Reducing Expenses

The beginning of this year, I really began to pray and ask the Lord to show me areas of my home where I needed to spend time making sure that we were making the most of what we had. My grocery budget was the first thing He placed on my heart. Over time, I began to eliminate things I had been purchasing that I realized we really didn’t need. We also began to examine every purchase we made in the grocery store to see if there was a cheaper alternative.

If you have been reading my postings for very long, you’ll know the first two things I did were to potty train 2 year old Benjamin, and switch Emma to cloth diapers. I’m still very happy with this decision. We did go ahead and begin using baby washcloths for diaper wipes as well. I purchased some off the clearance isle at Walmart just for this purpose and folded them neatly in an old diaper wipe box I had. Then I poured a mixture of water and a small amount of baby soap over them so they are ready to use when I need them. So far, this has worked great! I’m not sure how much money exactly I have saved my making this switch but by now, it is enormous!

The next thing I did was “dilute” the laundry powder. (I’m going to work on the math so we can figure out exactly how much we’ve saved a little later!) I cut my expensive GAIN (I *love* this stuff!) with 1 part GAIN to 1 part baking soda (look for the big bags at SAM’S). This works just as well as the regular laundry detergent and I’ve found GAIN has a reputation for not really cleaning all that well and with the addition of baking soda, it’s cleaning better! It’s a win/win situation!

I tried the dish powder substitution of baking soda and borax but found my glasses were etching terribly. I don’t like that! So, I’m back to the standard dish powder. I have read you can use a very small amount of liquid dish soap (only a few drops) in place of powdered automatic dish powder and it will work just as well. I decided to experiment with this too and found it really does clean just as well. I’m still going to do some reading on this one…I don’t want to destroy anything in my dishwasher.

For scrubbing the kitchen dishes, I have to use my old stand by, Scotch Brite pads. I only go through one of these a week. (And, really, it’s only 1/4 of one a week because when we first bring them home, I go ahead and quarter them with a pair of scissors.)

Cleaning products were next in line. I’m very guilty of spending a fortune on cleaning products. The following is where I am right now:

Switched all spray cleaners to diluted vinegar. (My family didn’t like this…so we’re back to diluted Clorox. I must admit, I do think it cleans better and does smell fresher but I’m still looking for an alternative.)

The switch to vinegar for glass cleaner worked O.K. but still streaked quite a bit so we’re on to using ammonia free Glass Plus. This product eliminates the chance that someone might accidentally mix the ammonia and clorox.

Instead of expensive furniture polish, we are using plain lemon oil. This has been great. I try to reuse the same cloth for this so I don’t have to reapply the oil every time…my cloth is already “pre-oiled”.

So the running list is:
Automatic dish powder
Scotchbrite Pads
Glass Plus
Lemon Oil

Dawn and Auto Dish Detergent are purchased once every two weeks, Clorox and GAIN are once a month purchases for us and the others usually fall once every six months.

Anything else, we can find a suitable substitution for such as carpet freshener, we use baking soda (it removes odor without adding all the perfume which we really dislike and is bad for you anyway). We don’t really use air fresheners anymore except for one in the bathroom. These really aren’t necessary if you eliminate the offending odors

The deletion of diapering products in our home has brought a huge halt to the paper products section of our grocery bill. Along with those savings, we have made cloth napkins to replace the paper ones we were purchasing.

So now, the following are misc. items we purchase on an every two week basis:

Paper Towels (we’re trying to cut way back on these by adding quality dish towels to the kitchen)
Toilet Paper (we’re not compromising on this one folks!)
Aluminum Foil
Ziplock Bags (only if we’re freezing veggies)
I might purchase waxed paper if I’m doing a lot of baking.
Kitchen Trash bags (we use plastic grocery bags for the smaller cans in our home)

I have no problem with the extra purchase of paper plates if I’ve just had a baby, we’re celebrating holidays and entertaining our families, or am just having a really busy week.

Notice there are no feminine products listed here either. We have been experimenting with some easy patterns and are looking toward totally eliminating these from our budget as well. This pattern is one of the things we’re adding over the next few weeks to the site…(along with my cloth diaper pattern).

So, I’m left with the following grocery list loosely adapted from emergency menu:

I don’t have quantities since this is the first time I’m trying out this menu and I’m not sure exactly how much we’ll need at the moment.

Ice Cream
Sliced Cheese
OJ (frozen concentrate)
Macaroni and cheese
Tea bags
Baking soda
Baking powder
Cream of tartar
Popsicles (I’m working on making our own)
Powdered milk
Whole wheat flour
Kidney beans
Turkey sausage
White rice
Frozen veggies
Ground chuck
Cream of Wheat
Rice/Wheat cereal
Spaghetti Noodles
Spaghetti Sauce (I make my own)
Spinach (fresh)
English Peas (O.K., this is where we are snobs…I know it’s more expensive, I know they are high in sodium, but we love Lesuer(sp?) peas!)
Baked Beans
Cheddar Cheese
Taco Sauce (I’m looking into making this from scratch as well).
Sour Cream
Rice celery
Green beans
Ketchup (again, we’re brand snobs…I know you can make your own but we’ve yet to find anything that tastes like Heinz!)
Olive Oil

This list should feed us for two weeks, including two potluck meals. It is also assuming you are having to purchase everything, including staples such as olive oil which I keep in my kitchen and will not be purchasing this week.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll update you on quantities and pricing and then I’m going to start dissecting the list to see where I can eliminate some things and add others to make healthier and perhaps even more economical meals.

Sorry for the long post but if you are like me, you are having to figure all of this out as you go along and sometimes it helps to see what others are doing to cook healthier meals within a budget (Warning! The next two weeks may not be the healthiest of meals…but we’re going to get there!).

On to the regular scheduled posting:

I’m bragging on Courtney this morning. This is the apron she made pretty much on her own from a pattern we found in a book. This one was a birthday gift for a friend. I loved this pattern because of the hidden side pockets. I had never seen a pattern that worked up this way. She did such a nice job, I’m already placing my order for one!

This is also the latest round of “musical beds” in our home. This picture was snapped late last night after Benjamin was found in Courtney’s bed and then returned to his own. Within minutes, he ended up with Jacob. Jacob actually curled up with him and they both slept so sweetly, that no one wanted to move them!

Prayer Requests

(Christy, remember yesterday when I told you that there was something weird going on with my mouth???) I think I’ve pulled some of my stitches out! Please pray for me…I’m supposed to see the Dr. on Thursday afternoon…I don’t think that this is good.

That the Lord would continue to send additional work Paul’s way.

David Blackwell to be able to close some homes that he has been showing.

The Buetow family is having car troubles.

Funeral services for Nayda and Nate’s baby this week.

Today, I’m Thankful For

The swelling in my face is down a little.

We have blooming beans and pumpkins and lots of tomatoes!

Laundry done and already out on the line!

Courtney finishing the apron that she was working on.

Making more headway on organizing my photos by beginning to use the Creative Memories Memory Manager software that I purchased.

Tracy’s Task

I’m sewing today but I’m still trying to just take it easy. This is very difficult for me. I have a hard time being home and not doing anything!

What I’m Learning

Not having siblings of my own, I’ve gotta tell you, I’m constantly shocked by the things my children do to each other.

This morning, as I’m typing this, I’m hearing Courtney calling for Joshua to come load the dishwasher. “Joshua, come load the dishwasher.” she says, in a very calm voice.

“What?” I hear Joshua yell.

“Joshua, come load the dishwasher.” she says, again in a very sweet and calm voice.

“What?? I can’t hear you!” he calls back.

It is at this point I realize, I’m at the other end of the house and I can hear them both…Joshua is purposely not coming.

“Joshua! It’s time to do the dishes” she calls, in a slightly raised but pleasant tone of voice.

“I still can’t hear you” he calls back. I think that was the point she reaches her limit.

“Joshua Paul!! Come load this dishwasher right now!!” she yells…a bit irritated, but obviously trying to maintain a feminine tone.

At this point, he begins to chuckle and yells “I’m coming! I’m coming!”.

I think it’s in the very core of his body to try her every last nerve. All of this, and as always, they are the best of friends…laughing and sharing a moment over dirty dishes and new film ideas. Amazing!

Today’s Scripture Meditation

Short and to the point:

3 John 1:11
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”

So thankful for a new and beautiful day….

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