Saturday, February 28, 2009

More Grocery Savings

I hit some sales today at Stop and Shop. I was mad at myself because I had a stash of coupons...and misplaced them in my efforts to reorganize. So one of my purchases today was a $3.99 coupon organizer. No more envelopes because I'm thinking that a check that I mailed out for a homeschool field trip also contained my coupons. I hope she enjoys them.
It took me about 1 1/2 hours today to do coupons and another 1 1/2 hours of actual shopping. I'm sure the time will decrease once I get used to price comparing. I'm still working on stock piling my pantry and although I've spent a lot of money in the past two weeks, I've also saved a lot of money. One of my purchases today was the magazine All You. It's loaded with coupons so I'm hoping to see how that pans out for me.
Here's how my spending went today.
10 Mac and cheese/on sale 10/$10-savings=$5.80!!!
Barilla Pasta 10/$10-savings=$3.90
Bumble Bee Tuna 10/$10-savings=$6.60!!!
Pillsbury brownies 10/$10-savings=$3.60
Green Giant Corn 10/$10-savings=$2.30
Apple Juice 10/$10-savings=$5.00!!
BC Cake Mix 10/$10-savings=$2.30
Nature's Promise Pasta 3 boxes/$3.98 (coupon for $3.00 from last visit) Total cost=$0.98
Crab Classic BOGO/$3.99-savings $3.99
Crest Toothpaste-$2.99 /$1.00 off coupon doubled-savings=$2.00
Suave shampoo and conditioner $1.97-$1.00 coupon doubled. Savings=$2.00
I had a few other items like draino that I didn't have coupons for but those go on our household maintainence budget and not groceries.
My total bill for today before savings was $171.13
After store special and the $9.00 in coupons I had it came down to $115.61. This week alone I saved $52.65. Who hooo!
And I've been keeping track of everything on an Excel spread sheet. I only started stockpiling last week so have probably have spent more than I normally would have in two weeks. We get our produce from a distributor so that was another $20.00 this week.
In the past two weeks I've spent a total of $368.70 and I've saved $313.18! (not including produce)
I think one more week of hitting sales and my pantry will be very stocked. I'm so proud of myself and even if I don't hit the big bargains I'm much more aware of where my money is going. Every penny I save is less time I have to work at the stinkin' hospital (did I say that out loud?) and money saved for fun things like a vacation....or a bottle of wine.
Now I just have to master the CVS Extra Care bucks. Since we already get a 20% employee discount on non-sale items, can someone tell me why I haven't been shopping there? Sigh.
Babysteps I guess.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Budding Chef and Artist

Today was history day. Morgan learned all about President Thomas Jefferson and how his home was called Monticello which means, "Little Mountain." She drew this awesome picture.
The kids also had Art Class Homework from last Monday. They had to search the house and find 5 things that they thought were art.
Tae drew the bookshelves and his African drumming stick.
Morgan is going to be a budding photographer like her mom. She decided to take pictures of the things she thought were art and then draw the pictures. She found the pattern in my prayer shawl facinating.

And she thought this picture of the colored pencils was really cool. I do too.

She even printed the pictures and then cut them out.

And then pasted them into her sketch book. She labeled and drew the pictures next to the photographs. She also chose my fall patterned quilt that my sister-in-law made for me and the loved the patterning on the bottom of an egg carton. She also picked out a wood emblem from her dresser.

Tae had a special day out with his Nanny today. She's not really the kids Grandmother but is a very close friend of the family. We've known Nanny since Patrick was first born. Tae went out to lunch with Nanny for his Birthday treat and then he got to go to Barnes and Noble and pick out his own book with the gift card that Nanny gave him. Of all the books he could have chosen, he picked out a Williams and Sonoma Kids Cookbook. He was so proud bringing it home and has already picked out many recipes to cook. He must have tapped into my brain because while he was gone today I was flipping through my Williams and Sonoma cookbook.

Morgan has a 7:30 am soccer game tomorrow and I'll be out grocery shopping. I'll post how I do with my whittling of the grocery bill. I'm off to cut coupons!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Finding Beauty Everywhere

Last night Patrick decided to draw me a picture of a sea turtle. He sketched it out and then used watercolors to recreate the ocean water.
Doesn't it look like Crush from "Finding Nemo"?
Love the watercolor background. Even little bubbles coming off the turtle.
This morning Patrick and Morgan had sign language class at the library. Tae and I usually hang out at the playground unless it's too cold. Most times there is a bunch of kids but today it was empty. It gave Tae and I a chance to spend some time together and time for me to play with my camera.
He just loves posing for me. They all love this frog sculpture that is carved out a of a tree.
Even though this shot is dark I just love it. The lines and shapes on the playground were so inspiring this morning.
I love this shot too.
My sweet little man.
Even the rock climbing wall looked really cool this morning.

I was able to spend time just looking at nature. The playground is surrounded by woods and even though everything was bare-it was just beautiful.

The gorgeous moss covered stone wall. What is it about stone walls that intrigues me so?

Twisting vines surrounding a birdhouse.

I took this with my macro lens. Very cool. I'm not sure what this was in it's former life.

Another macro lens picture. The fuzz reminds me of snow.

More twisting vines.

Our homeschool coop group met today. It was very muddy out. Clover fell off the swing and well...look at the results. Those are sequin shoes she has on in case you can't tell. She wasn't too upset...she let me take a picture of her and had the cutest grin on her to the mud splatters.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This was dinner tonight. Tortilla pizzas with whatever toppings the kids wanted. Mine had feta cheese, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms and sausage. A delicious quick meal since Morgan has soccer practice tonight.

Too bad the steam coming off of this pizza didn't photograph.

Last night I made roast chicken. These were really small so I had to do two of them. Best of all I paid $1.00 each for them using the grocery store coupons.

Our small group ministry at church this month is talking about Simplicity. That's been my goal for many months and organizing is part of that simplifying. So is homeschool. Trying to keep track of what 3 kids are learning can be overwhelming and I did what I vowed I would never do...I bought a planner for homeschool. I was getting confused in what the kids had read and what they have done and ended up repeating a lot of stuff. I still collaborate with the kids on the work they are going to do. Rather than do lesson plans and stress myself out, I use this for recording what they have done. Kind of a backward lesson plan. But it's working really well. And while our schedules are very full-I've found that being highly organized is the key to keeping my sanity. At least it works most days.

The other organizing thing I did was whittle our homeschool down to one subject a day. It's also been really great because now we can focus our efforts on one area instead of flip flopping around. It doesn't work everyday -especially when we have field trips and doctor appointments. But we can work around that and if we have to double up one day that's fine to. My goal is to always have a plan but be flexible enough to change it.

So for now the schedule is:
Monday-Math and Art Class
Tuesday-Literature and Language Arts
Wednesday-Science and Soccer Practice
Thursday-Sign Language and Homeschool Coop
Friday-History, Geography, Civics and Home Economics.
Saturday-Soccer games
Sunday-Church (Patrick does his Neighboring Faith program which I consider a part of homeschool) Morgan and Tae have their Sunday school class.

Morgan made a whole map of the United States today and then colored it in. Great Job.

Patrick was learning about Land and Water Distribution on the Earth and made this fabulous map. camera ham worked on letters, numbers and matching on the computer.

We made a list to hang on the wall for Tae. He's really recognizing a lot of words. After I hung this up he added some more words and wrote them himself. He added: on, no, off, yes and Pete (our Boxer). He was so proud of himself.
He loves these little color books. Today he did Red. He colored, cut out and stapled them all by himself.
I have a lot of Tae's work. He's my camera man and loves to show off his work. My two oldest are always hiding from Mommy's obsession with capturing everything on the camera. This picture, well um... "the ambulance is leaving with the dead guy because there was a fire." In case you can't see on the back of the ambulance is a dead guy on a stretcher.
Oh but wait. Then there is this one. We have multiple things going on here. Tae wrote, "Dad's Hearing dog." The goldish stickers in the middle are all dogs and he drew a nice rug for them to sit on. See-all very innocent. But notice the Dad's Hearing Dog sign on fire. And the theme of ambulance at the bottom. Then if you look at the top, deadman makes another appearance but this time he is so dead he needs 2 guys to carry him. Uh huh. Should I be worried about him?
Yesterday we went to a play at the library called Sophie's socks. It was put on by a bunch of homeschoolers in our area. The did a fabulous job and many of our Meetinghouse kids were part of the show. Tae, Patrick and Morgan wait patiently for the play to begin. They had a great time and best of all it was free.
Tae and Morgan sit on the floor watching the play.
Tomorrow is our Sign Language class and our coop group meets here in the afternoon. Busy days.

Are You Really Homeschooling?

Someone on our local homeschooling message board sent out a link to this article.

The article discusses the use of the K12 curriculum and how they are calling it homeschool. The person on my list went on to describe how she felt that online classes, distance schools, parttime public or private school aren't really homeschooling. She also went on to discuss how such companies are now exploiting the homeschoolers and calling their programs "homeschooling." This person also went on to say that none of these methods should be considered homeschooling and that she was concerned about parent's defering their child's education to someone else.

I have no comments on K12 because I've never used them or researched their methods but after reviewing them online-most say their curriculum is very advanced. The article describes some objections to kids sitting in front of a computer all day and parents being hands off in their kids education. There may be a few parents who, in the course of their kids education are hands off and find an online program perhaps an easier solution. My guess, is that most of the parents, even if their kids are on a computer in their home, is that they have some involvement with their kids. Choosing an online curriculum is simply another choice. Without looking into each families diverse style, we have no way of knowing what their home education is like. Some choose to supplement field trips or projects. Assuming that our own definition of homeschooling should apply to everyone is detrimental and undermines the very freedom of choice that homeschoolers strive for. Choosing homeschooling also doesn't mean we are against public school. All it means is that as parents we made the best educational decision for our family, that fits our family and its needs.

This person did say that homeschooling is a diverse lifestyle. I would agree. What concerned me was the continued use of labels in trying to define what homeschool is. We've been homeschooling for a few years now. I've learned a lot-mostly from my kids. We've tried tons of curriculum from packaged deals, to an eclectic blend, to expensive publishers to cheap workbooks to unschooling and probably everywhere in between. Right now we are at a place where we use text books, online classes, lots of field trips, artwork and some days we unschool. There are days that we spend all day outside working in the garden and other days we just spend with friends. Nothing is written in stone despite our "school" schedule being posted on the wall. Some days it just doesn't work. Most days, we are filled with the joy of learning.

I'm not sure that it matters what we choose. Doesn't it matter more that it works for you, your family and your children?

Since September, Patrick has been working on highschool Biology even though he's in seventh grade. His frustration reached a breaking point this morning when it became too hard for him. So we moved back a grade level and reassessed the situation and made changes. It worked out fine. Homeschooling allowed us to do that, to do what was appropriate for his needs. Homeschooling is a constant reassessment of my kids and what we're learning. It's brought a whole new intimacy to our family and the way we function.
My five year old is learning to read. He has computer games that teach him his letters, shapes and numbers but it's not all he does. He loves listening to stories and loves workbooks. It's a great joy to watch my kids discover learning. It's also a great joy to watch them struggle and either figure out the problem for themselves or to feel safe enough to come and ask for help.
Last night I had a conversation with a friend while I was at a church meeting. He was asking about homeschooling and how his wife, who is a music teacher, was impressed with homeschoolers. He asked many questions, "How does our day work, do they have to be tested, what else do we do?" He was intrigued at the conversation and said it reminded him of the one room school house days. I think so too. The one room school house was about the basics of what is important, all ages sharing their knowledge, teamwork and at the same time it was about honoring family.
Maybe homeschooling isn't about curriculum choices at all. Maybe it's about the intimacy and family ties that it creates. Maybe it's about providing a safe environment where your kids explore and create and learn to love learning again. The method to the learning isn't important. The joy is.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Starting My Day and Art Class

Here's how I start each day...sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee checking emails before the kids get up. Dixie thinks she is keeper of the pencils. This morning I started to work with the kids...I was still in my fuzzy pink was 8:15 and I was off to a late start with showering. Don't you think the doorbell rang. It was our oil man here to do our annual furnace cleaning. Did this get marked on the calendar-nope. Did I remember he was coming? Nope again. I quickly ran into the other room and pulled some grungy clothes out of the hamper from yesterday and threw them on. Meanwhile, the dog was plastered against the front door and the guy kept ringing the doorbell. I finally let him in (with me looking just lovely). What happened to courtesy calls before coming?
My favorite mug that the kids bought for me one Mother's Day.
The new bookshelf that is just for my books. Mine, mine, mine all mine. Did I mention it was mine? I had to move all of our posters to this wall on the right. I also refined our homeschooling schedule. Monday is Math and Art Class, Tuesday is Literature and Language Arts,
Wednesday is Science, Thursday is Sign Language and our Homeschool Coop meeting and Friday will be for History, Geography and Civics. We can change it around as we need to depending on what is going on for the week.
Tae decided to do some tracing and coloring today in one of his workbooks.
My neighbor Jen called this morning to let me know that she had a friend who was an art major. She was going to be teaching an art class at Jen's house only 6 doors down from me. The class started this afternoon. Sure-we're free and can do that. Anything to get out of the house on a Monday afternoon. Mrs. Perrin spoke to the kids about what art was and made some posters to help them out. There were 20 kids from age 4-12 so it was a nice diverse class. The little ones were so happy to have their very own sketch pads.
Mrs. Perrin talks to Ben about the Memory game. The game had homemade cards and the kids talked about shapes and colors.
Tae following directions in his sketch pad. Mrs. Perrin told them to draw a circle in their favorite color. Then on the same paper draw a square...draw lines in the square, draw a pink triangle. It was amazing to see how different each of their drawings were. Some of the kids had houses, some had faces and some were just abstract. Next week is painting and Tae is so excited as it's his very favorite thing to do.
Morgan, Tyler and Patrick sort through some cards trying to decide about textiles, shapes, photography, sculptures and ceramics. There were some really beautiful pictures from all over the world.
Morgan hiding behind her homework paper. For this week the kids have to take their sketch books and search the house for art and draw a picture of it. Morgan really has an eye for it. She noticed the shape of the stones in my fountain and a piece of pottery. She also liked the pencils on my desk. I'm excited to see what happens next week.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wrapped in Caring

I had a lovely surprise today when I went to church. The Shawl Ministry presented me with this beautiful prayer shawl that was hand knitted (or maybe crocheted-I don't know how to do either so I can't tell). It's a gorgeous blue with purple streaks and reminds me of the ocean. The card that was attached said;
May divine grace be upon this shawl...
warming, comforting, enfolding
and embracing.
May this mantle be a safe haven...
a sacred place of security and well-being
sustaining and embracing...
in good times,
as well as difficult one.
May the one who receives this shawl
be cradled in hope, kept in joy,
graced with peace,
and wrapped in love.
-Jane Bristow
What a wonderful sentiment as I continue to heal from my Lyme disease. I am feeling very well and grateful to have such kind and caring people at my church to call on.
It's been a busy few days. We were able to get both book shelves put up. Here's out cat Dixie checking out a prime napping spot. Actually she's glaring at the dogs.
One of the reasons for putting in new shelving downstairs was so that we could save money. I know, sounds funny spending money on shelves to save money? But because everything was so unorganized, I really needed to clean house and take inventory on what we had. Seems we were spending money on things we already had and not stocking up on things we needed.
Today, I was all over the internet. I am determined to get my grocery bill cut in half. There was a really good blog out there called $1500 a year. I say was- because the woman shut it down. I'm not sure why but she had some really good tips and links on her blog. Her goal was to spend no more than $1500 on groceries, haircuts and beauty products. Next to impossible in this family.
I spent my time today on Bargain Becky's blog (see my blog list). My biggest issue is coupons and I can never find what I need. I did manage to find some really good internet sites for printing out coupons and learned some really money saving tips ( so we can do all those really fun homeschooling things or maybe even take a vacation or perhaps pay down some debt). The trick is to get a really good cache of coupons and then use them as the sales arise. I started collecting coupons today.
My new mantra is that I will no longer buy any grocery item unless it's on sale or unless I have a coupon. I also am stockpiling items on a regular basis. I may not need that item this week but as long as the food doesn't expire and will keep on the shelf, then I stock up. I have to rethink my spending in terms of overall cost and savings instead of "do I need it at this moment?" My pantry is getting pretty well stocked to help with that. Now that all of my cupboards are cleaned out I can see exactly what I have and what I need.
I'm also working on an inventory list. Kind of a checkoff list so each time an item is removed from the pantry, we cross one thing off and can tell how many we have left. At the end of the week I can go thru the list and determine what I need to replenish that week and what can wait another week depending on sales. Tae seems to love job and is really learning his numbers with the counting he has to do. He's even recognizing some of the words on the list. Homeschool math and reading.
Stop and Shop is notoriously expensive but I'm determined to whip this store. It's convenient and I don't have time to spend running all over creation finding bargains and using up gas in my car. I think I did pretty well for my first time really using a lot of coupons, store specials and price comparisons. Today's grocery bill came to $235.64.
It seems like a lot but don't forget, I really stockpiled this week so it was higher than normal. With coupons I saved $39.01 and in store sales and specials I saved another $40.19 for a savings of $79.20. I'm pretty happy with that for today.
S & S had their 10 items/$10 sale going on. My biggest savings today was on Progresso soup. Each can is normally $1.68 so right there I saved $0.68 per can (it was on sale for $1.00 can). I also printed out online 2 coupons for the soup and had one coupon from the Sunday paper. In all, it was $5.00 in Progresso soup coupons. $11.80 in savings (the soup had I paid full price would have been $16.80) subtract the $11.80 and that leaves $5.00 for 10 cans of soup or just $0.50 a can!
The other big bargain today was Celestial Herb Tea. The Tea normally sells for $2.69 a box. I had a coupon for $1.00 off 3 boxes. The store doubled it- so $2.00 off. And the in store special was 3 boxes for $5.00. So I got the tea for $3.00 or $1.00 a box.
The other great stock up items all 10/$10 were pasta, beans, olives and sauce. We use all of these things a lot so it's good to have them on hand.
The OJ was also a great deal. It normally sells for $3.49. I had a coupon for $1.00 off that was doubled so I ended up paying $1.49 each for OJ-I bought 2 of them.
Snuggle dryer sheets were on sale for $3.99. I had a coupon for $1.00 off which was doubled so I ended up paying only $1.99 for dryer sheets. Huge savings!
And because I hit such great savings, with my receipt I got a coupon for $1.50 off more sauce and $3.00 off my next purchase at the store.
I also saved $0.40 because I bring my own canvass bags and don't use the plastic. For each canvass bag they deduct $0.05 from your bill. I need more of these anyway so will go to the store and buy some tomorrow. With all the canned items it makes it easier to carry than the cheap plastic bags.
Our other big saver is that we no longer buy eggs as the chickens are keeping us supplied and I don't buy bread anymore or rarely. I make all of our bread. It's healthier and more economical.
Sandwich meat is another very expensive item. I can't believe the prices. Ham for $8.99 a pound-I don't think so. I found bologna and ham for the kids both for $2.99 a pound. And we bought our own meat slicer just for that purpose. So next week I'll need to cook up a ham and maybe a roast and the rest will be sliced for sandwiches.
This week at Target, their 28 pound container of Fresh Step cat litter is on sale for $12.00 a container. If you buy 2 containers ($2 savings per box) you also get a $5.00 Target gift card for a total savings of $7.
And while all of this seems like a lot of work (and it is) I'm very proud that we are now getting hold of our spending, knowing where our money truly goes and that we are sustaining ourselves by making bread, raising chickens, making our own laundry detergent ($0.04 a load vs. $1.82 a load) and involving our family in all of this. We also have not used our credit card in over 6 months! Tough economic times have forced us to look closer at what we spend and what we buy for our family. In all honesty, it is something we should have been doing all along.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Buried in Organizing

Where have I been for three days? I'm nesting for some reason. No I'm not pregnant (as my husband sighs with relief). More on that later.
I'm really fortunate to have very independent kids. I've been cooking with them since they were little. On Friday, Morgan asked to cook some scrambled eggs for breakfast. Sure thing! She knows how to use the stove at the age of 9 and cooked everything by herself. The peanut butter was for the bagel.....not the eggs.
On Friday afternoon my friend Sue came for a visit. She brought wine and pastries. Delightful. She brought these Sponge Bob cupcakes for the kids who were stained blue after eating them. I may have to submit these to Cake Wrecks. Shouldn't that pink Teletubbie poo next to Bob be a pineapple?
I made 4 loaves of bread-2 whole wheat and 2 artisan breads. Then we made some hot chocolate with marshmallows.
I made a yummy shrimp and pasta dish. It had fresh spinach, roasted red peppers, capers and fresh lemon juice.
No, the picture isn't upside down. Morgan reads very well upside down. Tae is just 5 and copies whatever his big sister is doing.
Ok, so to the organizing. One of the big stressors in this house is the fact that we don't have enough storage space. Actually we have really big closets and plenty of storage space but no shelving. So our income tax came and we spent some money on shelving. These are my gardening books and some curriculum that we no longer use but will again as my two youngest progress thru homeschool. These shelves were here when we moved in.

My husband went out today and bought me two black bookcases for my office/classroom. We so needed book shelf space. Morgan and Tae took the boxes and made some cool cars out of them.

Tae of course had to get out his screwdriver and help Dad assemble the bookcases.
Larry bought me two cases. One for all of the kids books and one just for me. I have tons of books that I use regularly and really needed my own space. Now each child has their own shelf and it's completely organized. Aren't their chairs that I stenciled with their names cute? I'm so pleased to have a space for our globe and microscope. The top shelf is all reference books and the third shelf is manipulatives. So exciting to be so organized.

I'm also looking at curriculum for the coming year. Morgan is almost all set as she can use most of Patrick's books from 5th grade. Big money savings there. She just needs science and history.

Larry also bought two plastic storage shelves from Home Depot. We've been storing everything in the laundry room which just drives me crazy. The boys had a huge closet/storage space in the back of their bedroom. We closed this space off last year when we redid their room. The shelves can hold over 150 pounds so I was thrilled. I spent all weekend cleaning out my cabinets in the kitchen and moving glassware downstairs.

The far shelf is for party/glassware that I seldom use. I took it all out of my cabinets and moved it downstairs. It freed up much needed space for pantry supplies. The shelf closest to us is now used for other supplies like Lysol wipes, toilet paper, saran wrap, paper towels, sponges, plastic ware for our annual reunion and napkins.

I've been looking at curriculum for the kids. Since our income tax came in we really need to order it now. Yearly I spend about $400-$500 in curriculum. This year I've had a huge savings by finding most of their books used on Amazon. It will probably reduce my spending down to about $250-$300 depending on what I can find. Tae will be starting Kindergarten in September -at home of course and I am going slowly with him I only ordered two books for him. Reading to kids is most important at this age and since he knows most of his alphabet and his numbers, I think he'll do just fine. I'll post more about curriculum at a later date when I make my final decisions and order.

I'm also going to post some money saving tips that Larry and I have been working thru. I'm really proud of all that we've have done. We have not used a credit card in over 6 months! But more tomorrow on that.