Monday, October 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Can you say slacker?!  So sue me...I'm trying to keep up with two munchkins under 3, my injured husband, work, sickness, I'm lucky I know my own name much less have time to blog this past week.  I will try to update on Weigh-In Wednesday because I have some news to share.....but you'll have to check back for that!   Today is Menu's how the rest of the week is going to shake out!

Last week's recap...

M - Ham and Mac & Cheese, gb, and applesauce
T - Bubble Pizza - My 2 1/2 year old loved making this with me!  She was able to tear up the biscuits, help spread the pepperoni and was somewhat able to help spread the cheese in between eating it!  It was a definate keeper recipe!
W - Baked Cod - I just used Italian bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and parmesan - wonderful!
R - Heck if I know - but we didn't eat out!!
F - Hamburger Helper at Mom and Dad's house
S - BBQ Dove that Dad and Grandma brought over
U - Soup beans, cheesy corn dog muffins and fried potatoes - I'm not really sure where I got the muffin recipe, I assume from my friend Kelly, who I swear is Martha Stewart only cooler - but I linked RecipeZaar (my fave!) anyways!

This week's meal plan -
M - Dinner at Mom and Dad's
T - Nacho night (with yummy burritos for lunch the next day!)
W - Having some friends over for dinner - Cheezey Meatloaf, loaded mashed potatoes, gb
T - Fried Shrimp
F - Headed to DH family
S - DH family
U - More friends over for dinner - grill out pork chops

Monday, September 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week recap -

M - My daughter started throwing up with a bug almost at 5 on the dot. My DH was headed to Lexington for Orientation for his classes beginning in a couple of weeks (5:30-7:30, he picked up something at Wendy's). Luckily my father and grandmother came over and helped and brought me McDonald's - needless to say nothing about this evening went according to plan!

T - as planned

W - as planned

R - we ended up picking something up from McDonald's again (I know, I know!) b/c we went to the last consignment sale - that is going to be another post - of the season around here and I stocked up on the final Christmas and Birthday presents until the next season of consignment rolls around!

F - went and ate with Dad and Grandma

S - as planned

U - changed our mind to chilli - and boy was it good!

This week's Menu Plan...

M - Ham and Mac & Cheese, gb, and applesauce

T - Baked Cod, roasted potatoes, pears

W - Pizza night

R - Fried Deer Tenderloin, fried potatoes, fried apples

F - Leftovers/Sandwiches...

S - Meatloaf, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes

U - chicken alfredo pasta

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stretching your tax experience with FSA's

For those of you how don't know what they are, I'm in love with FSAs! That is Flexible Spending Accounts for those who don't use them and here is why I love them. **PS I am not a tax advisor or lawyer - kind of obvious I know from my obsession and compulsive need to budget, but I thought I should just probably state that for the record! You should do your own research on anything before solely taking the word of some schmuck on the internet!**

FSA can be used for several purposes, and I'm only going to rave about the two types, health care and dependent care, that I use, however, I think there is also one for communters but that gets into sticky stuff I don't understand. Okay, so the health care and dependent care FSA - the way these work, or atleast they way I've always seen them work, is that you select an amount to with draw from your pay check PRE-TAXES! Yes, that's right - before Uncle Sam gets his greedy lil hands on your money you elect for some of it to be taken out.

For us, as an example, I elected to take out $5,000 in the health care FSA and $5,000 in the dependent care FSA. Now before you freak out and think I've lost my mind, let me explain. The dependent care is easy we spend over $5,000 a child in daycare for one year. By using this pre-tax money we are able to save about $1,000 in taxes and apply more to our budget. The amount that we pay over the $5,000 is claimed in some weird way on our taxes (I use Turbo Tax and love it!, but it figures everything for me after I plug all the info in), however the most tax savings is realized by the pre-tax savings of the FSA.

Now on the healthcare FSA you've got to do a little more thinking. You can use this FSA to pay for most things medically related - co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs and more - HOWEVER, be prepared to keep and present reciepts (really the same thing as required by the IRS so if you are used to it it's really not that big of a deal)! My DH is some medical issues and has some maintenence prescriptions and doc apts that we can count on evey year, and you know with 2 kids there are going to be doctor visits involved - so normally we just try to estimate those things and take out that much, because if you don't USE it in that calendar year you LOSE it! But we are trying to have some dental work done for my DH, along with the delivery this summer, so we knew we could use the max of $5,000.

Between the 2 FSAs, using them has saved us over $2,500 *estimated* in taxes  a year - which to me is well worth it. So my suggestion is - in the approaching months of open enrollment for benefits at workplaces, find out if FSAs are offered and consider them. Be smart and make sure it is something that works for you (single with no kids and no medical issues? may not be the best plan for you, but otherwise), because the whole purpose is to stretch your money!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It is Menu Plan Monday and it is always interesting to me to look back over last week's menu and see how I did. We did eat at the house every night except for Mon. at Mom & Dad's and Sat. night which we went over to a friends's house as planned, but that is a huge accomplishment for this group! Very rarely do we stick to such a plan, but having things already figured out for dinner and planning ahead make it much easier!

Last week recap -
M - as planned
T - nacho night as planned, wrapped up the leftover beans, meat and cheese in burritos for our lunch the next day - which were fantastic! This is a definate do again!
W - we ended up doing Chix Fried Rice and Egg Drop soup. I was rather impressed with myself since I went back to work after my daughter's dance class and didn't leave until 5:15. Came home thawed the chicken, chicken broth and made everything from scratch and we were still eating dinner by 6:05! Once again it was wonderful and the lunch leftovers were just as great!
R - We ended up doing bbq chicken breasts with cheddar cheese, homemade potato chips, homemade apples, and something else - I forget now. But everything was amazing I thought and we all loved the apples and chips!
F- Deer Tenderloin and loin chops, creamed corn, green beans, and homemade pears - everything was either from something we killed or harvested from the garden, I love it!
S - with friends as planned..
U - we did a homemade pizza night. Sat. night was a little rough, we are thinking my DH and cousin got some type of food poisoning, so needless to say we needed something easy and comforting!

For this week -

M - Baked cod, gb, corn, pears
T - Deer Roast
W - potluck at church - taking baked spaghetti from freezer
R - Fried shrimp, potato chips
F - YAMS event, picnic items -
S - I'm scrapbooking with the girls so probably pizza all around!
U - Ham and mac & cheese

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tithing - giving back

It is that time of year for us at church...the time of year when we pledge what we will tithe next year. The letters have been mailed out from the church with our pledge cards, but also this year they included a handy flier that breaksdown percentages of tithing based on income from 2% to 15%.

Tithing is something that my parents used to make me do..I got an allowance and so much of it was supposed to go to church. I saw my mom write and tear off her check every Sunday. And until the past year or so I was kind of hit or miss with my tithing, if I remembered or was at church I would do it, if I wasn't then oh well. Along that same line, if I had a little extra in my check book the church may get something, but if I'd spent to much that week already (usually on nothing at all) then I didn't worry about writing a check or giving anything. And to be quite honest with you I can't really tell you what has drastically changed that I feel so different about it - but tithing for us is something we don't miss whether we are at church that week or not.

I think my change of heart comes from the fact that I feel like I'm much closer in my walk with God these days - not that I'm holier than thou or anything like that, but I feel so blessed with everything that I have and have been given that I feel like tithing to my church is just one small way that I can give back. I look back over my life and am able to see where God has blessed me throughout, and has either walked with me or carried me through hard times - and I truly believe now that when something is going on in my life that I can't sit back and do nothing to change or overcome it, I have a responsibility to action too, but that my life is always in God's hands. I will be provided for, so long as I am always trying my best, even if it is not in the way that I planned for. In some of my most desperate times when I feel like there is nothing left that I can do, it is so calming to just turn things over to God - know that you've done everything you can - and amazingly some how things are okay, like I said maybe not the way you wanted them to work out, but they are okay.

Anyways, back to tithing. Like it states in my little flier one of the great things of tithing, supposedly, is that it is 10% of your income. That doesn't mean you can't give more or that you will be struck down if you give less (trust me you won't cause I haven't been so far) but that is the generally rule of thumb. Of course, my question is this, is that supposed to be before the 500 billion is taken out in taxes of my paycheck or is that coming from what I take home every week? For this household, we base our budget, bills, and tithing off of what we bring home each week - although one day I want it to be off of what we truly make, we just aren't there right now. And even with that being said, we don't give our full 10% in money - I don't feel like we can right now. We try to make it up in other ways by donating our time, which is important, but realize that the church has financial needs to keep it running too. But that being said, we give a lot in comparison to our grocery budget (which is less a month than what we tithe to church), our gas budget (which is less also), and our entertainment budget (which is also less or non-existent however you want to look at it!). What we give - hurts! It is a conscious decision that we make every week to choose to give a little back to God where we have been given so much. Trust me it would be much easier and, in theory, a ton more fun to blow that money on ourselves - but just like everything else it is not ours we've only been blessed with it temporarily.

We have been so blessed by our family, our church family, and friends that is very easy to look around and be grateful for everything you see. What our church is challenging our members to do is look at what you've tithed in the past and challenge yourself to increase that, whether to the full 10% or atleast by 1%. For us, we are not able to bump up to the 10% and increasing any amount will stretch our budget that much further - but we ARE going to increase our tithe again because have we not been blessed more this year than last? We are still here on this beautiful earth, with now 2 amazing children, a wonderful marriage, a home, two jobs, an amazing family support system - so much more than so many other people have - so much to be thankful for - we can find a way to give a little more tithe to give back and give thanks.
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