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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

10 Simple Ways to Save Money


At the beginning of the year, Wes and I looked at our budget, and realized we have been spending a lot more since having a second baby. Some of the expense is formula we didn't initially plan on having to buy. We also had been spending more just because of lack of time and energy since adjusting to life with 2 littles.

We wanted to get back on track and stay within our budget. We also would like to save. We have a list of things that are important for us to save up for by the end of the year. We need a new vehicle-- I'm gonna be honest, a minivan is on my wish list. Yes, we are to that point in life. ;) We would like to move closer to the places we go daily and weekly (work, church, preschool, friends). We live a ways out of the city, and everything we do is either in or just outside of it. Also, now we have to buy Joslynne her own plane ticket when we travel. And, since the girls have a baby cousin on the way, traveling is just going to have to happen. Often. ;) We've been wanting to make some changes to safer, healthier products in our home for a while now too!

Last week I shared all the ways we've been working to save money on food. You can find that post here! There have been a few changes we've made to get more than just our grocery bill down. 

We started doing simple things that don't disrupt out lives or take too much time! :)


Use EveryDollar
We use the EveryDollar website to look at our budget every month. There is an app too! You can input your income, then break down how much you've spent by category. We set a budget for each category and the site will show how much more you can spend in each as you enter purchases or how much over budget you went in that area. It helped us so much to have an amount in mind for each area of our lives and be conscious of how much we can spend. You can look back at other months and see how you're comparing from month to month. I think it's a fun thing to do and it's kind of become a game for me each month to see how much better I can do than last month.

It's encouraging to the see the progress. We also can see where to prioritize, and you find out how much you can live without when you intentionally focus on each category. :)

Use a Credit Card with a Incentive Program
We use American Express for groceries, gas and big purchases. We pay it off at the end of the month. So we still only spend what we have, but the points back for using the card are worth it. We get points  to spend on traveling, which we do often to visit my family. This American Express card also allows me and everyone traveling with me to check free bags. It's really nice that our everyday purchases that don't take any extra time or effort, are funding our trips home! You can get 70,000 miles (about 1 ticket across the country) when you sign up!


Decrease Use of Paper Products
We stopped buying as many paper goods and try to use dishes, containers, and baby food pouches we can reuse. We also use microfiber cloths to wipe things down and less paper towels. :) I honestly still have a stash of paper plates and paper towels, but they last forever when we save them for when we are in a Time crunch.

Cut Hair at Home
I started cutting Wes's hair at home years ago. This kit of razor and scissors was less than $40 and it paid for itself after 2 haircuts! I don't do it every time especially when we have a newborn, but it has saved us a lot! It's also much easier to learn than I expected. ;) Wes's dad just told us that he calculated he saved about $8000 by cutting his and his boys' own hair over the years! 

Amazon Subscribe & Save
We love using Amazon Subscribe & Save for things we purchase regularly. Items on Amazon are discounted with Subscribe & Save and you can unlock even more discounts when you order 5 items. You can choose how often each product comes to you, skip months, and add or cancel items anytime. Amazon sends an email a few days before your items ship to give you a heads up to make any changes you'd like.

Our girls do best with Huggies diapers, and this has been the cheapest way to order them. Diapers and wipes are discounted even further than other products through Subscribe and Save!


Rewards Program for Formula
I haven't checked other brands, but I would think most have some sort of rewards program! We use Enfamil and joined their Family Beginnings program. You just create a free account and include your email. We get multiple $5 and $10 coupons in the mail every month!

Ordering from the website is the cheapest option a lot of the time! They have sales often. They also offer free shipping over $50 and you can buy in bulk. You earn points back with each order that can be redeemed for free cans of formula as well!

When we have to grab formula in the store, I assumed Walmart would be the cheapest option. I was surprised how much the prices vary between grocery stores. We have found the cheapest prices at Costco (when they carry our brand) and Lucky (a local grocery store). So, it's worth comparing prices. A couple dollars makes a huge difference with something we have to buy so much of!

Use More Concentrated Products
We have saved quite a bit by using concentrated products for cleaning. We use Young Living's Thieves Cleaner which comes as a concentrate. We add capfuls of the concentrate to a reusable glass bottle with water and the concentrate lasts for months! The nice thing is that Young Living doesn't charge to ship water. Many of their products are concentrated and we add our own water and use glass containers and bottles.

We do this with All Purpose Cleaner (Counters, sink, bathrooms, toilet bowl, floors, everything!), Dish soap, Laundry Detergent, and Hand Soap.

I used to have a swiffer mop and kept buying the disposable pads for it. Last year I bought a spray mop and just wash the pads and refill the mop(similar to ours)! I fill it with water, white vinegar, and Thieves Cleaner. :)


Health Incentives
We found out that Wes's employer not only reimburses us for 50% of what we spend on health/fitness memberships like the gym, but there is also an incentive program to take dollars off our insurance premium. We get $3 off the premium for every 30 minutes of physical activity up to a certain amount per quarter. We just enter our minutes for anything from skiing to walking or even rigorous housework! It's worth checking what your company offers!

Transportation
Since Wes works downtown, he also found out that his company will pay for a bus pass. Our city is pushing for less vehicles to improve the air quality. Other big cities might do the same. ;)  He started taking the bus in to work as much as possible and it saves a ton on gas and parking. It's also less miles on our car. ;)



Boost Immune System
When Joslynne was a baby, we were sick all the time. We had multiple visits to the doctor that year. She and I were sick everytime we traveled. We caught everything. That was even more expensive since the only option while traveling is an urgent care.

Since being intentional about our health, we have seen SUCH a difference. We haven't been to the doctor at all for sick visits this year!

Here's what we've been doing:
Thieves is an essential oil blend that is amazing for boosting immune systems. Wes and I put a drop of thieves vitality in water to help keep us from getting sick. We also diffuse thieves in our home almost everyday.
  • Wellness Rollers
We roll a blend of essential oils on the bottom of our kids' feet and down their spines everyday. We use wellness rollers on ourselves too.

Baby Wellness Roller
Frankincense
Lavender
Lemon

Kid's Wellness Roller
Thieves
Frankincense
Lemon
Oregano

Adult Wellness Roller
Thieves
Oregano
Peppermint
Lavender
Frankincense
Copaiba
  • Antioxidants
We drink an antioxidant drink called NingXia Red made from Gogi Berries. It is packed full of antioxidants and is powerful to keep our immune systems up.

FUN FACT: The name comes from the thieves who used these same elements on their bodies before going to rob homes and bodies during the Plague. The blend of cinnamon bark, clove, eucalyptus, and citrus is naturally antibacterial and helped keep them from getting the Plague themselves.


Let me know if you have any other tips that have helped you! We are on the hunt for all the ideas!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

14 Simple Ways to Save Money on Food


At the beginning of the year, Wes and I looked at our budget, and realized we have been spending a lot more since having a second baby. Some of the expense is formula we didn't initially plan on having to buy. We also had been spending more just because of lack of time and energy since adjusting to life with 2 littles.

We have a list of things that are important for us to save up for by the end of the year. We need a new vehicle, we would like to move closer the places we go daily and weekly (work, church, preschool, friends), and now we have to buy Joslynne her own plane ticket when we travel. We've been wanting to make some changes to safer, healthier products in our home for a while now too!

One of our biggest expenses every month is food. Obviously, one of the most important too, but it seemed higher than necessary, so we started looking for ways to save. I wanted to find easy, practical, and simple ideas that wouldn't disrupt our lives or sacrifice health. These are just a few ideas that have been sucessful for us! I'm planning to share a part 2 with non food related ideas next week!



Eat Eggs
Eggs are so cheap, but a really great source of protein. They are easy to buy in large amounts, and can  stay good for a while. Joslynne has an egg allergy, but the rest of us eat eggs at least once a week for dinner, lots of breakfasts, and even some lunches.

I love how easy they are to make in many different ways too!

Homemade snacks
Wes likes to bring granola bars to work everyday. They are also an easy grab and go snack. I started making homemade bars so we didn't have to buy boxes of them weekly. We love this recipe! It tastes like eating cookies. ;)

Meatless Monday
We started eating one meatless meal a week. However, I wanted to still add protein to our meals. One of our favorites is protein pancakes! We buy boxes of Kodiak Cake Protein Pancake Mix in bulk. You  can just add water! These are some of the only pancakes we've found that don't have eggs or soy so our whole family can eat them. ;)

Other favorites to add to meatless meals are beans and quinoa for protein!

Costco Membership
Having a membership to a bulk store has been huge. We buy all of our meat and baking ingredients at Costco, as well as condiments. Their prices are super cheap for large quantities. We have an additional freezer in our garage so we can purchase more food at once. We take a Costco trip every 6-8 weeks and it saves a ton on our grocery bill!

Some favorites we find at Costco are: Milk, Flour, Sugar, Crackers, Cheese Sticks, Canned Goods, Paper Towels, Chicken, Ground Beef, Pork Roasts, Chicken Broth, Yogurt, Spaghetti, Pasta Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Fruit snacks, Salsa, Broth

Meal Plan
Meal planning is huge for staying on budget.   We make a list of meals for the week, and make a grocery list from that. This way, we don't buy more than we need or have things in the house that will expired before getting used.

Freeze Milk
We can buy milk in bulk at Costco, then freeze what we won't use right away! It's also really nice to have so much on hand so we don't run out often.

Homemade Baby Food 
Baby food is so easy to make and really inexpensive. I can make a month's worth for Elaina in an hour. And it only costs a few dollars.

We make: Spinach, carrots, apples, peas, squash, sweet potato, pears, bananas, blueberries, and peaches often. We mix some too. ;)

We freeze the food in ice cube serving sizes. They last forever. At meals, we just thaw a cube of food to add to cereal or oatmeal. We also grab a cube to take out and about and it thaws by the time Elaina wants to eat.

We also make our own baby food pouches. We bought these refillable pouches and love them. They are so easy to clean and refill. We just fill a couple with a few cubes of baby food and put them in the fridge for a couple days. They are thawed when we grab one to give the baby!

Side Note:
We add Choomee covers to our pouches so Elaina can't squeeze the food out. These are amazing! The only way to get the food out is to suck on it, so no more disasters!

How we make the food:

1. Cube desired fruit or vegetable
2. Steam on stove top.
3. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Puree using blender, food processor, or Magic Bullet (We are obsessed with this one and use it daily).
5. Spoon food puree into an ice tray and freeze.
6. Once frozen, pop out cubes and store in freezer safe container.

Stop Buying Drinks
When we decided to try spending less on food, we cut out any juice, soda, or drinks besides milk (and our antioxidant fav). Now we just drink water at meals, and it's healthier while lowering our spending!

Bring Food When We Go Out
If we know we are going to run errands or be out for a long time during the day, we try to bring our own snacks and lunch. We usually are packing a lunch box for Elaina anyways, so it's easy to fill it with food for the rest of us too!

Ibotta
We have made hundreds of dollars back by using Ibotta. This is an app that gives you cash back when you buy certain things in stores or online. I just scroll through their offers and add ones I want to use before going to the store. While shopping, you can scan barcodes to make sure you found the correct item. I scan my receipt as soon as I check out for cash back!

Some offers may require you to purchase 2 at once or a more expensive brand. However, there are bonuses for using a certain amount of offers, so sometimes it's worth it to stock up or buy the more expensive brand. For example, an additional $10 back if you use 20 offers by the end of the week. For something like that, I use all the offers for anything we will use to get the bonus.

Offers are always changing, so check often! Many items we buy anyways pop up all the time. :)

Walmart Grocery Pick up
As soon as I make a meal plan for the week, I submit my Walmart grocery order based on the meal plan. This allows me to buy only what we need. It's also pretty amazing to have the groceries brought straight to my car without getting the girls out!  When I'm in the store, I almost always purchase something extra because it looks good, or I see a deal, get side tracked, etc.

Shop the Pantry
Meal planning also allows me to choose meals based on what we already have. I like to go into the pantry (and freezer) before planning our meals and making a grocery list, to see what we can use up. This helps us use everything before it expires and we buy less and waste less.

Freezer Meals
A couple years ago, I started making double batches of meals and freezing half for another day. This saves time since you are doing the same amount of work for 2 meals. It's so nice to be able to pull out a whole meal on a day we don't have time to cook! It also saves money since leftovers don't get wasted. I can't tell you how many times we've had 1/2 or one serving left of a meal in the fridge and we forget about it.

Purchase produce locally
We have a local grocery store that has great produce prices, and the quality is usually better than Walmart anyways! I think many cities have something like it, and I've heard good things about Aldi. ;)

We also have found that produce is usually cheaper at the farmer's market. Plus everything is organic and tastes amazing! We don't get there all the time, we always save money on fruit and vegetables when we do. There's a huge one in the city near us from June-October!



Extra Tips
  • Whole carrots are much cheaper than the already peeled baby carrots. Plus, Wes says they taste better. ;)
  • Bagged apples are cheaper than buying them individually.
  • Freeze half your spinach before it goes bad, or buy frozen spinach for smoothies
  • Put herbs in a glass of water with ziplock bag over them in the fridge so they last longer.
  • If you stock up on bread, freeze a loaf until you need it. 
I know there are so many other money saving tips out there! These are just little changes I could make easily right away. I'd love to hear any other ideas you might have on how to save money on food! 



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How Daddy Daughter Dates Changed our lives



On most days with little ones, productivity goes out the window. Even with a routine, you never know when catastrophe will hit in the form of sick babies, skipped naps, or spilled berry smoothies on the carpet. All things that come with parenthood, we expect that. However, it can be so hard to make plans and commitments when we can't gage how much time we can devote to accomplishing tasks during the week. 

I found myself struggling with the fact that after you add in all the unforseen chaos to the day, there really is only enough time left over to do the essentials-- meals, baths, dishes, laundry, clutter control, etc. Even those can be hard to fit in depending on the day. I felt like there was never a chance to go beyond those chores and find time for things like home projects, friends, organizing, personal goals, etc. Working with 2 babies has been increasingly difficult too because little ones don't understand deadlines. ;) The worst part of it is feeling frustrated when my kiddos need extra attention. 

We can't do anything about those unexpected mishaps and bumps in the road. I want to have enough margin in my life to be ok when things go awry and the freedom to be flexible.  I hate that hopeless feeling that we may never get through the mountain of laundry that this getting bigger by the minute, and if we say yes to anything outside of folding all week, we will that much worse off next week. Or if my baby needs to be held a little extra, but instead of enjoying those moments with her, I just stress about the sink full of dishes or a deadline. 

I am totally on board to let somethings go in our house to spend more time with our people. However,  work has to get done eventually, and it's hard when you don't know when that window of time will come.

 For a while, Wes was offering to watch the girls at home so I could get out of the house and have some alone time. Which is amazing, and I do that often too. But, we were finding that I would come home, and it would be crazy because of things that piled up all week. Then, I would spend much of the weekend trying to catch up instead of having time for family fun. 

We decided that what we needed was for Wes to take the girls out of the house, so I could have the house to myself to catch up.  Enter Daddy Daughter dates. Wes started taking our babies out weekly for a date so I could have a block of time to work on whatever I couldn't get to during the week. It has seriously been life changing for us! 

What's so great about it?

Sanity
A scheduled date every week guarantees productive block of time for me. When things come up throughout the week, I have the peace of mind that everything will get done eventually. That takes away so much stress and frustration when life gets crazy. I'm free to be present and say yes to more. 

High Level of Productivity 
The amount I can accomplish in a few hours alone is equivlant to a couple entire days with babies and toddlers under foot! Many times with the kids around, the only way I can finish a project is if I let them make a different mess next to me while I work. Or, the amount of starting and stopping is enough to make me forget what I was even working on. Not to mention the undoing of everything I touch! They really are great helpers at heart. ;) 

Work Now Play Later
Catching up by myself at the beginning of the weekend frees us up to have fun as a family for the rest. We were finding that we'd spend all our free time on chores. Or if we tried to ignore the mess and just go have fun, it would be stressful and chaotic. 

Memories
It's fun for Wes and the girls to have a special time together every week. Wes always sends me pictures of their adventures together. Joslynne gets so excited to go out with dad! Our babies can tend to gravitate to me when we are all home, so taking them out gives Wes more of their attention. ;)  

Helps Separation Anxiety
Since clinging to me is not an option while they are out, the girls start to realize that Daddy can meet their needs just as well as Mom. They grow closer to Wes, and begin going to him more at home too! Elaina has been going through a clingy stage with me, but lately, she is getting just as attached to Wes. Joslynne is to the point where she tells me I can't come when she's going out with Daddy. Haha! She says "Bye mom! I'll miss you, but I'll be back soon." ;) It can be so hard when babies cry anytime we walk away as moms, so getting out of the picture for a while helps them realize they can be ok without us! 


What we do

My husband tries to take the girls out for a date early on in the weekend so we can spend the rest of it as a family. He used to have Fridays off and took them then, so we are currently working on finding the best new time. :)

Some of their favorite things to do:

Go swimming
Go to the park
Take a drive up the canyon
Go for a hike
Get ice cream
Go to the library
See a movie (Elaina hasn't done this yet. ;)
Go to lunch
Go to the soda shop

I am so thankful for Wes and his sweet relationship with our girls. He is such fun, compassionate, and patient dad. He is so good at knowing what we need and meeting every single one of them.  I am so glad I get to do this parenting thing with my best friend.