Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My $2 Bathroom Counter Organization

My house has two bathrooms, one in the hallway, and one in the master bedroom.   The one in the master bedroom is very tiny.  There is almost no counterspace left around the sink.  A few of our grooming tasks to get done in there, such as my husband's shaving so that the razor is not within the reach of little people, but for the most part, we all take care of our daily brushing and deodorizing and whatnot in the hall bathroom.

That means that a lot of things belonging to a lot of people get left in that bathroom.  That has usually meant a very messy countertop.  And try as I might to keep things neatly lined up and wiped down, it never lasted very long.

I'm going to share a very old picture with you (I had to search WAY back because there just aren't many dirty bathroom pictures taken, and I had not thought to snap one before I started), but in the years since not much has changed, sadly.   The child in this picture is now in 1st grade, but I've since had another one of these running about, and I've had the same scenario play out, so yeah...

What a messy sink!  (Cute kid though!  She had asked for privacy to go potty!  Ha!)  I was sick of it!  And my youngest is now old enough to know to put things where they go, so a couple weeks ago when I was cleaning this bathroom, I was brutal.   I was throwing away toiletries we were never going to use, some of which had even expired.  I decided only the necessities would stay.    But that was still looking pretty messy to me.

Then I had an idea that prompted a trip to the .99CentsOnly store.  I came back with baskets.  I was expecting to pay $1 each for them, but I actually found 3 packs for $1, so I paid $2 for 6 baskets.

Now we each have a basket on the counter.  We all know which basket belongs to us and we keep our stuff in our own basket.   We each have our own toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush (we can never find those in the mornings, and in cleaning I found enough to put one in each basket with leftovers!  Where have they all been hiding??)  We've got the shared handsoaps and mouthwash, but other than that everything is in the baskets.

It is still taking some training and practice on all of our parts.   The girls will bring a brush in the front to get me to help brush int he morning and we will leave it there.  They will leave their toothbrushes and toothpastes lying on the counter at times, but at least now when I ask them to put them away, "away" doesn't mean tossed on the counter at random.   Slowly, we are all getting there!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It Never Hurts To Ask! (Saved 100% At CVS)

I had taken a long break from CVS shopping.   All of my ECBs had expired, and I wasn't really looking forward to paying the OOP expenses to get myself started again with some fresh ECBs.  Then I happened to notice that I had enough MyPoints to request a $10 CVS gift card.   While I was waiting for it to arrive, I stopped by CVS one day to browse for something they did not have, but I scanned my card, and out popped $6 in ECBs.   I guess having to get 6 prescriptions filled when I had bronchitis after Thanksgiving during the double ECB event ended up having an advantage!

So yesterday when my gift card came in the mail, I was excited.   I was almost out of shampoo for my kids, and I wanted to stock up using the Suave deal.

I went to the store and picked up 6 bottles of the 2-in-1, which is all they had left, but it is the kind we like because we have bad tangles around here.   I had two $0.50/2 from Sunday that I used, so my total came out to $11 plus tax, and I used my $6 ECB.  I was left owing $5 plus tax, and would get back $4 in ECB.   Not a bad deal.

I still had my expired ECBs in my coupon folder with me though, and I had heard that some stores accepted expired ECBs so I thought I would just ask.  The worst that could happen would be they would say no.   And they did say no to two that had expired in October, but I had another $6 one that expired mid December that she said was new enough to use, so she put it in and it zero'd out my balance.   I walked away with 6 FREE bottles of shampoo and $4 in ECBs for next time, and haven't even touched my $10 gift card yet!  =)


Monday, January 28, 2013

What 15 Minutes Can Do! + My 7 Decluttering Tasks

When I shared last week's task list with you, I told you that I planned to spend some time decluttering my oldest child's room near the end of the week.  It was pretty messy to begin with, but little did I know that my youngest, being ever the little munchkin, was going to sneak in there while her sister was at school and wreak ungodly amounts of havoc towards the beginning of the week.

When it happened, I thought it unfair to make my oldest clean it up, and felt it too overwhelming a task for my little one to handle alone, and since it was already slated on the docket for Friday-Sunday, I simply ignored the mess for a few days.  But the mess continued to grow.

Come Friday morning, this is what was staring back at me from that room:

Yes, I know.  I cringed, too!

I did the best thing I knew to do...I put it off and went grocery shopping (which I had also been putting off until payday, so in my defense that was a necessary task as well!)  But alas, no little fairies had come to my aid while we were out and about, so once I had fed us lunch and put the little one down for her nap, I got to work.

I worked absolutely as fast as I could.  My goal for that day was simply to clear some space that I could work with.

Here is what I was able to accomplish in just 15 minutes:
My poor little weenie dog doesn't even recognize the place!
I was pretty pleased with the progress I had made that first day.  The next day I did more of the same, I finished cleaning up everything that was on the floor.

It doesn't look like I got quite as much accomplished this day, but I had the girls pull everything out from under the bed and I also cleaned underneath the table on the left that you can't see behind the door.   I also did not miss the opportunity to vacuum!

I still had the far right corner that is not visible on either of these shots to tackle.   In that corner are the closet and bookshelf, both of which had their contents spewed about.

This is what I tackled on Sunday.  Now I will admit that when my 15 minute timer went off, i had stacks of books everywhere, so I set it again and did another 15 minutes this afternoon just to not be leaving a mess in her room because I knew my stacks would not get left alone!

So after 30 minutes today, here is what I'm left with:
Why yes, that is a Barbie car bookend!

It's looking pretty good in here after only 1 hour total spent cleaning over 3 days, but I'm still not done yet because...well, when I cleared the floor....this is what I did:

So here is my plan for the week:

Monday:  Quick clean the floor in the younger one's room  (yep...they moved their mess making in there, and it just needs to be dealt with, plus she decided she wanted to sleep on the floor so its all mixed in with her bedding!)

Tuesday-Thursday:   Work in the older one's room

Friday-Sunday:  Work in the younger one's room and begin relocating some games/puzzles/books.

We have cleared all the toys out and rearranged the living room, and so I want to move some of the family games into some living room shelving.  My youngest's room was a former office, so it has lots of shelving on the high wall that we've utilized for games and puzzles, but we've often wanted them while she was napping and weren't able to go in and get them, so now that we've made some room in the front I'll be moving them in there, and putting some books for her on those shelves.

I need to make room some some more books we were recently given on the older one's shelf  (they are currently in a box in the garage), so I'll be doing a lot of relocating of things at the end of the week.

What will you be working on this week?


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Menu Plan Week 4

I am still working on my 2 month challenge of not buying any meat.  I am going into week 4 of that, and I still have PLENTY meat on hand to cook and/or cooked meat to use, and it seems like every week I put more meals back into my freezer than I take out!

After making, and consuming, this past week's menu, I returned to my freezer a large bag of frozen green beans, a large bag of cooked and shredded chicken, and 4 larges tubs of italian sausage soup.  Also, the small roast that I worried may not be enough for the one meal of leftovers I had planned, actually fed us leftovers last night AND lunch today as well.

This week I've picked up a few more tutoring hours, and the vegetables in our bountiful basket this week were more of the seasoning and flavor additive variety than the type to actually plan a meal around, so I'm keeping it pretty simple this week, and I will likely just dice and freeze these for later use.

Here's what we got in our produce basket this week.  I love it!

Here's the plan:

Monday:  Pork chops (cooked and in the freezer) with mashed potatoes (I had a 5lb bag already in my pantry, so I've got lots of potatoes to use up.  Making a big batch of these.  They freeze well!) and a vegetable.

Tuesday:  I'm tutoring---Vegetable Beef Soup (from the freezer)

Wednesday:  Shepherd's Pie using the mashed potatoes I made on Monday and some cooked ground beef I have in the freezer.   Will make one to freeze and one to eat.

Thursday:  I'm tutoring--Gumbo from the freezer

Friday:   Beef stew in the crock pot using some beef shank I have in the freezer, the very last of the carrots I have on hand, and some of the potatoes I have.

Saturday:  Leftovers

Sunday:   Awana night--Pancakes

What's on your menu this week?


Friday, January 25, 2013

Lots Of Shopping!

I hit up three different stores today.   I went to Target to take advantage of a pet food deal, stopped by a different Aldi than I normally go to, and then Albertsons on the way home to take advantage of their Buy 6 Save $3 deal.

Here's what I picked up.

At Target:

I had a Target store coupon for $5 off your choice of 2 of 4 Purina items.  Large bags of dry food were on the list.  I also had a $1 off each of them to stack, so I saved $7 total and paid around $15 for both bags and those will easily last the entire month.  

The Activia was 3 for $5 ($1.67, so I used a $1 off).  I used a $1 off the yeast from my latest All You (its a good $3 cheaper there than grocery stores!) and then I picked up the tea on clearance for $1.18, using my $0.75 off coupons, and then a learning tool for the little one from the dollar bin.

Total spent:  $22.08

At Aldi, I didn't grab a picture.  It was normal everyday stuff...milk, TP, butter, etc.  Spent $19.79.

At Albertson's I got Capri Suns and Peanut Butter!

  I had to buy in groups of 6, and I had 2 B3G1 FREE Capri Sun ($1.49 each wyb6), so I needed 4 more items to make 2 sets.  The Planters peanut butter was on sale for $1.69 wyb6 (pb is $2.29 at Aldi).  I had only 1 $1/2 coupon, but I didn't mind because it was still a good price, and we were nearly out!  All the creamy were gone on the shelf, and I *almost* got 4 crunchy, but then i noticed up top, the natural creamy was included in the sale.  The jar was a teeny bit smaller, but to me losing 1.3oz was worth getting rid of some additives and a ton of sodium, and maybe even more importantly, not having to hear my eldest (who would gladly sit and eat an entire jar of peanuts!) whine about how she doesn't like crunchy.   Children are such enigmas.

I spent $14.44 total at Albertsons, so that puts my total for the day at right around $54.

How did your shopping go this week?


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How To Freeze Vegetables So They Don't Stick Together

It never have frozen some excess produce to prevent it from going to waste.  You tossed it all into a big freezer bag and shoved it in the freezer.   Then, you need just a little bit of it for a recipe, only to find a huge icy clump!  *Commence dropping said bag on kitchen floor to break up clump and retrieve correct amount of veggie*

Happened to me ALL THE TIME!  Then my husband had this bright idea and we decided to try it and it worked like a charm.

Here's what we did  (I'm show you using the fresh green beans I prepared and froze today):

First, prepare your vegetable the way it will be eaten.  In this case it meant snapping off the ends and snapping into smaller pieces.

Rinsing in my sink.

The snapped pieces went straight into a pot.

Once that is done, I filled the pot with water and boiled them on the stove top for about 10 minutes.   Not long enough to get them soft, but just long enough to begin the cooking process, so it doesn't take quite as long when you prepare them to eat.   This is what is done to the ones you buy frozen at the store.

Once they have cooked a bit (but not fully), drain them, and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and put them straight into the freezer.   In the vegetable factories, the machines pay them out flat on a conveyor belt, and send them through a section that flash freezer them in this manner.

Once they are frozen, simply toss them all into a freezer bag.  Now you can easily grab as many or as few or your vegetable as you need.  Make sure you put them back into the freezer right away before they begin to melt, or they will refreeze together and get stuck.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Week 1 Update + My 7 Decluttering Tasks For The Week

Last week I shared my plan to spend just 15 minutes each day decluttering my home  (giveaway winners have just been contacted, so check your email!)

I told about how I would be looking around my house each weekend and coming up with a list of 7 tasks to tackle that week, one for each day.

Last week my tasks were:

Top of Hutch/Fridge/Microwave
Tea/Coffee/Candy Cabinet & Utensils
Cups & Glasses
Under Kitchen Sink (Also had time for pots and lids, hutch drawer (will cooking utensils) and dishtowels)
Hall Bathroom
Hall Bathroom Again
Master Bathroom

I followed my list to the letter, continuing on to another kitchen area if I still had time left on my timer, and I got a lot more done than I expected to!  There are a few kitchen tasks that I need to tackle (like that pesky tupperware cabinet!) but I decided to go ahead and move on, and start a list of those for later.

When I got to Friday, I did not get to start on the bathroom.  Instead, I did a fast search and tidy all around the living room because we had misplaced a DVD from the library.  Not it the plan, but it was a necessary change, and we finally did locate it.

I spent the weekend days working in the hall bathroom, and will even need a third day at the very least to complete that one, so I haven't gotten to the master bathroom yet.  I am rescheduling those for this week.

Here are the things I plan to tackle this week:

Monday:  Day 3 in Hall Bathroom  (If anything remains to be done, I will list it out and move on)
Tuesday:  Master Bathroom
Wednesday:  Master Bathroom Day 2 (I think I'll likely need two after having worked in the hall bathroom)
Thursday: Linen Closet (towels and sheets)
Friday-Sunday:  Spending Time in Oldest Daughter's Room

In the bathrooms, I am going through everything under the cabinets and in the medicine cabinets, clearing tossing, straightening, consolidating.

In the kids rooms I plan to be grouping like toys and finding proper homes, and hopefully finding some that can leave the house!  I always do the older one's first, and move outgrown toys/clothes to the younger one's room.  Then I declutter the younger one's room and box up outgrown toys/clothes from there.

This is my plan for the week.   What do you plan to get done?


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Menu Plan Week 3: Finishing Up The Produce

In last week's menu plan I shared a few things I planned to cook using parts of meals that I had in the freezer.   Surprisingly, when I took all those pieces out of the freezer, and turned them into meals that we ate for 6 nights this week, I turned right back around and put 5 meals back into my freezer--2 potato soups and 3 gumbo!

I've still got some of that produce from my basket remaining (brussels sprouts, carrots) and I picked up some produce at Aldi yesterday (spinach, broccoli, and roma tomatos), and I also still have some green beans that I picked up at Fiesta earlier last week (I'm going to blanche and freeze these for later use), so here is what I plan to do to use this stuff up, then I will be anxious to see what I get in my basket this Saturday!

Monday:  Turkey Pot Pie (from the freezer).  Take out whole chicken to thaw.

Tuesday:  I'll be cooking a whole chicken in my crock-pot.  We will eat this rotisserie style chicken, with some herb stuffing and roasted brussels sprouts.

Wednesday:  After I shred the remainder of the chicken and freeze it, I will boil the bones and use the chicken stock for an italian sausage soup.  This will use up some spinach, carrots, green beans, and roma tomatoes.

Thursday:   Leftovers, and maybe 1 more to freeze.

Friday:  I have a small pork roast in the freezer, so I will be cooking this in some gravy in the crockpot.  Will toss whatever carrots we have remaining into the gravy.

Saturday:  Leftovers.

Sunday:  AWANA night.  Hubby making pancakes.

I'm going into week 3 of my 8 week "no buying meat" challenge, and I still have plenty left in my freezer.

I spent under $40 last week on groceries.  I went to Aldi yesterday and spent $26.xx on some produce and things we were needing.  I'll be ordering my produce basket ($16.50) on Monday (for Saturday pick-up), and don't think I'll be doing any more shopping for the week (at least until payday on thursday), so I'm set to have another very low spending week.

What are you eating this week?

Want to see more menus?  Visit Menu Plan Monday.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Kroger and Albertsons: Stocking Back Up (Slowly) 71% Savings

A couple weeks ago I told you my plan to spend just 10-15 each day getting my coupons back in order.  I told you also that I was going to ease my way back into coupon shopping, as I had taken a hiatus of sorts.

Today is January 18th, and I am happy to say that I have spent my allotted time working on my coupons each and every day for the past 18 days.

I did not make it to the store to do any shopping with coupons at all last ad week, so today I thought I would hit two stores.   Now I'm still taking things slowly!   I used 5 coupons at Kroger and 4 at Albertsons!  But I snagged some pretty good deals and a few freebies.  Plus, I began stocking back up on some items we were running out of.

Here's what I found at Kroger:

7 Dial liquid soaps @ $1 each, used $1/3 from 1/13RP  and $2/4 printable (looks like it's no longer available) =  $0.57 each average cost for all 7

1 Ken's 9oz dressing @ $1, used $1/1 from 1/13 SS = FREE

Lever 2000 @ $1, used $1/1 from Jan. All You = FREE

Beyond Cat Food @$2.99, used FREE coupon from 1/13 RP = FREE

4 half gallons of milk (that don't even expire until 1/30!) marked down to $0.49 each  (That's $0.98/gallon!  I normally spend $2.49 for 1 at Aldi!!!)

Shelf Price:  $24.16  (estimating the milk's normal price at $1.49--could be low)
Sale Price:   $13.95  (Already 42% Savings)
Price Paid After Coupons:   $6.01    75% Savings

I left Kroger stocked up for a little while on milk (two will likely end up in the freezer), and stocked up for a LONG time on hand soap.

When I left there, I drove a couple blocks down the street and went to Albertsons  (I always try to go to both places and grab what deals I can if I'm making the trip that direction anyway).

I only intended to buy $4.71 worth of items in Albertsons (I had my list made and all added up), but when I got there I found a few extra items that I could not pass up.

4 Chef Boyardee @  $0.88 each, used $0.50/4 from 1/13 SS (doubled)  =  $0.63 each

2 Swiss Miss @ $0.98 each, used $0.50/2 from 12/9 SS  (doubled) =  $0.49 each

1 Carmex @ $0.88,   Used $0.30/1 printable (tripled to .88) = FREE

Colgate Toothbrush @  $0.88, used $0.75/1 from 1/6 SS  = $0.13

(tried to snag same deal for the toothpaste, but they were all out)

Zote @ $1.19  (decided to grab this when I got there--planning to attempt homemade laundry detergent if I can find the final ingredient)

Then, I found the clearance aisle.   Ok, well I had already picked up the $0.99 5-pack of chocolate glazed and rainbow sprinkled day old doughnuts, but then I found the real clearance aisle.

I picked up 4 girls stationary/hair accessory sets for $1.49 each.   I have a first grade daughter and we've had birthday party invites left and right, so I figured that these would be a nice thing to have on hand!

I picked up a 100 ct. pack of dryer sheets marked down for $1.00.  We were all out and I had forgotten to put them on the list yet again, so that was a nice surprise.

Then, there was a 5-pack of red and white swirly straws for $0.20.  My girls love fun straws so I grabbed one.

Total Shelf Price:  $43.09
Total Sale Price:  $16.59  (Already 61 % Savings)
Price Paid After Coupons:  $13.65 with tax     68% Savings

I spent a total of $19.66 today on items that retail for $67.25.  That's a 71 % savings overall.

My daughter asked to hold my receipt when we got back in the van.  When I handed it to her, she exclaimed "Hey, it's supposed to be long!"  I suppose she had gotten used to me doing much larger shopping trips.  ;)

My grocery spending for the entire week this week was probably my lowest ever.   On Sunday, I spent roughly $8 at the 99cents Only store, and on monday I spent roughly $10 at Fiesta, so I spent less than $40 for the entire week this week.  Of course, it could have been even less without all of those Albertson's impulse purchases!  But I think I got some great deals today!

How did your shopping go this week?


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Borax Review + A Chance To Win Some!

As a member of the Purex Insiders, from time to time, they send me a product to try out.

Most recently, I was sent a box of 20 Mule Team Borax, an all natural laundry booster.

Honestly, I haven't opened the box that I was sent yet, because I had a box of my own sitting around not being used.   I had bought it a while back because I saw it listed as an ingredient in some homemade laundry detergent that I planned on (and still do!) getting around to making one of these days.

Aside from that, I didn't really know what to do with it.

Well, aside from playing...

Flubber Recipe (adapted from pinterest, and this site):
roughly 1 cup warm water
1 8oz bottle of glue
2 tsp borax  (more or less until right consistency)
Mix in a bowl and stir well.

My girls had absolutely sooo much fun playing with this stuff, and it keeps in a bag for a LONG time (well until it gets left open and shoved in some crevice to be found months later...., so I'm not exactly sure how long.)

When I got my got my box with my Borax, I read over the information they sent along with it with interest.  It suggested adding 1/2 a cup to each load of laundry, to boost your current detergent's cleaning power.

It is an all natural mineral (sodium tetraborate--because I'm a chemistry nerd like that) that is produced from the recurring evaporation of seasonal lakes.  They remove it from the ground, clean it, box it, and sell it.  No other chemicals needed.

They claim that it will naturally soften hard water, improving your detergent's cleaning power (because most of your detergent simply binds to the calcium and magnesium ions in your hard water and sink to the bottom of your washer, never coming into contact with your clothes!), and helping stains from being re-deposited back onto clothing.

I was intrigued by this, so I began adding the suggested half a cup to each load of laundry.  I can't say for certain that it is making a huge difference on my laundry in general, but I haven't noticed many new set in stains lately, and having a 3 yo, there are usually a few!

I did note one stain in particular.  I had gotten a new dish towel.  A bright white dish towel.   My husband used it, as dish towels were meant to be clean up a nasty kitchen mess.   I thought my new towel was done for, but after washing with the Borax added, I can barely see the faintest trace of where the stain was.

Want to try Borax for FREE?  Here's your chance!  Borax is currently running a Fresh Year, Fresher Laundry Sweepstakes on their Facebook page.

Grand Prize is $1,500, and other prizes include 171 coupons for a FREE box of Borax.

Enter today for a chance to win!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My 7 Decluttering Tasks For The Week

Yesterday, I told you how I was spending 15 minutes each day, setting my timer and tackling a small task (or two, or three) until the timer goes off, and then I stop.   (I'm also giving away 3 copies of a fabulous e-book on getting (and staying!) organized!  Enter to win here.)

I told you that on Sunday's while I was coming up with a menu plan, I was also going to be looking around the house and finding the 7 areas that were annoying me the most, and those were going to go on my list for the week.

Here are the items I listed out for this week:

Monday:  Top Of Hutch/Top Of Fridge  (I actually had 5 minutes left and I also tackled the top of the microwave and my cookbook/random kitchen thingy cabinet up above my stove-it wasn't even on the list!)

Tuesday:  Tea/Candy/Coffee Cabinet, and Utensil drawer.  (I've done this already this morning, and I still cannot figure out how mo many crumbs get into the back of a drawer that mostly remains closed!  Also...way too many medicine dispenser thingamajigs! Toss, toss, toss!)

Maybe I can remember that I have tea now!  And ALL the candy is consolidated into those bags instead of loose all over the bottom shelf.

Wednesday:  Cups/glasses.   I also had top of microwave on this day, so I'm sure I'll need one more thing.   Perhaps the cabinet with the pots.  

Thursday:  Under the kitchen sink  (cleaners, bags, wraps..all that stuff jumbled together again, and I think I'm out of some things, so I'm going in!)

Friday:  Hall Bathroom

Saturday:  Hall Bathroom.   I think it will take two days.

Sunday:  Master bathroom (which happens to be much smaller than the hall bathroom)

So that right there is my plan for the first week of this 15 minutes of organizing habit I'm trying to form.  On Sunday I will update on how this week went, and share next week's list.

Do you have any plans to get organized this year?   Care to join me in this?  Tell me your list in a comment!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Getting Organized (Slowly) Plus A Giveaway!

I've been posting a lot lately about getting my life back together by taking baby steps.  I've told you about easing my way back into couponing, and my plan for staying on top of it.  I've told you about my plan to slowly build our emergency fund back up.  I've also told you about my plan to slowly form good habits this year.

One of those habits I said I wanted to form was to declutter for 15 minutes each day.  I have dabbled with this here and there in the past, having read several places the benefits of using a timer and actually stopping when the timer goes off.

When we returned from our trip and got everything unpacked, I decided it was finally time to tackle our bedroom.   The master bedroom is the room that always seems to get pushed to the back burner, and stuff tends to get dropped off in there and never get put away.   It was BAD, and cleaning it was LONG overdue.  For three days in a row, I set my timer on my phone and got to work, and the transformation in just that 45 minutes spread out over three days was amazing.  My husband was very impressed.

That first week, I also cleaned out my purse, my van, my pantry, my desk.  Then my motivation sort of fizzled out, as tends to always be the case.

This past Tuesday afternoon, after a long night up with my 3 year old watching for signs of head trauma after a nasty fall, and an early morning up sending my 6 year old back to school after the break, I had woken up from my nap a bit before I needed to go back down to the bus stop, and the little one was still asleep next to me.   I didn't want to wake her up getting out of bed since she'd been kept up late, and I really didn't even want to get out of bed, because it was chilly out there!  So, I grabbed my phone from my nightstand and began to see what I could do to amuse myself for a little while.

I opened up my Kindle app, and started browsing through the books I had downloaded on my phone.  I found one I thought I would wouldn't open.  Said the file was corrupt and I would need to remove it and reload it.  =/  I tried the next one in the list.  Same story.   I kept going down the list, and I kept getting the same error.   By this time I was getting used to where the buttons were on the screen so I was sort of blindly hitting them.  But then, surprisingly, one opened!  I had already touched on the screen where the "remove from device" button should have been, but instead of hitting the button I was expecting, I hit a link in the table of contents, and it took me to chapter 5.   I wasn't even sure what book I had opened I was going through the list so fast, but I began reading the page it had turned to...

It just so happened I had opened this book (which you can purchase right now in Kindle format for just $2.99--or keep reading for a chance to win it!):

It was all about getting organized and decluttering in just 15 minutes a day.   "Hey!" I thought, "that's exactly what I've been doing!"  But having jumped to the middle of the book, I happened to begin reading not about how to get organized, but how to form the HABIT of becoming organized SLOWLY.   Sound familiar?

I've read a good number of organizing books in my day.  It's something I've always struggled with.  They have all told me the same things.   I know what I NEED to do to GET organized.   What I need help with is how to MAKE MYSELF KEEP DOING IT!  And that is the chapter of this book that I had jumped to.

It told me about the best places to begin.  It told me how to choose the tasks to do next.  It told me when to schedule my decluttering time in my daily routines so that it would be more likely to become a habit for me, AND it talked about life happening and derailing you.  It talked about me being sick, kids being sick, going out of town, having visitors (you my entire life since Thanksgiving!) and how to not get derailed by these things!

I now feel equipped to actually stick with this plan and motivated as well.  I can honestly say that had I started the book at the beginning (I did actually get to the end and then go back and read the first four chapters as well), I would have perhaps thought it was just another organizing book like the rest and not gotten to the part that truly helped me.  I think there had to have been a little bit of divine intervention causing my phone to malfunction that day.  ;)

So I had some renewed motivation.  I jumped back in after a couple days of rest and I cleaned the laundry cart where I keep all my cleaning supplies, I cleaned out the fridge, and even juiced all the oranges from my dad's trees that we came back with (best juice ever!), and prompted by my children partially destroying my guest room looking for a lost toy, I cleaned out underneath the guest bed and in the process found a lost library book that I was about to have to pay for!  Woo!  (ok, I definitely spent more than 15 minutes on that one, but it's all good!)

My husband was inspired by this as well, and for the past three days has taken his phone, with timer set, out into the garage and worked real hard and then stopped when it beeped.  It's in a mild state of disarray at the moment, but he has been quite impressed by how much he has been able to get done in just 15 minute intervals.  He's on board to continue.

In the book, the author challenges readers to take a 30 day challenge, and make a list of one task to tackle for 15 minutes each day for 30 days (at which point, in theory, it should be a habit that you continue).  I fully intend to do this, and I've gotten a few days under my belt already.  But listing out 30 days worth at a time is a bit overwhelming for me, so I have decided that I am going to make it my habit that on Sundays when I am deciding my menu for the week, I am also going to walk around the house and make a list of the 7 most pressing things that need my attention, and I will tackle those things that week.  I've already got my list made out for this week, and can't wait to get started on it!

Now, being the frugal person that I am, I had downloaded this book one day when it was offered for FREE.  I wanted to tell you all about it so that you could all go download it for free, too.  Sadly, when I went back to Amazon, it no longer is at the moment (but $2.99 isn't bad!)  However, in the book, the author shared her blog address, and for whatever reason (it isn't really in my nature, but that day I just felt like I should), I went over to that web address and found the contact form, and I sent her a nice email telling her this story, and told her I was interested in posting about her book, and asked if she would be willing to allow me to host a giveaway.

She was super nice, and wrote back right away saying that she would be happy to allow me to give 3 copies away.  The book is currently only available in Kindle format, so the winners will have to have an Amazon account and a Kindle/free Kindle app (which are available on just about any smartphone/computer you might have).

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  Please only enter if you have an Amazon account and a way to read a Kindle book!  Winners will receive the book using the "Give as gift" option from myself, so please make sure that the email address that you enter with is the one your Amazon account is connected to so that I may send you your prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Menu Plan Week 2: Yay! I Have Produce!

I *actually* have my menu plan ready on Sunday!  I think that's a first (okay, maybe a second).

I picked up my first Bountiful Basket since the holidays on Saturday, and I was very excited about the contents of it!

The fruits are:  bananas, strawberries, oroblancos (a type of grapefruit), oranges, and gala apples.

The vegetables are:  Brussels sprouts, celery, grape tomatoes, tri-color carrots, avocados (is this considered vegetable or fruit?  I'm not even sure!  LOL), and little sweet peppers.

Once I saw what was in my basket, I sat down with my list of the contents of my freezer that I made last week and saw what I could use up.  I still have some broccoli in the fridge that needs to go, and I'm going to be putting together several meal parts that are in my freeze in pieces right now.

Monday:  Potato Soup with Ham and Broccoli  (I have frozen ham chunks from that Aldi deal--which I purchased before I began my "no buying any meat for 2 months clear out the freezer" challenge, as well as ham broth from boiling down the bone that I will use as the base for the soup.)

Tuesday:  leftovers  (and probably freeze 1-2 more)

Wednesday:  Chicken Alfredo  (I have two jars of sauce and pasta in the pantry, frozen cubed chicken breast in the freezer, and I will slice some of the tiny sweet peppers up into the sauce because we love doing that!)

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday:  Gumbo (I have cooked shredded chicken in the freezer--2 packs, I will use both.  I have a frozen link of sausage in the freezer and a frozen container of chicken stock to use as a base.  Or maybe it's turkey stock.  Either way.  I'm using it up!  And I use roux from a jar.  Yes I do.  Some of the celery will go in here.  Also some onions I still have on hand.)

Saturday:  Leftovers (and probably freeze at least 2 more).

Sunday:  AWANA Night...Hubby making pancakes.

So as it is, I'm taking about 6 pieces of meals out of my freezer, preparing three large dishes with it, eating 6  meals from that, and putting at least 4 more back into my freezer.  At this rate, it is going to take quite some time to use up the contents of my freezer.  I may even be able to extend my "no buying meat" challenge for myself, because I am not even touching any of my uncooked frozen meat this week except for 1 link of sausage!

I even went out and did my grocery shopping today:  milk, bread, potatoes, and eggs.   I spent $8.38, and that could be all I need this week.  We shall see.

You can check out more menu plans over at Menu Plan Monday.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Forming New Habits (Slowly!)

It is a new year, and most people make resolutions or have some goals in mind that they set for themselves for the year.  When I set myself huge goals, they always seem to backfire.  I think that I just go about the whole goal-setting thing the wrong way.  But, I know exactly what my problem is!  I look at things in too large of chunks, and I fail to create habits that will carry me through!

Until I get into the habit of doing the small steps required to get me to my goals, I will not succeed.  Period.  I have never been good at habits.  But, again, I think I know what my problem is!  I try to make myself form too many new habits at once!  I get all gung ho about doing better at life, and then I do really well...for about a week... and then I don't.

I was spending some time last week browsing around in the google play store looking for some apps that may help me out with getting organized and things of that nature (I was being all gung ho, and downloaded far too many and overwhelmed myself!).   However, I found this one called Habit Streak, and I installed it.  It is a free app for android (I'm not sure if there is an iphone version or not but you could search for it.)  It lets you type in categories of things that you wish to turn into habits, and then it lets you type in questions that you want it to ask you each day.

You can input as many or as few question prompts as you like.   When you open the app, you can check off each activity that you've completed for the day, and it keeps a running total of how many days in a row you've done it.  If you miss a day, the counter resets to zero.

It's very simple to use.  I downloaded a few others, and they were not as user friendly.  I found some with some extra graphing features, but they would have taken me too long to figure out.  I wanted something simple that I could get started with right away, and that is exactly what this is!

Now, to be honest, when I first downloaded it, I did go a little bit crazy with my list.   I had made a list of everything that I felt I should be doing every single day, and I was typing away listing all of these things.   And right now there are a good number of things on my list that have yet to get done (such as exercising, and going to bed on time).  But there are other things that I have done every single day for over a week, and that is a pretty big accomplishment for me!

So, I have decided to cut back on the things that I expect myself to do, and work my way up to doing more things once I have my habits well established!

Here is a list of the habits I am trying to form/maintain for the month of January:

Cleaning:  1 load of dishes, 1 load of laundry  (I was already pretty good with these two, but sickness and travel had gotten me off track)  15 minutes decluttering  (more on this later!)

Online Clutter:  I have been inundated with emails!  I have a gmail, hotmail, and outlook email address, and after not touching my laptop for an entire week, those inboxes were full!   I didn't want to spend an entire day going through them, and I get a lot of junk mail!   So my habit for January is removing 1 newsletter subscription each day from each account  (I then delete everything from that sender).  I've also been removing a like from facebook each day, as well, so I can see that I actually have friends again.  (I think it's working!)

These are habits that will have an end point sometime in the future-hopefully I don't have a full 365 days worth of junk mail to unsubscribe from!  I just might!

This may not seem like a big deal, but it was becoming a source of stress for me, and it will become a real time saver each day as I have that many less emails and posts to sift through.

Coupons:  I shared with you on Tuesday how I was spending 10 minutes each day clipping, sorting, and organizing my unruly coupons.  I have finally made it to the end of my stack of old coupons, determined which inserts to keep and begun sorting through the one's that I've clipped.   9 days and counting!  I've been spending 15 up to this point, so that's 2 hours and 15 minutes spent so far this year on coupons, and I think I've gotten far more done than if I had done that all in one sitting!

As this continues to become a habit, I think I will be able to stay on top of my coupons much better.

Personal:  Read my Bible, and take a vitamin.  Two things I had been failing to do.  Both were taking their toll on me.

Do I have other goals?  Sure!  I set a goal on Goodreads to read 48 books this year.  But last year, my goal was 36 and I ended up reading 61.   Reading is already a habit I have, so I'm not very concerned about doing it, but I am trying to be more intentional about what I read.

I have a goal of going to bed at a more decent hour, but instead of just jumping into that, I'm taking it slowly too, deducting minutes each night until I'm there!

There are other habits that I want to form, but as I've already seen with my failed first week attempt at them, these are the ones I can manage right now.   As I continue doing these things daily, and they become more and more automatic for me, I will slowly add in more habits that I wish to form.

I am also not going to make out a list of habits I want to form for each month of the year, because it's very likely that by the time I get to October, my priorities will have shifted completely and that habit will no longer be important to me.

I want to get to the end of this year, look back and say "I've made progress!", not "Look at all these things I said I would do, and didn't!"

How about you?  Are you trying to form any habits or achieve any goals?


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Saving Money (Slowly!)

I posted yesterday about slowly getting back into the swing of couponing.   I am doing a lot of things slowly, in small steps this year, trying to force myself to form good habits.   I will be posting more about those soon, and sharing some specific habits that I plan to work on this month (because trying to think in terms of years is honestly overwhelming to me in most areas!)

One thing I have thought of in terms of years is saving money.  Right now in our lives, saving money seems darned near impossible!  We've been through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University a few years back, and he recommends that the first thing you do in your savings journey is to have a $1000 emergency fund.

That number sounds very daunting to me.  At the time of the class we were able to make a good dent in getting that together, but then we had an emergency....

We know we need to get one together, but we know it's not going to happen over night.  It is a source of stress.  I told myself that I would like to have that in place by year end.

*Enter Facebook*

Sunday morning, I find this floating around.  (I have no idea of the source of this image, so if it is yours or you know where it originated, let me know and I will gladly credit it properly).

The minute I saw it, I loved it!  I printed it out, and showed it to my husband.  He loved it!  And he's usually the one thinking these things just aren't possible.

I like that it breaks it down into tiny steps.   I like that it shows you how it all adds up.  I like that it is ever increasing.  We even discussed how we may have to make a small sacrifice here or there to come up with the money some weeks, but how those small sacrifices could even lead to habits that save us money long term!

This image is currently printed, placed in a plastic page protector, and pinned to the cork-board beside my husband's desk.   AND there is $1 in it!  ;)

Would any of you be interested in taking this challenge with me?


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things (Slowly)

Every time a holiday rolls around, it seems to throw everyone off of their schedule, and it certainly did for us.  However, the holiday is not totally to blame around here.  It has been hectic around here this whole school year with me beginning tutoring again and being away from home due to that.

It seems like every time I try to add a new thing into the mix, all the other things that I had been juggling get dropped.  This time has certainly been no exception, and toss in a steady barrage of illnesses that have been plaguing one or the other of us, and you can understand why things around here have not been running so smoothly.

I have learned from many failed attempts in the past that I cannot go in guns blazing one day and whip everything back into shape.  So, this time I am taking a slightly different approach.  Small baby steps.

First off, my coupons were out of control.   I had coupon inserts dating back to September, and I may or may not have used any in that time!  I have always had a tendency to try to get them all back in order in a matter of hours in a single night when they got out of control, and then my neck and shoulders would pay for it for quite some time, and I would be too burnt out to mess with them for a while.

I had every intention of doing that on New Years' Day.  In fact, it was on my list!  But when I pulled it out to begin working on it, I said "This is nuts!" and I quickly changed tactics.   I decided I would spend 10 minutes a day and set a timer (I've actually been doing 15), and when it went off, I would finish up the insert I was working on and stop.

I have been doing this for a full week now, tossing the expired, clipping the unexpired, putting them in a pile to be filed.  I still have a little ways to go, but I intend to keep up this habit even when I get to the bottom of my pile.  It will help me stay on top of making my shopping lists and whatnot.

Which brings me to my other point.  Shopping.  Yes, I have been shopping.  At Aldi.  With no coupons.   Yes, if I'm going to not be using coupons, then that is the best place for me to shop.  But, there are many things that I can get cheaper than Aldi prices with coupons, and I know this.  It's just one of those things that has gotten dropped.  

Instead of jumping right back in and planning out a massive coupon shopping trip, I decided that I was going to take that slow, too.  I challenged myself to build back up slowly.  I said I was going to use 1 coupon this week, and then perhaps, 2, then 5, then up from there, until using my coupons was part of my habit again, because we are just wasting money on our newspaper subscription and on computer ink if I'm not using them!

So today I needed to go out shopping.   I had my list of things I needed to get from Aldi.  I was tried after being up watching my youngest who faceplanted out of her chair at the dinner table last night.   It was raining, and I didn't really feel like going to the store, but alas! We were out of milk, among other things.

Another thing we were running dangerously low on was cereal.  I had done a huge stock up a few months back (probably my last couponing effort to date), and we had been slowly but surely using that up.  This morning I noticed we were down to 4 opened half boxes, some of which were probably stale and one expired.   I remembered that Tom Thumb was having a big sale on General Mills Cereals $1.49 wyb 4.  Since it's on the way to Aldi, and since today was the last day of the sale, I made myself get in here and find coupons and make one extra teeny tiny real quick stop.

And I actually used 2 coupons, they just happened to be identical.  ;)  $1.49 per box, and after 2 $1/2 coupons (one from 12/9 SS and one I printed this morning) I paid just $3.96 for all four boxes or $0.99/box.

Doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was a tiny first step back into couponing for me, and I won't have to pay full price for cereal next week (or even Aldi prices of $1.79)!

I've been taking small steps in several areas so far this year, and they have been paying off!  I will be sharing more soon about other tasks that I am taking in small chunks as well as some things I'm using to help me keep up and stay motivated!

Are you breaking down any tasks into smaller more manageable pieces this year?


Monday, January 7, 2013

Menu Plan: Week 1 (And A Challenge!)

It has taken me a little bit longer to come up with my menu plan today because both of my kids were home (school starts back tomorrow), and I was trying to figure out what was actually in my freezer.   It seems that my garage freezer is always filled to capacity, with either meat or meals.  That's not a problem, but when I see a good price on meat, I tend to buy it whether I need to or not.

When I counted up the meals, cooked, and uncooked meats in there this afternoon, I found enough to feed us 69 meals, not counting any leftovers we might have.

I'm going to challenge myself to not purchase any meats for the next 2 months (that is, until payday at the end of February.)  We should have more than enough in the freezer to get us through this time, especially since we have been having pancake night every Sunday (made by my husband while I'm gathering the girls from Awana).

This is going to have two purposes:  to clear out some of the older meats/meals that we purchase/prepare and then for whatever reason, they just don't make it to the menu, and to save a little bit extra money during this time period that will be a little extra tight.

I will still be getting my Bountiful Baskets  (I just ordered today for Saturday pick-up and I'm very excited to see what I get!) so I will have plenty of produce, and will still buy all other items that we will need.

So for week 1 of my challenge, here is what we will be having:

Monday:  Provencal Pork
Tuesday:  Leftovers
Wednesday:  I have a 5 lb. pack of ground beef in the freezer.    I am going to thaw it, and cook it all, and make half chili and half spaghetti sauce.  We will eat the chili, and freeze the spaghetti sauce.
Thursday:  Chili again, maybe even chili dogs.
Friday:  Italian Sausage Soup
Saturday:  Baked Catfish with lemon
Sunday:  Pancakes

I'm linking this post at Menu Plan Monday:


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