

Over the past couple of weeks I have moved to a different level.  I have subscribed to manufacturer's websites in order to receive free coupons.  Examples of sites I have subscribed to are Kraft, Kellogg's, Chinet, Procter and Gamble, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury.  I have subscribed to other sites that have also helped me such as Surviving the Stores, and  Housewife Hacks.  Housewife Hacks is a site that is produced by a homemaker who lives in Des Moines, Iowa which is about 1 hour from where I live.  I also love Econobusters.  Bottom line, I have come up with more sources for coupons and finding the sales at grocery stores.

This week I tracked the actual time it was taking me to clip coupons, search for coupons, organize coupons, make up a list for the three stores I visit, drive time to those stores, shopping at those stores, drive time home, putting the groceries away and then recording my sales in my spreadsheet.  What I learned did not surprise me.  I spend 1 day in this venture.  For many people that would be too much.  For me, any money saved is valuable to my family.  Clipping, searching, organizing coupons and making up a list is done in the evening when my family is home and I sit at the computer (in the living room) and also at the dining room table.  I am surrounded by my family carrying on a conversation and such.  We are together in the same area of the house.

I takes me about 7 minutes at the most to drive from my house to the furthest store to shop.  I live in a small town so drive time is minimal.  I pass the two other grocery stores on my way to Super Wal-mart so there is no zig zagging around.

Grocery shopping at those stores is a day out of the house for me and perhaps would be defined as a social day.  I always encounter people I know and that I haven't seen for awhile.  Also I have come to know a lot of the people that work at those grocery stores.  I don't spend a lot of time talking to people but it is nice to see people that you know, chat for a moment and connect with them.

Then there is the bringing the groceries in the house and storing them.  I lift weights twice a week and I consider lugging groceries in the house as helping me stay in shape.  Okay - I may be reaching here, but I kind of take pride in lifting those heavy sacks and getting them from the garage, across the back yard, on the back porch and into the house.  Also, our black lab is there to greet me hoping that I have bought her dog treats.

Then I have to put those groceries away which can be overwhelming on days when I have found a great deal and stocked up.  I have one room in my basement that I use as my stockpiling pantry.  I have to lug many of those groceries to the basement.  Before I do that I take a marker and write the expiration dates on the labels.

Lastly, I sit down sometime the next day or evening and I enter the results in my spreadsheet.

Okay, this is a lot of work.   And while probably my least favorite part of it is spent in the getting ready phase - couponing and such - I love the end result and I love the hunt.  Yesterday I encountered an acquaintance from my church at one of the grocery stores.  She had coupons out and was looking at the sale on yogurt.  The sale was 10 Yoplaits for $2.00 but the store was running an in store coupon for 10 Yoplaits for $1.00 that day.  The yogurts were due to expire over the next week or so.  She was so excited as she had a lot of coupons for Yoplait and the end result - all of that yogurt was going to be free for her.  She told me that she has recently been using coupons and can't believe the money she is saving.  We shared a few tips and I felt like I had made a couponing friend.  My family does not like yogurt so I told her I would pass on all my yogurt coupons to her.  We joked how I could slip her an envelope of coupons at church.

Being a SAHW and SAHM can be isolating so I have come to enjoy my day out.    I wouldn't enjoy it if I had young children to take with me to the store though.

I think that this day of prep, shopping, putting away and reporting "feeds" my business woman's soul as I am employing skills that I used in my former job. 

Yesterday I reached what I would call my stockpiling pantry limit. I have spent more per week this month due to the deals and now my room in the basement is full of food.  My freezer is full also. Now I can "shop" from my pantry and freezer.  I have reported in a prior post that in years past the best food deals in our area  happen right up to Thanksgiving and then after that they taper off.  I know that now is the time to buy and stock up.  Any deals of non perishables from now on will have to be really, really great deals in order for me to add anything else to my pantry or those items will be items I will donate.

A sample of deals I got this week are as follows:  Tones spices (small containers) were on sale for 50 cents.  The lowest I have seen these are 69 cents.  I had two coupons that were $1.00 off two; and three coupons that were 35 cents off one.  I bought a total of 7 spices and paid a total of 45 cents for all 7.  There was an in store coupon for Planter's mixed nuts or cashew nuts - 11 oz. container for 99 cents.  Also 8 oz. blocks of  cheese were on sale for 99 cents and crackers were on sale for $1.50 and I had coupons for $1.00 off two boxes.  Do you sense a theme here?  I plan to give away some food gift baskets for Christmas. Crackers and cheese are always a great give away item and so are nuts.  Del Monte canned vegetables were on sale for 48 cents per can and I had a coupon for $1.00 off 8 cans.  I was also able to buy another turkey for 40 cents a lb. and found room for it in my freezer.  This time I got a 15 lb. turkey.  There were a lot of other great deals also. 

Now my goal is to reap the reward of spending $125 more this month to add to my already stock piled items. I am going to keep track of how long we can live on these stock piled items and only purchase milk, eggs, produce and what is absolutely necessary to get by for as long as we can.  I need to set a spending limit per week on this and keep it is as low as possible.

So now the hunt is on with a new goal - making things last.  I need to also come up with a goal to see how long I can live on those stockpiled items.  How many weeks, months...?

I will post a picture of my pantry room in an upcoming post and will then acknowledge what my goal is for living off of these items.

November 20, 2009


In May our very old gas stove finally quit working.  It must have been close to 30 years old and when we bought our house 12 years ago it was included in the sale.  It was ugly.  The paint finish was flecking off the front and the back burners had to be lit with a match.  But as long as it was working and wasn't a safety hazard, I kept using it.  Then one Friday night, it quit working.

Saturday morning I went shopping.  We try to buy local as much as possible.  Fortunately in our small town we have a couple of choices.  One is Sears.  Sears has wonderful sales but they do not install appliances and if you need a service call they send someone from the Des Moines area (1 1/4 hours away) and it could take a couple of days.  The other choice is a local family business that sells appliances and services everything they sell.  I went to the local family business and purchased a gas stove at 9:30 a.m. and it was installed in my home within the hour.  The wife showed me several gas stoves.  I am not a frills person.  I don't need self cleaning nor anything fancy.  Basically I wanted 4 burners, an oven, light in the oven and window to the oven along with a broiler.  Yes, give me the basics.  When I have bought anything with more fancy gadgets on it I tend to use only what I would use day to day and I forget about the gadgets.

Case in point, my microwave.  It has too many options and features.  When it dies, I will buy a basic heat and eat microwave.

In choosing appliances I am replacing the old ones that are an almond/beige color with white.  In my opinion you can't go wrong with white.  Now I have a white stove, an almond fridge and an almond dishwasher.  Part of me would like to go out and be able to replace the fridge and dishwasher so they match the stove, but they are still working so I don't care about the color.

Our refrigerator is 20 years old and has never had a service call.  Now that I have said that, it will break down.  In May our freezer quit working.  Fortunately when I discovered it, all was not lost.  Many items could be salvaged such as roasts since they were still frozen rock solid but hamburger, orange juice, vegetables and such were very soft and defrosted.  I did not want to take a chance so I threw the stuff out.  I went shopping for a new freezer and  I kept thinking that I should be shopping for a new refrigerator.  When I went to the same appliance store that sold me the stove, they were surprised I wasn't in there to buy a fridge.  Again, the freezer was purchased and installed in the same day.

We had money in savings to cover the costs of the appliances.  In years prior, we would have had to put these purchases on plastic.  We have tried hard over the past year or so to put money into savings to prepare for such an emergency.  This brings me back to buying basic appliances.  When I am paying cold, hard earned and saved cash I find that I forgo any feeling of needing extras to purchase what I can afford. This is usually something basic.

I keep thinking I will be replacing that old fridge soon but..... the washing machine is acting up.  Again, here I go babying an appliance.  After the wash cycle when it spins out and goes to rinse; the dial gets stuck.  I have to set my kitchen timer and then go down to the basement and lift the lid to the washer and set it down once again and then it activates the dial/timer and spins out.  It will cost around $100 to repair this.  The washer and dryer are 6 years old.  I did not purchase them from the mom and pop appliance store.  However, they will repair it but I think that for $100 I can set a timer and go to the basement to lift the lid and close it in order to get the machine to continue working.  I do laundry for the most part on one day so I have it down to a system.

I was told that most appliances these days last 10 years.  So I will continue to baby that washer and be thankful that the fridge keeps running and running.

November 18, 2009

Little things add up

In 1986 my oldest boy was one and I wanted desperately to be home with him.  Finally I quit my job and stayed home.  I earned extra income by babysitting but we were left with a $150 per month food budget.  This was difficult back then as coupons were not as prolific as they are now.  Also, I have often thought that I would have faired better if the internet would have been invented then as I have used this as a good source of information.  I stayed home a few years.  I should have looked into part time employment but didn't.  I wanted to be a stay at home mom in the worst way and my DH knew that.  Our first child had died in 1984 after her birth and we thought our DS would be our only child. 

It was rough financially.  We didn't even live paycheck to paycheck - it was worse than that.  The main problem - we didn't plan for going to one income but went on emotions. 

When I had the opportunity to stay home this time I knew I could live on less; do without and such because we would not be living paycheck to paycheck.  Yes, over the past few years of working I had put aside being thrifty and spent what I wanted to spend but I knew that the time had come to be home again and I could do better.  When I worked I felt entitled to spend money on work clothes and eating out.

With having about one year's notice of going to one income, we made plans.  We saved and paid off bills so that we could live on one income. We still have a ways to go and there are more areas where I could save money.  Our youngest son goes to college in two years and we will be putting him through college on one income.  It will not be easy but we are planning ahead. 

I watch Suze Orman on Saturday nights and I am often convicted by the fact that we need more money in savings.  In order to put more in savings for emergencies I need to plug those leaks.  For me its those $5 dvd's at Wal-mart.  I've started not to go to that section of the store.  It's other things such as driving somewhere when I could be walking.  Those little things do add up.  How about those magazines?

Even when I have been stockpiling on groceries I have put things back on the shelf if I feel I really don't need this.  It may be a good price and I may have a coupon that has brought it down to 50 cents but do I really need this?  An example is paper products and laundry soap and flour based items.  I can use rags; make my own laundry soap; and bake my own bread. 

Little things do add up.  Sometimes it does pay attention to the small things.

Groceries and Couponing Update

First of all I think that in saving money I never want to become a bragger. I never want any posts of mine to have the element of being a bragger or being superior in any way. The system that I am working on and tweaking (through a lot of suggestions by others – which I truly appreciate) is just that: my system. It is working for me for now. As time goes on I may change it or decide down the road that perhaps there is a better system for me.

Secondly I am approaching my grocery savings and couponing just as I approached a project when I was working as a legal assistant. I am trying to be organized and have a plan as I approach this task.

Third, since I was in the “business world” for a long time I have been adding elements of looking at my home as a business. Perhaps this sounds a little cold, but for me this means that I have income and expenses; projects; deadlines and so on. Of course, this does not mean that our home is filled with cubicles, printers, copiers and a coffee pot. It is obviously a home filled with love for one another. I have just brought to my home the skills I learned in helping to run a small business. In fact it has helped me make the transition to being home full time a lot easier.

Well, enough said. In thinking about a grocery budget my goal has been to serve healthy meals with ingredients that I purchased at rock bottom prices. Also within that grocery budget I have acknowledged that I will spend more money at certain times of the year when the sales are very big and it necessitates a major stocking up time. That time of year is now for baking supplies.

I live in Iowa. I grew up in Western New York State where my mom still lives. When we go back to visit her we always make a trip to a grocery store. I cannot believe the prices on food in my home town. I am so fortunate to live where food prices are reasonable. As I have stated before I live in a small town (around 10,000 to 11,000) and we have two grocery stores (Fareway and Hy-Vee for those that live here in the Midwest) and a Super Walmart. When Super Walmart came to town a few years ago, Aldi closed its doors. Unlike those individuals that live in a large city I do not have a Costco’s, Sam’s Club, Super Target or Walgreens (for examples) as sources for groceries.

The grocery stores in my town have great sales. I am finding out since I have been more diligent about tracking my spending and about using coupons, how fortunate I am to have such great sources for my groceries. Prior to this path to frugality I would not even make up a list. I would glance over the ads and go to one grocery store and buy a bunch of stuff and come home and hopefully we would have meals for the next week. Now I plan. I enjoy it. It is a little challenge I have for myself each week and it has become a game to me. I buy what is on sale at a rock bottom price; have built up my pantry and my freezer from this stock piling and from this I make up my menus for a week. Also I have been able to give more and more to our local Ecumenical Food Cupboard from sales and couponing.

In keeping track of my coupons I have gone from an envelope system to using a notebook. My 24 year old son used to collect baseball cards and when he got married he didn’t want those cards anymore. I took the cards from the page protectors and have stored the cards in a box. (I know full well that someday he will want his baseball cards.) I now have page protectors that hold 9 coupons per page. I had a notebook here at home that I was able to use so there was no additional expense there. I went to the dollar store and purchased plastic page dividers for the different categories of coupons.

On the front of the notebook I put a clip and clip my grocery list on the outside.  

In the inside pocket I have made a list of coupons that are about to expire for items I can use. I wait until I see them on sale prior to expiring and then use them; however, if there is no sale I will go ahead and use the coupon any way. An example of this is dog food. We have a black lab and she eats Iams dog food. We will always need dog food so I might as well use the coupon and store the food. Any coupons that I know I will use, I put in my little blue Velcro coupon holder.

Here is the inside of my coupon notebook with the divider and coupons.

I used this system for the first time last week and I took it with me to two grocery stores and to Walmart. At each store I saw an in store unadvertised sale for an item that I could use and that I had a coupon. Such items are cream soups, cereal, soap, toilet paper and such. We can always use these items. It was so easy for me to flip through the notebook, find the coupon, put the coupon in my blue coupon holder and get on with my shopping.

As to unadvertised sales, this is where a price book or just a good knowledge of prices comes in handy. At one unadvertised sale this week I bought our turkey for only 40 cents a lb. Unfortunately my choices were limited: a 22 lb. turkey, a 20 lb. turkey or a 12 lb. turkey. I went with the 12 lb. turkey. Okay, I could hear my mother saying “I can’t believe you didn’t go for the 22 lb. turkey.” We can only eat so much turkey. Also we are going to be at my in laws for Thanksgiving so the 12 lb. turkey will be roasted a couple of days later for us to use as “turkey leftovers.”

The following are some of the good deals I have encountered recently. 

I paid $12.85 for the above items.  The cake mixes and frosting tubs were on sale for .78 each and I had an assortment of coupons for them.  I normally don't buy these two items but I needed to bake 10 dozen cup cakes for a banquet at school.  The relish was .50 with coupons, the cereal was .50 with coupon, and the potato mixes were .78 on sale and I had coupons that brought that down to .38 each.  I will donate these. The candles were purchased with coupons and I also had a BOGO.  I will use these for some small Christmas presents. 

On this day the chocolate chips were on sale for $1.50; the almond bark was $1.49; cheese was on sale for $1.67 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off two; the vegetable steamers were .99 and I had 50 cent off coupons; the Snuggle was $3.49 and I had a $3.00 coupon off; baby spinach was on sale for .99 as it was expiring that day.  It was fresh until it was used up 4 days later.  The sugar was .99; red peppers were on sale for .99 each.  There is more but my total sale was $35.22.  I saved $12.30 in coupons.

Here is one more:

Hunt's spaghetti sauce was on sale for .88 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off 3; Deluxe Mac and Cheese was one sale for three for $1.00 - yep - it was a great deal; shredded cheese was .99 for 8 oz bag; Chinet coffee cups were $1.50 and I had a $1.00 off coupon; potato chips were $1.50 each; Chili sauce was on sale for $1.18 and one had a .25 off coupon; Townhouse crackers were on sale for $1.50 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off two; 4 lb. sugar was .99; Nestle chocolate chips were $1.69 and I had a .50 coupon; the Shaving creme was .99; the bacon was $1.38 with in store coupon; the Glade bathroom spray was .30 after coupons; and lastly the deli turkey was on sale for $1.88 a lb.  Total amount paid was $34.11.  I saved $20.01 with coupons and store discounts.

In tracking my spending, I have created a spreadsheet in excel to track my grocery spending – gross, coupon savings and net spent. I have also created a spreadsheet to track my Christmas gift shopping – gross, coupon savings and net spent.  So far this month I have spent $282.43 on food (mostly stockpiled) and I have saved $83.28.  I have alloted $400 for this month so that I can stockpile as needed.  I think that will be the case as the grocery ads came out yesterday and there are even better deals this week.

From past experience the sales will dry up by the first week in December.  I noticed this the past two years and that was when I wasn't tracking my spending. 

Well, I cannot announce that I am only spending $50 a week for groceries.  I do believe that the extra money spent on stockpiling will come back to me two fold.  It is obvious that combining sales with coupons works.  I have the confidence that come the first of the year I will be able to keep my grocery bill down for a very long time due to some investment in extra spending this month.

November 17, 2009

Making Apple Butter

I had intended to post an update by this morning on my coupon and grocery savings for the month but I hit upon a sale at a local grocery store when I went to pick up milk.  They were selling slightly bruised apples for 25 cents a lb.  So today I am making apple butter.  I have already made several jars of apple butter for Christmas gifts to our Sunday School class but I would like to make more for our family's use. 

So today I will be spending time cooking down apples and enjoying the aroma of cinnamon, cloves and apples.

November 16, 2009

Couponing and Groceries continued

I wanted to add a post early this morning and will follow up with an update later today.  I made a decision this weekend to spend more on groceries this month.  Okay, that doesn't at first glance go with the title to my blog.  However, it would appear that the two grocery stores we have here in town are both doing everything they can do to get business away from Super Wal-Mart.  It is like we are having "grocery wars" similar to the gasoline wars in the 1960's.  Over the past month I have been able to purchase 5 lb. bags of flour for 88 cents; 4 lb. bags of sugar for 99 cents and the savings go on and on.  All sorts of baking supplies go on sale at this time of year but these stores are offering real deals right now.  All of the flour I have purchased has a use by date to the end of 2010 - not that I will wait that long.  Also, my husband believes that the only cookie God intended for us to eat is chocolate chip.  Name brand chocolate chips - Hersheys and Nestle - have been on sale for as low as $1.00 and when you team them up with a coupon (50 cents off) it is a real deal.  Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese was on sale 3 for $1.00 at one store. There has been a lot of sales on Kraft Cheese, produce (large bags of baby spinach for 99 cents, red peppers 99 cents, carrots as low as 49 cents a lb.) and deli meats.  These are only a few of the great deals these stores have been offering and when I have teamed them up with coupons the savings have been great.  Of course, this adds to my pantry and I have had to come up with some interesting ways to store and keep track of all of my stock piled items. 

So I have increased my grocery budget to $100 a week for the next month in order to stock up for the future.  Come January you will not see flour and sugar this cheap.  Whole Wheat flour has not been on sale as much but I have noticed that the prices have gone down somewhat and have been able to purchase 5 lb. bags at $1.99. I have changed my goal for the time being by increasing my grocery spending now in order to save a lot more come January.  I know that by then flour will be back up to $2.00 for a 5 lb. bag and so will sugar.   The additional $25 I am spending is giving me easily $50 or more in groceries. 

I will post this evening (hopefully if not interrupted) about my savings with pictures and I will also post my new way of keeping my coupons.  I have gone from an envelope system to a notebook.

Today I am taking a meal to a family that attends our church.  The husband had knee replacement surgery on both knees last week.  With a stock pile of food in my pantry and freezer I didn't have to make a trip to the store for something to make for them.  On the menu for them is meatloaf; scalloped potatoes; steamed broccoli, buttermilk cornbread, and rice krispie bars for dessert.  As to the cost of this meal - the ground beef (85% lean) was purchased on sale at $1.59 per lb., the scalloped potatoes is not homemade but from a mix purchased on sale at 78 cents and then I had a 40 cent off coupon; green giant vegetable steamers were on sale for 99 cents and I had a 50 cent off coupon; I always have cornmeal in my pantry and I had the buttermilk from another recipe; and as to the crispy rice cereal - purchased extremely cheap about 2 months ago knowing it would get used in something.

I guess the point I want to make here in this early morning post  (now it is not so early) is that sometimes in order to meet financial goals you have to look ahead.  Spending some money now may save you a load of money down the road.  Fortunately I have some flexibility in my grocery budget right now but if I didn't have the flexibility I would find money in my budget in order to buy flour at such a low price. Also, hospitality doesn't have to cost a lot of money. I have a lot of nice budget conscious casserole recipes to choose from that might have been cheaper but I thought that the above menu would be a nice change from hospital food and would give them some leftovers for sandwiches tomorrow.

I know that macaroni and cheese and scalloped potatoes from a box are convenience foods and have a lot of sodium in them and such BUT these are used within reason.  Nearly everything I make during the day is made from scratch but it is nice to have some convenience foods on hand and as I have posted before I donate several of these items to our Ecumenical Food Cupboard for their use. 

Well, this whole journey has been interesting. Come January or perhaps by mid December when the sales are not as good, my grocery bill will be down considerably and should remain low for a very long time.  I need to come up with a goal but I would say that I should be easily able to keep my grocery bill down to $60 a week for a very long time.  Actually I would like to get it down to $50. 

Every day I struggle with spending money.  I track all of my grocery spending on a spread sheet so I can stay on budget.  I am prone to spend and I could easily get carried away with stock piling too much food and over spending by having to throw something out that expires.  So far I have had a good handle on it.

Well it is Monday and Monday is laundry day in our house.  I need to get started.  When I became a SAHW I decided that the housewives of years past had the right idea with Monday being laundry day and it works for me.

November 14, 2009

Blogging Lesson Two

First of all my DH and I are leading a SS class on a book written by Max Lucado called Fearless.  In blogging I am having to face my fears of being an older woman learning all of this techie stuff when I post to other sites and blogs.  This morning I added my blog url to "Life as Mom" except I accidentally added it twice - once under my name and once under my url.  Oops - I think there are more women out there like me who want to blog, want to tweet, want to use facebook but first of all have only so much time in the day to do all of this plus to sit down and learn it all.  My techie adviser is my 16 year old son.

However, if you were to ask me to prepare a Warranty Deed, Nunc Pro Tunc Order, documents to open a probate matter, file legal documents and track cases in the court system, then I am your lady. When I worked all of those hours at the law firm I didn't have time to come home at night and participate in blogs and such so I didn't get on the computer except to check my e-mail and to do a quick search.

The intent of my blog is for me to share this journey I am on and to make my blog easy to navigate.  I don't want to clutter it up with a bunch of other things.  I want to make it easy to read, easy to search and easy for anyone to add comments. One reason it took me so long to begin a blog was that I knew that I could easily get caught up with spending a lot of time on the computer and not getting my housework done.  Does anyone else have this problem?  I could sit here and search the computer and read other blogs and before you know it an hour or two has passed.  Yet - it is a great outlet for me and a way to meet a lot of people with the same like mind. 

So - here I am facing my fears on blogging and such and not wanting to look ridiculous.  Up to now the biggest fear I had faced was being in a car with a teenage boy trying to teach him how to drive.

November 12, 2009

Taking Baby Steps

I am sitting here with my morning cup of coffee and I have read the morning paper.  Before I start my housekeeping chores I wanted to post a bit about taking baby steps.

I know me.  I know what works for me and what doesn't work for me.  Making a lot of changes at once is a set up for failure for me.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't have lofty goals of getting things done in a small amount of time.  Lofty is the key word here.

While I was working I would think about what it would be like to be home all day.  I remember that I told myself that I would be up early, showered and once my family was out the door I would start cleaning my house and doing all sorts of chores and such.  I was going to keep my morning schedule of being ready to go to work by 8:00 a.m.  Well, that hasn't happened yet.  My DH is the high school cross country coach and practices start at 6:30 a.m.  We have a black lab and he always walks her early in the morning so during cross country season I get up early and walk her.  By the time I got back to the house I would make a cup of coffee and then our DS would walk in the door from cross country practice and then my DH.  Both would be hurrying to get showered and on to school and work.  By the time they got out the door it was 8:00 and I was still trying to have my cup of coffee and read the paper.

Well, cross country practice ended about 2 weeks ago and I have found myself up at 6:30 not to walk the dog but to read the paper, drink my cup of coffee and check my e-mail and such on the computer.  Now I am usually out of the shower, dressed and with makeup on (got to have it on some days) by 9:30.

This is not working and I am slowly being lulled into a schedule that is eating away my housekeeping time.  I feel as if my day is getting away from me by then so I need to obviously make a change.  However, in saying that, I also know that it was necessary for me to take some time over the past few weeks to just settle in.  I worked a highly stressful job and many times I would only get 5 hours of sleep per night.  In fact, it has taken close to 3 months of being home for me to be able to sleep through the night. 

Now that I am sleeping better and feel so much better, it is time for another change.  Change means baby steps.  It is time for me to get up and shower and get ready for my day so that I can start my house work by 8:30 in the morning.  I'm ready and I can see the big change it will make in my day.

I have made many changes over the past 6 months and I feel the reason I have been successful is that I have taken baby steps.  This works for me.  Also, I have learned not to be too hard on myself when I have not been able to get things done in the time I would like to get them done.  My decluttering took a while.  It is easy to get lost in a big project and feel defeated when you make yourself work on it all day long without taking a break and working on something fun.  My DH encouraged me when I was 3 weeks into being home full time and I told him that I couldn't believe how long it was taking me to get my house in order.  He told me that he wasn't surprised as he thought I had put too much time constraints on myself.  He wasn't saying that I was lazy or that I had done a poor job in housekeeping while I worked full time (I would say that was true, but he didn't feel so), but he was saying that I should take it slow and steady and it would get done in time. 

When I was decluttering, I worked so hard taking a room at a time.  I didn't see results for a while but then one day two weeks ago I was working upstairs and decided to take a break.  I sat down and put on a dvd for a couple of minutes.  I was watching the dvd and having a snack when I started looking around the upstairs.  It looked nice.  The rooms needed cleaned, but things were put away, there wasn't any stuff on the floor and all of a sudden I realized that I had pulled things together by working on my house a little bit at a time.

Baby steps, breaking projects into small manageable pieces, not being hard on myself, and making adjustments as needed works for me. So beginning tomorrow, I will get up, shower and start my day a little different than I have for the past few weeks.  I'm ready to get started earlier, but this doesn't mean that I won't give up that first cup of coffee in the morning and time to read that morning paper.  I will just be doing it earlier.

November 11, 2009

My journey to using coupons

I like to spend money on stuff.  There - the secret is out.  Truth be told we all love to spend money but know that if we over spend we will be in a world of hurt before too long.  I had known for 9 months that it was a good possibility that I was going to be unemployed.  I also knew that I didn't want to look for another job and wanted the opportunity to be at home.  I knew that to be successful I had to have a change of viewpoint on money, spending and saving.  I used to log on to and purchase any dvd's or books that I wanted.  A trip to Wal-mart also meant a quick trip around the store to "see if there is anything else we might need."  I used that comment a lot.  We didn't need anything else, but I always found something.  I guess it is a feeling of entitlement from working a 40 plus hour work week.

Well - living on one income meant a major change in my way of thinking.  I have used coupons off and on but never consistently.  That changed in February of this year when I saw an interview with Teri Gault of the Grocery Game on a news program.  I decided to give it a try and I enrolled for a trial subscription.

If you go to Teri's website here she does an excellent job of explaining the grocery game.  Basically it comes down to this, you sign up for one or more stores in your area and she will post the sales each week.  The list is color coded to show what items are free with a coupon, what items are on sale but not at a great sale price yet, and third, a list of items at rock bottom prices.  When items are at rock bottom prices you are to stock up.  Teri talks about sales rotating every 12 weeks so you buy at the rock bottom price for what you will need until the next sale.  The list in an of itself would be great at that point but what really makes it wonderful is that next to each item she teams it up with any coupon available and tells you where you can find that coupon.  I simply place a check mark next to what I want to buy and print it off. 

Since using this program I have saved money and my pantry is piled high with lots of items that I purchased at rock bottom prices.  All of these items are items we will use.  The regular subscription cost is $10.00 for eight weeks and I more than recoup my $1.25 per week outlay for this service.

Why is this helpful to me?  I like the power of knowing that this is the time to buy, this is a good deal and this is the time to stock up.  Teri always says to trust the list. One time I went ahead and purchased something with a coupon because I thought it was a good price.  Then the following week this item went on sale and it was on Teri's list to buy.  Lesson learned.

I started collecting coupons from the Sunday paper. We have had a subscription for years as we love to read the paper on Sunday morning over coffee prior to going to church.  I found out one day that a local convenience store gives away the Sunday paper if you fill up your car on Sunday (fill up means anything over 1/4 of a tank).  Now I get two sets of Sunday coupons.

The above two steps were big for me: subscribing to the Grocery Game and saving and clipping coupons from the Sunday paper.  Remember, this path to frugality that I am on is a "baby step" path.  If I try to take on too many changes at once I will set myself up for failure.  My next step was getting coupons on line.  First of all I made sure that our local stores would accept them.  The town I live in is a population of 11,000 and we have two grocery stores plus a Super Wal-mart.  I wanted to make sure that these stores would take these coupons before I turned them over at the cash register and got a surprise.  My favorite site is obviously the coupon mom.  I have added other sites along the line but I love the coupon mom's site the best.

My goal with using coupons and the Grocery Game subscription is to buy only items my family will use with a goal of saving $20.00 average per week with coupons.  None of the stores in our area double coupons.

Two weeks ago I made my biggest savings when there was a sale on General Mills cereal.  I had to buy 6 boxes of any GM cereal and then I would get $10 off with an in store coupon and would also receive a coupon at the checkout for a free gallon of milk on my next trip to the store.  When I got to the grocery store I was armed with manufacturer's coupons for the cereal as the store allows you to "stack" coupons.  In other words you can use a store coupon and tag team it up with a manufacturer's coupon for more savings.  The cereal that I purchased totaled $16.00.  Then the $10.00 store coupon was taken off and I presented them with 3 coupons for $1.00 off two boxes of ceral.  Now my net cost was $3.00 for those 6 boxes of cereal.  I then received a coupon for 1 free gallon of milk on my next visit. Milk was $2.99 a gallon at that store.  So for 1 penny I was able to buy 6 boxes of cereal and milk.

Couponing does take some time but now that I have been doing it for 9 months I spend about 1 1/4 hours a week clipping, sorting, storing my coupons along with planning the shopping trip itself.  It is worth my time for any coupon savings as I am not bringing in an income so my goal right now is to not spend and to save.

Because of all the stock piling and such I have a room in my basement that has a lot of paper products, soaps, canned goods, cereals, flour, sugar and more.  I have several shelves of items to choose from.  My estimation is that I have in my pantry and my freezer close to a 6 month supply of food items.  In the news today you will hear about the need to have a 6 to 8 month emergency fund in savings in case of a job loss.  I cannot fathom how we would be able to save that much money right now, but at least I have our groceries covered.  It is a beginning.  I do want to add that while stock piling I used a budget of $100 per week which was lower than what I was spending when I was working full time.  In maintaining this stock pile I have been able to go a lot lower which is my goal.  As I continued to buy mostly stock pile items, my grocery expense went down each week.  It is a beginning and also is characteristic of my taking baby steps along this journey.

One additional benefit to couponing is that I have been able to buy items and donate them to our local Ecumenical Food Cupboard to help those in need.  I look at it as a way to stretch my donation dollar.  I have been able to purchase deoderant for 25 cents a stick and shampoo for 50 cents a bottle.  Recently they had a 4 roll brand of toilet paper on sale for $1.00 a package and I had five $1.00 off coupons.  I donated these packages.

My goal is to get my grocery expense as low as I can without feeling deprived.  Right now I am averaging $70 to $80 a week for me, my husband and our teenage son (along with a cat and a large dog).  I want to get my grocery expense down to $60 to $65 a week.  I think that is quite doable and the money I save can be put in savings.  For this month I want to get the weekly grocery expense even lower by using food from my stockpile and only buying rock bottom items such as turkey, flour, sugar and other baking supplies that go on sale. I want to use the money that I don't spend towards Christmas gift giving.  We have set some money aside for Christmas but I would prefer to use what I can from our grocery budget savings and leave the Christmas money in savings to help build up our emergency fund.

I may not be a coupon queen but I'll settle for being a coupon duchess for now.

Wall Street Journal Article re Severance and Lay offs

I came across this link and if you have a chance to read it this will be available for a few more days online.  It is an article from the Wall Street Journal re executives that have been laid off and on severance pay but continuing to live on the income they earned when they were employed.  I could judge, but I won't.  It is perhaps an idea of how some people live and how they have a difficult time adjusting to a different lifestyle.  It is a real eye opener.  Read it here.

November 10, 2009

Housekeeping Notebook

I knew when I was choosing to be home and not to seek further employment that I had to be organized or time would get away from me and I wouldn't get much done during the day.  It is easy for me to get side tracked.  I put off trying to put together my own housekeeping manual as I wanted to get my house in order and then sit down and make up a manual.  Okay - mistake number 1.  Didn't think it was important to plan in order to get my house in order.  Then on Saturday, October 3rd we awoke to the phone ringing.  It was a kind lady from our church calling to let us know that our son wouldn't need to be at the church to do the sound for their meeting until 9:00 a.m.  Well - I had totally forgotten and so had everyone else that our son, Charlie, was going to do this for the woman's group.  Thank goodness for that call. After our son left for church - in plenty of time - I made some coffee, sat down and had a "come to meeting Jesus" with myself. Where did I write down that he was going to do this?  How could I have forgotten something like that?  That Saturday I spent the bulk of the day trying to put something together.

My first rule of thumb in making a housekeeping notebook was that it had to be cheap.  I could not afford to put a lot of money into a planner.  I researched Franklin planners as I had used them in the past but I felt that it was out of my price range for now and none of them seemed to address the homemaker.  My second rule of thumb was that it had to be pretty. I did have a pink binder that I had bought a year ago and I decided to use it.  I set to work searching the internet for printable forms.  It took a while to find some but I was looking for something specific to me.  The one thing about a housekeeping notebook/planner or any planner for that matter is this:  if you don't tailor it to you and try to use something that someone else has made up then it won't work.  I knew that this planner was going to be "command central" for me.  A place I could put odds and ends of notes and log them on a calendar or such as needed.

After locating the forms on the internet I headed to Wal-Mart and purchased pastel index dividers and pastel card stock. On the card stock I printed a monthly calendar that is split onto two pages.  I like this big format as it gives me plenty of space to write things down and it gives me a month at a view glance.  I printed off these months through December 2010.  There is a space on the right side and at the bottom to jot down any notes.  On one of the back sides I printed a calendar for the year and on the other back side page I have lines for advance planning. I found the calendar pages at Donna Young's website here.

After that I printed some daily pages that has a to do list, a place to write down what we will have for dinner, a place to write down the top 3 tasks I want to complete that day, a place to record any appointments and a place for miscellaneous items that I use to jot down notes or to put down my exercise log and eating log.  I found this daily docket page at here.

I have a section for cleaning with a cleaning schedule.  It is not a do this on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday kind of schedule.  Instead I have listed a daily cleaning schedule, every other day cleaning schedule, then a weekly cleaning schedule, monthly cleaning schedule and I 'm working on seasonal cleaning and annual cleaning.

Okay - that is a lot of cleaning.  However, I made it up to do some cleaning every day spread out among 6 days with Sunday off.  I estimate that I will have about 90 minutes of cleaning a day to begin with but after being on a cleaning schedule for a while I estimate that it will be around 75 minutes a day.   75 minutes a day is quite doable for me.  I have not started this cleaning schedule yet.  I have spent time decluttering and getting used to being home and I have been taking things slow.  Up to now I have been cleaning what needs to be cleaned and not worrying about it.  I am starting this cleaning schedule tomorrow so we will see how things go.  Sometimes when I am feeling good about myself and life I tend to take on too much and am overwhelmed.  But I have tried to make up a cleaning schedule that is not overwhelming.  My thought is that as long as I get on some kind of schedule I will see improvement.  Even if I choose to take a day off from cleaning my house, it should remain in order as I would have been on a schedule.

I have a section for menu planning but haven't done much with that and hope to tackle that next.  Again, I am taking baby steps and do not want to set myself up for failure.

I have also put in a section for Christmas as I have been keeping an ongoing list for gifts to buy or make and recipes I am finding that I would like to use for the holidays.

This notebook is a work in progress and it is not finished as I have more sections I would like to put in it.  I am finding that Sunday afternoons offer me the best opportunity to pull out this housekeeping notebook and look ahead to the week for planning and such.  It is also the best time for me to sit down and add new sections and ideas.

Sections I need to add:  addresses and phone numbers,  a section with a list of my pantry items and freezer items, a section with a list of renovation projects to plan and so on.

As time goes on I am tweeking it.  I have to remind myself to look at this notebook every morning so that I don't forget any appointments that I have calendared for the day.

My main goal of having a housekeeping notebook is peace of mind.  I have one place that I can turn to for family schedules, projects to work on, tasks that need to be done and so on.  Also, when I am away from home and think of something I need to do I write it on a piece of paper and when I get home I put it in my notebook. 

When I have time I will post a picture of what my notebook looks like.


I was a legal assistant for many years and I used several different computer programs at work.  However I am a beginner at computer language and such so starting this Blog was a challenge to me.  Learning the computer lingo and setting things up was foreign to me but I have plodded on in hopes that people would look past my mistakes on how my blog looked to what I was posting. 

I have struggled to find time to blog as I have been putting dust bunnies ahead of writing what was going on in my day and my life. Or perhaps my real problem was that I wanted to be able to post the good things and not face what was not working in my new life at home.  That defeats the whole purpose of having a blog if I choose to sanitize it. 

So here is to a new day and to more postings.

November 06, 2009

Pulling things together

I have spent the past several weeks - close to two months going through my house decluttering.  I got discouraged many times because to look at the entire house and what needed to be done was entirely overwhelming.  Having a messy, cluttered up home with closets disorganized and full; my pantry and freezer disorganized, the basement needing to be cleaned out makes a person tired - just thinking about it was overwhelming.  Combine that with trying to keep up on the day to day chores of a home, well it was no wonder I was discouraged.

At one point I thought I must be inept as I had managed a law firm and worked a lot of hours so I sat down one day and just started pondering what I needed to do.  At work I had taken major projects such as probating an estate and made a checklist and broke the project down into manageable pieces.  That is what I did at home except I added one more caveat - I would not spend an entire day working on decluttering and cleaning up.  I would spend a portion of the day and take small steps.  Last Saturday it happened.  I was putting things away upstairs and I stopped and looked around.  It looked pretty good.  You could walk around without knocking over piles of clothes, papers and junk.  I still have a small loft area to work on but the upstairs looks wonderful.  I was shocked when I realized that I was 98% done.  I had taken probably 30 minutes at a time working on putting things away, throwing things away and making a pile of things to give away.

Now, I make my bed in the morning (never did that before), take my shower and then do some general pick up of the house and I feel so much better.  Before I was embarrassed to have my family come home at the end of the day to a messy house.  After all I am a SAHW/SAHM and being home during the day meant I should be able to give them an orderly home.

Lessons learned:  1.  A messy house costs money.  I couldn't find some things so I would go out and buy what I couldn't find such as paper, pens, pantry items, clothing and so on.  2.  Trying to tackle a large task in one day or week can be overwhelming.  Breaking it into small allotments of time is easier and also you will not feel like giving up or getting tired of working on the project.

Now that my house is in order it is time to get into a daily, weekly, monthly, annual housecleaning routine.  I have been working on a housekeeping manual and my next post will describe that.  It comes with a lesson to be learned also:  As a SAHW/SAHM I need a professional working planner such as one that I used when I was employed outside of the home.