Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cost Break Down:Frozen Chicken: With Bones or Without?

This cost break down comes to you courtesy of Shawn.  Since I broke my foot he has been doing the grocery shopping, which I admit has been fabulous!  I do not miss that as an item on my to do list. But….he does it differently than me!  I sent him to the store to buy chicken breasts and he came home with  a bag of bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, which I would never buy.  But, he insisted, it’s a lot cheaper!! No, I said, not after you figure for the weight of the bones And skin you are paying for but will only throw away!!

Well, we never miss a chance to have a calculator fight, so once we were done tossing them at each other ( just kidding) we did some actual math.  Shawn deboned and skinned the chicken and weighed the waste bones and skin, roughly a third of the bag was waste.  After weighing the actual meat, we calculated that the 2Kg bag cost $0.98 per 100g of actual chicken meat.  The bag of frozen deboned, skinned chicken works out to…. drum roll please…  $1.09 per 100g. 

Okay, so if you can wield a knife well enough to debone frozen chicken ( I can’t but that’s where Shawn comes in handy), and you don’t mind investing that bit of extra time, you can save a whopping ten cents per 100g?  I guess I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s worth it or not at your house… as for me? I think I’ll skip the extra step.  That is, unless my awesome husband wants to continue doing all the grocery shopping, in which case the answer is he can buy whatever chicken he wants Smile!

PS:  As an unrelated side note, I got my cast off this week and am feeling great and just a bit stiff .  Love being able to drive again!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Breaking News!

I haven’t blogged in a long time.  I couldn’t find a way to fit it into the packed schedule our family has had this year, but suddenly I find myself with a lot of time…

Because I broke my foot!

I fell going down some stairs. After I got over my first feelings of embarrassment and hope that no one saw me, I knew right away that the crack I heard was indeed some bone in my foot.  I was getting my daughter dressed for her dance recital at the time, so I got her off to the staging area and sat down.  I knew shock would carry me for a few minutes.  God’s timing is great!  My other daughter asked to go to the bathroom, and my mom brought her out into the lobby.  I was able to send a message to Shawn that I had fallen and broken my foot.

I tried not to draw attention to myself, but that was hard to do and eventually I had a whole group of people rushing to help me.  The building staff got a wheelchair and the dance studio staff got me ice packs.  I was so thankful there was a side door and I did not have to be carried out through the lobby! We were out of the building just as shock wore off.  My mom took the kids home and Shawn took me to Emergency.

So now, I am all casted up and taking up residence on my couch.  Other than the physical pain, and embarrassment, the worst part is mourning the summer plans I will not see come true anymore.  I had imagined a whole summer of playing in the local pool with my kids and endless playground days.  It’s my right foot that is broken, so I can’t even drive them to these places.  I can’t lift my baby, and I definitely can’t walk around with him on my shoulder.  We are still going to attempt our planned camping trip, since my parents will be there and help us supervise kids.

I have known for a long time that I tend to feel too much of my value from productivity.  God has been teaching me to let go of that.  Certain times during my pregnancies I would be too tired to do much and I would really struggle with it.  I have often said “ I wish I knew how to ignore what needs to get done and just relax and play with the kids more often.”  Well, Shawn so lovingly pointed out… now I get that chance!  God has put me in a place where I must let go of control, and where I cannot feel proud of all that I can get done.  I cannot be a super mom, managing laundry, cooking,cleaning,teaching and playing with ease.  Right now, it’s hard to manage to get myself into the bathroom!!

I have a great group of friends, and I know that in the weeks ( months?) to come, I will have to ask for a lot of help.  I tend to struggle with this too.  About a year ago, a friend of mine broke her foot.  I remember thinking at the time that I was glad that was not me, as I would never want to ask for help like she did.  Guess who the first person I phoned was? Haha!!  Her tip?  Keep a stroller in the house so you can put the baby in it and hop around if you need to, and accept all offers of help!!

My mom cleaned my house before she left, and I had just bought two weeks worth of groceries.  Friends are bringing meals all this week, so I am set for a bit.  I have an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon next week, and then I will likely be fit with a “boot” cast and know more about how long I will need it.  I’m warned that the very best case is 6, probably 10 weeks.  I tend to be a slow healer, so I am not going to set my hopes on the speedy recovery and risk being disappointed. 

Until then, my kids are enjoying coloring on my bulky knee to toes fiberglass cast while I get used to accepting help instead of offering it.  I’m going to have to slow down and just sit more.  And, I’m going to have to let Shawn pack for camping!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Grade Are You In, Dear?

By far, the funniest side effect of home schooling is that Colleena has NO IDEA what grade she is “in”.  As she looks old enough to be in school now, people often ask her, and she looks at me helplessly as if she hasn’t the faintest clue of what to say.  Baden, having spent a few years at school, understands the importance of this question and answers much more naturally with “ grade 2”.

I never noticed before, but this is our culturally normal way of finding out how old children are.  It becomes a moot point after high school, but until then, it’s the way we gauge a child’s age, likely interests and areas of learning. We might say “ Oh, you’re in grade 3?  That must mean you are learning cursive in school… do you like it?”  

I kept coaching her to say “ I’m in Kindergarten this year”.  This is what people expect, and from that they can deduce that she is 5 or 6.  She refused, however, and one day I pressed her to find out why.  “ I thought I was in Grade 1 and 2!” she said.  It was cute, and it made me laugh, but honestly, I can understand her confusion.  None of her workbooks are for Kindergarten.  The thing about homeschooling is that children learn whatever they need to understand next, and this is different from the public system .

Neither Baden nor Colleena does many workbooks in “their grade”.  Many homeschooling materials come with no grade, suggested grade windows, or are very different than the province where we live.  Language Arts Through Literature has different colors of workbooks that you progress through, with suggested grade equivalents.  Colleena is doing the “blue” level, which is “about grade 1”, and Baden the “red”.  Although “red” is marked for grade 2, in our province, they wouldn’t study the topics in it until grade 3, maybe grade 4 if they are in French Immersion.  Their Math books are graded, and each child is ahead by one year, besides, this curriculum is again further ahead than the province’s stated levels for their years.  They are both doing grade 2 Bible, as it was easier for me to have them do the same one, and their science books are “grades 4-6”.  In French I am sure they are behind where they would be in school, as I have really dropped the ball there and am having a hard time finding enough materials.

So, you can understand Colleena’s confusion.  She has no idea why people expect her to be in Kindergarten.  Homeschooling has made me realize that I have to stop lumping all kids of the same grade together as having similar interests, abilities or areas of study.  Just in case you’re wondering, I am not going to be teaching cursive to Baden next year in “grade 3”.  I can’t read his printing a lot of the time, and I am not moving on to a potentially messier style until he is neater at this one.  He is not going to be hurt by another year of printing, he’s an 8 year old boy and this is just where he is at. I for one am going to simply ask how old a kid is from now on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Colleena’s Beauty Salon

I remember hearing a story once about a famous artist.  As a child, he took the ink well and drew pictures all over the walls.  His mom, instead of freaking out, saw that he had talent and encouraged him to draw, but on paper.  I always liked to imagine she had to count to 12 thousand before responding, because that is what I would have done to avoid going bananas.  Oh, and I’m sure she made him clean it up too…

I always wanted to be that mom, the one who doesn’t mind the inconvenience of cleaning up after some great exploration or learning opportunity.  The one who kept her cool, and encouraged her kids to explore their interests.  Sometimes I am.  My kids ( and often my friend’s kids) are always doing some crazy thing at my house.  They play with tubs of water on the kitchen floor ( and get in them), I tape paper on walls to let them paint it, I let them paint windows, I fill the bathtub with snow, I give them puffed wheat to “cook” with in the play kitchen and I have even filled up a paddling pool on my deck in early spring so they could splash in their bathing suits.  It’s often said “ only at your house!”

I was pretty cool when I discovered that Colleena had cut herself some bangs…She did a pretty good job, and only minor touch ups were needed at the hairdresser’s.  But last week, I really blew it.  Colleena snuck downstairs and gave haircuts to her Barbies, their clothes, and horses.  When I discovered the pieces, she lied to cover it up.  I won’t lie, I was mad.  Some of the things she cut where mine from childhood.  In that moment, I was thinking “ I am NOT going to have a kid with a scissor issue, I have to put a stop to this right now!”.  It was a big angry fight, ruining an other wise great day.

After I had some time to cool off, I got to thinking… why not let her cut hair?  Can I make an appropriate venue for this?   So I made a little plan, and today I got to put it into action.

DSC_0880I went to Value Village, and for only a few dollars, I bought a small scrubs shirt as a smock, a dolly that none of us had any attachment to, and a bib to be the “client’s” cover.

Colleena got out all the toolsDSC_0879

She wanted to use, washed and combed out the hair and set to work.

Lily wanted to play too, but she wasn’t allowed to have real scissors, so she was just a stylist tonight…

Colleena was so thrilled!  We had a lot of fun, and told her that we would allow her to keep certain dollies for hair cutting.  This also came with a stern warning thatDSC_0882 she was not to cut hair, whether real or dolly, without mom or dad, and that we would only play this game in the kitchen.

So, tonight ended on a much happier note.  Colleena got to try something she has been interested in, and mommy didn’t lose her cool.  And apparently, Dolly was pleased with the new ‘do…DSC_0891

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Long Should You Store Hand Me Downs?

This question is on my mind again this week.  With the girls, it’s not really an issue.  Colleena is petite, and Lily is average, so even though there are three years between the girls, there is only one size in between them.  Shirts generally go straight from one to the other, and I have one diaper box of pants in their closet. ( Have I mentioned how much I LOVE diaper boxes for storage?!)

Now… the boys… There are 7 years in between my boys, and although Bremen is bigger at weigh ins than Baden was at the same age, and even though I just broke out the size 24 month t shirts for an 8 month old, he isn’t likely to make up THAT much ground! ( yes, seriously.. he is almost 25 pounds, so while he isn’t tall enough to need the 24 months/size 2 stuff, he needs them for width. hahah!  He could probably make due with 18 months stuff, but I don’t have much left, and I do have a lot of that next size, so I figured I’d move him up a bit early and things could be a tad bit big)  When we weren’t sure if we wanted to have more than two kids, I pared down the baby clothes, figuring there was no sense in keeping boxes and boxes of clothes, not to mention the fact that there weren’t that many clothes to hand down from Baden, he wrecked most of them.  I had to buy new ( used) boy clothes after Bremen was born, since I hadn’t kept enough to avoid having to buy more.

And then, we had two more kids, hahah!  Right now, girls clothes can go as soon as Lily out grows them.  Baby toys, seats, swings and the like are leaving as soon as Bremen is too big for them ( he weighted out of these types of items!). I have been keeping, boxing and labeling boys clothes in each size as my oldest, Baden out grew them.  I tried to keep mostly things that are timeless, selling or giving away items with “in” characters or styles that were likely to be dated too soon.

Besides my own in house generated hand me downs, I recently got several huge rubbermaid containers full from a mom with two boys and way better taste in clothes than me.  I know her mom and she just wanted them out of her house, so she boxed them all up and her mom brought them over.  Everything two kids could wear in sizes 18 months to 5.  Gorgeous, really cool clothes.  I keep them in that crawl space behind my wall over the stairs where we have our tv mounted.  Today, as we were emptying that space to do some work up there, the kids were playing in there having a great time, and I started wondering… should I really be keeping all these clothes?

Big items seem like a no brainer to me.  Snow suits, winter boots, shoes… all have large bins in my garage and are worth saving.  What do you think about the hand me downs?  How much is worth storing in boxes for up to seven years? How much work re-sorting, re-organizing and moving around these boxes is worth it? What will still be good?  I have noticed that some of Baden’s old outfits that I pulled out of bins smelled old even after I washed them for Bremen.  Sometimes shirts with that plasticy printing are all stuck together and gummy after sitting in a bin.  Elastics in socks seem to be brittle.  Should I put a time limit on it, as in I will keep what he could wear in the next two years?  I could sell or give away the rest.  Are boys jeans that manage to make it through without holes in the knees worth keeping for seven years?  Five?  Two?  The cheap ,ahem, frugal, part of me wants to keep them all, since it’s such a good way to save, make due with what I’ve got and a great feeling of being prepared for years to come, but is it really worth it?  How long would you store hand me downs?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mortgage Statements Are Nauseating!

My annual mortgage statement came in the mail today.  Most years, I have thrown them out with out even opening them ( I know, I am so ba-a-a-d!).  But this year, for some unknown yet apparently sadistic reason, I decided to open it. 

Over the past 12 months, we have paid only $1949 dollars off of the principal, and a whopping $12,948 in interest.  Oh but wait… the good news is… there is only 36 years and 4 months left of the amortization!  To further disgust Shawn and I, I figured out how many hours Shawn had to work to earn that $13,000… you don’t even wanna know… I wish I didn’t!!

Paying off our mortgage in record time hasn’t been on our list of financial goals, but now I am starting to wonder…  After we pay off the debt ( still making good progress!!), and start saving on a more regular basis, will I increase our mortgage payments and try to blast that huge beast?  Or will I want to relax a bit more by then? 

I can’t say for sure.  Just thinking about what else I would rather do with $13,000 has re-stoked the fire under my butt, and makes me want to buckle down even more.  Our lovely January vacation is over ( and paid for, yay!!) so now it’s time to get back to kicking that credit card !

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Budget

As this year drew to a close, my husband and I sat down to evaluate our finances and see what needs adjusting.  We’ve come to see that our budgets have been like a pendulum, swinging back and forth with equal energy between spending and extra debt payments. 

We always seemed to manage one or maybe two really strict low spending months, but then a catch up month would follow.  We can eat out of the cupboards and freezer for a month, keeping the groceries under $400, but inevitably the next month we’d be out of paper towels, toilet paper, flour, sugar, rice , potatoes, diapers and just about every other imaginable household item.  Other budget categories had the same problem.  We had no regular line for clothes, which is ok until Shawn needs new winter work boots, which come in over $200, or someone needs snow-pants or socks or whatever.  We can wear out or entire wardrobe but the stock up at the end of it is a big bill!

Shawn received a raise late this fall, so our income has changed slightly.  We sat down to work out a new basic budget, the one that we start out with each month then plan any new items we know are coming up.  We start with the same basic amounts, and then adjust for each month’s unique needs.  We wanted to make a budget that was a bit more balanced, creating a more even pace.

Our first major goal this year is to increase our donation to the church and reach a full tithe by the end of the year.  Since I blogged all about it already (Read about that here)  I won’t do more than mention it today, except to say that I will be tracking more closely the portion of Shawn’s income that is variable and working on a system to make sure I am tithing on things like overtime and bonuses.

We added planned amounts for home maintenance, vehicle maintenance and clothes.  Instead of these things being added as an “ other expense we know of” in a month when a need popped up, we will now have a planned amount.  Unused portions will be transferred into savings, still ear marked for that category and used when bigger-than-this-month’s-allotment expenses come up.

We’ve decided to save a small amount each month, instead of using all extra funds as debt payment.  We will still be paying about 10% of our income onto debt payments each month.  We have decided that the “Dave Ramsey” method of an insane pace sprinting until the finish line isn’t working for us.  We are opting instead for a marginally smaller speed, which will leave us with different options.  The small savings number will help when we want to take a summer camping trip, or pay for something like soccer or ballet.  We can spread these items out over the year instead of the month or two before they are due.

We’ll continue our renovations at a slow pace.  Saving ahead and paying for each stage will set the speed.

It is still our main debt related goal to pay off our Master Card by October when our mortgage will be up for renewal.  After that, we attack our credit line.  Recently, when regular interest rates where changed at the bank, the fees on our credit line doubled.  This will make it harder to pay off extra principal, and we are even more determined to pay off this giant mistake from our past!!

We will start paying our children allowances again.  We have tried different ideas off and on without much success this year and are still looking for a system that is the right fit for our family.  We’ve decided that it’s purpose will be to let our children practice making decisions about how to save and spend money.  They won’t be “earning” it per se with chores, but there will, in the future, be a list of extras they could do if they would like to earn more money for a goal they have.

I have gotten really slack about planning and tracking each month, and I want to make a new excel sheet to get us back on track in this area.

That about sums up my financial resolutions for the up coming year.  What are your goals this year?

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