Monthly Archives: September 2013

Menu Plan Monday 9/30

Chicken Pumpkin SoupHappy Monday!  I wanted to give you an update on the Chicken and Pumpkin soup from last week’s menu plan.  Delicious!  It will definitely will go into the dinner rotation.  It was super easy because I already had chicken cooked in the freezer.  It has a silky texture like a butternut squash soup but without the sweetness.  Watch out on the chipotles in adobo though.  They can be super hot!  Next time I will just use chipotle powder.

Monday – Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Fajitas

Tuesday – Hamburgers on the grill.  It’s going to be 80 degrees F and sunny!

Wednesday – Dine out

Thursday –  Daughter requests Sheryl Crow’s Warm Hummus Soup

Friday – Spaghetti and home-made garlic bread

More menu planning inspiration can be found at


Reason 1,457 to be Debt Free

IMG_1900Everyone has an opinion on money matters.  Is there “good debt”? Should you avoid paying off your mortgage early because of tax benefits/deductions on the interest?  Today, I am as grateful as ever to be 100%  debt free because my husband may not get paid next week.

The US Government’s fiscal year ends Sept 30, and at the moment, no budget is passed for the next fiscal year.  Federal employees are in limbo while the House and Senate try to reach a resolution on the budget.  Guess what? They don’t play well together in the sandbox.  No resolution=no work and no pay starting October 1.

No tax deduction for mortgage interest can match the security of becoming your own bank. . . creating a situation where you can borrow from yourself should you face loss of income or another crisis.  Building savings is like making your own insurance policy that can be activated when life throws you a curve ball.  You can create this level of savings more rapidly the less debt you have.  The less debt you have, the lower your expenses are should you lose income.  We have money saved that will get us through this possible government shutdown, and we continue to save so that we could weather a more lengthy loss of income or other larger crisis.

A fellow blogger wrote this week on our tendency in America to curse the politicians minding the country’s budget in Washington without reflecting on our own money handling and personal debt.  Stop by and read his post  for more food for thought.

Menu Plan Monday – 9/23

IMG_4055-private_fotorI’m getting into the groove of back to work and back to school and feeling more energetic than last weekend.  We’ve been home all weekend and it’s been very refreshing.

MondayOven Roasted Parmesan Tilapia, Salad, and Sweet Potatoes

Tuesday – Eggs, fresh from my friend’s chickens!  Raisin Walnut Bread and fruit.

Wednesday – Dinner at the sub shop with my gift card win!

Thursday – Chicken and Pumpkin Soup using leftover chicken from roast chicken last week.  I’ll let you know how this recipe turns out.

Friday – Sloppy Joes and Tator Tots, plus whatever veg is leftover at the end of the week.

You know where to go for more menu planning inspiration, right?!

What I Did This Week to Save Money 9/21

Multi-Hued Zinnias from Our Garden

Multi-Hued Zinnias from Our Garden

One of the benefits to having a written budget is that at the end of the week when think you didn’t spend a lot of money, you can quantify that inkling.  This week it seemed like we would have unspent money, and indeed we did.  This week we:

  • Ate meals at home mainly using ingredients that we had on hand.
  • Had one nice meal out using a birthday coupon.  Glad we took advantage of that because we are still homebound with a sick child this weekend.
  • Husband took lunches to work and got creative when we ran out of prepared frozen meals – he took a hot dog and bun from the freezer one day, and loved it!
  • I received $ 3.00 from CVS Drugstore to use on anything and I used it to buy dishwasher detergent when I ran out.
  • I won an anniversary contest at our local non-chain sub shop and now have a $ 50.00 gift card!  Dinner’s on me this week.
  • Ran a report on grocery spending this month… we are averaging $ 80.00 per week, which is low for us.   I am planning meals based on what is on sale and stocking up when I see lowest prices based on the info I put into ValueTracker.   When I say “stock up” I don’t mean Campbell’s soup underneath the bed and pasta in the linen closet, I just mean buying a product to replace the current one I have.  Canola oil was one such purchase this week.
  • Asked our neighbor if they would mind passing their Sunday coupons on to me.  They really weren’t aware there were even coupons in the Sunday paper.  I regularly share our Wall Street Journal weekend sections with them so there was a precedent to my asking.
  • Free entertainment this week consisted of Daddy/Daughter on the couch watching old Leave it to Beaver episodes (“It’s so weird they let their kids roam around town like that, Dad”), library books, and a good deal of football on TV.

Some of the surplus budget money this week will be set aside for haircuts next week (school pictures are right around the corner).  We also put some money towards winter weather gear for child, and savings.

Spending a Sick Day with Clark Howard

I’m home today with a sick child (cold), and catching up on some reading while she watches her favorite movie “Night at the Museum 2”.  I’m reading Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul: Consumer-Tested Ways to Overhaul Your Finances, Increase Your Savings, and Get Your Life Back on Track”  The book came out just a few months ago and I dutifully waited on the library’s reserve list for my chance to read the book.

I haven’t read a lot of Clark Howard’s books, but I am greatly enjoying this one.  If your favorite part of reading personal finance blogs is learning about other people’s journeys, you will like this book, which shares personal stories on subjects such as travel, retirement, cars, technology, and living below your means.  Each story has Clark’s tips at the end.

What I respect about Clark is that this book features people that have a really wide variety of perspectives on money, some of which would be outright dismissed by other personal finance personalities:  people who own every Apple product known to man, people who buy gold, people who lease cars, people with no cars.  While my beloved Dave Ramsey would go nuts on someone leasing a car, Clark gives a balanced approach with facts about leasing which include the few scenarios where leasing may be acceptable.

I most related to the chapter “El Cheapo Man and Wife: Living Below Their Means Gives Matt and Jamie the Freedom to Enjoy Small Splurges.”  They didn’t seem that cheap to me… which I guess I why I related to them!

Pumpkin Pancakes

PumpkinPancakesThis recipe has been handed down through a long series of co-workers and friends.  That is how you know you have a great recipe on your hands!

2 eggs

1 c. milk

1/2 c. canned pumpkin

1/4 c. oil (canola, vegetable, etc.)

1 1/2 c. flour (I sometimes use a little whole wheat pastry flour in there)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and powdered ginger

3 Tablespoons sugar (I use a little less)

Beat eggs in bowl very well until thick.  Stir in remaining liquid ingredients.  Combine dry ingredients.  Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients.  Cook on hot griddle.  I occasionally need to thin out the batter with another small splash of milk.  Some people in this family have been known to enjoy these with chocolate chips in them!  Thus, I reduce the sugar in the recipe.

Carnival Games – Teachable Moment

Roll Out The Barrel....

Roll Out The Barrel….

We have a tradition every year of celebrating Oktoberfest with friends at a local beer garden. With the festival comes the lure of … carnival games.  Doesn’t every parent look forward to an opportunity to bring home a betta fish in colored water, or a set of pink and purple stuffed horses?

This year we offered our daughter a choice … she could play the games as in years past, where Dad usually spent $10.00, or she could “bank” the $10.00 and use it for something that might have a higher fun quotient.   She chose to pass on the games, and have the $10.00 to spend later.  She was a trooper that night resisting the lure of knock-off inflatable M&M characters and pink dolphins.

Today an opportunity arose to take advantage of that $10.00.  She has really wanted to get a membership to an online game she enjoys called Animal Jam.  I reminded her of her fun money and she was over the moon to be able to get this membership, and still have a bit of money left over.

My money management lessons don’t always pan out as I hope, but this was a win-win for both of us!

Menu Plan Monday – Sept 16

thanksgvingPumpkin-GraphicsFairyOrgMonday – Roast chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and broccoli.  This was actually Sunday night’s dinner but we lost power for a few hours Sunday afternoon!  So, I roasted the chicken Sunday night while our electricity was still cheap and will make the rest of the meal Monday.

TuesdayBlack bean soup and corn bread

Wednesday – Going out for dinner

Thursday – Pumpkin pancakes and turkey sausage…feels like fall!

Friday – Pizza and salad

For more inspiration, head on over to

Slow Down Saturday

Santa Fe Cactus

Santa Fe Cactus, 2013

Wowee, what a week.  It’s such a blessing to be home all summer with my girl, but such a rude awakening when it is back to work and school.  This was our first full week of school and work. By about Wednesday my daughter was longing for a vacation to Washington, DC.  I find that when we have the urge to go on a vacation, what it usually means is: “I miss living life without so many obligations.”

We did decide that we could take some money from my checks and put it into a vacation fund that we can watch grow.  This might be a good introduction to our budget process for our daughter.

Today we are taking it easy as we are under orders from Laine’s teacher to “recharge our batteries.”  This is advice near and dear to my heart.  The next best thing to a vacation is being home without a massive to-do list and errands all over the place.

Meanwhile, we had a good week with our budget.  I wasn’t enthusiastic about cooking some of the nights this week, but having a meal plan really helps.  It is important that I continue to cook most meals at home or my checks will be used up in dining out costs!  I continue to monitor Quicken to make sure that my working isn’t causing a rise in grocery spending due to lack of meal planning.

On a humorous note, my most interesting google search that brought someone to my blog  this week was ‘getting laid at home’.   Pretty sure they didn’t get to the page they were looking for, but maybe they stumbled on a good Jamie Oliver recipe as a result.

Getting Back to Work after Being an At-Home Mom


I left my career to be a stay at home mom when my daughter was three.  My husband and I worked hard to get into a financial position to make that a reality.  Between the cost of daycare and the hefty taxes on the second income, we were surprised at how quickly we adapted to the loss of income.  Being an at-home mom also allowed us to homeschool for the first year of kindergarten, which we all relished.

Once my daughter was in full-day school, it took me about 2 weeks until I felt the urge to work again.  The dilemma was that none of us wanted to get back to a lifestyle of paying for after school care,  emergency meals out due to lack of planning, and fights about who would stay home with a sick kid.

I knew there was no way I could fit into a schedule at a national company with shifts.  I was available from 8:45 until 2:00, not during Christmas break, or summer.  Sounds like just what you want to hear as an employer, right?  The upside is that I had a sales background and am a responsible person that likes to work.  My solution – a local fancy bakery!  In my cover sheet I laid out the whole situation, and offered that if they needed to slot in a college student to cover when I couldn’t work, I would be happy to give them my hours when they were home for winter break or summer.  It worked!

I really enjoyed the work, the customers and the 50% off discount!  The bakers were a crazy fun bunch.  The money I earned helped us in our last push to pay off the mortgage.  While we were getting our financial house in shape at home, the bakery was headed in the other direction.  Too much debt, creditors calling… you were afraid to answer the phone!  The bakery trimmed back to one location and that seemed to help.  I worked there for 1 year, but no regrets… and I still usually get a discount when I get to the other location!

What I learned from the experience is that even though you may not have the most flexible schedule to offer, an amazing work ethic and people skills go a long way for employers, especially in part-time jobs.  It’s better to be honest up front about your scheduling limitations.  I will bring you up to date on my current employment soon.

Have you returned to work after being a SAHM (or Dad!)?  What did you do to re-enter the workforce?