Sunday, January 25, 2015

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments, Blessings and This Week's Menu

On Tuesday, our internet provider had an outage.  I called the library, reserved the study room, and we packed up Daughter's school books.  She used my laptop to do her school work and I borrowed a library laptop and worked on a project.  We both got a lot done - we are so happy to have such a great library district here!

When we went to the library, we found a couple of book in the free bin that I was very happy to get - Fences for Pasture and Garden by Gail Damerow and How to Write Fast While Writing Well by David Fryxell.  The first is a comprehensive book about all sorts of fencing for livestock, garden, landscaping and more, and Daughter thinks the second one will help her be a more effective writer.  We also borrowed additional books and media for the week.

This is Tallulah Mae, our very fussy cat.  She only really likes Daughter, but tolerates Husband and I....and is starting to accept that we got a puppy.  She is beginning to come upstairs during the day (when Taffy is not crated), but just now and then.  This week, I got her a set of dishes on a local Freecycle page.  I really like them!

What is really cool is that I had gone to pick them up, and the house next door to the house with the cat dishes had a smoker on the curb with a sign, "Free Smoker".  I called my dear friend and made sure they were still looking for one, then I put it in my trunk and took it to her house.  It is one of those vertical dome-shaped ones and is in very good shape.  We live in an area with a lot of military seems like a lot of people 'need this gone' fairly often.

On the local buy-sell-trade page I purchased two complete sets of queen size sheets for $15.  One is cotton sateen and the other is a cotton percale, and both are colors that we have in our bedroom.  The lady said one set came from Costco and the other from Kohl's.  We were down to one sheet set and some odds and ends, so this was a good purchase for me.

We ended up doing a little more work on the washing machine this week, and now it's working fine, and still zero cost.  Meanwhile, I started looking at the space a little differently.  We have a cubby for the washer and dryer, and we had them both centered in that cubby.  We moved them both over to one side, and that made a space along the other side, about one foot wide.  It is perfect for storing the mops, broom and dusters.  When we had a small space on either side, it was not as manageable as this space is.  I think of this as frugal because it is a zero-cost improvement in the way our home works.

I washed with homemade laundry soap and dried clothes on drying racks in the basement.

We heated with wood to save on propane.

Husband used swagbucks to earn some credit at Amazon and Domino's Pizza, and I took a survey with Pinecone Research.

I signed up for various, random free samples (tea, soy sauce, lotion) on the internet, and when we were in Walgreens, I got a free sample of lotion that is a nice purse/pocket size tube.

Husband's MP3 player stopped working a couple weeks ago, and just never came back to life.  He has been using an old one we had, but it doesn't hold a long enough charge.  This week, we found one for him on a local buy-sell-trade page on Facebook - $10 for an Ipod Nano.  It's 2Gb...he said that is plenty.  I hope it works great for him!

I have been going through the fridge freezer, looking for things that need to be used and things that are past their prime.  For example, there was some yogurt I got, free with coupons, that we didn't much care for.  I had put it into ice cube trays and frozen it so that we could use it in smoothies....except we don't much care for dairy in our smoothies.  When I came across a bag of yogurt cubes, I took them to the chickens.  I did the same thing with the container of gooseberries dated 2009 - oops!  This stuff is fine for the chickens and cuts down on the amount of chicken feed they consume.  I also found 2 hot dog buns that were really dry and some bread ends, which I pulsed in the food processor, then dried in the oven for bread crumbs.

I saw this post on Facebook that said you could get all the oogy baked on stuff off of glass baking pans using one of those magic eraser type sponges.  I had some that I bought at K-mart with a free gift card, so I decided to give it a try.  What do you think?


I feel like I have new bread pans!

I sewed a button onto a pair of Daughter's pants, and I cut the buttons off of an old shirt that went to the rag bag.

I polished my black loafers.  A little polish, an old rag and a shoe brush, and they look much better.

I went out with a friend one afternoon, and we went to town.  I took my coupon to Penzey's Spices and got a free jar of roasted garlic that I will use in cooking.  On the way home, we stopped at Starbucks and I got Husband's free drink that he was offered for registering a gift card on their website.  He and Daughter shared the vanilla bean frappuccino....which she said tasted just like snow cream!  :)  Later in the week, we had snow cream again.  It snowed all day long, so I just put a container out to collect snow.

I forget to mention it, but whenever I prepare fresh produce, I put the peels, cores, etc. into the 'chicken bucket', and I give all that to the hens, so that it's not wasted. For them, it's a real treat!  I also rinse the eggshells and give those back to them, so that they have adequate calcium.

I cleaned out the closet in the master bath...and took a picture (because I'm goofy).  There is no 'before' picture.  I'm glad about that, because you won't have proof of what I slob I can be, but you don't get the full 'wow' effect that you would get if I'd taken one.  Frugal?  I think so, because things are easier to find, so we don't go buy vapor-rub when we already have a jar.  Not that I've ever done that.  Besides, I returned it, since it hadn't been opened yet.  Ahem.

I got almonds for $4.99 a pound at Walgreens by combining a sale and a coupon.  A supermarket in town was remodeled and had a grand re-opening.  One of the special sales was 93% lean ground beef for $2.99 a pound - I purchased five pounds.  I also got a gallon of milk for $1.49 and two tubes of Colgate toothpaste free after sales and coupons.  We got free yogurt (a free digital download offer) as well.  I did some price matching to save on travel time and fuel, and got avocados for .50 each, Roma tomatoes for .50/lb. and zucchini for .99/lb.

Thanks to a helpful tip that Lana shared with me a couple months ago, I was able to get four 12-packs of Coca-Cola for $1.33 after sale and coupons - that's less than 35 cents per 12-pack!  (three cents per can!)  It was buy 2, get 2 free, and I had two coupons, each good for a free 12-pack...but the price at Safeway was a little higher than the maximum value of the coupon, so I paid that difference and the sugar tax.

Mom's (my mother-in-law) lo mein recipe
I did quite a bit of scratch cooking this past week, from enchiladas to lo mein, chicken noodle soup to calzones.  I popped popcorn a few times too, and made blueberry muffins and banana-nut muffins (with bananas from the freezer).  Yum!

Here is the dinner menu for this coming week:

S - spaghetti w/meat sauce, zucchini w/herbs and Parmesan, pears
M - roast turkey breast, stuffing, carrots, apples
T - ham, baked sweet potatoes, steamed mixed vegetables, oranges
W - vegetable-beef soup, corn bread, apples
R - tamales, refried beans,shredded lettuce & chopped tomato, chips with guacamole and salsa
F - omelets w/diced ham, vegetables and cheese, hash browns, green beans, oranges
S - leftovers/meal out
S - (I think there's a football game?) pizza, raw vegetables w/ranch, possibly buffalo chicken dip, oranges

I will also pop popcorn, make muffins or scones, and since the granola jar is running low, I'll probably make some granola too...bake bread if needed, and keep plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables prepped for snacking.

How was your week?  What have you been up to, and how have you been blessed?  I'd love to read all about it! :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments and Blessings for Mid-January (Menu too!)

This was taken several days after the snow had fallen.
We were blessed with lots of beautiful snow last Sunday night.  On Monday, we played in the snow and made snow cream.  Do you know about snow cream?  This is how you make it:

1.  Put a food container out in the snow, up high where dogs can't get it.  This container should hold way more snow than you think you need.  Let it fill with new-fallen snow.  (Alternately, you can scoop up snow, being careful that none of it has tracks in it...and that none of it is dirty, or yellow.)

2.  Add cold milk, sugar and vanilla to your snow, and stir.  It will 'shrink' a lot.  There is no real measurement for this, so start with a little, and add gradually.

3.  When it becomes like a white slushie, taste for sweetness/vanilla and adjust if needed.  Serve immediately.  Warning:  Snow cream can give you a frozen brain headache!!

Minifigs with cocoa, warming up in front of the fire after skiing in the snow.
(Can you see the flames, deep in the fireplace?)

When I shoveled the front walk, I put the extra snow onto the perennials in my flowerbed.

I got credit for three surveys this week, all from Pinecone Research.  I also took one more survey.

I contracted with the local library district to do three chicken programs in March of this year.  They are really, really fun, and they help us financially as well.

See the Great Horned Owl?  He's sitting atop the center tree at sunset.

We heated with our wood stove to save on propane.  I also warmed our meals on the wood stove when it was feasible, to reduce our propane use.  It also made me feel a little like Laura Ingalls, which always makes me happy.

I used the drying racks to dry our clothes.  I washed them in homemade laundry soap.  Our washing machine is being wonky.  It stopped mid-wash on Monday, because the little sensor that tells my machine that the lid is down has a crack, so it had moved out of line.  I dis-connected it from the body of the machine, and stood there holding the little lever in place while the clothes spun, just to finish washing that load of clothes.  Husband used a strong epoxy to re-attach the broken piece of the sensor.  Once it was set, he re-installed it, and all is well.  We already had the epoxy on hand, so there was zero cost.

Raarrrr!  Snort!  Groooowwwwlll!!!  Raaarrr!  At least, that's what I hear.
Daughter plays a Wii game called Skylanders.  This week, she got 8 of the characters second-hand for $15.  She used some of her birthday and Christmas money to pay for them.  Buying them second-hand saved her a lot, and buying them locally also saved her shipping.  The 'trick' to all this, if there is one, is that she is playing, and enjoying a game that is 'old news' to a lot of the they cost far less than they did when they were the new, hot thing.

I made lasagna this past week.  I've stopped using lasagna noodles, simply because I ran out.  I cooked up some wide noodles instead, and you know what?  It's easier to assemble, it's easier to cut/eat, and we like the texture of the dish better.  I just put some (cooked) noodles down, then the cheesy layer, then more noodles, and then sauce.  Bake, then top with cheese and bake a little more.  It's become a favorite for us.

Taffy gets prettier every day!
Taffy went to the spay-neuter clinic this week and had her spay surgery.  She is doing great, and two of the technicians said she was so sweet that they wanted to take her home.  We also had them do her rabies vaccine (that one doesn't 'count' if I do it at home), and the total was just under $100.  I hear that going to a full-service vet in our area would be 2-3 times that amount, just for the spay surgery.  The clinic has been in operation for almost 35 years, and has a very good reputation.  They did an exam, asked questions of me about her history, even called the day after surgery.  We are very pleased with them.

Taffy's get-well present.

I went a little wild this week, and bought myself a butter bell.  It was second hand, and I used some of my spending money to pay for it.  We do keep our butter on the counter, and a butter bell is supposed to keep the butter fresh a really long time, even in summer when the temperatures are warm.  Since we don't go through butter very quickly, this is useful.

We were in the right part of town on the right day, so I went to the LDS Home Storage Center and bought a 25 pound bag of dehydrated refried beans.  We use them for refried beans (of course), in burritos, taco salad, to make bean dip, and I have used them to thicken chili and soups.  They are very affordable, and we really like them.  It is $29 for 25 pounds.  I have never weighed them before and after rehydrating them, but they really expand a lot and go a long, long way.  I also splurged and got a little bag of the potato pearls.  I have always heard they are good, and I have always wanted to try them.

We picked up books, movies and media when we went to the library.  There are some bins in the entry with magazines that are free for the taking.  I picked out several, since these are titles we don't usually see.  When I am done with them I'll pass them on to friends or donate them back to the library.

When friends came to play on Thursday, I made popcorn and sliced apples and oranges for snack.  Popcorn is filling (and whole grain!) and sliced fruit reduces waste, because the individual pieces are smaller.  None of the children ate a whole piece of fruit - if I had given them whole pieces, there likely would have been some waste.

A friend gave me some sliced rice cake rounds that she does not think she will ever use.  They are frozen...we think they are to add to stir fry.  I have never used them, but I will do some research and give them a try.  The same friend had a birthday party for her daughter this week, and sent leftover sandwiches home with us.  I made a card for the birthday girl, and used sealing wax to put a paw print on the front.  This was my first time using sealing wax - I like the effect!

The folks from the raptor rescue program came out on Friday to hunt.  We spent two hours out in the snowy fields, flushing rabbits out of the bushes and from under the trees.  Still no catches, but Roxanne, the Harris Hawk, is getting more comfortable with her surroundings (and with us).  Nike, the Prairie Falcon, is mostly learning to fly to a lure, so she is not really hunting.  The entire time, Daughter and I were learning more about the characteristics and habitats of both birds, along with the history of falconry.  It is a wonderful opportunity!

I am starting to think about the garden, and what to plant this spring.  I know I want to grow lots of greens, so I picked up kale, spinach and chard seeds at Dollar Tree.  I think I already have seeds for everything else I want to grow.  Packets there were .25 each.

I made bread again this week.  I had thought that the bread I made last week would last longer, but I was wrong.  We have all the ingredients on hand, so there was no out-of-pocket expense to make it, just the use of pantry ingredients.  It is a multigrain bread, similar to the one I made last week.
This recipe says it makes two loaves, but I have smaller bread pans,
resulting in three loaves of tasty bread!
I picked up a large package of the fruit for fruitcake, on markdown for $1.  I also got a red bell pepper for 34 cents, some fresh green beans for .99/lb., a pack of pepperoni for $2, and a slab of ribs that was on markdown for $1.70 a pound.  Husband was wanting to make ribs, so this works out well!  I also bought tater tots that were on sale, 2lb. for $1. We are trying to eat better, and I think we are doing good overall...but tater tots!  Oops.  I didn't buy a lot this week - we still have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand from previous weeks.

Here is the dinner menu for the coming week, too!

S - barbecue ribs, slaw, baked beans, baked apples
M - char siu lo mein with vegetables, kimchee, sliced oranges
T - cheese enchiladas, Mexican rice, broccoli, sliced apples
W - homemade chicken noodle soup w/crackers, garden salad, canned pears
R - calzones (makes 8, so extras for the freezer), marinara sauce, apple-carrot-raisin salad
F - lentil curry with vegetables over rice, sliced oranges
S - leftovers

I also plan to make babaganoush, blueberry muffins, and possibly some fruit and nut energy balls with the fruitcake fruit in them.  (I have to find a recipe to work from on that last one!)

How was your week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?  I'd love to read about what you're doing these days - leave a comment if you will!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments and Blessings (Plus Menu!)

I really like the idea of talking about Frugal Accomplishments and Blessings.  I got the idea from The Prudent Homemaker, whose blog and website are beautiful, inspirational and educational.  I count it, and her, among my many blessings!

I took Daughter to a free library program about raptors (birds of prey).  It was a really great program, but it just kept getting better!  Daughter really, really likes birds, and has learned a lot about them.  After the program we were talking to the presenters about her love of birds, where we live, etc.  In the end, we brought them all home with us, and they let one of the hawks and one of the falcons do a little hunting on our little farm.  It was an amazing experience to talk with the falconers and learn even more about these amazing raptors.  Neither bird caught anything, but they were mostly getting a sense of the lay of the land, and teaching us how to help flush out rabbits.  (We are overrun with rabbits.)  They plan to return and hunt again, and were nice enough to let Daughter participate.  It was amazing, and we are really looking forward to next time they can come!

Nike is a Prairie Falcon.

Nike, in flight to one of the handlers.

Nike wanted to 'play' rather than hunt.  She was having a good time!

Also, we borrowed books and media from the library.

We used our wood stove to heat our home and save on propane use.

I used homemade laundry soap and dried our clothes on wooden drying racks in our basement.

A friend of mine was kind enough to watch Daughter on the day I had to go speak at the Planning Commission hearing.  Having a friend that you trust with your children is such a blessing.  While I could have taken Daughter with me, she would have been just as miserable as all the rest of us that were there.  It was a very, very long hearing.  I was there from 9am to about 4pm....I left at that time because I had given my talk and there was literally  nothing more that I could do.  The hearing continued until 8:45 that night.  For those of you that are curious, the Planning Commission's recommendation was for denial of the changes to the project.  This is encouraging...sort of.  The final say comes from the Board of County Commissioners.  They may, or may not, take the Planning Commission's recommendation under consideration.  Those of us that are involved in this process have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks.  Your prayers are appreciated.

We did some stocking up this past week.  I bought 25 pounds of long grain white rice.  It will last us a very long time, and the price was considerably better than buying it in a smaller amount.  Also, it came in a woven sack that I can make into a tote bag.  We also got organic apples for .99 a pound, 2 lb. bags of carrots for .99, leaf lettuce (romaine) for .88 a head, onions for .34 a pound and broccoli for .98 a pound.  Milk is 1.99 a gallon this week.  We found organic coconut palm sugar on the markdown shelf for 1.99 a pound.  I bought 6 pounds, which ought to last us a long while.  It does not raise blood sugar the way that cane sugar does, and it has more of the minerals still intact.  It is most definitely more costly than cane sugar, but we are trying to use healthier ingredients when and where we are able.

I used sales/double coupons to get 20-24 oz. bottles of Dawn dish soap for 1.40 each, which is a good price (here) for that size container.  I got a 4 pack of TP for .35 after sale and double coupon, and I got a tube of Colgate toothpaste free after sale and double coupon.

I ground up two turkey thighs (no skin) and used them the way we would use ground beef.  I made some taco meat that we used for taco salads, and seasoned the rest and cooked it for Shepherd's pie.  The Shepherd's pie is on the menu for this week, so I froze that meat to keep it fresh.  Right now, ground beef is about 3.99 a pound here for 80% lean (that is on sale).  I paid .49-.79 a pound for the turkeys.  I wrapped and froze the bones and skin to put in the stock pot the next time I make stock.

Daughter did a great job shaping this loaf.  Homemade bread,
homemade strawberry is good!
I baked bread this week too.  I have a recipe we like, that I sort-of followed.  It calls for oats, but I used a multi-grain rolled cereal mix that I had in the pantry.  Where it called for butter, I used coconut oil, because I am able to get coconut oil for less than butter.  I used honey in place of the molasses, because I have a lot more honey on hand than molasses.  I actually reduced both the coconut oil and the honey and added two eggs, because I have a lot of eggs and need to use them.  I used a combination of unbleached all purpose flour and freshly-milled hard white and hard red wheat.  The recipe is supposed to make two loaves of bread, but we shape it into four smaller loaves.  We ate some of one loaf, I sliced the rest of it and another, then I froze two for upcoming weeks.  Daughter shaped one of the loaves for me and did a beautiful job!

Here is the recipe for that bread.  This cookbook is from the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Murray, KY.

I bought some things at Michaels and used a 50% off coupon and a 40% off coupon.  I really need to ban myself from craft stores....sigh.  Husband and I each get 'allowance' each month - some money we can spend any way we like (or save, or give away - it is up to use how we use it), and that is the money I spend, but I am feeling the need to challenge myself to use what's on hand and be more resourceful.

I took on about 10 hours of subbing at the library for the month of January.  It is not a lot, but it does help us financially.

We recently got new brakes for our truck.  We didn't really have a good feeling about the place we used, when all was said and done.  This week, the parking brake stopped working.  We took it back to the same place, because we expected them to fix what they quite possibly set too tight, but they said it was broken and would be nearly $200 to repair.  No, thank you.  For now, we are going to chock the wheels when we park (I found two pieces of firewood in our wood pile that will work perfectly.).  We have been watching some repair videos on YouTube and we will very likely do the repair ourselves when the weather warms up.  We do not drive the truck that often and we feel like this will work just fine for us.

Husband fixed the outdoor water hydrant that was 'stuck'.  He is AWESOME.

Here is the dinner menu for this week.  Having a menu planned helps me use what I have on hand, and there is less waste.  It's also a big stress-reliever for me, because I know early in the day what is supposed to happen that evening:

M:  lasagna casserole made w/Italian sausage, saute'ed zucchini, fresh pineapple
T:   shoyu turkey, rice, kimchee, mixed vegetable stir fry, sliced oranges
W:  tuna salad on salad greens w/shredded cheddar, toasted homemade bread, sliced apples
R:   grilled cheese on homemade bread, homemade tomato soup, fresh pineapple
F:   smothered steak fajita burritos, shredded lettuce w/tomato, guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips
S:   leftovers, or maybe pizza and salad
S:   shepherd's pie made with ground turkey and vegetables, sliced oranges

I will be making some egg salad we can eat for lunches, and I'll make some popcorn for snacks. We have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks too, and plenty of granola, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, etc. for breakfasts.

How was  your week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?  Comments are welcome!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments - Easing Into January

Daughter and I have been coloring together - these images are
free printables from Karla Dornacher.
Happy New Year!  May 2015 be full of blessings for everyone, everywhere!  Here are some things we did this week to spend less, save more and make do.

I'm slowly, very slowly recuperating from winter break.  I was sick with one thing and then another, the entire 2 weeks.  Nothing frugal really - just an update!  Thanks to those who have prayed for me and wished me well.

I made a double batch of homemade laundry soap.

We borrowed books and media from the library.

We had some very cold, below zero weather.  The wood stove really helped keep our furnace from running all the time.  I have been wearing a shawl around the house when I am chilled, especially since being sick has made me less than reliable as a judge of room temperature!  I got the shawl a few years ago at Goodwill for $1.99.  It is really cozy and warm.

Husband changed the oil on our car.  Because we use synthetic oil on our car, it saves us about $40-$45.

pretty pretty puppy!
I groomed our pup Taffy.  I expressed her anal glands, gave her a shampoo/condition/blow dry, cleaned out her ears, clipped the fur tufts between her toes and trimmed her nails.  I asked around - for a dog her size, total cost for all this would have been about $35-$40 in our area.  She looks really pretty, smells really great, and feels really soft!

I gave Daughter and Husband each a haircut, and trimmed my own bangs.

Husband cashed in Swagbucks points for a WalMart e-gift card. When we get these, they offset cash in our grocery budget.  Every little bit helps.

I priced matched most sale items to save fuel and time.  Some of the good deals this week included avocados for .50 each, limes for .10 each, roma tomatoes for .48/lb., broccoli for, eggplant for .48 each and fresh pineapples for $1 each.  Bacon is on sale for 2.50 a pound at a store near Husband's work, so he will pick some up one night on his way home.  We will continue to watch for a good price on beef.

We made a menu and I did a fair amount of cooking from scratch.  I made tamales!  It made almost 4 dozen for less than the cost of a dozen in our area.  Many of them are in the freezer for future meals.  I baked bread too - I had signed up to take a snack for the children at Sunday school - I took sliced bread, and there was still a loaf for us to enjoy at home.

My computer is determined to show you this picture tipped on its side.
I have done all I know! :)
We are in the process of weeding out and organizing our unfinished basement, so that we can, eventually, turn it into a finished basement.  Staples had plastic storage bins - big ones - for $3 each.  They also had the cardboard 'banker's boxes' for $7 per 10-pack.  We got six totes and a pack of the cardboard ones.  I used a $5 off $25 purchase coupon to save even more.  We also picked up 5 reams of printer paper that will cost us 3.19 (for all five) after rebate and with sales tax.

We took in paper, plastic, glass and metal for recycling.  It does not cost us anything and is better for the environment.

I used a 50% off coupon on an item I wanted from Michaels.  I have been looking for it used for about six months, to no avail.  I paid the remaining cost with a gift card I received for Christmas.

In closing, I would like to ask for your prayers, if that is something that you do.  We, and many of our neighbors, are in the midst of meetings and hearing about topics that will affect the area where we live.  It's a few rural folks vs. a multi-billion dollar company who may well have politics on their side.  This has been on ongoing project, since mid-June.  Truth be told, I will be glad when the hearings and meetings are behind us.  So...however things go, please pray that I can weather it with grace?  Thanks.

Meanwhile, how are you doing?  Have you started the new year with lots of frugal fun?  I'd love to hear what you're up to - what's working, what's not - leave a comment and let me know!