Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 2015 Goals Update

I just realized that I didn't post an update for November which is indicative of how busy that time was!

What have we been doing? Hauling lots and lots of things to the thrift store. Paige has been really cracking down on her room. Dane has been working on his room. I have just been going and going on the rest of the house!

These goals have changed and evolved over the year. They will really change in the next few months, but I really hope to accomplish most of them in the next year. My priorities have just changed to cleaning the house of clutter. That needed to happen first. 

The second is that we are looking at some big life changes in the next couple months. I don't know if they will happen, but I am really hoping they do. I don't want to talk about them now, but I will when the time is right. 

My Goals For 2015

1. Clean, de-clutter, paint, re-carpet, fix ceiling,  and organize Paige's room. This room is an unorganized disaster that needs some serious help. Plus she is at that age where she is growing out of everything: clothes, toys, books, etc.

This will happen. We decided that everything needs to be gone through in Paige's room. We have gotten rid of almost half of her clothes, a good deal of just trash, and several things she has grown out of. She is still going through everything, but we have moved more into the organizing end of things.

2. Clean, organize, paint, and re-carpet the office. This is where I work at home (most of the time). It doesn't work for me. It doesn't really work for anyone.

Next year. I have a load of things in there that I just need to get listed on Ebay and sell. I have been listing more and more, but some of this takes time and research. 

3. Purchase a hand gun and learn to use it well.  Next year.

4. To blog much more consistently and to learn to use social media to my advantage. To me consistently is at least 3-5 times a week. That doesn't happen right now.

I am not blogging at least three times a week due to my other activities right now, but I have been focusing a lot more on social media with great results. I have been also studying ways to become a better blogger and have been implementing those tools. 

5. To make a homemade gift for each birthday. I have lots of ideas that I am not using right now so this should be easy to do.

Next year if I don't get something done in time for Christmas. 

6. Add 1-2 beehives to the homestead. I would love, love, love to produce our own honey.

Next year, maybe. 

7. Lose 20 pounds over the year. Unbelievably, I love 20 pounds last year and would love to lose 20 more this year.

I have lost ten pounds! Yeah! We are switching to a low carb diet for Rob's diabetes and because diabetes runs in my mom's side of the family. Maybe I will lose 20 more pounds!

8. Finish six unfinished projects. I will introduce you all to my needlework pile in the future. You might not be laughing after you see it.

The clothes dryer is fixed! Is that an unfinished project? 

9. Live as frugally as possible by making more my own things and using what I have first before buying more. This really needs to happen this year and working up a realistic budget will be the first step.

I have been really working on this with the Once A Month Shopping Challenge! This has been a blessing to me, but I am trying to become even more frugal. Small changes add up to big ones like making sure lights are shut off, chargers are unplugged, doors stay shut to keep the warm air in, and picking up any change I see on the ground!

10. Write a book or an e-book. Because I have always wanted to.

I started two books, but have not had a lot of time to get back to them. I hope to during the winter when I am more willing to sit on the computer. 

11. Go to a self-reliance/preparedness expo and/or Mother Earth News Fair. I have never been to one and always say I want to go one and never do. This year is the year for this! Next year. 

12. Get a new-to-me double recliner and love seat for the living room. The ones I have have been blessing my home for at least 16-19 years and they blessed some one else's home before that. The kids have made sure they are worn out and broken down. I have fixed over and over again. Enough. Time for new to me stuff!

I have not found anything I like or will match yet. I am not trying to be fussy, but I am not into floral furniture in any way, shape, or form!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

10 Money Saving Tips for a Frugal Holidays!

Christmas time can just be a crazy time! So many people you want to give gifts to, so many things your kids want, and only so much money to spend in your wallet! What is a person suppose to do?

I am here to help you! I use these tips to help me save money at Christmas and still feel good about the holidays. These tips can help you too!

1. Set a budget! I set a budget for each kid of $75 each and try extremely hard to be under that. I don't have a budget for stockings, but I try to find item cheaply and that will take up some room!

2. Make some of the gifts yourself. Beware: some gifts cost more to make than to just buy. Be a thrifty present maker! Make sure it is a labor of love and not on your wallet.

3. Decide carefully who you are buying gifts for and who you are not. Despite the generosity of the season, not everyone needs a gift. A card stating your appreciation for all they do can be enough. A small plate of cookies are fine too. However, teachers can only get so many cups and plaques before they don't have room for them anymore!

4. After you decide who needs gifts, decide what. Be specific. Make a list. Your child's teacher does not need an elaborate gift. Be reasonable. Most teachers would appreciate a handmade card from your child stating their appreciation of their teacher.

5. Offer your services instead of a gift. Offer a night of free babysitting. Offer free snow shoveling. Offer to make them a meal when you know they will have a crazy busy night. Offer free baking lessons to a younger child or a teen. These gifts are very appreciated and will more than likely be used quickly!

6. Shop the clearance items year round. Stores are trying to get rid of toys in anticipation of the holiday seasons throughout the year. You can snag some great deals that way. Even during the Christmas season, I find a lot of presents from the clearance shelves.

7. Shop Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I can't stand the craziness of Black Friday, but the deals are awesome on a lot of things. They are just as good on Cyber Monday when a computer and a cup of tea are all you need. Just don't spend more than you need to!

8. Used can be as good as new. My kids have gotten a lot of used things as gifts. Heck, I am not sure some of the things they got were ever used, but I found them at thrift shops and garage sales. I buy a lot of the books I give them used for very little money. When I score like that, I can't get much happier!

9. Think practical on Christmas stockings. I have two broke college students now who appreciate the practical things like lip balm, pocket tissues, fingernail clippers, razors, tweezers, pens, ponytail holders, bobby pins, hair bands, and so on. I put a few fun things in the stockings too, but the kids always appreciate the practical things too. I usually get a "Oh cool, I needed some of these!".

10. Limit the gifts! I give my kids four gifts each and a full stocking. I also buy 2-3 movies as a family gifts. I keep the gift count down to four to make reasonable, practical, and not to set unrealistic expectations for my kids. I don't worry about how much I spend on each kid because I have a budget (see #1) and I stick to it.

How do you make your holidays a frugal affair?

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

22 Ways You Can Live A More Sustainable Life

One of the ways we have tried to be more self-sufficient to live a more self-sustainable life. We try to produce our own food, raise chickens, recycle, reuse what we can, and generally live life without being consumer-driven. It is not an easy life to live all the time, but the pay off is great!

One of the things I hate is how much trash we throw away. I know we throw away less trash than most households, but all the same we throw away things we shouldn't. Being sustainable is not just about how much trash we throw away, but how much we waste in general. 

Being sustainable also means making more of where you live and being more self-supporting in terms of the environment. While I support efforts to keep our environment from being wiped out, I know where a large portion of the efforts need to be concentrated. We need to focus on what we use and what we throw away. 

Being self-sustaining for me also goes hand in hand with being a homesteader and a prepper. Learning to use what I have on hand and being content with what I have will go a long ways towards surviving and thriving. 

In a natural disaster or SHTF event, being self-sustaining may be what saves you. If you are cut off from other people, but have the means to provide for yourself and to be able to use what you already have to make due, you definitely live longer.

How can you live a more sustainable life? 

1. Save water. I have well water and still try to save water. I dump the dehumidifier water in the washer or use it to water plants. I use the water not drank in bottles for my plants inside and outside.

2. Have plants indoors. Grow some herbs. Grow your own loose leaf lettuce in pots. Grow a little bit of food inside. Plants also help clean the air and give a great scent to your home. Plus, you will have some really great tasting food with those herbs. You will also have home remedies on hand with just the plants.

3. Have a garden to feed yourself. You might not be able to grow all the food you need in a year, but you can grow a lot of food to help feed you and your family in the spring, summer, and fall. There are many methods to growing a garden. Find one that suits you. 

4. Save paper. I like to have things printed out, but I use a lot of paper for lists and whatnot. I use my phone more for to-do lists. I reuse the backs of paper in the printer. I tear up paper for scratch paper. Read newspapers and magazines online. 

5. Use bio-degradable products. Products that break down easily in the environment or landfills is far better to use. Look for products that are packaged in glass or paper and say they are bio-degradable.

6. Reuse everything you can. Many, many things have a second or third use in them. Many things can be reused for other things like glass jars as containers for bulk items.

7. Use rags instead of paper towels. Use cloth napkins or washcloths for napkins. Using these and washing them saves you in the pocketbook and produces less trash.

8. Combine errands and drive less. Have one errand day to run errands. Carpool with others. Walk instead of driving everywhere if possible.

9. Recycle whatever you can. Recycling helps reduce the waste in the world and creates more things which takes less from our natural resources. Everyone should be recycling. No excuses.

10. Compost. Return those materials back the earth in which they came from. We try to compost everything from tea bags, bananas, and cooked vegetable scraps to dead leaves and used bedding. Doing something so simple will yield you much richer soil.

11. Do not waste food. Do not throw it away. Eat leftovers. Freeze scraps and leftovers. Feed it to the chickens, cats, and/or dogs. Compost it. Just don't waste it! 

12. Get your food from local sources. Buy from the local farmer. Subscribe to a CSA. Shop your local farmer's market. Buy meat from your local butcher shop. 

13. Share your things. If you have something that your friend, family, or neighbor needs to use, share it. Offer to till gardens for others. Share your mower. 

14. Stop being a consumer. Break the cycle of buy, buy, buy. We often have so many things and think we need more. We don't need much to live, but we are in a consuming society. We need to stop and use what we have. 

15. Stop using disposable goods. Stop with the one-use goods. Use cloth diapers if feasible. Use rags instead of paper goods. Stop using Styrofoam. 

16. Use a bicycle or walk to get where you need to go. I realize living in a rural area that this might not work. A lot of times I will park the car when I get to a town and walk to where I need to go. We all need the exercise. 

17. Buy used. If possible, buy used before buying new. Buy clothes from the thrift shop. Used goods stores have so many things that are in such good condition. I always look there first. Buy used vehicles that are reliable and can be driven for years. 

18. Use the library. Great selection of books. You can often inter-library loan books from other libraries if your library doesn't have it. You can use computers there if you need to. You can check out movies for little to nothing for cost. 

19. Preserve your own food. Can, freeze, ferment, and dehydrate your own food. There are so many recipes out there to preserve your food and rely on the grocery store less. 

20. Become a zero waste household. Commit to reusing and recycling anything and everything. Bring your own containers for bulk goods. Recycle as much as possible. 

21. Be frugal. Pay cash. Don't spend money unless you have to. Stay home and have fun there instead of going out all the time. Buy used. Borrow what you need from your neighbors or family. Make your own food instead of getting carry out. 

22. Fix your things. If something breaks, try to fix it. With so many online tutorials, YouTube videos, and great reference books, you can fix almost everything yourself. Invest in a good tool kit and you will be set!

What would you add to this list to be more self-sustaining?

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month 2 and November's Meal Plans

Here we are, Month 2 of the Once A Month Shopping Challenge!

I tried to be a little more prepared for this month. I have officially made my three planned stops as of yesterday. The first stop was to K-Mart to get:

2 bags of dog food
2 bags of cat food (grain-free for the cat with a sensitive stomach)
1 bag of cat litter
1 bottle of shampoo (for me)
1 bottle of shampoo/conditioner (for Dane)
2 bottles of conditioner (1 for me, 1 for Paige)
2 bottles of Vitamin C gummies (buy 1, get 1 free)

I cannot find the receipt right now, but I know I spent $76 with taxes and we saved $25 with coupons and discounts. Some things like cat litter have gone up a bit and that surprised me. 

The second stop was to Menards. I have this receipt! At Menards, I bought:

1 Plastic Window Kit to cover my inside windows
1 Plastic Door Kit to cover my back door until I get a new storm door
1 Garden Hand Shovel to replace the one the dog chewed up
2 different size drill bits because the ones I had were dull
1 set of sticky mouse traps
1 bag of Fast Set Repair Mortar for the basement drain. We have caught snakes coming up through the sides of it where the cement has crumbled. 

I had a Menards rebate check for $10. My total after that was $19. Not too bad! I also got another rebate to mail in when I bought the window kit. 

The third stop was to Fareway. This trip was for groceries and this one hurt! I won't list everything because this was a big grocery shopping trip that included Thanksgiving. I am hosting it this year!

The highlights and deals:
Frozen vegetables for $.77 (I bought 6 bags)
Shredded cheese - 8 oz. packages for $.99 each (limit 3)
Pork Sausage for $1.99 a pound (I got 3 - 1 lb. packages)
10 pound roll of 85% ground beef on sale for $2.99 a pound (I got one roll)
Store pasta on sale for 10/$10.00
A lot of produce 

I spent $174.00. I am still in shock, but I am trying to step back and realize if this is for the whole month, that is not bad at all. I shopped a lot of deals and saved quite a bit that way. I did have to buy meat which always kills me. I bought two roasts in addition to the meat listed which were $18 total. That is just expensive, but both roasts will provide two meals and 2-3 days of leftovers afterwards. That is not bad.

I already have the turkey and ham in my freezer for Thanksgiving. I bought potatoes, stuffing, apple cider, cranberries, and fried onions for the green bean casserole. I have a lot of food in my pantry already for side dishes. Plus our holiday meals are potluck so many other people will be bringing more food. 

The November Meal Plan is going to look similar to October's meal plans. I will be incorporating more slow cooker meals that are low carb for me. The kids will probably have rice with them, but I need to be more diligent about sticking to eating better. I have my freezer meals for the slow cooker and we are also trying Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef and Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja. I can't wait to try them!

November Meal Plan
Chili (slow cooker)
Beef Stew (slow cooker)
Mongolian Beef (slow cooker)
Ropa Vieja (slow cooker)
Chicken Noodle Soup
Cavatini (for sports banquet)
Pork Chops and Roasted Vegetables
Homemade Pizza
Tacos (2 times)
Baked Rigatoni
Taco Chili Mac
Turkey Pot Pie
Slow Cooker Roast Chicken and vegetables
Chicken Loaf, rice, and vegetables
2-3 Freezer Meals
Thanksgiving Leftovers
Leftovers from slow cooker meals

I realize the leftovers are a tentative thing. I usually make a lot when I make slow cooker meals so we have plenty of leftovers. However, I am living with the joy of a growing boy. If he is hungry and even remotely likes the meal, he can eat a lot! Holy moly! Paige can also eat a lot too which makes for an interesting meal time some nights. 

As always, I make my own bread and snacks for myself and the kids. We have chickens that produce eggs which is my breakfast almost every morning. This month, I am going to try to make my own tortillas (those are more expensive than ever!). 

How is your shopping challenge going? What are you planning for meals for November?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 2, 2015

I Have A Gun! I Don't Need Anything Else!

Have you heard this phrase?

"I have a gun! I don't need anything else!"

For someone who believes in being a well-rounded prepper, this phrase really grates on me. 

Am I anti-gun? Heck no! I believe in having guns for self-defense and hunting. I believe they are a great tool to have when the situation calls for their necessity.

For those people who think having a gun is all they need to survive a SHTF situtaion, well...they aren't thinking clearly. People who think that all they need is a gun is under one of these impressions:

1. I can just go hunt whatever food my family needs to eat. 

      That is just not going to work. Animals to hunt will be depleted very quickly in a SHTF situation if there are even any animals around to hunt. They can be killed in the right SHTF situation too. 

      These people won't be the only ones hunting for food in the wild. Their family will also need more than just protein to survive and thrive. While hunting is a good idea, it should not be the only means a person has to survive.

2. I will just use my gun to take whatever food I need from other people.

      That will not work either for long or if ever. Most people with food storage also have guns and are very willing to defend their food storage. Even if they don't have guns, they will still defend their food storage any way they can. Never ever underestimate what other people will do to defend themselves and what they have. Besides that, the food will probably run out very quickly for the person stealing the food. Not a good plan.

3. I will use my gun to rob stores and take what they have.

      Good luck with that. Other desperate people are already on that idea. In a SHTF situation, stores will be robbed and looted very quickly. Most stores will only have a three day supply of goods on hand. They will be cleaned out very quickly. What happens to these people when the stores are cleaned out? Where are they going to get food from next?

For those who think that by having a gun, they don't really need anything else if a SHTF situation happens, need to really readjust their arrogant thinking. Many people will or do have the same attitude unfortunately. Just as I pointed out in the scenarios above, guns will not get them far in any circumstance. They might allow them to live for a few days longer, but someone else will have the same idea as them or will be defending against people like them. 

Most preppers have already figured out what to do about people like them and have planned accordingly. A lot of preppers have formed groups and will have a plan to take care of marauders before they even get close to the food storage. Not every plan is perfect, but defending the food supply will be a top priority.

The only worry most preppers have is if the marauders become a horde. A horde is not well organized and can be defended against, but enough people grouped together can be trouble. However, this scenario is not very likely. I am not saying it couldn't happen, just not likely that it would happen. 

The other problem with just using guns to survive? Eventually they will run out of ammo. I know most gun people have lots of ammo and probably reloading equipment. In a SHTF situation, they might get to far from home to get to the ammo, use up their ammo, or run out of reloading supplies. Then what?

Like I said before, guns are a great tool. They have a purpose and should be used accordingly. Guns, however, do not replace the need for:

  • food storage
  • gardening
  • livestock
  • foraging 
  • gleaning

Being a well-rounded prepper is what is going to save someone from starving or forced into a position of stealing and possibly murdering others just to eat. I am not saying that it couldn't happen, but the probability of losing your food storage is less risky than relying on just guns to survive. 

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month One Update

My first month's Once A Month Shopping Challenge will be done in just a few days. I will probably go grocery shopping a few days early due to how my budget works and when I get paid. However, I wanted to give you an update so you can see how it is going so far. 

The successes:

I feel like I have been freed from shopping. Really! We have found so many creative solutions to problems like Paige's Halloween costume. The kids have been on board with this challenge and they like it so far. They even went grocery shopping with me for the month. They thought about things I had forgotten to write down and what I had not fully planned out (cold lunches).

For the first three weeks, this challenge went smashingly. We are naturally frugal as a family so this challenge didn't hit us too bad. We had a lot in food storage and full freezers which helped greatly. We made a good dent in the upstairs freezer and hope to get more done there in the next month. 

We made bread like usual, brownies, molasses cookies, and energy balls for snacking on and to add to cold lunches. 

Like I thought in the original challenge, we did not need to purchase any personal items like shampoo, conditioner, and whatnot. I know we will need to this next month, but I need to take inventory today.

I actually don't like shopping so this was a win for me. I just need to plan a little better!

The failures:

This last week was the failure. Rob came down for the weekend, Paige had a sleepover, and Halloween happened in one weekend. I went to the grocery store and Kmart twice each! 

The truth of this was I didn't have these things on my radar when the month started. I also believe in having things that the guests would like on hand. Rob is not exactly a guest, but his morning beverage of choice is Diet Coke and I got him some. We got some ice cream that Paige could have for her sleepover. Dane conned me into buying more Go-Gurt that was on a really good sale because 11 year olds are good at spotting those things. We also got pumpkins for carving and garlic bread for lunch. 

Kmart runs involved a new phone charger, face paint for a Halloween costume, a tiara for Paige's costume, make-up remover wipes, pots for replanting herbs, and more potting soil. 

I was bummed that I had to place an order on Amazon today. However, we need fish filters and weekend feeders for the goldfish and I got some more gifts for the holidays so the hit on my budget will not be so bad by Christmas. The fish filters are $16.00 cheaper on Amazon then buying at our local store. I also got an eight pack of stainless steel earrings ($8.00) since I have really sensitive ears. The only jewerly I were is earrings so this is important to me. Some of the sizes are not ones I would wear, but I will turn those into stocking stuffers. 

And then there is the matter of the Halloween costume. I bought one off of Ebay for cheaper than I could find it otherwise. Dane insisted on being the Joker and we had nothing we could make work for that. Grrr...but he was a good Joker!

However, it will only be one order for Amazon and one order for Ebay. Nothing else left to buy for this month. I hope. 

What I had already planned on:

I did stop at Walmart one weekend and pick up dog food. I had that already figured in for a shopping trip, but I am already thinking I should have bought a bigger bag. I ordered chicken feed through my work and that should last us two months by my last calculations.

What I forgot about:

My Amazon Subscribe and Save order. I won't actually receive it until the new month starts, but I am not sure where that falls into this challenge. I use this to get things I use a lot cheaper. This month's order included protein powder, cod liver oil soft-gels, vitamin D gummies, green tea, ground cinnamon, dog treats, and face wash

Coming up for next month:

We will need cat food and dog food next month. I also need to pick up a bag of cat litter since our current bag will probably not last another month. I will probably pick up a chicken feed block too to help combat boredom and fighting in the chicken coop.

I am still planning my grocery list. I have kept a careful list of what we ran out of so I would remember to get those things again. I am not sure where we are having Thanksgiving yet, but I have two whole turkey breasts and two hams in my freezer that can be used if at my house. No matter where we have Thanksgiving, it will be a potluck affair so I just need to have the basics. I have plenty of things on hand for desserts. 

I will probably do some more Christmas shopping during the month so I am not doing it all in December. I will have to also do some birthday shopping for Paige since her birthday also falls in December. 

How are you doing in your challenge?

Thanks for reading,

Shared on the From The Farm Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How I Get Things Done: Doing 5 Things In One Area

I am often asked how I get things done. I know I am a single mother with busy kids so that means I have to get things done. Of course, I enlist my kids into helping because, most of the time, it is their mess. At the end of the day, though, most of the work falls on me to keep the house running smoothly and to get things done.

I often don't feel like doing anything. Morning is my best time to get things done because I am tired at night after being at work most of the day. When I get home, I don't want to do anything including cooking. I often have prepping and homesteading tasks to accomplish. I have blogging to do. I have an Ebay store that needs daily attention. 

I have things to do! 

Crazy, right?

This is how I get things done: I choose an area and get five things done in that area. 

I will grab a piece of scratch paper or use my Any.DO app on my phone and make a list of five things I want to get done. I often will have a list for the morning and one for the evening. My morning list will usually have errands I need to run in town. I also focus attention on and have a list of five things to do in my Ebay store and for my blogging activities in the mornings. 

My evening list is usually more specific to an area at home that needs attention. I do most of my homesteading tasks in the evenings. Most of my prepping activities will be in the evenings. Most of my major housework will be in the evenings. Altogether it is really overwhelming, but by breaking down the tasks and focusing on one area, I can get more done.

I like to have my list written down or noted on the Any.Do app so I can keep on task. I am way too easily distracted and will lose focus easily. I need to see the list in print to keep on task!

For an in-house example of what I would do: If I am in the living room, I will put five things away. Usually that alone makes a huge difference! I will fold the blankets and put them away, put the throw pillows back on the furniture, make the kids pick up the toys, put away read books and magazines, and put the dirty dishes in the kitchen. The living room is instantly looking better and I feel accomplished.

For a more specific example, this was yesterday's list:
Buy garlic to plant in the garden
Plant garlic in the garden
Stake the area planted and put twine around the stakes for a barrier
Buy pots for the herbs
Repot the outdoor herbs and bring them inside for the winter.

I also pulled up the tomatoes plants while I was out there waiting for the kids to find the twine and stakes. I should have been more efficient and brought them out with me! But that is life sometimes!

That list was all about gardening and I felt great getting that all done! Especially with colder weather coming this week!

When I make a list of five, I am doing it to keep the list and my life simple. I don't feel overwhelmed. I am doing what I can in this area at that moment. I still make supper, do dishes, and do laundry, but I am getting more done than the basics.

The side benefit of doing five things is that I can stop there and feel great about what I have done. Usually though, when I start doing those five things, I start doing more during or after those five things are done. Case in point: pulling up the tomato plants while I was waiting for the kids. 

Depending on where you are at in life, your list might be different. I remember my kids being little and thinking that having five toys picked up was a great achievement! The joy of the list of five is that you can make suit your life and where you are at in life. 

How do you get it all done? Do you use this method too?

Thanks for reading,


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