My husband, Elmer, has always enjoyed cooking meals on the barbecue grill. I'm glad, because I really enjoy the flavor of grilled meats and veggies, but I didn't grow up in a family who grilled dinners in the backyard.
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I've never even cooked a single thing on a barbecue grill.
Pitiful, isn't it? I'm sure all my friends think I'm a basket case. After all, they grill foods all the time!
Usually, my husband grills once or twice a week during the warmer summer months. But last year, I noticed that he really wasn't interested in grilling much at all, even if I offered to fix everything ahead of time (which I usually do, anyway). I guess I never thought to ask him "why", so I continued cooking in the house, using the crockpot and the microwave as frequently as possible so as not to heat up the house as much.
When we first got married, Elmer had a little tabletop Weber charcoal grill that we could take from place to place. While it wasn't a great product for doing "gourmet grilling", it worked. We still have it. We take it to campgrounds and picnic sites when we want to grill a hot meal for the family.
After we'd been married for a couple of years, we decided to invest in a larger kettle charcoal grill like this one. Sometimes, I'd forget to buy bags of charcoal to keep on hand, so we found that we (he!) wouldn't grill as often as he would have liked. It eventually got pretty worn out, however.
When we had been married about eight years, I decided to surprise Elmer with a nicer gas grill for Father's Day one year. My dad helped me pick it up from the store and take it to his house so Elmer wouldn't see it prior to Father's Day.
Even though it was a pretty small gas grill, I thought it was simply amazing!
He was very surprised that he was getting a "bigger "gift for Father's Day, because we didn't have much extra cash lying around the house. For us, this was an extravagant gift!
After a couple of summers of moderate use on the grill, Elmer needed to replace the element (or something like that - remember, I'm not a grill gal!). The replacement part was easily found in our nearby hardware store, so it wasn't a problem.
However, two years later, it needed to be replaced again. Unfortunately, this is quite common with gas grills, I've learned.
This time, the replacement part couldn't be found. He spent a full weekend almost "remanufacturing" to get the "universal" part to work with our grill.
Life went on with the normal grilling at our home, but I was frequently wondering why the hamburgers always turned out black and much overdone. Even some of our guests had begun to comment on this, or tease about it. Flame on!
Last summer, I realized that we (he) only grilled 3-4 times all summer. Hmmm. Now what was that about? I thought about it a few times over the winter.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that because it was going to be very difficult to replace the element again on the gas grill, and the gas grill didn't grill very well, anyway, maybe I should consider getting him another gas grill for Father's Day.
This time, the girls and I went down to the library and looked up gas grills in "Consumer Reports" magazine. Fortunately, the June 2010 issue features reviews on gas grills. Woo-hoo!
I wrote down what we would need to know about shopping for a new gas grill, but this time, it wasn't going to be a surprise. I showed Elmer the information and mentioned that I thought this was something that he might like for Father's Day.
You should have seen his face light up! Yes - he was interested! He read the pages of information, grabbed a highlighter to mark the grills that fit our small budget but would still be excellent choices, and we headed out to the two large nationwide chain hardware stores in our town.
Sure 'nuff, we found what he thought would work best for our family and our budget. This is what he bought:
...a Char-Broil Commercial Series Four-Burner gas grill.
I cannot believe the difference in cooking with the new grill. Because it enables us to cook foods with indirect heat instead of directly over the flame, we are finding out just how wonderful grilled foods can be!
And, here is an actual photo of how our very first hamburgers turned out last weekend on the new grill. Now keep in mind that in the past, they have always been as black as tires.
Black = Blech!
...but these are bee-a-utiful!
I don't share about our grilling experiences and grill purchases to brag about what we currently have. Most families would have spent twice as much on a gas grill - and wouldn't have thought twice about it. To us, this was a big expense, especially as a gift.
However, there are times when an upgrade makes sense to purchase:
1. When the item you currently have is broken and no longer works well
2. When the item you currently have will continue to break or need difficult-to-find replacement parts occasionally
3. When the end result from using the product makes you wish you had just gone out and eaten at a restaurant!
The stainless steel burner on the new gas grill has a limited lifetime warranty, so we are hoping that this grill will last far longer than needing replacement parts every two years.
The grilled food we've had so far has been excellent: corn on the cob, baked potatoes, large trout that Elmer and the girls caught while fishing, hamburgers, lamb chops, pork chops, steak, chicken, and hot dogs.
I think it's time for me to learn a few things about how to operate a grill! But when I wanted to learn last weekend while we were making hamburgers, I was still in the kitchen, getting out all of the condiments, setting the table, and making the macaroni salad, so all I learned to do was how to turn on the grill properly.
I think I'll figure it out some day.
If not, we'll be finding the nearest dog to share the burned remains with, and we'll be eating this instead:
Happy summer grilling to you all!
Now ain't that hairstyle SPECIAL!!! Do you like it? I hope so! Good thing it isn't permanent...
Last weekend, our family was able to attend our statewide home education convention, an annual event for us.
But for the first time ever, we stayed there two nights instead of just the one night...and we played!
We had taken the girls to the science museum years ago, probably about six years ago. We decided that before they were too old, we wanted to take them again to enjoy it before it would no longer be as much "fun."
Well, we had a LOT of fun. My family laughed and laughed when they saw my hair at the "static electricity" exhibit. So did I. I don't mind laughing at myself, especially when I look like this!
We really enjoyed the day together as a family. It was nice to relax and do something different for a change. We are fairly frugal with vacation plans and the amount of money we choose to spend on entertainment, and even though this was only one evening and day together away from all responsibilities and "learning", we had fun as a family.
It's amazing how 48 hours, when well planned, can help bond a family together. Of course, it also helps when you all enjoy hanging out together as well!
Even if you aren't able to afford to go on a fancy or lengthy vacation as a family this summer, find happenings to attend and places to go together as a family, locally in your area or in your state. If you PLAN to have fun and remove the stress from overplanning or underplanning, you will enjoy the family time together.
Happy summer to you all!
Whether you are a homeschooling family, or not, living frugally is often a necessity these days. Actually, it has been a necessity for most family situations for decades, but families were in denial about what they could truly afford and what they could not. Let’s not be in denial about our financial situation; let’s look at our incomes objectively, plan for our bills rationally, and set money aside for emergencies and retirement.
And maybe you should live in a box? Read on:
I admit it. I suppose that when it comes to living frugally and making financial decisions, I live in a box. A box? What do I mean by that? Let me explain, because this is my number one best tip to saving money for my family. I don’t ever remember my parents sitting me down and saying, "Here are the 100 things you need to know so you can live frugally and survive in any financial situation you might find yourself in." However, I did pick up enough from my parents and my family’s own tough financial situations (not from their poor choices, mind you) over the years, that I learned to "live in a box."
Let’s pretend for a moment that you live in a very small, 900-square foot, cracker box of a house. Imagine this box of a house is in a neighborhood or an environment that you would not choose for yourself. For some of you, this might be in a low-income, ghetto-style neighborhood in a large city. For others, this box might be in the middle of a forest, with no neighbors or Macy’s around for many miles, or out in the desert, or in an industrial area of town, or a part of a large apartment complex. Get the picture? Imagine yourself living somewhere where none of your friends and relatives live, where you would normally not choose for yourself to live. They don’t see where you go shopping; they aren’t able to see the financial decisions you make. They don’t even see the car you drive, the styles of clothing you wear, or what you put on the table for your family to eat each night.
Okay, being a bit more realistic here, no one who is of extreme importance to you, besides the members of your household, are seeing you. Yes, you are not completely isolated, but let’s just pretend that those who see you around town just plain and simply do not know you at all, nor do they pay attention to you.
Now that the scene is set, how would you change the day-to-day decisions you make as you are out around town, doing your grocery shopping, getting necessary clothing, planning vacations, etc.?
If no one noticed you, would you be willing to make a list of clothing items you and your family members truly needed – that were true necessities – and take your list with you to second-hand stores first, before scouting around the KMarts, WalMarts, and lower-budget clothing stores in your community?
If no one noticed you, would you consider placing only house-brand groceries into your shopping cart? Would you be willing to only have the eight items in your cart that are necessities as you check out at the grocery store, instead of a cart piled with food items that you really can’t afford?
If no one noticed you, would you be willing to hand the grocery clerk your coupons? Pay for your groceries with cash instead of your credit card? Use a calculator as you walk around the grocery store to make sure you stay "on budget?"
If no one noticed you, or had the possibility of saying or thinking anything negative about you, would you be able to plan a child’s birthday party as a simple sleepover or an afternoon at the park, or goofing around in your own backyard?
If no one noticed, would you invite friends and relatives over regularly, preparing simple and less costly foods to serve? Or having the meal be "potluck" style, where both you and your guests contribute to the meal eaten together in your home? Would you be willing to eat out once a month, or less, in order to meet your financial goals?
If no one noticed, would you consider driving your vehicle for years and years, even if you had car repairs…even if people would recognize what "era" your car came from?
(This is a photo of a 1992 Chevrolet Corsica that we drove until mid-2008.)
If no one noticed, would you plan camping trips and simple, less expensive day trips as an alternative to lengthy, expensive family vacations? Would you be willing to spend your wedding anniversary at an inexpensive restaurant, instead of flying to Hawaii this year?
I could continue with this line of thinking, as you could imagine, but I think you are probably understanding where I’m coming from.
All of the frugal living tips in the world are wonderful, but they won’t help any person who isn’t willing to change their mindset of how they are observed by others. If the primary reason I don’t change the way I make financial decisions is because I’m terrified of what "Suzie Somebody" is going to think or say about me to someone else, then the likelihood of me beginning to live more frugally, and reaching my financial goals, is slim.
I remember as a child, having guests come to visit. They were younger than me, and they were absolutely HORRIFIED that our family was going to go inside of the local, low-budget store and do some shopping. In fact, our dear guests stayed out in the car because they refused to be seen inside of this national chain store, even though their home was in another state! Those were the days when we only had two larger department stores in our town, and neither one would our guests step a foot into. They were only in upper elementary school at the time. I was shocked! Now, I’ll be truthful. I’d rather shop in a more upscale store, too, but when budgets are limited, I go where the prices are going to fit my purse, not my dreams.
And speaking of purses, please don’t give me a $250 purse for Christmas. I think my $10 purse from Something-Mart is just fine and dandy, and if I lose it or it breaks, there’s not much guilt there about going out to buy a new or barely-used purse!
If you want to live a more frugal lifestyle,try "living in a box." Close off your mind to the possibilities that you will be the hot topic of gossip amongst your friends if you are accidentally seen in a second-hand store, or if you are emailing your Christmas letters this year instead of sending them through the postal mail. Don’t think of what others would say. They aren’t paying your bills, are they? Well, then don’t give them the time of day when it comes to making your own frugal financial decisions. Decide how much money you need to save in the next few months, or how much you want to pay off your debts in the near future.
This is your new box, your new mindset.
What your friends don’t know won’t hurt them! And what if they do find out? Well, they need to learn to stay inside their financial box as well, and remember that we all are either working toward our financial goals for ourselves, or we’re walking away from our goals. Your new goals, your new mindset, your new box, is just different from theirs. And it’s okay to be different. Be diligent, and keep your eyes closed to what others will think of your reasonable, sound financial decisions. It will pay off!
© Copyright 2008 by Julieanne Miller. All Rights Reserved.You are welcome to link to this article, but not to repost its contents without permission from the author.
I've always enjoyed reading about the little calling cards or dance cards that women used to give out to others in the 1800s and early 1900s. I've always enjoyed reading historical fiction and trying to imagine what it was like in other eras of time.
When I learned that www.KodakGallery.com was giving out 50 free personal cards for the price of shipping ($3.99), I thought I'd give these a try!
They were very easy to design, using photos and graphics from my computer.
You can see, above, the graphic I placed on the front of my personal cards, along with the name of my website.
On the back of the card, I included the following information:
*my website address
*my email address
*my home phone
*my cell phone
*the website address of our local county homeschooling Yahoo group
Obviously, I wouldn't give these cards out to just anyone I don't know. But occasionally, I meet a new homeschooling family or make a new friend, and this is a nice way to provide them with that information without having them write it all down on a scrap of paper.
Additional orders (beyond the original 50 cards) are at their regular price, but for a small order of 50 cards, I thought that $3.99 was a decent price for a full-color glossy front personal card.
I'm not an affiliate of KodakGallery, although I do order prints through their website once in a while. I just thought I'd share their latest "freebie" for those who may be interested. I have nothing to gain in sharing this info!
Hi! I'm Julieanne!
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