Sunday, April 26, 2015

4 Ways to Save Money While Eating on the Road

Yes, we are finally back from our unexpected "vacation" with dad and are settling back in.  On Wednesday I will share a few fun photos for those of you that are remotely interested. ;)  I finally made it to the grocery store tonight so this family can eat more than just things I scavenged out of the freezer.  Time to get back to real life folks!

But what fun memories we have tucked away.  And yes, we ate our way through more than several states.  Out of the three weeks gone, 7 of those days were actually spent on the road.  For very long periods of time.  Add that up, and that is 21 meals on the road or potentially in a hotel.

Now don't get me wrong, our family enjoys eating out occasionally but it can get old, well, except for the 7 year old who has a thing for restaurants and would eat out every meal if you let him.  But between the expense factor and the fact that one of us has eaten foreign food for 4 months, let's just say that 21 meals out was not going to cut it.

No worries, this momma had a plan!  Not just for our sanity, but to save money!

Yes, you can save money eating on the road.

Here's how-

Pack a cooler!
We actually use two.  One holds all of our things that really do need to stay cool!
Our standard items-
Mayo and mustard
Lunch meat
Baby carrots
Individual containers of diced peaches, pears, and applesauce
And a few Mountain Dews to keep dad awake!  Despite the HUGE time change and jet lag, my hero drove every minute of the trip except the day we picked him up from the airport.

The other cooler bag fits perfectly between the two second row seats and holds snacks and such.  Many of the snacks for this trip were given to us by a sweet friend (thanks Andrea!!!) and the "such" includes napkins, plastic utensils, and the plastic cups which we use to hold said snacks.

This is our standard lunch on the road, just like it would be at home on any given day.  Much cheaper than a $6.00 meal x 6 people= $36.00 for a bad-for-you lunch!  Plus, I figure that the fewer public restuarants we are in, the less likely we are to pick up random germs!

Take advantage of hotel breakfasts and possibly mid week meals.
Here's the deal.  If you are going to pay for a place to stay (have you seen the cost of rooms these days) you might as well make sure they have a free continental breakfast.  Yes, some hotels' ideas of breakfast are better than others, but most have at least yogurt, juice, fruit, cereal, oatmeal, and bread of some sort.  Most these days even offer waffles or pancakes, and, much to Colby's delight, some even have doughnuts.  We make sure we eat well and often grab a piece of fruit for the road to have for an afternoon snack.

A newer trend at many hotels these days is some sort of buffet for dinner during the week.  I remember when that used to be light snacks, but these days the offerings are quite substantial and by adding a piece of fruit, you could easily have a decent meal.

Share meals at restaurants
Usually by dinner we are ready to be out of the car, are tired of picnic lunches, and want to actually sit down for a meal, so we do usually eat at restaurants in the evenings. One way to save on meals is to share!  Our girls are famous for this when they can find a place with fajitas.  Most restaurants do not mind sharing and often their portions are too big for one person anyway.  Even an order of fries at Five Guys can be split between three in our family! (Anyone else love that restaurant?)

Another way to save costs is to eat lunch, a cheaper meal, in a restaurant, and have your picnic from home for dinner in your hotel room.  Many rooms have microwaves you can use to heat up food you bring and we have even been known to heat water in a coffee maker and make mac and cheese. (yes, when you are on the road as much as we are, you learn to be resourceful)

Pack a crock pot!
Yes I did!  My husband rolled his eyes at me but I am pretty sure he appreciated the home cooked meals. We actually do this quite often, especially if you are going to be in one place for more than a night and if you are out all day sight seeing.  Just pop a roast, chicken, or pork loin in before you head out and when you come back to the room exhausted after a day of fun, your meal will be waiting for you.  I often wonder what the maid service people think, but so far no one has ever said anything to us.  We shared a meal with friends once and they brought their electric griddle along.  It was great and a much easier way to visit old friends than in a restaurant.

No, we are not cheap.  Well, maybe a little, but the reality is that I not only want to eat fairly healthy on the road, but to save money. After all, the money we save on something as trivial as food can then be spent on much better things - like family fun! ;)

Are there more money saving ideas?  I am sure there are and we would love for you to share how you too save money while eating on the road!


Friday, April 24, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean! Week 17 - The Master Bath

Pretty soon your Master Retreat (it sounds better when you can it a retreat) will be the most amazing place in your house.  Pretty soon!  But first, we must tackle those Master Baths.  I know, I know, stick with me here.  I promise I will try to make it as painless as possible.

No sense in delaying, let's just roll up our sleeves and get started!

  • Pull everything out!  You knew I was going to say that, right?  Note to self, it is probably better to put it somewhere other than in the middle of the bathroom floor.  That does make your job a little more challenging.  Just saying.

  • Once everything is out, wipe out all of the drawers and shelves.
  • Now we are going to sort AS we return things to their space.  First of all, notice I said "sort!"  If it is old and tired, throw it out.  If is is not being used, get rid of it.  If you do not love it, out it goes.  See a pattern here?  We do not NEED most of what we have, so why do we insist on keeping it all?  
          Case in point- this is my makeup drawer.  Really it is.  And before you think, "well, she just doesn't do makeup," trust me, I do!  Wouldn't be seen without it.  But I can only use one thing at a time.  So I have one. thing. at. a. time.  Occasionally I do get free samples and such that I plan on using, so they are housed in a tiny makeup bag in the cabinet.  Other than that though, the rule is to use something up before buying more.

Second of all, notice I said, return to their space.  Think this out and have a plan!  Everything should be assigned a dedicated space.   It it like a puzzle sometimes, I understand, but make it work for you. I had no system at first and things tended to just get thrown in.  Hence the mess!

    Does this REALLY belong on the bathroom?
    How many towels do we really need?
    How many sheets do we really need?
    Why do I have 10 half used bottles of lotion?
    Why do I have 10 half used bottles of anything?
    For me, just putting the sheets and towels in the same cabinet made my life easier.
  • Have a place for anything you stock up on!  For me it is just a small plastic bin.  Extra shampoo, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and such go there.  If that bin is full, we do not need more.  No matter how great a sale is.  Let's be smart shoppers, not hoarders!  There is a difference, folks!
  • If you keep medicine in your bathroom, now is the time to go through it.  For safety's sake, dispose of (properly) anything old and expired.  Keep only what you really think you need and use.
  • Now you are ready to deep clean your bathroom and move on!
           Don't forget-
           Toilets, tubs, and shower
           Throw rugs
           Wash your shower curtain and replace the liner if needed
           Light switches and light fixtures
           Walls! (hairspray, anyone?)
           Pictures and do-dads! (can I just say the bathroom is probably not the cleanest place for do-dads!  If they are really things that you love and bring you joy, put them in a place where you can better enjoy them.)
           Baseboards and doors
           Even the tops of cabinets!  Thankfully my oldest braved that one for me.  I have a fear of falling from any height these days!

And that trash pile?  Out it goes!

Trash Pile

You did it!  Yay for you!

As a reward I am going to give you a sneak peek at one of my favorite things so far in our prize basket.  I recently found this book called Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp.  Don't worry, your copy will be new and minus all of my notes, starring, and dog eared pages! ;)

This book is so good you may just want to go ahead and buy a copy now and if you win, you can make a new best friend by gifting a copy to someone else.  This book is full of the whys and how tos of getting rid of clutter teamed with A LOT of humor.  Guys, we might as well laugh. Or else we may cry, right?!  I think this Kathi gal and I could be best buddies and I have already put all of her other books on my wish list- after I find a few more to get rid of in my current stack, don't worry.

Remember how we talked about this 34 Weeks of Clean Series was not just about cleaning, but taking back our homes?  Hopefully Kathi won't mind me quoting her as I sign off today-

"While the rest of the world is telling you all of their organizing tricks, here is the best one of all: own less stuff....And when your home is more open, you are more willing to open your homes to others!" Page 33

Yes and Amen!

Last week you had a perfect opportunity to clear out some extras in your Master Closets!  How did you do? Please share with us!  Remember, every link here or picture posted on our Facebook page earns you an entry in our 34 Weeks of Clean Gift Basket drawing!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When God Says Wait

It's that time of year again.  Have you seen the moving announcements out there?  Many of our military friends are preparing to pack up and head to a new location.

And us?

Ummm...who would know.

We were supposed to be notified in March.  Didn't happen.

That's OK, I told myself.  At least we will all be together when we find out.

Then the April assignments came out.  Didn't happen again.  Seeing a pattern here?

And now?  Well, we will see.  For now we are being told August or September.

And so we wait.  Sometimes I think that is the story of our lives.

What can you do but wait when God says wait?

Because it is God who is saying wait.  Not yes or no, but WAIT.

 Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

And my response?

Because many of you know me personally, I am going to be honest and say my response was not "Oh, good, God, I am so excited about this waiting thing."  Nope.  Waiting is not somthing I do well. I am a planner.  My calendar and my lists are some of my favorite things.  Really.  I can handle lots of things as long as I KNOW what they are and when they are coming.  Seems reasonable to me.

But have you noticed that God does not work that way? He often gives us the information we need only when we need it.  He obviously doesn't think I need that information now.

So all that to say, yes, we are moving at the end of the year.  No, we do not know where to.  We are waiting for God.  And trusting that His plans are amazing.

What are you waiting on?


Monday, April 20, 2015

Lessons From a TLF


That's military speak from Temporary Lodging Facility.  And our home away from home for the past week.  It's one of the perks of this crazy lifestyle of ours and one we have used frequently.

For those of you who are not familiar with them, TLF is a hotel suite minus the fancy amenities.  Not every one is created equal, but this one does have a few separate rooms and a small kitchen, enabling us to spread out a little and not eat in restaurants for a week straight.  It's the little things, folks, trust me!

The Lessons Learned
Little spaces gather clutter faster.
   How DID we get this all in the car in the first place?

Suitcases expand the minute you leave your house and you can never repack them the way you originally had them.
   Shopping while on vacation may not be the smartest idea I ever had.  Just saying.

At home we underestimate our dependency on our laundry room.
   When I get home I am going to tell my washer and dryer how much I appreciate them, just in case.

People on base are friendly.
  • At the food court a gentleman engaged my 13 year old in a conversation about his life plans like he was his own flesh and blood.  And it did not freak the said 13 year old out at all!
  • After leaving the food court I asked the kids if they needed to go potty before starting our 15 minute walk back to TLF. (They love when I do that in public, by the way!)  Immediately the woman in front of us turned and asked if we would like a ride back instead, saying she had plenty of room in her SUV.  We needed the exercise after several rainy days inside, but let me say that if we had not, I would not have hesitated to take her up on the offer.
Base Housekeepers are hard workers.  And still smile and call you sweetie!
   They also come way too early in the morning, but I am learning to forgive them.

Ants can take over any kitchen,  Even one on the second floor.  Exterminators are hard workers too!
   What is with those little ants and why do they haunt me every time I step foot in the South?

Reveille comes earlier than you think.

   No, my sweet 7 year old, that is not your cue to wake us all up!

Retreat still makes your heart swell with pride.
   And yes, it is amazing to see cars come to a stop and people, young and old, saluting a flag as it is taken down at the end of each day.

Taps still can make our hearts swell with pride.
   Yes, my son, that does mean it is time for YOU to go to bed!

We are blessed with friends we have made through the years!
  Like the family that we have only met only one other time but whose husband was once deployed with mine in a land far away who invited us for dinner and yet we laughed like lifelong friends! And we now want to be stationed with them! ;)

Displaced families bond quickly.
   When you are displaced and living out of a suitcase you just tend to have a certain look about you.  

Our family loves a challenge and an adventure.
   And we are more than thankful for this unexpected one!

It's time to head home.


Friday, April 17, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean! Week16- The Master Closet

You knew it was coming, right?  We cannot simply do our bedrooms and skip our closets, though trust me, the idea did cross my mind.   Let's face it, most of our closets are pretty dungeon like.  At least mine is.  I have had ONE closet in my lifetime that I loved.  In our last rental house, the closet was the size of a small bedroom.  Seriously!  It had a wonderful window in it that lit the place up and I even had my treadmill in it with plenty of space to walk around in.  I loved it.  That is no longer my reality sadly.  This is-

Yep.  Small and piled high with junk.  Since I am not currently sharing it with hubby (although his stuff is still in there), I have allowed it to get completely out of hand.  Shhhh, don't tell him.  It is an easy place to just toss things in and not look back.  It is one of the few places guests don't see so I let it slide.  Often.

So this week- Master Closets are on our attack list!  
Here we go!

  • You know the drill - take everything OUT!  Trust me when I say this, it WILL make things easier in the end!
  • Once everything is out, wipe down the shelves and rods and vacuum the floor.  Now is your chance before things go back in!
  • And now, for the hard part!  Put it back.  Notice that I did NOT say put it ALL back in.  Because that is not what we are going to do.  Shake your head up and down to indicate you understand, please!
If you will remember back with me a few weeks, one of our goals was to declutter.  This means we are NOT keeping extra stuff we do not need or wear.  
    - Throw away things that are stained or torn.
     -Donate things that do not fit you or that you do not love!

Helpful hints
When you wear something, wash it and then put it on a hanger facing backwards.  When a month is over, the things that are are still on front facing hangers are the things you have avoided for a month.  hmmmm- do you need them?  

Or try this- I hang all my shirts together in a row and then each day choose the one on the far left to wear.  From there I pair it with whatever else I need and off I go.  If I find myself skipping the same shirt over and over again I take that as a clue that it is not something I like or need and should pass on to someone else.

This also helps me avoid wearing the same few things over and over again that I love.  Because, yes, I would do that.

Really evaluate what you have and what you NEED.  There are plenty of good sites out there that can help you decide what looks good on you (and what does not) and how to mix and match with fewer things.  I have found that when I keep my clothes to a few colors, it all goes together AND it keeps me from buying more.  My oldest does something similar and has just started a capsule wardrobe which she has promised to blog about for me soon!  One thing I have learned from all the traveling we do is that you can create many different outfits with few pieces if you plan well.  Let's commit to stop buying random stuff just because it is cute or on sale!  If you don't need it, don't buy it!

If you have a high shelf in your closet, invest in a few dividers that will help you stack things without the risk of an avalanche every time you open the closet door.  

Hang your dress clothes separately.  It makes Sunday mornings and special occasions easier to get ready for when those clothes are separate.

Make piles like TRASH, GOODWILL, or SWEET DESERVING FRIEND who will fit better into it! ;)

Trash pile!
You can do this!  I know it is hard to let go of things, but let's not make things an idol.  Clothes especially.  They simply cover our bodies and do not make us who we are.
  • This is also the time to go through scarves, shoes and jewelry if this is where those things are housed.  
              -My kiddos gave my two scarf hangers for Christmas that I love.  (yes, I have a thing for scarves, especially in the South Dakota cold months!)  It is a great way to organize them, plus once you run out of space you need to be done! (note to self)
               -I also love having my jewelry on the back of the closet door so it is easy to match to an outfit on the way out the door.  I recently pared down my jewelry to only the pieces I love.  Hard, but necessary.
               -Shoes!  Let's talk shoes for a minute.  How many pairs do you own?  Actually, how many pairs can you wear at once?  That is a better question.  I love shoes as much as the next person, maybe not as much as my mom, but I realized that shoes were one of the areas that was going to get the best of me if I was not very careful.  So I donated a lot of pairs last year!  I realized I only wore the same pair of boots all winter anyway, and because of a hip and leg problem (steps are a very dangerous thing!) I wear the same two pairs of summer shoes all summer long.  All the others, except for two pairs of church shoes and two very dressy pairs, were extra.  As in not needed!  Those shoe boxes can be found at a dollar store and house shoes neatly.
              -Bags and pocketbooks.  Now we are getting personal.  If you know me well, you know I have a thing for both.  Don't know why, but I cannot seem to pass up either.  I love changing purses with the seasons and I can find any excuse to have a new bag.  In my defense, I use them.  But, again, not all are necessary (did I really say that?), and I did get rid of a few.  Ok, 3, but it is a start, I promise!

YOU DID IT!  Stand back and look at what your hard work accomplished!  And don't panic- you have a week to finish this project!

So how did you do last week in your Master Bedroom?  Can't wait to see your progress!!  Don't forget, for every link you leave or every picture you leave on our Facebook page, you will earn an entry in our 34 Weeks of Clean Prize Basket!  Maybe I will give you a sneak peek of some of its contents soon.  I think you will love it! ;)

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