Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Day of Freezer cooking...Adventure #1

So this past Saturday, I ventured to do some freezer cooking for my family. My goal was not to make tons of meals for the month but rather to focus on one area. For my family, that area was breakfast! Since I homeschool my girls, I want to make it easier on me to get up and have something simple. And since my husband has a 45 minute drive one way into work in traffic, I want to ensure he has a good easy "pick up" breakfast without the price tag of fast food or the extra additives and calories of it all. So I went through my recipes and decided to make some favorites as well as try some new things. So here is a summary of my day.

I got up early at about 6 a.m.! This is not my usually, but I knew that in order to get things done, I had to wake up before the family. I overlapped cooking/baking with laundry so I could also get caught up in that area as well. I put a load on and then turned my attention to breakfast. I wanted my family to wake up to something to eat and use the extras as freezer food! So my first recipe was Libby's Pumpkin Muffins with a twist. I followed the recipe but I will suggest, don't use orange juice, use the water instead!! I also added pumpkin seeds to the top and next time, I might add a crumb topping as well. I did cut back on the sugar by subtracting about 1/3 cup of sugar! These still had a sweet taste and I would recommend you do the same IF you are adding the crumb topping. They turned out DELISH and they are easy to freeze. The recipe makes TWO DOZEN muffins, so with my family of four, I can place a few in the freezer for another day.

After turning on the coffee pot and getting some caffine in me, I looked through the recipes I thought of making. My next recipe was to try English muffins from scratch. I had seen a lot of them on Pinterest and I have seen some of the "bread" that is easier to slice and toast. But I wanted to turn these into breakfast sandwiches for my husband, so I used this recipe from Creative Savings blog. I liked the texture and I only spent 45 minutes making these which includes the rising time!

Another idea of mine was to make breakfast cookies for my girls. After looking at several ideas, I went back to my original Better Homes and Gardens Red and White Plaid cook book to pull out the oatmeal cookie recipe. I reduced the sugar and added two types of chips, chocolate and white chocolate. I have also added butterscotch chips to them in the past. My girls like this and it's easier than fixing a bowl of cereal. Plus, since we really don't have "cold" days here in Florida, it's the perfect solution to a bowl of oatmeal!

After finishing the English muffins and letting them cool, I decided on ingredients. My husband loves eggs, so I decided to bake them in muffin tins as shown on several different Pinterest boards. This was easy to make but even after spraying loads of Pam, they didn't quite come out as clean as I had hoped for! However, they did come out nice and round and it was easier than trying to flip and egg while in a round silicon mold! I also fried up some Whole Foods pork sausage rounds. We bought these with the intention of using them for sandwiches. (As a side note, I did pay $6.99 for 8 patties.) While expensive, these do taste REALLY good and are made from really good pork. So when everything was ready, I layered sliced cheese, egg round and sausage into each English muffin. After which, I wrapped in wax paper, labeled and placed in freezer.

I also decided to finally try Money Saving Mom's freezer biscuits. I had previously tried another blogger's version of freezer biscuits and about choked at the flavor - or flavorless I should say. So I took a chance making another recipe to see if this would be better. I was THRILLED at how good they tasted when baked! (Yes, I froze them first and then thawed to bake one morning.) This is worth making and keeping in your freezer!! So much tastier than canned and they are cheaper by far. Thanks Money Saving Mom!!! I do have another yeast biscuit I freeze, but that recipe will be shared later!

The last breakfast recipe I made was homemade "pop tarts". I also previously tried some recipes on pinterest and they all tasted like Pie Crust pockets. But when I came across this one by Little House Living, I was sold by the listing of ingredients. It didn't sound like pie crust and she labels it as "toaster strudels" but I would say it's between both....AND BETTER THAN BOTH! I made a simple cream cheese icing to place inside. I also used a tool from Williams Sonoma's which helped with the shape of each square. They no longer sell it, but if you are looking for another easy method, this is an appliance from Amazon that makes Pop Tarts! You might also be able to use a Pampered Chef cut and seal as mine is the same, but just rectangular. I really enjoyed making these and well, we didn't get around to freezing any!! It made 7 total from one recipe and we ate all of them by Monday morning!! I will probably also try different things inside the pop tart, like fruit preserves, brown sugar or nutella.

After that, I did continue to work in the kitchen on some other things. I made 10 twice baked potatoes which are easy to make with a Kitchen Aid mixer and they freeze really well. I also baked some sweet potatoes and pureed them for my sweet potato casserole later this fall.

Bottom line, This may be easy to write up and provide links, but it took a lot of time and effort to do all this! My back was aching after standing for eight hours in the kitchen! But it was nice to stock the freezer with a few items and try some new recipes that I had been wanting to. I probably will take more breaks next time but I don't know how some of you out there do once a month meals! From scratch, that would do me in!! LOL. So for me, I am going to try to take Saturdays (or some Friday afternoons) and cook/bake/plan for ONE MEAL only. This Saturday, I am thinking of making LUNCHES to freeze. So I'm hunting down some "hot pocket" recipes and will share some other things I have in mind to freeze for that meal!

YAWN! Gotta go, I hope you enjoyed this post and as always, come back SEW HUNGRY FOR MORE!

Photo provided by Death to Stock Photos/edited by me.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The not so SCARY way to meal plan!

Do you ever get on Pinterest, get a nice meal planning worksheet and then sit down for your mind to go blank? Yeah. I'm one of those. I like the idea of planning but having ALL those spaces staring at me! Not my idea of fun. And then I go to day one, try to fill in breakfast by searching the fridge and freezer. Then I move to lunch, doing the same thing. Then on to dinner and I'm on a different train of thought (or train to crazy!) and have to stop and think about dinner requirements. By the time I'm done with the list, I feel exhausted and I can't remember what to write down on my grocery list!!

If you read my blog, you know I go to different places. I like to shop around for the best deals. So I like having a plan of attack before going to most of the stores. So I'm providing you with some free downloads today of my "un-scary" method of meal planning. I'm a avid list maker and this way helps me the most. First I make lists of WHAT I HAVE. In my freezer, my fridge and pantry. Then I start with breakfast and list different ideas of what I can make with (first) what I have and (second) what I need, all while having a grocery list next to me on another pad.

So here is the link for the meal planning lists. This one is a listing of your grocery inventory here.

Here is how I use them. First, I take out the Fridge list with pantry and freezer inventory lists attached. I make a list of all or most things in my pantry. I just put a number beside it if there is more than one item. I don't list spices, salts, cooking sprays or general things I always seem to have. On my grocery list, which is a separate list posted on my refrigerator, I list items if I DON'T have those on hand.

Second, I look back at my list of "grocery inventory", I note in my head now how much meat I have or breakfast items or boxes of crackers. Then my I formulate my plan! Now by keeping my lists handy and all those things in mind, I now can list my meals. Start with breakfast and brainstorm. How many do you meals do you have on hand? Cereal and Milk (check), Eggs, Bacon and homemade hash browns w/potatos on hand (check), left over lunch meat on hand with eggs and frozen bell peppers - viola an omelet (check). That's three down and more to go. If you also cook from scratch, like I try to do, then you might keep enough flour, milk and eggs on hand to make freezer biscuits, pancakes, waffles or muffins. Keep listing with this same process for your other meals. If you have small children at home or homeschool, you may need to add in a few snacks in your day. Think about your week or month, do you have time for making things by scratch or are you better to substitute some things with eggos, frozen biscuits, granola bars or frozen hashbrowns. Make it simple and keep it simple. If you don't have time to make 4 dozen biscuits on the weekend, then plan for something else. (This is a no judgement zone here!) Some days it's hard to get dinner on the table, so be mindful of your schedule as you list meals. Have a few freezer meals or 30 minute meals on hand.

Third, I also pull out my grocery ads and see what's currently on sale. Is chicken $1.99 per pound? Is ground beef on sale? What about bacon or lunch meat? If I have chicken in my freezer, I buy beef or pork or both. I use my sale flyers and my inventory to plan the rest of the meals. It's nice to have a steak dinner and all but if it's $12.99 per pound for Rib Eye cuts, then I'm not going to afford the rest of my groceries!

Do you eat out too much and want to start meal planning? Start by looking at your favorite places to eat out. Build a menu with meals just like they do. This is a great starting point. Another way is to ask each family member to suggest a meal.

I also use Google for recipe searches but I really love searching on Pinterest! It's amazing how many copycat things you can find for places like Panda Express or Olive Garden. In your search box, just try typing a few words. Try, for example, "Ways to use a Rotisserie chicken". You would be surprised how you can plan a whole week on just a few chickens! Just remember to pin or print the recipes you find so you don't forget come dinner time. As a suggestion, you can also stable these to your lists to help you plan for the week or month.

Keep your lists in a handy place for reference all week. After a few weeks, you will have a monthly meal plan!! And well....that brings me to another blog topic for another day! But right now, I hope these lists help you and your family do better at meal planning! Gotta Go and always come back Sew Hungry For More!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What does "salvage" grocery shopping trip look like?

For many of you who have read my blog, you know that I'm not your average frugal shopper. I see Pinterest images of shopping trips to major stores, to discount stores, Dollar Tree and bulk grocery stores. So today, I'm going to change your perception of "salvage" grocery dealers or at least I hope to expand your horizons for another frugal adventure.

Well, first, let's define what "salvage" groceries are and are not. They ARE leftovers from grocery warehouses because demand for these products may not have been what was expected. They ARE stock from a truckload where the truck may have been in an accident and the store refused the products. However, the truckload itself may have not undergone any damage due to packaging! They ARE sometimes out of date items. They ARE sometimes spilled products on perfectly good products - but has residue of the spilled product on the packaging. (This happens in organic drinks that are packaged in glass bottles where one bottle in the case is broken, but the rest just need to be cleaned.)

So here is a picture of my salvage groceries:

In the picture above, you see a sampling of "pantry" goods that I am able to get from my local dealer. He sold me a box of toilet paper (96 rolls) for $24! We bought the case and it has lasted our family of four about six months now!! I was also able to buy boxes of Family sized tea bags for $1.50 each box. In the stores, the Decaf is at least that much on a good buy one get one sale. Below the tea box are a sample of the Dixie white corn meal I bought. I purchased 11 bags for just $6! The potato chips (Kettle brands) run about $1 a bag and they usually get in a variety of flavors. The condiments are $1.50 each and in this trip, I was able to snag some Panda Express Orange Chicken sauce, an organic apple butter, and a bottle of Stubb's BBQ sauce which contains no high fructose corn syrup. Oh, and don't forget the lemon cookies. I pay $1.50 a box for what ever variety I can find. This is just a sampling though of some of the products I am able to afford for my family at a fraction of the real cost of groceries. Below is a refrigerated sample.

In this picture, you see my half gallon of whole organic milk which I buy for $2 each. I usually buy the case, so yes, I have 5 more in the fridge at this moment! At my local grocery stores, these are at least $4 each, if not $5. In the past, I have also found half n half, whipping cream and even goat milk. These products are all organic, making them a really great deal when I can find them. In the picture you can also see organic brown eggs. The store sells them by the dozen (these just happen to break apart) and on last visit I bought a case to split with relatives. We pay $2.00 a dozen. Again, these are organic and the price is always rising at whole foods. There is also a can of dried/powdered buttermilk, which I like to use in mixes and doughs. It was $1.50 along with the cream cheese!

So what do you think? Not as bad as you thought huh? I have friends that pay for all this organic stuff and when I tell them where I go, it's like "What? You go WHERE?" as if they couldn't "lower" themselves to go into a salvage dealer. But you really need to try it sometime! Mine is a cleaner facility and I have shopped there for four years. They know me and my entire family. We pack their empty boxes with the groceries we need and they even bring them to the vehicle! (I have supermarkets saying they will save you money but they won't walk you to the car!!) OK, I know it's not all sunshine and rainbows, so I will tell you a few other things.

I live in Florida - closer to the tropics then I would like! We have two seasons, hot and VERY hot. This is not good for food storage. So I am very careful during the summer as to what I buy and when I buy it. Because Jesus, Germs, and BUGS are everywhere in Florida!!! LOL. I refuse to buy cereals, pasta and grains unless they are off the truck when I get there. Because if it's been sitting in the hot warehouse, it's prone to bugs. And when I do buy certain products, I wrap them up in ziplocs as soon as I get home. I also toss ALL boxes that store the cases. I have found this works for me and (knock on wood) I haven't had a bug for several years.

Going to a salvage dealer also means that their stock varies. I have arrived in hopes of getting milk or eggs and the shipment won't be in for another week. Sometimes they have chips and sometimes they don't. I try to go at least once a month with a budget to see what I can find for a deal. If they have milk, I stock up. If they have toilet paper and I need it, I buy it. I can't wait because they may not have it tomorrow. And then sometimes, I have to come back to see if they have it next week. (Or I call them.)

I hope this gives you a good idea of another way to save your family money. Go on an adventure, find a salvage store near you and visit. Go online and find reviews of the place if you can. If the store is messy, has REALLY out of date food, smells wrong or has signs of pests, then run the other way fast!! But keep looking...because you never know unless you get out there....and it might just be that needle in a haystack that helps you save more money on your grocery bill!! Thanks for reading and come back....Sew Hungry For More! AH

Friday, July 3, 2015

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2015/2016 PreK edition

A few days ago, I posted my 2nd grade curriculum choices for my oldest and as promised, this post is about curriculum for my youngest. But first, let me describe my child last year and some problems/challenges we had to overcome and still need to work upon.

My child will just be turning 4 in August, so her maturity rate is probably different than some her age. She learns QUICKLY!!! I have watched her as she watches someone do something and BAM - she practices it and knows it! When she was just two, she learned to snap her fingers! (Before her older seven year old sister! And mind you she was telling her "Sis, you just put your two fingers together like this and "snap"!") Sometime she frustrates her older sister because she does in fact KNOW how to do it!

Problems last year included: 1. Not being able to keep her busy enough! Hand her a busy bag - done in less than 2 minutes, Complete a puzzle - no problem, Play with Little People - done in 15 minutes! 2. Not having enough ideas on hand and not having time to research more! 3. We got disrupted with our lessons probably every 10 minutes or so because she was done. She moved on. Next!?!

So this year, I had to find some solutions to help keep her busy independently and keep my sanity by not having to plan every day out to include 20 or so things that I had to make or build for her. This is another reason I'm happy to use My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures with her older sister. We can use this program on a variety of levels for Pre-K.

Shared Learning examples:

Shared Circle Time! This year, both girls will be in our church's Word of Life program. So Bible in the mornings will each give them a devotional and activities to complete. We can also work on the Read alouds and memory verses for the Chapter of Matthew together.

Shared Read Alouds: This year we will all be sitting down on the couch for more interesting read alouds. They can both listen to the stories of the missionaries and listen along to literature favorites.

Shared Science Curriculum: We will also be conducting experiments, reviewing habitats and researching about animals together. This will be fun for both girls and we can work together as much as work apart on the same projects. While my pre-schooler may need more help, they can both complete the same types of projects or my youngest can work on a similar project that is geared towards a Pre-K learning level.

Shared Social Studies Curriculum: Both girls will also be working together (and apart) on learning activities dealing with each country. We will be completing simplified lapbooks for Pre-K, while my older one does more complex lapbooks.

Shared electives: We will be able to work together on Music, Art and even handicrafts. My father's world already planned many of them in their lesson plans and I have already prepared some other ideas to go along with each country. Because while they recommend art only once a week, I know my girls, so we will be doing art at least twice a week.

Independent Learning:

This year I will begin a formal "letter of the week" curriculum from a number of sources here on the world wide web. I previously used Confessions of a Homeschooler's Pre-K program for my oldest daughter. This worked rather well and I will be using quite a few of the essentials from the program such as the template for daily lesson plans, the suggested books and activities and many of the actual "letters" for some of the weeks. However, when combining with My Father's World curriculum, I thought it best to switch it up a bit and also use some of 1plus1plus1equals1 animal alphabet activities and some of 3Dinosaurs alphabet printables. All of these allow me to vary some of the same types of activities but to go along with our group learning by changing up to an animal theme or environment theme.

To save on printing costs, I will also be using some more colorful worksheets from different pre-K workbooks gathered at used homeschool sales and the local dollar tree.

Hands On Learning: As part of Pre-K, my daughter also needs to work on her gross motor skills and fine motor skills. We will be including a variety of activities like scissor practice, lacing cards and shoes, and sensory bins among other things. I have purchased a few Melissa & Doug learning toys to help with keeping her busy, but also learning. Here is a listing with links to a few specific toys. I have also placed a few of them on my pin board for My Fathers World. Here is a wooden pattern block toy. Here is another wooden pattern block. A See and Spell toy helps both my girls learn. A habitat mat to keep her busy with "stickers" and another one here to create crazy animals.

I hope this gives you an idea on what we have planned. I welcome any comments or suggestions. I will be posting later about our upcoming homeschool schedule and how I organize all this learning! It's been a great summer of planning and preparing. It will be fun to start the school year this year and see how all my planning works out in real life!! haha. Well, Gotta go. Always come back Sew Hungry For More.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Homeschool Curriculum for 2015/2016 School Year

It's that time of year again, homeschool curriculum choices!! I've been researching, planning and preparing LOTS of things as this year I will be teaching both of my girls together and with more intense work. My oldest goes to the second grade and my youngest will be starting official pre-kindergarden work! Here's a summary of what I have chosen for each girl. I hope this gives you some ideas and helps you plan your year out too!

The main curriclum I have chosen for both girls is My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures. This is a Charlotte Mason style learning with lots of room to add or subtract what each individual student needs during their year. It also allows us to learn about the chapter of Matthew, famous world missionaries, and the cultures of each country we study together. This will allow us a jumping off point for working together on some things and challenging each of my girls with their individual needs. If you are also using this curriculum, I have created a Pinterest Board here to help you locate other ideas for Totschool, Preschool and even challenge your second or third grader with completing lapbooks on each subject as you study them.

Second Grade Choices:

Language Arts, Reading, and Writing:

Last year we completed Hooked on Phonics for my oldest. We actually completed all five levels which is supposed to line up with second grade phonics. So this year, we will do a review but also ensure she has been exposed to all types of phonic sounds and sight word (rule breakers as we like to call them.) We will be doing this through Scholastic's At-Home Phonics Reading Program. I actually bought this last year, but it was to difficult for her to begin at the time. There are books included, a review of letter sounds, phonic sounds and even includes vocabulary and reading comp. If you buy the whole series, it comes with other booklets for spelling review, writing review and a dictionary. I bought mine off Amazon for around $100 used. Although, mine was still in plastic wrap and had never been opened. You can also find some of the "box" kits one by one on Ebay or through used homeschool sales.

We will also be using Abeka Spelling. I found this for $1 at a local homeschool sale!

We are also using Language Smarts, Level C from the Critical Thinking Company. This has worksheets on everything from parts of speech, grammar and simple writing exercises. Along with this I also did purchase Daily Guided Teaching and Review for Second and Third Grade. This is an older version of Easy Grammar student edition. This is something that takes only ten minutes a day once the child learns most of the grammar rules.

For better reading comprehension, I have found several books that we will pull things from when we need. One is the suggested Complete Book of Animals, from the My Father's World curriculum. (I again found mine used.) We will also use Vocabulary Connections Level B by Steck-Vaughn. (no longer in print, so I found one at a yard sale and the other on Ebay to put up for my youngest.)

This year, I want my second grader to learn to write well (for her age) and so I wanted to include a review of phonics, spelling, grammar, reading comprehension and English composition. This may seem like a lot...but if a child reads for 15 minutes a day on their own and completes one English/reading lesson a day, this adds up to teaching quite a bit on the subject. While some may think worksheets are Twaddle, I do believe in the early years that they have their place to practice the concept. Charlotte Mason had a chalk board and we have pre-printed chalk boards to have our students to practice on. Now I promise, I will try not to bore her by doing EVERY one. If she understands a concept, we will skip that and go to what she does need to learn or review. I go along with her learning style and rate of learning because after all, this is one advantage of one on one teaching.


When I purchased My Father's World Curriculum, they suggested using Singapore Math - Primary Mathematics level 2A and 2B. However, after doing some research, I soon found out that the curriculum was actually for third grade! So I decided to go with an older math book that was sitting on my shelf. (McGraw-Hill Mathematics in Action) The math book is more like a consumable workbook, so it's not only out of print, but hard to find with no marks inside. It was published in the early 90's! It starts off revewing addition and ends with three digit adding and subtracting. Primary Mathematics level 2A picks up at reviewing the concept of 100, so I will be holding onto these for next year.

For fun, I have also purchased some brain teasers, tangrams, flash cards, manipulatives and family games that teach. This way we can have fun playing games and review or understand concepts without really thinking about them! I may try to find other things to add to our game pile. I usually head over to a local thrift store and purchase these used for only a few dollars OR I'll pick them up at yard sales. (Try to ensure all the pieces are there....but if not, sometimes the game is still playable or pieces can be used from another game you already own.)


Science was included in the My Father's World Curriculum. We will be studying about Properties of Ecosystems and using several "living books" to go along with this. I have added to this, an Animals of the World Atlas and several books on Animals of the World, several Magic School Bus books, some Dover coloring pages and some other books I found at the library that will help us learn more about each countries habitats and animals/plants. On my pinterest board, there are also several ideas for lapbooks from habitats, individual animals and ecosystems. To show evidence of learning, we will probably use some of them. We will also be conducting science experiments and constructing some models to aid with learning.

Social Studies, Geography and Cultures:

Our main curriculum is to learn about each country and culture as we travel around the globe. On my Pinterest board, I have found several lapbooks through several sources to add to the information provided in the curriculum. I have also gathered paper dolls, cookbooks, handicraft ideas, art ideas, videos to watch and several other things that are nice to include when learning about a country. These will generally be things BOTH of my daughters can do together side by side and learn at the same time. And yes, since I have girls, dress up is fair game to learn about a country! LOL. I may also include a special study around Christmas on how kids around the world celebrate this holiday.

Geography is included in the curriculum, but to break it down more towards a second grader, I have put together some pins on my board and I purchased a few Scholastic books among other things to help with learning about maps. I am also keeping around a "blow up" Globe ball, several wall maps, a "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago" Puzzle map, other puzzles and several hands on activities/games to learn more about geography.

Another key part of this Curriculum is to teach about world missions. We will be reading about several missionaries from Hero Tales and Window on the World books that were included as part of My Father's World. To add to these teachings, I will be borrowing several biography books on missionaries from our church library to read aloud. I am also gathering information from our church on world missionaries that we support today and we will probably write to them or send some things to them depending on their mission field. This not only helps us learn about missions through reading about them but by adding in current missions, I can teach my children about today's missionaries and why we give to missions. (On a side note: maybe this will help them be more thankful for the blessings we have!) And of course, who can forget participation in Operation Christmas Child as part of this?

On a side note, Bible is also part of the World Mission study. I will be expanding on this study using the Chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Rod and Staff Publishing has a bible study here for second grade. This is also a "reader" type study with a workbook to compliment each textbook. We will only be using Unit 5 this year as it tells the stories of the Gospel from Mark's perspective. There are only 30 stories in this Unit allowing us to complete one lesson a week.

Bible lessons will also include Word of Life devotionals to follow along with our church's kids program. My daughter made Gold level last year and so I'm sure she will be anxious to make Gold this year too!


When purchasing My Father's World, one of the advantages is that it brings in "elective" type activities to help study the main subjects. It has a music study, an art study and projects to complete such as baking a John 3:16 world cake. I could just stop there and be done with electives for my daughters. But this momma has some other things I want to teach them. So here is a small summary of extras we will cover this year.

Home Economics:

Even though my oldest is only 7 going on 8, I will be teaching her basic concepts to help her become more self sufficient and to help her grow into a well-rounded young lady. We will be learning hand stitching this year. My plan is to start with foam plates like this tutorial from "Make-it-Love-it" blog does. We will then move to a regular wooden hoop with cotton material and begin the same process using actual cloth. I am also considering teaching her simple cross stitching and complete some "little" projects that will help her practice. We may also move on to some felt hand sewing and begin making easy projects. (I may expand on these projects as we complete them.)

I did purchase a simple home-ec book published by the Pearables. This teaches basic concepts to first and second graders concerning Sewing, Cooking, Cleaning, and Baking. The book is very simple but on a perfect level for my daughter and I am going to see how my youngest completes these tasks as well. For example, week one is cutting a carrot on a tray. You allow the child to practice three times during the week on cutting up a carrot using a not so sharp knife. Another lesson is on cracking an egg. In baking, it introduces the oven as the first lesson. It's a very practical book to teach beginning skills and since the lessons are already put together, I don't have to think about what or how to teach this first year of Home Ec.

Character Studies:

If it's one thing we all need to work on in our homes, it's character building with our children along with the formation of habits! We will be using character badges by the Modest Mom blog. I've printed out most of it and I can't wait to start using it with my kids. I love the lay out - which will be posted on the fridge - and the chart system. While we are learning about it the first couple of weeks, I plan on reading some Aesop's Fables (Abeka publishes one) as well as stories from a Children's Book of Virtues by William Bennett.

My daughter worked on learning Piano last year and this is something we will continue this year. My daughters were also members of our church children choir, which I hope they will be able to continue this year as long as our schedule works out where we can attend practices.


This year we did a lot of playing outdoors. However, we are considering some lessons for my oldest daughter. Since we live in Florida, swimming lessons are at the top of the list. The summer programs, however, are extremely full and kids don't get as much one-on-one time as they often need to really learn to swim well. We are considering fall or winter lessons at an indoor pool where the water is heated. We may also consider soccer as a choice as Dance is much more expensive. These may change as I get more ideas of schedules and cost, but for now I have them on the list.

Group activities:

While my children are involved in our church, there are not many girls their ages or ones that share common interests with them. So we are also considering American Heritage Girls to enjoy activities with other like minded families. This group is the "Christian Girl Scouts" so to speak. She will have chances to earn badges and go on camping trips just like Girl Scouts.

So while this is a rather long, extensive list, I wanted to be very descriptive about our choices. I do realize that as the year happens, things may change but I like to start out with a good comprehensive program that covers all the bases. My hope is that this will help you narrow down your choices for curriculum for 2nd grade and help you see that multiple choices are sometimes needed to help cover all the gaps. My child is very bright, so I feel she needs more to challenge her than a regular student at this age.

My next post will be about our curriculum choices for Pre-K 4. I have chosen some different choices as well as some similar choices to others. Sew Stay Tuned and come back Sew Hungry For More.

**Photo design by Death to Stock Photos. Photo altered by me.**

Friday, May 15, 2015

5 Reasons why my family decided to homeschool

It's that time of year again, time when our homeschool is wrapping up. It's also time for us to shop for new curriculum and figure out the plan for next year. Next year will be more of a challenge for me, I will be homeschooling TWO children! My oldest will be in Second Grade and my youngest will start Pre-school. So while some of you are looking forward to the kids being home this summer, mine are home ALL the time! This series is about WHY we decided to homeschool our two girls.

"You are homeschooling your kids? Why?" said another mom. It never amazes how many times I get this question and how some people tend to respond to their own question with another question. "Do they not have good schools where you live?", "Don't they have FREE VPK?", "How will or how can you afford it?" and "Doesn't your family qualify for assistance at the local private school?" Say What?! So here is my answer broken down into several parts of the WHY.

First: We homeschool because we want to raise Christian kids, STRONG in the faith. There are plenty of private Christian schools in my area but this is just NOT our ideal situation for our kids. Because it IS expensive and because these schools are also seeing the influx of more non-Christian kids. We want our girls to really learn and know the scriptures. We want to work on their character, their obedience, their daily walk with God and we want to plant the seed of salvation in their hearts. I can't depend on someone else to do that. Afterall, God tell us in SEVERAL verses that WE should train UP our children. They are OUR responsibility. For scriptural reference: "Fathers, don't stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6 (HCSB translation), "Train UP a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22: 6 (NASB translation), and "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Deuteronomy 6:7 (ESV translation). My family has prayed about this decision and God has made it clear to us the most important reason WHY we homeschool.

Now I understand that some of you out there may have your son/daughter being taught by a fellow Christian in a public classroom. And that may seem like it's working, but here is the problem....a young child IS NOT able to WITNESS to another child. At 8 years of age, could you defend your faith? If another child lies about something, will your child be brought into the lie or go along with it? If another child makes fun of someone or bullies them, will your child join in? If your child is just trying to make friends or "fit in" and starts acting like "bad" kids, how can you stop that? If another child brings his iphone to school and shows porn at recess, how can you stop it from happening? YOU CANNOT! While some of you may say...Oh, I'll deal with it when it happens. As a former public school teacher myself, I will admit, a teacher cannot watch EVERYTHING or know what goes on at recess, the cafeteria table, the bus stop, the bus, the hall times, the locker times, the field trips, assemblies and other "free" times when the teacher isn't actually teaching. And as a teacher, usually even kids dont' tell until AFTER an event has occured.

Let me give you some real life examples... The kids in middle school have 15 minutes of free reading time with their own book. I had a student who had a different book jacket on an explicit romance novel she was reading at the time. The student "forgets" and leaves it in her desk between the change of classes. I had hall duty. The next class is fine so I'm making sure things are ok in the hall. I walk back in and realize students are passing around a book. I collect the book and the jacket falls off. (kids were reading it, laughing about it...some where in shock, girls with red faces, I noticed all before I got the book.) Later in the day, i call the parent. The mother told me she is OF AGE and ABLE to read the books! The mother had no problem with sharing her XXX porn novels with her 14 year old daughter!!! I asked the mother if she could have her daughter leave her books at home. Her next statement was against me....Why, she should be able to read ANYTHING during that 15 minutes. (My response was that she should leave it at home because OTHER parents would object to it as her daughter was leaving it in her desk and therefore exposing other students.) The next day I got called out by administration!!!! End result: Student was allowed to bring a porn novel into my class and there was nothing I could do about it!! While this may be an "extreme" example to some, this is happening all over america. Being a Christian teacher means nothing when liberty for all truely means that in a classroom. (I also had other things happen dealing with porn, witchcraft, language and contact between students. - This is REAL and Christian parents who look the other way are kidding themselves.)

Now, can I protect them and shelter them from everything? No. I know that. But I want my child to grow up with a firm foundation with which to build their character on and their future salvation. I want my child to be able to defend her faith BEFORE stepping into the fire. God will do the rest. I homeschool because I know my child is still understanding, in knowledge and in faith. I am a parent who understands that our children are gifts from a God who also has given PARENTS the job of being a parent and raising them. (I know I'm SO overprotective! LOL)

Second: But this is not the ONLY reason I homeschool. I would like my children to not only appreciate the Bible/Scripture but also great literature, art, hymns, classical works of music, historical figures that have REAL character, creation science, and learn from real books instead of "twaddle" as Charlotte Mason suggests. I want my children to really LEARN and not just memorize dull facts or complete volumes of worksheets. I want them to be able to learn at their own pace, not a school boards "suggested" pace. I want to be able to choose how and what we learn instead of picking a "one size fits all" approach like a school would. My children are completely different in how they learn and how fast they learn. I would rather homeschool to let them learn as much as they are able.

Third: Another reason I homeschool is because of flexibility. With my husband having two corneal transplants in the past year, we have had a LOT of doctors appointments. The doctors office is also 30 minutes in the opposite direction of the local public and private schools. Our appointments have lasted as short as 30 minutes and as long as 6 hours!!! With homeschooling, I have had the flexibility to pack the days lesson and tote everything and everyone along for the ride. If I had a child in school, I would have to ask someone else to either pick them up or rush clear across town to pick them up and then back the other way to pick up my husband! This year, homeschooling got completed whether we were in a doctors office, a dental office, outside, inside, at a museum, at a park or at the grocery store.

Fourth: Oh, did I mention I am raising to little girls? I don't know if some of you noticed, but in most areas of the country, home economics is no longer taught or considered a valuable skill. Gone are the days when most little girls learned to sew a garment, cook a meal, plan a meal or learn how to manage a household. Those are skills that were passed down to me and I want to pass them down to my girls. I want them to at least have the knowledge of sewing a garment, cooking a meal, baking homemade bread, canning, growing a garden and being a helpmate to their future husbands. Maybe that's a little old fashioned for some, but I believe these are "lost arts" that need to be handed down to future generations.

Fifth:The last reason I homeschool is a sentimental one. My girls will only be "little" for so long. It's hard for me to believe that my oldest is already in second grade. That means in only 10 years, she will be a senior!! God gives us a very short time as parents and I want to make all of our minutes together count.

So how about you? Do you homeschool? What are your reasons?

Thanks for reading and as always, come back Sew Hungry For More....

photo credit: Death to stock photos

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lots of Changes around here

Wow is it April 2015 already? Valentines Day is over, Easter is over. I sewed dresses for both but didn't have our camera handy. So I will have to bug relatives for a few photos to post of those. In the mean time, let me catch you up on us.

January: We all got sick with strep throat. I so LOATHE that sickness. We were all running fevers and we missed quite a bit of homeschool. However, we probably watched Frozen at least a dozen times. My husband was also asked to lead music at our Church. Previously, he lead music at our church and two others off and on for 15 years. He was a worship leader when we met. But this time, things are different. God's been knocking on his heart for years about going into ministry. He's always had an excuse or a reason. But I'm happy to say, He had answered the calling and is not just leading music at the church but attending seminary classes online. We are rolling with the punches for now, trying to get him back to full time work and working around his eyesight problems until his vision is back to 100% with new glasses. We know God has a plan so we are "All In".

February: I made valentines dresses. Love was in the air. Things were great. Until our Scottish Terrier of 8 years got VERY sick. She blew up like a balloon. We took her to an expensive vet. After $500 worth of testing, they discovered her liver had probably failed and there was nothing anyone could do. She stopped eating and we decided to put her down. Sorrow was in the air. We all cried. The girls slept with us for two nights crying. I think it was about a week before we all really moved on. We still miss her. She was our family dog. She was our only dog. Right now though, since life is fast paced, we are not getting another one. My husband and I decided that we would wait til our 3 year old grows up a bit. Her tonsils keep flaring up but since the dog hasn't been around, she's been rather healthy. So maybe it's best to wait....for now.

March: Caught up a lot in home-school subjects. My first grader has now completed first grade hooked on phonics and as I write this, we are almost done with the first book for second grade. She is reading better each day and she is learning to be more of an independent learner in some areas. Her sister will turn 4 soon and Pre-K is on the horizon. Little one is very excited to do "school" each day right now and is looking forward to next year. I also made Easter dresses this month and hope to find some family photos to post. I made a "fancy" peasant dress for each girl. I didn't want dresses that took a lot of time to make and I didn't want to buy some of the expensive dresses at the department stores whereby they will fall apart after washing. (Or are made not to wash at all!) I used fabric i had on hand, so the dresses didn't cost me anything other than time this year.

So far in April, I have been busy searching for the right homeschool curriculum for next year. I have also been cleaning through family closets and drawers. This way I can make a mental list of what my girls need for summer wardrobes. I think i will try to make most of those. They seem to have enought t-shirts to keep wearing and so I will probably make more knit and cotton shorts for hot Florida weather. This year, I also need to concentrate on myself some and make some decent shorts as well as light airy tops that look great for the weekend. If you follow me on Pinterest, then you will see some new boards for homeschooling, organization, sewing and dream closet ideas. While this blog may sometimes seem slow, my pinterest boards never get a rest while I'm researching things for homeschool and my family.

Well, time to go for now. I will be posting soon on some homeschool curriculum choices we have recently made as well as some schedules. So please feel free to follow me and always come back, Sew Hungry For More.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

How to use your Florida W.I.C. benefits even when your family is on a Paleo Diet

As I mentioned before, my family only lives off of $500 a week. We are also a family of four with two daughters. The oldest just turned 7 and the youngest is 3. Since my husband’s income is from disability insurance, I tried to find ways to help provide my family with what we have needed during this season of our lives. Our family lives in Florida and while we have never qualified for food stamps or federal assistance, we did qualify for the Florida Health Department’s Women, Infant and Children grant program. This is a program whereby my 3 year old receives certain “nutritional” assistance in the form of specific named foods. (If you are a resident of Florida and are interested in the program requirements, click here.) We also have “check-ups” throughout the year at the Department of Health where they finger prick the child to check their iron level. At first, I was scared about doing this and how my child would feel. However, the prick is TWICE a year and since my child was having problems with anemia last year, I thought it might be a way for me to also know where her iron level is currently.

I also have friends who have concerns even after they find out they qualify for this type of assistance. Most of them are dietary concerns. I have one friend who told me her family was going more natural and probably would not eat any of it. So this is a list of encouragement to families who don’t think they could use it…and besides, this is really for the KIDS. While the adults may not drink milk in the household, I think there are more benefits than cons for children under age 5 to receive a glass of milk as part of their regular diet. So here is a list of benefits and possible suggestions for anyone on a more natural diet, paleo diet, or even gluten free diet.

For ONE child, this is what you receive each month:

- 3 gallons of 1% milk

- 1 quart of 1% milk

- 2 lbs of whole grains

- 36 oz. of specific “approved” cereals

- Two 64 oz of juice or One gallon

- 16 oz of protein (peanut butter or beans)

- 16 oz of cheese

- 1 doz large white eggs

- $8.00 worth of fruits and veggies – also “WIC” approved.

Ok, now comes the interesting part. There are some things not on a “paleo” diet per say but close enough. Let me explain.

The milk is your standard milk at the grocery store. However, that being said, you must check your labels. Some stores exclude the hormones in their milk! Gustafson Farms is a local dairy farm near me in Green Cove Springs, Florida. They do not use the rBST hormones that some farmers use. They may not be “organic” but if I use my benefits for milk at Rowe’s grocery store, then I’m supporting two local businesses in my area and I get good fresh milk! It may not be organic, but it’s still good milk.

With the two pounds of whole grains, you have three separate options to use them. One choice is two 16 oz loaves of whole wheat bread. Another choice is two 16 oz packages of Mission yellow corn tortillas (gluten free). (There are other brands out there that are NOT gluten free – so check each store.) The other choice is packages of brown rice. With the rice option, you can buy minute or microwavable rice, or bags of regular brown rice. If you are going Paleo, it’s better to choose the two 16 oz bags of brown rice or the two 16 oz packages of corn tortillas. We try to alternate these each month or make our choice depending on what the store has available.

WIC also allows 36 oz of cereal per month. This cereal can be in the form of instant oatmeal, instant grits or boxes of cereal. Cereal is sometimes a “dirty” word in the paleo diet. If you are trying to go completely un-processed, then you may want to skip getting the cereal. However, if you are going gluten free, then you can use that 36 oz each month towards Rice Chex! While checking the labels, this is the ONLY option for a gluten free and partial paleo diet. Whether you allow your kids to eat the instant grits or oatmeal is up to you. These are individually packaged and do contain preservatives and sugar.

Many different juices are listed on the WIC approved list. But all have to be 100% juice and at least 120% of vitamin C. At walmart, I can get a Gallon of Florida’s Natural orange juice with my benefits. If I don’t want OJ, then my options are Welch’s grape, Mott’s apple, generic grapefruit and generic pineapple juices. However, juices vary from store to store. Publix allows Apple and Eve brand apple juice and Libby’s pineapple juice. We don’t use a lot of juices in our diet but they do come in handy to add flavor when juicing or making marinades for meats. These juices aren’t completely organic, but as I said, I have found options for “natural” juice vs. concentrates. Read labels and visit different stores to compare.

They do allow a type of “protein” on WIC. Your choices are a 16 oz jar of Peanut butter or 16 oz of dry beans (or 4 cans of beans). If you or your children are not allergic to peanut butter, I would suggest getting the “natural” PB. WIC supplies one or two brands of the natural. I have found one of them at Walmart stores. You are only allowed one 16 oz jar a month but I find that plenty for a “dip” with apples. Dry beans are the other choice and very easy to do with a paleo diet. While they only allow certain kinds, all are paleo friendly.

The 16 oz of cheese has three options. First you can get either mild cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese. The other option is the “better” American cheese that is not individually wrapped. If your paleo diet does not exclude dairy products then I would suggest the first two alternatives. I have found that sometimes the mozzarella is the “fresh” mozzarella and is less processed than other cheeses.

The one dozen eggs is the store brand. These are not organic, nor are they brown eggs. I wish there was another option but for now you can either get the white or skip it.

The last thing on the list of benefits is usually something I spend first. They allow $8.00 for “fruits and vegetables”. You can use it on jarred salsa, canned fruit, canned veggies, frozen veggies, frozen fruits and fresh fruits/veggies. I usually go with the fresh option as it can be labeled organic! Walmart, for example, sells a bag of organic apples for $3.67 and carrots for a little over a dollar! Plus since my family follows the “dirty dozen” list of organic fruits/veggies, we will buy regular oranges with this money. This usually allows for one bag of apples and one bag of oranges a month! That helps not only my three year old, but the rest of us too!

Above are just some ideas to help families who have a special dietary concern and are considering if or how they should use those WIC benefits that they qualify for. This is just one way we are able to supplement our grocery budget and stay within our $500 a week for all of our expenses. I don’t plan to live on the benefits forever…and in fact, a family cannot unless they keep having kids! Remember you must be pregnant or have a child under age 5 to qualify. For now this helps us through this “season” of our life and my hope is that after some of you read this, you may see how flexible these benefits are to you and your family should you have them.

I have also found some couponing strategies to use with WIC benefits! I will address that in a later article. For now…God Bless and come back Sew Hungry For More.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The TOP TEN uses for extra "Kids Meal" toys

TEN uses for all those extra “Kids Meal” toys:

As I go through and de-clutter the toys in my girls’ room, I sometimes wonder if it’s best to toss or re-use them. So here are ten things you can do with all those “kids meal” toys BEFORE completely throwing them away:

10. Give out at a garage sale. C’mon, we’ve all been there. It’s Saturday morning and you want to visit that garage sale to scope out the latest d├ęcor items for cheap. The catch is that you have the kids with you and they instantly… “MOM, look we don’t have that…Can we get it?” The truth is you might just be looking and don’t feel like wasting your change on some small toy that can wait till a birthday. So If I am hosting a yard sale, I usually give these things out. This makes another kid happy and they will remember you if you host another yard sale! ;)

9. Make a lamp or wreath with them! If you like spray paint them all the same color for a more modern look. Here is a link for a lamp. Please note that you may need to translate the site because it is not in English. Here is a link for a wreath.

8. Recycle as a Christmas ornament to remember that year. Take a permanent marker and remember to write the date as well as the child’s name. This link here is not with “kids meal” toys but with real toys…but I think you get the general idea for an easy DIY.

7. Glue them to a photo frame and use for that school year photo! C’mon, who doesn’t want their favorite movie character glued next to them on that fifth grade yearbook photo! This would also be a good way to match characters up to make a frame for the best Universal Studios or Disney trip frame.

6. Use extra toys as giveaways in your family chore store, your Sunday school surprise box or donate to a teacher to use in their classroom treasury.

5. Use them as accessories for 12” or 18” dolls. We once received miniature beanie babies as meal toys. Come to find out, they look great on Skipper’s new bed in the doll house! How cool is that!?

4. Use them with playdoh, in a sensory bin or outside in the dirt/sandbox. If they get all sticky or dirty, they can easily be rinsed and re-used. But bottom line, they can be tossed.

3. Donate to Operation Christmas Child in November. Remember to keep it in original packaging and do not donate any “war like” toys as that is the rule. The easiest way to remember to do this is to buy a shoe box now and label it OCC!

2. Use them as cupcake toppers for your next birthday party!! You heard me. Why buy rings when you can collect enough of these toys during the month to top 12 cupcakes or more. You may need help from family members or others on this one, but hey I don’t know too many people that won’t be crying over handing you over those extra toys!!

And our number ONE use for these toys:

1. Use as Bathtub toys! Yes, as long as they are not electronic, feel free to make them cheap bathtub toys. This not only keeps the better toys out of the tub, but no one feels bad if they are thrown away as they age or cannot be cleaned. (Squeaker toys tend to gather mold in them so we no longer use these.) Since bathtub toys can be a bit pricey this is a win-win for this momma!

So there you have it TEN ways to re-use those "Kids Meal" toys! Until next time...remember, come back SEW HUNGRY FOR MORE!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Part Four: Other savings to stretch the budget

Hopefully, you’ve been following along for the first of our series and today will be the last post in this series. I’m going to talk in general about some other ways we have lived within our means of $500 a week.

Gasoline prices have varied greatly this year from about $3+ a gallon to presently about $2.15. We do try to get the lowest price we can find. We use gas perks when we have them. We buy gas gift cards at discounts when they sell them and I’ve done some of those purchases where you can earn a gas gift card. I realize though the best way to save is STAY HOME. There are times when appointments are filling up our calendar but those days are winding down now. It makes much more sense to stay at home and find something to do there!

Technology is always moving along and always expensive. So another way we have stayed in our budget is to stay BEHIND in technology. Up until three months ago, our VCR player worked and we used it to watch videos we still owned. I could buy movies for $1 at the flea market and I owned it to watch as many times as I wanted. Now, I’m de-cluttering, so since the player broke….the movies are now gone too. But for a while, it helped us have entertainment and it was in our budget. We also own older computer models, older cameras and an older “type” cell phone. It’s the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Technology can work a while, so instead of getting rid of the older computer, find another use for it by loading older games for your son/daughter to use rather than hook up to the internet. It may not be the latest and greatest, but it still works. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses when you’re trying to stay on budget.

Stay out of debt! This is easier to say then do, but the less you have in bills, the more you have to save/spend on things that are needed. If you have debt, start a plan to pay it down and wipe it out. There are some things that we know we cannot pay down right now, but we do have a future plan on how to attack it when the time is right. But for now, leave the plastic behind and the debt will soon follow!

Use cash when possible. I have tried the envelope option and it works for areas such as entertainment, groceries and eating out. It’s harder for us with gasoline and medical expenses. One month, we may have 3 doctor appointments a week and other times we may have none. So I do have a debit card that we use for gas and other “non” planned expenses. The best thing to do is only bring one card and ensure BOTH you and your husband AGREE that this is an expense you cannot do on cash.

Make sure that you are also paying your bills on time. The last thing anyone needs is finding out that they owe months of an electric bill or credit card payments. Find a system that you and your husband can agree upon and communicate to each other about what your spending. Currently, we are going to re-vamp ours to start the New Year. We used a budget binder for last year and it worked well….until we got lazy about not punching holes in bills for filing!! So now I’m looking at building a better command center to calm the paper tiger before I can’t catch it’s tail! Haha.

Become a DIY expert! This last year I have been pinning a lot on Pinterest. I have found and used recipes for homemade laundry detergent (3 different ways), homemade handsoap made with ivory soap, and even more homemade cleaning products. It’s amazing what you can do with a few different ingredients that you usually keep on hand already. If you wish to follow my boards, click on the right hand side for the Pinterest symbol. I have one marked FRUGAL LIVING and another one marked DIY. Feel free to follow my links to some of my favorite articles.

Keep up your vehicle! Keep it clean, keep ONE running and try doing your own oil changes or having family members help in this matter. There are TONS of YouTube videos on repairs for vehicles or if you don’t feel comfortable, ask a family member or friend/neighbor for help. We have several people we know that are always willing to lend a hand on keeping our one family vehicle up and running. We do own a second vehicle, a truck, but with the transmission out, we don’t feel the need to fix it up just yet. It can wait for another day. As long as one works, we can do just fine. When my husband goes back to work…the vehicle goes with him for MOST of the week. I’ll just have to survive not running errands until the evening or the day I have the vehicle. And did I mention that both vehicles are paid for!

Our “home” budget is quite simple, if it doesn’t need fixing at this moment then plan for the future or fix when it breaks. This is a little harder than it sounds because we really cannot save much, if at all for BIG repairs. We also have no furniture budget either, so we use what we have.

Right now we are in a season and sometimes I just have to keep telling myself that. (As Galatians 6:9 KJV states: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. And Ecclesiastes 3 KJV states: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.)

I hope you have enjoyed this series. For now this will be all I will write, unless anyone has some specific questions or requests about how else we have lived within our means. I hope this truly blesses someone out there! In this day and age it seems like we are constantly trying for bigger/better things when sometimes its OK to stay where you are at! Slow down and always come back Sew Hungry For More.

Photo courtesy of "Death to the Stock Photo."

Monday, January 12, 2015

How my family has lived off of $500 a week for an entire year: (Part Three: Our FOOD budget)

Welcome back to our series on how we have lived off $500 a week for one year. I'm glad you could join us. Part three is my food budget. I do include eating out in this budget because let's face still EAT it. It's part entertainment, but if I don't cook at home, I have to eat somewhere. So read on and let me know if you have any questions.

Our food budget is like a lot of frugal moms in blog land out there. (Personally I love Money Saving Mom.) My grocery budget varies from month to month depending on what I can find on sale but I do try to keep it under $400 a month for a family of four. This price DOES INCLUDE paper products, cleaning products and personal products unlike some other families you see on blog land. I generally try to make things from scratch. I have a few frugal mixes like a pancake mix and a hot roll mix that I use on a regular basis. I try to buy meat when it’s on sale or at a discounted price. I buy pantry items on bogo (buy one get one), by couponing, on discount/clearance or I get them at one of my trusted mark down places.

We try to visit one of our local farmers markets about once a month, but I will also compare with grocery store prices. Sometimes on produce, the grocery store IS the best price and they seem to keep them at better temperatures ensuring each item is fresh when you buy it. We did try to garden one year, but planting heirloom seeds in Florida was not good. The weather killed off half the crop and the bugs got the rest. I think I got 10 peas and only a few herbs from it! This year I’m going to start slow with a few containers and a few plants to see which plants I can grow from the patio. We do know a couple of people near us that have their own gardens and sell the extra for really cheap prices. I have bought onions and potatoes for 25 cents a pound and received cabbage, oranges and onions for free just for asking. There are also two local honey places that sell their honey for average prices. Oh, and I can’t forget about some of the “U-pick” places. We had fun picking blueberries this year at Veterans Farm (picture below) and plan to return this summer for more!

So you are probably wondering where my “trusted mark down” places are located. In my town, I know which stores to go to and on what days/times to get some of the best deals. A few years ago, I bought the book “America’s Cheapest Family” by the Economides. It taught me some of the basics and gave a lot of illustrations on how their family of six was able to save on groceries. I took some ideas to heart and started to look around town to find out where I could get the cheapest prices.

One place I shop regularly is a salvage warehouse type store. Ok, I probably either sparked your interest or you just wrote my blog off......LOL. I remember when I was little, my father and I would love to go to bargain stores and thrift stores to see what treasures lie around. We would always go to one near the beaches. This store had “salvage” food such as dented cans, cleaners that had leakage and other partially “damaged” goods. My father would tell me, “We don’t buy that stuff because it might make you sick!”. As a kid, I listened and never thought anything about it. But now that my family wants to keep a lower budget, I frequent a salvage store. HOWEVER, that being said…I have a few rules about what I buy and don’t buy. I rarely buy an item where the date has passed. I don’t buy dented or damaged food items. I inspect the item VERY carefully to ensure no seal has been broken and no bugs are in that package. I also DO NOT BUY flour, grains, pasta, rice or cereal from these stores. So what do I buy? I have bought organic dairy products for $1.50 a half gallon! I have bought 5 pounds of shredded cheese (frozen) for $10. I have bought organic coffee for $3.50 a brick. I buy Kerig cups for $5 each and organic deodorant for $1 each! This is one of the only places I can buy my organic products and still afford them. The downside is that items come and go. If you don’t buy it when you see it……the item will probably be gone when you come back. I also have to limit myself or I can spend more money stocking up on stuff I may not exactly need. I know when I find a deal it’s the lowest price and if I don’t buy it, someone else will! So now you know…my dirty little grocery saving secret is out..haha.

I also have found that some grocery stores don’t check dates quite as often as you think. I will sometimes browse around the dairy or meat aisle just to check dates. If I see one that is out of date (also called out of code), then I will ASK for the markdown. I have also made “deals” with the meat manager or dairy manager where I negotiate the price if I buy ALL of the markdown items. Once, I got 12 rotisserie chickens for $3 each because I bought all of them. When I came home, I baked two and froze the rest. Needless to say, you need room in your freezer to do this….so never ask this question unless you truly want ALL of the meat!

At two different stores, I am able to buy the end pieces of meat and cheese from the deli. They have mark down packages of the last “hunks” that cannot be put through the slicer for fear of slicing someone’s hand off! I buy them at really cheap prices, usually under $1 a pound! I can use chunks of roast beef for beef veggie soup or chunks of American cheese for making my copycat velveeta cheese sauce.

I ensure my freezer and pantry are stocked as much as I am able to at this time. This allows us to pull out items to make a meal rather than have the temptation to eat out. This also allows me to make a bigger meal and freeze the leftovers for another time without wasting them in the trashcan.

If we do eat out, our options right now are: a Kids eat FREE night, using coupons, eating at our church, and fast food. These options may not be the healthiest for our family right now, but it is a cheaper option. My husband and I are also trying to make date nights into coffee and dessert times. We do notice how prices are going up and now even a trip to a fast food joint can easily make us spend $20 without extras such as fancy drinks or upsizing.

Now, there is another equation to my budget and I will be totally honest. My family does not qualify for Federal Food assistance or "Food Stamps". Apparently for a family of four, they are now requiring that you make $400 or less a week!!! So we have never been on that type of assistance nor do we qualify. HOWEVER, living in the state of Florida with one child under age five, we do qualify for W.I.C. or Women, Infants, Children assistance through the Florida Department of Health. For more information to see if you qualify click here. This is only for CHILDREN under age five that qualify. It allows us to receive milk, Orange juice or juices, Cereal, Grits, Oatmeal, one dozen eggs, one pound of cheese, a 16 oz container of peanut butter, two pounds of grains, and eight dollars a month for fruits and veggies. It's not much. I think I calculated that it helped us with about $40 worth of groceries, if that. You are limited to buying their brands and the named products on your list. For the most part, these are what I would consider breakfast items. I will talk about getting the most out of these benefits in a later post but for now, this is the ONLY assistance we receive to help us keep on track.

I will say that GOD provides everything we need whether I am short one month or have extra to spend on groceries another month. Some have told me they don't feel like applying for Government assistance because they don't feel like that is trusting God. I really don't feel that way because I STILL trust God for everything. He helps me research and find the best deals to use what I have in my pantry and my freezer. He helps me find meat at discounted prices. He helps me in every way with my budget. Without him, I could do nothing. I will also point out that this last year...and some of this year to come is only a SEASON in my life. I do not "live" off government assistance. I will also challenge others and churches to help MORE. If we complain that people are "living" off the system....then we need to change that system by supporting and allowing the churches to give as they were originally set up to help the poor and those in need. And that is an area I want to help more with when our family ends our season and goes on to our next season.

Well time for me to sign off. I will have more on this series coming up...So come back....Sew Hungry For More!!! God Bless.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How my family has lived off of $500 a week for an entire year: (Part Two – Utilities, Entertainment and Clothing)

Hey, thanks for coming back, this post is to continue our series of how my family lives off $500 a week. Today, we are going to look at some expenses such as Utility costs, Entertainment costs and Clothing costs.

So enough about my why we live off $500 a week now let me tell you HOW we do it. Our house payment is not like others as we do only have a $200 a month home loan to pay off. (I know there are a lot of you out there thinking...I wish...but truely this was only put in place by God otherwise we would have much more in housing expenses.) Our electric bill in our area is MORE than our current house payment! We have internet costs of $60 through Comcast because our area only carries Comcast. (Yes we are out in the country where no one else digs lines in cow fields! Haha) This internet also came with the local channels for cable. I only did this because it was a package deal. Our other TV has a digital antenna that receives the local for free. Our family decided to go with the ROKU 3 for our other “channels”. We only subscribe to Netflix and JellyTelly which is $15 a month. Our landline phone is through Basic Talk sold at Walmart for $10 and then each month is $13 with taxes included. (This is an internet phone.) We currently have a “pay as you go” cell phone from At&t. The phone was on clearance at Target for $12 and the plan is currently $25 a month. We have unlimited texting but only 250 minutes of talk and no data. I am looking into several plans and hope to review some plans later on this year.

The other way our family saves is through trying to stay at home more often. We try to keep our errands to a minimum. We keep our entertainment to a minimum budget. We use the internet and YouTube for a lot. We use our public library for some things and now we even use our new church library to check out read on your own bible studies. I also try to borrow media (books, movies, etc.) from other family members or friends rather than rent/buy. We use redbox most of the time instead of on-demand. While Amazon and Comcast are tempting, we pay twice to three times more for the same movie that I can check out at a Redbox location. We try to have family outings “on the cheap” which I will explain later. This year we are doing Friday Family Fun night at our house by fixing a simple meal and enjoying board games or activities together. This not only uses a lot of my craft resources but some of the homeschool games that we never seem to get around to playing.

The picture above shows my daughters in a display at the annual Jacksonville One Spark Festival. This is another FREE event in our area where you can walk around and have fun with the family.

Our clothing budget is very simple. I would say less than $20 a month. We ask relatives for clothing as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Since I have two girls, it is easier to save the larger sizes for the smaller one later down the road. A six dollar box is cheaper to buy now than to buy a hundred dollars in clothing later. But I have learned that it’s best to pick the “better” outfits or the ones I handmade and let some go. For my clothing, I seem to thrift things at a few of my favorite places. I have found plus size jeans in excellent condition for $2 a pair and brand name tops for $1! I also have made some items and will probably look at making more in the near future. My husband is still in a big men’s size and because of this, we end up going to an outlet store or buying things on clearance. We try as best we can to make do with what we have. And since my fabric closet is larger than my clothing closet, I REALLY need to start sewing up more of what I already have. Currently, I hope to finish some valentine dresses for the girls and post on that later. (EEK...screeching with excitement.)

So I hope that helps you see some savings for your family as much as it has helped our family stay in our little budget! It's amazing how God has worked things out for us this last year. I will say our family is kinda in a routine with savings, so I don't see how we will ever go back to cable TV or even Dish. Even when my husband does go back to work, some of my routines won't change. But I will be saving change!! LOL.

As a side note, I'm also posting this on Serenity Now's Blog Party link for the weekend, so I hope new readers will stay around for the rest of this great series. Remember, always come back....Sew Hungry For More.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How my family has lived off of $500 a week for an entire year: (Part One)

As I browse ads on the internet, I see the release of the newest iphone and then I see the price tag. Hmmm, it sure looks nice but right now that’s dreaming for my budget. Or I should say, OUR budget. Our family currently lives on about $500 a week and this year it will decrease a little more as the family health insurance just increased. It’s funny how I think back to days when I was single, right out of college and making the same money for myself as my family of four now lives on. We live in Florida. The land of no double or triple coupons like up north or out west. Gas prices have just recently started to fall below $2.50 a gallon, but milk just rose to $4.29 at some supermarkets in the area. With our family only living off of $500 a week, you may wonder Why and you may wonder HOW?

If you read my blog, you may know some of the why. After the birth of our first daughter, we decided it was best for me to stay at home. I used to teach middle school but getting sick with pregnancy was not something I planned for, much less could get used to. I was ill for almost all 9 months. So I worked from home doing some work for attorneys I knew in the area for about 3 years after. Then came my second pregnancy….far worse than the first. I had gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and then landed myself in the hospital only to find out I had placenta previa. I stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks before my c-section. (This was 4 weeks prior to my scheduled delivery date.) While we were pregnant with our second daughter, we also found out my husband was having problems with his vision. These problems could not be fixed with the glasses he already owned. We soon learned what keratoconus meant and how my husband would either have the expense of intact lenses to stretch the cornea or a corneal transplant.

My husband and I continued to go along with life, praying his eyes would heal and that we could prepare our family to face the situation of my husband’s health. While I wish I could say we only endured a few months of hardship, our situation went from bad to worse. We soon found out he would need a complete corneal transplant in both eyes. We were also renting during this time and were trying to pray about a way to help either bring in extra income or God allowing us to rent someplace we could actually afford. Two years later, my husband’s grandfather passed away and left his 1988 doublewide trailer to us.

While the doublewide was free…it was also a mess. It had never had updates done other than a re-roof ten years prior. The plumbing leaked, the house smelled like smoke, there was wood damage due to previous leaks, the air/heating did not work, it needed new flooring and lots more!! I cried when I saw the place…I could never live there or so I thought. Through a friend we found a bank that would finance us a small loan to remodel. My husband was working at the time so we were able to get $8,000 to fix it up. I remember walking into Lowes with measurements for my kitchen remodel. “Yes, that would be about $15K” the representative stated. I was so upset...…how could we ever remodel it…how could I ever live THERE. It was a disaster but it was also in God’s plan. I just couldn't see the big picture yet.

After swallowing my pride and realizing our TRUE budget, I regrouped and thought about how to remodel the 1600 square foot home. My husband and I made a trip to Habi-Jax Restore and looked around at stuff. I couldn’t believe it…they had 5 kitchen sets for under $3K! After finding the kitchen and more, our house came together and so did God’s plan. I may not have seen it at the time, but by following my husband’s lead we were able to put together a decent place to live for our family of four.

Above are some photos of our remodel last year. We repainted with a nice coat of "kilz it" underneath all the paint. You can see the kitchen cabinets hung in place and the laminate flooring was just finished. It's amazing when I think back about all the "deals" that were placed in front of us to have a roof above our heads.

Stay posted ya'll...there's more to come in this series. (I'm also posting this on Serenity Now's Blog Party link for the weekend, so I hope new readers will stay around for the rest of this great series.) God Bless and always come back..Sew Hungry For More.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“Yes, I think we can try glasses.” Dr. Bowden, my husband’s eye surgeon told us just this week. We are so excited. I didn’t blog a lot in December because we got a call right before thanksgiving weekend, setting the time for my husband’s left corneal transplant. He was scheduled for the Monday morning the weekend after black Friday! It was very much a surprise, as we were unsure two weeks prior to that if things would work out to finish both corneal transplants in 2014. But with lots of prayers answered, my husband has finished his corneal transplants in both eyes. (I promise some pictures later)

2014 has been a very long year for both of us. In August of 2013, my husband got into a fender bender on the way in to work and he finally had to admit to me how many problems he was having with his vision. Since September of 2013, my husband has been out on company disability insurance and has undergone a lot! We were in the middle of remodeling his deceased grandfather’s old 1988 doublewide when work money was no more. With the help of family, you tube and the internet, we were able to fix up our little house and have a roof over our heads. It’s still not perfect a year later but it beats having a huge rent payment over our heads during this ordeal.

My husband had to lose 75 pounds just to qualify for the anesthesia for his right corneal transplant. This took months and was frustrating to both of us. Finally, with God’s help, he qualified for surgery during June 2014. However, with doctors out on vacation and a bad cornea sent to the surgery center, it was re-scheduled for August of last year. This was a scary process for both of us as we did not know what to expect. With lots of prayers, nerves of steel and plenty of eye medications…he made it. We made it.

And now after having had his right corneal transplant in December, we are excited about the road to recovery. The doctor is giving him temporary glasses. This is because of two reasons, to find out how my husband responds to them (computer usage, driving, etc.) and when his stitches come out his vision will change again. It has been documented that it can take one year and sometimes more for the corneal nerves to re-grow into the new cornea! He still has lifting restrictions, bending restrictions, no getting in the pool or submerging his face/eyes, and lots of other things we all take for granted. He has to keep his eyes covered with safety glasses even when he doesn’t wear glasses.

Our family has had a lot of changes though, we went from doing well financially to running through all our savings (even after the Dave Ramsey $1000). We had two vehicles and now we have one. We used to rent for $1,000 a month and now have a loan repayment of $200 a month. We have one bathroom with one toilet in the house! We still have a second bathroom that never got touched other than ripping down to bare studs! We have a rickety back porch, lots of caulking to finish (still) and probably a septic tank in need of pumping. But through it all…we have had food in our bellies, clothing on our backs, a roof over our head and God’s love in our hearts.

It’s been the toughest year I’ve EVER been through. But it has also been an enlightening year. I have lots more to share on this blog, lots more to say, a lot of ways to help and still a lot of improvements to make. My head is spinning with thoughts and ideas…so now it’s time to type it out!

Please feel free to follow me on google+ or pinterest. I will be updating my blog on many levels this year so come back…Sew Hungry For More.