Thursday, December 12, 2013
While fighting a bad cold this week, I was looking for easy meals. So I cooked a ham earlier in the week. I had about 8 slices left today and decided to make a crockpot meal. One of our favorites reminds me of a recipe my grandmother used to make. Hers was a simple casserole that she baked in the oven using ham, potatoes and onions with a flour and water sauce. Mine is a little different and more flavorful.
First, I cut up the 8 slices of leftover ham and layered 4 slices on the bottom of the crockpot. Next I sliced 8 potatoes and layered 4 of those over the ham. Next I sliced two medium onions and layered one of those on top of the potatoes. I then salt and peppered the top and spread about 1/2- 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese on all. I then did another layer of everything and spread the rest of the cheese on top. Then you spread 2 cans of cream soup on top. I only found one which was a surprise that I even had it. I then made my own can of cream soup and added it. If the sauce doesn't turn out thick enough, I will add a little cornstarch mixed in chicken broth an hour before it is done. This cooks on low for about 8-9 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. It is pictured above just before I put the cover on to cook.
It is delicious and economical. Ham, potatoes, cheese, and onions are cheap this time of the year. You can always make your own cream soup mix if you don't have canned.
Please feel free to share any of your homemade leftover ham recipes in comments with all of us. Many will be cooking Christmas or New Year hams.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Medicare program has had major cuts under Obamacare and is going to be hit with a huge reduction on January 1, 2014. I suspect that a lot of things will no longer be covered. Politicians have warned that if you need a knee or hip replacement or cataract surgery after that date, you will probably be out of luck. Medicare will not pay for it. I also suspect it will be a fight to get them to pay for much.
Even with paying for all of the premiums for the extra insurance, there is still a lot of OOP dollars.
I have seen my premiums sky rocket over the past couple of years since Obamacare was passed. Every year they escalate and have been escalating at a rapid pace. We just got our new drug plan for 2014 and the co-pays have skyrocketed. Not only that but the out of pocket deductible has gone up to $ 4895. I can't wait to see how much our medical insurance premiums will be going up on January 1. All of these changes make it very difficult to save as much money as we hoped we could save. But I will be doing my best with the Money Saving Challenge to make my goal in spite of the changes.
This brings me to my curiosity? Have any of you seen your insurance policies cancelled because of Obamacare? Have your premiums and OOP costs been escalating over the last few years? Have you heard if your premiums are going way up on January 1? Is your company passing along the Cadillac tax( a tax on the best policies) to you? Those of you who didn't have insurance, have you signed up under Obamacare? Are you happy with the premiums you are going to be charged and what your plan will cover? I am not talking about people who qualify for Medicaid. I am talking about the taxpayers who are actually paying premiums for private plans. Have any of you lost your jobs or had your hours cut because of your company having to pay for Obamacare?
We were told this plan would bring premiums down. We were told we could keep our Doctors if we liked them. None of this was true. Many doctors are opting out of Medicare because of all of the reductions. Many Doctors are not participating in Obamacare. How many of you will have to travel for miles to go to a Doctor?
Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts with all of us.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Are you getting excited for the New Year? I know I am. I can't wait to dig in and begin the Money Saving Challenge. It will be my lifeline to replacing the money that is being spent on my teeth. I am actually watching every penny right now that we are spending.
So are you prepared to save in 2014? These are the steps that I believe you must take to make a spending change in your life.
- You have to make a reasonable budget that you know you will stick to each month during the challenge. Please don't skip this step. It is the most important one. I have known people who have never made a budget their entire lives. You know where they ended up? With no savings and broke in retirement. Without a budget, you never know where you are at. So many people that I have known over the years have spent way beyond what they were earning. They had no clue until they were in such a mess until they couldn't climb out. At least that is what they tell me. I say they had to have known and just ignored it. In the long run, they paid for those decisions.
- You have to make a commitment that no matter what you will stick to that budget. Don't just put a bunch of numbers down on a sheet of paper and then the first time you overspend, you quit. I know it's hard but if you want to reach your goal, you must do it. Do you want to be 40, then 50, then 60 and then retired and always say well I can do that next year. Let me tell you at my "young age" that if you keep pushing it off, next year will never come.
- Decide what is important to you. Are those coffees and lattes out, dinners out 2-3 times a week and many other frivolous things really worth the end result? So many people spend for things that I myself know add up to a big chunk of money yearly without even giving it a thought. Are those things worth not being able to reach your goals? You won't even remember the dinner out 4 months from now. When I am saving for a goal, I want to save for things that will give me lasting satisfaction. Not something that will shortly be just a distant memory. If you think that those things are worth not being able to save for a down payment on a house, tuition for your children's college educations, paying off debt that is keeping you broke, saving for retirement, a new car, etc., then by all means continue down the path you are on and ignore my Money Saving Challenge. But if you want to be able to make your dreams and goals come true, then commit to this being the year that you are really going to strive to get there. I don't know anyone who can't do it if they put their whole heart and soul into it.
- Find alternatives to how you do things now. If you spend a fortune on books, magazines and DVD's, commit to always taking them out for loan from your local library. Or decide you will wait to see that new movie and view it on Netflix when it is available. DH and I save a fortune every month by never going to a theater. Have popcorn and a movie night at home. Invite some friends and make a social gathering out of it. Throw a potluck with your friends at home instead of going out for those expensive drinks and meals in a restaurant. I am not saying to do this every time but if you are really serious about saving for your goal, you will look at every aspect of how you spend money and see how you can do it less expensively.
- If your goal is to pay off debt so that you can start to save for what you really want, list all of your debts according to their interest rate and pay off the first card or loan that has the highest interest. Pay the minimum on the other loans. When the first one is paid off, work on the second highest interest loan, etc. Keep going down the list until they are all paid in full.
- If your goal is save up for a car or down payment on a home, divide your goal into 12 months and determine how you will put that much away over the next twelve months. If that means, you have to bring in more income, figure a way to do that. If it means that you can cut the wasteful spending in your household and reach your goal, then commit to do that.
Its not rocket science! It's simple math and a commitment to not continuing down a path that won't get your dreams accomplished.
During 2014, I will be doing my best to show you the way. I will document how we will pay back the
$ 12,855. back into savings for the cost of my teeth. I will show you how we cost cut. And believe me it won't be by using ideas that are shown on "Extreme Cheapskates". ICK! A couple of weeks ago, I was channel surfing looking for something to watch because there was so many reruns on. I came across a show named "Extreme Cheapskates". They were having a marathon. I watched two shows and that was enough for me. Those ways are not the way I would ever try to save money. So don't look for any of those ideas here.
So as I said in the beginning, I am excited to get going and I hope you are too. Anyone who hasn't signed up, who would like to join, let me know in comments. Meanwhile go back and read all of the other blog posts on the "Money Saving Challenge for 2014".
Friday, December 6, 2013
These are the things we have done to save money this past week:
- only spent $ 17.22 on groceries and OTC meds this week
- purchased the groceries on my way home from the dentist which saved an extra trip and cost less
- exercising this week has been walks in the neighborhood and riding the recumbent bike
- we have been reading free books on the kindle
- we have been watching Dexter via Netflix for entertainment
- we also watched a movie via Amazon
- acquired 3 free samples this week
- received a $ 13.25 Amazon.com gift certificate from Saving Star
- used a $10.00 coupon and a free shipping code to buy much needed walking sneakers for me at
DSW. Earned a $ 2.20 rebate by going through Ebates .
- using up odd postage stamps that I have in an envelope to post mail
- stopped at the P.O. on the way home from a dentist appointment to buy the few cents of odd
postage that I needed to be able to use those odd stamps
- cooked all meals at home pulling the oldest items from my stockpile to do that.
- needed some onion soup mix to put with cream soup on chicken in the crockpot; had none so used a can of undiluted French onion soup instead. I will make my own onion soup mix this week.
- received $6.00 in rebates
- earned $3.00 from Pinecone
- made homemade garlic bread, pancakes and spaghetti sauce this past week
- received our quarterly water bill and used so little that we didn't have to pay extra on our sewer bill for the first time this year. I am really going to try to conserve this next quarter.
- spent time estimating our 2013 income taxes. Proved to myself that it would be smarter to pay all of the money I still owe the dentist before December 31 rather than pay him when I go back in January. We will pay a lot less in tax because of it.
- washed 3 loads of laundry of which two I hung to dry and did the third using minimal time in the
- used the energy saving crockpot for 4 meals this week
- we continue to pull the energy saving shades on the windows when the sun isn't out. We also keep lights off until dark.
- filled the car up with gasoline using my $ .80 off per gallon from points
- gave the cat a bath instead of paying $ 41. at Petsmart
- this weekend I will color my own hair instead of paying to have it colored at the hairdresser next weekend
- we have watched very little TV this week. We do not keep the TV's on just for noise.
- we continue to turn things off when we are done with them that are plugged into power strips... computers, etc.
- made a plan for when West sleeps over tomorrow night. We will do things here at home while he is here. So no money will be spent for entertainment. He loves to help me make cookies from scratch so we may do that as one of the things.
- received a $ 10. e-gift card from LL Bean.
That is about it for this week. Please feel free to leave a comment and share what you have done to save money this week.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Yesterday, I went to the drugstores for the few things we needed. First stop was at Walgreens where I picked up 2 Santa Snickers candy for free using their $ .49 coupon and a $ 1.00 off 2 coupon. Then it was on to Rite Aid where I purchased 2 bottles of probiotics for $ 6.29 after 10% senior discount. Rite Aid always has freebies for the seniors on senior discount day so I ended up with a sample of Udderly Smooth Cream which I actually purchase regularly and a sample tube of Gold Bond Men's Essentials Lotion.
This shop and the Top's shop earlier in the week is all the shopping I am doing this week. We are mainly eating from our stockpile this month. I am having fun with it. I started with the first shelf in our kitchen freezer. After finishing all of our turkey leftovers on Tuesday, yesterday I checked out that top shelf and found cheese raviolis that had been in the freezer for a while. So I dug out the crockpot and made homemade spaghetti sauce to serve with them. Then I made homemade garlic bread from some leftover rolls. We have enough left for dinner tonight.
Then while DH and I were watching Dexter on DVD from Netflix today, I grabbed from that same shelf a small bag of leftover spinach, crab, and cheese hors d'oeuvres as a late lunch. We will be continuing this way of picking meals for a while until most of the older items have been used up. The only exception will be Christmas and New Year's meals.
The other thing we are doing around here right now is trying to use up all of the little samples that are hanging around. I have been using the shampoo and conditioner samples and the deodorant and lotion samples. Why send for them if they are just going to sit around.
DH and I got our exercise today by taking a long walk. It was very warm out for December. Our neighbor got a new puppy. He is the cutest 8 week old Golden Retriever. He was so much fun to pet and play with.
We haven't left the house today except for the walk. So no gasoline used. We love stay at home days!
Did you get any good deals this week? Feel free to leave a comment and share them with us.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Well, I am gearing up for the 2014 Money Saving Challenge. Any of you who have joined in prior years know how it worked back then. However, this year I am changing it up a bit. It will be more detailed and organized. You have to set your goals out before January 1st. You don't have to share what your goals are but you should get them set for yourselves in your own budgets. If you want to share in comments what they are you can. It's totally up to you. No one should feel that they can't join because they don't want anyone to know they are paying off credit card debt or any other kind of debt. Keep that private and just join for the ways to save that you can share. That way we all benefit.
Whether you are paying off debt, saving a down payment for a home, a second home or income property, saving to pay cash for a car, saving to pay tuition bills, saving for retirement, saving for a vacation or any other goal, you are all welcome to join.
First, I want people to realize that saving money is very simple. It can be done one of two ways. The first is making more income. I believe everyone knows how to do that by taking on more hours at work, getting another job that pays more, or by getting a part time job in addition to the job you have. I know jobs for many are hard to come by in this economy but it can be done. For those of you trying to get an additional part time job, many places are hiring. I am seeing signs in my area. If you can't get a new job or an additional job, how about writing and selling an E-book in your field of expertise. That could bring in some significant money. You could also monetize your blog which will bring in a little bit of money. You can also do it by taking surveys, using rewards cards, etc. You all, by now, know the ropes on how to do those things.
The second way is to cut back on your spending. This is the way I have to do it. We only have so much income from retirement plans, investments, savings, etc. each month. Our Social Security that we get is earmarked for our children to inherit so we won't touch that for the Challenge. We also have some real estate that will be producing income but all of that income is also earmarked for our children and grandchildren. So I will not be using any money from that. So the way I save is not to spend and to do that I have to severely cut back the amount that we can spend every month. There are necessities that have to be paid for and some luxuries. But we don't go overboard on the luxuries. Once in a while, we do go out to dinner or pay for some other form of entertainment. But we don't go out to dinner 2-3 times a week. For us that is just wasting money. By eating at home, I can make gourmet meals for a whole lot less than paying to eat them out. Plus I know that my hands and utensils are clean. My son worked in a few restaurants during college. He has told me the stories of what happens in restaurant kitchens and it isn't pretty.
I know there are some of you that think every penny you now have is accounted for and you can't save. But I don't believe that. There are always ways to save. Even if it is only $ 5.00 from your grocery budget money. Make your own food from scratch. Anyone can make their own bread, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, etc. Use less meat per meal. Make a casserole, stir fry, etc. instead of always cooking a roast, or chops or chicken breasts. Grow your own vegetables within your growing season. I could go on and on.
I know a lot of you love the postings that I do on what we saved each week. They will continue in 2014. But I will also begin the challenge showing the $ 12,855. that I want to save in 2014. Yes, my figure in the prior post was off by $5.00. I guess the $12,850. was so shocking that I didn't hear the additional $ 5.00. Each month I will show what I have put into savings to replace it. I will write detailed posts on how we are saving money. I will cut back on what we spend and I will show you how every day that I post.
Each month I will also issue a different challenge. But that doesn't mean that just because one month we are working on our grocery budget, that you shouldn't cut back on your utilities and everything else. You should be doing everything every month to reach your savings goal. You just can't concentrate on one and ignore the rest. January will be Cutting Your Utility Costs. Since it is winter, this should benefit everyone.
I am truly hoping that I can put this money back into our Medical Dental Fund by the end of 2014. We will see. It is going to take a lot of cutting and hard work on our part. But we are up to the Challenge. How about you?
Please feel free to share with us your thoughts by leaving a comment. If you want to join the Money Saving Challenge in 2014, leave me a message with your blog address or just your first name and I will add you to those who have already signed up by putting you on the list in my sidebar.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Besides my dentist appointment today, I did my weekly shopping at Top's. I decided that I would look at the Ham Deal. They don't tell you the price of the ham in the ad. You had to buy a Smithfield Spiral Sliced Half Ham and then you would get the following items for Free: Simply Mashed Potatoes, Steamin Fresh Veggies, Libby's Canned Pineapple, King Hawaiian Original Rolls, Bakery Fresh Pound Cake or Nut Roll and a 2 liter Tops Soda. The hams had been marked up to $ 9.58 a lb. Most of the hams were in the price range of $33.00 to $ 36.00. When I can buy a spiral sliced ham at Aldi's for $ 1.99 a lb. or a Butt Portion Ham for $ 1.19 a lb., why would I ever pay $ 9.58 a lb. I even had a $ 1.00 off Smithfield Ham coupon that I did use on a ham slice. I also had a $ 10.00 Samuel Adams rebate when you buy a ham. None of that made the ham deal worth it.
However these are the items I did purchase today:
1 Butterball Turkey Bacon - $ 1.50 - Used $ .55/1 MQ Doubled = $ .40
1 Smithfield Ham Steak Slice( Sorry I didn't realize it was upside down when I took the picture) - $2.50 - Used $ 1./1 on any Smithfield Ham and $ 1.00 Tops Doubler Q = $ .50 ( this will make nice ham salad for lunch)
1 Sara Lee 20 oz. Bread - $ 2.50 - Used $ 1./1 MQ and $ 1.00 Tops Doubler Q. = $ .50
3 Stouffers Classics Entrees - $ 2.00 ea. - Used ( 3) $ 1./1 MQ's = 2 Tops $ 1.00 Doubler Q's = $1.00 for all 3
1 Tops Egg Substitute - $ 2.50
2 Fancy Feast Cans - $ .60 ea. = $ 1.20
2 International Delight 32 oz. Creamers = $ 3.00 each = $ 6.00 - Used (2) $ .55/1 MQ's Doubled = $ 3.80
1 Prego Alfredo Sauce - $ 2.00 - $ 1./1 MQ = $ 1.00
1 Paws Scoopable Cat Litter - $ 5.99
Received 6% Senior Discount of $ 1.01
Total OOP was $ 15.88 + tax.
Needless to say I did not get the ham. I will buy one at Aldi's if I decide that I need it. With the exception of picking up some needed items at Walgreens and Rite Aid tomorrow, this is all the shopping I will do this week.