Category Archives: Random

Grocery Shopping Amid Empty Shelves and Rising Inflation

The government announced last week that the inflation rate for December 2021 was 7%.  This is the highest rate of inflation since 1982.  Two of the hardest hit sectors were energy and food.  MarketWatch reports that prices for eggs have increased more than 20%, beef and chicken prices are up 13 – 15%, and coffee is up 10%. 

To make matters worse, grocery prices are expected to rise another 5% in 2022.  The biggest increases are expected to be for steak, chicken, mayonnaise, eggs, cereal, and vegetables.

Additionally, grocery shelves are emptier than we are used to seeing them.  Inflation and shortage combine to make feeding your family more challenging than we are used to dealing with in America.  And it is wreaking havoc on family budgets.

To keep your budget in balance, you must (1) find ways to keep your grocery spending within your means or (2) cut expenses in other areas and allocate more money for groceries.

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

So, I am offering these ideas to help you eat well and stay within your budget.

  1. Eliminate waste. Americans waste on average one pound of food per person per day.  To reduce your food waste:
    • Plan meals and shop using a list.
    • Check the vegetable bins in your refrigerator daily to assess what needs to be eaten and plan meals accordingly.
    • Keep a food log, so you know when you cooked each dish.  Check log to see what needs to be eaten first.
  2. Make the most of leftovers—turn leftovers into soups, casseroles, and sandwich fillings.
  3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook in a crockpot or instapot to tenderize.
  4. Buy store brands. You may have to try multiple stores to find the brands you like best.
  5. Shop at multiple stores to get the best buys and find items that were out of stock at your usual store.  Plan trips, though, to save gas and time.
  6. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN—but be prepared with backup plans, as shortages are expected to continue.
  7. Plant a garden and grow some of your own produce.
  8. When you find a good price for produce, stock up and freeze or can the excess.
  9. Shop at Discount stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Dollar General.
  10. Buy less than perfect or ugly produce.  Prepare immediately or process to eat later.
  11. Purchase meat that is nearing its sell-by date and has been marked down. Cook immediately or freeze.
  12. Invest in food storage dishes to keep leftovers.
  13. Invest in a vacuum sealer to freeze uncooked meats and leftovers to be eaten later.
  14. Search Pinterest and other internet sites for new recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.
  15. Challenge yourself to come up with new recipes using items you have in your pantry.
  16. Ask God for wisdom to help you make wise shopping decisions.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

I hope that you will find some of these tips to be helpful as you navigate empty grocery shelves and higher food prices.

What grocery saving tips can you add to this list?

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  

Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Snow Challenges and Helpful Neighbors

If you watched the news last week, you probably saw reports of the complications of a major snowfall. Most news stationed carried stories about the many travelers who were stuck on I-95 in Virginia for up to 20 hours. The worst backup were in the Fredericksburg and Stafford areas. This is my neck of the woods.

Although the weathermen correctly predicted the timing and severity of the snow fall, many of us were skeptical. As we listened to the forecast on Sunday January 2, the temperature was 67 degrees!

The temperature dropped dramatically on January 3, accompanied by a major snowfall. Most neighborhoods in our area reported 12 – 15 inches of heavy snow. By 9 am on January 3, my neighborhood had lost power. It was restored 32 hours later. Many communities were without power for more than a week.

View of snow from my window
View from our front door

I was blessed by the helpfulness of our neighbors and to read about acts of generosity on social media. A Facebook friend without power reported that a friend brought over a pot of hot soup. One with power offered her basement to someone needed a warm place to spend a cold night. One of our neighbors plowed our driveway and many others. Another neighbor made a treacherous trip to the grocery store; while there he called us to ask if we needed him to pick up anything and advised us to not try to leave the neighborhood due to downed trees.

Adversity brought out the best in many people. They exemplified Christ’s command to care for those in need.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25: 34 – 40

With the weatherman calling for more snow this weekend, I am thanking God for great neighbors who help one another in a time of need caused by weather challenges.

Last-Minute Donations

2021 is quickly drawing to a close. However, there’s still time an impact in the lives of others by making tax-deductible donations before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.  Here are some ideas.

  1. Operation Shoebox.  Shoebox collection week has come and gone.  However, you can still participate in Operation Shoebox by packing a shoebox online at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline/   You select the items you want to include in your box, and volunteers will pack the boxes, which will be delivered in the coming months.  You can also donate $9 to deliver a box that another person has packed.
  2. Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog,  You can purchase gifts year-round to help those in need.  Gifts options include providing food to hungry children, purchasing chickens or honeybees to help a family start a business, providing clean water for a community, rescuing children in crisis, and assisting refugees.  Learn more at:  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/gift-catalog/
  3. Disaster Relief.  Every year many communities are impacted by natural disasters. Many, many families lost loved ones, homes, and belongings in the tornadoes that ravaged five states recently.  A super typhoon struck the Philippines days before Christmas. Please consider making a donation to an organization that provides disaster relief.  These organizations include:
    1. The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org/
    2. Convoy of Hope  https://convoyofhope.org/
    3. Salvation Army https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/
    4. Samaritan’s Purse   https://www.samaritanspurse.org/
  4. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital– https://www.stjude.org/  Make a donation to help a critically ill child get needed treatment at no cost to their parents.
  5. Your local food bank.  Food banks serve their communities year round to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

There are many, many other charitable organizations that are fulfilling Christ’s command to care for those in need. Pray earnestly about which organizations God would have you support.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ” Matthew 25:34-40

NOTE:  Donations sent by mail and postmarked by December 31 are considered as 2021 donations, regardless of when they are received. 

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Cutting Your Losses

As a business consultant, I occasionally counsel someone who has made an unwise decision in opening a business. The business is losing money, and the business owner doesn’t want to give up. That it admirable, and in some cases, with time the business can be successful. In other cases, the business owner is pouring more money into a business that will never be successful. It is time to close up shop and cut their losses. It is a difficult and painful decision, as they often invested time and money into the business.

I was thinking about this as I read the story of King Amaziah that is recorded in 2 Chronicles 25:5-9.

“Amaziah called the people of Judah together and assigned them according to their families to commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He then mustered those twenty years old or more and found that there were three hundred thousand men fit for military service, able to handle the spear and shield. He also hired a hundred thousand fighting men from Israel for a hundred talents of silver.

But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel—not with any of the people of Ephraim.Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow.

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite troops?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord can give you much more than that.”

Amaziah had invested 100 talents of silver to hire Israelite troops to fight for him.  In today’s economy, that is equivalent to about $1.65 million.  It is quite a lot of money to lose. However, the prophet tells him to give up the money and send the troops away. 

Old silver coins
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The prophet also promised Amaziah that God could give him more than the 100 talents of silver he was giving up. To his credit, Amaziah obeyed the prophet.  In doing so, Amaziah secured God’s blessing and won the battle against his enemies. 

It is hard to walk away from money you have invested. Yet, if the Lord instructions you that it is the right thing for you to do, you need to be obedient. God will reward your obedience, and He is more than able to restore to you all that you lost.  Of course, it is best to seek the Lord’s counsel before investing in a business or making other major financial decisions.  Still, it is comforting to know that when you do make a mistake, you can repent of that mistake and walk away from it secure in the knowledge that God will reward your obedience.

Fulfillling God’s Purpose for Your Life

As I was reading 1 Chronicles recently, I came across a list of job assignments that God declared for the tribe of Levi. Some Levites were assigned to be musicians, some were assigned to be gate keepers, and others were assigned duties in the treasury. As I read the list, I had a moment in which I thought it was a shame that they didn’t get to decide for themselves what they wanted to do with their lives. The thought was immediately replaced by the realization that each of these Levites knew exactly what his purpose in life was. God revealed to them in no uncertain terms what purpose He had designed them to fulfill.

What a great place to be–fulfilling the purpose you were created to for. Many people struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives. They move from one job to the next looking for more job satisfaction, a bigger paycheck, or more fulfillment. Unless we are doing the work God created us to do, we will never truly be satisfied.

Several years ago, Rick Warren published “The Purpose Driven Life.” It was hugely popular, and I have read it at least twice. The book is not a personality assessment test which provides you with a list of jobs for which you are suited. Rather it helps you assess the talents and abilities with which God has equipped you. I came to the conclusion that I am a Problem Solver.

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Completing a job application

I have never seen a job posting for a Problem Solver; however, I have seen many job descriptions that listed problem solving as a desirable characteristic. In fact, the ability to decipher and solve problems is important for many different types of jobs. Some problem solvers are counselors who help people solve relationship or emotional problems, while others may find creative solutions to help businesses operate more efficiently, and still others are inventors who create the product needed to solve a particular problem. All problem solvers are not cut from the same cloth, and they don’t have the same purpose in life. Identifying as a problem solver helped me realize some aspects of the way God created me, but it didn’t point me to my next career decision. I had to pray and earnestly seek God’s direction to know where He wanted to place me for my next job. And, of course, that job was a perfect fit.

Fortunately, God has created each person with their own unique purpose. We experience the greatest sense of fulfillment when we are following God’s purpose for our lives. For most of us, our purpose isn’t spelled out as clearly as it was for the Levites. Discovering God’s purpose will require that you spend time in God’s word and prayer. As you do, God will reveal to you His direction for your life, or at least for the next stage of your life.

Assessing talents and abilities to find God's purpose for your life
Assessing Your Talents and Abilities

Knowing who you are in God is an important aspect of fulfilling God’s plan for your life. God has declared that His people should be faithful stewards of their time, money, and talents. To learn more about being a faithful steward of the financial resources God has blessed you with, you may want to read other blogs under the Finances heading or purchase my Bible study, Honoring God with Your Money.

Seven Signs that You Have a Spending Problem

Many people grumble about not having enough money, when they actually have a spending problem.  If you make a reasonable income and have a mortgage or rent payment that fits into your budget, you should be able to adapt your lifestyle to your income.  If you routinely run out of money before the next pay day, you need to consider that you might have a spending problem.

Here are some the signs that you should look for in your life:

  1. You are unable to pay off your credit cards each month, and your balances are rising.
  2. You can’t meet your basic needs, yet you purchase new cars and technology because you want to have the latest upgrades.
  3. You can’t pass up a sale on clothes or household goods, even though you don’t need those items, because it’s too great of a deal.
  4. You hide your receipts and credit card bills from your spouse.
  5. You are regularly paying bills late and incurring late fees.
  6. You are bouncing checks.
  7. You lie to your spouse about your paycheck and your purchases.

If any of these signs apply to you, you need to make changes in your spending habits and your attitudes toward money. It is hard to change on your own. However, with God’s help and the support of your family, you can overcome your bad habits. 

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God promises this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” As you seek God’s help through prayer and Bible reading, you will develop a new nature that is more in line with God’s perfect plan for your life.

Steps to Becoming a Responsible Money Manager

  1. Repent of past spending mistakes.  When you sincerely repent, God forgives.  You must also forgive yourself. Don’t remain in bondage to past regrets.
  2. Ask God to change your nature to be a responsible spender and to help you have a Heavenly focus. Responsible spending will allow you to share more of your blessings with others and build eternal treasure in Heaven.
  3. Commit to tithing. God’s word tells us that tithing is not optional. God asked us to return ten percent of all that He has provided to supply the needs of the church.  This is an act of obedience, which God promises to bless (read Malachi 3:10).
  4. Develop systems, perhaps with the help of a financial counselor, for budgeting and accounting.  Set up automatic deposits and bill paying to simplify your life and make it less likely that a bill will be overlooked.
  5. Seek assistance in developing a plan to systematically pay off debt.
  6. Be accountable to someone, preferably your spouse, for how you spend your discretionary money each month.  Establish regular times, typically once or twice a month, to review all spending with your accountability partner.

If you have a serious spending problem, you might need to be Hyper Accountable to someone for several months or more who will review your bank and credit card accounts at least weekly to help you keep your spending in check.  This person should be someone who trust explicitly and who is willing to confront you when you begin to slip back into bad spending habit.

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. 

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.   Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Treasure in Heaven

I had an interesting conversation with my eight-year-old grandson this week.  He asked me what I was writing, and I told him it was an article called “Building Treasure in Heaven.”  He wanted to know why I would want to build treasure in Heaven.  The rest of the conversation went kind of like this.

Me: “How long do you think you will live on earth?”

Grandson: “Maybe 100 years.”            

Me: “How long will you live in Heaven?”

Grandson: “Millions and millions of years.”

Me: “So would it be better to be rich on earth or rich in Heaven?”

Grandson: “Can you do both?”

Me: “Yes, you can. God promised in the Bible, in the book of Malachi, that He will pour out riches on those who give tithes to the church. And we can build treasure in Heaven by giving more than our tithes to share the gospel.”

Grandson: “You should write a book about that.”

Me: “Actually, I have.”

My grandson is learning how to build true wealth, and my goal is to help many other people to come to this same knowledge. 

In Malachi 3: 8 – 10, we read, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

God commands that His people pay tithe.  In Biblical times, the tithe could be paid money, animals, or grain.  Animals and grain that were tithed provided food for the priests, and money met the other needs of running the temple and supporting the Levites.  God told His people through Malachi that they were being cursed because they had neglected to bring their tithes to His house.  In the next breath, He promised great blessings to those who do pay their tithe.

When we obediently and cheerfully give back ten percent of the resources that God blesses us with, He promises to bless us extravagantly.  In fact, He promises blessings so great that we will not have room enough to receive it.  These blessings are promised to us while we are on Earth.

As we faithfully steward all the resources He gives us, we build riches in Heaven.  These resources include our time, our talents, and our money.  Ask God how you can be faithful to steward the resources He entrusts to you, so that you will be blessed on Earth and build treasure in Heaven.

My book, “Honoring God with Your Money,” will lead you through a study of what the Bible says about money. It discusses the purpose of money, appropriate attitudes about money, stewardship of money, paying off debt, and creating budgets. This is a great resource if you would like to become a better steward of the resources which God has entrusted to you.

Bible study on stewarding financial resources
Honoring God with Your Money

Stewardship of God-Given Talents

Each of us have areas of creativity in which we excel and feel comfortable.  For me, knitting is my favorite creative outlet.  I love starting with a single piece of yarn, albeit a very long piece, wrapping it around a needle many times, and ending up with a blanket or a scarf or whatever I chose to make.  Knitting is relaxing and can be done while conversing, listening to music, or watching television.  It takes considerable time to knit to complete most items, so my knitting endeavors are generally gifts for loved ones.  It is a rare occasion in which I use knitting to share God’s love with others. 

Rather God has stretched me by having me delve into areas I would never have imagined.  As a high school math teacher, I was challenged to develop creative methods to make algebra and geometry interesting and instill lessons in my students.  Understanding mathematical concepts did not come easy to many of my students. As I prayed for direction, God gave me games and activities to bring the lessons home.

One year, however, I was assigned to teach kindergarten rather than math.  God took me way outside my comfort zone and used that year to open me up to new creative endeavors that I had never tried. One of the biggest challenges was creating an act for the children to perform in a school program.  The easiest thing I could think of was to write new lyrics for a common children’s tune.  It was simple but effective. The children enjoyed singing it in the school program for their parents, and I fulfilled an assignment that terrified me.  I have no desire to write songs, but the experience opened me up to trying new things to teach and delight children.  It helped me to be less afraid of embarrassing myself and more open to taking risks.

There are many ways to be good stewards of the natural talents that God instilled in you.

  1. Hone your skills.  As a child my grandmother taught me to knit very basic stitches.  When I was a teenager, she determined that it was time for me to take over her hobby of knitting Christmas stockings for the family, and she taught me the Fair Isle technique of seamlessly weaving different colored yarns to produce a beautiful image or scene.  Since that time, I have learned new techniques and new stitches, often with the aid of Youtube.
  2. Try new things.  Don’t be afraid to feel foolish or to make a mistake.  Working within your comfort zone is fine most of the time, but occasionally step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
  3. Use your talents to bless others.  Performance skills, such as singing and playing a musical instrument, offer many opportunities to bless others by performing in the church choir, nursing homes, and shut-ins.  But what if your talents are not in the areas of performance arts?  You can bless others by cooking a meal for someone who is ill, sewing clothes for a child in need, writing an encouraging note, knitting a scarf, arranging a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, or sharing produce from your garden.
  4. Share your talents. Teach what you do well to a friend or a student. A few years ago, ladies in our church taught some Burundi refugees to cook on an electric stove; the refugees had only cooked over open fires before coming to America. I think our ladies were as blessed by the experience as the women they taught.
  5. Volunteer.  As you allow God to stretch you, look for ways for Him to use you to bless others.  I still don’t consider myself to be artistic, but I enjoy crafts.  This year, I will be the craft coordinate for VBS. Church youth programs and day care centers provide many opportunities to use your talents to teach children.

Thank God for the talents He has instilled in you, and ask Him to show you how you can use those talents to honor Him and share His love with others.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hand.” Psalm 90:17

Blessings of a Long Marriage

Today, Steve and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.  It sounds like a long time, but the years have flown by much more quickly than we could have imagined when we started this journey.  It really doesn’t seem possible that four decades have gone by since we stood before our family and friends and pledge to walk together through life until “death do us part.” 

This was a wedding gift. It has hung in our home for forty years. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…” Proverbs 18:22

The years since we said our vows have been full, busy, and blessed.  We have had the joy to raise three amazing sons and watched them grow up and start families of their own. We are blessed with eight energetic and delightful grandchildren.

One of the greatest blessings is parenting and grandparenting together.  Nothing beats knowing that our union and our love has created this family.  The boys are our sons and their children are our grandchildren.

Another great source of joy is that we share the same memories.  The grandchildren love hearing stories of when their fathers were young.  Steve and I experienced these years together, and those memories become more precious as we share them with our grandchildren.

The Bible say, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22.    It is just as true that she who finds a husband finds a good thing and obtains favor.  Favor from the Lord has certainly come through children and grandchildren. But it has also come by having a godly partner as we journey through life. 

Steve and I have prayed together for wisdom on raising the boys and making important decisions.  We have supported one another during difficult times and taken grand adventures together.  We consult one another and the Lord about important life and financial decisions. God has blessed us financially, as we have tithed and stewarded the resources He has entrusted to us.  We have worked together and supported one another in our home life and our careers. This has allowed us to reap the benefits of being able to own a nice home, travel, and save for our retirement years.

Steve is my best friend and the person I trust most in the world.  He always has my best interest at heart and goes out of his way to make me feel loved and special.  These forty years have been an exciting journey, and I pray that this journey will continue for many more years and many more adventures.

Taxes Not Done? Don’t Panic!

It’s April 14. If you have not done your taxes, you might be in panic mode. However, the federal government has extended the tax due date this year, as it did last year. 2020 tax returns are due on May 17. So, you have 32 days until it’s time to panic. But, don’t!

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Don’t panic and don’t procrastinate. Do yourself a favor and block out some time in this weekend to file your tax return. When you do, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. The IRS has extended the deadline for making IRA and health savings account contributions for 2020 until May 17. Many states have also extended their deadlines. Be sure to check your state’s tax web site to verify their deadline.
  2. Covid-19, or economic impact, relief payments to families are not taxable, so don’t include them in your income.
  3. If you did not receive the full economic impact payments, you can claim the Economic Rebate Credit on your taxes. Your refund or amount due will be adjusted by the amount of the credit.
  4. The sooner you file, the sooner you will receive your refund.
  5. If you will owe taxes, it is better to know that now, so that you can make a plan to have the money by May 17.
  6. You can file your return now and schedule any payment to be deducted from your bank account on May 17. Be sure to deduct the payment from your account register now, so you won’t accidentally spend the money.
  7. If you earned less than $72,000, you may be able to file your taxes for free: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free
  8. Filing your taxes now will relieve you of the burden of knowing your still have to file your taxes. Do your taxes, and then get outside and enjoy some beautiful spring weather.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25

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