January budget challenge

I'd love to say that I will come up with a challenge for each month but I know better than to do that. However, I'm giving myself a challenge for the month of January: to spend 1/2 of my normal food budget for the month. In a normal month, I budget $400 for our family of 4. That includes any and all paper products, hygiene products, groceries, and eating out. My goal for the month of January is to slash that in half.

To be honest, this might not be much of a challenge, per se, given the amount of leftovers and pantry stocks I currently have on hand. It's the tail-end of the holidays and, as usual, I have plenty of extra food. As I type this, I have a 12-pound turkey roasting in my oven (mind you, it's December 27th...) because we wound up not needing it as part of our holiday meals (good thing it was dirt cheap!). I have a large container of leftover ham sitting in my fridge along with a bunch of other assorted holiday leftovers. In addition to using up some of what I have on hand (I'll post a list below...though it won't be comprehensive because I'm not motivated enough to list EVERYTHING I have in my pantry), I am planning to use Money Saving Mom's menu suggestions in her article, "Is It Possible to Survive on a $30 Per Week Grocery Budget?"

My freezer is pretty well stocked at this point:
- 2 gallon-sized bags of homemade minestrone soup
- 5 slabs of ham (from a free Hormel ham I received when I bought the dirt-cheap turkey)
- 1.5 boxes beef taquitoes
- 1 loaf Rhoades bread dough
- ice cream
- bag of bagels
- turkey sausage (about 6 links)
- 4 small tilapia fillets
- 1# beef cubes for stew
- bag chicken nuggets
- 1 package frozen ravioli
- frozen veggies x 4
- 1/3 of a bag of tater tots
- 1/2 of a bag of curly fries
- meat from the turkey in my oven (coming soon!)
- 1 block cream cheese
- 1/2 cup homemade butter (unsalted)
- 4 juice concentrates
- 1 gallon ziploc of frozen strawberries (bought when they were in season and on sale)

The fridge is pretty full as well:
- leftover ham from Christmas
- 7 eggs
- 3 pie crusts
- 2 pumpkin cheesecakes (we never got around to eating them on Christmas!)
- container of cool whip (for the cheesecakes...)
- milk
- yogurts
- fruit
- salad fixings
- sauces and condiments

And the pantry is doing its best to keep up:
- 1 pkg mini raviolis
- 1 box spaghetti
- egg noodles
- assorted other pastas
- bisquick
- rice (probably 4# worth)
- oatmeal
- 3 cans pumpkin
- 1 pkg Shake & Bake
- 1 box stuffing (yep...didn't eat it either)
- 2 cans chili
- taco shells
- 5 spare boxes cereal (yay coupons and sales!)
- 1 box mac & cheese (don't judge)
- canned fruit
- 4 cans black beans (no idea why...think they were on sale)
- snacks
- PB&J
- condiments, sauces, spices, etc.

*** Whoops! I totally forgot to include the contents of the deli drawer. BIG oversight! Add to the list 2 packages of deli meat (ham, turkey), 10 slices American 'square' cheese, 3 blocks of regular cheese (Colby/Jack, Sharp Cheddar, and Mozz), 0.5# bacon). ***

Like I said, we're pretty well stocked. I didn't list the snacky items we have because a.) there aren't many and b.) what we do have tends to go pretty quickly. I do have a good stockpile of baking goods so I'm going to aim to make the majority of our sweet snacks at home this month. But every once in a while, I get a hankerin' for double-stuffed Oreos that cannot be satisfied by anything else. So there's that.

My plan is to sit down in the next day or so and, using the week's ads from the local grocery stores, map out a menu for the upcoming week. I'm thinking that, for the next week at a minimum, all I'm going to need to buy is:

- 1 bag frozen chicken breasts ($7ish)
- milk (we buy raw from a local dairy) ($8)
- fruit (may not even need any...we still have plenty of apples left over) ($5)
- fresh veggies ($10)
- eggs (from the KSU dairy mart - locally raised, cage free, grass fed!) ($3.50)
- maybe a loaf of bread from the bread outlet store ($1.50)

I may also buy a bag of dry beans and an onion to make homemade refried beans for a meal or three.

I'll post my menu for the upcoming week in the next few days and then post what I spend at the grocery store. Whatever money I have left over at the end of the month will go 1/2 into savings and 1/2 toward a credit card bill. This will also help us lighten our load if and when the time comes to move.

I don't do resolutions but this challenge should be fun. Besides rent and our credit card payments, our food budget is our biggest budgetary expense. I'm looking forward to downsizing it a bit! What about you? What challenges are you looking to tackle as we ring in the new year?


- hfs

Christmas recap

Katy over at the Non-Consumer Advocate asks, "What did you give? What did you get?" as part of her Christmas wrap-up. Seemed like a good way to recap things so I'll see if I can line it out here. (I'm sure I've left things off this list. I'm running off the top of my head which is rarely a good idea.)

- bike repair stand - (paid for using an Amazon.com gift card that I earned by cashing in all of our spare change)
- stocking stuffers

The Girl:
- Legos
- assorted art supplies
- watch
- books
- recurve bow
- Christmas eve jammies
- stocking stuffers

The Boy:
- Legos
- Nerf gun (I knew I had forgotten something!)
- books
- watch
- Christmas eve jammies
- stocking stuffers

My mom:
- homemade apple pumpkin butter
- chocolate covered cherries
- gift card
- Camaro/Bumblebee transformer (in all fairness, she bought this from us several months ago and I just now got around to mailing it to her...I'm a slacker...)

- homemade body scrub
- necklace
- hand-blown glass earrings
- handmade coasters
- Christmas ornament from the local archaeological society
- Macy's gift card
- stocking stuffers

- antique corkscrew
- antique transistor radio
- gift card
- stocking stuffers

Local friends:
- homemade gingersnaps
- homemade body scrubs

The bulk of the kids' gifts came from Amazon.com, thanks to the gift cards I had purchased as part of my budget throughout the year as well as the gift cards I've earned through SwagBucks.com. All told, the only thing that went on a credit card was the recurve bow but I had already 'pre-paid' my credit card to accommodate the charge using money I had set aside as part of my Christmas budget earlier in the year.

As for what I received :
- shotgun
- Sur la Table baker
- mosaic plate from Jerusalem
- SBUX gift card (!)
- beaded bracelet (that matches PERFECTLY with a washer necklace my son made for me the week before Christmas...it's like he and my MIL coordinated)
- two Tupperware colanders (there's a story behind those that is forthcoming)
- glass sea star/paperweight
- mason jar with Hawaii beach sand and shells in water
- a delicious pecan pie
- lots of homemade goodies

All in all, it was a great Christmas though it would have been better had the majority of our family not been scattered all over the country and the world. Such is the lament of a military family.We were blessed this Christmas that MacGyver's parents were able to visit and that both my mom and my brother were able to come for visits throughout the year. I am also grateful that we were able to give our children not only what they needed for the holidays but also some of what they wanted while staying UNDER budget and OFF the credit cards.

More importantly, I am grateful that we had room in our budget to be able to bless others this holiday season and I am grateful that my children get more excited about shopping for others - even people they don't know - than they do making up their wish lists. Our church offers several opportunities to share our blessings with others - via an 'angel tree' of sorts (for a local children's foster care program) and gift baskets (literally, laundry baskets that you can take and fill with household items and holiday goodies) for people in the area that need some help. And we were able to set aside some of our budget to drop in the Salvation Army buckets and to tithe a little extra this holiday season. It's great to see my children really take to heart the joys of giving to others over receiving themselves.

Now it's time to start planning for NEXT Christmas! What did *you* get this year?


- hfs


Double standard much?

It's ok to publish the names and ADDRESSES of gun owners but it's unconstitutional to do the same for registered sex offenders? Good grief do we need to get our priorities straight in this country.


- hfs


Newtown, Connecticut

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." 
-- Mister Rogers

As a good friend of mine pointed out (though I'm switching this around a bit), as surely as monsters walk among us, so do heroes.

My heart is broken for these families, for Connecticut, and for us all.


- hfs


Sometimes it sucks to be right

Big lies and small lies...but they all prove that my gut instinct was correct.

Obama, Clinton, their foreign policy advisors and the people involved in this agenda intend to start a war that will make Afghanistan and Iraq look like a small police action by comparison. They are going to start a war that will likely grow from a regional war to a global war, or WW III.  Afghanistan ‘imploded’ when attacked, as did Iraq. Syria will not, it will explode. Do the American people understand this?
Until now, everyone has been focused on the ‘little lies.’ The security, the misidentification of the CIA compound, the timeline, and on and on. They want us to focus on the little lies so they can pull off the BIG LIE. The big lie being told is that the U.S. is merely providing minimal support, including humanitarian aid to the Syrians so they can defend themselves from Assad. That’s the big lie that covers up what they are really doing in the region.

Tie it to this news blip and you'll see that it's already headed that direction.

President Barack Obama, in a speech at the National Defense University on Monday, pointedly warned Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use his arsenal.
"Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching," Obama said. "The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable."

I hate it when I'm right. Yet another upside to MacGyver getting out of the Army...


- hfs


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...