Friday, August 30, 2013

Cheaper Food

Everything I've written about the subject so far can be found at my food storage blog: http://realfoodstorageforrealbudgets.blogspot.com/search/label/Saving%20Money

I haven't changed anything since then!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Homemade Bread: a Testimonial

When people hear that I make all my bread, I get a couple of responses that suggest I'm performing rocket science. I promise you that I'm not! I'm here to encourage anyone that has failed in bread-making attempts in the past. It seems to be one of the most-feared foods to make at home, but really, it's very easy!

I could never do that...Yes, you can! There's a first time for everything. I made my first batch of bread without anyone by my side helping me. I relied on the memory of watching my mom. If you want to learn directly from someone, make sure you do the work and have them tell you what to do. Otherwise, it will be just as scary when you go to do it yourself.

I don't have the time... It takes me 1 1/2 hours from start to finish to make 4 loaves of bread. They last 1 1/2 - 2 weeks. Only 15 minutes of that is hands-on time. I spend more time making dinner on an average day. If you have time to make dinner, you have time to make bread.

We would eat it all right away... Homemade bread always tastes amazing fresh from the oven, but you won't eat the whole loaf after you've been making it for a while. The novelty wears off even though the bread doesn't taste any "less good". I promise.

My bread never rises...A couple of tips for that. Keep yeast in the freezer to make sure it's fresh. Don't use hot water, only warm. Make sure you knead the bread enough so it's elastic. There are a billion things you can find on Google to make sure you do it right, but the best way is to just take the plunge and make a successful batch one time. That's all it takes!

I love homemade bread. I missed it this past month when I was in the process of moving/getting settled and bought bread from the store. Even the good stuff just doesn't compare, and you don't get the amazing smell or the experience of eating it straight from the oven. If you're not sure if you should make homemade bread, go for it! You won't regret it.

Additional Tips (For When You Take the Plunge!)

Do you like to make bread? If not, what's scaring you away?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pregnancy Stuff

Since I like statistics and things, I've kept track a little bit to see how the three pregnancies compare. So far, it would seem that my 2nd and 3rd are much more similar to each other than to my first. I guess that dispels those old wives' tales about boy/girl pregnancies being different since #2 was a boy and #3 is a girl. (I've had a couple of dreams about her turning out to be a boy, which is a little funny and unsettling!)

Nausea has been better each time, so I had almost none this time around.

Weight gain is about the same each time. I got a few new stretch marks with #2 and a few new ones with #3. I look bigger sooner each time, but that's pretty typical from what I hear.

The quality of sleep was horrible with #1 but okay with #2 and #3. I can't say that I ever feel really rested because I toss and turn a lot, but I don't have insomnia, thank goodness. I don't take naps because they make me feel worse, but I put my feet up a lot. Fatigue overall has gotten a little worse each time, but it probably has to do with not being able to sleep in and having more to do around the house...like taking care of 2 other kids!

Aches and pains were least annoying with #2 because I worked out faithfully but didn't overwork myself like I have this time. Now that I'm taking the time to put my feet up, I actually don't hurt at all anymore. (Crossing my fingers that it stays this way.) When I do, I've had the same two achy spots as #1 and #2. I'm really grateful for yoga and warm baths.

As for cravings, there hasn't been anything in common with all 3. For #2 and #3, I have craved raw veggies like salad,  as well as beans and eggs. Yes, I give in to those cravings. :)

As for delivery and the baby, we will have to wait and see! The strange thing is that labor started at 3 a.m. both times for the boys, so I wonder how it will all turn out. I'm trying not to anticipate anything about it since it has been unpredictable and harder than I thought it would be both times past. I'd love to not be overdue, but we'll see. Less than 2 months left, I hope.

On a completely unrelated note, James started school yesterday. He is having a good time so far. Teaching (and not concrete!) is definitely the job for him.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Wants a Clean House?

I sure do, but I don't want to spend a fortune on cleaners...ever!

The most expensive way to clean a house is to buy fancy cleaners that claim to clean one specific thing...think countertops, or toilets, or wood floors. Cleaning like that will give you a huge cabinet full of cleaning supplies and a headache trying to remember them all.

There are two routes to go for saving money on cleaners. I'm actually doing both.

1. Get professional cleaners. They come in concentrates, last forever, and only cost 65 cents a bottle. They are extremely effective, but not "green". I've got 2:

disinfectant: for cleaning the bathroom and spraying down trashcans

tub and tile cleaner: self explanatory

I'm extremely pleased with how well both of them work. The disinfectant doesn't leave behind a strong smell, and it completely gets rid of the smell of diapers in the boys' room. The tub and tile cleaner is very effective and getting soap scum off, so I never have to scrub my shower! It doesn't have the greatest smell, but I only need it every other week.

2. Make your own. I haven't compared cost, but I know these are even cheaper than the pro cleaners. There are a million recipes, but I definitely recommend looking at onegoodthingbyjillee.com to get started.

Many of the DIY cleaners really only use one or two ingredients. If you have these things in your house, you're probably set:

ammonia
dish soap
baking soda
vinegar
hydrogen peroxide
rubbing alcohol

My favorites:

Baking soda + vinegar make an excellent stove/oven cleaner. (Thanks, Cindy!)

Homemade Windex

Not counting the laundry, I've just got those two professional cleaners and the basic list above. My cleaners all fit on top of my dryer in a milk crate. Once my heavy duty cleaners are gone, I think I'm going to switch to all homemade. I won't have to buy anything that I don't already have, and I will save even more money. That's always a good thing.

Do you have any favorite homemade cleaners? Please share!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Recent Happenings

I love living in a house. It's a huge contrast to the really trashy apartment we lived in until almost a month ago. This first month has really flown by since I've kept myself so busy with home projects. Don't worry, I haven't purposely tried to overexert myself, but yet I still have. Oops. I suppose that's in my nature. Despite this being my third time pregnant, it still seems to drag on forever. I don't try to be especially pessimistic about it, but some familiar achy muscles have returned to remind me that even after all I do, there is still going to be some discomfort over these last 10 weeks.

10 weeks! I'm 3/4 of the way done. It almost seems like a brand-new experience since I'm having a little girl this time. I almost feel like I have no idea what to expect. I guess we'll see how little girls are different from little boys. I can't imagine this little girl being any different (personality-wise) than the boys already are from each other. They are like night and day.

But I was talking about projects. Most of the things I've done have been small things: some deep cleaning on the few areas that the former owners missed, unpacking the last few boxes, a little bit of OCD organizing to make sure I've put everything where I want, etc. I've also had some fun. The pictures will speak for themselves.

New church schedule = tired and cranky children all day. Sundays are not my favorite right now.

This jackrabbit is HUGE and hangs out in our yard a lot.

James's end-of-summer gift to himself. I enjoyed shooting it while Joseph pulled the trap.

Kenny loves to draw with sidewalk chalk! Our patio is covered in art.

James built this little house from pallets. Joseph likes it, but not as much as riding his trike.

We had FHE on the patio with "fire marshmallows" as the treat. I still burn all of mine.

I made this! It's one of those OCD projects that makes me feel crafty.

Same here, but it means no more moldy bath toys. Thanks, Pinterest and D.I.!

Little girl's room. I made these curtains from a sheet I got at D.I., so they cost me $2. Our house came with curtain rods already installed in most of the rooms. :)

The other side of little girl's room. The pillow matches the curtains! I was trying to fix the 3rd drawer in the dresser, but I broke it. That's what happens when you're still using a $5 dresser 4 years later...

Some bows I made for little girl, and a shot of her. 10 weeks left!

Last view of the room. She gets to host my keyboard and vacuum...for now.
Other than that, the summer is winding down and James start school on Monday. We finally had some friends from dinner on Sunday, the first time in about 6 months. I also called an old roommate that I haven't talked to since Christmas. I'm such a slacker at communicating with people, but friends are everything to me! (So if I never talk to you, I am very sorry! I still love you.)



Friday, August 9, 2013

It's Laundry Time!

I guess it's been long enough that I don't mind the laundry so much anymore. Folding still isn't my favorite, but oh well. A few things I like to do:

1. Have a set laundry day. I actually have two, Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday I get all the colors done, and on Friday, I completely wash everything. That usually means two loads on Wednesday and two to three on Friday. It makes a lot more sense to do at least two loads from start to finish, because you save an hour with the overlap in time where one is washing and one is drying.

2. Fold it as soon as it's dry. Doing two loads first thing in the morning usually means it's all done by naptime (1:00). I fold it immediately so nothing gets too wrinkled, and I shut my bedroom door so no one decides to jump on my bed while laundry folding is in progress. It's been known to happen.

*Tip for folding: If you put items in thirds and then put them vertically into the dresser, it saves a TON of space! We have two people per dresser, no problem. Since the boys' dresser has extra space, I fill it with diapers.

3. Try homemade solutions. The laundry detergent recipe floating around Pinterest works well, but it does make whites go gray. It saves me only $1.20 in a year, so I won't usually use it.

Shout is the only other thing I use for laundry. The recipe found here works better in a squeeze bottle because it clogs up spray bottles. It works as well or better than store bought Shout. I haven't figured out cost, but I know it's a LOT cheaper based on what it's made of.

4. Use less. The reason I don't save a lot on detergent is because I use only 1/3 of a scoop of the Sun brand detergent (the bucket). It gets everything out and smells better (in my opinion) than the homemade, so I'll probably stick to using it when my homemade stuff runs out.

Dryer sheets can be avoided somewhat if you don't leave clothes in the dryer for too long (before they feel really hot when you take them out). A half of a sheet works well for a whole load, though I haven't used any for a while. I've gotten lax, and it isn't winter, so there's a lot less static anyway.

5. Spin the washer twice. An extra spin cycle takes less energy (and money) than 30 more minutes in a dryer.

6. Keep the lint trap clean. Everyone knows about the little thingy you pull out of the dryer after each load. I mean the silver, flexible pipe that vents outside. Take your vacuum outside and suck out all that lint from the trap once in a while. Do it from both ends of the pipe (disconnect it) if you can. I just did it at my new house (actually, I just pulled out the wad of lint since the screen outside is removable) and my dryer runs a lot more efficiently.

7. Wash cold unless you need something sanitized. I haven't found warm water to make a difference in getting things clean, so I wash everything on cold except for rags. They get a small load to themselves on hot with bleach. Cold water = cheaper.

How do you save money or time on doing laundry?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

For Her

A quick update of our doings over the last few weeks: James is still working concrete, and I've been doing small repair/cleaning/organizing projects around the house. You can call it nesting, but I call it OCD. We're adjusting well to the new responsibilities we have, like a lawn that needs to come back to life. Other than that, life goes on as normal. Kenny is 16 mos. now and shows no sign of wanting to walk. One day...

I've noticed that society likes numbers and statistics for just about everything. Think about it: there's IQ, GPA, phone numbers, addresses...and of course, BMI.

Numbers identify us. My phone number is mine alone. If you call it, you will get me (unless I don't answer, but you get the picture.) My address tells where I live. A simple zip code puts me in a 10-mile radius of exactly where I live on earth. My house number will take you right to my front door.

Since studying to be a teacher, my view of numbers for grouping people has changed. IQ? Not so great. Test scores? Same thing. A person is not a phone or a house. A phone or house stays put (relatively speaking), but a person is dynamic, always changing, and unique, even if that person fits into certain groups based on numbers.

I don't mean to say that grouping people is always a bad thing. Grouping people based on statistics sometimes is, especially when it comes to health.

I am 29 weeks pregnant as I write this. Ever since I've been able to understand the concept of BMI, it has been a plague to my mind. When I am at my healthiest, that chart would have me believe that I'm borderline to overweight. When I'm pregnant and gain 30 pounds, I feel huge. It wasn't so bad with my first child. I fully expected everything to be a lot harder than it was. I didn't pay attention to my weight during the whole 40 weeks. At my last checkup, I peeked and saw that I'd only gained 30, so I felt good, because I'd expected a lot more than that.

After my first child was born, I quickly lost all the weight but 5 lbs. That came off as soon as I stopped nursing, so not until a year later. Despite that 5 pounds, I fit (relatively) comfortably into my regular clothes at one week postpartum.

The same story was true for my second pregnancy, but I started worrying about the numbers. I don't know why I did, because it made no difference except to stress me out. I still gained 30 lbs. despite my best efforts to maybe gain a little less. The addition of healthier eating and exercise almost seemed like it had been in vain. I forgot that it wasn't about the numbers. I felt a ton better during my second pregnancy. I just wasn't any lighter.

This pregnancy has been the biggest challenge of all. I never lost that nursing weight because I was still nursing when I got pregnant. That meant I started off with an extra 7 pounds on top of what I knew I'd already gain. In my mind, it was like a death sentence. "I am going to weigh more than I ever have before once I'm about to give birth." Ouch.

I don't know why I own a scale. Perhaps it's because I feel like I need those numbers. I need to reach a certain number to feel like I fit into the "BMI" standard of health. I know that it isn't true. I'm always going to weigh "a lot" for my height. That's been true for me since I was a baby. Why does any of it really matter? If I base my health simply on how I feel, I don't need numbers for anything. Whether I'm pregnant or not, I am generally without aches and pains, have enough energy to do what I need to, and don't get sick for more than a day or two. I even manage to sleep well, even this late in pregnancy, and my doctor has proclaimed that I am "boring". He isn't the first doctor to say so.

I don't want to be defined by numbers that are totally subjective and based on something the government made up. Since when are they the authority on everything? For health issues, they are usually pretty far off anyway. I can worry my whole life about fitting into a BMI chart. Or, I can actually make sure that my health is the best that I know it can be. Perhaps my exact weight will return to what it was as long as I continue doing the best I can with what I have. Perhaps it won't. I wish I could say that I absolutely won't worry about it, but that isn't true. Every time I look in the mirror to see new stretch marks, I cringe a little. I admit it. I like to stay the same. Pregnancy really throws me for a loop, and I don't know that I will ever get used to it, no matter how many times I go through it.

I want to think better of myself, though. I'm having my very first daughter in a few months. I don't want her to grow up hearing me say that I'm fat or ugly. I don't want her to worry obsessively about her weight - ever! I want to be an example of good health, not good statistics. I don't ever want her view of herself to suffer from my example, my poor example of appreciating the body I have, even though it's flawed.

No measure of a person's true worth can be represented by a number. I need to remember this and live it. It's not too late to start.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Moving Cheaply

We've just made our 5th move in 4 years, so I thought I'd share a few things we've learned along the way about moving as cheaply as possible.

1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible! I love to get rid of things. It may be the only thing I truly like about moving aside from being in a new, hopefully better, place. We don't usually get rid of a lot, but a few things here and there can save a lot of space.

2. Get free boxes. Everybody has them. They aren't as stackable as Uhaul boxes, but the money saved from buying new boxes more than makes up for the little extra space you'll need. Produce boxes are awesome for books.

3. Use stuff to pack stuff. Anything and everything soft (blankets, towels, clothes) gets used to pack breakables like dishes and pictures. We hardly use any newspaper, so we also don't have as much to throw away when we get there and we save a lot of space. We use all of our suitcases and backpacks to pack things as well. That also means fewer boxes to worry about!

4. Get help. Friends offered to help us as soon as they found out we'd be moving. The wonderful thing about the Church is that the help is free. James also had friends from school that he'd already helped move, so it was like payment for him helping them. We paid them for their hard work with pizza and popsicles. It was really nice.

5. Shop around on truck prices. When we moved to Vernal, Uhaul was the only option that we could return in Vernal, and it would've cost us $600. We looked at Budget trucks and found that renting one would cost $117 if we'd be willing to drive 2 hours to return it in Wyoming. Needless to say, we did, and it saved us well over $400. A local move isn't as big of a deal. We used a Uhaul since we were moving in town and driving to Wyoming wouldn't be worth it this time. :)

Moving is a lot of hard work. I sure hope I'm done for a few years! What are your favorite moving tips?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Buying a House: To Make a Long Story Short...

Buying a house is a lot like having a baby.

1. When you first think about it, it's a little scary. It's a lot of commitment. A child is forever, and a house is almost that. 30 years? I can't even imagine.

2. When the timing is right, you just know. I've had lots of friends buy houses before me. I thought we might've (or should've) saved more money first before even looking, but May of this year was the time for us, so we took the leap and got pre-approved for a loan.

3. You'll never feel quite rich enough for one. I have yet to actually "save up" to have a baby. We had exactly what we needed to get a house, but no more. It's always worked out remarkably well, but I can't explain why or how.

4. You'll never have a perfect one, but you'll get the right one. I knew this before we started looking at houses. I don't know what I wanted, exactly, but I knew it when I saw it. It wasn't completely what I would've expected, but I love it. The same can be said of my children!

5. It'll probably cost more than you think. My doctor's bills are piling up as I write this. :) Houses in this area aren't cheap because the market didn't suffer as much as it did nationally. We found that we couldn't afford a regular stick-built home in our price range, but that's okay. Although our loan covers 100%, there were a couple of fees we had to cover out of pocket.

Earnest money: $500 (Goes to the realtor.)
Home inspection: $300
Appraiser: $465

6. It takes a stinking long time. When people tell you about the paperwork involved, they aren't kidding. I am one of those people who finds pregnancy to be insufferably long, especially in the last month...and week...and any day I go over my due date!

Our original closing date was set at June 26th, and I thought, "Okay, this is nice, but I bet it won't happen." It didn't. Neither did July 9th, 15th, or 17th. I came to realize that the 26th of June felt a lot like my 37th week in pregnancy. Sure, the baby is "full term", but nothing is going to happen. By the 17th, (3 weeks later), I started feeling like having a nervous breakdown. I felt exactly like I did when I reached my due date with Kenny but had no idea if he was ever going to be born.

We finally closed on Friday, 2 days after what I felt was the "due date".

7. It's a lot of work but completely worth it. The first month with a baby is the hardest for me, and I think my first month as a homeowner is just as hard. I have a lot of the same feelings: "Am I really ready for this? Will the work ever end? It is going to get easier?"

Even a week later, the answer is YES! My initial fears have calmed down a lot. I have a list of projects to do and a yard to think about now, but I love my home because it's my very own. Without further ado, here are some pictures of our place. (The same as FB, sorry!)

living room

office (back of living room)

kitchen/dining

my silly boys

laundry

shelving in laundry

front view of the wilderness

boys' room


bath

spare/future girl's (or girls') room

master

master bath

front

back yard

pretty view out front

another nice view