The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to and end...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

21 Day Fix- nutrition

I wanted to take a little time to give you my thoughts on the nutrition part of the 21 Day fix program.

First, let me tell you how much I love this program- "I LOVE this program!"
I really do, it has changed the way I look at food, it has drastically changed my portions of the foods I was eating too much of, it has led me to try (and like) new foods, it has helped me and my family already!
But with that being said, let me tell you that it's not always easy.  

The whole premise of these little portion boxes is to show you just how much a portion really is, and to get you to eat the right foods throughout the day.  If you're like me and love  LOVE carbs then get ready for a rude awakening on how many carbs you'll be eating on this program.  I already knew I was eating too many carbs, they were the majority of my diet- I would eat them for each meal of the day as well as snacks in between.  So I'm thankful for the program, that it's helped me to get away from eating so many.  I'm still eating carbs- they're not off limits, but my portions are greatly reduced.

How about a little overview on this box system:
In your package you get 7 colored boxes of different sizes.

The purple box is for fruits, pretty much any fruit you can think of can go in here.  You just fill the fruit to the top (make sure you can close the lid) and voila! there's your portion.  Depending on what calorie category you're in, you get 2-4 of these each day.  2 if you're in the 1200-1499 calorie category, up to 4 if you're in the 2100-2300 category.

The green box holds the most veggies.   You get 3-6 of these each day, again depending on your calorie category.

The red box is for the proteins (meats, eggs, tuna, cottage cheese, shakeology and protein powders, etc).  You get 4-6 of these each day.

The yellow box is for carbs like oatmeal, breads, tortillas, sweet potatoes, rice, corn on the cob, pastas, pancakes, beans, etc.)  You get 2-4 of these.  I'm in the category where I get 2, and oh how I wish it was four, but it okay.

The blue container is for things like avocado, raw nuts, hummus, cheese, coconut milk, etc. You get just one of these a day.

You get two little orange containers that hold chopped raw nuts, raw seeds, olives, coconut, and 21 Day fix dressings.  You also get one of these a day.

And lastly there are "teaspoons" (you just use your own teaspoon for these measurements).  These are for EVOO, coconut oil and other healthy oils, nut and seed butters.  Depending on your calorie category, you get 2-6 of these each day.

So, like I said this has helped me so much limit the food I was eating too much of (carbs), but it also helped me eat more of the foods I wasn't getting enough of in my diet (veggies).   

My diet on the 21 Day fix is balanced now.

Can I also say that not every food you may be used to eating should you continue eating.  For example Doritos aren't considered a whole/real food (and that's what you ought to be eating is the whole and real foods).  So you won't be filling up your yellow container with Doritos (sorry).  

The following list helped me to buy the right kind of foods at the store:

You may have questions like, what about coffee? with my favorite creamer? or what about treats? what happens when I go out for dinner? how do I cook in this new way?
I had these same questions, plus more.  This is why I researched this program before I bought it, I wanted as few surprises as possible- I wanted to fully know and accept what I was getting into.  
You should do the same thing.

And keep in mind that everyone is different, so everyone will have different goals, and everyone will do things a little different.  That's okay!

For me, it wasn't necessarily about losing weight.  
I wanted to take part in something that:
         *helped my family eat healthier for the long run, 
         *I wanted to get my tummy toned, 
         *and I wanted to just feel better.
Already, after only a week I feel better, I'm eating healthier, and my tummy is on its way to get toned.

Having said that I will also tell you that I'm not perfect in this new endeavor.  Whether you call it cheating or not, there are things I allow in my new diet that others may not allow, but remember that I don't have a lot of weight to lose either.  If my main concern was losing weight then I would probably limit my "cheats", but for me I want to do this the way I will continue to do it for the long haul- which for me means drinking my coffee in the morning with my creamer.  I will tell you however, that my coffee consumption has gone way down.  I now drink about 1 1/2 cups of coffee in the morning, and sometimes a cup in the afternoon.  Whereas  we used to have our coffee pot going all day long- seriously.  I'm trying to decrease the amount of creamer I add to my coffee, slowly, and we'll see how that goes.
The other thing that I've done a few days this past week is allow myself one extra carb a day.  Instead of 2 yellow boxes, I've had 3.  To me, it's not the end of the world because before this program I would have triple, or even quadruple the amount of carbs I eat now- so I've decreased it by a lot.  And again, it's because I'm not doing this for the weight loss, if I was then I would stick with the 2 boxes a day like they suggest.

This is really why I like this program so much, they've given these guidelines for you to follow, but you know what you can take and what you shouldn't.  I've drastically changed my diet, and this program has helped!  Let me also say that if you're doing this for weight loss, then once you've reached your weight loss goal you will then go to a maintenance calorie category, which may up your box portions.  
This program is really a life-changer, because it's truly changed my life.  But the nutrition portion goes hand in hand with the exercise portion, and that's why this works so well.  

If you have any questions about the 21 day fix then please feel free to ask!  
Next time I'll show you some of the things that have helped me in this endeavor, so check back soon!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Travel adventures

This is a completely new topic for me to write about, because up until 2014 I hadn't done any air travel for about 12 years.
Then in 2014 to early 2015 I traveled to Fiji, Florida, California, and Hawaii.
I still can't believe I went to all those places even as I'm typing it.

In July 2014 I (along with a group of teens and adults from church) went on a missions trip to Fiji- it was awesome, it was amazing, it was inspiring, and it was unforgettable!
In October of 2014 I went to Florida (I live in Washington) to visit family.  It was a last-minute trip, and a long day of traveling with 3 connecting flights across the United States.
In November of 2014 I flew to California with 5 others to visit a Christian College.  In November in the State of Washington we had snow, in November in the State of California we had sun!  It was awesome!
And finally in April of 2015 my family (husband, myself, and 5 kids) flew to Hawaii for a Spring Break vacation.  I still can't believe we went to Hawaii, and had the opportunity as a family to live in paradise for a week!

I write this all to tell you that even though I went 12 years without flying anywhere, in this past year I learned so much about what to do and what not to do as far as traveling goes.  I learned a ton about packing- what you need and what you really don't need at all.  And now I want to share what I learned with you, so if you're like me and need some information on traveling do's and don'ts, then please bookmark this blog.  I'll be posting about each trip, and what I specifically learned about foreign travel, short trips, long trips, etc.
I had a blast traveling and can't wait to do it again!

I'm going to start with my trip to Florida first.  Even though my trip to Fiji came before my trip to Florida, that trip will take a bit longer to write about so I'll save it for next time.

Florida (that's how I'll refer to each trip- by the state name) came about at the last minute.  
My Aunt and Uncle had lived in Florida for 3 years, and in those 3 years my uncle's health deteriorated quite a bit.  I was very close to my aunt and uncle, and actually lived with them for part of a summer back in 1995.  I got a message from my cousin that my uncle wasn't doing well (she went to stay with them to help out), I talked to her about what was going on and she told me she didn't think he had too long to live.  I wasn't sure if this meant he had months, weeks, or days left.  We waited a couple days for more information, and during this waiting time I felt the need to go and visit them.  The day after I made this decision I talked to my cousin again and I told her I wanted to come out to visit, I asked if she thought I could wait a week and she thought I probably could.  But when I spoke to my aunt later that night, my aunt seemed to think his time was close.  When I asked if I should come out sooner than a week, she said I probably should.  
So that night I booked my flight for 2 days later.  

Here's my first travel tip:  if it's last minute, prepare to pay the big bucks!  
Don't be surprised if you can't find a flight for less than $700 (if you're flying across the country like I was).
The sticker shock hit me like a ton of bricks, but my dear husband didn't bat an eye- knowing how much my aunt and uncle meant to me. He told me not to worry about the money and just GO!
I booked my flight on one of those travel websites, and because I wanted to try and save as much as I could I didn't get a non-stop flight.  I got a flight that had the first stop in Colorado, the second in Miami, and the last flew me to Gainesville.

Here's my second travel tip:  if you're not getting a non-stop, then at least make sure all your flights are with the same airline.
You don't have to do this, but can I tell you it makes a world of difference!  When you get off one flight, then your connecting flights/gates are usually all located in the same area.  I didn't go from United, to Southwest, to American, etc.  I made sure all my flights were with the same airline, this is especially important if you're checking baggage.  
Now, don't get me wrong- if you use different airlines it doesn't mean there will be problems- your trip could go off without a hitch.  But for me it took some of the stress out of it.  
But on the other hand, just because you're sticking with the same airline on all connecting flights doesn't mean you won't have any obstacles.  Here's my example:  Coming home from Florida I flew from Gainesville, to Miami, and up to Washington DC.  The Dulles airport (at least the portion I went to) was under construction and I had to walk (at times at a pretty fast pace) for about 45 minutes (no joke!) to get to my next gate!  I'm not sure if this was just how the Dulles airport was laid out, but even though I was using the same airline my two gates were VERY far apart.  I had just over an hour layover, and thank goodness there were no delays in my flight to DC because once I got to the gate I had just about 15 minutes left to go to the bathroom and get a pretzel before my next flight was called.  I was one big sweaty mess!

Here's my next tip:  Be prepared before hand with snacks and water if your airline doesn't provide these.  
On my trip TO Florida, my connecting flights were just a few hours apart and the layovers gave me enough time to get a bite to eat at the airports.  But on my way back to Washington, because of the mad rush to my last gate in Dulles, and trying to stuff a pretzel down my throat as fast as I could (only ate about half of it), I didn't really get prepared for the long flight back.  
It was non-stop from Dulles to Portland (about 7 hours), and I was starving by the end.  I did get water and a tiny little bag of peanuts on the flight, but that was it.  So be prepared to get snacks before hand, or buy a meal on the plane.

And here's my last tip:  Don't get too stressed, just go with the flow, and enjoy it.  
I have to admit that before I left for Florida I was nervous to travel across the country by myself.  Yes, I was 38 at the time, but I was still a bit nervous.  I hadn't flown on my own for years, I had 3 connecting flights, and I was just plain nervous of air travel anyway.  But I kept reminding myself that I was adult and I could handle it (that sounds silly I know), and I told myself to just enjoy this experience.

Like I said, I'm not a seasoned air-flyer, but I think these tips will come in handy for a lot of you.

I want to talk about packing for this particular trip, and share things I did as far as packing, and what I would change next time.  But that will be in my next post.  So please bookmark this and check back soon!

Monday, June 8, 2015

First week on the 21 Day Fix

Good morning!!

It's 9:00 am, and I've been up for 4 hours already!  That alone boggles my mind.  Let me tell you why.
I. am. not. a. morning. person.
However, since starting the 21 Day fix my sleeping habits have completely changed.
Anyone else out there a night owl like me?
My old routine had me staying up until sometimes 1:00 am (or even later once or twice a week), and getting up around 6:30 am to get the kids up for school.
My morning routine was a hard one on all of us (myself and the kids).  My children definitely suffered from this routine: I was grumpy in the morning, I was rushed in the morning, I would end up not getting up early enough to do my morning devotions, and I'd be tired all day- sometimes taking a nap by 10:00 am and leaving my poor 3 year old to fend for himself.

Definitely not getting mom of the year here.
But now, things are completely different and it's not even been a full week yet.  
I feel so much better already, and I'm starting to get a better routine going.
I have my alarm set for 5:09 am (don't you just love that odd time?), I hit snooze once but usually get up before the alarm buzzes again.
I'm in the living room by 5:20 to do my 30 minute workout.  I just love that it's only 30 minutes!!
By 6:00 am I'm getting my 3 oldest kids up to go work with their 4-H goats before school.
6:45 am and all the kids are back in the house eating breakfast or finishing getting ready for school.
7:00 am I do a little devotion with them and pray before the bus picks them up.
7:20ish I'm at the table doing my own morning devotion- praying and reading my Bible.
By 8:00 am I'm checking email, Facebook, etc.  My little one loves watching Daniel Tiger on PBS so he's watching that while I get to drink my coffee and do my own thing.
And by 9:00 I'm feeling ready to tackle the daily chores.
Lately by 9:00 PM, I'm starting to feel tired and usually now by 10:00 PM I'm heading to bed.
So you see, since this 21 Day fix started my routine is so much better!  

I'm feeling better physically, emotionally, spiritually!

The workouts have definitely made a difference in how I'm feeling.  I love that they are short, but they are tough- especially in the beginning when you haven't worked out in a while, or even if you have they are varied that you feel like you're getting a real workout!
Because of the workouts I feel like I have more energy- even though they leave me exhausted when I'm done.  And by the time I go to bed I sleep better than I have in a long time.

If you're looking for something new in the workout and nutrition area then please check this program out, you won't regret it!
Next time I'll talk about the nutrition part and how it's been working for me.
Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My 21 Day Fix Journey

There's a lot going on around here, let me tell ya!
My kids have less than 2 weeks of school, so excitement is at an all time high right now.
My kids (3 of them anyway) just got their goats last week for 4-H this year.  They go out every morning before school and every afternoon when they get home from school, and then sometimes in the evening to work with them.
We're also in the beginning stages of getting a new house built, so we (actually mostly my husband) have been busy uprooting and moving trees, taking apart a deck, taking down and moving fences, moving a shed, having a new driveway put in- it's crazy!!!

And in the midst of all of this I'm starting the 21 Day Fix program.
If you haven't heard about this then let me tell you about it now.
It's not your typical diet or exercise program, but it combines both to give you the lasting results you want/need.

First let me tell you "my story" :)
I've always been a petite person, I'm 5'2" and usually weigh between 105-115.  Post high school I was probably more like 115-120.  
After my first baby was born the weight came off pretty quickly (around 4 months) due to breast-feeding (Loved it!!).  Same thing with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th babies.  I would usually bounce back to around 115 within 4-5 months because of breastfeeding.  My stomach wasn't always the same after having kids, but within about 9-12 months of having a baby my stomach looked fairly alright and I could hide pretty much any lumps/bumps with clothing.
My fifth baby was another story though, I was 36 years old when I had him and my body didn't bounce back like with the others.  My stomach just wouldn't go back like it had with the first four.  But I wasn't too concerned because for the most part I could cover it up with the right kind of clothes.

But within the past 2 years my body was doing things that I didn't like too well.  
For one, I would have high blood pressure problems off and on (I had high blood pressure as well during my 5th pregnancy). 
Realizing that my aging body was beginning to have issues like this was a bit of a wake-up call.
My skin was worse than it was in my teens too.  I would break out more often now, whereas in my teens and 20's my skin was flawless.
My stomach pretty much always looked like I was at least 2-3 months pregnant because I had no muscle tone left in my abdominals.
So all these changes were happening in me that I didn't like- something had to change!

Last year I got a gym membership which I loved!  I actually enjoyed going to a weekly class, and I even started running (actually jogging) on the treadmill.  I felt better than I had in a long time.
At that same time I was hearing more about clean eating, and real foods.  I started reading more about what that meant, and trying to incorporate that kind of healthy eating into our diet.

As a side note, my husband has suffered from Ulcerative Colitis for 10 years and incorporating real foods into his diet was important for us.

After about 6 months of having a gym membership my husband's schedule at work changed so getting into the gym was not as easy since I didn't have him to watch our littlest one, so I let my gym membership lapse.
About 3 months ago I decided to try exercising at home.  I have a Gilad workout video that I bought awhile back.  Gilad had a regular 30 minute workout show about 5 years ago that I loved, where every day the workout was different so you wouldn't get bored.  Unfortunately the exercise channel was canceled and so were my workouts, the video I bought was good, but start to finish it was over an hour and I just didn't have that much time.
Last month I renewed my gym membership in hopes of going more often, but unfortunately the same problem occurred, I couldn't really figure out a good time to go unless it was when my husband woke up around 3-4 in the afternoon from his graveyard shift, which was also right before dinnertime.  So I would try to go on his days off, which didn't happen all the time.  In the month I had the gym membership I think I only went 7 times- just not enough for me to pay $30 a month.

So here I was thinking, "what am I going to do now??".
(Cue trumpet horn)

21 Day Fix!  
It was a weekend and we were all working outside, coming in and out of the house to get this and that, and there was an infomercial for 21 Day Fix on TV.  It instantly caught my eye.

What hooked me was the fact that this isn't a diet, and this isn't an extreme exercise program.  But it incorporates both the nutrition aspect and the fitness aspect.  
Hmmm...sounded good to me.

The nutrition part is all about real foods, whole foods, nothing processed- nothing fake.  This is what I was trying to do anyway for myself and my family, but 21 Day Fix is also about eating the right foods in the right portions.  Everyone knows that portion control in America is way off- look at all the super-sized foods we're offered!  
The program includes 9 boxes to help you with the correct portions of each kind of food. This was perfect for me because I knew I was eating way too many carbs- breads and pastas are my weakness.  This program doesn't cut those foods out, it just helps you with the right portions.
So I loved the nutrition aspect of this program!

The other part was the exercise portion.  
Remember how much I loved my Gilad workout shows on TV.  Well these 21 Day Fix exercise videos were exactly what I needed!  There are 8 workouts on the dvd's, seven 30 minute workouts and a 10-minute abs workout.  The workouts include a total body cardio fix, upper fix, lower fix, pilates, cardio, yoga, and a dirty 30 workout.  You just can't get bored with this- and that's exactly what I wanted!

I was pretty well hooked, though believe it or not I didn't order it at that time.  
I researched it for about a week, I went online and read reviews, I researched more about clean eating and real foods, and I found a ton of good links on pinterest.  The more I read about it, the more I liked it.  

So I ordered it.

While I was waiting for it to arrive I went grocery shopping for more real foods (the outside aisles of the grocery store mainly) and pinned all sorts of recipes.  I even found a friend who is a beach body coach, she helped me out a bunch too by sending me emails full of information.

Here's my package!  This picture doesn't include all the little pamphlets that came with it,
or the workout dvd's which I set by my TV.

So here I am on Day 2 and I'm feeling motivated.  Of course anything you just start you feel motivated about, but I really feel like this is a real life change, not just a temporary fix.

I'm going to stop this post here now, but I'll be giving regular daily or weekly updates on how this is going, and perhaps you'll decide this is a good program for you too.
Check back regularly for updates!  :)

To read how my first week went, click here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Lexar Home Journey blog

About a month and a half ago my husband called me from work and dropped a bomb on me.
"Let's build a house".  Or maybe what he said was more like "You know how we had decided to stay in this house awhile longer, what if we just built a new house now instead?"

I was floored, to say the least.  First let me tell you why.

Our wonderful, cozy home!

We currently live in a double wide manufactured home on 20 acres.  It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home that we had placed out here in 1998.  In 1998 we had no kids and the house was plenty big enough for us.  Fast forward to 2011 when I'm pregnant with our 5th child.  We already had 2 girls sharing a room, and 2 boys sharing a room- and we were managing just fine.  Of course having a little extra space would be nice, but it wasn't necessary.  We always had the mind set that our little house kept us close as a family, so getting into a bigger house was a want, not a need.  But we thought we'd try selling our house anyway (the house and shop on our 20 acres), and build a house next door on a separate 20 acres that we already owned.  
So that's what we decided to do in 2011, we put our house on the market and waited, and waited, and waited.  We had a lot of interest, but no offers.  This wasn't the best time to sell, the housing market wasn't great, but we thought we would try anyway.  We had our house on the market for that entire spring and summer without any offers.  We dropped the price during that time, had a lot of interest but no offers.  I was pretty discouraged.  We took our house off the market at the end of summer.
The next spring we did it again, and the spring after that too.
For three years we had our house on the market during the spring and summer months.  No offers.
Yes, we have a manufactured home and you may think that was the problem, but I don't know about that.  It's a nice home, we've updated things inside, we've landscaped over the years, we have a spectacular view of Mt Adams, it's in a great school district, we have a huge shop as well, the list could go on.

So why wasn't it selling??
I truly believe now that it was not in God's plan for us.  He had other plans.

The last summer we had our house on the market, I actually didn't want to put it on the market.  I was tired of trying, and the more I thought about it the more I realized I did not want to move off the land we were on.  You have to understand that when we first bought our 40 acres there was absolutely nothing here.  Not one tree, not one bush, nothing.  Since we moved on the property we have worked our tails off getting trees, working on landscaping, etc. 

I love it here! 
Our amazing front yard with the beautiful Mt. view!

The yard is perfect and big, enough space for all our kids to run around it.  We have huge trees now, the trees we planted 15 years ago tower over us now, and over the house as well.  We have lots of green grass that was once just a field of alfalfa.  The kids have their play set, their trampoline, the huge shop that they can ride bikes and scooters in, we have an awesome drive way for bike riding and basketball.  If we were to move next door on the bare 20 acres we would have none of that.  No green grass, no yard, no trees, no shop, nothing.
So I wasn't excited to try and sell again, and luckily we didn't.  Another summer and no offers on our house, even with repeated drops in price.  
God knew!
Two years ago was the first year we didn't put our house on the market, for once I enjoyed my spring and summer, I wasn't stressed about keeping our house picture-perfect clean 24/7.  It was nice.
We came to terms with living in the house forever (or at least for quite awhile).
I was okay with what we had, actually I was thankful for what we had.
Oh sure it would've been nice to get into something bigger, now 3 boys were in one room, but we made it work.   We continued to do some updates in our house, we re-did our kitchen cabinets, we replaced carpeting, added laminate flooring, painted and redecorated.

We were happy.

Then my husband dropped the bomb.
I'm thinking to myself, "where is this coming from??"  I thought we had decided to stay where we're at?  We had some bigger projects on our list, and had made some decisions about getting our mortgage paid off within the next 8 years or so.  So why was he thinking about building a new home now?  But my husband had a different plan this time.
He wanted to build the house on the same 20 acres that we are on now instead of the 20 acres next to us.  We would still have the yard, the shop, everything.

We prayed.
We wanted to do what was right.

This is where we'll have the new home built, right where we park our cars,
directly in front of our current home and next to our shop.

This is the model Lexar home in Kennewick, WA.
The same house that we've chosen to build.

And now here we are, in the early stages of getting a Lexar home built.  And when I say early stages, I mean early stages.
But it's exciting, really exciting.
It's funny how plans can change when it's God's perfect timing.  Our timing wasn't right, but God's is always right.
He's always right!

My next post I'll explain what stage we're in (I tell you it's early), but I'll chronicle the stages which will be helpful to anyone else thinking about doing this same thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Changes are a comin'

Wow!  2013 was the last time I posted anything here!  But I've been around, just not here.  :)

Like the title says, Changes are a comin'.  Since 2013 I've realized there are many facets of my life, and those don't all fit into one pretty little category.  I've been involved in homemaking and housekeeping, mothering and wife-ing, youth work at church, home improvements projects, prepping (to some degree), gardening, simplifying, exercising, reading, crafting and decorating, and the list could go on.
Since 2013 four of my five kids went to school full time, my husband and I took a group of teens from church on a mission trip to Fiji, my kids started school sports and 4-H, I re-did my kitchen cabinets "on a dime", and we took a family trip to Hawaii for Spring Break.  (and that's just a few things on the list)

Life. Is. Busy.!!

I know I'm not the only one leading a busy life.  I'm sure each of you could give me a list of activities on your list too.
Over the past couple years I've thought about chronicling my endeavors on this blog, but it never seemed to be the right time.  

Until now.

But to do it right I need to make some changes first.  Changes to this blog.
I need categories.  For someone who is a list-maker and a category-lover I'm surprised I've never done it before.
I love categories and I'll be adding quite a few.  This mom wears many hats- because I'm a wife/mom/homemaker there should be a category for that.  I've recently done quite a few home improvement projects, so there should be a category for that.  I've been involved with healthy eating and exercising so there will be a category for that.  Prepping, gardening, decorating, etc.  The category list could go on and on.

I'm not planning on overwhelming you (or myself for that matter), but I think that some changes need to be made.  Change is exciting!
My family has a lot going on in the next few months.  We are preparing to have a Lexar home built, I'm in the early stages of going back to work as a nurse, I'm also just starting the 21 Day Fix program.

Lots of things happening around here.
So I hope you'll follow along on this journey of Change!
Enjoy this beautiful day and check back soon!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Prayer and Thrift stores!

2 weeks ago I wrote of my resolution to get out and stay out of credit card debt.  I consider this period I'm in the "honeymoon phase", it's the time period that your new resolutions are still fresh in your mind and you're still excited to achieve your goals.  I know about a month or two into this I might be tempted to fall back into my old ways, so that is why this first recommendation in staying out of debt is so vital.  It is PRAYER!  Yes, prayer. 

In my last post I admitted that I was a poor steward of the money God had blessed us with, I have prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me of this and I know He has.  What a true blessing to serve a loving and forgiving God!  But after asking for forgiveness I still need to be in prayer about our finances- asking God to give me wisdom each day in spending money wisely, asking God to give me strength to resist the temptation of frivolous spending, knowing that true joy and fulfillment comes in living for and serving God each day- not in finding satisfaction in shopping.

So the first, and most important thing you can do in getting out and staying out of debt is by praying.

But here's another idea:  Thrift stores!!

5 years ago I very rarely stepped foot in a thrift store.  I wanted new, so I bought new.

3 years ago I would go in a few every now and then, at times coming across some good finds, but spending most of my money in department stores.

This past year I realized just what a good investment thrift stores really are, and how much fun and exciting it is when you find a "real gem".

Here's a few examples:

a Tupperware shape sorting ball (that when purchased new is $35)- I got it for $1 !!!  It was a Christmas gift for my 11 month old son who could care less that it didn't come in the original packaging.  Yes, I bought a gift at a thrift store and I'm okay with it, so is my son.  :)

a practically (and when I say practically, I mean nothing wrong whatsoever, and the only thing missing was the tag) brand new Calvin Klein denim skirt for only $5 !!!  It fits me perfect and I couldn't love it any more if I got it from Calvin Klein himself.

a practically (see above)  :)  brand new brick-red-cable-knit-v-neck-Ann Taylor sweater for only $5 !!!  I seriously love this sweater, it is my all time favorite!!

Okay, moving onto the kids...

Remeber my 11 month old son, well when he was 9 months and in need of a winter coat instead of looking for new coats I went to a thrift store and found a brand new coat!  An Osh Kosh coat in his size for only $4.30 !!!  Yes, it was brand new and I paid under 5 bucks for it.  So, you can still go to thrift stores and find brand new (with the tags still on) clothes.  It truly is an amazing feeling when you realize just how much money you're saving, and you're still getting good quality clothes. 

Here's another example:  Wrangler jeans.  Do you know how expensive wrangler jeans are?  You know, the ones with the brown leather tag on the back pocket?  You can't hardly find them used on ebay for less than $20.  I have found more practically brand new wrangler jeans for my boys (not even a faded mark on the knee at all) for less than $5 !!

And it's not just clothes, I love finding great shoes at a great price!  I found a nearly brand new pair of white and pink Nikes for my daughter for only....are you ready for this??  $1.50 !!!  I just about squealed out loud in the store when I came across these in her size!!  I probably would've bought them anyway even if they weren't in her size and then resold them on ebay for much more.  But I was so glad they were her size since she needed a new pair of shoes.

And when I say good quality, I mean good quality.  I find "real gems" all the time, and I actually look for the real gems.  By that I mean the high quality name brand items you find in department stores:  Gap, The Children's Place, Carter's, Gymboree, Aeropostale, Old Navy, Ann Taylor, Calvin Klein, Eddie Bauer, etc.   You'd be surprised at just how many of these great "finds" I find.

I can't tell you enough how much I love thrift stores, I'm only disappointed that I didn't figure this out sooner.  Not only do I save money, but it is just the best feeling when you come home with BAGS of clothes for less than $20 instead of one item for $20.  I guarantee you we don't look like we are wearing rags, or our clothes are outdated.   

But one note of warning.  Just because you will find amazing deals at thrift stores doesn't mean you should just buy whatever you come across.  I only go in thrift stores when I am specifically looking for something we need.  For example there were 3 things on my "need list":  a new winter coat for my daughter because I melted her zipper on her current coat when I put it in the dryer at too high of a temp., and jeans and boots for my oldest son.  Well I went into the Salvation Army thrift store today and lo and behold there was a super nice coat in her size for only $4 !  I couldn't find any boots or jeans, and I wasn't going to settle for something that was too worn so those two items are still on my list.  I went into a second thrift store to look for jeans and boots but they didn't have any in his size so I walked out having bought nothing.  That's okay too, remember the idea is to save money.  If you don't need it, it's not the right size, or it's too worn out then don't get it- it wouldn't be very wise.

That's one thing about thrift stores, sometimes you find what you need but sometimes you don't.  I suppose that's the thrill of the find.

So, what about you?  Are you a thrift store shopper already?  If not, why not try it- you might be surprised at just what good deals you'll find.