One Bite at a Time: Project 28

We’re jumping way ahead in the book One Bite at a Time today to tackle Project 28: Create a regular monthly budget. Doesn’t that sound fun and exciting?! This is a project that we already do, but have been bad at tracking in recent months, so it’s a good project to work on again. My husband is actually the coordinator right now for a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class at our church, so it was an assignment in our class, too. (A great class, by the way! I recommend it for all. Maybe even our government. 😉 But that’s another blog post.)

It's too bad Monopoly money isn't real.

A monthly budget is simply deciding ahead of time how you will spend your money. In One Bite at a Time, Tsh recommends a zero-based budget. You determine what your monthly income is and decide how each of those dollars will be spent until you get to zero.

A budget is simply telling your money where to go. It isn’t restricting you from having fun, nor is it sentencing you to spend money where you’d rather not. Your money will already be going somewhere. Planning ahead with a budget is taking charge of your finances, not letting your finances be in charge of you. — Tsh Oxenreider, The Basics Behind a Budget that Works, Simple Mom. June 29, 2009.

I can’t say that I love making a budget or tracking a budget or always sticking to a budget. However, I do like the peace that comes from knowing that we can take care of our family, give some to those in need, save for future needs and wants, and stay out of debt.

I’m not an expert on finances, so I’ll just stop talking right now and direct you elsewhere, if you are looking for more information.

Here are several blog posts from Simple Mom:

For financial advice from a Biblical perspective I recommend Dave Ramsey (he uses baby steps) and Crown Financial Ministries (they have the Crown Money Map).

Crown has a free online budget system called Crown Mvelopes. I happen to use and like Mint.com, which is also free.

There are a few other projects that deal with finances, so we have more money talk to come. Don’t get too excited! 😉

 

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One Bite at a Time: Project 5

Project 5 in One Bite at a Time is to start menu planning. This is one of the projects I already do, and have been doing for several years now. I usually do my grocery shopping on Friday, and I actually cannot go to the store without a menu plan for the week. It’s nice to know I have a few good habits!

My menu planning is very simple. I take a scrap piece of paper, write out the upcoming week and fill in some meals for lunch and supper. I usually ask my husband for some input, too. I’d like to do better at making things for breakfast, but bananas, yogurt, toast and cereal are the norm for now. My husband usually comes home for lunch and two of our kids are at school for lunch during the week. Lunch is often leftovers or something very simple.

I use the back side of the paper as my grocery list. I try to put things on the list based on the layout of the store. (I wrote most of this post last week, but waited to get these pictures of this week’s menu on Friday. Then, I got busy over the weekend and didn’t get around to posting. Grrr!)

I’ve read about people who plan several months at a time, and I have no interest in doing that at this point. The one week approach has been working for us, so if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? We occasionally swap meals or abandon them altogether as things come up during the week. Even in those cases, I know I have the ingredients on hand for other meals, so we can make changes without any trouble.

We have added a new little twist to menu planning recently. My son, Andrew, is in Cub Scouts, and for one of his activities he had to plan a menu for a day and assist with meal preparation and clean up. This got me thinking that it might be fun to include the kids more often in the kitchen. Then, I saw what happened when Andrew helped make his “finger foods” meal. He was so very proud of his peanut butter & jelly sandwiches! So, every Tuesday (our night with the least other stuff going on) one of the kids gets to decide what we eat for supper and help in the kitchen. This is a lot more work for Mom, and we might be eating a lot of mac & cheese on Tuesday nights, but I’m hoping it works out to be a good little tradition for our kiddos.

I also would like to come up with a master list of meals we like and eat often. I just today (making my late posting OK, right?) ran across a great idea on Pinterest for making a list of 30 meals and the master ingredient list. It looks like a nice idea to try.

So, that’s how we meal plan. How about you? Do you have a system that works for you?

One Bite at a Time: Project 1

“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” — Mark Twain

Project 1 in One Bite at a Time is: Eat Your Frog.

I’ve never tried frog legs. I hear they taste like chicken. And I won’t be trying them anytime soon, because Project 1 doesn’t mean actually eating a frog. It just means that you pick your least favorite task for your day and then do it first to get it over with.

My least favorite task is laundry. And not just because it was the example that Tsh used in the book. I just don’t like laundry. I’m not opposed to starting laundry, it’s the finishing part that seems to be my problem. I get a load in the washer and, usually, even into the dryer. (Am I the only one who has ever had to re-wash a load of laundry because it sat in the washing machine for two days and got smelly? A-hem. Moving on.) But getting things folded and put away is just dreadful, apparently, because I am horrible at getting around to it. (I have a load of laundry sitting in my dryer as I type. This is definitely a project that will be a work in progress.)

I’ve seen numerous organizational and house cleaning experts recommend doing one load of laundry a day. This, in theory, keeps the laundry manageable, doesn’t consume a whole day, and, I suppose, means everyone always has clean underwear.

This week, I’ve tried doing one load a day. A couple days I did two, because I had a backup of items that needed the gentle cycle. Since starting laundry isn’t usually my biggest problem, I tried applying the frog principle throughout the day. For example, one day I washed one load of towels, put them in the dryer and started a second load of clothing. When the second load was done washing, and I was done hanging them to air-dry, I was tempted to continue on with my day. I remembered the towels were in the dryer and decided to “frog” them. I folded them and put them away, instead of my usual “Oh, I’ll do it later.” Yay me!

It really does make sense to do a load a day. My favorite thing is that all the laundry was done by Thursday, which means our weekend can be laundry free! How fun is that?

I also know that this project will take some time to develop into a habit. I’m glad I’m working on it, though, because I already see the value. I’ll check-in in a few months to see how this habit develops. In the mean time, I better go rescue the load from the dryer.

One Bite at a Time: Project 6

Here we go on the first project in One Bite at a Time! Well, actually, I’m starting with the sixth project. It is to be done in your own order and at your own pace, you know. I didn’t think I would start with this project, but sometimes things come up and the timing just works.

Project 6 is Create a Family Purpose Statement.

We decided to call a family meeting Thursday night to address some negative attitudes and behaviors that have crept into our family and needed some attention. We’re not sure the success of our meeting overall, but I was pleased with the discussion we had about why God made families and what families are supposed to do/be. The kids had great insight, and I think their ideas make a great mission statement for our family.

The official project suggestion is to spend a few hours discussing a purpose statement with your spouse, so I guess I’m breaking the rules on my first project. 😉 I really like what our kids came up with, I think my husband and I would have come up with a similar statement, and I think it gives our kids some ownership in our statement.

Without further ado, here it is:

Our family will LOVE each other, HELP each other, WORK together, SPEND TIME together, HAVE FUN together, PRAY together, WORSHIP together and SERVE together.

I was thinking it would be fun to make it into some sort of artwork to put in our home, and that was a suggestion from the book as well. Here’s what I came up with:

My Goals for 2012

I’m finding that the more I write down goals, the easier they seem to get achieved. From a Summer Fun List with my kids, to a weekend to-do list with my husband, if it gets written down, it’s more likely to get done.

So, [drum roll please …] here are my goals (in no particular order) for 2012:

  • Eat more vegetables. Maybe learn to like greens. Maybe. I’ve never been very good with vegetables. I’m more of a fruit girl. In the last few years, I’ve come a long way, especially with eating some raw vegetables. I don’t like lettuce or other green leaf-like foods. I should probably learn to like them. I’ll see what I can do. For now, I’m just going to try to have a veggie with lunch and supper, when possible. 
  • Consume less sugar. Step one will be kicking my soda habit. I practically quit pop for a while, but I guess it doesn’t count because it was only for a while. I’m ready to get back on the wagon. My goal is to reduce consumption in January and have zero soda pop in February.
  • Run two 5Ks. A local one in April (assuming it’s held again) and one in my hometown in October. My first 5K (I ran except for a ginormous hill at the 2.5 mile mark) was the local one, and my husband and I hope to both participate. I ran the one in my hometown with some old friends. Like, we’ve known each other for 25+ years-kind-of-friends. That makes me feel really old! After trying it this past fall, we thought we should make it an annual event.
  • Go to bed at 10:00 p.m. on a regular basis. I’m more of a night owl, it seems, but I know I am a better mom and wife if I get sleep and get up before my kids, which means I need to go to bed earlier than is normal for me.
  • Wake up at 6:00 a.m. to exercise and get a jump start on the day. The best time for me to exercise in this season of life is first thing in the morning before the kiddos are up. If I wait until later, it just seems to keep me from getting anything else accomplished in the day. I’ve tried getting up early to read my Bible, and that doesn’t work very well for me. As I said, I’m more of a night owl, which means I am not a morning person. I’d eventually like to include Bible reading first thing in my day, but for now I’m going to focus on exercise first thing and Bible reading later. Not because it’s less of a priority, but because I know I’m more awake later and will get more out of my time with God later in the day. This is mostly something to continue, as I have been doing this, for the most part. I did take a few weeks off for the holiday season, so I need to get back at it.
  • Learn more about my DSLR camera and photography. This has been a wish for several years now, and I’ve just never taken the time to follow through on it. I recently signed up for an online class over at Mom and Pop Photo School. It was a deal on Mamasource last month, so I jumped. Actually, I didn’t jump right away, because I did what I often do. I wondered if I should spend money on information that I’m sure I could find for free online if I just looked. And I wondered if it was the right kind of class. And finally, I just told myself to stop being a goof and to just jump in! I always enjoyed school, so I’ve thought for a while that a photography class would help me most in learning photography. It gives me the structure and deadlines I need to keep moving. I’ve downloaded my coursework and plan to study on Thursday nights until I get done. It was technically a Christmas gift from my superstar husband, too, cause he’s sweet like that. He also surprised me with a new lens for my camera because he’s astonishingly sweet. 
  • Write more. That is too vague by itself, so I’ll try to break it down into a more do-able goal. I’d like to spend a little time writing every evening Sunday through Thursday. I don’t intend to write a blog post every day and stay up past my bedtime (see above) to finish writing something. I’d just like to get into the habit of writing on a more regular basis. Just like a baseball player needs to practice, so does a writer. I hope to catch up on our personal family blog, since we’ve been stranded in China for months now over there, and contribute more regularly over here.

So, there it is. My list of goals for the year. I probably have a few too many things, but since some of them are things I’ve already been working on, I think it will be OK. Do you have goals for the year? It’s never too late to start a goal list. Even if it’s not January 1. It could be January 4. Or February 29. Or December 30.

If you are looking for some help in making goals, here are some great posts I’ve been reading:

The ONE difference between long-lasting resolutions & spectacular failures — @ Simple Mom

Goals make us available, not perfect — @ Simple Mom

Don’t Wait for Perfection to Get Started — @ Steady Mom

5 Steps to Making New Year’s Resolutions — @ A Holy Experience

And, before I go, you might notice that I have zero “spiritual” goals listed. That is intentional, at this point, and I’ll probably elaborate later. There are spiritual goals inside of me, but they are hard to put into words sometimes.

Last, but not least, I have a new word for the year. I’ll share that later, too. And I hope to write a bit more on my word Grace from last year, because it’s really a word for every year (and day and hour and minute.)

Here Comes 2012

The New Year is almost here! I am working on a goal list, and I hope to post that next week. I wanted to post a little “sneak peak” at one of the projects on my list, in case you are interested in joining me.

I plan to work through Tsh Oxenreider’s book One Bite at a Time.

I regularly read Tsh’s blog Simple Mom and the other Simple Living Media blogs. I enjoy the practical advice she gives for living a simple life. You can read all about the book One Bite at a Time here. In a nutshell, it has 52 projects to help make your life simpler.

I’ve looked at organizing and simplifying websites and books before, and many have these elaborate systems you have to adopt in order to “simplify.” I don’t need things to be more complicated. I want simple. This book seems to be the perfect answer. It has 52 projects to complete in any order and at your own pace. Projects include things like learning to menu plan, making a family mission statement, getting a debt-free plan and the like.

My goal is to go through the book in my own order and at my own pace. Some of the projects are one-time things and others are habits to develop over time. I plan to blog about one project a week, probably on Friday. This will give me some accountability in completing the book and some writing practice (another goal on my list.) And, thankfully, some of the projects I already do, so I’ll have a few weeks of breathing space.

If you’d like to come along on the journey to simplify, feel free to get your own copy of the book! It’s only $5. (And, if you check out a recent post on her blog, you’ll find that there is a code for saving a buck through January 6!)

Here’s to a simpler life in 2012!

***Disclaimer: I’m not receiving any compensation for mentioning this book. I’m just interested in it enough to buy my own copy and work through it here.***