Saturday, October 31, 2009

Frugal living these days

Many people have been asking me recently if I'm still bargain shopping and freezer cooking. I have to admit that I did get a bit burnt out after months and months of buckling down. Now that the debt is gone, the pressure isn't quite the same. That doesn't meant that I like spending our hard earned money on retail priced items when it could be put to better use.

So, I'm back at these days, but am looking for more balance. I simply can't keep up with the individual deals that I read on blogs here and there or run into the store at a moment's notice. And I refuse to clip every coupon that crosses my path. There's just no way.

I've found a some new-to-me websites that are quite helpful to this end. I like these because they are simple, give me the bottom line (how much am I actually saving) and then allow me to print off a list of only the deals that I actually want. I can even get a total for what I will spend.

Coupon Mom and Inexpensively are now on my list of favorite sites.

What's working for me is printing my lists from these two sites and sifting through my coupons twice a week while I'm waiting in the car during speech therapy. I keep my coupons in their original inserts with the date boldly written on the front. These are then placed in chronological order so they are easy to navigate. I keep these on a clipboard in the van. Then sometime during the week I'll steal away by myself and run into each store just for the items I have planned. That usually entails a stop by CVS, Walgreens, Kroger and Meijer. If an item is 80% off or less and I can stock up, it's worth the trip to me. I total, I'd say I'm spending about 30-40 minutes planning and an hours driving/shopping. I'm saving around 60-70% in the end or about $50 a week.

I'm also doing my best to stock up on seasonal produce when it hits its lowest price of the season. Of course, buying that much produce requires some diligence in preserving it for the future, but it beats paying a premium price later. Pumpkins and apples seem to be the theme. This week it was 3lb bags of apples for $.99. Needless to say, I'm up to my eyeballs in applesauce right now!!

When ran their 9/9/09 special, we decided to purchase a few certificates at 90% and give them a try. I was a bit skeptical at first. But amazingly, it worked wonderfully. We were able to enjoy a delicious Cajun meal which totaled for $35 for about $18 (tip included) as well as treat my in-laws to a big barbecue meal for their birthdays. I'm looking forward to using this site particularly when we are traveling and tend to eat out a lot. Most of these restaurants are local fare instead of chains. Bonus.

Finally, I'm planning on taking the last week of the month off from shopping altogether. This will require some planning ahead, but more than that it will force us to be content with what we have, which is always a good thing.

Within a few weeks all this grocery shopping/stocking won't be relevant as we are going a different direction in our diet for a while. After Thanksgiving, we (yes, all nine of us) are going on a little adventure of our own in the world of cuisine. But, I'll save that for another day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

At the end of the week....

I've not been neglecting my blog, but rather trying to catch life as it speeds by. It seems as though my feet hit the floor in the morning (which has been normally around 6am due to chiropractor visits) and I seriously don't sit down to rest until 8pm or so.

Honestly, I'm feeling a bit drained these days. And discouraged.

I was thinking today in the van (choking back tears) about how I viewed life ten years ago. I had two babies, lived in a small apartment waiting for the moment that Sean would walk through the door each evening. I was drained from lack of regular sleep, constant physical care and a good dose of isolation since we only had one car. A blog probably would have been therapeutic back then. The clock ticked so slowly in those days. Some days I really thought might never end.

I never imagined then that my life would be where it is today. There is never enough time to answer all the questions and concerns. I have such willing, helping hands for all the physical tasks which never ceases to bless me. The days of simply kissing away the tears or putting a whiny baby to bed are largely gone. Now it's long discussions with lots of emotions and opinions involved. It's giving attention to ideas and conflicts before the moment passes. It's the nitty gritty work of sanding down the rough edges that become evident in a family.

It's been made clear to me these past few weeks that in all these interactions, I have some rough edges myself. At times it's painful for me to not lash out or become hurtful to those I love. I can feel it just well up inside me. I'm constantly having to seek wisdom to know how to properly respond and react. I want to be the right one. I want them just to follow my marching orders. I want to be just a bit sarcastic to get a word in. I want them to understand me, where I'm coming from and trust that my way is best. That would be so much easier, right?

No. I know the answer is no. Yet, I feel a part of me dying each time I push back what I want. I know that these trials are not really about clothes or insecurities or a argument between siblings. It's about sanctification- for all of us. By God's grace I will do my best to continue to draw the lines carefully and enforce the consequences consistently. I'm so not good at this, but I want to be. I want to please the Lord. I want His Love to be poured out on my children through me. I want them to know that there is no problem too small or too big that He does not care about. I want them to be blessed in their obedience and repentant in their disobedience.

I feel so far from that place myself right now. And discouraged. I'm thankful for the coming Lord's Day- a time to rest, rejoice, reflect and know again what is True.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Funny Stuff

Here's some happenings from this past week that brightened my days:

Recently the kids watched some old Popeye cartoons and thought it was hysterical when they saw his picture on a bag of spinach that I had out for salad.

After laughing like a crazy man, Joseph informed us, "You know, Popeye is both healthy and unhealthy. He's healthy because he eats spinach. He's unhealthy because he smokes. That makes no sense."

Joseph and Betsy have set up shop in our back yard trying to sell their wares. They had their first customer last night.

"Mom, mom....we made some money!"

"What did you sell?"

"Dad bought an old fork from us for $.25!"

Yes, it was a fork that had been left in the sand box all summer and has seen better days. Sean washed it up and straightened it out stating it was the best $.25 he's spent in a while. We never have enough forks around here.

And for the final act.... Elizabeth and Rebekah were told that they couldn't watch a movie and came up with something much more entertaining- an initiation of the contortionist Chinese girls that we saw at the State Fair.

Read more funny stories about what kids are saying at Mary's Tiny Talk Tuesday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Let no debt remain outstanding....."

As you may (or may not) remember much of this blog last year was dedicated to our striving and work toward frugal living. We had a No Spend Challenge Month. We collected all our change for a month. We set the goal of $400 month for a grocery budget in 2008. (Follow the sidebar on Frugal Living for details.)

Well, by God's goodness, I am thrilled to report that after 2 1/2 years our family is now DEBT FREE! (expect for our mortgage). We received the title to our van last week in the mail which resulted in much jumping and dancing around by all. The total amount of debt paid off was about $28,000. The majority of this sum was the 15 passenger van we bought in 2007. The remainder was owed for various emergencies that had arisen over time and we had charged to a credit card. Keep in mind that during these past two years there were two surgeries, four car repairs, four appliances replaced, home repairs, a room makeover, xrays, doctors visits, many memorable road trips.... You get the idea. Life doesn't stop just to let us meet our goals. There have been some obstacles along the way, but here we are. Finally. Here we are!

Honesty, we didn't sell all our things, receive an inheritance or follow a secret plan. God has provided extra work for us and we've been working hard. The doors that have opened have been amazing, particularly for Sean. He's now getting compensated for what he loves to do- teach math/physics and encourage others in their instruction of it. This has taken the form of both speaking and writing.

It is though a large weight has been lifted. Romans 13:8 says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." This verse holds new meaning. Sure, it's a relief to get rid of those monthly payments. But more than that, it's freedom look outside ourselves and the financial pressures. It's the freedom to continue to trust God for whatever the future may hold. It's the freedom to be able to bless others. It's the freedom to serve One Master- the One who meets our every need and every way.

I hesitated to put numbers here on the blog. Debt, no matter how large or small, is a slave master. But I wanted give praise to God for His Provision and work in our lives. I also want to be an encouragement to you where ever you are on your journeys. Persevere, my friends, you can do this- one day at a time.

Our children have been with us on this journey 100%. They've known the goals and seen the budget. I've even made them listen to the Dave Ramsey Show on many an occasion. In fact, whenever they see a 1-800 number on the caller ID they swear that it's Dave Ramsey calling:) I pray that as they read this someday, they will remember these years as ones not of want, but of plenty. It hasn't always been fun, but it's made us who we are today.

And so the work continues and the major savings has now begun. I believe 2010 might be renamed "The Year of the Orthodontist."

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We have known the Goins family since 1997 when we attended the same church. Sean taught with Mark for several years. Diane selflessly watched my babies for a few years so I could attend a weekly Bible Study. If I had to describe them in a few words, they would be "passionate" and "authentic".

The Goins are the real deal. They love the Lord and His people in practical ways. In recent years, they have followed God's leading to adopt children into their family. They have three children already, but have taken seriously the call of the orphan. They have sacrificed, worked hard and creatively to raise funds for a few years now in order to adopt without debt.

As a family they have been in the Ukraine since early September waiting and bonding with their new son and daughter. Yesterday we received an email from Mark stating that they have just learned that there is 0% chance that the adoption will go through. Mark did not give any details, but only stated it is a matter or pride, personality and prejudice. They will receive some "complimentary" time in front of the judge on Friday. (The Ukraine is seven hours ahead of us).

Won't you pray with me today? Pray that nothing will hinder Friday's court appearance from happening. Pray that God will miraculously turn this judge's heart to grant the Goins' favor. Pray that if this obstacle is bound up in logistics that the details will be worked out before they see the judge. Pray for these children to be adopted into a real family who already love them and who will raise them with the Love of Christ.

According to the powers that be the judgment against them has already been made. We are praying for a miracle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

They crack me up!

What ever will they come up with next?

Betsy recently asked to wear her glasses again stating the problem as she sees it:

"Mom, I know I need glasses now. Whenever I close my one eye then open it and close my other eye, everything moves just a little bit. Just a tiny little bit."

Joseph inquired for no apparent reason:

"Dad, can a person be allergic to money?"

We went to the Henry Ford Museum where the interpreter told us a story about how Ford disliked cleaning the chicken coup so much as a child that he refused to eat chicken for the entirety of his life to which my children responded:

"That doesn't make sense, because if he would eat the chickens then there would be nothing to clean up after!"

Reviewing a sermon we heard on marriage in the van I asked the kids to each tell me one thing they heard or learned.

Joseph: "If you are married than you are perfect."

Me: "Nope, quite the opposite. Try again."

Joseph: "No one or no thing should replace God in your heart."

Those are words to live by.

And finally because we think just about everything is funny- here's a video I found that the kids had taken themselves.

This post can be found at Tiny Talk Tuesday along with lots of other reasons to smile:)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
~Samuel Butler

Michigan, October 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I feel like there's a lot of stuff in my life that just needs to go. It's like I'm constantly stepping over something to get the the thing that I really need. And now that it's getting colder outside this is becoming not only a bit more obvious, but annoying as well. The end result is that I get quickly overwhelmed which leads to unmotivation which then leads to procrastination which results with grumpiness. None of this is a good thing, nor is it helpful to my family.

Some things have got to go. I have neither the time nor the energy to maintain it all. I once read a blog by someone who actually got rid of everything but the bare essentials. Their home consisted of walls, carpet and a few pieces of furniture. They had seven outfits that they rotated every single week. Though, I'm not ready to go to that extreme, it is worth contemplating. It sure would free up some space not only in our home, but in my brain.

We're away for a few days for Fall Break. I hope to arrive home with a plan to start tackling the unnecessaries before they tackle me!

Is it just me or does any one else struggle with this?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Cooks Next Door

I just got home from our church's monthly Mom's Night Out. This normally involves some good food followed by desert and coffee. More than that it's a time to reconnect, laugh, share and be friends. I'm blessed that though our congregation is small by many standards it overflows with authentic relationships.

Want to meet some of my friends? Let me tell you that they are some of the most creative people I know. And when it comes to food, they shine. To bless us all Alaina and Heather have started a new blog. Hope you are able to spend some time at The Cooks Next Door and are as inspired by these women as I am.