Road Trip Packing To The Max

Road Trip Packing To The Max

Our family of five recently went on a trip to Disney World. We decided to drive and not fly to save money. From our house to Disney is an 18 hour drive.

When I picked out my Trailblazer I thought more about my day to day life than once a year road trips. With that in mind I opted out of the third row of seats.  My hubby rarely drives with us and my son is old enough to occupy the passenger seat, making the bench seat in the back very roomy for my two youngest children.

Leaving out the third row seat also left me lots of cargo space for groceries, yard sale finds, and most importantly my mountain bike.

So when faced with the upcoming 2 day drive with all five of us in the vehicle, I had to think about how to maximize my trunk space as well as passenger space.

Here is what I came up with.

I used 4 big plastic totes and 4 smaller plastic totes as well as 2 XXL Ziploc bags. I always find that luggage doesn’t stack well, and therefore inefficient in maximizing space. The bins were also easier to access when we needed something at  a rest stop.

To start, I carried out two totes to the vehicle, and made sure that they would fit, and figured out just how many I could fit and what configuration would work best.

Once I figured out exactly how many totes we could fit, and what size, I then went around the house emptying out totes we already had and putting them all in one central location of the house to begin packing.

Knowing exactly what would fit, really helped me decide what to bring and what not to bring.

I made sure to leave a little space in each bin to allow for purchases on the trip. Which was a good thing, because they were stuffed to capacity on the trip home.

All our belongings fit in these totes, our pillows went in the oversize ziploc bags. Down the sides of the totes I stuffed our 5 day packs and in the middle of the totes, I fit our 5 collapsible lunch coolers.

I also wanted to make sure that the kids had their Nintendo DS handy, as well as their i-touches and my sons kindle. I wanted these items to be out of the way of their feet, and off their laps. My husband came up with the idea of slinging his work cooler over the headrest, and it worked great.

I then found a canvas bag that I could sling over the other head rest that held our first round of snacks and waters.

It is not shown but in the middle of the two front seats we placed my daughters portable DVD player, and strapped its case to the front seat head rests as well.

This system worked amazingly well for us. We have decided for our next road trip we will change only one thing, and that is we want to purchase one more cooler for the back of  the other head rest as the canvas bag hung down too low and got in the way of the children’s knees.

How about you? Do you have any tips on how to pack the family vehicle to the max for a long road  trip?

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linked to Teach Me Tuesdays at Growing Home, Titus 2sday at Time Warp Wife, The Mommy Club at Crystal &Co., WFMW at We Are That Family, P31 Thursdays at Raising Mighty Arrows

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Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

chewy chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are still not healthy but they are healthier than the original recipe.

In the last few years I have been on a mission to make sure that all my children’s snacks have some healthy aspect to them the majority of the time.

This has lead me to being sneaky, as children don’t really like you messing with their snacks, and tend to all out revolt against it by simply not touching healthy versions.

There are a few products however that I have found that pass through their “healthy” radar.

One is using white wheat flour in a lot of our bake goods. The other is replacing shortening in recipes with organic coconut oil ( I have included links to Amazon so you could sneak a peak at what these product looks like but please note I get both products cheaper at various stores I frequent and often purchase other brands than the ones shown, if they are less expensive).

I have a few other tricks, but those two are the ones I used in this chocolate chip cookie makeover which were a hit with my children and my husband. None of them even questioned me as to if I had “healthified” their favorite cookies.

My daughter even said they were better than any cookie she has ever had from Paradise Cafe. Which is saying something because she loves their cookies.

How about you? Do you secretly healthy up your families recipes? Do your kids seem to have built in healthy foods radar?

 
Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups white wheat flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Combine butter and coconut oil till smooth
  3. Add sugar and to fats and stir
  4. Add lightly beaten eggs and vanilla and stir
  5. Add baking soda and flour and combine.
  6. Add in chocolate chips and combine till you have a mound of yummy cookie dough.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (until cookies are just a slight shade of golden brown)
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Fitness Goals for the Week of February 27 to March 4th

This has got to be my favorite bondiband. It puts all my priorities in proper order.

I managed to keep most of last weeks fitness goals.  I of course switched a few things up from the original plan due to weather and appointments changing as the week progressed.

I ended up running for a full hour outdoors on Tuesday, and then on Thursday I spent a full hour on the elipitical. On Wednesday I decided to stay for spin class after strength training instead of swimming. However, on Saturday I did get my 50 laps in while my daughter played in the water slide area of our local Y.

Saturday morning I missed my workout with my girl friend. I miss my buddies now that I am working out later in the day. Can’t wait till mornings warm up and I can return to running more with friends.

This Weeks Fitness Goals

Monday: REST.  I am living up to the saying on my bondiband above today, and hanging out with my Hubby.

Tuesday: Looks like it should be nice enough to run outside 9 miles.

Wednesday: Workout 1: half hour strength class followed by 40 minutes spinning class.

Workout 2: 30 minutes on the elliptical

Thursday: looks like its the nicest day of the week to grab my long run, 16 miles.

Friday: Workout 1: 1/2 hour Strength Class followed by 60 laps of swimming

Workout 2: 4 miles running

Saturday: Girlfriend workout at the Y (snow in forecast) guessing 3 miles dread tread, followed by 30 minutes elliptical

Sunday: REST

This is the first spring marathon I have ever done, my last two were mid to late fall. I am seeing already that I am having to be very flexible with the day I do my long run to avoid trying to do a 15 to 20 mile run on the dread tread (aka treadmill).

I have read of some runners that do 100% of their marathon training on the dread tread and the thought of it makes me shudder.

I would much rather switch it up with more cross training than face the dread tread for more than 3 to 4 miles at a time.

How about you? Are you a runner? and if you are what is the longest treadmill run you have ever managed? (mine is 9 miles, and it was only once)

 This post is linked to 10 Weekly Goals at Money Saving Mom

 

Selling Saturdays: Craigslist

tips for Successfully selling on Craigslist

Craigslist sometimes gets a bad rap as being a dangerous way to sell your goods. I agree that things could go horribly wrong, but there are ways to decrease the odds.

Tips For Selling Safely On Craigslist

1. Don’t respond to anyone wanting you to ship goods, and promising they will wire cash. I have gotten a few of these emails and I just delete them.

2. Always try to meet the person in a public place to exchange goods.

3. If the item is too big to transport to a public place, at least drag it out to your front porch or another area where you will be visible to others driving by.

4. Whenever you can, always meet people with a friend or a family member.

5. Always let others know when you are showing your item and tell them you will check in when the showing is done (that way if you don’t check in they will know something is wrong)

6. Don’t give out your home number on your Craigslist ad, if you have kids at home. Keep them safe from strange calls, by giving out your cell number.

7. To be even safer, you can just provide your email (set it to private so no one can see it) and field inquires this way, however, please note that you will have to be able to check your email constantly if you list this way, and are wanting to sell your item fast.

8. Accept only cash from your buyers, or if your item is of great value (I have never sold something over $200) I suppose you could do a money order or certified check. I would advise you stay away from personal checks, I have been burned this way too many times in other areas of my life.

Now that we have covered ways to prevent Craigslist Crimes, lets move on to how to sell your item on Craigslist.

Tips For Selling On Craigslist

1. Clean up your item well.

2. Take 4 good pictures of your item from differing angles. 4 photos is the maximum amount Craigslist will allow you to post and I recommend taking full advantage of that number.

3. Take measurements of your item. Also make a list of any visible damage, the make and model number, color, and age.

4. Now that you have done all the prep work it is time to list your item. Go to Craigslist and find the nearest city to you (or if you live in a listed city, then pick that one of course).

5. Enter the item you wish to list and take note of how much an item like yours is being listed at, and what category it was listed under. (you might even want to swing over to Ebay and check out completed listing prices there too).

6. With a better idea of price in mind and category, go back to the Craigslist home page and click on the “post to classified” section.

7. Follow the step by step instructions. They are very idiot proof believe me, if I can do it anyone can.

8. In the title box be sure to include as much detail as you can, item, make of item, don’t forget price, and condition if you can fit it (like new, gently used etc.)

9. In the description box, note all the details you wrote down about your item earlier, include color, make, measurements, age, any damage etc.

10. If you want go ahead and include your cell phone number with the words inquire to in front of it (I don’t put my name just number) . If you don’t want to put you cell phone number out there, put e-mail for further details (don’t list your email in the description box there is another box that will do  that for you, and keeps it private at the same time)

11. Follow the prompts for photo’s at the bottom (add/edit images)

12. Follow the prompts for email at the top (make sure the anonymize button is clicked, as it prevents future junk mail)

13. Once you are all done with your ad press continue

14. Re-read your ad one more time for errors. Then press the button.

15. You then need to go to the e-mail address you entered and confirm the ad. Once you do  that you item is officially published and up for sale.

Your post will be visible of 45 days. If you have price it right, have good photo’s and descriptions your item should sell quickly. Don’t forget to take your post down as soon as the item sells to avoid further inquires that waste your time and the callers time.

One last word of caution, if you did add your cell phone number. Craigslist people often cruise the site late at night and early in the morning,  and a few seem to forget that not all people stay up past 9pm, nor do all people get up before 7 am.So whether you are an early bird or a night owl to insure your best sleep, turn off the volume of your cell if you have an active ad.

It is also helpful to keep a clip board handy with all the details of your item, so  that you can share them again with the caller if they ask.

How about you? Have you had any Craigslist success? Any Craigslist tips to share?

click to read more ways to make money from items you already own

click to read more ways to make money from items you already own

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Thrifty Fashions

I love clothes. I unashamedly take up two thirds of our small walk in closet, plus a large dresser. I also have my workout clothes stashed in  two drawers of  dresser in our dinning (long story as to how my workout clothes ended up in the dinning room, perhaps I will share that another day).

I however, don’t like paying big money for those clothes. First, because our budget won’t allow it. Second, because I grow bored of my clothes quick. Although, the main reason I don’t like paying retail for clothes is the thrill of the hunt.

I love to seek out and devour a good bargain. For instance in this photo, I am wearing genuine leather boots found for $10 at a local thrift shop. The skirt, Ann Taylor Loft, bought for $4 in a neighboring town’s thrift shop.The kelly green sweater, was close to free, when I used a coupon at target. The shirt under the sweater, $3 on clearance at Meijer. (sorry for the poor photo my 9 year old was the only one around to take photo’s and she quickly grew bored)

My favorite piece of the whole outfit is the necklace made for me by a friend.

Here is another photo of the necklace. I love its versatility, it looks good with so many colors. Here it is paired with a .50 cent Anne Taylor sweater, and a green clearance find tank top.

I love homemade items, especially those made for me by others. Nothing says I appreciate you like a gift that took thought and time to make.

How about you? Where do you hunt for deals?

 This post is linked to The Frugal Fashionista Fashion Show at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Surfing the Web to Save Money

My boys love video games. My middle son loves them so much that when we gave him $50 in spending money as a gift on our recent trip to Disney World, he decided not to buy a single Disney themed trinket, and save the whole $50 for a new video game when he got home.

My husband and I were proud of his determination and discipline as we cruised Disney Town the last day of our trip helping his siblings pick out their items to spend their money on. He was not letting the moment take his eyes off his goal.

He then spent several days looking up new games on line, and then asking his friends what new games they liked.

He even, went as far as having his friend bring over one of his new favorite games so that he could try it out before he purchased it.

However, even with this amount of thought put into his purchase he failed in one area. When it came to purchasing the game, he told me to go to just one store online and make the purchase.

I immediately said “stop wait a minute, lets compare the prices of the game at a few websites”. In under 5 minutes I punched in and visited several of my son’s favorite stores for buying video games, as well as Amazon.

To my son’s amazement the game was $20 cheaper on Amazon than any where else.

In those 5 minutes of searching, I saved my son $20 and taught him the valuable lesson of comparison shopping.

How about you? Have you found great deals by surfing the web?

(please note words in blue take you to amazon, if you make a purchase while there Snail Pace Transformations receives a small % of the sale)

 

This Post is linked to Frugal Fridays at Life As Mom

A Simple Way To Stay On Budget During Vacation

My husband and I have differing views on money. I am a use cash only, type of gal. My husband, is a it is okay to use a credit card if you have the cash to pay it when it is due type of guy.

Which leads us to making compromises. One such compromise is when it comes to how to spend money on our family vacations, my husband likes to take a credit card for daily expenses because he is afraid someone will steal cash. I would prefer we found a bank machine and take the money that we need out for the day each morning, because I am afraid we will lose track of what we are charging to the credit card and go over budget.

In the end we have come to a compromise we both can live with, we use the credit card for vacations but we track each and every expense as we buy it, so that we stay on budget and can afford to pay the visa off in full when we get home.

This system allows us both to relax, my husband doesn’t worry about having cash we are carrying stolen and I don’t worry about going overboard on vacation and coming home to bills we can’t afford to pay.

a simple way to stay on budget during vacation

 A Simple Way To Stay On Budget During Vacation

Before we leave on vacation I make a detailed written budget of what I think each day will cost us. I then print it out and bring  it along with us, as well as a calculator and a receipt organizer book, that I purchased for $1.

I fill  the book, with large index cards that have the date of each day we are going to be on vacation written on the top.

How I track Vacation Expenses

Each and every time we make a charge on the credit card, I make sure to get a receipt. I leave the receipt book in our car so that it is readily available to write down each expense on the index card for the day as soon as possible after it is made.

This system is easy to update and has kept us not just on budget but often UNDER BUDGET.

Being under budget has allowed my husband and I  to feel okay about splurging on some really cool memory making moments with the children on the last day of our vacation.

One of those memory making days was when I surprised my daughter to a full head to toe makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Down Town Disney World, including a photo shoot after the makeover, on our last day in Disney World.

I am so glad I was disciplined in keep track of each expense that year, because if you ask my daughter what her favorite day of the trip to Disney World  was, her face lights up and she shouts “my makeover day”.

Post Update: If you are more tech savvy than I am check out the comments for a few app suggestions  for your smart phone or tablet that work similar to my pen and paper method; as for me I am sticking to pen and paper for now ( Yes, I am old fashioned  :) )

Looking for ways to save money? Follow my Saving Money Tips board on Pinterest.

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Bread Machine Pizza Dough

bread machine pizza dough (small)

My family loves pizza. We eat it pretty much every week.

Right now we are on a pizza for Sunday dinner kick. At around 3 pm I turn on the bread machines and by diner time we have a fabulous feast of homemade better than takeout and can’t even be compared to frozen, pizza.

The recipe I use has been adapted from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, which I picked up at a yard sale one summer and love. Its full of 300 bread machine recipes, for everything from bread to jam.

 Place all the ingredients in the bread machine and use the dough cycle.

An hour and a half later you will end up with pizza dough like above (remember I own two machines, so I get two mounds of dough).

I like to wrap a bread board in wax paper and cover with flour and place the dough on that to rise. That way I am insured that the dough will not pick up anything from the bread board, and it won’t stick to it either.

At this point. Cover the bread dough with a cloth and let rise for 30 minutes.

Your dough should be noticeably larger in size.Go ahead now and preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Divide up the dough according to the pans you have, and pull and stretch the dough with your hands to fit.

A quick word on pans. I know some people prefer baking stones, which I love for biscuits and cookies but I find that my pizza crust gets crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside using a stone.

I know others use cast iron skillets, and I have yet to try this. I have eyed a rather large one over and over, but just have not made that expense a priority. But I have had it cooked that way by others and it is yummy.

For now I use metal pizza pans, which I grease with olive oil before using. They cook very evenly and can be purchase rather inexpensively. Or if you wish just use your metal cookie sheets.

Once your dough is stretched evenly to the size of your pan, and your oven has reached 450 degrees, it is time to prebake the crust.

Place your pizza dough in  the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes.

While your crust is prebaking, go ahead and get out all the toppings you desire.

When timer goes off, get the pizza’s out of the oven and top.

Place the pizzas back in the oven for roughly 12 minutes. If you have pizza on the bottom rack you may have to move it up to the top rack after the 12 minutes is up and bake another 2 to 3 minutes, so that the cheese is all bubbly

You will end up with very scrumptious pizza. I almost forgot to take a picture of the completed pizza, so that is why a piece is missing. On pizza night, my family runs to the table and can barely wait through prayer time to dive in. As it was, I had to slap hands away so I could get this picture.

Bread Machine Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1/4 extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup white wheat flour (love this flour to add a bit of fiber but not too much grainy texture)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (ordinary is fine but I prefer sea salt)
  • 3 tsp yeast ( I buy regular yeast in bulk at Sam’s Club, it works fine in a bread machine)

Instructions

  1. combine ingredients in your bread machine
  2. place machine on dough cycle
  3. once it is done remove dough and place it on a floured surface
  4. allow it to rise for 30 minutes
  5. preheat oven to 450 degrees
  6. prebake the crust for 5 minutes
  7. take crust out
  8. top pizza
  9. return to oven for roughly 12 minutes (until cheese is just slightly tinged)
  10. take out of oven and then let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before eating.
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Want to use your bread machine to its full capabilities? I recommend The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook.

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Weekly Goals: Planning My Workouts

 

(this is a photo of my running plan for my up coming marathon in April)

This weeks goal setting post is different from those of past weeks.

Normally I have been picking for areas of life and making a combined total of 10 goals.

I have been having great success meeting those goals. Well, except for last week, I think I managed perhaps 4 of the 10. My excuse,we were on vacation.

Now that we are home, its time to get back into regular routine.

Part of that regular routine includes training for a marathon that I have entered in the end of April.

On vacation I did a pretty good job keeping up with the miles, but I missed this weeks long run, and while away I did not cross train at all, and cross training really helps with my endurance.

So this week it is time to refocus and get back on track.

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My Fitness Routine for this Week

Monday

1/2 hr kettle bell class/40 minute Spin Class

Tuesday

(looks like rain outdoors so I am going to have to run indoors)

 30 minutes on the treadmill  (aka,the dread tread)/30 minutes elliptical

Wednesday

Morning workout: 30 min Kettle Bell Class / 50 lengths of Swimming

Afternoon workout: Run 5 miles outside (so far the weather forecast looks good)

Thursday

(so far the forecast is for weather too cold for my lungs)

30 min dread tread/30 min elliptical

Friday

Plans for the day will not allow time for a work out so this will be my day off.

Saturday

(looking chilly)

This is my workout day with friends, so I am assuming we will meet at the Y and run a mix of dread treads and ellipticals  for 1 hour

Sunday

Normally this is a day of rest for me but since I got a bad chest infection last winter, I just can’t handle running outside in below freezing temperatures so when I see a window to get out for a long run I take it and it looks like Sunday is the day this week.

After Church I will head out to run 15 miles.

Strange as it may sounds, I look most forward to this run all week. I have the best fellowship with the Lord during my longest runs, its just me and Him,some praise music  and the pavement.

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As you can see, what workouts I do in a week depends on weather and appointments.

I find that if I don’t plan out my workouts at the start of the week, I am more likely to skip them.

I also find I stick to regular workouts better when I have a goal race in mind. Right now that is a marathon in April.

How about you? Are you working out regularly? If not do you want to?

 This post is linked to 10 Goals for This Week at Money Saving Mom

Sunday Reads:The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

This was the second book I read this week, the first was 20 Rules and Tools for a Great Family, which I finished on Monday.

On Tuesday (Valentines) I woke up to find that my hubby had left me a surprise on top of my lap top. It was a copy of The Money Saving Mom’s Budget.

Crystal Paine’s blog, Money Saving Mom, was the first blog I started reading regularly over 4 years ago. I love her straight forward how to writing style.

I must admit I was torn between getting her book or not, as I was afraid it would simply be a collection of information that I had already read on her blog.

However, after reading her book I can honestly say that even a daily reader of Paine’s blog is going to glean some new information from this book. I know there are several websites she mentioned that I don’t remember seeing mentioned on her blog that I plan to look into.

I feel the book will also act as a great reference point for me to return to again and again when I am wanting to cut our household expenses in this or that area.

Paine is a minimalist at heart, as well as a goal setter, so it is no surprise to me that her book on frugality would have both a chapter on goal setting and clearing clutter.

Now that my family is finished renovating our own paid in full home, and two paid  with cash rentals, I found myself pondering new financial goals for our future as I read the pages of chapter one, Paine’s chapter on goal setting.

As I read chapter two entitled “Are the Chaos and Clutter in Your Life Keeping You from Financial Success”, my eyes were opened to a new way of seeing clutter. Time spent digging is time lost succeeding .

Which made me glad to see another blogger I love, is holding a declutter project in March entitle “Project Simplify” that I plan to take part in and link up with other bloggers who are doing the same.

Paine goes on in further chapters, to lay out budgeting, and then how to cut expenses in pretty much every area of life, although she focuses in on getting ones grocery bill down to minimum.

It was in the grocery chapters, that I gleaned a few more ways I could cut the fat, out of our grocery budget. Paine shares the knowledge to help others reduce spending in this area however, I plan to use her tips, to allow more wiggle room for more organics and whole foods that I am trying to implement into my families diet.

Which takes me back to the essence of Paine’s book The Money Saving Mom’s Budget. If we gain control of our financial lives, we can start to use money to meet our goals instead of money limiting our goals.