southwest chicken salad

southwest chicken salad

I love all things taco and I love a good chicken salad so when I got the hair brained idea to try making a taco-ish chicken salad I figured “why not?” (I very rarely make up my own dishes…I mostly use other recipes that I’ve found or been given)

It turned out really yummy and is super easy to make, plus it’s perfect to serve on a hot summer day!

southwest chicken salad ingredientsWhat you need: chicken, corn, black beans, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lime, and (not pictured) taco seasoning.

southwest chicken salad instructionsWhat you do: Mix it all up.

Seriously.  Almost no prep work!  Other than cooking the chicken you’re just mixing a whole bunch of ingredients together.

Recipe:

– 5 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I use a package of 3 chicken breasts and that makes 5 cups, give or take)
– 1 can corn, drained
– 1 can black beans, rinsed
– 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
– 2 avocados, mashed
– 1/2 lime, juiced (or more if you prefer more of a lime flavor, I just use a little to keep the avocado from browning so quickly)
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 TBSP taco seasoning (we make our own using this recipe)

Instructions:

Cook and shred your chicken (I cook my chicken breasts in a crock pot on high for about 4 hours then shred either with a fork for bigger pieces or in my stand mixer for more finely shredded chicken).  Combine chicken with all other ingredients and mix well.

This can be served on a sandwich, with crackers, with chips, on a tortilla, a pita, eaten by itself, topping a salad, or many other ways.  I like the crunch of the tortilla chips so that’s my preferred way of eating it.

This makes a LOT of chicken salad!  It’s perfect to take to a gathering or if you are having guests over but it might be a bit much for one person to eat up by themselves.  I have not tried freezing it to see if you could freeze half for later but I think it would probably freeze nicely.

For those counting calories a 1/2 cup serving is 267 calories.

Hudson’s 16 month update

Every month I marvel at how much Hudson changes and all the new things he does – this month is no different!

growth

Hudson weighs 25 pounds and is 32 inches tall.  He wears 18 month clothes.  We no longer put him in sleepers with the feet because he couldn’t walk well in them so he wears little pj sets instead.  I think they are so cute!

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teeth

Well this has been an interesting month, teething-wise.  One morning toward the beginning of the month Hudson woke up with a fever.  It got higher as the day went on (up to 102.7, his highest fever yet), he was very fussy, and his diapers were very runny.  I thought he was sick (obviously) so we stayed home from church, cancelled appointments, etc.

By the next day the fever had gone down and he was relatively back to normal, although still a bit fussy/clingy.  A few days later I was putting some teething cream on his gums and low and behold my finger bumped into a molar!  Now the odd “sickness” made sense…it was from teething!

The reason I never expected a molar is because up to that point he had four teeth on the top and three on the bottom.  I’ve always been told that teeth come in pairs so I was waiting for that fourth bottom tooth to come shortly after #3.  I couldn’t see bottom tooth #4 trying to poke through and of course the molars weren’t even on my radar so I never suspected teething.

But apparently some kids can and do get their teeth “out of order”.  He actually got both top molars (or more accurately, both top molars started coming through…one isn’t quite finished yet) before he got that fourth tooth on the bottom.  I was starting to worry that he had some weird missing tooth thing and it wasn’t going to ever come through but it finally did.

Alllllll that to say, we ended the month with 9.5 teeth (one molar is all the way through but the other is only halfway through).

communication

Hudson still isn’t talking that much (not words that we can understand, at least).  His absolute favorite word is still “fish” and he uses it correctly.  He loves the fish on our ceiling (from the white noise machine/projector) and he knows where all the fish are in his books.  His favorite books are the ones with fish and he’ll go get the book, flip the pages until he finds the fish, and then point and say “ish, ish” over and over.  It’s adorable!

He also says “hi” and “bye” (and uses them correctly) and will repeat “no no” when we say it to him.  He started saying “uh oh” (it sounds like ah-ah) – he repeats it when we say it but also says it after he throws something (purposefully) on the floor.  Obviously we need to work on clarifying when things are actually “uh ohs” ;).

Those are really the only understandable words he uses.  There have been times that I’ve *thought* he was trying to repeat things I’ve said but it’s hard to tell.

He is still using all his signs and using them correctly (except for “eat”…he used to do that one all the time but recently quit doing “eat” and uses “more” to mean both eat and more).  It is so helpful for him to be able to tell us what he wants!  Up to this point we have only been doing basic signs/words (eat, more, drink, milk, diaper, bath, all done) but are going to start working on others now.

Another new thing this month is that he started reaching for us to pick him up in this really adorable way.  He will bring me a book and then make the “pick me up!” and it’s just so sweet…and of course I pick him up and we read!

He is also in this stage where he wants to know what everything is.  He points at everything and makes a noise (sounds kind of like “this?”) asking what it is.  So we spend much of our day identifying objects.

food

Hudson is still a great eater.  A few weeks ago he ate a whole ribeye by himself!  He currently likes berries (blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) best.  I do NOT love the resulting diapers from those though!  We have a strawberry patch in our garden and in the evenings we’ll go out with Michael while he works in the garden and Hudson eats the strawberries right off the vine.  He loves them!

He does not seem to like cow’s milk or juice.  We have tried giving him both and he refuses to drink them.  Thankfully he drinks lots of water so I’m not concerned about dehydration, I’m just surprised that he won’t drink anything else yet (I thought all kids loved juice!).

We bought a patio set for our deck this month and have been enjoying eating many of our meals outside.

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Hudson loves to play peek-a-boo.  Which is pretty cute until he does it while his hands are covered with spaghetti sauce…

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He has learned how to suck on his applesauce packets instead of us having to squeeze it into a spoon and feed him.  That makes feeding him on the go much more convenient!

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He nurses twice a day – in the morning after he wakes up and at night before bed.

sleep

Welllllll…read the big long saga above about teething and that might clue you in to how our sleep has been this month.

It has not been awful.  Many nights are good – he goes to bed around 8 pm and sleeps until 8 am.  But we did have a week or so where he refused to go to sleep until 10/11pm and then lots of nights where he has been very restless.

This BIG news this month is that I am no longer holding him for naps!  We started off the month with me still holding him but I started laying him down for naps in our bed and he has done really well.  He usually wakes up at least once a nap and I have to run in there and lay down next to him to get him back to sleep.  He sleeps longer and better if I’m next to him so lots of days I use that time to read or blog or work on oily things, but some days I clean, do laundry, wash dishes, etc.  It is SOOOOO nice to not be trapped in a chair holding him for several hours.

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He takes one nap, usually in the afternoon.  He was napping from 11 to 1 or 2 and it was such an odd schedule because it was too early to eat lunch before nap but then by the time he woke up we were having a crazy late lunch.  Now I’ve got him to where he eats lunch first then goes down for an afternoon nap.  He usually sleeps 2-3 hours.

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He’s still a total bed hog.  He also does not like to have covers on him!  If we put the covers on him at all, even just on his legs, he will kick and thrash until he gets them off.  He sleeps in between us now and that makes for some difficult maneuvering for us to be covered while keeping them off him!  Ha!

We finally took his co-sleeper down this month (the pack n play-type thing that was by our bed).  He hadn’t slept in it in months but we hadn’t gotten around to taking it down until just now.  After 15 months of having it and/or the Rock n Play next to our bed it’s weird to have nothing there!

Hudson always wakes up in a good mood and most of the time he wakes up super quickly. Occasionally he will take his time waking up and lay there for a bit but most of the time he wakes up, immediately sits straight up, and says “hi!”.

new skills

Climbing!

He had only climbed on one or two things prior to this month but now he’s up and down all the time (on small stuff, he still hasn’t learned how to climb up on a kitchen chair or couch or anything).

One afternoon I was sitting at the kitchen table and he was playing in the living room/foyer.  I heard him making some whimpering noises and after a minute I got up to check on him and see what was wrong.  I rounded the corner and saw that he had gotten up on a box that had been delivered earlier that day and could not get down!  Of course like a bad mom awesome blogger I grabbed my phone to take a picture and document the moment.  I really didn’t think he would try to get down but of course right at that moment he decided to try and ended up doing a full summersault off the box onto the floor.  I felt terrible!  But thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt, just a bump.

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Then just a few hours later that same day he got up on a case of water bottles and couldn’t get down.  Did I learn my lesson the first time and help him instead of taking a picture?  Why, no!  But at least this time I got him off before he fell…and still got the picture!

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Now he can get up and down.  He also learned how to climb on and off of his riding toys and his rocking horse.

Another new “skill” (if you want to call it that) is “shushing”.  I didn’t realize he had learned to mimic that until one day in church when another parent somewhere else in the auditorium shushed their child (loudly enough that we could hear it) and Hudson looked at me, put his finger to his lips, and said “shhhhhh!”.  It was hilarious!  Now if we shush him he does it back.

He laughs a lot.  Sometimes he’ll genuinely laugh (like when we tickle him or play peek a boo) and sometimes he’ll do this hilarious fake laugh (like if he hears someone else laughing).  What a ham!

dislikes

He’s still terrified of most all animals.  We went over to our neighbor’s yard to chat one afternoon and Hudson freaked when he spotted their dog.  I think his screaming actually scared the poor dog and she didn’t want to have anything to do with us!

He did get to see a bunny rabbit for the first time at our friends’ house and after he got over the initial wariness he seemed to like it (as long as it kept a good distance).  I sure hope he gets over this soon.  I really want to take him to the zoo but am afraid to spend the money and then him be terrified of all the animals!  Too bad we don’t have an aquarium nearby so we can go look at all the “ish” (although I’m not sure that he would even like them in real life!).

One animal he isn’t afraid of are birds – he loves to stand at our window (and now that he can climb he likes to climb up on a case of water and look out the window) and watch the birds at our feeder.  The bird feeder and the new patio set have been great purchases – we have really enjoyed both of them!

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adventures

After being pretty adverse to all things outdoors (snow, leaves, grass, outside in general) Hudson is finally not afraid of outside.  And not only is he not afraid…he loves it!

We try to get out every day if possible.  I got a FitBit recently that has really motivated me to start walking so I can earn my daily steps so we have started going for walks around the neighborhood most days.  Several times though Hudson has fallen asleep while we were strolling (like at 5 pm) and that did not bode well for getting him to bed on time!

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He also seems to have inherited (from my side of the family) skin that gets super red and blotchy.  I promise he is not sun burned in the picture below, nor was it very hot outside (and he was just sitting, not running around), but his face just gets super red.  2015-05-07_11.50.44

He likes to sit on me while I stretch after our walks – he thinks it’s hilarious!

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We have gone to the park several times to play and he has a ball.  As clingy as he can be at home I’m surprised at how independent he is when we go outside or to a park to play.

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This particular park had lots of mulch and he had so much fun playing in the mulch…and putting it in his hair!  He has a total mess by the time we got home!
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We also got a wagon that Hudson really likes.  I thought he might be afraid since he would feel a little off balance sitting up in the wagon and being pulled but he has loved it from day one and usually cries when I take him out.  If only I could get him to wear a hat – no shade in the wagon like there is in the stroller and with his pale skin (and sparse hair) I’m going to have to keep lots of sunscreen on him this summer!

We went to Lexington and that is the first time we’ve travelled a long distance since Christmas, I think.  Hudson did pretty well.  On the way down there he fell asleep (we left at nap time hoping he would sleep) but only slept about 30 minutes.  I had hurt my back and was barely able to move, much less hand him things and keep him occupied and I had to sit in the front for my back and his show ended (whhhhyyyy doesn’t the Amazon app have autoplay!?!) while we were stuck in Lexington traffic and couldn’t get back there to start another so the last 30 minutes or so was a scream-fest.  But the rest was fine and the ride home went smoothly too.

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other stuff

Good news on the shoe front!  We are no longer only wearing leather, Robeez-type shoes.  As much as he freaked and refused to wear any other types of shoes am I so relieved that we have finally gotten past that.

I didn’t care all that much until we started going out to play a lot.  The grass is often wet from dew or rain and the wetness was ruining his little leather shoes.  I really wanted him to wear something else when we went out to play so I started putting Crocs on him at first.  I figured that even though they were bigger and more structured at least they were not as heavy as other shoes.  He did not like them very much but didn’t cry every time so I kept putting them on and eventually he got used to them.

My other trick was when I would get him dressed to go somewhere (usually church) I would put his (non-Robeez) shoes on and carry him straight to the car.  Somehow by getting used to the shoes while sitting in his carseat on the way he didn’t seem to mind walking in them once we got there.  If I set him down on the floor as soon as I put the shoes on he would have a fit and refuse to walk but by easing him in to it we got to wear he would wear them without a fuss!  Yay!

I still put him in the leather shoes most of the time if I know we’re going to be inside because he does a much better job walking with them on (and they hurt much less if he starts kicking his leg and hits me!).

Of course on this day I had clearly lost my mind and put him in two different shoes (and didn’t notice until we were almost through at the first store on our long list of errands).  Not only did I not intend to put the monkey shoe on but it’s also not even on the correct foot.  Mommy brain!

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Something else new and unusual is how attached Hudson has gotten to Michael.  He has always loved his daddy, of course, but mommy is the one he usually wants most of the time.  Not so anymore!  He wants Michael to hold him bunches when he’s home.

Oh and one Sunday morning at church Michael was an usher and during the second song the ushers walk down the aisle and collect the attendance cards.  Michael was coming down the aisle toward our pew and then turned to go back to the back of the church.  I guess Hudson thought he was coming to sit with us and then when he didn’t he got SO upset!  He started bawling!  Everyone around us was cracking up and thankfully we were singing so you couldn’t hear him too much over the singing but it was so out of character for him that I was shocked!

And one last thing I have to mention is that we made it 16 months without him falling off any beds but that streak has sadly ended.  He fell off our bed twice this month!  Both times I was in the bed with him and it happened so fast that I couldn’t catch him in time.  He wasn’t hurt either time (although the second time his head narrowly missed a sharp corner – whew!) but it scared him (and me!).  Obviously he’s not very good at understanding the bed boundaries yet so I have to keep a closer eye on him because he’s so quick!

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It is so weird to think back to last summer – Hudson wasn’t even sitting up on his own and when we would go to playdates or the park he just laid on a blanket while the other kids played.  Now he’s running all over the place and having a big ol’ time.  My baby is not a baby anymore!  He’s definitely an active toddler covered in dirt and bruises and a farmer’s tan.

 

easy (and effective!) homemade deodorant

You know when you search for something for months and months, or maybe even years, and you finally find it?  Isn’t that just the best feeling?

Well that’s how I’m feeling right now about deodorant.  Yes, DEODORANT.  I know, weird.

My quest for a natural deodorant started about a year and a half ago.  I was careful about what I put in my body but I hadn’t given a thought to what I put ON my body until I read an article about the dangers of deodorant/antiperspirants.  It basically said that if you switching NOTHING else in your beauty routine you should at least find a natural deodorant.  (I believe that article was this one and then this is another great post as well about why you should ditch the deodorant)

That got my wheels turning and I started thinking about the fact that I was about to have a baby that I was planning to breastfeed and who would quite frequently be in very close proximity to my armpits.  I decided to find a better option.

The problem was…well, I’m stinky.  Sorry but that’s the truth.  Over the past year and a half I have tried ten (that I can remember off the top of my head) different deodorants and NONE of them have worked.  It’s funny because I really don’t sweat that much so the fact that I no longer use an antiperspirant isn’t a big deal but for whatever reason natural deodorants just did not work for my body odor.

I’ve tried:

– Primal Pit Paste (2 different scents, both made my armpits break out)

– Tom’s (didn’t help the smell, not as natural as I first thought anyway)

– Young Living’s deodorant (both scents, neither eliminated the odor)

– Thieves toothpaste (sounds weird but a lot of people in my oils group use it as deodorant with smashing success but it just made me itch and again, didn’t help with the smell)

– Thieves spray (another one that people in my group suggest, but didn’t work for the smell)

– Plain coconut oil mixed with essential oils

– Just essential oils rubbed into my armpits

– Homemade spray deodorant (witch hazel and essential oils…again yet another that did not help the smell)

Really the only thing I didn’t try that lots of people recommend is that crystal deodorant thing.  But otherwise I’ve exhausted a pretty big list.

After allllll those deodorants (and I gave them all a fair try, most of them I used the whole entire stick/container because I hate throwing things out) I still hadn’t found something.  Within a few hours my armpits just stunk.  None of my shirts could be worn more than once in between washings because they stunk.  And really, even when I was using the hard-core stuff (Secret Platinum Protection) there was still an odd smell.  Not b.o. necessarily, but just a yucky deodorant-y smell that I didn’t like.

So a few weeks ago I finally decided to make my own stick deodorant.  I scoured Pinterest and finally settled on this recipe.  I had all the ingredients at home except beeswax so I asked a beekeeper friend from church for some and then I was all set.  I considered several combinations of oils but decided to keep it very simple and use lavender and tea tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) because of how good they are botha for skin and for eliminating the bacteria that causes body odor.

DIY homemade deodorant recipe

Making the deodorant took seriously all of five minutes.  I used an old deodorant container that was empty (they also sell them on Amazon if you don’t have an empty one sitting around).  I melted the beeswax and coconut oil in my makeshift double boiler (aka a glass bowl partially submerged in a pot of boiling water), added the baking soda and cornstarch, stirred it up, added the essential oils, stirred some more, poured it in the container, and let it sit in the fridge until it hardened.

I didn’t expect much.  I figured I’d either break out in a rash or it wouldn’t help the smell at all.  But I put it on and off we went.

Let me just shout it from the rooftops that IT WORKS!  I was BLOWN away!

I am not kidding, for the first few days of using this deodorant I sniffed my armpits multiple times a day because I just couldn’t believe it.

There was NO smell at all.  I mean, nothing.  No stink and not even a perfume-y smell.  It literally smelled like nothing.  Occasionally when I sniff I get a whiff of coconut but that’s it.  And the same with my shirts.  I would sniff the armpits after I took it off to put it in the hamper and you couldn’t even tell that I’d worn it all day!  And I put it to the test too…I went for a long walk outside every day, most days were 80+ degrees, and I sweated a lot but still no stink.

The day after I made my deodorant I taught an online class for my oils team about natural skincare and reducing toxins in your home.  I mentioned that I was trying a new deodorant recipe but I wasn’t ready to definitively say if it worked for me until I’d tried it for a bit longer.  Apparently there are quite a few people in the same boat as me because I’ve had several tell me they are waiting to hear an update.  So here it is folks, this stuff rocks ;).  I’ve been using it for about two weeks now and it is amazing!  No rash, no stink.

The recipe I used says that the beeswax helps it not to melt in the summer heat but I haven’t put that to the test yet.  Also, for what it’s worth, I found this article about how to balance your ph if your deodorant gives you a rash so I’ll be keeping this one in my back pocket in case it happens again.

The deodorant is in a stick form but it’s not quite the same consistency as a “normal” stick deodorant.  It glides on nicely but leaves some white residue that I just rub in with my fingers.  That is definitely not a deal breaker for me considering how wonderfully it works but I thought I’d mention it.

And there you go, ladies and gents.  My year and a half long quest to banish my stinky pits is over!  Hooray!

(local folks, I had a bit of extra deodorant that didn’t fit into my deodorant stick but I saved it in a container so if you’d like to try some before you make your own let me know and I’ll bring you a bit to sample)

Money Mondays – 5 tips for saving money on groceries

week 5 saving money on groceries

You have lots of budget categories that are fairly set in stone and the amount isn’t going to change much (like your bills), but one category where you usually can cut back is your grocery budget.

When we first talked about budgeting I mentioned that different people have different priorities.  For us, eating fresh food, organic when possible, local, etc. is important to us and so our grocery budget is larger than some.  It’s also difficult to do all the crazy couponing and such when you eat few processed foods but you can still do several things that will help you spend less and save money.

To be very honest I do not save nearly as much on our groceries as I could.  In fact, some of these things I’m going to share with you today I do not do consistently (so I need to take my own advice) but I know they are possible and work if you put the effort in to them.  This post has a bit of “do as I say but not as I do” ;).

5 tips for saving on groceries while still buying lots of whole, natural foods

Ok so five ways to save on your groceries

1.  Plan meals around sales – Funny that this is my #1 thing on my list because I don’t actually do this.  I know that I should, but it’s just really hard for me to look at the sales and then figure out what to eat based on what’s on sale.

However, this is a good way to save money – look at the ads for your grocery store and see what’s on sale, then plan what you’re going to eat that week using the sale items.

2.  Use coupons – Even if you eat lots of fresh produce you can still coupon.  Maybe not as much as some might, but still enough to make a difference.  Kroger is our main grocery store and they frequently send us coupons for things like $5 off a deli purchase, $3 off a produce purchase, etc. where it doesn’t have to be brand-specific or something boxed.

I usually can find coupons for paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, diapers, wipes, laundry detergent, etc. plus other things that we buy like crackers, cereal, bread, etc.

Some people hard-core coupon and I did that for a brief time several years ago but it was too much for me to keep up with.  I did learn that combining coupons with sales (wait until an item is on sale and then use coupons when you buy) is the best way to get rock-bottom prices.  If you want to learn more about couponing I highly recommend checking out southernsavers.com – she teaches you all about how to coupon.  Very helpful!

3.  Go meatless – Meat is usually one of the most expensive components of your meal (that and cheese…boy we love us some cheese!) so trying to eat a meatless meal or two each week will really help.  Things like potato soup, pancakes, rice and beans, and vegetable soup are good options.

4. Use grocery apps – There are several smart phone apps that you can download where you can get money back for buying certain items.  It’s like couponing but after the fact…so you purchase the item, scan it in to your app to prove that you bought it, and then they give you money back.  Once you get a certain amount in your account (usually a minimum of $10) then they pay you (some are checks, some via paypal, some in gift cards, etc.)

I love these apps because very often I have a store coupon for an item AND I can get money back on that same item via an app so I basically save twice on the item.  Very cool.

The ones I use are Ibotta, Checkout51, and Saving Star.  Ibotta is definitely the best of those three so if you’re only going to try one I recommend that one.  All three often have some more natural or obscure brands (not just the same old ones that are in the newspaper coupons every week) and what I love most about Ibotta is the fact that they also have very generic guidelines…like an amount back on peanut butter in general (no specific brand), or milk, or eggs, or bread, etc.  That way you can get whatever brand you prefer and still earn money back.

(screenshots from the Ibotta app)

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I also recently learned about an app called Receipt Hog where all you do is take pictures of your receipts (no scanning barcodes of specific items) and that allows you to earn points – when you accumulate enough points they pay you via PayPal.  I just downloaded that one this week so I haven’t experienced it a lot but it has good reviews and sounds very easy so I’m going to give it a try!  If you sign up and need a referral code, mine is drit5295 (I don’t know if that gets me points or you extra points or what…but if it asks feel free to use it ;) )

5.  Stock up – Stock up on things while they are on sale and/or you have a coupon.  Things that are nonperishable are easy because they won’t go bad but you can also stock up on perishables and freeze them or go ahead and use them to cook meals and then freeze the whole meal ready to go.

Last week when I went to the grocery I had a $5 off $15 purchase of meat.  The chicken that we buy also happened to be on sale so I went ahead and bought 2 packs of chicken breast to take advantage of the sale and my coupon and put them in the freezer to be used at a later date.

So there are my five tips.

Now let me quickly walk you through my grocery process from start to finish.  I know I could spend hours and hours trying to find the best deals, shopping at several stores, matching coupons, hunting down extra savings, etc. but that’s not my thing and I’m not willing to do tons and tons of work.  So I have a system that takes me about 30-45 minutes of prep before the trip and then maybe 5 minutes of work after the trip.

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1.  I make my grocery list first.  I sit down and decide what meals we want that week, look at what ingredients we need to purchase, check on other items we need for snacks, breakfasts, lunches, etc.

This is 100% contrary to what I told you in step 1 of my five tips because I make my list before I look at the sales.  But like I said, I know it would be better to do it the other way, I just haven’t wrapped my head around doing that quite yet.

2.  Pull up the Kroger ad and southernsavers.com and check out the Kroger sales to see if any of our staples are on sale this week.  If so, add those to my list.

3.  Look for paper coupons.  We do not get a newspaper so most of my coupons are either the ones Kroger mails us (which are usually fantastic since they use your Kroger Card data to tailor the coupons to you) or I check out coupons.com and print off coupons for items we use.

4.  Then I pull up the Kroger coupon app and go through the digital coupons and select any for items I’m buying.  I always do digital second because at our Kroger they will double paper coupons under $0.50 but not digital, however the digital coupon gets applied first.  So say I have a $0.50 off Tide digital coupon and a paper one, I’d rather use the paper one because it doubles to be $1.00 and I don’t load the digital one to my card because the system would use that one first and then not let me use my paper one (unless I was buying 2 things of Tide…then I could use both – one for each).

5.  After I’ve got my coupons I open my shopping apps (Ibotta, Checkout51, and Saving Star).  I look at each of those to see if any of my items get money back this week.  If so, I make a note on my grocery list (you can see in the picture about where I have IB, C51, or SS written out to the side).  This has been hugely helpful because when I get home from the grocery I can just look at the notes on my list to see what items need to be scanned for which apps.

6.  Ok whew!  Time to actually go to the grocery!

7.  At the check out I give them my coupons but other than that most of the “work” (besides the actual shopping of course!) is all done in advance.

8.  When I get home I unload all the groceries from the bags and scan/upload items and receipts to all my apps before I put the groceries away.  I found that if I tried to wait and do it later then receipts would get lost or I’d forget to ever do it so I just make sure and do it immediately.

And that’s that!  My grocery shopping routine.  It’s not particularly glamorous or mind-blowing but it does help us save some on our groceries and every little bit helps!

(Here’s another post I wrote that might be helpful: 10 tips for eating real food on a budget)

Your turn!  What tips do you have for saving money on groceries? 

Hudson’s 15 month update

Fifteen months!  Such a big boy!

growth

Hudson had his 15 month doctor’s appointment yesterday and he measured to be 24 pounds and 31 inches tall.  His weight has barely changed over the last several months but he’s grown quite a bit taller – long and lean, losing those sweet baby rolls!

He’s in 18 month clothes, although they are a little big (thankfully now that it’s summer he can wear shorts where the length variation isn’t as obvious as pants).  Size 5 disposables, largest rise and 4 snaps in the middle in his cloth diapers (he’s been in that same size for months and months!).

He now has seven teeth – four on the top and three on the bottom.  His hair is so curly and crazy.  People comment on it all the time!  Sometimes it’s like a big puffy frizz and he looks like a crazy professor and sometimes there are tons of little ringlets.  I don’t really do anything to style it except comb through the tangles after his bath.  I just let it do it’s thing and I think it’s always adorable :).

Side note: Hudson hated the doctor visit yesterday.  The very first thing we do before we even go to a room is to get weighed and he freaked as soon as I laid him down on the weighing table thing.  He cried about getting his head measured, his height, his temperature (on his head), looking in his ears, everything.  It was not a pleasant experience.

food

Hudson loovvvveeesss to eat.  For the most part he is a really good eater.  Fruit is definitely his favorite – it’s the first thing he eats off his plate and he always signs for “more”.

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It’s gotten to where we can’t eat anything in front of him if we aren’t willing to give it to him (i.e. something unhealthy or messy that we don’t want him to have) because if he sees that we have something he doesn’t have he will cry and pitch a fit about it.

One night we were eating fish and had cut up some lemons to squeeze lemon juice on them.  He was crying and crying and pointing at the table and we offered him everything on the table and none of it made him happy.  Finally we gave him a lemon wedge and apparently that was what he wanted because he quit crying and happily chewed on it.  He did the same thing with sour cream a few days later and wanted to just eat straight sour cream.  So strange.

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Hudson loves to put food in his hair.  Which is so annoying because it gets all stuck down in his curls and it’s just gross.  This is what happens when I look away for a bit…he smears avocado tuna all over the place.  Eww.

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Michael shared a bit of his strawberry kefir with Hudson one afternoon and Hudson loved it – he ended up drinking most of Michael’s glass!  IMG_8756

Kefir mustache!IMG_8760
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We’re still nursing about three times a day (right after Hudson wakes up, in the afternoon, and before bed).  There have been a few days he has only nursed twice (morning and night) so I think we’re on our way to transitioning to just 2 times a day.

sleep

Pretty good actually. (I know!  Amazing.)  He’s been going to bed around 8pm and sleeping until around 8am with one nap during the day (around lunchtime).  We still have our nights full of multiple wake ups or taking forever to go to sleep, but overall it’s been much better than the past few months.  He’s still in our bed at night and I hold him for his naps.

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communication

Strangely he quit saying his one word (bye) that he used to say all the time and for a while wasn’t using any words (I mean, he “talks” constantly, but there weren’t any we could actually understand) but toward the end of the month he learned a new word (fish, which sounds like “ish”).  We have a white noise machine with a projector that projects fish onto the ceiling and he loves them.  He’s started pointing at the ceiling and saying “ish! ish!”.  Of course he also says “ish” for other things…but we can definitely tell when he’s talking about the fish.

He very consistently uses his sign language though and learned one new sign this month (drink).  And like I said, he babbles all.the.time. so I think it won’t be long before he starts talking up a storm!

firsts

One first this month was his very first kids meal!  Yep, now that he’s eating so much we can’t share a regular adult meal with him because there isn’t enough food for us and him!  After no eating out for a month (because of Whole30) we celebrated and went to eat at Moe’s and got Hudson his own meal (the chips come with it automatically but we just gave him the burrito to eat).

We’ve also eaten at KFC a few times and there he actually gets an adult meal (chicken breast and sides).  Whew!  Our wallet is feeling the effects of buying three adult meals instead of just two!

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Now that the weather is warming up we got a bike trailer so we could ride together as a family.  Problem is, Hudson HATED it!  Well actually he hates his helmet.  The first time we went out he cried and cried.

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The second time (and other subsequent rides) have been better.  We gave him some books and toys and so he rides fairly happily now (although he usually keeps on hand on his helmet at all times…he just really does not like it!).IMG_8553

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dislikes

Well, he’s a toddler so there are a LOT of things that he dislikes (diaper changes, bed time, being told “no”, etc.) but there are two in particular that he reallllllly dislikes.  One is animals.  He is so terrified of most animals, but especially cats and dogs.  When he spots one, especially if it comes close, the scream he lets out is one of pure terror.  I hate seeing him afraid and wish I could figure out how to help him but have yet to come up with a great solution.

The second are shoes.  Yep.  The only shoes he will wear are the leather-soled Robeez.  He actually has quite a few other cute little shoes but when I put them on his reaction is this.  In fact, he usually drops down to the floor and refuses to walk if he has shoes on (will crawl instead).  So for now we just wear those Robeez everywhere and will continue to work on wearing regular shoes.

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Oh and one other thing, I’m sad to report, is that Hudson has started hating the carseat again.  We did so well for several months thanks to Daniel Tiger, but recently even that hasn’t been enough.  Thankfully he isn’t screaming like he did before, but he is crying more and pitching big ‘ol fits when it’s time to get in the carseat.  Sigh.

adventures

Now that the weather is warm we’ve been trying to get outside more.  At first Hudson hated that (remember how he hates snow, leaves, and grass?) but now has come to love it and in fact cries when it’s time to go back inside.

This was our first day out once it got warm.  Please note the shoes he has on – this is the one and only day he has tolerated shoes other than his Robeez!  Too bad it only lasted one day!  We went to the park with friends from church and at first he was verrrry nervous, cried if I put him down, wouldn’t play, etc.  But I just sat on the ground with him and gradually after a while he started walking around.  And then he took off and toddled all over the playground and had a blast!  He doesn’t like to put his hands down on the ground though so if he falls/sits down then he’ll just sit there until I come to help him back up.

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On Easter we went home to visit family.  Hudson got to participate in the Easter egg hunt this year (last year he was only 2 months old!) and I was afraid he wouldn’t like it because of the grass but he got right out there and walked around.  He only wanted to pick up one egg…once he got one he was content to just play with that!  Ha!  IMG_8623IMG_8624

I don’t have any pictures, but we went to Lads to Leaders in Nashville, TN for one day to support the kids from our church.  We had never been so it was a really fun experience.  Hudson did great for being dragged all over Opryland Hotel all day and of course he loved getting to play with the big kids :).

We also participated in an event called the Great Cloth Diaper Change, a day every year where people across the world get together in groups and you all change your child’s diaper at the same time.  They try to break a record for most cloth diapers changed but also use it as a way to teach people about cloth diapering.  We missed out last year because of another conflict so I was very excited to get to go this year!  It was fun and although I don’t have any pictures of the event I did snap one of this cool wet bag we got as a goodie bag – I love the symbols for babywearing, cloth diapering, and breastfeeding!
IMG_8829Michael had to travel out of town again this month.  We intended to go with him but the closer we got to the trip the more I dreaded trying to travel with an active toddler.  So long story short we decided to sit this trip out and we headed to my mom’s house instead.  Hudson had a rough week (turns out he was teething) – very fussy and did not sleep well.  So I’m glad we didn’t end up going out of town and staying in a hotel with Mr. Fussypants!

Watching an old favorite of mine – Wee Sing in Sillyville.IMG_8859Stirring a bowl fill of chip clips – one of his favorite “toys”.
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We went to do some shopping in Nashville one day so that mom could entertain Hudson while I shopped (it is SO hard to shop with a little one!).  He really liked the car at Shoe Carnival :).IMG_8900

Like I said though, he was having a rough week and did not enjoy our trip.  He usually does fine in his stroller but he was not having any of it at the mall so on my back he went.  Poor fussy, sleepy boy.

IMG_8898Hudson and I went one day to visit my friend Anne’s classroom and I read a story to her kindergarteners. Hudson had a ball checking out all the cool things in Miss Anne’s room!
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other stuff

We got a free newspaper in our mailbox one day and it provided hours of entertainment!  Hudson loved it when we stacked it up and then he would unstack and throw the papers everywhere.  He also liked to use his broom/mop to push them around the floor.

It’s the simple things!

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He still loves to sit and look at books but something new this month is that now he actually tolerates being read to.  Before he wanted to turn the pages really fast and got impatient after just a minute or two of reading but now he sits and listens, and actually he has started bringing us books and asking us to read to him.  It’s adorable!  (He actually brings you the book, hands it to you, and then holds his hands up in this cute gesture that he uses to indicate “hold me”.  Heart melter.)
IMG_8468Speaking of books….after removing one of my books from him for the millionth time and him having a big fit about it I just removed all the books from the shelf that were not his (i.e. the ones that could be torn up) and moved them upstairs out of reach.  Now he has full access to the bookshelf and it only contains his books so he can get any without restriction.

IMG_8459How adorable is this suit??  Oh he’s just soooo cute!  On months that there is a 5th Sunday the young men at church lead the evening service and it has become somewhat of a tradition that all the men wear bowties on the 5th Sunday.  So of course Hudson had to join in too :).IMG_8491My boys in their bow ties.IMG_8496

He rocked a more casual bowtie look for evening serviceIMG_8510His cleaning supplies are still his favorite toys.IMG_8559IMG_8685He also likes to stand at the windows and look out.  We bought a birdfeeder and hung it right outside the kitchen window so he can watch the birds while he eats or plays.  He really likes it (surprising since he’s afraid of so many other animals, but apparently birds are not scary to him).IMG_8660IMG_8662

It’s amazing how much he watches, soaks up, and mimics.  He was trying to hard to put his pants on!  He also “brushes” his hair with his comb, tries to put his amber teething necklace around his ankle at bedtime, takes oil bottles and mimics rubbing the oil on his feet, and more.  A good reminder that they’re always watching!IMG_8767

Oh how I love my little guy!  Even though sometimes I miss him being a teeny tiny baby, I just love him at this curious, funny toddler stage!  He makes me laugh all the time and he’s so active.  I’m really looking forward to the summer this year – I think we’re going to have so much more fun then we did just sitting around last year with a itty bitty baby!

 

Money Mondays – four ways to increase your budget

(psst….read through to the bottom for a GIVEAWAY!)

By now hopefully you’ve hammered out a budget.  Maybe you even downloaded a free trial of the YNAB software and have really jumped in with both feet into creating a budget.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ve realized that OH!  Once we’ve allotted money for all our bills and such there just isn’t much left over!

week 4 no money

That’s where Michael and I were when we started budgeting back in the fall.  We had enough to cover our bills and basic living expenses, but past that there just wasn’t much wiggle room left over.  As I mentioned before our savings were pretty much depleted so we needed to build that up plus we had some categories that were looking pretty skimpy (things we could live without but would prefer a bit more money, like clothing and “fun stuff”).

If you, like us, find yourself with more “budget” than you have money there are pretty much two things you can do.  Either 1) spend less money or 2) make more money.  Or both.  We did a combination of both.

Here are four things you can do if you find yourself needing some extra money in your budget.

four ways to increase the money in your budget

1.  Cut out.

Take a good look at your budget and where your money is going.  Are there areas that you can do without?  Think about priorities.  Are you spending money in the categories that you consider a high priority or is money going toward things that you don’t even care that much about?

Some ideas:

– Do you pay a monthly or yearly gym membership?  What about dropping that and riding your bikes, running/walking, and doing at home exercise programs instead? (Bikini Body Mommy is a totally FREE, 30 minute or less a day, video exercise program on YouTube you can follow.  I’m sure there are more online too.)

Michael’s job used to pay for a family gym membership but they dropped that program around the time we started our budget, so instead of continuing to pay for the gym (that we weren’t really using anyway), it was one of the first things to go and we now use the above suggestions instead.

– What about cable, Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc?  How much do you really watch tv?  Can you live without it?

– Can you cut your husband’s hair so you don’t have to pay for haircuts?

– What other memberships do you have that might need to go by the wayside for the time being until you get your finances under control?  Zoo, museums, audiobooks, Glam box/Birch box/other monthly surprise boxes?

2.  Cut back.

A lot of your expenses are going to be set monthly expenses.  Of course there are some that aren’t and that’s where you need to try to cut back so that you spend less of your budget (and have more money to work with).

– The biggest area you can save money is with your groceries.  If you coupon and shop sales you can save a significant amount.  I’m doing to do a whole separate post just about how I save on groceries so be on the look out for that.

– Can you renegotiate your cell phone contract and get a lesser contract so you don’t have to pay as much each month?

– What about buying clothes, toys, and household items second hand instead of new?

– Are there ways you can make your home more energy efficient and use less water, heat, air, etc.? (There are some things that require an initial investment but pay for themselves and then save you money after a period of time.  Do your homework to decide if it’s worth the investment or not)

– Can you eat out less?  Eat less meat? (meat is usually a big part of the grocery budget)

– Carpool places?  Combine errands so you’re not using up as much gas?

(Of course all this is assuming that you are doing pretty ok financially, things are just a bit tight and you could use a little bit more money each month.  If you are really in lots of debt and struggling you may need to do some more extreme things like selling your car and buying a cheaper car, or selling your house and downsizing so you can manage the mortgage, etc.)

3.  Sell, sell, sell

This was (surprisingly) a really good way for us to make some money.  We started walking around the house and gathering up items that we didn’t use/need anymore that we thought we could sell.  (Bonus – you’ll declutter your house at the same time!)

Depending on what the item was either Michael listed it on ebay or Craigslist or I listed it on our local sales Facebook pages.  Once we got started we found all kinds of things we could sell – books, electronic gadgets, home decor, purses, shoes, clothes, and more.  Within a month we made over $2,000 just selling junk that was laying around our house and were able to make significant headway on our savings goals.

I was amazed at things that we were able to sell.  Apparently lots of people get on ebay looking for parts so we sold some old GPSs, parts from a flashlight, and other gadget-y things.  My coolest sale was from where I had gotten a free bottle of lotion from Ann Taylor. (I believe I had a $10 off anything coupon and everything in Ann Taylor is very expensive so I bought the only thing that was $10…some lotion.  And so I got it for free.)  I had tried to sell it locally with no takers so I checked on ebay.  Turns out that lotion is discontinued now and people were paying big bucks to get some.  I sold that free bottle of lotion for $50!

Obviously this isn’t a long term monthly income solution, but it’s a great jump start if you’re trying to knock out some debt or, like in our case, get your savings built up a bit.

4. Find an additional stream of income

And then our final option if your current monthly income just isn’t enough to cover living expenses, debt payments, etc. is to earn more money.  Here are some ideas that would work as supplemental income if you currently work a full time job and want something additional or if you stay at home but still want to earn some money.

– Do you have a particular skill you could “sell”?  Something like making crafty things and selling on etsy, tutoring students after school, doing some freelance graphic design, photography, baking bread, etc.?

– How about babysitting?  You could baby sit for kids after school, keep a child or two in your home, or offer to be a sitter on nights and weekends.

– Here is a list (that from what I can tell is legit and not full of scams) of 27 ways for stay-at-home-moms to make money

– What about direct sales/network marketing?  Y’all know that I’m a distributor for Young Living and love it.  Direct sales is probably not going to be a “get rich quick” way to earn money (and if it’s presented to you that way then that company is probably not the best one to join with) but it can definitely become a supplemental income.  I’m going to do a separate blog post about direct sales in a few weeks.

– Waiting tables, delivering pizzas, and working retail are all jobs that are (from what I hear, not personal experience) pretty flexible so you can tailor your schedule around another job, pick up shifts when you need extra money, work just a little bit or a lot.

Do you have anything to add?  Any tips on how to reduce your spending or increase your income?

Your assignment for this week is to try to find ONE thing you can do to reduce/cut spending and ONE thing you can do to increase income (or ONE thing to sell online, locally, etc. to jump start savings/debt reduction).

Also, I reached out to the folks at You Need a Budget after I wrote the review last week and they graciously offered to give one lucky reader the YNAB software for FREE!  Woo hoo!  Check out the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

giveaways and promos, oh my!

I’ve got a couple of end-of-the-month giveaway and promo opportunities for you.

If you are on Facebook and you haven’t “liked” the My Chocolate Moments page yet, you should head over and check it out because right now I’m doing a fun giveaway.  You can earn a copy of The Chemical Free Home, a diffuser necklace, and a cinnamint lip balm!

giveaway

And then I’m running a special Mother’s Day promotion for the rest of April.  Anyone who orders a Young Living starter kit through me by the end of April will receive an Essential Oils Pocket Reference book (a wonderful 400+ page book all about how to use your oils) PLUS a diffuser necklace as a “thank you for ordering” gift.  And that’s in addition to the fantabulous things you get in the kit of course!

So….what are you waiting for?

mother's day special

Enter the giveaway here

Order essential oils here

Money Mondays – You Need a Budget (YNAB) app

money monday week 3 - my favorite program for budgeting

Last week we talked about the fact that you need a budget of some sort.  If you’re like us you have tried making a budget before but got overwhelmed because it got so complicated and too much to keep up with.  Fortunately, we found a solution that I want to share with you.  Michael did lots of research and reading and testing to find something that he liked, he shared it with me, we gave it a try, and (spoiler alert!) we both loved it.

YNAB_logo

The budgeting software that we use is called You Need a Budget (or YNAB, for short).  If you are familiar with the Dave Ramsey envelope system it is similar, but an electronic version (no carrying your money around in actual envelopes).  You download the software onto your computer and that’s where you will set everything up.  It syncs across multiple devices so Michael and I each have the app on our phones; either of us can see at any time how much is in each budget category.  And when we make a purchase we enter it into the app and it updates the category on all the devices.

I’m not going to go into how everything works because 1) Michael did all the initial set up so I’m not even sure how it all works, 2) that would take way more time than just one blog post, and 3) the You Need a Budget website has a TON of information to help you get started so you’d be better off going over there to learn about it.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you check it out.  You can download a 34 day free trial to see if you like it, and then if you decide to purchase the software, you can use our referral link and get $6 off the cost.

This is what it looks like on the computer (this is an example shot from the website).  On the left of each month is the budgeted amount you have set for the category, in the middle is how much you have spent from that category so far that month, and on the right is your balance.

Take a look at the water category.  In May $50 was budgeted and there was a $250 balance.  Then in June $50 was budgeted again and there was a $300 balance.  If you do not use all of the money in a category one month is rolls over to the next month.  So if the $50 from May was not spent then that is added to the $250 that was already in that category.

ynab4_budget

Some things that I really like:

– You can set all your own categories.  We have things like Everyday Expenses (groceries, fuel, eating out, clothes, household goods), Giving (like to our church and other organizations we support), Monthly Bills (mortgage, internet, insurance, phone, electric, water), Fun Money (we each have a fun money category where we get a little bit of money to spend on whatever we want), Infrequent Expenses (car repairs, home maintenance, church events), Quarterly, Semi-Annually, and Annual (things that don’t happen every month but that we go ahead and set some money aside for every month so that when they do happen, we already have the money budgeted, like our car insurance, Amazon Prime, my blog hosting fees, car tags and license renewals), Gifts (Christmas, birthday, other random stuff), and Savings (new computer, new car, vacation, rainy day funds).

– You can have more than one budget.  When my Young Living business started to become more of a real business and less of just a hobby, we started a second budget for me to use just for my YL stuff.  It’s still linked to that account so we can see both budgets but that keeps it separate from family funds and will allow for better documentation come tax time.  But all that to say that it’s really nice to be able to have more than one.  That would be really helpful if you were teaching your teenager about budgeting and wanted to give them their own money and budget.

– You can split transactions.  If you buy things from several categories in one transaction (say you go to Walmart and buy some groceries, some gardening stuff, and some clothing items) then when you enter that receipt you can split it and take money from each of those categories.

ynab4_account_split_trans

– It does not matter what method of payment you use.  You could pay for something using cash from your wallet, or your credit card, or you debit card, or a check, or whatever, and the program keeps that all straight so that it adjusts the budget accordingly.  Very convenient!

– Entering a transaction is super simple.  Here are screenshots from an example one I did on my phone using the YNAB app.

When you open the app there is an option to “add transaction”.  You pull that up, choose “expense” or “income”, and enter the amount.  For this example I did expense (buying ice cream).  Expenses will show up in red, income in green.

YNAB example

When you hit “next” it will take you to a screen to fill out info.  Payee is who you paid the money to (in this case I used Kroger), category was groceries, account (method of payment) was my wallet, date, and then there is a spot to write a note so I made a note of what I hypothetically bought (ice cream).

When you hit “save transaction” then it automatically deducts that amount from the grocery budget!  Easy peasy!YNAB example transaction

I love this program!  There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get it all set up it’s super easy to use.

And Michael loves it even more than me.  He tells people about it all.the.time and is always encouraging people to give it a try.  Although I’m not quite as gung ho as him, I still find myself wanting to be all “Oh man, you SO need to get this program!!” when my friends start talking about money and budgeting.

Ready to give it a whirl?

You can download a 34 day free trial.  That’s more than a month to give it a try and see what you think!  And then if you love it and want to purchase it, you can use my referral link to get $6 off the cost of your program (making it $54 instead of $60).  That is a one time fee (you don’t have to renew annually) and it has more than paid for itself in how much money we have saved by creating and sticking to our budget.

Also, super exciting if you are a college student – you can get your program for FREE!  All you have to do is show proof of being a student.  (read the details here).

If you still aren’t sure about all this budgeting stuff, spend some time reading the YNAB blog.  Lots of great ideas!  There is also a forum that might be helpful as you get started.

What are you waiting for?

Homework for this week:  Download the free trial.  Sit down one evening with a big bowl of ice cream (or comfort food of your choice) and spend some time setting it up.

(This is not a paid review.  We bought the software with our own money and I wanted to share with you because we love it so much.  We do get a small commission if you use our referral link but I would have shared with you about YNAB whether or not we got that.)

Hello Magazine

Did you grow up on Highlights magazine like I did?  Oh how I loved the search and find page…but oh how frustrating it was if someone had already completed it and circled all the objects!  Grrr.

Moving on.

Did you know that Highlights has a “magazine” for babies too?  It’s called Hello.  I had no idea until after Hudson was born and a friend told me how much her kids loved their Hello books.

Hello Books

They sounded great so I put that on Hudson’s Christmas list and a family member gave him a subscription as a Christmas gift.  We get one book each month in the mail, just like a magazine.

The content of the books are fine – nothing mindblowingly awesome but cute little stories, a simple search and find, maybe a poem.  What I like the best is the durability and size!  They are made from a plastic-y material that doesn’t tear or crease like paper but isn’t hard and heavy like traditional board books.  It’s flexible and bendy and incredibly light.  They fit easily into my diaper bag and add hardly any extra bulk or weight so I can carry several at a time without sacrificing valuable space.  I slide two or three down in one of the external pockets of my diaper bag and it’s just perfect.

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I LOVE that I can have multiple books on hand for Hudson to flip through while we’re out and about without having to haul around a bunch of heavy books.  And my friends tell me that even their older kids love reading these over and over again so they get a lot of use.

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A Hello subscription is a perfect gift to give the special kiddos in your life.  It costs about $35 for a year subscription (you can order here).  These “magazines” get two thumbs up from me!

(p.s.  I did not get anything to write this review.  Highlights/Hello has no idea who I am.  I don’t get anything if you click through that link to purchase.  We received these as a gift and I just wanted to share with you how much I like them.)

 

Money Mondays – You Need a Budget!

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You need a budget.  Seriously.  EVERYONE who has expenses and/or earns money needs a budget.  Yours may look different from mine; you might write down and track your expenses generally or you might carefully budget every penny.  But no matter how you do it you need one, especially if you are having money issues.

Why?  Having a budget helps you manage your money, plain and simple.  It keeps you from overspending and helps you to save money.  I can promise you that if you have not previously been tracking your spending that you will be shocked once you start.

Like I mentioned last week, Michael was the one who realized that we were spending more than we were making.  He has always been the one to keep an eye on the money, pay the bills, put some away in savings, etc.  I’m fine with that and am happy to just let him do his thing.  When he came to me and said that we really needed to cut back and work on a budget, I was totally cool with that.  In fact, I had been the one that wanted the budget (that fell through) several years ago so I was excited to finally have one.

He did a bunch of research, chose a budgeting program (that I’ll discuss in detail next week), and went to work trying to get everything set up.

Then we had our first budget meeting.  And I wasn’t so thrilled about budgeting anymore.

In fact, I was really mad.  Once we filled in all of our “half tos” like bills and estimated what we’d need for groceries, gas, etc., there just wasn’t much left over for other fun stuff.

Like…I wanted to just buy something whenever I wanted to!  I didn’t want to have to wait until there was enough in my fun money category to buy a new book or tote bag.  I didn’t want to have to choose between a new outfit for Hudson or a new cloth diaper because there was only enough for one of those in his category of the budget.  I liked spending money whenever or however I pleased!

For the first couple of months I’ll be totally honest, I was very irritated about the budget and the monthly budget meetings we would make me grouchy.  But it DID get better and I am so thankful for our budget now!

Just getting started in general with a budget can be overwhelming.  Here are 5 things you should do to help you create your budget.

5 tips for creating a budget without losing your mind

1.  Grab a piece of paper and do a brain dump.  Just write, write, write.  Don’t try to prioritize or anything, just get it on paper.  Write down everything that you can think of that you spend money on (bills, necessities, fun stuff, gifts, whatever) or think you will want money for in the near future (new car, down payment, vacation, etc.)  Keep general categories (i.e. “restaurants” vs. “large Diet Coke at McDonald’s”) but try to think of as much as you can.

2.  Gather up all your bills and bank statements and credit card statements and begin listing how much each of your standing expenses costs.  And by that I mean the expenses that come around every month and are pretty much the same.  So, your mortgage or rent, car payment, tuition, water, electric, cell phone, amount you give to your church, internet, Netflix, etc.  If you have something that you have to pay every month (but that fluctuates a lot, like your electric) then look back at past statements, find an average amount, and use that.

3.  Prioritize.  What is important to YOU?  This is a big key right here.  What is important to you is where you should put your money.  For example, we try to eat organic and fairly healthy so we allot more money in our budget for groceries than many of my friends do.  However, having new clothes isn’t a big deal for us so we put less in that category (don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have more money to spend on clothes, but working within what we have at this time we choose more expensive food over more expensive clothes).  We also drive fairly old cars but prefer to have a little bit nicer of a house, so we put more money into our house than our cars.

Maybe going on vacation is a priority for your family.  Maybe it’s private school for your kids.  Or super fast internet.  Or the latest gadget.  Whatever it is, try to figure out the thing or things that are important to you and the things that may not matter so much.  That will help you determine where to put your money.

(Don’t worry about this being perfect!  You will most likely have to revise, reprioritize, and make some cuts before this is over.)

4.  From step #2 you should have a total for all your standing expenses.  Subtract that from your income.  Now you have an amount that is left for the not-so-set-in-stone expenses.

Look at your priority list and start assigning amounts.  Estimate how much you think you’ll spend on groceries each month.  How much do you think you need for car repairs?  Clothes?  Gas?  Eating out?  Manicures?  As you assign amount to your categories, subtract that from the amount you have to spend so that you make sure you’re not over-budgeting.

These can be very rough estimates.  Unless you have been tracking your spending already then you probably don’t have the foggiest idea how much you spend on things.  That’s ok!  It took us a couple of months of budgeting and tracking to get a good, consistent number down.

5.  Reprioritize.  At this point you’re probably finding that maybe there isn’t enough money to cover each of the amounts you put in all those categories!  Time to start looking at places to cut back.  I’m going to do at least one (maybe more) separate post about some things you can do if you have more things in your budget than you have money for so stay tuned for that in a few weeks.

Again, I want to stress this – do NOT try to get this perfect on the first go or you’ll quit like we did years ago.  This is just a start.  It WILL get easier.

Assignment for this week:

– Easy-ish: Write down everything, I mean EVERYTHING, that you purchase this week.  Groceries, ice cream at Sonic, gas, shopping, haircut.  Whatever.  This will help you become more aware of what you’re spending and where it’s going.

– Harder: Sit down and do the 5 steps that are listed here!

Come back next week to learn how to put this budget into action and get rocking and rolling!