Lunch Time

A big part of saving time and money goes into planning your meals.  The world likes to show us the convenience of grabbing on the go, but look what that has done to our waistlines and our wallets!  Yikes!  The best plan is to plan, prepare and work in your meals during a less busy time of the week.

I’ve said before that I like to do my meal prep on Sunday afternoons.  I do work outside of the home during the week so I understand when there is the argument of time.  However, packing lunches does not need to be a time hog.

The benefits of packing lunches greatly outweighs the time argument.  Whether you are packing for yourself, your spouse and/or your children, the benefits are all the same.

  1. You control the portions.  Everything from fast food to sit down is all greatly increased in the area of portions.
  2. You control the contents.  When you make, pack and measure, you know exactly what is going into your body.  If you or a family member have allergies, you no longer have to worry about ingesting something bad for them.
  3. The cost is greatly less.  The cost of putting together a lunch is greatly less then buying on the go.  Journal it and you will see it for yourself.
  4. Less waste. This is a huge item, you aren’t added to the garbage issue and if you pack wisely, you will cut down on your own disposables!

What you will need:

  1. A Lunch Box.  I know the picture shows a brown paper bag.  But I really do not advise using one for many reasons.  You will want a stable lunch bag/box that can hold some time of cooling pack, easy to carry or put into a backpack (good idea for kids and adults alike), but big enough to carry what you need for the day.
  2. A Reusable Cooling Pack.  These are very inexpensive and can be used over and over again.  I have one that is very thin and does a great job of cooling my lunch bag very well.  Just put it in the freezer every day when you get home and it will be ready for the next day!
  3. Reusable item containers.  You can pick these up at the dollar store.  Make sure you get microwaveable safe ones if you are planning to need to reheat items.  A Soup Thermos is also a great item to have so you don’t have to use a microwave!  I am not in favor of using disposable wrappings and bags, trash is trash, whether it comes from home or from somewhere else.
  4. Reusable Coffee/drink mug.  Avoid buying bottled water or coffee.  Make and bring your own and refill for free during the day.
  5. Reusable utensils.  Have a specific set for your lunch box(es).  Again, avoid disposable.

But what do I pack?

This is where it gets fun.  You are only limited by your imagination!  For kid lunches those are just super fun!  You can make your own “lunchables” of crackers, bread cut out using cookie cutters, meats, cheeses… but we will get to that.  Here are some ideas, adults enjoy the fun stuff too, sometimes even a little more!

  1.  Sandwiches do not need to be boring!  Use a large shaped cookie cutter to cut bread, meat, cheese and stack together.
  2. Afraid your sandwich will get soggy?  Pack the bread in one container and the items in another as and use a small condiment container for your ketchup, mayo or mustard.
  3. Subs.  Hot and cold subs are so simple to prepare at home with what you have on hand when you plan ahead!
  4. Hot Dogs.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Hot dogs.  My kids would love it when we would have “Hot Dog” week.  I would grill up hot dogs ahead of time and each day they would get a different type.  Monday, Pizza dog; Tuesday, Chicago Style Dog; Wednesday, Taco Dog (Chili dog with taco seasoning) and so on.
  5. Do not fear the dinner left overs!   When I make casseroles, I will make enough to put aside for some lunches for myself.  Especially in the winter to have a nice hot lunch.
  6. Soup and Salad.  How often to you pay $12+ for soup and salad at a fast food place?  So inexpensive and easy to do at home and pack!  I will make a pot of soup during the week and set aside portions for my lunch (and even freeze some like chicken noodle).  Salads, easy peasey.  Toss in some mixed lettuce, tomato and cucumber and whatever else you like and use a condiment container to carry our dressing.
  7. Chicken nuggets.  Chicken nuggets are so easy to make at home.  Do not buy the frozen ones.  Pre-make a batch by taking chicken thighs and or breasts and cutting into bite sized cubes.  sprinkle with fine bread crumbs if you like and cook in a skillet.  They freeze up perfect and you have a much better nugget.
  8. Sweet Tooth.  There is nothing like a sweet treat in the middle of the day.  The best thing is to bake and portion out a cookie a day.  Make a healthy sweet treat, or better yet, add in some fresh in season fruit!  My children when they were young liked something called “dirt pudding” which was simply chocolate pudding with crushed a crumbled cookie on top and I would put in a gummy worm or a gummy flower in each little cup for them.
  9. Homemade Lunchables.  These things are expensive in the store.  Make your own.  Using small cookie cutters, cut shapes out of cheeses and meats and add to a decorative container.  Add in grapes, pretzel sticks and other finger foods as a side.  Avoid the bad preservative packed snacks!
  10. Pizza.  I’m not talking about left over take out.  If you don’t make your own pizza and save some for lunch, make mini pizzas by using biscuit dough (I make my own), and putting on toppings and bake.  You can store these for the week and even freeze them after baking for later.
  11. Burritos.  My husband is responsible for getting me to love burritos for breakfast and lunch.  The possibilities for fillings are endless.  My favorite is a breakfast burrito with chorizo, eggs, potatoes and green chilies.  I enjoy it for breakfast and lunch.
  12. Egg Bites.  These are great for breakfast and for lunch!  Here is how you make them.  Breakfast Egg Bites

Here is a hint.  If you see it “prepackaged” in the store with cute enticing packaging, you can make it at home cheaper, with less preservatives and much better for you!  Another thing to remember that buying individually wrapped is much more expensive then buying a larger size and parsing out on your own.   Apple slices are just as easy to slice yourself, and a boiled egg is just as easy to do yourself instead of buying it boiled, and honestly, probably safer.

With all the food health warnings coming out in regards to fast food chains, take the time and responsibility over your own food.  Buy in season, enjoy variety and enjoy the health and saving benefits!

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

 

 

 

 

Planting Seeds

I bet you expected this to be about gardening, didn’t you?  Well, in a way it is.  We are growing a garden that will feed us for the rest of our lives if we are wise, or we are creating a barren plot that will cause us to fall.  I know, that isn’t a very positive way to start an article is it?  Truth be told, today’s world has us creating a barren plot.  How can we avoid falling into the trap of World View?

Think of pennies as seeds.  Every penny placed wisely grows, pennies cast to the side are lost.  I remember overhearing a conversation that pennies are useless in today’s society and should be “discarded”.  Now even a child knows that when you put a penny in a jar each day by the end of the year you have $3.65.  When you start finding pennies in the couch cushion, in the car, on the sidewalk, and you pick it up and add it to the jar, well, you just increased your income.  Seeds that grow into a crop.  One seed gives birth to a crop of fruit.

As with seeds and a garden, the soil must be primed, there is maintenance and care and daily pruning involved.  A seed will not grow on rock.

woman standing on pasture

How to prime your soil:

  1.  Budget.  I talk about this all the time.  A budget should be a living thing, not something you do once and shove in the drawer of a desk.  It is constantly changing, growing, shrinking.  Working with your budget weekly will allow you to see upcoming storms, droughts and be able to prepare accordingly.  During good times that your ‘crops’ are doing above expectation, work on saving and giving.
  2. Revisit your wants vs. needs.  Another subject I talk about all the time.  This is a subject that should have lots of communication around with your family, especially your spouse.  Exactly what do we need as a family?  What do we want?  Is our want justified?  Just a clue here, just because the neighbors are going on a one month cruise does not mean you have to do the same thing.
  3. Making your home work for you.  No, I am NOT talking about a refinance loan.  I’m talking about utilizing the spaces.  Instead of just flowers, plant herbs and vegetables.  This will help with your grocery bill and your health.  If you have land, put in a full garden and learn to preserve by canning, freezing and dehydrating.  Berries and fruit are also a great addition for visual as well as food.  Do you live where you can have poultry?  Chickens are a wonderful source of protein in both eggs and meat, but be prepared for lots of work.  Meat Rabbits are also a great way to supplement your meat intake.  You will need a to understand that meat rabbits are food, not pets.  With bringing on livestock you will need to look into your homeowner’s insurance, community rules, etc.
  4. Family Rules.   Seeds are best planted early.  With children its the same way.  Teach your children well in the areas of money and work.  Give them chores, teach them young to keep track of their earnings.  Encourage work at the proper ages and teach them responsibility of their earnings.  Every adult & young adult who is healthy and living under the roof need to have responsibilities both in work and finance.  Do not permit anyone to slide.  You are responsible for raising the next generation.  Here is also the difficult conversation section, do not be afraid to confront misuse of finances, even if it is with a spouse.  Do not attack, do not fight, find common ground and discuss to avoid the storm in the future.  Everyone is in this together.
  5. Find your leaks and areas of waste.  This is not only in the area of actually spending money, but in how you are spending time.  If you are “too busy” to cook at home, look at why?  Are you spending time in front of the television instead of meal prepping?  Have you overbooked your kid’s activities so much that no one has time to rest and focus on each other?  Time and Money both are things that we can control how they are used.
  6. Invest.  I’m not talking necessarily about the stock market.  I’m talking about investing in your home, future and self.  Use your money and time wisely to build not to break down.  Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a cable bill, cut the cord, and spend the time outside with your family building and doing instead of spending time in front of the television or all on different devices in different rooms.  Spend pennies on preparing a garden and watch your grocery bill go down.  Take the money you normally would spend on a daily coffee shop coffee and put it in a penny jar, you’ll be surprised how much money you have at the end of the month.  But don’t go out and reward yourself with it, pay off some bills instead, put it back into the crop to grow more.
  7. Pay off and get rid of the plastic.  I talk about this one often as well.  In today’s world, yes unfortunately, we do need a credit line.  But watch how you utilize it.  Ask yourself, do I really need <item, service> right now?  Can I save for it?  How much will this cost me in interest?  Can I buy it used for less and still save money on maintenance of this item/service?  Can I make it myself?  If you do run up a card.  Pay off your smallest debt first, then take the money you would be spending on it and add it to the next in the list of debt, doubling that payment amount, leaving the larger ones at their minimum payment until you move up the ladder.  This is called the Snowball effect, Dave Ramsey teaches this.  I am a huge follower of his and his Financial Peace University.  I love his budget tool at everydollar.com .
  8. Keep a small amount of cash on you at all times.  I will keep $5.00 on me in cash and if I am out and about and need something like water, I can use the cash and not a card, it also makes me more aware of how I’m spending things.  Keep track of your cash use as well.
  9. Utilities and Insurance.    It is wise to review your utilities and insurance at least quarterly or after a big life change.  I know you are thinking why utilities.  Here is the thing, if your electric bill jumped spiked the previous month/quarter you should ask yourself why.  Was it an overly hot or cold month?  If it was, do you really need the air conditioner set cold enough to support penguins?  Do you need the heater going like a dragon on overload.  There is a difference between comfort and access.  learn to acclimate a little better with alternative methods.  Dress appropriately for the weather inside and outside.  Adjust the thermostat when you will not be at home.  It’s all about adjusting behaviors and expectations.  Your insurance should be looked at periodically to make sure you are being covered for what you really need to be covered for.  There is no reason to be insurance poor.  You can also save up in an emergency fund to offset costs here as well.

I will continue to discuss these items throughout the blog.  I hope you enjoy them and that they help you think of ways to be more efficient and cost sensitive in your life so that you can grow a most productive crop.

“She goes to inspect a field and buys it with her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.”  Proverbs 31: 16-17

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

A Tough Conversation

Money.  When you hear that word, what do you think of?  Does it make you worry, depressed, happy, longing, dreaming?  In this world no matter what, we need money to survive.  No matter how self-sufficient you are, you still need money.  The trick is to manage what you have wisely and not get caught up in the world and the tricks that are played to separate you from your hard earned wages.

There are more arguments in a relationship about money than any other subject.  It causes strife and worry.  But it doesn’t have to.  It all depends on how you view it.  Money is a tool, it is not your life and its not meant to be that.  We work to earn money to live, we don’t live for work.  Many times our priorities get shifted to the world’s view and we become trapped in that more, bigger, better trap.  The ease of credit, the thoughtless buying or lack of planning, these all lead to leaks in our financial, and eventually our mental well-being, and even sometimes the end to wonderful relationships.

Tips to simple rules of being healthy frugal:

  1.  Understand your wants from your needs.   This is a big one.  TV, internet, friends, the world in general preaches that our wants are our rewards and pushing our wants to become what we think are our needs.   You need shelter, food and water, clothing (basic) and previsions, and of those, you don’t need the biggest and the best.  All of the other points will follow this mentality, if you know a need from a want that is your biggest hurdle.
  2. Eat at home and make your drinks/coffee/tea at home.  I am still amazed at how many of my friends will spend $3-$5 on a cup of coffee.   Make it at home and buy a nice carry mug.  We buy a dark roast coffee at a local bulk store that is better than any coffee shop grind.  Also, when you eat at home and pack your meals for work you know exactly what is going into your body.  Keep it natural, not only will your wallet thank you, so will your waistline.
  3. Buy second hand clothes.  While there are items that should never be bought second hand (underwear, hair items, personal stuff) most all of your clothes can be bought second hand and be in style.  If you do need something ‘new’ then utilize your discount and outlet stores.  I enjoy an online store called ThredUp  they will even pay for your gently used clothes you no longer want.
  4. Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, Friends/Family.  Consider it a treasure hunt for something you really need.  By utilizing the mentality of looking for a needed item, it will also give you the time to really think about if you really need it.  Keep a list.  We do a lot of canning especially when our garden is coming on, in the store canning jars are high priced, but you would be surprised how many you can find in good condition in garage sales and thrift stores, and even better yet when someone is cleaning out their basement and finds a box of them!
  5. Grow your own food!  This may seem extreme to many, but to be honest, its not that hard, and you will watch your grocery bill shrink, especially if you preserve by canning, drying and/or freezing what is in season.  Even if it is only greens, tomatoes and cucumbers you will quickly notice a difference in taste, quality and your grocery bill.  For those who can house AND TAKE CARE OF chickens, this is a great source of eggs and meat as well.
  6. Stop relying on credit cards.  This is a hard one, especially in today’s society.  Unfortunately, we all need at least one, especially to travel.  Choose wisely and use wisely.  Do not use it as a “just put it on the card” excuse.  We all fall into that moment of over using a credit line and then feel the pain later.  Learn from your mistakes, pay it off, close what you can, move on with your life.
  7. Home.  A home falls under the need topic but it does not mean you have to move into the Wayne Mansion.  You don’t need to have the biggest and the best.  Keep in mind your purpose.  Do you want minimal maintenance (every home will have maintenance).  Do you really want to own a home?  There is nothing wrong with renting until you reach a point in your life that is right to own a home.  Just don’t pay ridiculous rent for nothing.  What purpose is the home to have?  Do you have children?  Will you have children?  Do you want a homestead to be more self-sufficient?  Does the location really suit you?  What kind of taxes are you looking at?  So much can become overwhelming quick, and if you are building, keep in mind that you do not need to get the top of the line of everything in that home at the time you build.
  8. Budget, budget, budget!    I know, its boring and stressful and makes you accountable.  Don’t just set the budget and ‘fudge the numbers’, actually add what you are spending to each item so you can see it.  I like Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar program (everydollar.com).  Trust me, it will help you become more aware of where your money is going.
  9. Save your money for a rainy day.  The storms will come.  It is not a matter of if but when.  Your car WILL break down.  There WILL be medical needs and emergencies.  There WILL be accidents.  There will be times when money is tight.  Just because you get that big bonus, don’t go hog wild, feed the piggy bank instead.
  10. Fix the leaks.  What is a leak?  This is where your money invisibly disappears.  Interest rates on credit cards and loans are a horrible leak and you need to get those stopped immediately.  Other leaks can be not looking at your car or home insurance often to tweak as life changes.  It could be that daily stop at the coffee shop or bar, or the quick meal on the run through a drive through.  What about online subscriptions or cable that you rarely if ever use?  A leak can seem like nothing but if you start recording those leaks you can see how quickly they add up.
  11. Work.  If your income isn’t cutting it then its time to roll up your sleeves and put more into it.  Everyone who adult age and healthy must be pulling their weight.  Children who are not adults and living at home can help with chores and they too can have certain responsibilities so they can learn the value of a dollar as well.  If you realize you are over your head in debt or a situation arises for the need, then look into ways that can help your financial situation.  Do you have a hobby that can add some added income, cleaning, cooking, a craft.  You will need to look at local licensing to sell out of the home and many times into your homeowner’s insurance.  Now, here is the hard part, don’t spend the extra because now you have an extra income.  PAY OFF THAT DEBT so you can get back to enjoying life more.

These are only a few of the basics of becoming money wise and I hope they help calm your mind and help you on your way.

“The earnings of the godly enhance their lives, but evil people squander their money on sin.”  Proverbs 10:16 NLT

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

 

Bread Crumbs…

I don’t like wasting hard earned money on things I can make myself, especially on groceries.

I use breadcrumbs in many dishes, from meatloaf to chicken breading. Store bought is not only ridiculous in price it normally has additives.

I like using left over bread I’ve baked, but any stale (not molded) bread works fine.

I use my dehydrator to completely dry the bread after cutting it up into cubes. You can use an oven on the very lowest heat. You want to make sure there is absolutely no moisture left in any of the bread.

Next I toss the cubes into my ninja blender and pulse until the crumbs are the texture I prefer. You can also add in dried herbs or dehydrated onion, ramps and or garlic if you like for seasoning.

I keep one jar with an easy access Los for immediate use and other jars I will vac-seal to store in the pantry.

I hope you enjoyed this frugal tip for your kitchen.

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

Living Simple

The one thing that can be the most difficult in today’s world is to not be wrapped up over money.  We are bombarded continuously from all sides on wants over needs and blurring those lines. We are told self is a top priority and that things and money are the path to happiness.  The world lies.  You can not fill emptiness with things, only Christ can fill emptiness. 

I was told today that simple living can not be achieved in today’s world.  I’m here to tell you that it can.  Simple living and being frugal doesn’t mean loosing; it allows you to gain the important things in life.

Collect Change

Keep a change jar on your dresser.  Pennies, nickels, dimes they all add up.  When your jar gets full don’t take them to one of those change machines in the stores because they cost you money to count and sort YOUR money.  Banks still do this for free.  Put the money directly into a savings account.

Live Below Your Means

In short don’t max out your paycheck.  No matter how much or little you make find ways to tighten your belt.  When you get a bonus, overtime pay, tax return whatever it is put it “away” in a savings for later or use it to pay down bills.  Make a monthly budget and intentionally set aside 10% of your regular pay for savings. Of course the first 10% goes to tithing.  Keeping the purpose of purchases for need instead of want.

Save for the big things

There are many things that need to be saved for and even have loans.  That’s life. But knowing this and preparing for it by not wasting your money will help avoid anxiety and arguments.

Second Hand

I love my second hand stores and I’m not ashamed to admit it! The cost savings here is amazing and you can find some amazing treasures.  Clothes, books, furniture the list goes on.

Eat at Home/Pack Lunches

Eating out is expensive and most of the time isn’t really good for you.  Save a trip to a restaurant as a special treat not a go-to.  When you travel, pack picnic meals.

Kick The Starbucks Habit

Any drink at Starbucks can be made at home and without the loads of sugar.  You can gain back alot of money not stopping at Starbucks.

Buy In Season or Bulk

I preach this one all the time.  If you don’t can, then freeze.  Canning however is a skill well worth learning and can save you lots of money.

Cut The Cabel

You don’t need Cabel anymore with services like Netflix and Hulu.  But also if you pull away from filling your time with TV and such you’ll find yourself filling your time being more active instead of watching more TV.

Grow a Garden

Start small and start to enjoy your own fresh produce.

These are just a few ideas to trim your expenses.  Living simple.

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay L Rice