Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The weight of the world

This year I really wanted my focus to be on fixing all the things that I think need fixing in my life. I know sometimes it's two steps forward and two steps back. Lately it seems to be two forward, five back but that's probably the pessimist in me talking. Maybe I should pick just a few things to focus on all year instead of all things?

I suffer from social anxiety and the occasional panic attack. I am learning a lot about myself. Learning my triggers, learning how to work around them. It doesn't help that I am doing this without medication and therapy. I despise (read DESPISE) having to take medication and I am not opposed to therapy, just haven't found someone that I like. And to be clear, I don't want someone to sugar-coat things but I want them to be personable and relatable. I'm not sure if that makes sense or not.

Lately, due to a few "altercations" or so I will call them, I have had a lot of anxiety attacks and a few panic attacks. For me, the anxiety attacks just give me a stomach ache and make me jittery. The panic attacks feel like what I imagine a heart attack would feel like. They are awful.

I am not a social person. I know this. For lack of a better term, it must be the Asperger's in me. No, I don't have Asperger's, or I am not diagnosed with it but my son does. So it's like saying "I'm having a blond moment or an ADD moment". Not the best of terms, I agree, but using these terms generally explains a lot in a few words and that's why people tend to use them. Or they are just plain mean.

I am not a social person because meeting new people and worrying about whether they will like me or not causes me a LOT of anxiety. I know, at this age, I shouldn't care but I do. I know the "why" but don't know quite how to fix it. I tend to say what I think and some people don't like that. I try not to but it's too much work to not be honest and to be me. I am too tired to be fake. And, if I have to be fake for too long, it usually ends up in a panic attack. So for me, it's not something I do a lot. I guess I can see how that offends people. I try very hard not to say anything but I often get dragged in to these conversations and then when my opinion is asked, I give it. No glitz, no glam, just me.

So, it doesn't help right now that I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am trying to do so much for so many and I often don't get back anything. Well, nothing tangible. I expect that to some degree but then when I need help, there isn't a lot to go around. Add to that my husband being deployed during the busiest time of year next to Christmas, drama in one volunteer job, past drama in another, and all the usual things that go along with raising kids and I am one step away from a mental hospital with an IV of anti-anxiety drugs.

I won't even get into how inadequate I feel as a parent all the time. Let's just say the following causes me an small panic attack; opening one child's backpack to find he STILL has not done his math work from last week (not sure how I missed that) and the notes written in red all over his papers and sticky flags saying he's getting recess and lunch detention and then a call from the school, which I thought was from his teacher who doesn't like him because he's not a perfectly well-behaved child, only to find out it's my other child who didn't give me his permission slip and he has a field trip today. I hung up the phone thinking how awful it must look to them that I can't keep up and then I start feeling the knot in my stomach and the tightening of my chest. By they way, I usually cry here because it frustrates me so much, but I didn't. Well, not yet anyway.

So that's me. The weight of the world, taking on too much, trying to do for others and then I want to do a house project? Yeah, because I am tired of backseating my life and plans for everyone else.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sensory Overload...a daily struggle in a two-year olds world

Part 1:

It's often hard for people without sensory issues to understand what it's like for those that do. In my own home, my children that do not have a sensory problem have a hard time understanding the ones that do.

I don't know if this is just a two-year old thing or a precursor of things to come but our two year old has been wanting to be naked or sometimes not wanting to wear certain clothing, not wanting to eat foods he used to eat, not wanting to play with things he loved to play with and so on. Navigating the day with him has been quite a challenge. Then add potty-training on top of that, a very sensory overloading process as I have just learned, and we are MeltdownsRus.

After spending weeks of complete chaos, meltdowns (by both child and myself) and frustration, I decided I needed to make concessions and be flexible. That's really hard when your child insists on being naked and you insist the he wear clothes in order to go in public. Damn those societal conventions!

I decided that he needed choices. I know, at two, do they really need choices? In a word, YES. So when he gets up in the morning and doesn't want to wear clothes, I hold up a few things, mostly a few different types/colors of underwear or pants and ask him which one. He points and we are on our merry way. Well, except when I don't have what he wants to wear. Essentially this works most of the time. I have decided that as long as his bottom is covered, and we aren't going anywhere, he doesn't have to wear a shirt. Now I keep my house cold and that doesn't seem to bother him and I am honestly too tired and busty to be a helicopter parent so if he wants to go without a shirt, let him be cold and learn about it on his own terms.

Brushing his teeth is another struggle. Can I just tell you that it took me months to figure out he didn't like the toothpaste? He doesn't like the gritty texture of toothpastes. Yeah, apparently he has a favorite brand, Jason with the Octopus on it, and it's only sold at Whole Foods around here. And by "around here" I mean Whole Foods is 30 minutes away. The tube normally costs $6.00, but ended up costing me $55.00 because we found some other cool stuff there and then factor is gas for a Suburban. Cha-ching, the things we do for love, or less meltdowns.

Okay, back on topic, getting the right toothpaste was the answer, or so I thought. My two year old is a routine child meaning he likes things in a set routine and done a certain way. Unless he thinks it should be changed. When it was time to brush his teeth, because we had been out of routine for months, he didn't want to brush after the first night. Apparently it was a novelty the first night. That's where outwitting him came into play. I just offered him three choices of toothbrushes. One that spins, and two that are manual, one with Jessie and Bullseye on it and the other is plain. Tooth brushing issues solved, for now.

Don't get me started on food. Oops, too late! We used to have "safe" foods. You know, the foods he would eat no matter what. Yeah, not so much anymore. The only safe foods, if you can call liquids food, are milk with liquid coffee creamer in it, tea, orange juice, American cheese, and mozzarella cheese sticks. These are the only consistent foods in his diet. I almost bought McDonald's because for weeks all he would eat was their chicken nuggets. I won't even tell you about the time I tried to make them. Let's just say, TOTAL disaster and the smoke alarms went off. 

So we play it day-by-day and I celebrate the small victories like eating applesauce, yogurt and crackers. Those may not be what he eats tomorrow but for today, they work. And, if I can get him to at least wear something on his cute little butt, I am victorious!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cash Diet...struggling with the cash envelopes but not eating out...so far.

I finally have gotten around to adding up all the receipts for our groceries last month. I kinda procrastinated on this because I thought I was over budget and didn't want feel disappointed. I knew I had forgotten my cash envelope a few times and had to use debit instead. AND, I knew we blew our eating out budget completely.

Boy was I ever surprised when I added them up today to see I was $120 UNDER budget! Of course I did what any normal person would do, I added up my receipts three or four more times to be sure. Yep, still under budget! I spent $279.83 (if I found all my receipts) and I got $1263 worth of groceries. That's about a 79% savings. I don't think I will have to buy laundry detergent or cereal for a year or more.

Anyway, it's been a bit of a struggle this month so that's why I thought for sure I had blown it. I mean when I opened my cash envelope and found cash in there I really didn't believe it. Gosh I really hope I don't find any more receipts!

So why stress myself out and take on such a grandiose goal? Well, I am an all or nothing kind of person when it comes to some things. I hate not being able to do something fully or having to stop in the middle to finish it later. Mostly because I never get back to it later and find it again in three years. By then I have moved on to something else. I guess that would explain my messy basement and unfinished sewing table. And probably a few dozen other things and areas. This would also explain why instead of trying to just work on keeping to the grocery budget I have to do the entire budget.

My other goal recently was to not eat out at all this month. My dear husband asked if we could postpone it for another month. The month he would be deployed. Yeah, NO. If I have to suffer, so do you! Just sayin'.  I have only eaten out once. I was craving a burger and dear husband tried to make me one but it wasn't what I was craving. The next day, after spending a large portion of the day at the doctor's and pharmacy with a very busy two year old, I was heading home well after lunch and could not resist the temptation, being weak with hunger and all and super stressed, so I broke down and bought a burger. Good news is it worked and I no longer crave it.

Anyway, we knew there would be a few times this month where we had to "eat out" for events, like a fundraising event for scouts and a banquet for swim team. That money will come out of groceries this month since we knew about them in advance.

Not too bad on the goals. I am trying to think and keep positive. I'll leave all my pessimism for my Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Well I am a believer....the sugar scrub

Last night as I was getting ready for bed I noticed my face was all dry and flaky and it disturbed me. Those of you that know me know I am not a big make-up girl so there was no covering that up. Heck I think some 8 year old's have more make-up than me.

Anyway, I happened to be scanning Pinterest this morning (read: keeping Adam, my two year old with some kind of attachment disorder, happy while he was watching Micky Mouse Clubhouse), and I came across a post of a sugar scrub. It looked rather interesting and the posts under it were all like "my husband just LOVED how soft my skin felt" and "got all the scaly skin off in one scrub, AMAZING".

So fast forward to this afternoon when I finally decided to get out of my pj's and take a shower. I thought, why the heck not? So, I Googled it because far be it for me to actually pin the post. There were all sorts of concoctions and it was kinda scary if you ask me. Like basement scientist meets happy housewife. I settled on the one that sounded the least painful and most organic, plain granulated sugar and olive oil.

Now the recipe I saw must have been for an elephant, or so I thought, so I modified mine a bit. I do that a lot, modify things. Sometimes not with the best of results I might add. I used one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and one tablespoon of granulated sugar. I have sensitive skin and didn't want to look like I had been for an acid peel.

So I scrubbed my face gently with the scrub mixture and my fingertips. And then I looked down and realized I still had a lot to go and I HATE wasting things so I decided maybe I will try it on my neck, shoulders and elbows.  I must say it felt rather weird and was a bit messy. Soon as I was done, I jumped into the shower, rinsed my skin off and realized I was slicker than a greased pig. So, since I was in there to shower, I did just that.

The end result, my elbows are amazingly soft! And so are my upper arms, shoulder, my neck and my face. My cheeks were a bit red and I was afraid the oil would be to much for my face to I followed it with Witch Hazel, and then I regretted that because then my skin was dry again :(. 

So the lesson learned? Add a bit more oil, don't use Witch Hazel afterwards and see what it looks like later in the day. Might not be too oily.

 Did my husband notice? I dunno. He's at work.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A month without eating out...I...CAN...DO...IT!

I may have to drag myself into this kicking and screaming. Just sayin'.

So barely 15 days into this month and we are, dare i say it, OVER BUDGET on eating out. I said to my dear husband, "maybe we should increase our eating out budget". I mean, it is only $150 for 6 people and that's like 4 adults when you factor in how much the 18 year old and 14 year old eat.

And before we get all crazy about this, I define eating out as bringing food home that I didn't make, well except the grocery store but that's factored into that budget. I rarely get drinks when we order and make us all share a large fry and still we still are over our budget. That is only eating out about 4 times!

Then my brain started saying to me, uh hello, why don't you try to NOT eat out for a month and I was all like, "ARE YOU FREAKIN' CRAZY?!?!?!" But then sanity took hold for a brief moment, though I am not sure if it was sanity or insanity that took hold, I mean for me they are in cahoots with each other.

I think I am going to try this. It's either that or up my eating out budget and I am trying to save money, right? Maybe I should make what we save a reward? Like we can spend it on ___________(insert mindless spending of $150 here).

I will talk to my masses and see what they say. I am figuring on some protests and anarchy but then what fun would parenting be if we didn't have that?

Now I must go and save my two year old from my husband driving him around the yard on my dirt bike, without a helmet!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Disability doesn't = inability

I recently read an article posted on Facebook about a boy with Down Syndrome that is in college and was impressed by his drive and desire to be a college graduate. An amazing thing happens when you decide that your disability is not going to hold you back.

I am more amazed by how many people are astounded that my son, who has Asperger's, has been accepted into Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. They are actually amazed or surprised that he would be accepted and I am more amazed and surprised and think I WHY NOT! 

I mean really, he has a disability but that does not mean he has an inability. He is incredibly smart. Yes, he some times lacks social graces and is crass at times but does that mean he should not go to college? Yes he often times is less mature than my 14 year old and sometimes my 7 year old but does that mean he's not able? No.

It means there is a lot more work for him to do than others. Just because he may be exempt from certain things or have modifications doesn't mean he does not work just as hard as the "average" person. There are things that we do with ease that we take for granted while he struggles to do them. The physical act of putting a pen on paper is one of them. Running is another. He has to work twice as hard, if not harder, to do these "average" tasks. His body exerts more energy doing these things than the "average" person which makes him tire a lot faster. In my opinion, he works harder.

People should not be surprised to see or hear of someone who has a disability accomplishing things like going to college, driving, holding down a job, or having a family.

Truly the question is, if you haven't done any of these things, what's your excuse?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And then life happens.....

So, if you have read one of my earlier posts, not sure which one right now, then you will know that life loves to throw us curve balls. All I can say is at least it waited until tax time. Now we don't get a huge tax payout because I think it's silly to let Uncle Sam "borrow" your money all year for free but we do get a little. Enough to cover an unexpected plane ticket and a cat who needs unexpected surgery.

Anyway, on to the good news....drum roll please! I actually almost did not go over my grocery budget (otherwise known as I did go over it but not by too much). I pretty much expected that because this month had some great sales and couple that with some great coupons and I was pretty much doomed to fail. I actually blame Kellogg's but that's another story.

While I stood at the stove tallying my receipts, and then re-tallying my receipts three more times because I didn't trust my numbers, I noticed a pattern. I was paying only 10-50% of retail at most. And if you really must know why I did all this standing up at the stove it's because my two year old can detect when I sit in front of my computer from a mile away and it doesn't matter how enthralled he is in whatever he is doing, it's like a shark to blood and he attacks. So, I stand to fool him, which by the way, only buys me a little extra time.

Alright, back to numbers. My grocery budget is $400 and as far as I can tell I went over by about $25ish. The "ish" comes from the fact that I also have SavingStar deposits that I am not accounting for and I know my husband bought me newspapers but I am not sure how much he spent because he didn't give me receipts and used his debit card! So, $425ish this month. The retail value of what I bought before coupons was over $1385.93! The savings is actually a lot higher if you figure in that I bought a lot of things on clearance, like four sleds for $1.00 each that retail for over $10 a piece or 4 light bulb packs that also retail for over $10 a piece for $1.49 each. Now I did shop at the military commissary a few times this month and while the products there are usually priced about 33% below the average retail, you still are charged a "surcharge" on the pre-coupon amount so this adds up and sucks up the savings. Regular retailers cannot charge you tax on items that are free or pre-coupon price in my state, currently.

I won't even go into my eating out budget because my dear husband came home and we ate out more. I don't understand this because we have such a huge stockpile but nonetheless, I have yet to asses that damage.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

"He's socially retarded".....

First I want to say, I hate the misuse of the word Retarded. Like so many words in our vocabulary, this one has been taken and convoluted to become a word of hate and ignorance. I cringe when I hear people using it. My son's school, the Norwich Free Academy, recently did a great presentation seen here: Norwich Free Academy R Word Campaign

My 17 year old son has Asperger's Syndrome. It's sometimes hard to explain what it is.  Someone once described it to me as he's socially retarded. From the time my son was very little, I knew something was off but because I was a young mom with three kids by the age of 22, I was just seen as what's often referred to as "a breeder". You know, a person who has a lot of kids at a young age. I was discounted because they thought I was just needing attention. That I was a hypochondriac. So, I gave up on fighting but only for a little while.

When my son was a baby he was almost always content. He didn't crawl normally, he did a combat type crawl, he didn't walk until almost 18 months old, he had a speech delay and he was obsessed (read crazily, insanely obsessed) with dinosaurs. As soon as he could say Paleontologist, that's what he told people he wanted to be.

When my son started school some things we noticed were almost innocuous but they just didn't sit right with me. He did math "out-of-the-box" as his first grade teacher described it and he couldn't spell no matter what. Or so we thought. Turns out, he just couldn't spell on paper. When he was given an oral test, he could spell almost all the words. I tried to get his teachers to understand this but they didn't want to hear it. He was later diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder. Common in kids with Asperger's. He didn't understand sarcasm. For example, his third grade teacher once asked her class "What are some things money can do?" and all the kids responded with buy things. My son about came out of his seat with excitement because he knew something money could do that no one else had mentioned. When called upon by his teacher he excitedly proclaimed "Mrs. Ramsey, did you know money can burn a hole in your pocket?" and he was DEAD serious! She had to turn around to laugh because he was that serious and because if he saw her laugh, he would cry. He didn't like it when people laughed at what he did. Even if it wasn't making fun of him, he took it that way.

When my son started middle school, that is when things became glaringly apparent. He could not connect socially with his peer group any longer. We were seeing a psychologist at the time and he was in counseling and they said he had ADHD and depression. So onto meds he went. Not because I wanted him to take them but because I wanted him to be able to function.

He had always struggled with organization and could never turn in his homework because he could never find it. Another common trait amongst Aspergian's. Unfortunately, he almost failed 7th grade because of that so I pulled him out and home schooled him. He was testing into college at this point in everything except Language Arts and mostly because he had to write things. There are fewer bubble tests, or multiple choice questions in Language Arts.  His handwriting was so poor. It still is.

So the catalyst for him being diagnosed with Asperger's was not what you would think.  It did not come from all the countless meetings at schools with their Special Education Department, or from the Psychologist or from a therapist. After 14 years, it came from me channel surfing. Yep, channel surfing. One of the thing my husband hates that I do actually is what got my son diagnosed.

I happened to be channel surfing while the show I was watching was on commercial break. I happened to flip over to a channel that had one of the Hollywood new shows on like Entertainment Tonight or Extra or something like that. There was a girl on there talking. Her name was Heather Kuzmich and she had just been kicked off America's Next Top Model. She was talking about how she didn't do well in social situations and didn't like to be touched or like certain textures. Bells started going off in my head. OMGOSH, she is talking about my son! That's when I started researching. That was around November of 2007.

It took 8 months to get my son diagnosed by a Developmental Pediatrician and Child Psychologist. I went through hours of frustration with this man. He actually asked me if I was one of those parents that was just unhappy with the fact that my kid wasn't a straight-Student. I was so mad I cried, an unfortunate problem I have and hate. I told him I would be happy if my son brought home an F if his teacher said he was doing the best he could. Apparently that appeased him because he became nicer after that.

Needless to say, it took 14 years and a lot of frustration. I was humiliated on many occasions and I almost gave up. Heather's diagnosis and testimony lead to my son being finally diagnosed and my son's diagnosis helped a friend realize her son too has the same disorder.

All I can say is NEVER give up. If you believe with all your heart and mind that something is not right and if you gut tells you the same thing, chances are, you are probably right. No matter what, stick to your guns! I can tell you that I had a Special Education Superintendent sit with my son for 5 minutes and actually ask me on a scale of one to ten, how convinced was I that my son had Asperger's. Yes, really! I told her that since a Developmental Pediatrician and Child Psychologist of over 35 years of experience diagnosed him, I would say about a nine and a half. She STILL did not believe me and sent my son for testing. No shocker when it came back as him having Asperger's!

Above all else I will tell you that if your child has special needs, fight like you have never fought before and DO YOUR RESEARCH! Educate yourself so you can educate those that aren't. Be your child's best advocate.

My son is about to graduate high school. I love the school he is in. They have great Special Education resources and a great team of facilitators willing to make the necessary accommodations for my child to succeed. No, he is not an A student, although if he turned in his homework he would be, but I am happy he has made it this far. And for the record, he plans to go into the Culinary Field and has already been accepted into college. So much for Paleontology, right?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Working from home....through the Zombie Apocalypse

In a perfect world we would be able to work from home and our children would never have to go to daycare unless we wanted them to, you know, for that much needed break. But for most of us this world just isn't perfect.

I have tried a number of the "work from home" things like selling Tupperware, toys (kids toys that is), a music program and I realized I am just not cut out for them. Either that or I haven't found the perfect one. And no, I am not interested in selling make-up. Please don't ask! I have also tried earning money from doing surveys and mystery shopping. Those weren't too bad, if you didn't mind waiting more than two weeks for your pay and if you didn't mind driving around. Sometimes that costs more than what you get paid so keep that in mind.

Nonetheless I "make" money from home, and no, I am not copying it on my copier. I am couponing. Spell check doesn't like that word by-the-way and neither do some grocery stores. I started a year ago and have saved my family a lot (read A LOT) of money.

I am the type of personality that when I get into something, I get into it hard core. Good and bad I suppose. I researched like crazy and came upon a few websites, www.livingrichwithcoupons.com , and www.thekrazycouponlady.com and a forum www.weusecoupons.com . They are my favorites and the ones I go to prior to stepping out the door to go shopping. They are also the ones I subscribe to on my Facebook page. There are a few blogs I follow but I only subscribe to them by email feed so I get a daily update of what they posted.

So, how do I "make" money with this? Well, it's simple. Our grocery bill for the 6 of us used to be over $1000 a month for groceries, personal care, etc. When I started couponing I really didn't see the savings in the first few months but what I did see was a stockpile growing. It just so happened that I started couponing when my local grocery store had their best sales. It was about 3 months before I saw the "savings". I didn't have room in my pantry for the foods I had bought and I didn't have room in my upright deep freezer for them either. That's when I really started seeing the savings. I wasn't going to the grocery store as often and when I did, my savings were over 60% every time.  We used some of our savings to buy the wood to make more shelves and another upright deep freezer.

Now I budget $400 a month for everything grocery and personal care. And yes, that is still for 6 people. What that means is I basically "make" over $600 a month "working" from home. I get to sit in my pj's with my hair going every which way. I get to drink my coffee and eat my breakfast while working. I get to have my two year old at home with me. I can work when I want to work or when I can work, mostly nap time and bedtime, and I don't lose half my pay to childcare and gas. I get to see his firsts and be there when he is sick. And that goes for all of my other kids as well.

My final advice, buy the newspapers every Sunday that there are coupons and buy multiples at that. I usually buy 4-8 papers depending on what coupons are in them. My papers run about $2.00 so that is about $7-$15 a month (one I get on subscription at half off) and that comes out of my grocery budget. Or, the other option if you hate getting all the papers or coupons you don't use/need like I do, order online from either eBay or a coupon clipping service. Yes, there is controversy over that and no I am not going into it but until it's definitively said to be illegal, I will do what I need to do to feed my family and save money.

My stockpile is big and growing weekly. As my 17 year old says, if there is ever a zombie apocalypse, we can just board up the doors and windows and live in the basement on our stockpile for over a year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cash Envelopes

So it may be a little crazy of me to think that we can only spend cash on our everyday expenses but I sure am determined to try. So here is my cash plan for this month, notice I said this month because who knows what drama, trauma, or incident is waiting to happen.

  • Groceries: $400 (yep, for 6 people, this is where couponing helps)
  • Eating out: $150 (really almost unrealistic for my family since we have caviar tastes on a shoestring budget but it's what I feel the max we should spend is)
  • Haircare: $48 (I am really bad about getting everyone a haircut and they typically look like they have tumbleweeds on their heads by the time we get around to haircuts but we usually go every 2-3 months)
  • David's Money: $50 (someone has an addiction to soda and snuff, he also gets haircuts every two weeks so this has to cover it all)

So here is what we put in savings: (we do this because these expenses we only access every 3-6 months so to have cash just lying around in an envelope in our house would not be good, just sayin')

  • Gifts: $180 (for Christmas and Birthdays...we do have 5 kids)
  • Clothes: $100 (again...5 kids, well 4 at home and we do pass down clothes a lot so this is the emergency fund disguised to look like our clothing fund)
  • Oil: $150 (to heat our house, took all the bills from the last two years added a few hundred for inflation and averaged them...)
  • Vehicle Maintenance: $93.00 ( we averaged out our oil changes and other misc things we need to have done routinely)
  • Chiefs Dues: $17 ($200 a year, will not get in to this now)

That's it. Well, we do have other monthly bills but those stay about the same and are just that, monthly.

So far, so good this month. We are on track except for eating out. We have blown most of that. Might be in part due to my husband being away for the past few weeks and I am too exhausted to cook. I also have incurred some scouting expenses that were not planned for. These I took from my grocery budget since I don't need most of it this month but I will repay it. I need to re-evaluate and add those into our yearly budget as well and since they don't happen every month they can also go into savings.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It's all in the name...

So not only is my blog called "a year of change" because I hope that it will be just that, a year full of positive changes and movement forward, but, it's also called that because I am determined to see how much actual change I can save in a year. I call it my "passive savings account because we have no savings".
Anyway, it's gonna be a bit harder on the cash diet because we are only using money out of the envelopes for their intended purpose however I think that if I have change left at the end of the month, I will buy it off myself. It sounds kinda silly but as an example, if I have $10.00 left in my grocery envelope at the end of the month and it just so happens that $5.00 of it is left in change, then I can replace the change in the envelope with dollar bills and then put the change in my jar....seen here:

Yes, there are "little hands" trying to get into my jar!
This is some from last year and it's about $108 or so...minus the one roll the "helper" stole.

So, that's it. My "passive savings" plan. Someday I will get to Dave Ramsey's recommended minimum of $1000 but for now, we are at $10.00.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chicken and a Chainsaw and the Chicken Nugget

So I have a son with Asperger's. If you are familiar with the disorder then you will understand what it's like to have a child walk around ALL day saying the same phrase over and over and...over. If you don't know what it is, google it. It's interesting. Needless to say, my son used to walk around saying "chicken nugget" and my best friend Kathy's son used to walk around saying "chicken and a chainsaw". While this seems pretty innocuous, it's incredibly annoying after hours of it.

But, never fear, this post has nothing to do with anything other than chicken. (I cannot vouch for how the chicken was killed however).

Chicken in a Crock pot (my recipe hack)

1-Whole chicken (giblets or whatever is in that bag removed, rinsed and patted dry)
3-whole carrots cut up in 1 inch increments
5-potatoes, whole, washed and unpeeled (I used white potatoes, I think)
1-Onion, quartered and then sections pulled apart
1 tbs.- crushed garlic (not fresh, the kind you find in a jar, only because I don't have a garlic crusher and partly because I am a lazy cook)
a few pats of butter
Onion soup mix (used Lipton)
1 cup-hot water
2 Cups Rice

Okay, so here's what I did. First I sprayed my crock pot with Pam with Olive Oil. I refuse to use liners and when the Pam stash runs out from my adventures in couponing, I will probably buy on of those "make-your-own" oil spray things. I then put the carrots on the bottom with a few onion sections and the chicken on top of that. I sprinkled the chicken with a little salt and a little pepper then put a few pats of butter on top. Then I placed the potatoes on top of the chicken and put the garlic in the cavity. Then I mixed the onion soup with the hot water and poured it next to the chicken. In hindsight, I should have poured the soup mix in with the carrots then put the garlic in the chicken cavity then chicken on top. You know what they say about hindsight, right? Finally turn the crock pot on high for one hour then low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hrs. My chicken had the nice little pop-up timer, which I did not notice until it popped up. It said it was done at about 4 1/2 hrs (or at least that is when I noticed it had popped up) but I never trust that thing. Anyway, I let it cook about 5 hrs total and it pegged my kitchen thermometer so it quite possibly may have been done earlier when the pop-up thingy said so.
I planned to serve it with Sweet Hawaiian bread but alas, I forgot to get it so we are eating it with rice. We love rice here. Who doesn't? We use the medium grain rice that is bad for you. It's sticky, yummy, and oh, cheap! Did I mention I was cheap?

So, the verdict? It smelled amazing all day. Let me emphasize that, AMAZING! I pulled the potatoes out first, mostly because I had to to get to the chicken, then sucked out all the juices around it with my baster. That I made into gravy but I forgot to measure so it was more clear than opaque. When I went to pull the chicken out using two wooden spoons, the legs and wings fell right off. Good sign, right? As I was putting it on the plate, a whole breast section fell off. Nothing like a self-carving chicken! I thought everything was pretty good, except the carrots. I think baby carrots might be better or cutting them smaller. It also could have used a touch of salt but because my husband and I differ in our opinions of how much salt is too much, I err on the side of less then I add more to my plate. All my boys ate it. My 7 year old did comment the chicken tasted like potato though. So, if you don't like a "potato" taste, maybe put them on bottom. They were super tender though. Overall, it was a mighty tasty former clucker.

Some side notes to consider: I am not a chef or a cook but rather I have to cook for my family or they will eat junk, I think you could add any concoction of seasonings you like to this and it will turn out well, the skin does not brown well but if you could get it out in one piece versus the eight mine came out in, you could possibly broil the skin to golden perfection, and don't let your 14 year old cook the gravy because he/she may let it boil over on the stove, leave the burner on with the gravy on it and create a wonderful, blackened, smokey mess. All I can say is thank-goodness for glass top stoves.

So, I thought I would tell you what my meal cost. Since I am a couponer, my prices may differ from yours. Here we go:
Chicken:$5.33 (on sale for $.89/lb which is not my stock-up price but wanted an easy dinner)
Potatoes: $.66 ($1.99/5 lb bag, of which I used about 1/3)
Soup mix: $.25 (hit a sale with coupons, paid $.50 for the 2ct box)
Carrots:Free (had a coupon from recyclebank)
Onion: $.20 ($1.99/3lb bag, about 10 in a bag)
Spices/Garlic: $.25 (I mean really, who knows but I think that is fair)
Water: Free (we have a well and thank goodness because our boys take FOREVER in the shower)
Butter: $.19 (got it for 1.99/lb, divided by 32 tbs)
Rice: $.50 (I use medium grain rice and buy it in the 20lb bag for about $10 at my local commissary)
Total: $7.38 for 5 of us.

That's about $1.48 per person. Try that at McDonald's!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cheap Eats

So in my quest to save my family money, I have been using my crock pot a lot (read a whole HELLuva lot). Some recipes are from other blogs/websites but some are just my hair brained ideas. Be warned I am not a chef. Just a mom/wife of a whole mess of kids and I am cheap. So, without further ado, here is my recipe for something for which I have no name yet:

2-chicken breasts cut into small pieces (use your discretion, chicken shrinks)
1-12 oz Bag of frozen corn and black bean blend (I used Veg-All Steam Supreme mix which had peppers, BONUS!)
1-16 oz jar of salsa (I used medium)
1/2 tbs-ground Cayenne pepper
1/2 tbs-crushed red pepper
1/2 tbs-chili powder (I was honestly scared at this point 'cause it looked hot)
1 cup of water
Instant Brown Rice ( I used uncle Ben's whole grain brown rice and used 2 cups)
Shredded cheddar

Cook first 7 ingredients in crock pot low for 10 hours or high for 5-6 hrs. At about the final hour mark I added the rice then had an "oh, crap" moment when I realized there wasn't enough liquid to make the rice cook properly so then I added about another cup and a half of water (again if you add less rice, add less water and if you add more, add more). I stirred it a lot at first to make sure all the rice was covered then threw the lid back on and served it about an hour later on tortillas and tostitos with shredded cheddar on top.

So, it was hot. Spicy hot, but not the crying, begging for your momma hot. It did make our noses run though. I at first ate it on a whole wheat tortilla but honestly whatever brand I used tasted a bit like I imagine cardboard would taste so I defaulted to tortilla chips and that was much better. My husband liked it but then again he eats his momma's cooking and that's not a compliment.

If you try it, please let me know your thoughts. If you share it, please link back to my original post.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Cash Diet

So this year started out with a lot of good intentions. They always do, don't they? We decided to do a modified Dave Ramsey cash envelope approach to our finances and get our financial house in order, amongst other things. January 1st we began our "cash diet" taking out cash for everyday expenses and then putting into savings the things that come every few months. We started off great, until we hit the 15th of the month and were mostly blown through our grocery budget (there were some great stock-up sales and I'm a couponer) and then my husband's grandmother passed away. That meant a road trip to Ohio and lots of money spent on gas, lodging, food and clothing.

Unfortunately, we totally tanked our month.That's what happens when you don't have a financial cushion.  So February 1st, here we come ready to take on the challenge again.