Category Archives: Home and Living

Settling In

We’re finally in our new house and settling in. It’s been a little crazy these last two weeks with the traveling, last minute packing, more traveling (with four kids and three dogs), waiting for the moving truck, and finally the process of unpacking.

We’re no where near finished with unpacking. The little boys’ room is a disaster with almost all of their things still in boxes, and we have no bed yet. BUT, the kitchen is completely done, and that makes me really happy.

My kitchen…I could wax poetic on it all day long. It’s by far the largest kitchen I’ve ever had, and the one with the most usable counter space. Did I mention the GIANT island with the butcher block top? I’ll make sure to post photos soon.

Woman Labeling Packed Box_shutterstock_66379999

We spent the whole first weekend cleaning up outside. My kids are real troopers, I tell ya’. They mowed 2 acres of grass with two push mowers over a period of two days. The good news for them is that we do have a small riding mower coming from my dad. The bad news is we had a lot of rain the last couple days, and it’s going to need to be mowed again before that mover gets here.

We’re all finding that we have some adjusting to do. Even though we’re living our dream, it’s so different from what we’ve lived for so long. How odd is it to not be able to walk to the library like we did when we lived here before or hop in the car for a quick 5 minute drive to Target like the last place we lived.

Here, the nearest large store is a half hour away, and it’s a 5.5 mile drive to town. I’m sure it’ll be easy for me to fall back into the routine as that’s exactly how it was when I was growing up. The kids–not so much. I’ve already had to tell them ‘No’ several times when they’ve asked to do something simply because the drive alone would cost more than the trip would be worth.

Then there’s the issue with internet. We don’t have it at our house (and most likely won’t in the foreseeable future), and our cell phones haven’t been working at all. Sadly, I find myself getting just as frustrated with that as the boys. It only makes me realize that this move couldn’t have happened at a better time for all of us.

In my last post, you may remember me talking about how I was thinking of going back to work. A week ago Monday, right after we closed on our house, I had an interview for a position that would allow my family some financial freedom and relaxation on the fiscal front.

I haven’t heard back from them yet. I did follow up with them yesterday and was told they’d be making a decision very soon. I’d love to say that I’m confident the job is mine, but having been out of the job market for 6.5 years now, I’m not confident at all. I know that whatever happens will be for the best. And, if I happen to not get the position, at least I will have gotten my feet wet with the interview.

My husband and I have set some pretty ambitious goals for ourselves and our little homestead. The first thing we’ll be doing is fixing up a room in our corn crib for our chicken flock. We were going to to get some chicks this week, but it just so happens my dad got some laying hens last week and realized he may have gotten a few too many so I have 10 chickens headed my way.

We found that we have a small asparagus patch, rhubarb, and raspberries. I’ve never done much with rhubarb, but it looks like I better start.

We did get a small existing garden patch tilled up (Sweet Pea did an excellent job of this). However, it rained buckets before we could get the potatoes in the ground. Hopefully the soil dries out enough for us to plant those this weekend. They are already growing. There are also raised garden bed plans in the works to accommodate the rest of the things we want to grow this year.

We are continuing with our money saving efforts here. I am going to be making all our bread again as well as branching into other things such as tortillas. They can’t be that hard, can they? I’m also ramping up efforts to replace more things with homemade versions. Anyone have any luck with homemade dishwasher tabs?

So that’s where we’re at here. How have you been doing these last couple of weeks? Anything new with my Homies?

Stockpile is the Word

Everybody’s talking about stockpiles…stockpile your groceries, stockpile your necessities, stockpile, stockpile, stockpile.

I’d been discussing this with my husband for a while. Money always seemed too lean to put much towards extra things though.

Then I came across the show Extreme Couponers or whatever it’s called. Dang! Those people STOCKPILE…some to the point of hoarding imho. I mean for realz…what’s a 19 year old guy doing with 10 cases of diapers and 40 boxes of tampons? That’s just weird.

Their savings intrigued me though. Could I possibly begin my own little stockpile of products that would then take those things out of the budget for a while? We live on a pretty tight food budget, and all our household supplies (paper, hygiene, medication, etc) comes out of that line item. Being able to insure that those things wouldn’t have to be purchased for quite some time sure would take a little pressure off.

I began my research in the most obvious place…blogs! I’ve got some kick ass blogger couponer/stockpiler friends.

And then it happened…through my blog reading, I discovered the honey hole of savings that is CVS.

Oh CVS, where have you been all my life? CVS offers these things called extrabucks® (ECBs) on certain items each week. Basically, it’s like an in-house rebate coupon that you can use on your next purchase. [Here’s a quick side-note: It’s important that you keep track of these (and their equivalent–Balance Rewards at Walgreens) because they are NOT put on your card. You need the actual register receipt coupon.]

With five males living in my home, you can only imagine how much soap and deodorant we go through (that is of course if I can get the boys to take baths/showers. What is it with getting them to bathe?? Gross.), so I felt that was a good place to start.

Please spare me the details of how I’d save even more money making my own. They won’t use coconut oil/baking soda or milk of magnesia on their armpits (What? It’s a real thing. Check it out.), and the last time I attempted to make homemade soap, it molded. Compromises, people. We all have to do it sometime.

First, I got on CVS.com. I have an ExtraCare ® card from years ago, so I created an account with that. They post not only their current ad online, but also a sneak preview of the next week’s ad. I strongly recommend activating an account because you’ll receive special coupons in your email (like the $2 off coupon I received this week) as well as personalized offers (like the $2 off when I spent $8 on deodorant).

Next I visited several coupon websites to see what was available. I printed out anything that would be good for the next month so I would have a good selection but not have a huge coupon inventory. We’re not really brand-loyal people which is a good thing. It makes it easier to catch the good prices.

Then it was time to match the extracare® deals and manufacturer coupons. This is where the magic happens.

Using this week for example, CVS had Right Guard Antiperspirant on sale for 2/$8. I’m certainly not going to pay $4 for pit stick. So, I dug out a $1/2 Right Guard products coupon, a percentage off CVS email coupon, and a $2 off deodorant CVS web account coupon resulting in two Right Guard sticks for $3.54 including tax.

Now do you want to know what the BEST thing about that was?? After it was all said and done, I came out AHEAD on the deal because I also got $4 ECBs!

Here’s a helpful hint: Bring your ECB coupons with you! Here’s another one: Don’t wait until the last day of the sale to shop. The branch I normally shop at was out of several of the things on my list, so I made another quick run after lunch to finish up my errands and stop at another CVS in our town. There I purchased 2 body washes (2/$4), 2 shampoos (2/$5.50), 2 conditioners (2/$5.50) , a pack of M&Ms for Jeremy ($.75), and a 4 count package of razor cartridges ($16.79).

After using manufacturer coupons for each of the items purchased except for one shampoo (that would have saved me another $1 and I messed up not taking all my coupons with me so I could grab another one), the 20% off email coupon, and the $18 ECBs from my previous purchases, I paid $10.06. I also received $4.75 ECBs back.

Walgreens had a BOGO sale on Right Guard products this week. I used 4 $1/2 Right Guard products coupons to purchase 2 body washes and 6 deodorants and 4 $1/1 coupons for 4 bottles of mouthwash. I paid $24.40 and received $4 Balance Rewards.

Kmart also had a killer sale this week. I shopped there with manufacturer coupons and added almost 600 points to my Shop Your Way Rewards card (available through Kmart and Sears) that I’ll be able to use toward a future purchase. I spent $21.79 there after using coupons in conjunction with sales.

Here’s a rundown of what I purchased for $83.61 over the last two weeks between Walgreens, CVS, and Kmart (and don’t forget I still have $4.75 ECBs and $4 Balance Rewards for next time):

  • 10 body washes
  • 8 deodorants
  • 9 mouthwashes
  • 5 shampoos
  • 5 conditioners
  • 1 lotion
  • 1 Gillette Fusion Proglide razor
  • 1-4 pack of razor cartridges

I’m very pleased with that amount even if it’s no where near those crazy savings of the extreme couponers. Those are things that won’t have to be purchased out of our food budget (all of our household and hygiene supplies come out of the food budget) for the next several months to a year.

And, if we’re ever broke, I know that we’re not going to smell.

Overall, I feel that the better deals are to be had at CVS. I actually paid less out of pocket for the things I purchased at Kmart, but if I take the ECBs I received from CVS into consideration,CVS wins hands down. The benefit of shopping at Walgreens is that they offer store coupons that can be stacked with manufacturer coupons.

As I wrap this up, here’s a word of warning: Shopping CVS is like a game, and it’s very addictive. Even after only two weeks, I found myself pouring over scenarios of how much money I’d have to spend to receive so many ECBs, and on what I’d have to spend that money on.

There’s no savings in spending money on things you don’t need (paper towels and toilet paper in my case) considering I would have had to spend $12 to receive $5 ECBs.

I think too it’s important to know when to stop. I could keep adding these same things to my stockpile every single week for little money, but really…how many bottles of  body wash and mouth wash does a family need? I’ll keep an eye on the adds for something to use my ECBs and Balance Rewards for before they expire, but other than that our hygiene needs are pretty much met at the moment.

In the comments below, tell me how you save money on personal hygiene products. Do you make all your own? Perhaps you only buy the cheapest on the shelf? Do you have any advice for me to save even more money?

And We’re Outta Here!

It’s been no secret on this blog that my family and I haven’t enjoyed our time in the city we moved to in January 2013. Due to that, I’m ecstatic to be able to announce…

WE’RE OUTTA HERE!!!

Yes, my husband has gotten a transfer…and it gets better!!

We’re going back to Iowa-to where we moved here from-the place we absolutely LOVED with all our hearts.

As is usual with transfers, the word came suddenly and J’s move is quick. He has to be at his new store on Monday. The kids and I will follow when we have found a house. Fortunately, it’s different this time since we don’t have to schedule around the kids’ school year. We’ll have time to find a place that suits us and not simply a place to move into.

We’ve already decided to concentrate our home search in the community we moved from. We’ll be moving back to a place where we know people, where we feel we belong, where we have connections, and have tiny baby roots already established. We’ll be going back to a church family we grew to love and a community that strives to better itself.

The kids have decided to go back to public school this coming fall. I have mixed feelings about it. I’m beyond thrilled that they’re so excited to see their friends again after they felt so isolated here, but I have misgivings about the new curriculums being used. If it doesn’t go well, we can always return to homeschool.

Punkin is perhaps the most enthusiastic at this point. He’s 14 and able to get his scooter license when we move back. In addition to that, 14 1/2 year olds can get their school license meaning he’d be able to drive to school if we let him. I’m pretty sure he’s all packed. Lord help us.

After knowing for the last week that we were going to be making this move, my husband and I have looked at each other several times and asked, “Can you believe this is actually happening?”  It’s what we hoped for, what we secretly begged for, and what we openly prayed for but we were also resigned to being here for another year and a half or two years.

Do I have any regrets for having moved? Not really. I am sad that the kids felt like they didn’t belong at their school, but homeschooling this year was incredible and I’m ever so grateful for having had that chance. J also had the chance to move up with his company. If we hadn’t moved here, he wouldn’t be going back to his previous store as a manager with a whole lot of experience from the many challenges he faced here.

I do regret not meeting two of my blogger friends from Decatur. Melissa from Forever Fitting In and Stacey from This Momma’s Ramblings…we still have time to get together. Starbucks on me perhaps?

To finish, I want to tell you a little story. Two weeks ago, I had just started shopping for our stockpile. As I was putting things away in our little pantry, I called my husband in to see my haul. After I pointed out all the things I’d accumulated, he said, “Good! Keep buying that shit. You know the minute we have a ton of crap I’m going to get transferred.” Well, that proved to be correct. So, let me give this a try…

Honey! Go ahead and buy that lottery ticket. You know the minute you do we’re going to be millionaires!

Winter Storm Nika

Winter_Storm

For those of you who don’t live in Illinois, there are a few things you should know. Weather changes at the drop of a hat, and all four seasons are often represented in each season (i.e. the 60°F weather we had just a couple of weeks ago followed immediately by a -10°F day. Weird.). Oh and last Saturday, our basement flooded due to it raining on frozen ground. Good times had by all that day.

Having been born and raised in Northern Illinois, I’ve seen my share of very snowy winters. I saw greater evidence of this when I moved to the U.P. of Michigan for four years during college (Go Huskies!). There’s nothing like opening up your front door only to be met with snow up to your boobs as far as the eye can see. No joke.

When we moved to Iowa we were warned that the winters out there were horrible, but we found that they weren’t much different than we were already used to. The people there took those regular winter storms in stride.

Then we moved to Central Illinois. This area is a whole new animal. I’ll admit, compared to last winter, it may seem to the people who have lived here their whole lives that the world is ending by snow. We’ve gotten feet more snow this year than last.

But please. Each and every time the weather forecast calls for snow of greater than an inch, the people in this city lose their minds.

I happened to have to run to the grocery store this morning, and for a Tuesday morning, the parking lot was packed! Now I’ll admit, I didn’t even realize that there was a storm heading our way. I’d heard of one supposedly hitting up north, but because I don’t watch the news, this whole Winter Storm Nika thing had escaped me.

And inside, it was chaos! There were shoppers filling carts…multiple carts, ladies!… of groceries in order to prepare for a snow storm. My checker commented that she’d never seen such ridiculousness before. That’s saying a lot considering my first experience in this particular grocery store was a girl standing at the checkout pulling not only her EBT card, but her iPhone too, out of her bra.

This made me think a little bit more about how crazy people around here get about snow and food. I suppose I think differently about it because generally, we cook from staples and we (almost) always have those staples in the house. We buy bread most of the time, but if we ran out, I could easily bake a couple of loaves or we’d just go without. Our freezer is stocked with some meat and veggies, and we have a decent pantry going…and if all else failed, we have rice and beans on standby.

I was being snoopy today so I checked out the carts filling the check out lines. Citizen of this city: You were freaking out over Pop Tarts and frozen pizza. Seriously? You think the world is coming to an end and you’re buying that crap?

Judgement aside, I wonder how and when people moved away from putting some food back for emergencies and totally flipping out the moment there’s the possibility of bad weather.

I’ll talk a little more about this in my next post.

Tell me, do you have a stockpile for emergencies, or are you one that stocks up if there’s bad weather on the way?