Friday, February 28, 2014

Finding work life balance - goal of the month.

Work - It is never ending.

After months of working so much overtime, I instituted new hours at work. I told them that I would leave by 5 every day except month end. I need to get some of my life back. The stress of working all of those hours (to support my family) did me in.

I had my one-on-one with my manager today. This is a monthly meeting where we review how things went during the month, what I did great, what I need to work on and above all, what she can do to help me. Toward the end of the meeting, she asked me how my work/life balance goal was going. I instantly broke down crying. I felt like such a fool. I told her that with Nolen going back to work, the girls starting a new school, and month end, I was just done in. I felt that I couldn't leave at 5:00 without feeling great guilt over what needed to be done.

I know my manager has been trying to find the same balance in her life, so I asked her what advice she could give. She told me that I just need to get up and go home at 5:00. That the work will be there tomorrow. As long as I give her 100% while I am there, she wants to make sure I am able to give 100% to my family. She values me too much to have me burn out.

Later on in the day, I was having a hard time getting done what I needed to get done to meet my Service Level Agreement. I had an hour left to finish a region that normally takes 4 hours. So I went and asked her for advice. In the past every report had to be reviewed twice a month. We are trying to get them down to doing them once a month really well, then just clearing small balances at the end of the month. This is so very hard for me. I hate leaving one thing on a schedule that I know shouldn't be there. We decided that she would review what I had left and highlight the items I needed to clear off. I was to leave everything else alone. By doing this, I was able to leave work by 5:10.

I just need to learn that things do not have to be perfect! Its just so hard.

Having Fun While At Home!

I want to be able to go to the Gym three days a week for my aqua fit class, but I feel so horribly guilty, when I know hubby is at home with the kids. So I have come up with a plan to feel less guilty and have my hubby be able to have his own alone time.

The plan: I will go to the gym Tuesday, Thursday evenings and Saturday morning. Then Nolen will be able to go "Gaming" with his friends two Saturday's a month. That way I get my "Me" time and he gets his "Me" time. We are also going to plan a date night once a month where we can go be a couple. Then one weekend a month we will go see his Dad and Stepmom.

So tomorrow we are going to sit down, do our budget for the month and create the activity calendar for the month. I am taking my sister's suggestion, that you must schedule it, if you are going to do it.

Wish us luck, because we need this "living" part of our lives to happen. I am sick of working, then dropping dead from mental and physical exhaustion every day.

With reducing my work hours, fitting in some fun time, I hope to be a happy Jennifer very soon. No one should live life on autopilot. We are here for such a short time. Our kids are little for an even shorter time. I don't want to look back and have missed it all.

Weigh In - the reality of the scale

One of the things we are struggling with (Nolen and I) is our weight. We have always been overweight (well at least since high school), it has gotten worse throughout the years.

Since high school I have gone from 195 up to 270 and everywhere in between. After I had my second child I was able to get down to 200 pounds and felt great. I still needed to lose about another 30 pounds, but I was feeling wonderful. I was eating well, working out and happy.

Then the world exploded on me. Nolen lost his job. I stopped breastfeeding my baby. My parents had to sell their house. I went from 200 to 270 from October 2012 to now. It is beyond my comprehension that I have let it get this out of control.

My goal is to lose two pounds a week and by October I should be down to my goal of about 170.

I will be posting once a week my struggles, successes and progress in this part of my journey.

This week I have the goal to go to the gym three days. I will also eat a healthy breakfast every day and drink 8 glasses of water a day. I am not trying to "do it all". I am trying to do things in a reasonable way. With all the other changes in my life I couldn't handle it all at once.

So there is my reality all out there for you to read. With Hope, Faith and Belief in God, I know I can do this.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Menu planning - how to reduce stress of it all

As you know, we were major eater outers. It blew several thousand dollars in a matter of months. With Nolen coming along in the cooking department I wanted to come up with an easy way to menu plan so we didn't get bored. Also, I wanted a system so that if he needed to do the grocery shopping, he had a guideline to help plan.

This is what I came up with:

Saturday: Pork dish
Sunday: Beef Dish
Monday: Chicken Dish
Tuesday: Left overs
Wednesday: Italian
Thursday: Frozen or quick dinner (i.e. hot dogs or breakfast for dinner)
Friday: Pizza, fast food or on special occasions restaurant night.

I always have problems figuring out what I want to eat. If you were to ask me, I would always say that I have no idea. By having a "food type of the day", it reduces my choices. I can ask myself, "what kind of pork do you want today?" Pork chops? Ham? Pork loin? Pulled pork?

If you were to ask Nolen what bothers him the most about me, it would probably be the total lack of knowing what I want to eat. This system should solve that problem.

On Sunday's I will sit down with the Sunday paper and coupon. I will look at the sale flyers and see what bargains I can get. I don't have to make what is on sale, I can buy it, freeze it and have it in a later week. By keeping a good stock of various things on hand, I can make it through the weeks when something comes up and we are short on money. We will always have something to pull together for dinner.

Reducing the "I don't know what I want to eat" nights, helps reduce the amount of eating out we do. We went from eating out 5-7 nights a week, to eating out on Friday's only. Most of the time we eat out on Fridays, we actually "order in". This saves us on drinks and tip. If we order a pizza, we go pick it up to avoid the delivery charge and tip.

Sarah (our 6 year old) misses eating out. But I would rather give her healthy meals and be able to pay for the roof over her head, then give into her every whim. Now when we go OUT to dinner it is for a special occasion to a special restaurant that we have saved up for.

We are starting the jar system to save up for things we want. I will go into that in more depth on a later post.

Until next time....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No longer an Aldi Virgin

I have fought going to Aldi for years. There is a stigma and a mystery associated with the store. You have to pay for your shopping cart. You have to bring your own bags. I knew that you didn't get name brands very much there, so everything was a mystery.

This past Saturday I decided (since I only had $50 to get groceries), that I would try it out. I first stopped at the bank to do some banking stuff. While there I got into a conversation with my personal banker and she gave me the skinny. She made sure I had my quarter to get the shopping cart. She told me that mostly the produce was not of very good quality. But she did say that she got some wonderful deals there. She also gave me the heads up on Sprouts (a future trip will be planned).

So off to Aldi I went. I knew that I needed milk, butter, meat, snack type foods. When I walked in I saw an entire aisle of off brand snack food and crackers. It would be easy to pick up everything because it was so cheap. However, I looked at everything and compared the prices to what I could get the name brands for (with a coupon) at my regular store's (Kroger and Albertson's).

I also had to remind myself that I had a strict $50 budget for the week. In the first aisle I picked up Saltines, Butter crackers, granola bars. I then checked out the produce. The advertisement had a bag of potatoes for .89 cents and mushrooms for about the same. I wanted to get them. The potatoes were mostly rotten, so I passed. The mushrooms looked great so I got them. I also saw that they had wonderful looking fresh broccoli for under a buck too. So I got that.

In the advertisement, they had a pot roast kit for $7.99. But after looking at the size of the meat, I know I could do better going to my other store. I did find a case full of ham's. Both spiral sliced and non. I was able to pick up a ham at .99lb. So for 10.98 I got an almost 11 lb ham. What a find in deed as it will feed us for several meals. I cook the whole thing and then freeze what we don't use. Its really easy to defrost overnight in the fridge and heat up the next day for dinner.

I looked at the bread and really there wasn't any saving there, so I passed it up. I would much rather make my own (a new venture I am trying) or get it fresh from my regular store.

In the canned aisle I was able to pick up veggies for cheap and juice for a great deal. Onto the frozen food aisle I found two pizzas for 1.99 each. Followed those up with organic milk, shredded cheese and butter.

My advice to newbie Aldi shoppers. Do not go with a list, but look at what they have. Have a price in your head of how much items are at other stores. Sometimes they are really cheaper at your regular grocery store. Don't count on produce and bread, those are better getting elsewhere, but some deals can be found. Bring your own bags. They do sell some nice fabric and freezer bags for $1.99 and .79. They also have under the conveyor belt cheap paper and plastic bags for sale too. When they ring you up, they throw everything into the cart and you take it to this shelving area to pack in your bags yourself. They do not take credit. Only Debit and Cash, so come prepared for that too. Shopping carts are .25 and you get that back once you return your cart.

Over all a great adventure. I will probably be going there every Saturday to pick any deals that I can. Then Sunday I will do my couponing and make a run to my regular store to supplement.

Here is my haul, I think I did great!

100% apple juice 64oz   1.39
Hawaiian punch (the super big bottle) 1.99
Pepperoni pizza  1.99
Sausage pizza 1.99
Butter 1lb   2.39
insulated bag .79
fabric grocery bag 3 at 1.99 each
green beans 4 at .49 each
shredded jack cheese (big bag) 2.99
sweet peas 2 at .62 each
yakisoba noodles 2 at .69 each
Organic milk half gallon 2.59
Center cut bacon 3.99
chewy granola bars 1.79
snack crackers (like ritz) 1.79
large jar minced onion 1.99
saltines .95
yeast packets (3 in a package) 2 for .79 each
brown gravy mix 2 for .35 each
Polish sausage 2.29
8 oz fresh mushrooms  .79
golden pineapple 1.19
broccoli crowns  .89
all purpose flour  1.49
smoked ham (about 11lb) 10.48
box of frosted mini wheats  1.99

tax .72
total spent 59.30

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Getting back to the Gym

I love water aerobics (now called Aqua fit). I have horrible knees and it is the only thing I can do without falling over in pain. Due to the fact that I was working a ton of hours, I was unable to go to the gym for about 8 months. Did I stop paying dues that whole time? NO. I always had the intention of going the next day. It never happened.

Now that Nolen is back to work, I can ease up on my work load. So back to the Gym I went. I was expecting no one in class to remember me. But when I walked in, the instructor was so happy to see me, even calling me by name.

My first workout was fantastic. The whole day leading up to going, I really did not want to go. I wanted to go home and crash in bed. So I told myself that I HAD to go. Even if I just went and sat in the sauna. I knew that if I went home, I would not have any alone time at all. I would be pestered by my two gorgeous children and handsome hubby. I knew that I would be stressed as all heck and end up blowing up at someone.

So I went. I got on my suit. Walked into the pool and after two minutes I was very grateful that I decided to go. I had a smile on my face the whole time. I was finally doing something for me. I went home and had a smile. Was relaxed and cuddled with the girls. Nolen said that I looked like I felt like I felt wonderful.

The next day I went into work and changed my work schedule to allow me to get the gym two nights a week and then on Saturday mornings. I told them that unless it was end of month, I would be leaving by 5:00 on Tuesday's and Thursday's. If I needed to work extra hours those days, I would come in earlier in the morning.

It is important to take time for yourself. Those of you who say that paying a gym membership is stupid, I understand where you are coming from. Paying for one you do not use is stupid. However, if you go, it can be the best thing in the world. Working out helps me work off the horrible anxiety I suffer from. I would much rather work out, than take meds.

The one thing I do need to do is to get my membership redone with my work discount. Feel free to pester me about it if I haven't done it by the next time I have to pay dues in three weeks.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teaching a Man to Cook

I grew up with the benefit of having wonderful cooks in my life. My Grandmother taught me how to cook and I am very grateful. Nolen was not so lucky. I couldn't even trust him to boil water.

One day Nolen sat down and did our taxes. When he saw just how much we really did make last year, he was shocked. He had an epiphany about where all that money went. He realized that eating out did us in. He also realized that I just couldn't be the one to do the cooking, as I was working a ton of hours. He had to do something. So he started to learn how to cook.

This was a huge deal for me. I didn't want to teach him. I mean, he knew NOTHING!!! I had to teach him how to stir. He had (and still has) no intuition in the kitchen. A lot of cooking is intuition. How do you know when the chicken is done? It isn't always an exact time frame. So for years, I didn't teach him. I kept the skill to myself and hated having the soul responsibility.

After his epiphany, I gave in. I started teaching him meal by meal. He has gone from being able to make Mac n Cheese, to being able to make meatballs from scratch. He still needs to learn how to make actual balls and not lumps of meat, but they taste great none the less.

While at work last night, I called Nolen to walk him through how to make teriyaki chicken wings. The ladies at work were laughing their butts off. I was telling Nolen to get out the broiler pan to cook them on. Nolen and I went back and forth to make sure he was using the broiler pan, but not putting them under the broiler. How do you tell someone how to put together a marinade for the chicken, when you normally dump things in? It was quite entertaining to say the least.

Future posts will delve more into Nolen's cooking adventures. I am sure there will be some doozies.

Where did all the money go?

When Nolen was laid off he got a great separation package and retirement payout. The money should have been able to last us two years with good planning. We were not good planners. The money left us in droves. Where did it go to?

Redecorating - A NO NO WHEN OUT OF WORK

We bought new furniture. Did we NEED it. No. Yes, we had all hand-me downs and the couch was falling apart. The dinner table chairs were falling apart (you had to sit just right not to fall down).
We decided to use some of his retirement payout to get some furniture. We thought that since we went to Ikea and really did get some good deals, that we made the right choice.

This was NOT the right choice. We should have gone to Goodwill, Craig's List, or garage sales. Sick of living with Used furniture we went to Ikea. With a ton of money in the bank it was impossible for us to resist.

$5,000 later we had a new TV, Couch, Entertainment center, end tables,dresser for the girls, dresser for me,dresser for Nolen, end tables in the girls room and end tables in our room. Also a dinning room set. So we got a lot for that money, but it was money we really didn't need to spend. We should have made do with what we had until we knew that Nolen had work. Or in the case of the dinning table, gone to good will.

Eating Out - Out of stress and convenience.

To make ends meet I started working 50 to 70 hours a week. This meant that I was not cooking dinner. Nolen could not cook. I couldn't even trust him to go to the grocery store. So we ate out pretty much every night. It wasn't always fast food, because lets be honest, that would get old. (Did I just say that?)

We were spending on average $200-300 on eating out a week. I also went grocery shopping on the weekends spending another $100 or more. The grocery shopping was in hopes of getting home to cook. So food went to waste. Even if I did get home in time to cook, I was so tired, I just didn't want to.

Eating out so much also made our waistlines increase. I do not know how much Nolen gained, but I gained a total of 70 pounds in about 13 months. HORRIBLE, when I was already overweight.

Too much fun - SCA

I love the SCA, but I fought and fought to not play in the SCA during this time. For those not in the know go to to find out what it is. Its where I met Nolen. Its great fun, but also expensive.

When Nolen was laid off, he accepted a position as a Seneschal of our local group. This required him to go to events, meetings and other "stuff". Money flew out of our bank account on dinner's out with group members, buying "toys" and "clothes". The clothes we still haven't gotten BTW.

Nolen needed an outlet to get out of the house, but it wasn't a good idea. It cost us money we didn't have and put a huge wedge between us. I felt like I was always working and when I wasn't, he was out having fun without me. Eventually he "got it" and resigned, but only after threats of divorce. He now knows that the SCA cannot be in our lives until we have our lives in order.

So that is how we got into this mess. We are dead broke, working paycheck to paycheck, getting help from family. We are adults damn it. We were acting like children. There is no excuse for it.

I got in horrible fights with my family, because I was in denial about the things that we did wrong. I honestly thought we were doing well with coping. I was dead wrong.

This Blog is for learning, being accountable and venting. I want, by the end of this year, to be in a far better place than we are now. A lot of blogs I see out there are specific to couponing, losing weight, budgeting. This blog will show the journey to recovery as it happens.

With God and Family and Friends (emotional not financial) support, I know we can do it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Defining Goals

If you don't define your goals, how do you know what you are working for and when you achieve them.

Here is a list of our goals as a family:

Follow Dave Ramsey' plan set up in Financial Peace University (
We are on step one - build a $1000 emergency fund as fast as you can. Now what Nolen I working, we should be able to do this.
After that we move onto debt repayment. We will have posts outlining our adventure in the world of becoming financially fit.

Become Physically fit. My personal goal is to lose at least the 70 lbs I have gained this past year. Nolen hasn't told me his personal goal. He will post about his physical goals. For one thing I know we would both like to tie our shoes without feeling like we are doing advanced yoga.

Be better members of our extended family. We have missed out on seeing our family due to lace of finances to do so. It is our goal to not just stay connected with Facebook, but going for visits. Calling them once a week. Staying in touch with these very important members of our lives.

Go on vacations to enjoy the life we work so hard for. We will be using the jar method to save for yearly vacations. We love to go to Great Wolf Lodge for Sarah's birthday. I want to be able to have the cash saved so we can have a great, stress free time. I don't want to worry about borrowing from the rent money to finish paying off a trip we only paid half for when we reserved it. I want to pay the whole thing in cash and have the money already set aside for the fun part.

Get into a house. I don't mind renting a house for awhile. I do not want to buy a house until we have our debt paid off and a good savings account. I want a great down payment and to be able to handle the things that come with owning a house. If we own a house and the roof needs to be replaced, I want to know we can replace it without going into debt. It may take awhile, but we will get there the right way. For now, we look to move into a rental house later this summer. Our current rent in our apartment is $1300 plus garbage and water, so usually about $1400 a month. We can get into a three bedroom house for about $1050 a month and have a yard for the kids.

Save for our future! I do not want to end up in retirement having to work. I don't want to end up in retirement having no money to enjoy my time off. So once we have our debt paid off all will go toward having a good life when we retire.

Finally, be healthy, happy, live within our means, give back, raise our children the best we can.

Turning my life around...

During my entire 8 1/2 year marriage, my husband and I have struggled financially and physically. After my husband was laid off from his job a year ago, we went into extreme survival mode. With two young girls relying on us, we didn't do what we needed to do. The house fell apart around us. We gained weight on top of already being overweight (ok obese). We spent money we should not have and relied on family to get us through.

I spent the past year, so doped up on antidepressants and anxiety meds, that I didn't feel anything. All the joy in my life was gone.

One day I woke up and went downstairs to get in my beloved Odyssey, only to have it gone. The bank took it. I was devastated. Once again a phone call was made to a family member to help bail us out. We got the money and I set off to call the bank and get my van back. After speaking with them, they decided that I couldn't have it back. This was a HUGE wake up call to me. I needed to change. I didn't want to survive anymore, I wanted to live.

This blog will be my journey (in real time) in trying to get my life back. To lose this 70 pounds gained this past year. To develop a savings and debt repayment plan. To live in a way that my children will learn the RIGHT way to do things.

I am off all of my meds, trying to do things in a way to not cause the stress in the first place. To live life without guilt. Will it be easy? No. But neither was living like we were.

To catch you up to today: I am jumping into the wild world of couponing. I am going back to the gym and getting in shape. I am trying to live within a budget. Future posts will be on our day to day struggle and successes.

Welcome. I hope you enjoy my journey. I look forward to comments and advice, pats on the back and support on this journey. Thank you to all who have stuck with us until now.