August 30, 2010

My Dream Kitchen

While on vacation this year, I found my dream kitchen at the President McKinley library and museum in Canton, Ohio.  Here are some pictures:

I even love the house dress.

Now this stove is for serious cooks.


Colorful kitchen items

I am a 1940's/1950's geek when it comes to decorating.  You've see my apron collection and retro fabric and inspiration piece.  I have a lot of my grandmother's kitchen items from the 1940's and 1950's. 

I wanted to start this project this year, but it has been delayed.  By next spring I will finally get my "dream kitchen," well, sort of.  I am going to paint the kitchen and replace some of the lighting, but the counter tops, sink, floor and appliances will have to wait til later.  But, that was what made grandma's kitchen so wonderful.  She made things last and used the same kitchen items and appliances for years and years.  She didn't care how old they were, they worked. 

So come next May I will have my 1940's/1950's  kitchen ready to go.  I am leaning towards a 1940's World War II era kitchen complete with a few World War II propaganda posters.  I have everything I need to put in the kitchen except for new kitchen chairs.  I truly believe it is possible for me to get the look I want without the new stuff.  I can cover the center of the floor with a rag rug.  I can work around the imperfections of having appliances that don't match by highlighting the cool stuff from grandma's house along with the curtains I will be making. 

Sometimes we get caught up in wanting to have everything new and perfect when we do a remodeling project, but we don't have to have everything perfect.  Do what you can on what budget you have to transform a room.  It could be simply buying a can of paint and painting that room.  That's your beginning.  Get it painted and then as you have a little money perhaps you can purchase some fabric for some curtains.  If you take your time and let your imagination go, you end up with a room that really reflects your personality.  It will also be a room that you will truly love because you didn't rush out to buy everything all at once and instead lived in it for a while, did some frugal searching at a garage sale or flea market and found little things along the way to go in that room. 

I want to work on this now.  Yeah, it is killing me to have to wait.  But the exterior of the house needs to be painted, then my DS's room needs to be painted and then the livingroom needs to be painted first.  Those are the priorities and when they are done, I will reward myself by working on my kitchen. 

August 28, 2010

Home Projects and Zone Cleaning

Do you ever have so much to do that you don't know where to start?  I have felt this way lately and when I made this comment to my DH he said "Just pick something and begin."  That would make a great title for a book.  Sometimes I can spend too much time making up a list and I could be spending that time on the project. 

All summer it has been too hot and rainy to do much work on the outside of the house and now that fall is just around the corner, I/we feel under a lot of pressure to get some things done.  We have joked lately that we should sell the house and move into a two bedroom condo and let someone else do the yardwork.   It's been an ongoing joke in that when we are doing yard work we will ask "where is the joy of homeownership?" 

Tomorrow afternoon I plan to spend some time going over the calendar for the month of September and schedule some days to be outside scraping and painting the house and the picket fence.  When the days are cooler it is much better to be outside anyway. 

You just can't get too hard on yourself when you get behind.  The house isn't going to fall to the ground if we don't get it painted this year, but we sure would like to try to get it done. 

On Thursday I visited with a woman from my church.  She retired a couple of years ago and she told me that the first year she was home, she felt kinda lost.  She wasn't used to not having a work schedule and it took almost a year to get used to be retired.  I identified with what she was saying.  It would seem that after one year of being home that I should be further along with projects than I am, but it has been quite an adjustment for me to not have a job outside the home.

Also, I never thought that housework - cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping and such would take so much time.  I knew that being home involved work, but I always thought I should be able to get everything done and kept up.  That was a little unrealistic thinking.  It's funny how when I was working I envisioned how my home was always going to be moderately clean and in order.  I forgot that just as I could get distracted and side tracked at work, the same is true at home. 

Something else I learned about myself this year is that I hate to clean.  I love to cook, do laundry, sew and work on home projects, but I hate to clean.  Yet, I love a clean home.  With that in mind, I have been trying to come up with ways to make house cleaning more manageable to me.  I cannot clean my entire house in one day.  I have back trouble and it is impossible for me to do this without having to be in bed the next day recuperating.  Instead I have divided my home into 5 zones.  Zone 1 - Kitchen and Den; Zone 2 - dining room, living room, entry way, hallway and downstairs bathroom; Zone 3 - Upstairs bathroom, stairs to the upstairs; Zone 4 - master bedroom, spare bedroom, sitting area (all upstairs); Zone 5 - laundry room, basement family room.

The kitchen takes me the longest to clean so I teamed it up with an easy to clean room, the den.  I considered this when I was dividing my house into zones in that I teamed up easy to clean rooms with hard to clean rooms.  I calculated that the most it should take me to thoroughly clean each zone is 2 hours and if I take 5 days out of the week to do a zone in the morning, then I should be able to keep up on the house work.  Of course each day I tidy up bathrooms and do a general pickup that doesn't take much time and I don't include in the zones.

This is working for me.  It would be nice to clean the entire house in one day, but it isn't going to happen so I had to come up with an "easy on my back" cleaning schedule. 

August 27, 2010

Grocery Shopping and the Charity Challenge

About once a month I hit upon a really great deal at the grocery store.  It's the kind of deal when you want to call people and tell them all about it. 

This week at Hy-Vee grocery stores, they have a great cereal sale going on.  Hy-Vee has a store coupon in their ad this week for $10.00 off when you buy 6 boxes of General Mills cereal.  In addition, at the check out you will also receive a coupon for $6.00 off your next grocery visit to Hy-Vee.  I looked through my coupons and found 3 coupons for $1.00 off two boxes of General Mills Cereal. 

A competitor grocery store, Fareway, had General Mills cereal on sale for $2.50 a box.  Hy-Vee matches their sales.  So the gross price was $15.00 for 6 boxes of cereal less $3.00 manufacturer's coupons, bringing the price down to $12.00.  I used the store coupon for $10.00 and the net purchase price of those 6 boxes of cereal was $2.00.  At the check out, I received the $6.00 catalina coupon for my next grocery visit to Hy-Vee.

Also at Hy-Vee this week spaghetti sauce was on sale for 68 cents a can.  It is a store brand, actually more like a generic, and I have purchased it several times as it tastes like the national brand.  It is really good.  Just goes to show that some times you have try out a generic just to see.  A year ago they had the same sale.  I wasn't sure if we would like it so I bought 1 can (26.5 oz) and tried it.  We loved it and I went back and purchased 20 cans.  This was a stock up sale for me today, so I purchased 10 cans and may go back for more next week.  I checked the expiration dates and the date on each can was November 2012. 

So the lesson here is try some of the store brands and generics.  I was pleasantly surprised with the spaghetti sauce.

Now on to the Charity Challenge.  It's the end of the month.  If you participated in this challenge, be sure to tally up your grocery receipts and give, if you are able, 10% to a charity.  My money will go to the local food pantry.  Yesterday I was with a group of ladies from our church and two of them had volunteered at the food pantry this week.  They need more help, so I will be volunteering at the food pantry as needed.  It may be quite an eye opener.

I have worked hard over the past months to take advantage of sales to fill my freezer with a wide selection of meats.  Fortunately the past two months the grocery stores have had phenomenal sales on meat in our area and I have quite the assortment of meat.  I never went over budget on groceries and many weeks I was way under budget.  This is due to the fact that I already had a lot of meat in the freezer and I have a stocked pantry.  I have been replenishing both as I purchase sales items.  When you have built up a stocked pantry and freezer it is easy to maintain it and then spend less on groceries in a week.  For example, if I have 10 - 5 lb. bags of flour in the pantry and there is a sale, I will probably purchase 2 or 3 bags of flour.  When I was starting out and there was a great sale on flour, I would have purchased 7 or 8 bags of flour.  Now it is easy to maintain the supply by purchasing less and rotating. 

For the month of September I had thought about only eating out of the pantry and freezer and just purchasing perishables.  Instead, I plan on purchasing perishables and then setting aside about $20.00 per week for any possible sales in order to add to whatever I am using up.  The goal I have in mind is to spend about $25.00 a week on perishables (this is a generous amount) and then I will also have $20.00 per week towards sales items and maintaining the pantry/freezer.  If the sales aren't good, I will throw the $20.00 in a jar and it will be there when there is a good sale.

I am not comfortable in totally depleting my freezer and pantry unless there is a financial emergency.  I always have that option though.  Instead, I am comfortable with maintaining the contents of the freezer and pantry, on less money, carefully using up all food prior to the expiration dates.

In the end I will be spending less money on groceries, I will be providing a variety of foods to my family, and if there is a financial emergency I have the option of using up food from the pantry and freezer. 

August 25, 2010

Extra Income - Continued

Taken after a race in the fall of 2009

I realized after I posted my entry on "Extra Income" that I left out some information.  In order for my DH to coach, his boss (old and present) had to consent to him taking on the extra job.  Cross country practice is at 6:30 a.m.  He has Middle School and High School kids getting up early in the morning and running, which in and of itself is a minor miracle.  Practice is over at 7:30 and sometimes my DH has to remain at the practice site if a parent is late picking up their child.  He is supposed to be at work at 8:00 but during cross country season his boss knows he may not get to work until 8:15.  Since my DH is a salaried employee, this isn't a problem.

On the days that the team has a meet, he takes an afternoon off from work and uses half a vacation day in order to get ready for the meets and coach at the meets.  He gets a certain number of paid vacation days each year.  Three-fourths of those vacation days are spent going on vacation as a family and/or days off at home.  The remainder are used as half vacation days that he uses when there is a cross country meet.

All of the meets, except of course for the home meet, are in other towns and require a trip on a school bus with the team.  He gets home from meets at around 8:30 at night and then spends the next hour or so writing up the results of the meet and e-mailing them to area radios and newspapers. 

On Fridays he has what he calls "Friday Fun Days" and the team spends the morning having a scavenger hunt or some running silly games that they play.  I in turn provide breakfast which is muffins for the team.  I bake 9 dozen muffins every Thursday afternoon for the team for breakfast the next day. 

He coaches because he loves it and he wants to be a good role model to students.  He would not be able to coach if his boss hadn't consented.  His employer values employees being involved in the community and he knows that any work that my DH misses, will be made up.  It is not a problem and it means that his boss trusts him and vice versa. 

Many employers will not allow an employee to "moonlight" or take on another job without their approval.  My DH's coaching job lasts three months out of the year, so it is not a major concern to his employer. 

The extra income is nice to have, there is no doubt about it.  The money doesn't just fall into our laps as my DH puts in a lot of hours in his coaching job.  It is work and it means that we don't get as much done around the house during cross country season. Fortunately it has been a family affair as our youngest son (the only child remaining at home) runs cross country so he is with his dad at practices and at meets.  I in turn attend the meets and help out.  Our oldest son is married and when he was in high school my DH was his coach.  Today our oldest son began a new teaching job at a rival school district and he is also coaching cross country.  I can hardly wait for the first meet where his team competes against our team.  It should be a lot of fun.

In the end, if you are considering an extra job such as coaching or tutoring or any job that requires you to be in another workplace, you should always tell your primary employer.  Many times employers do not want their employees to moonlight as they don't want them to be tired and sleepy for the primary job. 

August 24, 2010

Extra Income

For the past 11 years, my DH has been coaching cross country for our high school.  He has a contract and receives some income for being a coach.  When I was working I never paid much attention to what his coaching money went towards, but now that I am not working his coaching money is a nice supplement to our income. 

The cross country season is taking place now and while he does put some of his own money into the program, we are always left with some money that we can use for other things.  It's not a great sum of money, after all it is a public school system, but we always manage to set aside some for Christmas and some for savings.

This money is extra money and we do not completely rely on it.  Extra income is just that.  It supplements and you should not depend on it.  Area school districts have had to make drastic cuts in the past year in order to try to balance their budget.  Frankly I was surprised that the school district didn't reduce his salary or cut it altogether.

I'm grateful for the extra money and I know that it could end next season.  You never know.

August 23, 2010

Back to School Time!!!

I love Back to School time but not for the reason some of you may think.  Okay, it is nice to get the kids back to school and into a routine, but I love "Back to School Time" for one reason alone - school supplies are on sale.  It takes me back to when I was in grade school and I used to get a new pencil box each year for school.  I remember in second grade getting a plastic pencil box that had a picture of the United States on the front and the capitol of each state was listed.  I memorized those capitols from looking at that pencil box over and over.  Ah, happy times.

I stock up on baking supplies during the holidays and I stock up on pens, pencils, post it notes, paper, and notebooks during " Back to School Time."  Better yet, wait up to two weeks after school has started and those supplies go on clearance.  Every household needs these supplies so I always make sure I buy a year's supply for our household and also for our son's school needs. 

This time of year is almost like the beginning of a new calendar year.  I feel like getting organized, I feel like tackling some projects and I just feel happy.  I'm happier this year as my son is a Senior and he doesn't have to take math this year.  Yippee!!!

August 20, 2010

Egg Recall Leads to Thinking about an Agrarian Lifestyle

In a prior post I wrote about wanting to live an Agrarian lifestyle.  Well, yesterday I started to think about this once again as it was reported that millions of eggs were being recalled due to a salmonella outbreak at an egg farm here in Iowa. 

I had two dozen eggs in my refrigerator and when I looked at the codes on the ends of the cartons, the codes matched those eggs that are part of the recall.  I took the eggs back to the store today and they not only gave me two more dozen eggs in exchange (from a different producer) but they also gave me the price of the returned eggs in cash.  It was a nice gesture from a store that does a great job in customer service.  However, I am getting really tired of this.

A couple years ago pet food was recalled and then there was a peanut butter recall.  Then there were tomatoes and strawberries recalled.  Last week there was a beef recall and who knows what will be next. 

I grew up in the 1960's when it was brought to light that DDT and other pesticides were harmful and that cyclamates (a sweetener) was suspect to causing cancer.  It was then that I first learned about things we can eat that are harmful to us.  Remember "Weekly Readers" from your grade school years?  They were like a mini newspaper for grade school kids.   I loved reading them.  It was in a Weekly Reader edition that I read about pesticides that were once said to be safe and then were declared unsafe. 

I have not watched Food, Inc. as frankly I don't think I could stomach it and would prefer to read about the food industry than watch it.  It really makes me wonder if we have come that far from Upton Sinclair's  criticism of the meat industry at the beginning of the 20th century.  It would appear that we are constantly battling the quest for safe food. 

Who is to blame?  Is it the consumer that demands foods be available year round and not just "in season"?  More and more the demand is to produce items such as poultry at a faster pace.  Our meat is subject to antibiotics and farmers and producers are pushed to produce more and more for a nation that demands it, no matter what the cost to our health.  Am I part of the blame for wanting low cost meat?   After all I laud in this blog the fact that I am able to get a lot of meat at a great sales price.  Perhaps I should report more about safely produced healthier food sources that I am willing to pay more for. 

What is the answer?  Can I buy local meat, poultry, eggs and vegetables without worrying?  I don't think I can say that locally produced is 100% safe.  No one can give those kinds of assurances, but it would be a much better option than eating a product that is sprayed with insecticides, picked green and allowed to ripen in transport.

I live on a small piece of property in a small city and I am now wondering if I shouldn't try to grow as much of my food as I can.  I should be more diligent to seek out local resources for food and buy from local farmers.  We have a wonderful Farmer's market but it is mostly fresh vegetables and baked goods.  There is a local meat locker where I could investigate purchasing a side of beef that has been locally produced, but does this mean it is free of antibiotics?

Can I raise my own chickens and eggs?  Our City has ordinances prohibiting raising certain livestock within the City limits, so you are limited as to what you can and cannot have on your property.  Can my DH quit his job and go into business for himself and operate a sports store? Okay, that is his dream.

In my quest to live a frugal lifestyle I am purchasing all of our groceries from grocery stores at rock bottom prices, but should I search for better food producers/choices?

I don't have all of the answers but at least I am becoming more aware and more open to the choices I have and the decisions I make.

Perhaps what is in my future is to sell our house in a few years and move to a smaller house on a piece of property where I can have my own garden and raise chickens and eggs.  Maybe even a few goats.  It is something to think about. 

August 17, 2010

Changing Your Attitude About Money

Have you ever told your kids that they need an attitude change?  Many times I have said things to my kids that I should be directing to myself. 

Making the change from one income to two incomes means more than doing the numbers to balance your family budget, it means changing your attitude toward money.  This is easier said than done. 

Last week I was in a store picking up some things on my carefully prepared list, when I walked down an aisle that had plastic shelving units.  I came close to picking up those shelves when I stopped myself.  They would have to wait until the end of the month - next pay period.   We need some plastic shelves for our basement for storage but it wasn't a need at the time.   So, I put those on a short list I keep for items I feel that we need in the near future. 

Putting off purchases until you can afford them or work them into your budget, is something that is foreign to many people.  After all lets look at those shelves.  The price for one of those plastic shelving units was $15.00.  I could have bought them then, but I wanted to keep more money in our checking account at this time of the month and I knew that I could get one shelving unit at the end of the month and one at the end of September. 

This is a change in attitude toward money or perhaps it is a respect for money.  It looks as if this attitude change is sweeping the country.  The news reported that households are now saving close to 6.3% of their income as opposed to less than 1% before the Recession hit. 

This Recession has been hard on a lot of families but if there is one good thing that will come from it, it is that people are starting to respect their hard earned money and have changed their attitudes about spending and saving. 

August 16, 2010

Another On the Spot Grocery Shopping Decision

This month in order to accommodate additional expenses into our budget (Senior Pictures, Back to School supplies), I had planned on eating out of our freezer and pantry and buying only non-perishables each week.  Last week I headed to the grocery store with my list in hand and discovered ground turkey breast for $1.00 per lb. and boneless chuck roast on sale for $2.38 lb.  I made some adjustments to my grocery budget for the month to acccommodate for these unexpected sales and moved on.

Would you believe that this week they had more meat on sale at a rock bottom price?  I'm not sure but I think our local grocery stores are having a Back to School Meat special.  There have been some specials off and on this summer, but never quite at the prices and the quantity that they were this weekend.  When you are trying to stretch your dollar as far as it can go, you have to make adjustments to your budget when you come across some great specials, especially when it is meat. 

They had boneless sirloin tip steaks on sale for $2.38 lb.  These are absolutely wonderful steaks when they are marinated over night or better yet cut into strips and used for stir fry.  I bought 3 - 1 lb. packages on Friday. 

On Saturday I decided to go and buy 5 more packages as I knew that was such a good deal.  I headed to the store at 8:30 a.m. and while I was picking up more steaks, I noticed next to them were two canisters of Kraft parmesan cheese with an expiration date of August 13th.  They were marked down from $2.99 to 99 cents.  I knew I could freeze these without a problem.  Then next to the canisters of parmesan were two packages of 6 oz. bacon wrapped sirloin fillets marked down to only $2.00 for a package of two.  The sell by date was that day.  No problem - into the freezer they go.  I was also able to get boneless chicken breast for $1.50 a lb. - I bought 5 lbs.

Then they had chicken hindquarters on sale for 39 cents a lb.  This is the sale I had been waiting for.  I take those hindquarters and cut them apart into drumsticks and thighs, which when sold separately in the grocery store cost around 89 cents a lb. on sale.  They were sold out but I was able to get a rain check which is good for two weeks.  I will probably buy 20 lbs. in the next week or so.

Skippy peanut butter was on sale for .99 cents and I had coupons for 75 cents off two containers.

This is how I shop, snagging up the specials and making my meals from what I have on hand.  I love the ease of always having ingredients on hand to prepare a meal.  It is such a convenience.  Also, I love my freezer.  I would go without a clothes dryer and a dishwasher before I would give up my freezer.  It is as important to me as my refrigerator and stove.

Now what to do with the grocery budget?  I have overspent my scaled back grocery budget for this month and it is only the 16th.  If I compare what I spent so far on groceries to what I normally would have spent on groceries, I am within my normal budget range.  I'm feeling pretty good about the good deals and know that from here on out to the end of the month, I will just pick up the perishables.  In fact I will be able to do this long after August ends.  After all, good deals or not, my freezer is definitely full and I don't need a thing. 

August 15, 2010

Charity Challenge - We're half way through the month

Charity Challenge

It's August 15th and we're half way through the month, which means we are also half way through the Charity Challenge.  Remember? For anyone participating, for the month of August I put the challenge out to donate 10% of the money that you spend on groceries to a food pantry or other charity in your community.  If your budget is tight and 10% is too much for your family, a small monetary donation or a few cans of food donated is still a tremendous help to these organizations.

For many families who rely on a food pantry to supplement their groceries, the month of August is a hard month as it is also back to school month for kids.  Purchasing school supplies can be expensive and while many service organizations donate backpacks and other school supplies, many communities do not have the luxury of such a program.  So if you have a little extra or if you are able to donate the 10% from my challenge, I know many charities would be very grateful.

August 13, 2010

Insurance or Paying for Peace of Mind

Why is it that when a "disaster" strikes that you then wonder "will my insurance cover this?"  We do not have flood insurance as we do not qualify. The flooding that has occured around us has been in the low lying flood plain areas and areas near rivers.  We live on "higher ground."  Because of all the rain and with the ground being so saturated, we have had 1 inch of clean rain water that has seeped into 1/2 of our unfinished basement, while being a big pain to deal with, it is manageable. 

While cleaning up our basement I started wondering about our homeowner's insurance, specifically if we were covered if the sanitary sewer would ever back up into our basement.  It has never happened before, but I couldn't remember if we were covered.  A phone call to our agent confirmed that we were covered.  Which leads me to this, I really believe that when looking at your insurance needs, you need to deal with an agent that you are comfortable with.  You need to be able to say to your agent "I have no idea what you just said.  Could you please explain it to me in laymen's terms?"  Know and understand your policy.  Know what you are paying for.  Know that you are comfortable with the amount that you are paying for the peace of mind that insurance brings to you.

Our agent reminded me of the conversation that she had with us when we originally got the policy back in 1997 and a couple of years ago when we reviewed all of our insurance needs with her.  She advised us on what she truly felt we needed based on her experience as an agent and also as a person that had lived in our community all of her life.  Our agent has never steered us in the wrong direction and I have always liked her.  I have admitted to her that I did not understand some things about insurance and she was happy to explain things to me.  Insurance is one of those things that you really can't do without, yet if you don't understand what you are getting, you may be overpaying.

We are not over insured nor underinsured.  We are very comfortable with our policy.  It isn't frugal to cut back on your homeowner's policy to save a few dollars and then find out that you aren't covered for a major problem.  As an example a sewer backing up into your basement can cause a lot of damage and cost a lot of money to clean up. The clause on our policy costs us a small amount. 

I have the assurance that if our house burns down that we can replace the contents and the home without worry.  So, I don't believe that cutting our policy down to bare bones is a frugal notion if in case of a disaster you have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars that you don't have.

When we went to one income, we reviewed our policies and talked with our agent about raising deductibles to save money.  We did this knowing that we would be able to pay the difference when filing a claim. 

It is frugal to shop around to see if you can save some money, keeping in mind that you need to review the company's record as to handling claims and such.  We have stuck with the same company for 24 years and because we have our homeowner's, life and car insurance with them, we get a discount.  Also, we have had a few fender benders along the way and dealing with our insurance company and getting the vehicle fixed has been very easy. On occasion we have checked out other companies but we continue to remain with the same company as their prices are competitive and frankly, it is a very painless process when we have to file a claim.

In my mind insurance is like groceries.  You have to have it.  You just have to shop around to find the best deal and the company that you feel comfortable with doing business. 

August 12, 2010

Being Prepared

I am bone tired - whatever that means.  To me it means so tired that you can't think straight.  Yesterday was day two of water in our basement.  We spent Tuesday getting the water out of the basement and it was dry within 8 hours.  Early Wednesday morning we had another storm go through and we had water in our basement again.  It was only an inch if we kept two wet dry vacs going continuously.  It took about 8 hours of constant tending to the water. The ground is so saturated. 

Today was beautiful and the basement is completely dry and doesn't smell at all.  We did a great job of getting it all cleaned up.  That is the good news.  The bad news is early tomorrow morning we are to get another big storm and then another one tomorrow night.  I know that we will get some more ground water in the basement.  So we are prepared.

We have placed about 10 towels in unique locations around the front of the basement where the ground water has been coming in.  We do this in order to direct the water away from the rest of the basement and in one direction to make it easier to clean up.  We have a fan running and will continue to have it running, the wet dry vacs are ready to go along with 4 buckets.  My MP3 player is all charged so I can listen to some funky music over the noise of the wet dry vacs. 

Ready to Go

Our water treatment plant has been in danger of flooding so I have 75 - 16 oz. bottles of water on hand and I have taken several containers and filled them with water in case they have to shut down the plant and we have to go without drinking water.  This has brought to mind that although I have a pantry of food and a freezer filled with food, I don't normally keep a stash of water on hand in case of an emergency.  So, I have added this to my list of things to keep in the pantry. 

After my son is done showering in the morning, I am going to fill his bathtub with water so that if the water plant has to shut down, we will have a bathtub of water we can access for washing.  We can also set containers in our backyard to catch rain water for bathing.  Yes, I have thought this through. 

Best of all, I have 3 extra large bars of milk chocolate to snack on while I am in the  basement. 

Do you know what I am thankful for?  Fresh scented bleach.  I have been spraying a bleach water mixture around the base of the floor to keep away the mold and the fresh scent sure beats the original smell of bleach.  I'm thankful that we have only received 1 inch of water in the basement and that the sewer hasn't backed up.

As to what tomorrow holds, I don't know.   The only thing I can do is to be prepared. 

Today I made it to the grocery store and got some really good deals.  I will post those when this little incident with water is over.

August 10, 2010

Flood Pictures

To look at flood pictures of my community, go to this link.  Halfway down the page is a slide show of pictures. 


Leave it to life's cirumstances to bring you back to earth and be thankful for what you have, even if it is a little water in your basement.

Last night our community was hit with a flash food.  We received close to 7 inches of rain overnight. There were some people that had to be rescued from their homes along with their pets.  Water has rushed over roads and brought with it remnants of sheds, propane tanks, pieces of a house and more.  Some tiny homes have water up to their roofs.  It is a little unsettling when you see in your own community that kind of destruction. 

The call went out for volunteers to help sandbag some areas so my DS is sandbagging this afternoon.  Also he is taking pictures as he runs a news site and when he returns I will post some pics to my blog.  

I'm sure our local United Way and Red Cross will be putting out a plea for donations and our community always steps up to help people. 

We had about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of clean rain water that was in our basement and I have spent all day sucking it out with a couple of wet dry vacs.  It was still coming in through a small little hole in the mortar but that has now gone down to a little trickle.  We need to invest in a radius (curved) gutter to put around the front of our house where the roof line is curved.  Guess we should add that to the list of things we need done.  However, getting that much rain in a short amount of time when the ground is saturated, nothing probably would have helped.  We have had so much rain everyday that it is a wonder that we haven't had much flooding before this.

As I was working in the basement I listened to a Christian radio station on my MP3 player and the speaker was Evangelist Chuck Swindoll.  I love listening to him as he is interesting and funny.  He said that if you are going through a struggle (yep - I was) and you don't know what to pray, say this simple prayer "Lord have mercy." 

Lord have mercy - not only on me but on anyone who is struggling and especially those who have been affected by the flooding. 

Wrong Impressions

I need to clarify something from my post "Making Financial Decisions - Part 2" re my DH.  I quoted him as saying "Your job is to take care of us."  In only giving that quote, I fear I have given everyone the wrong impression of my DH. 

My DH grew up in a two income household.  In the 1960's his mom went back to college, got her degree and has been working in the field of social work ever since.  His father is a minister and he helped around the house a lot.  When I say help around the house I am talking about laundry, cleaning and other traditional "female" tasks.  They had a total of 5 children, so his father knew that he needed to pitch in and help and he did.

When we got married I was surprised at how much my DH helped me around the house.  He had quite the example in his father as in my DH's mind, there are no such things as male or female jobs.  There are just jobs and things that need to get done.

I am always second guessing things or as I prefer to say "I like to ponder a lot."  In the almost 30 years that we have been married my DH has never told me what to do.  I have worked all but a few of those years at jobs that I took because I wanted to work.  He is not over me in leadership in our household as we consider ourselves a team.  We make decisions together, although sometimes we both must think about the other person's viewpoint which could take a few days. 

My DH made that statement so I wouldn't keep "pondering."  In the end it is entirely up to me if I work outside of the home or don't work.  He wants me to be happy and I in turn want the same for him.

August 09, 2010

Making Financial Decisions - Part Two

A couple of nights ago it was a cool evening and we turned off the air conditioning and the house remained quite comfortable.  On those nights I treasure sitting on the back deck, with a cup of coffee and reading a book and talking with my DH.   It's a nice way to spend an evening. We started talking about painting the house and how hard it was to start the project with the rain and heat, which led to a new discussion. 

My DH talked about getting a loan next year to side the house, install new windows and first and foremost to put a new roof on the house.  He added that he would like to also check into the cost of making our back deck/porch into a four season porch, but that it wasn't necessary - just a dream. 

Next July the only debt we will have is my car payment and our mortgage.   Since interest rates are very low, this could be a good choice for us to make.  But is it? 
Here is what is going into our decision making process:

1.  Our house is old and the wood siding on it is over 130 years old which means it is not holding paint very well, the house is not insulated very well and the downstairs has the original windows.  We will be living in this house until they carry us out of it either on a stretcher to a nursing home or to a funeral home.  My DH and I know that we cannot continue to paint the house on our own and that it is a goal of ours to have the house sided.  Couple that with new windows and I know that our monthly utility bill would be greatly reduced.  The value of the house would increase but that is not the primary factor.  The primary reason to do this would be for ease of upkeep and lower utility bills, especially in our retirement years.

2.  I've already touched on this one - we plan to continue to live in this house through our retirement years. Many times people will renovate their home to increase the value hoping to make a killing when they go to sell it.  Unfortunately when the housing bubble burst many people found themselves stuck with a house that had beautiful renovations, but they were upside down in the mortgage.  We buy a house and live in it.  Yes, it is an investment but any renovations we make to the house are renovations that we want done so that we can enjoy living in the house.  For example, a four season porch does not add a lot of value to a house in our area of the country, but if we can afford it, we would enjoy it for years. 

3. We will be taking on new debt but our mortgage payment is very low.  We could afford a second loan payment next year.  A big push to have this done is we know that we would have to obtain a loan whenever we take on this project and interest rates are low and should continue to be low one year from now. 

4. We will not go overboard.  If it will cost a lot to do what we would like to do to this house, then we will not make renovations and in 3 or 4 years when the economy rebounds, we will sell it and buy a house that has new windows and siding. We will not over extend ourselves and get carried away just because interest rates are low and we are able to get a loan. A loan is just what it is – borrowed money – and is not “found” money.

5. If we take out a loan, then we will not be able to hire out any remodeling projects for the inside of the house. We will be doing a lot of DIY projects. When we talked about those projects, I made a mental list and realized that we can do the majority of the projects ourselves. It’s a trade off.

6. Should we even be thinking about this in light of the economy and unemployment being high? This is a very tough question. It’s a gamble. While my DH’s job appears to be safe, I cannot say that with 100% assurance. Who can? How did I settle this question? I didn’t. This is just one of those unknowns with a risk to it. I have no idea what the future holds, but since we will not face getting a loan until next year, we have plenty of time to think this over and in time we will see where the economy is heading.  If we reach next summer and we are a little uncomfortable in getting a loan, then we will wait. 

7. Let’s also bring into the discussion this point. I could go back to work and earn the money over the next year to pay for these projects and we wouldn’t need a loan. Yes, I thought of this. When I brought up the possibility of my looking for a job, my DH made a comment to me “Your job is to take care of us.” Ten years ago I would have been hopping mad at him for making that comment. Today our lives have changed so much for the better with my being a SAHW/SAHM that we are not willing to give that up, nor should we. After one year we have become accustomed to one income living and even though some months we have some financial challenges, we are making it.

Is it frugal to take out a loan? In looking at our situation I know that since we will need to take out a loan to complete these projects, it is better to take one out when interest rates are low IF we can afford it.  If interest rates are low and we can't afford a loan, then it does not make sense to take on the added debt.  We have to look at the total loan amount and not just at the payment. 

Thankfully we have a year to think this through and make the best decision for our family.


August 07, 2010

My Favorite Frosting Recipe

Tomorrow we are having a ham dinner after church.  I purchased an extra spiral ham at Easter when they were on sale and froze it.  Time to pull it out and have a ham dinner with scalloped potatoes, green beans, salad and CHOCOLATE CAKE!!! 

I just finished baking the chocolate cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan and will frost it with my favorite frosting recipe.  I love this recipe.  It is simple and tastes very, very good.  Best of all - it only has 4 ingredients.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks butter, softened
1 jar marshmallow creme
1 cup powdered sugar (I sometimes add a little more)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat butter in a medium bowl with mixer on medium speed until creamy.  Beat in marshmallow cream.  When well blended, beat in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Increase speed to high and beat 3 to 5 minutes until fluffy.  That's it!

Frosting may be refrigerated up to 4 days or frozen up to 1 month.  Bring to room temperature and beat before using.

Making Financial Decisions - Part One

In the course of our every day life, we make decisions relating to money.  I wanted to post today about some of those decisions.  In another day or so I will post about a major financial decision that we are pondering. 

Way back in the day, when I was working full time, I didn't take a lot of time when it came to financial decision making.  We had the luxury of two incomes and could buy, within reason, whatever we wanted to buy.  Now I am more conscious of any decisions I have to make regarding money and I think things through.

One area of our life that we do not scrimp on is retirement savings.  I truly wish back when we were in our 20's that we had begun some kind of personal retirement savings.  In 1986 when we had been married for 6 years, my DH's employer began a profit sharing plan.   He left that job in 1988 and after a few years his new job offered a 401K plan with his employer matching some of those funds.

After my DH started his new job in January, all of the former retirement funds from his other job went into an IRA.  Now he has a 401K with his new employer and we also contribute to his IRA.

I in turn had a 401K plan at my former job.  I worked to contribute up to the maximum of what my employer matched.  I do not contribute to my 401K now that I am not working and we use our money to contribute to my DH's 401K and IRA. 

Why do I tell you this?  No matter what has ever happened, whether it is new eyeglasses, sickness, car breakdowns, paying for college, an expensive household repair, as examples, we have made it a priority to put retirement contributions at the top of our list.   On payday all of the contributions to our retirement accounts are directly withdrawn from our bank account.  We never see the money in our account for very long.   In fact when I refer to net income, that is the income that remains after the money has been transferred to our retirement accounts.  When we look at our household budget sheet, the net income is always what you see after these retirement accounts have been debited. 

We will not change this.  When we went from two incomes to one income, we didn't change the amount that we contribute to our retirement funds.  If there is one thing that would put me back in the workforce, it would be if something happened to our retirement savings. 

My advice to anyone of any age is to contribute as much as you can (and then perhaps a little more) to your retirement.  I look at the amount we contribute on a monthly basis and that would make a nice chunk of money to put into an emergency fund each month, but I won't do it.  Like it or not, if we don't die, we will need an income in our old age and social security is not enough.  So make retirement a priority.

I make a lot of smaller financial decisions each day.  Today is a typical case of one of those decisions.  I am keeping my food budget low this month, using up what is in the pantry so that we can free up money for savings and extra expenses.  I went to the grocery store and they were having a special in store sale. They had honeysuckle white ground turkey breast meat for $1.00 a lb.  We're talking the good stuff here.  I stood there and looked to see if there was a limit and there wasn't one.  Then I pondered not only if I should pick some up, but how much should I buy.  I'm not adding to my freezer too much this month, as I'm trying to reap the benefits of using what I already have in the freezer, but when a great deal comes along I have to be flexible.

In the end I picked up 15 packages of ground turkey breast.  Then I turned the corner and they had chuck roast on sale at a rock bottom price, another in store special.  I knew I had one left in the freezer so I picked up 3.  Between the turkey meat and the chuck roast I had just used up the money I had budgeted for the groceries for this week.  I took a breath and walked over to the laundry soap aisle and paused to think.  The laundry soap aisle is a good aisle to get away to as there are never a lot of people there.  As you can now tell, I have learned to go there when I need to regroup or get away from frenzied shoppers.

I looked at my list and I got out my cell phone to use the calculator and calendar.  Then I decided that I would go ahead and spend double what I had budgeted.  I will probably not be able to come in on budget this month on groceries now.  To not take advantage of a great deal and pass it up when I didn't have any ground turkey in the freezer and only 1 roast left would end up costing more down the road.  So there on the spot in the laundry aisle I decided that I would spend the extra money.

Because I had spent double the budgeted amount for food this week, I would not be able to stay on budget for the rest of the month for groceries and will come up short.  Instead of proceeding with the same budget, I added $25.00 to the remaining amount I have for grocery money and should be fine.  It's okay to tweak and change things when a great deal comes along.  Even by spending $25.00 more than what I had budgeted, I will still come in way under what I had been spending. 

I must confess, on the way to the checkout, I grabbed something that was not on my list.  They had those giant marshmallows on sale for $2.49 for a bag.  They are about 3 times the size of a regular sized marshmallow.  I have always wanted to make smores out of those, so even though I had gone over budget for the week and they weren't on the list,  I bought one bag.  Our family is finally being able to enjoy making smores in our firepit in the back yard. 

What does Suzy Orman say? Oh, yes, people first, then money, then things.

Next post making a major financial decision - should we take out a loan.

August 04, 2010

Lessons from the Economy

In the past week there have been a lot of news reports and newspaper articles suggesting that the economy is rebounding slowly or we are in danger of swinging into a double dip recession. I am not an economist, although I do find the cause and effect situation very interesting. I read everything I can about the current economy, not because I am a pessimist but for the reason that knowledge is power. We could be in for a few more lean years and knowing that helps in making decisions and financial goals.

This is why I keep doing what I am doing - making my own laundry soap, hanging clothes on the line, unplugging electrical items when not in use, finding any way I can to save some money - it is not only for our present living circumstances, but for our future.  Some of the money saving things I do, many of my friends would never even consider.   Then again I never want to work full time again and I never want to be caught unprepared if the economy should tank again.  I'm not saying that we should live in fear, instead we should make financial decisions so that we are prepared for anything that life throws at us.

I live in Iowa and I read the Des Moines Register.  Per that newspaper, nationally the recession began in December 2007 and it hit Iowa in October 2008.  An economist is predicting that Iowa won't return to its pre-recession employment until the end of 2011.   That is probably the best case scenario.  What does this tell me?  More and more people will need help from my local food pantry and I need to step up to the plate and save money so that I can in turn give more.  It also tells me that I need to continue on the path to frugality and learn more ways to save money along with being more diligent and intentional about saving money.  This isn't temporary.  When the economy rebounds, and history shows that it will, I will continue to be frugal.  It only makes sense.  After all living below your means brings peace of mind. 

In the Des Moines Register there is a column that I read called "Your Two Cents Worth" in which readers briefly make a comment about anything.  Here is what was in the paper today "I still need a job.  I will work more than one if it will pay my bills.  I've given up so much already, that some extra time away from my kids to work a second job couldn't possibly hurt much more.  I used to be a health care worker."  and this one:  "Where do you go for support when the only problem you have is that you cannot get a job? I have never been this depressed before." 

The next jobs report comes out on Friday and people are already wondering what that report will say.  Now we are also learning that the recession has inflicted more damage on the economy than previously thought.

Why am I posting this and even bringing all of this bad news up?  Because there is something I can do about this.

My DH has a job and we have adjusted our lifestyle to live on his income.  We have had bumps along the way but for the most part we are making it.  However, I never want to go through another financial meltdown or "Great Recession" unprepared.  That is why I find any way I can to save some money that I can in turn put in the bank.  I am sure that a lot of people feel the same way.  It goes back to people that lived through the Great Depression. Those individuals became frugal throughout their life and I would say that by living below their means and stretching their resources, they were probably happier because they were prepared for leaner economic times. 

Again another comment from the "Your Two Cents Worth" article in today's paper - "Most of us who grew up during the Depression clean our plates, turn off the lights and squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube.  Squeezing that last bit of toothpaste out probably is not worth the trouble, but old habits die hard."

We have goals for our future - retirement, siding and new windows for the house, a new roof, putting our son through college and lastly (but not necessarily the least important), a nice big fat savings account for the future.  I also have a goal to continue to support our local food pantry and to continue to give money to our church.

Some people would rather not read anything in the newspaper and forget about the economic meltdown.  I am reminded daily from reading the newspaper that I am blessed that my DH has a job and it affirms my continued path to live a frugal lifestyle. 

August 02, 2010

Making My Favorite Preserves

Peach Pineapple Conserve

Yesterday I made my absolute favorite preserve, actually it is called Peach-Pineapple conserve and I have no idea why it is called conserve and not preserve.  Perhaps someone can tell me the difference some day.

I am about the only one in our family that likes it so I am making it only for me and for some gifts.  I love orange marmalade and I love peaches and pineapple.  This preserve is the best of both worlds and is very easy to make. 

Peach Pineapple Conserve

2 1/2 cups chopped fresh peaches
1 cup canned pineapple chunks, cut up (I have substituted 1 cup crushed pineapple that has been well drained with equal results)
2 cups sugar
Juice and rind of 1 orange

Heat water in a canner to boiling.  Wash the peaches.  Dip each peach in hot water in order to easily remove the peels.  Yes, I use the water that is boiling in the canner.  Chop the peaches to measure 2 1/2 cups.  Mix peaches, pineapple and sugar; add grated orange rind and juice.  Slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves; cook rapidly until thick and clear; about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Pour boiling hot into sterilized jars and seal.  Place in canner and process for 5 minutes.  Remove and make sure the jars seal.

This yields approximately 4 - 8 oz. jars of preserves.

I have never found anything like this in a store.  Peaches are super cheap now and I always have pineapple in my pantry.  This recipe is fairly cheap to make.  You don't need any pectin to add to it which also keeps the expense down.

I have given jars of these preserves as Christmas gifts and everyone is always surprised by the flavor of this preserve. 

August 01, 2010

One year since I lost my job

and do I look happy?  You betcha.  As of yesterday it has officially been one year since I lost my job. 

I used to hear newly retired people tell me that the first year was a period of adjustment. I would definitely agree with that.  After working for years I can say from my own experience that yes, it does take time to adjust.  It has taken me almost one year to adjust to my new life and lifestyle. 

Probably the hardest part of being home has been a sort of loneliness.  Like it or not, working is a social event.  You are surrounded by people and you interact with those people.  Okay, some of those people may not be anyone that you would normally "hang out" with, but they are people that you talk to and are with every work day. 

I have become more and more at peace with being home alone.  For all those years I worked and was surrounded by people, it has been sort of tranquil to be myself during the day.  If I want to be around people, there are many avenues I could take.  One would be to get more involved at our church.  My DH and I already teach an adult Sunday School class and I help prepare and deliver meals to people who are sick.  For now, with everything I have to do at home, that is enough extra activity.

This upcoming year I have a mega amount of home projects to get done.  When I finally have these projects complete I plan to find other areas I can volunteer at our church.  I love our church and the people.  It is a church that believes strongly in volunteering and helping others. 

There have been ups and downs financially over the past year as has been the case with a lot of families.  I was one of the fortunate people in that I had 9 months' warning that I may be losing my job.  A lot of people go to work one day and are laid off then and there without warning.  

My DH changed jobs in January which was for the better for him.  With the economy being what it is, he won't be getting any raises over the next few years, but he loves his new job and is very happy.  Also a big part of the job change was his new boss.  He is someone that we have known for a long time and he cares deeply about people, especially his employees and their families. 

It's taken me a year to get used to living on one income.  At the beginning I was gung ho about not spending money but I ended up constantly feeling deprived and unhappy.  I went to an extreme.  Then one month ago I realized I had swung to the other end of the spectrum.  At least I turned it around and have found a happy medium. 

For me being home has been a job in progress.  I am constantly tweaking how I do things and reinventing myself.  It's been a wonderful year and now I realize the gift I was given almost  22 months ago when my boss sat down in my office and said "I'm thinking about applying to be a Judge.  If I do and am appointed, I will have to close the business."  I'll never forget his face when I said "I'm ready to be a full time homemaker and retire."   It's been a great year.