Simply Family

What would you do with one hour uninterrupted time?

What would you do with one hour uninterrupted time?

I get an opportunity to answer this question on one evening of my choosing every week.

Like most new parents, I was struggling to maintain a balance between keeping up with chores around the hours while also spending quality time with family.  It is virtually impossible with a curious crawling baby awake to accomplish anything other than chasing her.  I found myself staying up late or waking up early to try to get stuff done.  Then I would just be tired and grumpy.  That’s when I came up with the one hour idea.

So what is this one hour I am talking about??

Well, one evening a week, after I get home from work and settled, I can tell my husband that I am redeeming my one hour.  That means for that hour, all childcare responsibilities shift to my husband.  I usually set a timer and play beat-the-clock to see how much cleaning I can get done, but I can use my one hour for whatever I want.  It can simply be for some me time, time to cook a nice meal without a toddler pulling on my leg, or time to catch up on other things.  It really amazes me just how much I can get done during my one hour.  Plus, I am usually within earshot of the family, so I can still enjoy them, just without all of the interruptions of a busy toddler.

For me, this one hour a week allows me to stay on top of things and elimates the overwhelming feeling that comes with trying to keep up.  If you are thinking about trying this, but you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you want to get done in one hours time; I suggest making a list.  Write down everything around that house that you want to get done.  Then, put a number by each one based on how important it is.  #1 being top priority, #2 being second, and so on.  Finally, systematically work down your list, making sure to take care of high priority items first.  I also really like making lists, because I then get to cross things off of them 🙂

AND, to keep things fair, my husband gets the same opportunity that I do.  If he has something that he needs some uniterrupted time, he will take use his hour.

What to you think?  Give it a try.  Feel free to comment with how you spent your one hour!

Simple Living

Saving Money- 10 things you can start today!

Try these 10 tricks to start saving more money right now!

When most people think about saving money there are some obvious things to do.  These are things such as going out to eat less, cutting back on shopping trips, and maybe less vacations.  Well, if you’ve already done those types of things and your finances are still stressing you out, then this is the post for you!

Below are 10 ways to help cut spending and finally get your monthly budget under control.

 

  1. Cut the cable bill- come on, I know that you’ve thought of this one, but I doubt you’ve taken the leap yet.  Do it!  Getting rid of cable (well DirecTV in our case) saved us $140/month.  Going without cable is much easier than you think.  Also, getting rid of cable does not mean getting rid of TV.  We now use Netflix and Apple TV, but there is also Hulu, Amazon fire-stick, and many more!

 

  1. Reduce the frequency of your grocery trips- Let’s face it.  We always leave with more than we actually need when we go to the grocery store.  So, it makes sense that if you go less, you spend less.  It really works!  Plus—think about the gas money that you will save by not having to drive an extra trip to and from the grocery store.  In my household, we go once every two weeks.  Find something that works for you, but the less you go to the store, the less you spend.

 

  1. Meal planning-  Planning will help you achieve trick #2. If you take some time to plan out your meals for the week before you go to the store, you will have a grocery list made perfectly for a week (or two) worth of cooking and eating with very little waste.

Having meals planned (and even made in advance) will also help prevent you from ordering take out last minute when you realize you are too busy or tired to cook.  My family does almost all of our cooking for the week on Sundays.  It is all packaged into perfectly side portions so that all I need to do is grab a dish out of the fridge and heat it up….easy as take out!

 

  1. Recycle and Compost- If you live in an area when you pay for your trash removal services based on the amount of trash you produce, then this tip will help you.

Start recycling your plastics, aluminum, glass, and other items.  Call around to see if recycle pick up is available in your area.  If it is not available, many cities and townships have recycle drop off locations that are free.  We cut our trash production in half by recycling, plus it is good for the environment.

You can also start composting to reduce the amount of food scraps that you are tossing in your trash.  We have finally started our first compost pile.  We have a small container in our kitchen that we collect the scraps.  Then every few days we dump it onto the compost pile.

 

  1. Take a closer look at your bill statements- You may have already done a great job of getting rid of all of your unnecessary bills such as monthly subscriptions and cable, but you can reduce your bills even further.  This one isn’t fun, but I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon on my laptop with a Netflix movie on the TV while completing this. I looked at my internet bill, cell phone bill, electric bill, and insurance bills.  I found small changes that I could make to all of them!

EXAMPLES-

  • Internet bill- there was a monthly equipment rental still on my bill, but we had purchased our own modem and router over a year ago…$5-10/month
  • Cell phone bill- there was still a monthly charge on our phone bill for an Ipad line that we don’t use anymore- $10/month
  • Insurance bills- homeowners and car insurance-  this one involves a bit more work, but it can be worth it!  Call around and compare rates, ask for loyalty or good driver discounts.  Just make sure you are comparing apples to apples and still getting the right amount of coverage.

 

  1. Google your item before purchasing- Okay, so you need to buy something.  You’ve found what you are looking for, it is in your shopping cart (online or in store), and you are about to purchase it.  WAIT!  Google it first.  Are there other stores that sell this item?  If so, is it cheaper anywhere else?

 

  1. Have a separate email account just for promotions-

I have a free email account dedicated just to signing up for coupons or giving my email address to cashiers.  That is the only info that goes to this account.  I love this trick for two reasons.

First, it helps to keep my primary email account less cluttered..

Second, if I would have these types of emails come to my regular email address, I would be wayyy too tempted to buy products and goods every time that a good deal comes along.

Speaking of good deals… that brings me to the next item

 

  1. Wait for deals!

Have something that you are planning to buy, but don’t NEED it right away.  Added it to your ‘wants’ shopping list and keep an eye on your apps and promotional email account for the perfect deal.

 

  1. Don’t take your purse with you! or don’t carry cash. 

I use this tip at work.  I pack my lunch every day so that I do not need to spend money in the cafeteria or at the vending machines.  Unfortunately, I found that if I had money with me in the office I would end up buying food (even though I packed).  Solution?  I leave my purse safely locked away in my car.  Now, even if I am tempted to spend money, I don’t have the option to.

 

  1. Coinstar- This tip isn’t a money saving trick as much as it is a ‘get some fast cash when you are in need’ trick. Collect all the random change that you have around your house.  Now, take it to a local coinstar or change counting machine.  Most machines take a certain percentage of your total as a fee.  However, some banks allow you to use the change counter machines with no fees if you deposit the earnings into your bank account.  I recently did a full house change sweep and ended up with $35 extra dollars in my pocket 😊

 

Simple Living

Try these tips to save more money at the grocery store!

9 Things you must start right now to save you more money at the store!!

I am by no means an extreme coupon-er.  I have never once gotten paid money back at the end of my checkout process.  Also, I do not spend my free time scouring the newspapers for weekly deals or coupons.

I do, however, follow these 9 rules to help me keep my monthly grocery expenses reasonable.

9 Things you must start right now to save you more money at the store!!

  1. Make a list- on your phone– and stick to it!- Chances are that you already know deviating from your grocery list result in a higher than expected grocery bill.  It also cost extra money…and time…to run back to the grocery store when you forget to buy something because you forgot it.  Things get even worse when you completely forget the list at home on your fridge and you are stuck ‘winging it’.

My solution?  Keep your list on the one item that you are guaranteed to have with you at all times; your phone!  Use the notes app on your phone to keep a running list of everything that you might need at the grocery store.  You will never have to worry about forgetting your list at home.  Also, you can add that random item that you think about needing even when you aren’t at home.

  1. Plan your meals-  I know that you’re busy, but this one thing will make a huge difference in saving money…and the time you put into this will save you even more time during the week.  I don’t mean plan a four-course meal complete with a dessert for every day of the week but take some time and plan ahead.  Think about at least 2-3 meals that you might want to have in the evenings, along with some lunch ideas.

Knowing what you are going to make helps you to shop for only what you need, and this equals money saved.  It also ensures that you are not running back to the store throughout the week to get things that you forgot- again, money and time saved.  Seriously, just give this a try.  My weeks have become much less stressful once I devoted an hour on my Sundays to figure out what we will be eating for the week.

**To save even more money, you can even start planning you weekly meals around items that are on sale at your grocery store that week.

  1. Shop your pantry-  Once you’ve decided what you are going to eat for the week, look at what you already have.  I do this right before I leave the house to go to the store.  It helps prevent you from buying duplicates of items just because you weren’t sure if you had it at home or not.

 

  1. Reduce frequency-  Once you get the whole meal planning thing down, you will see that this happens naturally.  With proper planning, you won’t have to do last minute stops at the grocery store to pick up a few items you need (and some items you don’t $$$).  The less you can go to the store, the less money you will spend.  We used to go to the store just once per week.  I thought that was pretty good, but we decided to try to stretch our weekly visits out to every two weeks instead. We save even more money this way.  Plus, that gives us more time at home instead of at the grocery store.

 

  1. Have a time crunch-  The idea behind this rule is that if you are on a time crunch you will spend less time browsing the isles.  In turn, you will be less likely to end up with random items in your cart that were not on the list.  Be careful, though, you might end up forgetting items that you need if you are in too big of a hurry.

 

  1. Shop the perimeter-  This tip is nothing new to people that are trying to eat healthy, but it can help you save money too.  The ‘real’ foods such as fruit, veggies, meat, and dairy are found on the perimeter of the grocery store.  Most of the processed snack and meal foods are found in the center isles.  Shop the perimeter of the store first, then, go down only the center isles that contain items that you need from your list.  This will keep that random package of cookies or bag of chips from sneaking in your cart and wrecking your budget (and your waistline).

 

  1. Bulk up- You don’t have to be a member of a wholesale club to take advantage of this one.  If you come across a good deal on something that you use…bulk up.  I like to do this when meat goes on sale.  I buy a large quantity and then freeze it.  This is great for using rule number 3 since it helps me keep more food that I will use on hand, which means it will save me money by not having to buy it at full price next time that food is on my weekly menu.

 

BE CAUTIOUS with this rule.  Not every sale is a deal.  Not every oversized package of toilet paper is actually cheaper.  Look at how much you normally spend on things to determine if bulking up during that particular sale will save you money.

 

  1. Needs vs. Wants- Planning what you want to eat for the week and following a list will help cut down on buying unnecessary items at the grocery store but take a second look at that list.  Do you actually NEED everything that you added to your list?  or are there certain things that you WANT?  If you are serious about saving money at the grocery store, it is time to get rid of your WANTS from the grocery list.  I did this recently, and it was hard a first, but the lower grocery bill has made things a lot easier.
    Here’s an example-  We drink a lot of water in my house.  We have good tap water and use reusable cups.  However, we got into the habit of using flavored water additive.  We were buying 3 bottles of ‘mio’ flavored water enhancer every week.  At $3.69 per bottle, that is $11.07/ week; or $575.64/ year.   I took one look at this math and I was done!  No more Mio for us.  To me, this was just a normal grocery item when we went to the store, but I realized that it was a want, NOT a need.  It took a week or two to adjust, but we got over it and now just drink plain water from the tap.

 

  1. Use Shopping Apps- Shopping applications are great!  I have an app for just about everything that I buy.  Some examples include:
  • Ebates
  • Ibotta
  • Raise

Ebates and Ibotta both give you money back on items that you are already going to buy, simply for using their app.  The money back adds up really quick too!  Raise is another great app.  You can use Raise to purchase discount gift cards.  Just hop on before you head out to the store and see if they have any discount gift cards available.  If you are already planning to spend money at a store, this is a great way to save money before you even get there. FYI-

I plan to make a post soon to provide details on how and when to use these apps.  I will add the link here when it is done!  For now, feel free to click the links below to sign up today!  They make it super easy to get money back.

Ebates- www.ebates.com

Ibotta- www.ibotta.com

Raise- www.raise.com

Recipes

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

My family goes through a lot of hard boiled eggs.  They are such an easy grab-and-go snack.  Plus you can use them to whip up a quick batch of deviled eggs….yum!

There is nothing more frustrating than going to peel the first egg from a batch and you are stuck peeling every little piece of shell off.  Not only does it then take forever to peel them, but you are also left with a bunch of sad looking eggs with pieces missing.

If this sounds familar to you, well, then keep reading!  I have finally found a method that makes peeling my eggs easy.  Every. Single. Time.

EASY PEEL Hard Boiled Eggs

  1. Fill a pot of with enough water that your eggs will be completely covered once they are added.
  2. Place the pot on the stovetop, set on high, with a lid and bring the water to a boil. **NOTE:  keep checking to see if you water has started to boil so that it doesn’t boil out and over.
  3. Once the water has come to a rolling boil, GENTLY lower your eggs into the boiling water. **NOTE: if your egg has even the slightest crack (or if you don’t lower them gently) you can expect some of the egg white to leak out of the egg.  This usually happens to one of my eggs, but I don’t mind.  They are all still super easy to peel.
  4. Once you have all of the eggs in, lower the temp (to medium or medium-low).  Make sure that the water continues to gently boil the entire time.
  5. Set a timer for 12 minutes.
  6. While you are waitng for 12 minutes to pass, fill a large bowl with ice water.  I don’t just mean cold water.  Place a handful or two of ice in a bowl and add nice cold water.  This will be where your eggs go IMMEDIATELY after they are done boiling.
  7. When your timer goes off, quickly remove the eggs from the boiling water and add them directly to your ice water.  Stir the eggs in the ice water for a moment and make sure that there is enough water to submerge all of the eggs.
  8. Let them sit in the water for 5 minutes.
  9. Peel immediately.  **Remember to smile as the shell just falls off!

I promise to add pictures to this post soon!  I will take some the next time I make a bunch!