Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring around the homestead: Part 1- Flowers and blooms oh my

After a rather dull winter - it was colder than normal but no "big" snows and some rather dreary days- it is beginning to look like SPRING. On my walk this morning I noticed how lovely everything seems to have just exploded with color over night- so I ran back in to grab my camera. I hope you enjoy.

Some lovely pink blooms. 

One of our beautiful pear trees! I love the contrast with the beautiful blue sky and clouds. 

Close up of the pear tree. 

I'm not exactly sure what these are. But the yellow is super bright and there is a burst of purple/pink next to it. It's been here as long as I remember. 

The only ones bloomed so far- but just so beautiful .

Some beautiful daffodils and I thought the wagon wheel behind it looked neat. 

What kinds of colors and blooms are you all seeing? Don't miss tomorrow and the next day when I show you Spring with the animals and spring from my garden! A wonderful time of year indeed!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My visit to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds!

It's my favorite time of year ( outside of Christmas) :) - that's right. Garden time! We took a quick trip up to Mansfield, MO to Baker Creek Seed Company to get some of my favorite seeds.

It's such a fun little place to shop- and we try to venture that way in Spring.

This year I'm doing the basics, so far I've got cabbage, green onions, sweet onions and broccoli going! It won't be long until some of the other goodies I picked up will go into the ground. Look at the goodies for this year from Baker Creek!

YAY! Later in the season I'll buy some seedlings from a local greenhouse and I would like to pick up a few more blueberries if I can find some that fit within our budget!

I'm super excited to start getting some fresh fruits and veggies. I'm hoping to can and freeze a lot this year as well. I can almost taste a fresh cucumber, chilled with just a tiny bit of ground pepper on it. A nice crisp salad of mixed greens with a home made dressing.. Oh my- like I said, my favorite time of year.

What all have you gotten into the ground so far? What are you looking forward to most this gardening season

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What I've been reading lately

Around here it's been pretty rainy, cold and otherwise yucky outside so I've been inside quite a bit.
I am in my last semester of coursework for my PhD- so I've been studying for my qualifying exams as well as working on my dissertation in my "spare" time, but I still do like to read for pleasure when I can.

I wrote about my 2018 Reading Goal and am on par to read my 50 books this year.

Book #6 was Braving the Wilderness by BrenĂ© Brown

I enjoyed the style of the book, the writer herself was good. It was an easy read. I'm not sure that I totally understood or perhaps buy into some of the content, but it was worth a read. One of the things I'm working on is just learning how to communicate better, be a better leader at work etc. I felt like this gave me some good perspectives to think about for sure. I would recommend this book.

Book #7 was QBQ! The Question Behind the Question by John G. Miller
This book has been around for a while and is on a lot of lists of "must reads" for managers, leaders, etc. Again- since I'm responsible for about 11 other faculty at my current job- I am trying super hard to learn how to best lead. This was a very fast read. Like probably 2 hours and you are through. It was light and had some good points. Would recommend if you are in a leadership position and want to learn to communicate better.

Book #8 was Christmas at Carnton (Carnton, #0.5)
I could read Christmas novels at any time of the year and when my library gets a new one in I tend to scoop it up. This had a lot of my favorite components; historical, Christmas and just a nice feel good story. There were of course some sad parts ( Civil War time period) but overall was a very nice book. I found it nice to cozy up with and would recommend.

Have you guys read anything good lately? What have you been eyeing at the library to read next?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

February Update: What we did and didn't do

You can read about our January successes ( and failures) here.  

So how did we do in February( we paid off $2,773) in debt!

1. I got a brand new ( looking )pair of running shoes. My friend was at Goodwill and saw a pair of running shoes that looked brand new. She texted me and asked me my size and then got them for me. They were $4, however I give her a lot of outgrown clothes from my daughters to her daughter, so she said no need to pay her back. Karma for the win!

2. Purchased some nice Spring clothes for the kids with a Gift card I received to Old Navy. You can see that post ( here) . For $5.02 out of pocket I got 3 pairs of shorts, 1 nice dress and 1 shirt for my kiddos.

3. I wish I could post we did not eat out at all in February but I have to be honest with you guys. We did- we did three times actually and I'm not proud of it. That money came out of our debt snowball and our grocery budget so it wasn't a good use of our money. I don't think it's terrible to eat out, however when you are in debt as much as we are- it's counterproductive!
We ate out once for my daughters school fundraiser- it was at a local pizza place that donated the proceeds to the school if you ate there on one evening. I convinced myself it was for a good cause and I do love pizza so.....
The second time was for my husband's birthday. He didn't ask , but I offered and the kids wanted to go to his favorite steak house. Grand total for that one for the five of us was $56.xx. OUCH.
The third time was going out after church with my parents. We should have said no, but we didn't. So we have to plan better and be sure to have something going on at home to eat after church so we can say no more easily.

4. We played cards with my family one Saturday night- which was fun and free. One Saturday night there was a free singing at church that we enjoyed and one Saturday night there was a Men's Wildlife dinner thing at our church that my husband and son went to. It just cost me a few potluck dishes of things I had on hand and they had a nice time.

How did your February shake out to be? Any wins to celebrate? Any losses ( like going out to eat three times when you planned for zero times?????)

Happy Homesteading y'all!

February Update: drum roll please

You may remember that on December 31 2017 ( might as well say January 1st, 2018 I guess) we tipped the scales at a whopping $152,852 worth of consumer debt. Read about that here.  However we started utilizing a budget, really keeping an eye on finances and we paid off a total of :

$1474 in debt in January - you can read about some of the ways we did that here in my (January recap post)

So how much did we pay off in February?????


That brings our grand total of debt that we have paid off in 2018 to $4247.

$4247 paid off in 2018

So, I wish I could say that the February pay off was $2773 was something we could do every single month. Alas, it is not and we received some tax return money back that went straight towards debt reduction.That is not something we will get every single month.

We received a total of $1678 back from our federal taxes. $563 of that went towards a plane ticket to fly to Texas where I have to take my qualifying exams for my PhD program. The good news is that 1) we paid cash for the ticket and #2) I am one step closer to finishing my doctorate ( well if I pass that is).

The other $1115 left went strait to debt. The good thing about that is that 1) in the past we probably would have spent that money on this or that and just kind of frittered it away- without a plan, and 2) we are $1115 closer to being debt free!!

So we just keep on trucking. It's nice to get some traction under us. We paid off one 401k loan in February so that freed up $21.08 that is now going towards our next debt. It's nice to get a letter in the mail that says PAID IN FULL.

How are you guys doing on your financial journey? Your homesteading journey?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How to keep your grocery shopping under control: Make your list of staples

I know maybe some of you are looking for ways to get your grocery budget down or to save a bit of money, pay down debt etc. So are WE!

In January we spent $472 on groceries for a family of 5 ( read about that here) I'd like to get that even lower.

One thing that helps me is to make a "Top Ten" list if you will. When money is tight and you are trying to really make those nickels and dimes count- it's good to just make a very very basic list of what you can get by with for that shopping period. Now I realize that you could live off of beans and rice if you had to ( or whatever else you have in your home) but I'm talking about really thinking about what your family eats and what it would take for you to have a variety of meals for a month. Some could be staples you already have in your home so you would need to buy those items. Then whatever money is left after you buy your top ten list you can then prioritize other things your family would love to have. Mine looks something like this ( please note that we have all the eggs we can manage because we have chickens, so I don't ever buy eggs at the store.) We also have an abundance of deer meat and sausage from deer and boars that my husband or daughter harvested this past year- so I don't buy meat at the store either.

1. Tortillas (I realize they may be easier to make- but we like the convenience of having them read all the time. We use for breakfast burritos, bean burritos and wraps.

2. Pinto beans  ( dry and in the 25 lb bags from Sam's- I use to make beans, refried beans, chili etc.)

3. Flour- for baking and such again buy in bulk from Sam's

4. Butter- sometimes my Kroger has these on sale for $1.99/ lb. I'll buy 10 or so then and freeze them.

5. Coffee- my husband would disagree but for me this is certainly in my top 10- I like a brand that I buy in bulk from Amazon using my Swagbucks and other point type of rewards. I haven't actually spent money on coffee in quite sometime.

6. Milk- for baking, cooking, for the kids to drink etc. I buy skim milk from Sam's for $2.25 a gallon- cheapest place around here

7. Rice- long grain brown rice bought in 25 lb bags from Sam's- used in soups, stir fry, burritos, casseroles

8. Peanut Butter-  stock up when the Kroger brand goes on sale- kids eat with apples or bananas, I use in baking etc.

9. Apples- I try to buy apples as all the kids eat them, take them to school for a snack, my husband and I take them to work for snacks etc. We have no preference on variety and I just buy what's on sale and looks tastiest- we have a few small trees that haven't started producing much yet but normally get about 20 apples per tree in the fall. Not a lot compared to how much we eat.

10. Spinach, salad greens, lettuce etc. - I buy whatever appears to look freshiest, be on sale etc. We actually can grow a lot of our own greens from Spring to early Winter but when we don't have any they make my 10 ten list. We use the for salads, to top burgers or sandwiches, in wraps, tacos etc. We normally always have some sort of green in the fridge to munch on.

I also freeze and can a lot of fruits and vegetables from the garden during the summer- so we normally have quite a bit of frozen corn on the cob, jelly and jam, salsas, tomato sauces, frozen strawberries etc. I realize not everyone has those on hand.

So what do you think? What is your in your top 10 that didn't make mine???

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Spring Break Vacationing while getting out of debt?

We love to vacation. And since I work the same schedule  that the kids go to school we normally always do a full week of vacation for Spring Break. Last year we went to St. Louis- which was awesome. The year before that we went to the Smoky Mountains- even more awesome.

But we are trying to get out of debt and we realize that a full week of hotels or another vacation rental, plus all the food, eating out ,gas, activities etc. will just cost too much.
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BUT we do still plan on having a ton of fun this Spring Break. We like to camp and go pretty often, so this year we are planning 4-5 nights in a State park that is local to us and just hike, and play, and cook food that we bring and enjoy some fun time together . We already have the equipment, I'll use our normal grocery budget, and our normal gas budget. The nightly site fee and maybe a tiny bit of other expenses will be all we have to spend.  Nightly fees range between $18-$32 depending on the park and the site.

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I actually already have one night credit for camping because we were camping last year when there was an issue at the park and they gave us one night credit to use on our next trip.

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We should have our tax refund back by then, but instead of using that bit of money to go on a huge trip, I'm going to budget $200 to go camping on Spring Break.  ( Last year our hotel bill alone was over $1100 for Spring Break- OUCH).

Could we use that $200 to pay down more debt? YES!
Could we get out of debt sooner if we did not go camping? YES!

But my husband and I have talked about it and opt to spend that $200 for a fun week with the kiddos, and since we normally spend SOOOO much more we feel good about the decision.

Anyone else planning a frugal Spring Break?