2.27.2015

Parenting Even When You’re A Mess

Maybe I should be posting this on my old blog. Maybe I should try to combine the two.. I just don’t know.  If you’ve never read my old blog, it started as a way for me to cope with my diagnosis of thyroid cancer. It became just general life stories as my checks became more infrequent and my diagnosis approached the 5 year cancer free mark.  If you want some background, head over to the old blog and read through my 2009 posts. Are you caught up now? Good.

Fast forward to my appointment with a new endocrinologist and he asked the question “Has anyone ever told you that you are cancer free?”

No… they haven’t. I guess I assumed with undetectable TG levels I was clear even without the scans. Sure I’ve had neck ultrasounds with enlarged lymph nodes but no biopsies. It was more of a watch and wait approach. Again, my TG  levels were undetectable so this felt like a reasonable approach.  Sure I had nagging doubts about being told the RAI uptake in my lung was nothing or “took care of anything that could have been there.” I tried not to think about the possibility of recurrence even though recurrence rates are as high as 30%.  I’m fine… right??

Today I get a CT of my chest to follow up on that lung uptake from 5 years ago.  I’m terrified that it’s not fine.  While I’m there, they are also doing a neck ultrasound to follow up on those enlarged lymph nodes.  I’m upset to think that the watch and wait approach might not have been the best thing.  We have no reason to expect the worst at this point. Logically, I know that my TG levels are a pretty good indication that there isn’t anything going on, but I find cancer to be its own beast. Cancer makes its own rules.

Today I’m falling apart. My emotions range from anxiety to anger to admonishing myself for getting so emotional and not resting in the logic. I feel like I need to perform well on these tests but all I can do is lay there under the machines. I can’t just crack open a book and study to increase my chance of a good report. I won’t know my results until the 13th yet my future rests on what happens today….

Will I need more surgery?

Will I need more RAI?

Will I finally be declared cancer free?

I’m trying to stay strong, but sometimes it’s just so damn hard. I’m a weepy mess and my 19 month old daughter doesn’t understand. She looks at me quizzically and then laughs. I pull her close to tell her how much I love her and I take comfort in her cuddles. I need to be strong and be present for her because she needs her mommy. She needs mommy to play and laugh and comfort her through her day. So I’m pulling it together (even if it is just for short bursts of time). I’m taking deep breaths and putting on my mommy hat.

Lord knows the mommy hat is infinitely better than the cancer patient hat any day. 

2.13.2015

A $300/month Grocery Budget?

cutting the grocery budget

I mentioned back in December that we were considering setting the grocery budget at a mere $300 for a month and that we were going to switch to cash while doing so.  And then we were hit with some dietary challenges that will make this budget a lot bit harder to stick to.  I will get to that in a minute but for now let’s look at the numbers…

january groceries

Yes, we were OVER budget by $105.24. Let me break it down as to WHY I’m still convinced we can make $300/mo happen.  Let’s first remember that January was 5 pay weeks instead of the normal 4 so even sticking to a $75/week budget that would have been $375 allocated to groceries for the month.  Ok so maybe the $405.24 isn’t looking soooo bad now.

In January, we ran into some great stock up pricing on ground beef, chicken and pork.  We took advantage of this and currently our freezer has 12lbs of ground beef, maybe 6lbs of chicken and 18 pork chops and one pork roast.  This will save us money in the coming months when we use our stockpile rather than purchasing new at over $1.50 more per pound.

Also in January, I decided to jump on the freezer cooking bandwagon.  Sticking to our new dietary restrictions I purchased spices and ingredients for a Paleo plan that will provide us with 8 dinners and approximately 12-15 leftover lunches.  The spices and recipes were through Tastefully Simple and are amazingly easy!  I managed to put all the meals together with no pre-prep in about an hour!  Most of the meals can be prepared in the crockpot and since all the prep is done, all you need to do is remember to thaw – absolutely fabulous for working days! And most of the meals included 6 servings which is at least 2 meals for our small family.  The best part is they all fit in my tiny freezer! We have no deep freeze and I was able to fit them in our refrigerator freezer along with our stockpile of meat!  Contact me if you are interested in this plan and I can put you in touch with my Tastefully Simple consultant (who also happens to be my sister) for more details.

And as mentioned above, we are eating differently.  Due to some health considerations, we have gone to a lower carbohydrate diet. This means less processed foods (less opportunity for coupons!), more meat and produce.  Meat is expensive in general and produce can be.  Pasta, rice and beans are out… these are the backbones of every budget friendly meal plan I have ever found on Pinterest! I’ve gotten boxes of pasta for as little as $0.25 with sales and coupons and now they are sitting in my pantry useless.  But the dietary changes are working and eating this way will stay for a while.  I’m now challenged to find the best deals on whole foods like meat, fruits, veggies and dairy and am cutting out most processed food items (basically most anything with a brand name).  Thankfully, Grocery University – while being a coupon heavy guide to saving money – has provided me with valuable tips to saving money even on these non-branded items.

And possibly our saving grace to keeping positive about our $300/mo grocery budget is the opening of Aldi in our town!  They have had amazing prices on fruits, veggies and several other items we buy. Some items have been less than half the cost of our local grocery store.   It’s time for me to peruse some of those 25 Meals for $150 pins I’ve saved and see if they will work for our family!

So while technically we lost the $300 grocery challenge in January, I’m looking forward to the challenge in the upcoming months.

Do you have any special dietary restrictions that make meal planning challenging?  Have you found any tricks to stay within a small grocery budget while meeting the dietary needs of your family?

1.22.2015

Budget Leak

small fluffOne of the best things I ever did for our budget was making the switch to cloth diapers when our daughter was around 6 months.  I had looked into cloth diapering before she was born and was intrigued but Hubs wasn’t completely convinced. Once she was here and we were going through $50-70 per month just for diapers (not to mention diaper genie refills, wipes, rash creams..), the switch to something more economical just made sense. 

Lately though, our budget has taken a hit again as I “fell off the sposieswagon” with my cloth.  Travel, the holidays, sickness… I haven’t used them much since November started and it’s cost us around $215!!! WHAT?!? Our Gazelle budget can’t handle that and I’m getting back on the wagon. Immediately. 

If you haven’t ever considered cloth diapers but need to trim your budget, I highly suggest you look into them!  When I started my research it was about how to use, the different kinds/different brands, how to wash… but I hadn’t truly looked into the cost savings until right before I made the switch.  This post by I Heart Budgets was my favorite cost comparison by far.  It was a simple breakdown but made so much sense.  We took the plunge.  And even though our daughter is still in disposables at night and at the grandparents on days I work, our cloth has (and will) save us so much!  Here is a look at our numbers (if we had started from birth and I hadn’t fallen off the wagon):

First Baby Disposables Our Cloth Experience
upfront costs Diaper Genie – $30 Around 60 Diapers with approximately 120 inserts @ ~$10 each (various brands/styles)
Wet Bags/Pail Liners – $30
Monthly Costs Diapers – $70/month average
Wipes - $10
DG Refills – $6
Rash Cream – $4
Disposables – $20/month average
Wipes – $10
Rash Cream – $2
Diaper Liners – $2
Water (well) – $0
Electric – $5
Cost for 2.5 Years ~ $3,240 ~$1800

Ok, so I went a biiiiit overboard when purchasing my diapers and have way too many currently!  And since we still use disposables half the time, our savings is a mere $1440 over the average span of diapering.  BUT… I can sell back my cloth diapers when I’m done (rough estimate of resale value $450)  which brings the savings to around $1890.  If we have a second child, I can use the same cloth diapers and diapering a 2nd child would only cost us approximately $1,170 if we continue with disposables part time.  Taking into account a 2nd child, we would save over $3,500 just on diapers! fluffy

Just look at all that cuteness! What’s not to love?  Oh ok, yes I realize there is the added laundry.  But really its an extra 2-3 loads a week for us. And it’s really not such a bad thing when you have such a cute little helper!  This mama is back on the wagon starting today!fluff laundry

1.01.2015

New Year. New Goals

Happy 2015 y’all!!

Did any of you actually make it to midnight? I was reading (aka falling asleep) in bed when the hubs woke me up to say Happy New Year!  It made me think, “Where was I when 2014 started?”  Nursing baby girl back to sleep I suspect… or changing a diaper. Either way, I was probably too exhausted to really take note.  I feel like I spent 2014 trying to catch up on sleep… still trying to meet that resolution truth be told.  (Mads is a terrible sleeper. There, I’ve said it.)  BUT I finally feel like my brain works again (most days anyway) and I feel like having more direction for the new year is in order!happy-new-year-2015

So what’s in store for 2015?

  1. Get Out of Debt – ok so this is slightly cheating because I announced this resolution months ago, but our commitment is still there.  Budgets have been made, an emergency fund is in place, and we are ready to go!  All debts except the student loans will be paid by this time next year!
  2. Declutter the House – we moved from a new 2bd townhouse to a 1947 3bd mountain house. Sounds like we sized up, right? Yeah… in 1947 they weren’t so concerned about things like closets. We went from having 3 walk in closets & 3 fairly big regular closets to having 3 of the teensiest, tiniest closets known to man. We have TOO MUCH STUFF!  And sadly, most of that stuff is just stuff to take up space and gather dust.  I’m hoping some of this stuff can be sold and used in pursuit of goal #1.
  3. Learn to Knit (& Possibly to Crochet & Sew) – I got knitting lessons from the hubs for Christmas along with a set of wooden knitting needles. One of his most genius gifts ever! I’ve been wanting to learn to knit for a while now and I never seem to find the time to watch YouTube until I pick it up.  I tried teaching myself to crochet from a book and it turned out only half correct. I need time carved out and a more hands on demo.  He solved that with the lessons.  Not sure when I’m starting quite yet, but seriously he arranged for special lessons to be held on Saturdays just for me!  (best.husband.ever)
  4. Cook Healthier Food for the Family -  We don’t eat terribly, but we aren’t an all organic/vegan/raw/no hormone/gluten free/no antibiotics/whole foods only family either.  I’d like us to find a happy balance and incorporate more fruits/veggies and less processed junk.  We already try to only buy hormone & antibiotic free meats/poultry and I will be keeping that in the plan.  I got a Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas from my hubs & In-laws and plan to put that to use in helping with this goal too.  Homemade whole wheat bread anyone?
  5. Take More Me Time – I’m bad at this, like really terribly bad.  To illustrate, I haven’t had a professional haircut and/or color since a few months after my daughter was born and she’s going to be 18months this month. I’ve gotten maybe 1-2 massages and had my nails done about that many times too.  Aside from the physical, I rarely set aside time to write here – which is why, as you can see it doesn’t happen. I have a good 5-6 devotional books that have gone unread. Craft projects - or should I say supplies for craft projects -are stuffed in drawers and boxes waiting to be started let alone finished. These are things that make me, me.  They are important and special and deserve attention.  Sometimes I need to realize I am important and special enough to deserve it too.

So there you have it, my 5 goals for the new year!  I feel like they all can tie in to the #1 goal on this list – decluttering can lead to some income, knitting (& crochet & sewing) can cut down on clothing needed and provide a source of gifts, focus on cooking means less eating out and junk food spending, and actually doing a craft project or two might lead to less purchasing of Etsy items I can make myself.  (An organized home with happier, healthier occupants will just be a bonus!)

What are your goals for the new year?

12.04.2014

Paper or Plastic?

This post contains affiliate links from Grocery University.

cutting the grocery budget

During the month of September, I decided to tackle out outrageous $600 grocery budget and using a little planning and the tips learned from Grocery University we were able to cut our spending by $200!  Since then, I’ve lightened up on the planning a bit BUT have still managed to use the tips to keep our spending at just $400 per month.. well actually October was $415 but November was a paltry $175!  So where do we go from here?

I’m considering setting a goal of paying only $300 per month for groceries!  Since I’ve been able to maintain $400 or less for a couple months with minimal effort I think I can do some extra planning and stick to a $300 budget.  I also pulled out household and baby items into their own line items in the budget so the $300 will be strictly for food related expenses.

Another change we will be making in the new year?  Paying CASH for groceries.  It’s easy to overspend when you can just swipe the plastic, but handing over those paper bills  makes that shopping trip much more real.  If you head to the store with a plan for the cash, you need to stick to that plan and not give in to impulses as much.  This will be a real challenge for me as I use my debit card for everything and rarely carry cash

As I plan to cut our budget even further, I’m looking over and listening to my Grocery University materials again to really ingrain the tips into my brain.  I really believe that this program helped our family save $200 a month and that it can help us to save an additional $100!  And let me add that my savings didn’t happen with stores that double $1 coupons or at ones that allow a high dollar coupon to be used on trial sizes.  If you watch the extreme couponing shows you know that’s often what gets them to a $1 total for $1000 of groceries but that just isn’t realistic.  One of my regular grocery stores doubles up to $0.50 coupons, another doesn’t double, and another doesn’t even take coupons!

If you haven’t checked it out yet, or know someone who could use a little help in trimming some spending, I encourage you to check out the program or share the link with a friend because there is a SALE going on TODAY!!!  Normally, Grocery University is $9.97 but TODAY ONLY the price is just $4.97!! It’s a great deal and could make a great gift for someone struggling with this area.

Another great deal for today is Financial Peace University!  The home study course is just $129 (normally $399!!) and the online format that Hubs and I are going through is just $109.

Check out these two great deals to get your 2015 off to a great start!