Debt Free

Why menu planning is worth it!


One of our biggest challenges is to do a Menu plan for the week. 

Menu planning is worth it! There are so many advantages:

1. Saves money. (potentially a ton of money).

2. Less food gets wasted. (we waste too much).

3. Eat healthier. (yeah, beats ordering Pizza).

4. Less stress. (no panic for “what’s for dinner?”)

5. Eat a better variety.

6. Saves time.

Well, geez with all of those perks why wouldn’t you  we plan each week?

1. It can be overwhelming.

2. It takes discipline to take the time to sit each Sunday and plan.

3. You must think about the week ahead on your day off…

4. It takes effort, and some creative thinking.

I guess I finally got “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of being unorganized and then doing something quick on the fly. So I made the commitment to take the time this weekend to tackle this area of our lives. I found this amazing menu planner page.


It is from I love the menu planning template for several reasons.

1. It is on one page.

2. It only has dinners on it.

3. It has a large area to “inventory” food we have on hand for planning as well as for a grocery list.

4. It is simple and straight forward.

Here is the process I went through:

1. Print out the template. Click here for link.

bree menu lise 2

2. Inventory your food on hand. Start with the refrigerator. Write down on your menu planning sheet everything you have on hand. ( as you can see from mine I did this on Bree’s sheet to the right). This is a great time to clean out the frig as wel–get rid of food that has gone bad.

3. Inventory the freezer (or both if you have multiple).

4. I didn’t take the time to  Inventory the pantry. (I worked my menu around the frigerator first because those foods have a use by date, then freezer). I then “shopped” in my pantry when I was trying to make menu.

5. I then went to the  and used their search by ingredients function. It is at the very top of their web page.  It is awesome you put in a few ingredients and a list of recipes with those ingredients appear. Here is the link to their page. Click here. 

6. You base your recipes on most of the ingredients that you have on hand, then make a list of what you need to buy.

bree 4

As you can see from this week, after doing the menu planning I only needed to go get 5 things from the grocery store for the week. That is truly amazing.  I was ready to get in the car and do a full shop which for me usually is about 150.00- 200.00 dollars. What a waste of money and effort when I really can get buy with only 5 grocery items. And the funny thing is we will eat healthier, and with more variety. Another plus is the kids are home for the summer and the leftovers can be eaten for lunch.

Another tip- I printed the recipes I got from  and attached them to the back of the menu planner for the week and after I got back from the store I hung this  page and recipes on the refrigerator door.

If we love a new recipe I will make a recipe card and file it away for meal planning.

Hope this helps with your menu planning and getting organized in the kitchen.  I will give you an update next week.




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The 10 stupid things we have done with money…that are “normal”.

I keep promising to do a post about the “normal” stupid things that we have done with our finances over the years.

Afterall, if we are going to inspire others and talk about how we are 100% debt free including mortgage, and cabin…THEN….

We have to be completely transparent and talk about our journey and struggles before we followed the Dave Ramsey plan. Most of these  are  completely normal in our society. Complete normal money practices. Make no mistake these are things that keep you in debt and remember “borrow is slave to the lender” mode and mentality.


  1. Took out a loan against our 401K.
  2. Debt consolidation loan.
  3. Home equity Loan
  4. Hid money stress and spending from my spouse.
  5. For years, I bought to make myself “feel better”even if it was garage saling or on sale.
  6. For years, bought things because I was immature, and justified the purchases to myself saying “I deserve it because I work hard…” (“wah wah” sound effect should be playing). Or a temper tantrum.
  7. Buried my head in the sand, and didn’t look and add up how much money we owed.
  8. Didn’t do a monthly budget.
  9. Interest only loan with a balloon payment due at end of 10 years.
  10. Not following the wisdom of the bible on how to manage your money.

WE have all done stupid with money, what is your worst?


Don’t fool yourself into believing there is “good debt” – there is no such thing… if you don’t believe me read his book.

A great place to start is with Dave Ramsey’s book the Total Money Makeover. It spells out the 10 Babysteps to get out of debt. The plan that we followed. What are you waiting for? Click here to get the Total Money Makeover. .

I stand in a relationship with Amazon Services LLC Assoc. Program and use their affiliated links. This means that some of the links take you to where you can view and/or purchase a recommended item. If you do purchase the item (within a certain time period), I may earn a small commission from the sale. I ONLY link to products that I have reviewed or used myself and would recommend to family or friends, or have bought for family or friends.

Time to get control of your money, and get out of debt,  What are you waiting for?



I wanted to take a quick moment to share a tool that I love! (okay it isn’t this drill, but this picture I loved because taking control of your money eventually leads to Freedom.)

tools-you-can-use Financial Freedom and Peace.
If you have read my blog before, it is no surprise that I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey, we not only follow his teachings and program, my husband and I are Financial Peace Class Coordinators.

If you don’t know where your money is going every month, than you need to follow a budget- before the month begins and give every dollar a “name”. This sounds simple and it is not, until now Ramsey Solutions has made it so much simplier with their new computer program/app called Everydollar. Click on picture to go to there site.


5 Reasons I like “everydollar” over a spreasheet budgeting: 

1.There is a iphone app that gives you access to the budget that you set up on your computer. It  tracks what we have planned to spend, what we have spent and what is remaining in each catagory for the month.  This helps when you are shopping and tempted to say “just this once”. You open the app and look at your clothing budget and it gives you instant balance of what you have to spend for the month for that category.

2. Sounds restrictive? No! You are in charge. You tell your money where to go , before each month begins, each and every month based on the priorities you have set in your life. Seriously, it gives you control and a sense of peace.

3.Unexpected killer  Side benefit, I have found myself not wanting as much.  Sounds kind of funny but, I find myself having a sense of peace that I didn’t know would come from being directive about money and being in control of it instead of wondering where it went at the end of the month. Reminds me  when you are shopping, have no money you find all the best outfits, shoes, and home accessories you could ever ask for, then when you get your budget money for the month you shop and can’t find a thing.

4. I love that it is free. Now I have to fess up and say I did link it to our bank account so I didn’t have to add the transactions manually. That service costs 99 dollars a year, because the bank charges Ramsey Solutions. In my not so humble opinion–It is worth triple that cost. It saves so much time. The other thing I love about it is that it makes budgeting fun. I know— I know— sounds really weird but, I love the ‘control” aspect so much, that it gives you instant gratification.

5. Gives my husband and I the ability to review our budget very quickly. I make the budget and then we sit down and he gives his input and we move stuff around after discussing our priorities. For instance we recently this past year added a wedding savings account for our dear daughter.  She is 19 and in college and far from getting married.  But some day…and I don’t want that day to be full of stress and concern over money. (There will be a budget limit — but we will be prepared.).  every little bit saved is better than not saving at all…

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Journey to get out of Debt -Part 4 (Yes Finally!)

If you follow Dave Ramsey  you will know after reading part three to our journey to get out of Debt- that we moved to step 4. We put our retirement accounts back up to the 15% .  That was a quick click of the computer. 

During  this phase we also, had one of my work pensions bought out and rolled into an IRA. Why? Because if we keep it in the pension, and then pass away  my husband gets half til he dies then- the money is gone. BUT–If you roll it to an IRA  my husband, our kids and grand kids can inherit the money. And as Dave would say you have more options on how the money is invested. Here are the babysteps as a reminder. 


To say we were very behind in saving for our dear daughters college- would be an understatement.



We increased the amount we saved and then every extra ounce of money from my job went into  an account for her. When we had 3 years saved up we stopped and started working on the mortgage. We paid bills and then every bit of funding left over went to the principle. On our home. Any bonus, contest wins etc…

15 yr


I have to to say another HUGE step in paying our house off early was refinancing our mortgage to a 15 year. Once we got out from under our un secured debt (legal fees, credit cards. Etc ) the banks were   jumping to refinance us. We lowered our interest rate dramatically and had greater principle amounts going to the loan. Our payment  went up $200 a month but, we were paying a greater amount of the payment to principle instead of interest. This graph is not our home. Just a great borrow from the internet to demonstrate the power of 15 year vs 30.

I have been asked about whether the legal situation we were in had anything to do with debt. And it did not. We paid every cent we owed. (It just made our debt worse and our situation harder to climb out of).

We paid our home off in May 2014. (Yes I know it took me 9 month to write an update).

Ten years and one month after purchasing it.  We would say 9 years and 2 mos if you take into account the time we were gazelle intense about it. This includes working our way through some really tough times.



Omg !!! Yes our home is paid for but we are not debt free.

Remember this cute little cabin in the woods?  We are currently paying every cent extra and will have it paid off  very soon. Update Part 5?

cabin picture

We write this not to brag but to be an example to others that they can do this. We were “normal” too – until we started the Dave Ramsey plan.  I have to say that we still budgeted for senior pictures, sports for our kids and other life events. It is possible. What are you waiting for? Go to Dave Ramsey’s website and get signed up for a class.

You may think that this is not possible, and that we must make loads of money. While we do make a great living, it is what you do with what you make. It is a matter of telling your money what to do and where to go instead of wondering where it all went. It is living like the previous generations lived.


One of the best parts is that we are leading his FPU class! What a positive experience it has been for us. We are able to give others hope and share in our “stupid” moves with Money.

Remember, you don’t want to be “normal”. As Dave says, “normal” is having credit cards, student loans, car loans, and working paycheck to paycheck.





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Journey to get out of Debt – Part 3

If you have not had a chance to read Part 1 & Part 2 , I would take the time to do that. It helps you understand our journey and may help you in your journey to become debt free. Let’s start of with a visual of how the beginning of this stage felt:


The company I  worked for was moving towards a substantial set of layoffs. Our industry was hit hard, like many in 2008-2009 timeframe, and the writing was “on the wall”. It was a terrible time, because if you remember, we were back in consumer debt and managed to get ourselves into more “secured” debt with a bigger home and a cabin. I was in a horrible place emotionally. It took it’s toll on us, physically and emotionally.To add to the turmoil,  I had to have surgery during this time and was on a short medical leave. My husband went back to work to make ends meet while my pay was cut. Afterall, we had gotten ourselves into a place where there was no “wiggle” room.  I looked for solutions everywhere, including taking a loan against our 401k plan at my job. (Not a smart move, and especially if you are potentially going to lose your job). Notice I said “I”. hmmm…transparency is key to making sure that you work as a team with your spouse. (more on that later).


This is a photo of us during the stressful lawsuit and the potential layoff at my job…I look at this picture and remember how hard it was on all of us…I don’t like to look at this picture other than to know it is a great reminder.  The promise we/I made to ourselves to never be in a similar situation again.

I started hunting for a job, while working fulltime.  A very stressful place to be, especially if you have been a loyal employee for 10 years. I wasn’t very successful at first. I look back and see that future employers may have detected my “desparation”.  I kept praying and I found a job posting on Career Builders. It was a position that had a connection with a previous boss, whom was now a Vice President. I applied and started the process.  Our industry was in a downsizing mode, I was only looking to “replace” my current salary and get us back on track.  My prayers were answered and I accepted the position. Our second try at the Dave Ramsey program began… Our first step took place during my job hunt,  we handed the bill paying responsibilities over to my husband, and we started to work together more consistently. No trying to protect each other from stress and hiding financial situations. My husband is home with the kids and it made more sense for him to track our spending and pay our bills. Besides it helped keep me accountable for sticking to our plan and for him to be more aware.



It was a very slow go but, we followed the babysteps and were very diligent about our spending.  We took every bit of extra, as well as our snowball ,and attacked the smallest to largest debt. Though our smallest debt wasn’t that small. At the same time, we worked to try to refinance out of our current mortgages. To our dismay  we didn’t qualify due to our home value and debt ratio. As hard as it was,  we continued to have tenacity and after 2.1 years we paid off all of our consumer debt.

Sold our rental, paid off the legal bills, paid off any and all credit cards, and fully funded our emergency fund with 3-6 mos of living expenses.

To celebrate we went on an all cash paid vacation to Destin Florida. It felt so good to be free from the consumer debt and pay cash. We had not been on a vacation for 7 years! It was the best vacation ever, because we felt so free from having paid off our debt!  Now it was time to tackle our home and cabin mortgages. More about that in Part 4.

I generalized alot in this post. But, Dave Ramsey’s plan spells out the easy steps. Follow them exactly and you will be well on the road to Financial Freedom.







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Our Journey to get out of Debt – Part 2

Our journey was going well and very successful.  We were completely out of debt except for our mortgage and had a fully funded emergency fund. HAPPY DANCE!!!! Then it happened…I found out I was pregnant with our second child. WILDER HAPPY DANCE!!!! It was such a wonderful blessing. I continued to work through my pregnancy. gabgarrettWe realized that we needed to finish our basement- to move my office from our extra bedroom to the basement.  That would be my dear son’s nursery. It didn’t kill us, my husband refinished it and we paid cash as he built it. We were very happy with the rebuild and spent a lot of time as a family in the extra space.  But, I have to admit our starter homes’ walls were starting to cave in on us me.  We needed more room. (Or so we I justified). My DH is the sensible one.  He is happy with whatever he has. He doesn’t have a materialistic bone in his body.  But, I am the driven one and really wanted to move to what I would call our more permanent family home. So…The house hunting began. Model 2   We made a list of our must haves and bought a bigger home. WE were buying when the banks were loaning money like crazy.  My new promotion was bringing in good money so we jumped in head first. and landed pretty well…if we would have been able to stay on track. Something happened when we bought this home. I felt invincible. That we could do and survive anything. A real false sense of everything will work out- no matter what happens. Higher mortgage payment, higher living expenses and we decided to keep the previous home as a rental property. (bad idea- we didn’t own it – it was financed). Whew…I am getting tired just thinking about it all…Of course I left out that we paid cash for a truck and “bought” (financed) a small cabin in the mountains during the good times.

cabin in the woods.pngWe were even making extra payments on the cabin every month… Of course the loan on the cabin was a horrible interest only loan. Yikes…subject for another post. So we went from a small percent of debt to income ratio to a very large one. Thinking as long as we had money in the bank, weren’t using credit cards, had emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses and my great job– we were living the life. yeah a life balanced on top the head of a pin. Looking back–the move was a good one. When I see the great neighbors that we have gotten to be close with, and my DS’s neighborhood gang of friends that he hangs around with ( 9 boys- count them- 9) …it is a no brainer and I am glad we made the move.  And of course–  I love our home.  DD was 8.5 and son was 2.5 when we moved here. A lot of great memories…

Neighborhood Gang2.jpg

It spending money on a truck, cabin and keeping the rental that wasn’t smart.  It was weird.  We embraced the debt free life – but only with consumer debt. We never considered the cabin, rental and our home— debt. Normal people mistake number one that will always keep you broke. This is what made our situation so dire when life hit us hard. We moved in and paid cash for all of the extras we bought. We were very committed to staying debt free.

craxy mommy picture

Then the bottom fell out, I hit crisis mode at my job , health issues and a law suit all within a 6-12 month period.  We went through our entire emergency fund- SNAP! (for legal fees-etc).  (Thank God, we had it or we would have had to move).  We went back into debt… about 39 grand…plus our previous homeand cabin debt.  It was was a horrible feeling.  How did we get here again??? I went back to work once my health issues resolved and realized that the foundation of my health problems were the stress from a not so stable work situation. I refocused and worked hard and I found a new job, my health improved and our lawsuit was settled. (that sentence is simple but the process was definately not). The lawsuit was a financial loss and one that you fight because it is the right thing to do, not to become rich. “To be come rich”- that job is for the lawyers (on both sides).  But, I grew more as an individual during that time than I ever did any other time in my life.

MotherTheresa quote don beth

 I learned to be confident and grew in confidence.  I am a great mother, wife and employee.  I know I am willing to do the right thing even when no one is looking.  To do the right thing because – it is the right thing. I have been given more gifts and perspective than a large financial settlement would have ever provided. Ever. I realized during that time that I will do whatever I need to. I am the type of person that never ever gives up. Even when my mind and body was telling me different I rallied on…amazing quality. I am blessed. I got this from my dad. We lost him this year on March 31st. I have his fight.


At our lowest point–I will never forget looking out our master bedroom window, and making a vow to myself that we will never be in this situation ever again. I was so overwhelmed. I kept thinking that I had worked my entire life (I am the breadwinner, DH is a stay at home dad) and we were close to being completely broke. BROKEN. How could this be? Granted we live on one income, and have for years, but we made more than enough money- not to be in that situation. What does Dave Ramsey say? We make too much money to be this broke. In the end, Life happens and I could “blame” it on life circumstances, but when I reflect back it was also a lot of STUPID decisions. At that point I realized that we didn’t understand or completely follow “the Debt Free including our mortgage” if we got ourselves back into this place again.

This was the beginning of our second try at the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. More in Part 3.

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“If you are sooo into Dave Ramsey…why don’t you downsize?” You ask…

If you are new to my blog you know that I  my DH and myself are into working to become debt free before we retire.  Well, actually a lot sooner, but it includes the mortgage.  We are on one income, so that is reasonable to extend the timeline a little bit.

We made the decision years ago for my DH, dear husband,  –to stay home with our kids.

(We love this movie!)

Darn those priorities…Just kidding.

It was the best decision we could have ever made.  He was wonderful with them when they were infants, toddlers…talk about the schedule man. He was amazing. It has been a true blessing.  So funny that you just do what you need to do.  I feel fortunate that we have been able to afford for one of us to stay home.  Many people don’t have the luxury.  Once you get used to living on two incomes…its so hard to stop….I remember getting a cash advance on a Discover card when my husband quit that first year….Ouch…okay that was before understanding debt free philosophy, but we did what we had to do!

I actually have been judged by people because I work…and my DH is the one that stays home.  But, like Mark Cuban said on SharkTank when an inventor was talking about being a stay at home dad  and one of the panel members started dissing him…saying “your poor wife…she..blah blah blah….”

Mark Cuban said, Actually, Maybe she is a really smart woman because he is good at it!  He’s a really good father.

Okay I am getting on my stepladder again…I am so grateful for my DH and everything he does to care for us, just like the women that stay/or stayed home. We all make the choice to be at home…and blessed to be able to do so.


Squirrel— I digressed from my original question…so if we want to be debt free so badly why not move or “downsize” into a smaller place you ask? Well, no one really asked, but it is a situation we recently considered quite deliberately.  Makes sense right? Especially with DFC, dear friend Christy being a realtor, and DFK, a house flipper–we could very easily.

This is why….the neighborhood gang.  My DS, dear 10 year old son, is in the center.


Can you believe that many kids around the same age in one neighborhood?  Are we lucky or what? They are all amazing kids…they have so much fun.  I know it may end someday…as they keep getting busier with their sports and activities.  They are quite the amazing bunch. (sniff.sniff)


Now for the other reasons…

This is the home that we have lived in the longest as a family.

We have such great memories here. A lot of  “firsts” —Birthdays, first communion/confirmation celebrations, surprise parties, holiday dinners, firsts for our kids, first job, drivers license, , school dances, dance recitals, basketball games, after game parties, bbqs, cousins over to play, of course the memories of day to day living.

It has so many of the things on our want list when we bought it…(this was our third house and we really understood our needs at that point)

  • Mud room/Wash room combination
  • separate dining area
  • Eat in Kitchen opens into great room
  • Bedrooms privately upstairs
  • unfinished basement
  • a Main level office that is separate from rest of house
  • master ensuite – bath with double sinks and tub hooked to a master closet
  • a guest room that has it’s own separate bath
  • a three car garage with a separated 2-1 so we can have a shop
  • Opens up to open space…
Now we would trade that all to live near our neighbors that have turned friends.

It is still a work in progress…we still have so much fun to have getting it the way that we want it to truly  make it ours!

So the adventure begins, working to make it ours on a DR budget. We did re finance to a 15 year mortgage and our payment went down! Are debt free but our mortgage and our cabin.

We have settled in and I am glad we did and didn’t make a hasty decision.  I want my DD to be able to come home from college to her same house that she grew up in. It won’t matter to her that it is still is forever a work in progress it is after all her HOME.





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