Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book #5 of the year: Plain Christmas

You may recall that I wrote about my 2018 Reading Challenge. Hopefully you guys are getting a chance to enjoy reading a bit this winter as well.

The 5th book was "Plain Christmas" written by Sarah Price.
 Plain Christmas (Plain Fame #6)

I really enjoyed this book. It is an Amish fiction book, set in modern times and revolves around Christmas. What's not to love ? It's about a young woman who grew up Amish but never joined the church and she ended up marrying an Englischer. She hasn't been home in a while so they decide to return home for Christmas. What I like about this is that I think it gives a good glimpse into what a difference there is in most people's day to day lives and that of an Amish family. The kids play in the barn all day and the women enjoy working side by side in the kitchen etc. It was just a refreshing read for me.

This book is part of a series though by Sarah Price and this one is actually #6. There are 5 other books about the same characters that you should read first. I wish I would have read them in order!

How are your reading goals going this year?

Have you read anything good lately?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book #4 of the year " Mountain Midwife" Review

You may recall a few posts back, I wrote about my goal to read 50  books this year. I'm tracking them on Good Reads ( read about it here). Although I love reading and 50 shouldn't be a problem, I am finishing up my PhD this year, and working full time and of course the kids, animals etc. Either way- it will be fun to see what books I read and I'm happy to share some of my reviews with you.

                                                                   The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes
This book " The Mountain Midwife" is a fiction book set in mountains of Virginia in modern day. Although I don't know a whole lot about midwifery, I've always enjoyed learning about it and this book did not disappoint. A very bright young lady- Ashley who was an established midwife wanted to go back to school to become a doctor- she thought she could help her patients more if she were a "real" doctor. There was a little romance, a little scandal and was just a great book I couldn't put down. It had been on hold at my library for a while before I got it- so it's popular! I would recommend this book for sure!

Any good books that you all have read this year? Did you all make a goal on how many books to read this year?

Happy Homesteading!

Friday, January 5, 2018

My first grocery purchase of the year- Sam's Club Pickup

As part of us trying to get out of debt and just live more intentionally I'm ditching my once a week Friday Kroger shopping ( which I would just lazy dazy spend whatever I wanted) in favor of picking up my groceries at Sam's Club. I'm hoping that I can nix the impulse buys and try to really only buy what we need. This is the first grocery purchase for me for the year. Here's what I got!

Product image

Ready to pick up (9 items)

ItemQty orderedQty ready
Product imageTOLLHOUSE
Item # 169643
Product imageSKIMMILK
Item # 120975
Product image100WHEAT
Item # 610019
Item # 622141
Item # 642969
Item # 332022
Product imageGALAAPPLE
Item # 688679
Product imageMMVEGOIL
Item # 642733

The total for this week is $50.46. 

I realize that I could probably do some things for cheaper ( maybe like making my own bread). I do make my own bread for a lot of meals- but it's nice just to have some sliced store bought bread for the kids lunches sometimes. 
The oil I use for homeade baking and bread as well as to fry deer meat in. I haven't bought oil in a LONG time and we are OUT so this will last a while I hope. 
The hashbrown potatoes are $3.48 ( on sale for $2 off) and we really like them. You soak them in water then fry them and the whole family likes them. They last us a long time as well. 
The chocolate chips were a splurge at $7.89 but are cheaper per ounce than the Kroger brand one. And I use them for pancakes, waffles, trail mix and baking. 
I'm about out of green vegetables ( except for green beans) so I bought some broccoli- which is one of the kids' favorite veggies. 

It's very nice to just pull into Sam's Club and get everything loaded into our car. We have a lot of food in our pantry and freezer so I am trying to just buy a few things to help supplement. 

Do you guys use grocery pickup? What is your experience? 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Confessions of Registered Dietitian Mom!

Food is such a personal choice. It's emotional, it's powerful and it's important. As a Registered Dietitian for going on 12 years now_ I get a lot of questions about what I buy for my family, how we eat, what to do about this fad or that fad etc. So I thought I would share how we do things in my household!.

1. I buy local when I can ( but it is not feasible for everyone). 
Buying local is important to my family. We like to know where our food is coming from, and supporting our local economy. Although there are some nutritional implications of buying local ( vine ripened tomatoes that are allowed to ripen naturally have more lycopene for example).  Sometimes though buying local can be more expensive. You have to really know how to shop by the seasons and in some cases have the ability to buy in bulk to get the best deal. However - if you do not buy local broccoli for your kids- I'm not mad at you! Please just feed your kids the broccoli!

2. My kids have a VARIED Palette!
I have three children ( ages 12, 10, 6) and they really are great eaters. They eat sushi, avocados, Indian food, hummus, etc. They really do eat a lot of different things. And your kids cold as well- it takes time. Start with perhaps just naan and plum sauce with your Indian food, maybe spread avocados on a cracker or toast, sushi doesn't have to include RAW fish- California rolls are our friend! Let them help you make the hummus at home and have them try it on their favorite veggies etc. Bottom line- let them explore, give them options and have lots of conversations about food ( where it comes from, what culture it's traditionally found in, look at it's country of origin on a map etc.).

3. I make wonderful home made pizza ( but I'm not above a frozen pizza either!).
We make a lot of home made pizza- like maybe once a week. I do use homemade sauce, home made crusts, fresh toppings etc. HOWEVER- if it's between my family of 5 going out to dinner for probably close to $40 or eating a frozen pizza from home- you better believe I'm popping in a Digornio! One slice of pizza with a nice green salad and maybe a fruit cup for dessert is still a HEALTHY balanced meal. Don't beat yourself up!

4. I grow A TON of veggies ( but I buy a lot from the store as well). 
I do have the summers off and we have some time to work in the garden, but we don't have enough time or energy ( or space or money for that matter) to grow every single bite of produce we would like. We have several blueberry bushes and I normally get enough to snack on and maybe enough for a few cobblers- but we love blueberries and I buy frozen blueberries for smoothies and buy fresh and frozen and yes even canned produce to supplement what we grow. It is OKAY! Please don't think that if your child ( or yourself) isn't eating only organic local blueberries that you can't have blueberries. I look for things that have no additional ingredients in them such as fruit in water or it's own juices, no heavy syrups. This year I ran out of canned tomatoes from our garden- we ran out of salsa, canned tomatoes, pasta sauce etc. so I buy it from the store. Just be careful on things like added sodium or sugars.

5. My kids crunch around on veggie sticks for snacks ( but they also love chocolate no bake cookies). 
It's about balance people. My kids eat cupcakes. They eat ice cream. They get a slice of pie every so often. But it's not several times a day. They got candy in their Christmas stockings and they ate it. It's fine. I bake normally on Saturday and I might make a cupcake or some peanut butter no bake cookies. They know though that they only can have one cupcake ( not 4 or 5 a day). It's a treat. They don't really even ask for sweets . They are used to just having them on occasion ( and since I bake themselves I know what is in them).

6. We don't have a deep fryer in our house.
Not much else to say about this- I bake or saute or roast everything. There really is no need for a deep fryer in your house. It's an extra appliance space on my counter and we have not had one in our home since we got marred 15 years ago. It's fine- we still get all kinds of yumminess.

Bottom line- just try your best. It's okay. Everything in moderation and please stay away from fad diets and hip trends. Have your kids drink water instead of sodas and give them availability to healthy foods.

What are some ways you try to keep your family happy and healthy?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sneaky Little Budget Busters: Subscriptions!!!!

You may recall that my husband and I are trying to get out of debt. You can read about that more with the following posts:
Sliding Back into Non Frugal Ways
Saving Money on groceries
Financial Distress

But what I want to specifically talk about today is little expenses that really ADD up in a yearly budget. There are things that I spent money on in 2017 that do NOT need to be repeated in 2018.

The first thing is a Books a Million Card.
Oh My! I do love bookstores. But we have a library. A really great library. There really is no reason for me to pay $25 a year for an extra 10% off at BAM. I think it may come with a few other perks such as $5 off $25 purchase and free shipping, but bottom line is I'm spending extra money to save a little when I spend money I don't need to... Since 2018 is going to be the year of frugality to the max, I will not be resubscribing to their membership card. Maybe one day I'll be back- but so long for now.

#2 Sam's Club Business membership
I do love Sam's club. I have done some price comparisons ( which I need to share with you soon) and they do have some better deals on things I use compared to my local grocery store. The kids also like the samples there when we shop :) But last year I bought the $100 per year membership!!! It was the business membership and included the perk of getting $10 back per $500 spend. So that meant in order to get my money back I would have needed to have spent $5000 there last year- just to break even on the upgraded membership. That is probably doable for a real person that runs a business, but I had no business buying it. I earned a whopping $20 back.... They just asked me at the register one day if I wanted to upgrade my "regular" membership and said " sure". Ouch. That was a lesson learned. My membership expires on January 28th and I will be opting for the $45 regular membership once again ( with my $20 earned from last year going towards it).

#3 ProFlowers Celebration Club membership
Last year I had an aunt that was sick and I sent her flowers, and chocolates and cookies from 1800 Flowers- I thought I should go ahead and buy a membership for $29.99 so I get free shipping. Well first of all- with us owing so much money to my student loans ( among other folks) I really had no business purchasing as many items from there as I did- and I surely didn't need a $29.99 membership.
The good news here is that I saw the charge ( which apparently renews automatically each year) on my statement and called THAT day to ask for it to be removed and cancel my membership. They were very nice and cancelled it and thankfully refunded me.

#4 Magazine Subscriptions
There are a handful of magazines that I enjoy reading. I have purchased memberships to them in the past. This year when they expire they expire. I can either read something else, request them at my local library or just do without. I'll be fine and I spent over $45 last year alone on subscriptions.
A side note there is a site called RecycleBank ( free of course) where you can earn points to cash in for magazine subscriptions. I just cashed in for a subscription to Money Magazine and Country Living ( both for free using my points) this past week. So there is a way to earn free magazine subscriptions.

What things in your budget from last year can you get away with getting rid of this year? It all adds up!

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge- Follow along or start your own

I do love to read. And reading is quite frugal  if you do it right. Doing it right for our family includes trips to the county library on a regular basis. Our library ( and probably yours) has a system of reserving books that are popular- so you will be next in line to get it when it is returned. Many times on a Wednesday or Thursday night the kids and I will log into our library account and reserve the books we want for our next trip. Sometimes if they are offered at another branch they will just send them over. Normally by Saturday as long as we aren't on the waiting list for a popular book we will have the books in hand when we go to the library . We just give them my card and they have a beautiful stack of books ready for us. Think about how much a pile of lovely books would cost at a bookstore!!

Anyways a site I like to use ( that's free of course) is Goodreads . You can connect with friends ( connect with me here to read my reviews of my books, see what I'm reading, view my 2018 Reading goals etc. There also is a place under " browse" where you can enter into giveaways of books you would like to read. I've done this often and last year  won between 10-12 books. Can't beat that!

This year I have set my goal to 50 books. I actually set it to 50 last year as well and although I feel like I did read that many books, I didn't keep track of them all. I think I ended up tracking only like 27 or so....

As you track what books you have read they give you recommendations on other books that are similar that you might like. I've found some neat books that way.

I'm currently finishing up a  book called " The Snow Globe" and it will be my first book read of 2018.

The temperature is 8 degrees right now, with a windchill of even colder, so what better day than to curl up in a blanket with a good book!

Happy Homesteading Y'all! What were your favorite books of 2017? What books are on your list for 2018?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A forgotten art: letter writing

I hope you all had beautiful holidays! We had a lovely time here around the homestead. Something I wanted to encourage everyone to put on their " to do lists" for 2018 includes letter writing!

This past year my 10 year old daughter has become friends with a super sweet older lady at our church. She is widowed and has taken a fancy to my daughter, as my daughter has to her. I don't remember exactly how it all started but now they are pen pals ( even though they see each other at church two times a week).  My daughter loves checking the mailbox to see if she has gotten a letter and then she hurries to write  a letter to her friend. I think it's a win win for everyone!

I've also really tried hard this year to send more letters. When someone has a family member pass away I try to drop a note in the mail of sympathy. When someone is sick I put a get well soon note in the mail. I also think there is a place for other forms of hospitality ( such as taking meals) but a note or card can certainly brighten someone's day.

There is a young lady in our church that is going through a particularly difficult time- I try to send her a card a week letting her know that I'm thinking of her and praying for her.

I would like to just encourage you all to be more mindful of the difference just a kind word, phone call or card can make when someone is having a rough time.

Happy Homesteading!