Monday, October 20, 2014

Why I'm a Not-for-Profit Blogger/Writer

First of all, no I don't make any money off this blog nor do I intend to but I have had a lot of people volunteer ways I could.  It is as though people think since you have a blog, that you must be trying to make money off it.  Well, news flash!  I actually love writing and have since I was a child but back then I wrote in paper journals and no one ever read them (though I'm pretty sure my mom and sisters sneaked a peek at one time or another).  I wrote my first book, a children's book, in 8th grade for a class assignment.  I even illustrated it but it wasn't the illustrations that helped my book win LOL - I'm SO not an artist, you don't want to see my drawings!! I remember my 8th grade English teacher telling me I had a gift, though I didn't really know what to do with it at that time.

Since high school, I continued to write in journals and when the internet became common, I got an online journal.  That became popular and I was featured on AOL's front page one day and the response was intimidating to say the least.  I was writing about my passion back then, which was fitness, and I got a lot of questions and offers, some of which I did do - a magazine article that featured me and then I was a poster girl for a women's body-building nutrition program (NO I DID NOT SHOW MY BODY in a bathing suit - I stayed modest even in that arena in a skirt!).

After the fitness craze hit its peak and I realized I had even put it before God and was obsessed with it, I let go of that passion.  However, writing never left me, it is and probably always will be a love of mine and part of who I am.  It is like an appendage really, I feel like I can communicate my very soul in writing sometimes and articulate my points way better than I can in person.  My next venture was a homekeeping blog, which had a different name in the beginning but a few years later as it started growing, I became Christian Homekeeping.

I had this blog up before with a large readership but I also had a lot of issues happen in my personal life and with bullies on this blog, so I took it down thinking I would never pick it back up again.  However, for the 6 months I closed my blog down, I was depressed without writing. Sure, I could write but I wanted to write and have people READ what I wrote and enjoy it!  So, after a time of recovery from some things and building up a backbone, I brought this blog back up and have just now regained the readership that I once had.  I've been blogging on homekeeping for almost 9 years now and though I feel sometimes that I've shared all I could, I seem to keep coming up with things I want to write about.

I've had offers to have advertisers on this blog but I didn't want to make this a place where you would come and it would be cluttered with ads and things that I didn't truly want to promote.  I could easily make this venture into a money-making business but it would take away from what God has called me to do - be a wife and mother!  Those come first and any extra time I have leftover (other than the 5-10 minutes it takes to write a blog post), I would rather give it to my kids or husband, than try and earn money.  Time is valuable to those that depend on me and they need me, I'm a crucial part of this home to make it run smoothly and to raise up kids that are well-loved and well-instructed.  Money just can't buy that!!

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

You Can't Divorce Jesus from the Rest of the Bible

Very well said!  Not only does this apply to homosexuality but it also applies to hot topics like keeping the home, hair, divorce/remarriage, etc.  You can't divorce Jesus from the rest of the bible because he is part of the Godhead!  He is the Word!


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Discrimination Against Christians is OK in Houston

The lesbian mayor of Houston has now said she isn't subpoenaing sermons of 5 pastors but rather their speeches.  This just shows that she thinks this is some sort of joke.  She thinks she has all power, yet she forgot that there is a higher authority; God.  Not sure what God will allow with this fiasco, but we can pray for this lady and the others involved and for their pastors that are being persecuted.

You see, it is now ok to discriminate against Christians - we are "fair game" as she called pastor's sermons that even dare to touch on homosexuals or gender identity.  We have people running Houston, Texas that would rather let a perverted man go in the women's restroom and endanger the safety of any women or children in there, than to keep them separate according to their real gender.  It is better to discriminate and silence the Christians so that homosexuals can continue on in their gross, immoral sins without a voice of truth reminding them God's Word against it.  They don't want to hear God's Word and they sure don't want the pastors of Houston preaching about it to others.

They may silence the voice eventually (God only knows what He will allow to happen) but they can't change the voice!  God views and always will view homosexuality as an abomination and something worthy of hell.  There will NO homosexuals in heaven, just like there will no murderers, liars, gossipers, etc.

In Houston, Christians don't have free speech.  In Houston, Christians have no anti-discriminatory protection.  In Houston, the devil is beginning his web of trying to eliminate the gospel truth and silence God's men.  I can't imagine what they are teaching in public schools in Houston!!!!!  I'm sure that homeschooling will be the next target and they will be wanting to see your "speeches" to your children and if they dare say anything against homosexuality, the city will force your kids under their education.  Welcome to Nazi, Germany - Hiel Parker.  Where equality is about suppressing Christians.

Here is a man standing up for truth against this tyrannical mayorship:


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Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Things People Won't Talk About

Or in other words - HOT TOPICS!  Just what is a hot topic?  To me, it is something that once spoken about or brought up, brings a firestorm of criticism because it is a sensitive topic to some people.  It is also something that is generally about truth and of God and that rubs the devil the wrong way. 

Some hot topics I've blogged about on here that have ruffled feathers are:

  1. Holiness - especially when you bring up living right
  2. Hair - this is a big one for women
  3. Proper roles of a man and woman 
  4. Birth control
  5. Keeper at Home
  6. Debt - envy and covetousness are neighbors
  7. Training Children in Godly education
  8. Social media - busybody much?
  9. Dress

Most people wouldn't dare talk about these topics because they prefer popularity or a smooth religion of no offense.  People are more concerned about offending someone than saving that person's soul from hell.  There are those that will go to hell unoffended because of your lack of standing for the truth!  There are those that will go to hell because they didn't want to offend.  Truly, the bible is offensive to those that don't follow it!  You might as well get over that and make sure you are a light to the world.

"Well, I don't want to scare all of my Facebook friends away by sharing something truthful."  So really what you are saying is that you value popularity or people liking you MORE than you value their souls.  Pastors are more concerned about being like the flock or popular among the flock, then actually being an example before the flock.  Didn't the Bible say that preachers should be instant in season and out of season?  Obviously, they will be hated if they preach and teach the truth.

Let's get busy talking and sharing the truth - there may not be much time left to share the gospel anymore in this country - as indicators have already showed us that we will (eventually) be silenced in some way.  Most people are already living like we are there already and that God is dead. 

What do you care more about?  Souls or your own reputation, popularity and "friends"?  A true friend will tell you the truth!  A true friend will tell you that the bridge is out ahead and scream for you to stop!  Will you be that true friend?  Or will you rather send people to hell by being their enemy and keeping the truth you know and the light you have, hid? 

*Note - there is a time and place to everything, I know people like to misconstrue my posts so I'm putting this in here for your benefit.  You don't go around just telling everyone off - God will lead you in a time and/or place to share God's truth.  However, if you are silent about it all the time, then who are you really trying to please?

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Poll: More Posts About What?

Please let me know by voting in the poll on the sidebar what you like to read more about here on my blog.  Thanks!

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Surrender

There is a place called surrender, where you realize that you can't control things and that you may not even understand WHY things happen or why God allowed it.  Thankfully, I've had some understanding after tragedy, to grasp ahold of God's all-seeing eye and wisdom, to help me surrender.  I could go through a long list of traumas in my life but I will spare you (at least in this post LOL!) and share the most recent one back in March.

I was pregnant in March and so happy that God had given me another child that the last thing on my mind was miscarriage.  I remember cooking up some homemade peanut butter cups and then having an attack of severe pain down there that got so bad and didn't stop.  We ended up going to the ER as the on-call OB thought maybe I was having an ectopic pregnancy.  Thankfully, it wasn't an ectopic but I did have a miscarriage.

I remember crying so hard for days and this was also a time when the founder of our church had died.  I became so depressed and asked God why.  I remember thinking that God hated me, it must have been something I did in the past or maybe I was just a throw away.  A few weeks later I started having really bad pain that sent me to ER and after testing we found out my gallbladder had quit working and I needed it removed.

During the surgery to remove my gallbladder, they found that my appendix was full and about to burst and they removed that too.  It was after that, that I realized that God knew all of this was coming - had I been pregnant and the surgeon not have been able to see my appendix or even do a surgery - I would have died.

God saved my life.  He orchestrated everything to save me.  That, combined with other things in the past, brought me to the place of surrender.  I realized that God can see things we can not see in the future and sometimes we will NEVER understand WHY until we get to heaven.

This pregnancy is still very early and I had severe pain last night in the middle of the night that I felt like I was going to die.  It was in my c-section incision on the inside and was excruciating.  I surrendered and I told God that He knows all and to please save my life.  If it means taking the baby, then so be it, I know that God knows what He is doing.  If this pregnancy doesn't last, I will take that as God's way of telling me I'm unable to have anymore children.  However, I don't feel that is the case - I feel that I will carry this child on to the end and it will be victorious.  I'm at the place of surrender - God is in full control and I know that He knows all and sees all, He has my best interest in mind! 

Don't let sorrow fill you if you are sick or if you are barren and don't understand why.  Realize that God knows more than you and surrender to His will and wisdom.  Farther along we'll know about it, farther along we'll understand why.....as the song goes.  Total surrender is the way to win and bring peace to your life!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Third Baby on the Way!

I'm reposting this because for some reason the email didn't update properly.


Please keep us in prayer!  I'm not even going to fear losing this baby, we had prayed specifically that God would only give us a baby if it was His will and it took a while but it is time!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I've Been Silent for a While

I've started to write many posts the past few weeks but never published them.  I've been angry.  I've asked God to help me with my anger and then I realized that what I was angry about wasn't an unholy anger as it is the same things God is angry about - every. single. day.

The news article on Fox News an hour ago took the cake and I'm bolted out of silence on this topic that I've had in my mind for quite some time.  In Houston, Texas, they have subpoenaed sermons of pastors of various denominations to see what they are saying about or against homosexuals or gender identity (even the lesbian town mayor).  If they don't turn over these sermons, they will be held in contempt court - go to jail!

Yes, we have arrived in what we all knew was coming.  This actually started many, many years ago when public school was invented by a bunch of God-haters to grab hold of the minds of this nation and mold them slowly into what they wanted and what we have today - uneducated, godless, government-following-zombies.  Now, they can fulfill their ultimate goals and let all you-know-what loose on Christians.

What I'm angry about is that MEN throughout all the past generations have sat idly by and let this happen!  Men have sat on the sidelines, haven't defended diddly squat and let future generations be raised up and brought up in a culture that has gotten more ungodly as the years have gone by.  Where are the Davids and the Daniels?  Where are the Spurgeons and the Wesleys?  A man remarked to my dad, who was a pastor and is now a preacher, that there are no young men really on fire for God anymore.  Why would there be, I mean who is raising these boys up to be infiltrated with the things of God day in and day out?  Who is training them up in God?  Rather, it is the public schools that have trained them up in atheism and parents have allowed it.  Women don't have time to raise kids anymore, or for that matter have any at all!

We are the result of the choices we have made - it is staring us in the face!  Past generations of do nothing have bred a new generation that not only does nothing but it is so full of SELF that they have no natural feelings or love for others anymore.  Why don't the adults teach these children that selfies are actually pride because posting pictures of yourself everyday is nothing but pride!  They can't teach that because they are full of it themselves.

Where are the men that will stand up and defend the gospel?  Where are the men running out into the work of God to preach and reach the lost?  Oh, that is right, they are too busy with Facebook and running their business to have time for that.  Meanwhile, America is going to hell and men are getting more and more feminine and soft.  Women are getting lazy to the point they won't even raise children for God anymore.  Children are getting so vain that they think we all owe them a living because they like have like 5,000 friends on social media.  Yep.....I've got to give credit where credit is due - Mr. Charles Frances Potter:

“Education is the most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday Schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

It has all come to past and here we are......a society that doesn't want children or if they have them, they don't want to teach them or raise them and they could care less WHAT they are being taught or WHO is teaching them!  As long as they are being "socialized" right?  My children aren't purple penquins - they know their gender because they can look between their legs and see what God created them to be!

Let's pray for Godly men that will defend the gospel no matter what.  Christians in the past had to go through horrific things for their stand for Christ - we have had our bed of ease for so long, we are terrified of what we may have to go through in the future.  Raise up your children in the right ways and fill them with God's Word and be an example of a Godly mother in your home!  If we can't influence the souls in our own home, how can we influence those outside of it.  Start at home and mold future generations for Christ!!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Our Family Chunk Clock

I listened to a wonderful seminar from The Homeschool Coach, Mary Ann Johnson, on Hecoa's free Not-Back-to-School Summit about the family chunk clock.  It was so amazing, I watched it again and took a LOT of notes and then also listened to the audio and printed out the handouts to make ours.  My daughter Katie has voiced to me before that she feels like she doesn't know what is next each day.  I knew that this would not only benefit me, but especially her!

How it works is, you divide your day up into chunks of things you do.  If there are days where things come up, someone gets sick, etc. (and they will!) this chunk clock helps you see a visual of what is important to finish that day, what you can skip and to help you refocus when you get off track.  You can listen to the audio on her website, just google the homeschool coach and family chunk clock.

We wanted a catchy funny name for our clock instead of the generic -- Family Chunk Clock, so we came up with "Got Chunks?" LOL!




You may be wondering what is up with the weird names on each chunk.  Well, my daughter created each of those names to add some FUN to our chunk clock!  Here are the why's of each chunk:

  • Snore No More - because we are not morning people and we must stop snoozing
  • Moddy Time - She took Mo from Mom and ddy from Buddy (my son’s nickname) to show it was for me and Buddy (Zach) to have time together.
  • Hope Lu - She took Ho from homeschool, pe from P.E. and Lu from lunch!
  • Kazm Time - Ka from Katie, Z from Zach and M from Mom - since this is our time to do individualized things
  • Chep Hour - usually 5-6pm, so an hour and she got Ch from chores and ep from prep (dinner).
  • Foing Up - Fo from food (dinner) and ing from Washing (dishes)
  • Chee - Ch from church and ee from Free(time)
  • Spied - Spi from spiritual and ed from bed

I didn't put every detail in our clock (showers, time with husband, etc.) because I wanted to keep it simple and this is our guide to show us our natural flow and/or routine.

This has already helped Katie KNOW what is next and have a visual of how our day will go.  This also is helping me in the same regards and also to have my priorities highlighted, so I don't lose sight of what is important - God, School and Family!  It will also make a great conversation piece when friends visit!

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Making Freezer Pizza & Spaghetti Sauce in Bulk

I'm back to doing a lot of freezer cooking, though not as I did before my son was born when I made 3 months worth of meals but I'm getting there.  One thing I do like to make in bulk is our pizza and spaghetti sauces.

I make enough pizza sauce to last us for two months.  I divide it so that we have enough for 2 pizzas on Friday, using the leftovers on Saturday for lunch.  We used to only make one pizza and this sauce would have lasted us 4 months but now we are utilizing the extra pizza for leftovers.  On Friday morning, I sit one of these on the counter from the freezer and by the time I make the pizzas it is thawed completely.  I also normally do these in Ziploc bags but when I went to get them, I was out, so I had to use the containers we normally use for spaghetti and jam.



I couldn't find the recipe for the pizza sauce I use on Crystal's website (The Family Homestead), so I'm posting it here.  The one she has up now does not include the soy sauce.  I'm pretty sure this pizza sauce recipe came from her though, I've been using it for 8 years or so now!

Adapted from Crystal's recipe at The Family Homestead

Bulk Pizza Sauce
makes about 14 cups (enough for 14 X-large pizzas)

106 oz. Tomato Sauce
24 oz. Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Italian Seasonings
2 tsp. crushed garlic
4 tsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. salt

Mix together with a whisk and divide into freezer bags or containers.


We used to have spaghetti every Tuesday but now we just have it twice a month but I still need spaghetti sauce for my lasagna casseroles, which take 4 cups of sauce per casserole.  I left 4 cups of sauce in my measuring cup because I'm making my 2 lasagna casseroles today.  Here is the batch I make with a large 106 oz. tomato sauce can:




This recipe makes 16 cups of sauce for 4 lasagna casseroles with enough leftover for 2 spaghetti meals.

Adapted from Crystal's recipe at The Family Homestead

Bulk Spaghetti Sauce
makes about 19 cups

106 oz. Tomato Sauce
24 oz. Tomato Paste
60 oz. Diced Tomatoes
4 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Italian Seasonings

Mix together with a whisk and divide into freezer bags or containers.


As you can see the only difference between pizza and spaghetti sauce is the diced tomatoes, soy sauce and garlic.  You can use garlic in your spaghetti sauce too though, but the soy sauce is normally just used in the pizza sauce.  You use diced tomatoes in spaghetti sauce to make it more liquid but you leave it out in the pizza sauce so it is thicker.  These are easy to make in bulk when you purchase those 106 oz. huge cans of tomato sauce, which is what I do!  Two of those cans lasts us 2 months of lasagna, spaghetti and pizzas.  We only need 12 of those a year and we buy them in bulk for just $56 a year for the organic sauce.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Natural Remedies for Colds and Coughs

We have added more to our alternative medicine cabinet recently, mostly a lot of herbs, and I have been busy finding good recipes for natural remedies.  Since colds have made their appearance in our house this week, I was able to try several new things and am finding they are working!

Here are the recipes I used for each:
Elderberry Syrup
Thyme Cough Syrup
Garlic Syrup
Sage Gargle Rinse



The elderberry syrup recipe called for cloves but I didn't have any so I left that out.  All of us have been taking it a few times a day, even my toddler but I've had to give it to him in a syringe in order for him to swallow it.  It is very sweet!  My husband is taking it in hopes of not catching our sickness and so far, so good.  Elderberries have more vitamin c than oranges and are ant-inflammatory and contain an antioxidant and antiviral properties.

The thyme cough syrup was from Dr. Low Dog, who is an expert on herbal medicine.  It can be used for everyone of all ages.  My daughter used it for her dry cough tickle and it worked and stopped her cough!!  It only lasts a week in the fridge, so it is something I will only make when someone needs it.

I'm the only one brave enough to do the garlic syrup, it is 4 big garlic cloves blended with raw honey.  I normally just swallow crushed garlic cloves with water but this helps get it down easier.  Garlic has so many healing properties, it is the one thing you should always take when sick and even when well for prevention!  It is great when you have an infection and don't want to use antibiotics as it is antibacterial.  I use children's garlic oil in my son's ears now because he always get an ear infection with his colds but this time hopefully I caught it in time as I'm putting them in his ears every morning.  Before, I would always forget and then when he would get the ear infection it was hard to treat - so it is something I try and remember now whenever he gets a cold.

We also have found that sage gargle rinses also work wonders for sore throats!  It is another recipe from Dr. Low Dog.  My daughter's cold started with a very bad sore throat and she did the sage gargle rinse and found immediate relief.  I used it today for my sore throat and also got immediate relief!  Sage kills bacteria in the throat and can reduce inflammation, that along with the salt, soothes a sore throat.  It is pretty nasty though, so good thing we don't have to drink it!

We still use our old faithfuls for colds - echinacea, hot lemon/honey water, vitamin c and eucalyptus and steam.  I'm the only one the family that will use the Neti-pot when I get nasal congestion but my daughter is almost willing to try it next time she gets nasal congestion and my husband does only if I make him LOL!

Related: Cold/Sinus Infection Remedies and Bronchitis Remedies

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Family of 4 $200 a Month Grocery Budget - How We Do It


We have always been pretty frugal before my son was born spending anywhere from $120 - $150 a month for food, but since he came along with his and my health issues and I haven't been doing freezer cooking, our costs have gone up dramatically.  Now that I'm doing better, we are getting back to a lower food budget as I'm able to make more homemade foods.

This month we are going to see if we keep our food budget at $200 for our 4-week period that starts today.  It is possible but takes planning and a stocked pantry, which we do bi-yearly.  If you spend $500 a year on stocking your pantry, that only equals to about $42 a month and it saves you a LOT of money by buying in bulk!  There were a few stockpile items I had to buy this month and I don't count those towards my $200 monthly budget as they are part of our yearly $500 stock-up fund.

*My son is only 22 months old but he eats the same serving size as my 10-year old daughter at dinner!  He also eats a good amount during the day but we are still able to feed all 4 of us on $200.

Here are our meals for the next 4 weeks:

4 weekends = 4 casseroles: 2 Lasagnas and 2 Chicken Divans
4 Fridays = Homemade Pizza
4 x Pancakes with organic pure maple syrup
2 x Hamburgers with Fries
2 x Red Bean Sausage & Rice
3 x Beans & Rice
2 x Mac n' Cheese with Tuna and peas
2 x Spaghetti with Cheese Bread

You can see that the weekends are easily taken care of with 1 casserole per weekend.  I make the 4 casseroles and then freeze them and then put one in the oven on Saturday and that day's dinner and Sunday is already done, so no cooking on Sunday!  We have to eat a salad and a dessert to make the casserole last 2 meals but everyone is satisfied.

We love pizza and so we have it every Friday and I make my own crust and sauce and then we top it with mozzarella and pepperoni.  I've already made pizza sauce to last until January.

The rest of the meals are for Monday - Thursday, with Thursday usually being pancakes.  I purchased 64oz of organic pure maple syrup from Vermont a few months ago for only $30 and it will last us a long time!!

For the beans and rice, I make a huge pot of pintos and then freeze it in 4-cup portions, which makes it easy to thaw in warm water for dinner with rice!  Also, the red bean sausage meal is something I make a big pot of and freeze as well, I'm actually making enough for 4 meals but the other 2 meals will be for next month's cycle.

We only use 4 pounds of ground beef a month and 3 pounds of chicken a month, so I can buy the grass-fed beef since we don't use a lot of it.  2 pounds are for the 2 lasagnas and the other 2 pounds are for the 2 hamburger meals.  The chicken is used in the 2 chicken divan casseroles.  Other than the tuna and sausage, we only consume 7 pounds a meat a month by having it on weekends.  If we eat out, we usually get something with meat but we are trying to cut back on our entertainment/eating out budget!

Here is what I had to purchase that we didn't have on hand for this meal cycle:

Grocery Expenditures so far - $107.92
  • 2 pounds salad spring mix - $4.99 (I got lucky, it was Buy One Get One Free!)
  • 1 pound light sour cream - $1.89
  • 4 pounds cheddar cheese block - $9.98 (this was a good sale, so I stocked up, this may last us into next month)
  • 2 pounds unsalted butter - $4
  • 4.81 pounds Gala apples - $4.23
  • 2 pounds cottage cheese - $4.58
  • 3.12 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast - $9.30
  • 2 pounds mozzarella cheese - $6.47
  • 2 pounds polish sausage - $5.96
  • 12 string cheese pack - $3.35
  • 3 pounds mandarin oranges - $5.98 (my husband and daughter insist on eating these, I hate how high they have gotten!)
  • 80 oz. Frozen french fries - $3.18
  • 1.23 pounds peanuts - $1.94
  • 1 pound strawberries - $1.98
  • 3.33 pounds bananas - $1.86
  • 4 small avocados - $3.92
  • 3 pounds onions - $1.58
  • 30 oz. Whole-grain Goldfish - $6.48
  • Nabisco Chips Ahoy Reeses - $1.98 (craving!)
  • 1.3 pounds Tortilla chips - $2.99
  • 20 oz. Pretzels - $1.88
  • 13.25 oz. Whole-grain angel hair spaghetti - $1.28
  • 53 oz. Whole-grain pasta - $5.12
  • 1 pound Lasagna noodles - $1.42
  • 30 oz. Light mayonnaise - $2.60
  • 40 oz. canned tuna - $5.44
  • 47.3 oz. Unsweetened applesauce - $2.18
  • 14 oz. Canned artichokes - $2.18
  • 30 oz. Canned green beans - $1.36

Stock-Up Items - $27.01
  • 9 pounds Adam's natural peanut butter - $22.08
  • 32 oz. Lemon juice - $2.18
  • 8 oz Canola oil cooking spray - $1.97
  • 20 oz Mustard - 78 cents

What I have left to buy this month - $69.83
  • 4 pounds grass-fed beef - $20
  • Jam - $2.89 (I forgot to make ours this summer, but hopefully I can next week)
  • 18ct Organic eggs - $5
  • 2 gallons 1% Organic milk - $10.58
  • 2 gallons Organic whole milk - $10.58
  • 4 pounds organic yogurt - $5.98
  • 2 x frozen burritos - $4.80
  • Bananas & Apples - $10

I decided to start making my own bread again this month, hopefully I can get that done today so we don't have to buy bread!  I'm also going to make pita bread since my son loves it.  However, seeing what I've spent so far and then what I have to buy this month, I will still have $22.25 left to spend, so I could buy bread or maybe potato chips and ice cream because we get those cravings a lot!

Here are the rest of our meals:

Breakfast
Apple Tahini Toast
Oatmeal
Muffins
Eggs, Toast and jam

Lunch
PBJ Sandwiches
Tuna melts
Bean tostados
Chicken BBQ "pizzas"

Snacks & Desserts
Carrots & Hummus
Pita Bread & Hummus
Chips & Salsa or nachos
Trail mix (peanuts, mini chocolate chips and raisins)
Granola bars
Fruit or smoothies
String cheese
PB and Apple
Cookies, muffins or brownies

What I'm making homemade this month:
  • Bread - loaf and pita bread
  • Pizza dough
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Hummus
  • Granola bars
  • Cookies, muffins and brownies
  • Jam

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Living Debt-Free Series - Part 2


In Part 1 of this series I shared with you how to stay debt free and steps you need to take to ensure that you are not reliant upon credit/debt.  In this part of the series, I will share ideas and tips on how you can live within and even below your means.

To live within or below your means follow these basic ideas:

                Within Your Means                                              Below Your Means
  1. Pay 10% Tithe and Give Offerings              Pay 10% Tithe, Give Offerings + Extra
  2. Housing at 35% or below income               Housing at 25% or below of income
  3. Save on Utilities as you can                        Cut costs drastically; Basics, cut out luxuries
  4. Keep car maintained & plan trips               Same but also stay home more
  5. Keep insurance costs low                            Same but consider high-deductible plans
  6. Buy discounted personal items                   Get creative and make your own
  7. Plan meals, Shop sales                               Cut down your meat, make more homemade
  8. Shop clothing sales                                     Buy used, shop yard sales, trade
  9. Eat out only a few times a month               Don't eat out, do free things for recreation

Some of you may be wondering why I had giving more under "Below Your Means" column - well that is simple - what you give comes back to you and it really is true!  The saying goes that if you never send a ship out, it can't come back to you.

For housing, it really is up to the family in what you want.  Do you want a larger house and then not save as much and spend less in other areas OR would you rather have a smaller or lower-priced home and be able to save more, do more and have other things?  With a larger home, comes higher utility costs of electric and gas, so you have to remember to factor those in as well.  Also, you need to think about property taxes and homeowner's insurance when counting the cost of your larger home.  You can usually save significantly with a smaller home and still be comfortable.

Other than the varying electric and gas utilities that I talked about, there is water, sewer, garbage, phone, internet and cable.  Water is based on usage, so it is easy to save there - just stop using so much and find ways to cut down.  I wash all my dishwasher loads on the lightest setting to save costs - it really doesn't matter as the lightest still gets everything just as clean as the highest but at a much lower cost in water and electricity.  Garbage can be saved by only using one can and you can do this with a large family by also having a recycling container.  You can cut phone expenses by just having a landline phone and a Tracfone for emergencies when out.  We only spend $120 a year for a cell phone and then my husband's employer provides him with a free cell phone for work that he can use to call me a few times a day.  These days you can go without cable because you can pretty much find cheaper ways to get your shows online.  We never did have cable but we think internet is a necessity in today's world and we like the highest speed, so we found a great deal by negotiating the costs.  I was able to negotiate the costs down and lock in the rate for a year.  Then every year, I have to call and negotiate again and it is a hassle but after it is over, we have the rate locked in for another year.

With transportation, you need to plan your trips that would give you the most cost-effective use of gas.  If you run an errand everyday, you will be wasting a lot of gas.  Why not plan your trips into one day a week?  Also keeping your vehicle maintained will help keep it running longer and thereby save you money on repairs.  Study Consumer Reports and learn which used cars have the best reliability so that you won't have it in the shop all the time.  Staying home more obviously saves you more in gas and wear on your vehicle.  We drive an almost 12-year old car and it only has 102,000 miles on it!

I've already discussed in detail on how to save on various medical plans in this post.  Basically, save as much as you can and costs will vary depending upon risk level.  The best is usually an HSA high-deductible plan.

With personal items in your budget you can save a lot by simply making your own or using generic products.  I used to buy a lot of things I didn't really need and since cutting them out - I don't even miss them, except for my Satsuma Body Shop body butter.  I tried cutting my husband's hair but I was never successful but I do cut my son's hair to save money.

Food is one area you can really save a lot of money in if you are willing to sacrifice.  You can eat meat everyday but you will spend more unless you stretch the meat or use the meat as a condiment rather than the main dish.  We prefer to save meat as a 2-3 times a week thing and save the extra money.  You can also save by buying in bulk things like flour, rice, spices/herbs, beans, etc.  You can also save by making a lot of homemade items and that also saves on health costs as you are healthier by eating no or less processed foods.  Read how we are feeding our family of 4 on $200 a month here: http://www.christianhomekeeping.com/2014/09/family-of-4-200-grocery-budget-how-we.html

With clothing you can shop for the best bargains or you can buy used and/or make your own.  I shopped yard sales last summer and got name-brand pants and tops for 50 cents to a dollar.  I wish I had gone this summer but I didn't get out to search for the next size up, so now I'm trying to find ways to get the most bang for my buck.  I had saved my "skinny" clothes and now my 10 year old daughter can fit into them - so guess who won't be buying much clothes for the next 8 years or so?

With recreation or fun money it really is up to you how much you want to spend.  You can limit eating out or not eat out at all.  You can only do things that are free for family recreation or do low-cost things.  You can buy used books or just use your library.  It really is up to each family how much they want to spend and then you go from there to find things that work with your budgeted amount.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Living Debt-Free Series - Part 1


Upon the heels of my Financial Budgeting 101 series, I wanted to do a series about Living Debt-Free and give you tips and ideas on how you STAY debt free.  If you have something to share, please leave a comment to help me and others!

#1 Task for Staying Debt-Free  - The first step to living debt-free is to make sure that you have an emergency fund!  If you don't do this, then you probably won't STAY debt-free for long because things break, cars need repairs, kids get sick and on and on and if you don't have money set aside to pay for these things, then what will you do?  Borrow or put it on a credit card and pay interest.  Many financial advisors recommend you have 6 months worth of living expenses (not income but expenses) saved up in a savings account somewhere that you can get to easily in the case of an emergency.  This will help ensure you staying debt-free when trouble shows up at your door and it will.

#2 Save for future purchases - If you plan on buying a big-ticket purchase in the future, which most people do, then you need to have a fund to save for it since you are no longer using credit and paying extra with interest.  Most people need a car these days and if yours is older, you probably should start saving up for a newer one.  Save until you get enough and then go shopping with cash!  Not only will you save on all that interest, but you will get a reduced price by paying cash and if you can trade-in your older car, you will save even more.  Say goodbye to car payments with interest and hello to saving and buying a car with cash!  You will feel awesome when you ride that car off the lot knowing it is PAID FOR!

More things that you can save for are:  electronics (computers, gadgets, etc.), furniture, school supplies or homeschool curriculum, vacations, appliances, and whatever else is a big purchase that needs time to save for.

I will give you an example of a car fund and how it would work to save up for one.  Say your goal is to purchase a newer car in 3 years.  A good, reliable used car for $12,000 is your goal and your current car will have a trade-in value in 3 years of about $3,000.  Subtract the value of your trade-in from the price of the newer car and that leaves you with needing to save $9,000.  Now you know you will need to save $250 a month and you will be able to shop for a $12,000 car - which could very well be a much higher car but you can negotiate that down to $12K easily when paying cash!  Say, you just want to spend $8,000, so subtracting your trade-in, you only need to save $5K, which is only $139 a month.  No interest to pay, just the price of the car - now that is freedom!

#3 Insure Everything - This is one area you must do in order to stay debt-free.  You can't predict the future but you can insure that you are covered when something tragic happens.  This includes health insurance, home/renter's insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, identity protection and anything else that you need to insure that has the potential of bankrupting you or ruining your financial life.  Trust me as I know personally what it feels like to be WITHOUT insurance and a crisis happen - we have paid our share of medical bills because of our lack of health insurance a few years ago.

For those that think you can do without life insurance, well you CAN but are you sure you want to?  What if your husband dies today.  How would you pay for his funeral?  Or better yet, WHO wants to think of how they will pay during that time?  You will be grieving and you sure don't need the extra burden of financial ruin.  It isn't just the funeral either, how will you support yourself or your children?  What will you do until you find a job?  How will you pay for child care?  And on and on.....  These are things a lot of people don't think about until something like this happens and then they spend the rest of their lives thinking about it. 

Same thing goes for disability insurance in the event that your husband becomes disabled and can no longer work.  Disability from Social Security is barely enough to even live on, much less support a family!  The rest of the insurances are really no-brainers, I mean if you go without home/renter's, auto, identity protection or health insurance - you are just one crisis away from debt and/or bankruptcy.  Insure everything!

#4 Live Within or Below Your Means - Most people agree in living WITHIN your means, but how about living BELOW your means?  If you live below your means, you can save a whole lot more.  Whatever you do, always live within your means and not above!!  If you make $50K net - live on $40K and throw the rest in savings.  Then, if one day you get the urge to go to Italy - hey, just GO!  Or you could live on the $50K and have a bigger house, nicer car and more luxuries if that is what you choose.  I prefer to live below our means because to me, that Italy trip sounds pretty sweet!

Part 2 is here where I give you ideas and tips on living within and below your means:
http://www.christianhomekeeping.com/2014/09/living-debt-free-series-part-2.html

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Family of 4 Health Insurance Options

I've found that a lot of people do not actually know about the various ways to afford healthcare that are available today and meet the law requirements.  I will start out with the obvious ones that most people know about and then share with you some others that are available to Christians.  I'm just going to talk about the ones that I'm personally familiar with - if you know another option that is better, leave a comment!

  1. Traditional Health Insurance - this is your basic health insurance that has a premium, deductible and then copays or coinsurance.   These plans are usually the highest of all the ones I'm going to talk about today.  They are also usually NOT the best choice as your total yearly costs are the most expensive.  You can purchase these online, through the exchange (what a joke) or they are normally offered from your husband's employer and given at a reduced rate and you can pay your premiums with pre-tax dollars in a payroll deduction.
  2. Health Savings Account High Deductible Health Insurance (HSA) - these health insurance plans require an HSA (Health Savings Account) and are generally the best option when you look at total yearly costs.  The plan itself can have a high deductible ($3K or above) and then you pay a certain percentage up until your out-of-pocket limit.  You can set aside money to pay your medical bills through the HSA and it is pre-tax and stays tax-free if you pay only approved items with your HSA (medical, dental, etc.) and your premium is also pre-tax through your payroll deduction.  Most of the time employers offer this option along with the first one and this one is the least expensive as premiums are way lower and when compared to the yearly costs of the first plan, this one wins. 
  3. Christian Sharing Medical plans - these are plans only offered to Christians and are very affordable.  You pay a set amount each month depending upon age and/or family size, then you either only pay up to a certain amount of your bills a month and anything over is paid for by others OR you set your deductible and premium and once the deductible is met, you pay nothing.  These plans would be good for those who don't get a discounted plan from their employer or for those that don't foresee any medical needs of substantial amounts in the upcoming year.  The downside is that you pay your monthly premiums with after-tax dollars.

Let's look at a typical employer-given health plan:

  1. Traditional - $6,000 annual premium; $1,000 deductible then plan pays 80%; $12,000 out-of-pocket limit
  2. HSA plan - $3,500 annual premium; $3,000 deductible then plan pays 90%; $6,000 out-of-pocket limit

Now let's compare those rates with Christian sharing medical plans:

Family of 4 monthly premium -  $405
Yearly premium amount - $4,860
Responsible for bills up to $300 a month then plan pays 100%

OR

Family of 4 monthly premium of $10,000 deductible plan - $184
Yearly premium amount - $2,208
Plan pays 100% after $10K deductible

OR

Family of 4 monthly premium of $2,500 deductible plan - $500
Yearly premium amount - $6,000
Plan pays 100% after $2,500 deductible


Taking these plan scenarios, let's see what a medical crisis looks like within a year of these plans:

Worst Case Scenario - $55,000 medical bills

What you pay max for this year:
Traditional -  $19,000
HSA plan - $9,500 (can all be pre-tax dollars)
Christian sharing #1 - $8,460 (if bills are over $300 each month)
                                    $5,160 (if bills happened in one month)
Christian sharing #2 - $12,208
Christian sharing #3 - $8,500

You can see that the Christian sharing #1 is the cheapest option for a $55K scenario with the traditional plan costing the most.  However, most large employers give a portion to your HSA, so if they gave $1,000 towards your yearly costs, that would make the HSA plan comparable to the cheapest Christian sharing plan at $8,500.  You should also factor in the cost of using after-tax dollars to pay the Christian sharing plans and how the other plans will decrease your taxable income.  This can make a difference at tax time by putting you in a different tax bracket and you could factor in those numbers depending upon your personal situation to get a true cost.

When you choose a plan for your family, you can either plan for the worst case scenario or take the risk with a high-deductible plan and save on costs.  Let's say you want to take the risk, everyone is healthy and you don't foresee any medical bills (besides office visits) for the upcoming year:

No Medical Bills Scenario

What you pay max this year:
Traditional - $6,000 + office visits you pay
HSA - $3,500 + office visits you pay
Christian Sharing #1 - $4,860 + office visits you pay
Christian Sharing #2 - $2,208 + office visits you pay
Christian Sharing #3 - $6,000 + office visits you pay

The cheapest option would be the Christian Sharing #2 that has a very low monthly/yearly cost and a very high deductible, but this is risky business, you don't know if you will get in a car accident or someone will get very ill or need to be in the hospital.  If you take this risk, make sure you have the money in an emergency fund just in case!

In my opinion, the HSA high-deductible plan through your employer is the best option as it is the least riskiest but still gives you a great deal and you can pay all of your medical bills and your premium with pre-tax dollars and that also brings down your taxable income!

Notes - I didn't include Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plans because I have no experience with them and because you lose the money at the end of year if you didn't spend it.  The HSA is by far the better choice if your employer offers it as the funds roll-over from year to year.

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