Meal Planning for May 8th

Meal planning is a task that I love to avoid. Grocery shopping and hitting the stores typically results in a headache, as a I drag 3 kids around to multiple places. Thursdays are busy around here!

Payday falls on a Thursday for us. So, every other week, we hit up the grocery store, list in hand.

Meal planning is a necessary evil for our family. Yet, we do love finding new recipes that are exciting and delicious. Instead of putting a meal for each day of the week, I create a list of 14 meals for the two week period.

We tried to put a meal for each day. It didn’t work. We felt trapped. Sometimes, we don’t feel like spaghetti that day. My personality doesn’t allow me to feel comfortable altering the plan that is set. So, we go with a laidback plan.

So, let’s take a look at the 14 meals we have planned! I loosely follow the Trim Healthy Mama plan. I fell off the bandwagon, and I’m slowly climbing back on. Some of these meals I labeled THM meaning that they came from the cookbook. If you don’t use Trim Healthy Mama, you could still make these meals or adapt them to your own eating style! Another point is that our budget for our family of 5 is $300 for two weeks.

  1. Chicken and Dumplings
  2. Chicken fajitas with rice and broccoli (uses leftover chicken from meal #1)
  3. Potato Soup (uses broth made from meal #1)
  4. Grilled cheese and tomato soup (canned for kids, THM for adults)
  5. THM Balsamic Chicken with Brussel sprouts and salad
  6. Instant Pot Hamburger Helper
  7. THM Cowboy Grub (a meat and bean mixture below with cornbread on top)
  8. Sloppy Joes with fries and corn
  9. THM Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
  10. BBQ Chicken on the grill with a tinfoil pack of veggies
  11. Turkey burgers with broccoli and cauliflower & fries
  12. Instant Pot Whole Chicken with Parmesan Potatoes
  13. THM Meatloaf, mashed cauliflower and salad
  14. THM Creamy Herb Chicken, green beans with mushrooms and salad

Many of these are our normal meals or ideas. Tinfoil packs on the grill are a family favorite. We toss in whatever veggies we want to cook with some olive oil and seasoning. It is delicious and easy!

The Instant Pot is one of my favorite tools. If you don’t own one, run to the store and purchase it right now. It might have revolutionized my life.

Do you have any favorite meals? Meal planning for the next two weeks will come before we know it, and we love new ideas! Leave them in the comments!

Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

Psalm 127: 3-5 – “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”

It has been nearly two months since my last post, an upsetting fact because I have so many plans for this blog. Unfortunately, a miscarriage rocked our world, shattering the goals and dreams for our family. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me back up.

Preg

Our youngest was only 11 months old when we discovered another child was on the way. It is painful to write this in past tense, but it is a reality I must face. On February 9th, I went grocery shopping alone, an enjoyable experience as a mother of three kids, and picked up a few pregnancy tests. I was late, but since my postpartum cycles had just returned, I didn’t expect it to be positive.

I was totally wrong. Walmart tests seem to take forever, but once I stood up, I saw a light line that only darkened. I quickly texted my best friend a picture who freaked out along with me. Another child?! The babies would only be around 20 months apart; that seemed insane.

Unable to wait any longer, I told Andrew, as he ate take out hibachi. The fork stopped before he could finish his bite. We hadn’t planned another child, especially so soon. Yet, it was our reality to face.

What would any sane mother do? I took around 10 pregnancy tests, one each day, to ensure it was real and that the baby was growing. It isn’t a foolproof method, but the line darkens as the HCG rises.

preg2

Time went on. We told our parents, who were as delighted and shocked as us. We told our close friends, but didn’t announce to the world. We had plans for that.

As the fourth baby, my body reacted immediately. Cramps, back pains and food aversion rocked my world. I was more tired than ever before, not a good thing with three kids always at home. Yet, my body started to grow within a few short weeks. The human body is amazing! My body seemed to say, hey we remember this! Let’s get this show on the road.

Preg3Preg4It was a lovely thing, to see my body responding as it should.

However, something felt off. I couldn’t shake the feeling that was something wrong. So, I booked an appointment for an ultrasound. I don’t typically rush to my OBGYN, opting to wait for the 10-11 week mark to have my first appointment.

It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, the day we wanted to announce the 4th leaf to our clover. Caelyn and I zoomed up to Pittsburgh, eager to see the baby and get a picture for our announcement. At that appointment, the world crashed around me as I learned the baby had passed away.

How could that be? How could my baby be gone when I’m still nauseous? The smell of coffee turned my stomach and nothing tasted right. My womb was growing but the baby had stopped. They encouraged me to call my OBGYN, who got me in the very next day.

He confirmed the findings. The next week and a half was a never-ending cycle of bloodwork and ultrasounds. Waiting is horrible, especially for someone who lacks patience, but waiting to lose your baby is a burden I wish none to face.

On one hand, the final end means nothing is left. The baby is gone, and the womb is empty. On the other hand, carrying a child that is no longer alive is another type of torture. My symptoms continued as my HCG very slowly declined.

Finally, almost two weeks later, my physical miscarriage began. Apparently, it is a missed miscarriage when it takes so long to take place. Nevermind the name, it is horrid. On a Wednesday afternoon, the bleeding began, followed by five hours of heavy bleeding and cramps that resembled contractions. It slowed down by that night, allowing me to get some much needed sleep.

Many people asked me why I opted not to have a D&C. Wouldn’t it be easier just to end the process? For some, yes that would be true. I know myself, and I knew I needed the physical side of it to truly grieve, unless I medically needed a D&C. Despite the mental and physical trial I faced, I am glad my body did what was needed.

That Friday, I headed in for more bloodwork and an ultrasound that confirmed the miscarriage was nearly complete. My doctor prescribed me Cytotec to help finish the process. That evening, I watched Moana with my kids, eating pizza and laughing at the songs. Oh, how my heart needed that joy in the midst of sorrow.

Over the next few weeks, the bleeding slowed, and life slowly picked up its normal pace. Yet, our lives will never be the same. At the time of my miscarriage, I was over 11 weeks pregnant. I yearn for the child I should feel kicking at this moment. We should’ve known the gender at this point, as I would be over 16 weeks. While the tears have subsided, multiple times a day I think of what should be.

Now, a month after the miscarriage, I knew I had to write. Maybe you skimmed this or read it straight through. If I am totally honest, the sharing is more for myself than anything else, a type of closure. Part of the reason I chose to name this blog is because our family was growing to grow and expand. Now, it takes on a new meaning as the pain portion is very more clear.

FlowersTonight, as Andrew and I read through James 1, a particular verse caught my eye:

17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Our child, yet only here for a short period, was a true gift for our family. We don’t know the future of our family, but we do know that God is faithful and loving. Our trust is in Him fully during this period of time. I have cried more tears than I knew was possible, yet spring brings hope for the beautiful future ahead.

It felt wrong to start writing again, with no mention of our life in last two months. Now, we can move forward, because I have plenty of goodies in store.

How to Plan Out Your Vegetable Garden

In most areas of the country, we are still embracing the wild weather of winter transitioning into spring. As I type this, it is snowing outside. Thankfully, the time to plant seedlings is coming closer, fast!

I look forward to this time of year. There is something so refreshing and rejuvenating about working in the dirt, even if it is inside. It reminds me that winter doesn’t last forever, Thank God! Spring is a time of new life and birth from our gardens. It is time to prepare!

One of the top questions I asked is how I plan my garden. How do I know what to grow? And, most importantly, how do I know when to plant everything? I’m going to take you step by step through my process. Just promise not to laugh at my drawing skills, okay?

gardenplan2

My first step is to think about what our family consumes on a regular basis. What veggies do I purchase every week at the store? Do I purchase certain frozen veggies and canned goods? Then, I think about what I need to grow to replace those items.

For our family, we grow quite a huge variety. While I have listed just tomatoes, I grow, on average, five to seven different types of tomatoes. I grow over seven varieties of peppers.

Once I have my list ready, I draw out my garden, such as the one pictured above. It is a rough sketch and it doesn’t indicate the actual amount of plants that I will grow of each. However, it gives me a way to organize it all in my mind.

Next, I order my seeds. Who doesn’t love to buy seeds? I purchase all of my seeds from Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds. They are fantastic and worth every dollar! When my seeds arrive, it is like Christmas!

seedorder

We have the seeds and the general idea of where to plant everything. Next comes the big when to start planting.

The USDA split up the USA into Hardiness Zones. You can discover yours, which indicates your first and last frost date each year. Remember, it is an average. there is no 100% foolproof way to know when the last frost will take place.

Here are my steps to determine my gardening plan.

  1. Many plants need to be started indoors 8 to 9 weeks before the last frost date. I count backwards from that date and mark that as the general time to start my indoor seedlings.
  2. Four weeks before the last frost, there are certain plants ready to go outside, such as cabbage and broccoli. Mark this date on your calendar. This is also a good time to start your potatoes!
  3. Next, certain plans can be directly sown into the garden beds two weeks prior to your last frost date, such as peas, carrots, radishes and lettuce. At this time, I also start my zucchini seedlings. You don’t want them to become root bound in the containers, so don’t start too soon.
  4. Finally, you have reached the last frost date! At this time, it is safe to set out the rest of your seedlings, like the tomatoes and peppers. Also, you can directly sow plants like corn, cucumbers and beans.

gardenplan

Gardening is, generally, forgiving. If you don’t have the perfect dates, everything will work out fine in the end. To avoid stress, take an hour and plug in the dates on your calendar. It is really just that easy!

For all of my new gardeners,  I hope this was helpful! Coming up in the next week or so, we will talk about how to start seedlings on a budget! Stay tuned!

XOXO,

Bethany

Using Pen and Paper for Budgeting

Chances are you have seen numerous budgeting software that lets you track your spending. While I do love Mint.com, all of the other choices have fallen short for me. Add in the fact that they want me to PAY to track my SPENDING, I think I will stick to pen and paper.

This blog might seem obvious to you, but there are many people in need of serious budgeting help. If you are like me, creating a budget doesn’t come naturally. I am NOT a math person. I would rather watch paint dry than have to solve mathematical equations.

I wanted to give you a low down on how I set our budget, with a varied income. My husband has a fairly consistent income with a base pay. So, creating our budget with his income is quite simple. As a server and a freelance writer, my income varies greatly. I have really good months and low times. These are my simple steps for creating a budget with just pen and paper.

  1. Create a Total Income Assuming the Lowest Amounts: What is the lowest amount of money you typically bring in each month? This is the amount you should use to create your budget. If you use anything else, you will struggle each month.
  2. List Out Your Bills: In one column, write out your bills. In another column, write out your debt payments. If you have the space, it is a great idea to put your total debt owed along with the payments to give yourself motivation. Some people prefer to write out bills in order of “importance,” but I opt to do so based on payment deadlines.
  3. Check the Calendar: The day before payday, I take a look at my calendar. I keep deadlines for each bill in a planner. Look at the bills due during this pay period. It may be 5 or it could be 10. Either way, go down the list and pay each one accordingly.
  4. Subtract Budget for Groceries, Gas and Essentials: It is wise to create a budget for your groceries, gas and other essential items you purchase each payday. If you save for clothing or have a sinking fund, subtract that from your total after you pay bills.
  5. Budget Down to Zero: If you have extras left over, the fun comes! Maybe not the type of fun you were wanting. It is time to decide where these extras need to go. If you follow the Dave Ramsey plan and have your $1,000 emergency fund, the extra should be applied to debt. Only you can decide where to put the extra money, but don’t forget to give it a place! You control the money, not the opposite!

It can’t get more simple than this! There is no reason to spend extra money on budgeting software when you are totally capable of controlling your money.

If you typically overspend in areas such as groceries, it is time to start a cash envelope system. I will discuss this later, but everything that can be bought or paid for in cash should be. This simple method drastically decreases overspending.

I hope this is helpful for someone! While budgeting seems like a simple process to some, many are stumped as to where to start.

XOXO,

Bethany

How to Pay Down Debt Faster with a No Spend Month

 

Are you searching for extra money in your budget to throw towards debt? When your budget is tight, finding even an extra $20 can be a struggle. Or, you may feel lazy towards debt payoff and need to kick it into high gear.

There is no better way to beef up the debt snowball than to have a no spend month.

Wait, a no spend month?! Does that mean our family won’t spend money on anything?

No! That isn’t what a no spend month is at all. The concept is whatever you make it, but most people assign these typical rules to a no spend month.

no-spend-month

With all of the money we save, we will be able to make larger payments toward debts. Our primary goal this month is a remaining credit card that needs to go!

I am excited (and nervous) to start March! We are going to try to encourage the kids and tell them it is a game. I’m hoping the weather brightens up so we can spend extra time at the park and less time other places.

We do have other goals for our no spend month of March

  • Curb Our Spending Habits: After Christmas, it can be hard to stop the insane amount of purchasing. We are ready to be done!
  • Sell Unneeded Items: As I mentioned before, we hope to move this summer. Everyone knows that moving reveals just how many items you collected over the years. This month, I need to get rid of things. No items in and a lot out!
  • Trim Our Budget: I have had the same budget for months now. Sometimes, I feel as if we need a refresh button. I need to look at it with fresh eyes to see what needs change and what needs updated. This month, we will focus on changing and adapting our budget to meet the growing needs of our family.

Does a no spend month sound like a great idea for your family? Do you want to commit to paying off more debt in one month than usual? Join me! Post your updates on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #NoSpendMonthFGP

XOXO

Bethany

Introducing Our Family

DSC_7593.JPGHi y’all! I am so thankful that you stumbled upon my little blog. It is just in the beginning stages, but I have many wonderful plans. I hope you check out and see all the great ideas.

I want to introduce you to my family. My husband, Andrew, and I were married in 2012, after dating throughout high school, which was 10 years ago. That makes me feel old! Our youngest, Caelyn, was born in 2010. Our middle child, Brayden, came along in 2012, a few months prior to our wedding. Our third baby, Connor, is our sweet little rainbow baby. He joined our family in February 2016.

Aside from having three wonderful kids, our lives stay busy on a regular basis. We are a homeschooling family, a passion I love to discuss. Later, throughout the blog, we will talk about our homeschool plans and lessons. I garden throughout the spring and summer, focusing on preserving many of our foods.

Don’t worry; you are going to find out so much about our family before long. I can’t wait to jump into the most important topic of this blog: living on a budget.

Do you struggle to live on a budget? Is it as frustrating for you as it is for us? For us, 2017 is geared towards knocking down debt as we aim towards purchasing a new (to us) home this summer.

I don’t want to spill the beans too much. I have too many good tips to share. Check out soon; March is going to be a fun month!