Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cutting A/C Costs

 It. is. HOT!  This summer, we have managed to cut our power bill by as much as 25% by following this pretty simple technique to try to avoid using the air conditioner.  It's made me pretty happy so I'm sharing it with you. :)

Requirements:  The outside temp needs to get to the low 70s or below at night/early morning when you can open all of the windows and turn on (preferably, ceiling) fans to circulate the air.  Note:  Days like today (90+ for multiple days in a row) do not fit into this category, so you'll just have to put this in your back pocket until it cools down.

The process to avoid using your A/C on a hot day (read: not sweltering) are pretty simple.
1.  Sometime before 7:00 A.M. (or when you wake up - the earlier the better), when the outdoor temp is cooler than room temperature (72), open all windows and turn on ceiling fans to circulate the air.

2.  Once the outdoor temp starts to rise above 72*, probably around 8:00ish**, close all windows, curtains/shades and become a hermit.

3.  Avoid using the oven and stove as much as possible and turn off heat-producing electronics (big screen TVs, desktop computers, etc.) and minimize their use.

4.  Wear summer clothes.

5.  If you're a stay-at-home mom like me, break the day up by taking day trips to the pool, library, park, children's museum, etc. so that you're not sitting in the house all day making it warmer (the more bodies, the higher the indoor temp rises).

6.  Drink a lot of water.  I don't know if this is scientific or just a mental thing, but it works for me.

7.  Once the temps start to come down at night, reopen all curtains, shades and windows and turn on all ceiling fans to again recirculate the air.   
Note: Some say they choose to leave their windows open all night.  Because we have three young children, I never leave their windows open, and rarely ours as well.  For those wondering, yes I did watch the missing children episode of Oprah.  I don't remember them specifically advising not to leave bedroom windows open, but do remember a fair amount of parents saying their children had been kidnapped this way at night.  Is it likely?  Probably not.  Is it worth playing the odds?  Definitely not.

*You can check the temperature with an outdoor thermometer (we have one conveniently attached to the outside of our patio door), checking online ( or by simply standing in front of the window/going outside to feel if the air is getting warmer.

**This time is based on the majority of my experience so far THIS summer (2012) in the Chicagoland area.  Anyone who has ever lived here knows how consistent our weather is.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our 2012 Summer Bucket List

M finished her last 30-minute day of school on Tuesday, so we can officially begin our summer!  This year, I took a little time and put together a list of things to do before the summer ends - our summer bucket list!  It started as a simple list, but I got bored with it and decided to make a Wordle.
My Personal Summer 2012 Bucket List
1.  Take belated "school" portraits.
2.  Finish Proverbs 31 bible study.
3.  Have a garage sale.
4.  Reorganize linen closet.
5.  Exercise 2X/week.
6.  Drink at least 60 oz. of water/day.
7.  Read Farmer Boy with Maddy.
8.  Begin potty training with Claire.
9.  Read through Children's Illustrated Bible with Lily.
10. Plan family vacation.
11. Reorganize basement storage room.
12. Read 3 books.

I hope this brings a little inspiration to you.  I'd love to get some of your ideas too!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Is it summer tomorrow?

C's newest word is "fi-fah" (flip flops), L's last day of preschool is tomorrow, and M is busy at school with music programs, summer birthday celebrations, yearbooks, etc.  L asks me throughout the day if summer is tomorrow ... almost!  And I just found this great deal on Living Social for a $15 mani/pedi at Mario Tricoci University locations.  Yay!  I've been wearing flip flops already, but now I don't need to be embarrassed every time I look down. ;)

 I've also been finding some great ideas on Pinterest in planning our summer.  I can't wait to get started!  I'll try to post some of that and a couple of other activities we've done the past week or two - like homemade playdough!  Now we're off to L's last day of preschool - (sigh) - very bittersweet.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This week's groceries

Why do I keep posting my grocery spending, you ask?  Because I want to prove that you don't have to be a dumpster diving extreme couponer to buy on a budget.  It might take a little creativity and a little extra effort, but it's entirely doable.  I have an average-size pantry, refrigerator, freezer and the little cabinet space we do have is completely used by dishware, glasses, pots & pans.  We have a 7 yr old, 4 yr old and 1.5 year old, so I think you can also say we have the average 2.5 kids, at least when it comes to eating.  No dog (yet ;) but for the most part, we are a very average American family living on a very average American salary, but trying to spend less than we earn wherever we can.  College ain't getting any cheaper ... and one day we'd like to own a house of our own .... *sigh*  But I digress.

I lost one of last week's receipts, but you have my word it was around $52.  (I had the extra $ from the week before :)  Maybe some amount of change  over.  The highlight was this tortilla crusted tilapia (frozen) from Costco.  $13.50 for the box, which is enough for 2 dinners for our family and it was delish and it was seafood that even A liked!

Here are this week's numbers ...

1 bag potato chips $1.49
1 package chocolate chip cookies $0.89 (clearance)
1 bunch bananas 2.56 lb $0.38/lb = $0.97
Total:  $3.43

Fresh Farms:
1 bunch celery $0.89
1 bunch green onion $0.33
1 bunch romaine lettuce $0.88
1 head green cabbage $0.80
4 tomatoes on the vine $1.39
2 lbs. organic gala apples $4.04
2 lbs. whole pork tenderloin $7.66
6 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast $1.99/lb = $11.86
2 dozen extra large eggs $0.79 each = $1.58

Total: $30.09

1 box Jewel corn starch $1.43

8oz. Jewel whipping cream $1.34
Buy 10, get $5 off deal:
3 Rice-A-Roni Mexican rice $0.75 each = $1.50
1 Hellmann's Mayo w/Olive Oil $1.50 (with $1 off coupon)
2 lbs. Barilla spaghetti $0.75 each = $1.50
1 box Barilla mostaccioli $0.75
1 box Barilla farfalle $0.75
2 boxes Pasta-Roni $0.75
Total: $11.28

3 packs Vienna franks $2.77 each
Total: $8.50

Grand Total:  $53.30

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Proverbs 31 Woman: One Virtue at a Time

I came across this free ebook download/study guide/upcoming blog bible study series for the summer through and wanted to share it because I think I'm going to try it out.  It just requires subscribing to a couple of blogs, so the only cost is a little space in your inbox. Other than that, I think it's 14 weeks and only 1-2 verses/day so it seems very doable.  Let me know if you'd like to join me!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grocery Day Update

Since I didn't get to post my grocery spending last week and I'm postponing my shower until after the Bulls game, I have a few minutes to give you the rundown.  I was under budget this week, yay!  It was a much more typical shopping experience this week with no coupons at 3 stores (also why I wanted to post).

~3 lbs. chicken drumsticks $0.99/lb = $4.02
~3 lbs. organic fuji apples $1.79/lb = $4.94
1 12oz. package wontons $3.29
brownie mix $0.99
Total:  $13.54

Fresh Farms:
1 bunch green onions $0.33
~2 lbs. ground round beef $6.04
~1-2 lbs. mild italian sausage $2.29
2 dozen extra lg eggs $0.89 each = $1.78
Total:  $10.67

~2.5 lbs bananas $0.38/lb = $1.00
1 package corn tortillas $0.35
1 pack hamburger buns $0.99
1 lb. strawberries $0.99
3 pints blackberries $0.79 each = $2.37*
1 apple juice concentrate $0.92
1 bag potato chips $1.49
1 bag romaine hearts $1.79
1 package applesauce cups $1.29
4 lb. bag navel oranges $3.49
1 package chicken breasts $4.02
Total:  $19.12

Grand Total:  $43.33 (+$4.75 carryover from last week) = $48.08; $1.92 extra for next week

*Just as a side note, Aldi's blackberries were delicious!  As are their navel oranges - part of why I buy them all the time.  But since I'm not usually a huge fan of blackberries (usually too sour), this was quite remarkable.  Yay Aldi!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Owning a Honda Odyssey: Words to the Wise

Originally, I was going to post about a book we found at the library a couple weeks ago, but recent events have led me to more pressing topics.  Don't worry, I'll still post about it later ... :)

A couple of years ago - just before C was born - we had the great fortune of buying a new-to-us 2007 Honda Odyssey EX for our growing family.  It was (and is) truly a blessing and gift from God, especially as we just finished paying it off last month - 8 or so years early!  But I digress ...

It came - as most more recent minivans do - complete with automatic sliding doors.  Despite my constant nagging - "don't play with the doors," "the doors are not a toy," "leave the doors alone," etc., etc., L will almost always come back to opening and closing her door unnecessarily just for the fun of it.  Admittedly, if I were a kid, I would probably think it was fun too.

But today was not fun.  After picking her up from preschool, pulling into the garage, turning off the car, opening the back doors and unbuckling her, I went around to the other side to get C out.  In the meantime, L decided to close her door (while still IN the car) and then proceeded to see what would happen if she squeezed her fingers in-between the shrinking space just as the door clicked shut.  It happened so fast, I didn't even have time to realize what she was doing, let alone to tell her to move her hand.  So, what happened?  Well, try as I might, I could NOT get the door to open.  I tried pushing the button by the steering wheel that I normally use, ran around to the other side to try to pull it open, ran back around to turn off the power and see if I could open it that way, tried pulling her hand out from the inside ... nothing worked.  I started going into panic mode, trying all of these methods a few times ... by this time, L was crying as she was realizing, well, her hand was stuck!

Finally, I called A at work to ask his advice, my hands literally shaking as I dialed his work number a couple of times before getting it right (his cell phone battery was dead).  After telling him what was going on, he suggested turning the car back on and trying the door again or calling 911 ... So I tried the starting the car first and ... VOILA!  It worked!  I honestly don't know who was more relieved - me or L - but I'd be surprised if it was her.  Her fingers were fine.  Thankfully, they're so small, they just had deep indentations from being squeezed for so long.  No bruises or anything - just the mental trauma of being so scared.  It took a while to calm her down and she's been a little extra sensitive ever since, but hopefully she learned her lesson!  And I learned mine, which I am passing on to you.  I don't know if all automatic sliding doors are the same, but if you ever find yourself in the same situation, save yourself a lot of time and turn the car on!  Aish ... Those automatic doors are definitely more of a curse than a blessing, but it's hard (I think) to find a newer van that doesn't have them.

As a side note, it is amazing as a parent to vicariously experience my children's pain (physical and emotional) and how much WORSE it is than my own.  This isn't the first time, of course, and I know there will be ups and downs for the rest of their lives ... probably only worsening the older they get.  But it makes me understand a lot more why my parents cared so much (and still do) that I made/make good decisions.  For me, as their daughter, I know I'm fine.  God is always with me, teaching me through the bad and constantly molding me to be a better person through the easy and hard times.  Bad times will come, but I know that with God's help, I can get through anything.  However, for me, as a mother, while I know these things are also true for my daughters - God is with them, teaching, molding and shaping them to be better girls and women for Him just as He is with me - it is so much harder on the other end of it.  Oh if they only knew ... but they won't until they're mothers themselves and by then, it'll be too late.  I will probably have vicariously suffered through them much more than they realize (sorry Mom & Dad!).  The good news is that just as God was/is with me through the hard times of my own life, I know He'll continue to be with me (and them) through the hard times of each of their lives.  Thank you, Lord!
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