Friday, July 15, 2016

Frugal Friday - Frugal Things This Last Week


This week has been blessedly quiet, in spite of having to run places a couple of days this week.  I feel like I've actually been able to relax a bit and catch up on a few things.  Above is a photo of what I picked from the garden one day - a handful of string beans, a "chocolate" sweet pepper (that sausage looking thing in the middle there!) and a large handful of mixed lettuce to go with the kale from our CSA.  I've been spending a bit of time every non-rainy day in the garden and I'm thoroughly enjoying it!  

I think I've finally hit the "sweet spot" with the flowers in my garden too.  We used to have gaps during the summer where there were no flowers blooming, which always made me a bit sad.  This year they've been continuous and I've been thoroughly delighted!  I've had cut flowers on my kitchen table every day - which has been a goal of mine for years.  Simple things that make me so happy!

It's been both a fairly frugal week and what felt like a very spendthrift week as well.  I actually ran to the grocery store twice this week during the week, something I never do - one night because we ran out of apples and we needed some for our picnic lunch at the zoo the next day (everything else we had would get squished!) and one night because my husband was making chili (totally off menu but he really wanted it!) and we had no tomato juice.  I felt like I was breaking all the rules!  Spent under $10 total though and we have tomato juice for at least two more meals of chili.  That's something that we usually have in the pantry so I felt really silly having to go buy some.

Here's some things that we did this week that were actually thrifty:

* We foraged raspberries and cherries at a friend's place on Saturday.  I froze 18 1/2 cups (just over 4 liters) of raspberries and 7 cups of cherries.  I was very happy with the results!  I have about 2 cups of cherries left to freeze and I plan on doing that today.  Then we'll have roughly 2 liters of frozen cherries too!   I'm hoping to forage raspberries at another friend's house this next week.

* We picked lettuce daily, a handful of green beans daily, a pepper and 7 cherry tomatoes from the garden this week.  It looks like we'll have several more tomatoes, more beans and possibly another pepper this week. 

* My daughter and I decided on what we're going to do for her birthday party next week.  We should stay nicely within our $30 budget for the party and may even have money leftover! She's really looking forward to her party!  It's a Harry Potter theme so I'm hoping to post photos in two weeks (after the party and I've had time to recover!).

* I cut flowers for my kitchen table twice this week.  I also split peony plants and gave some to a friend.  They are heirloom variety and she's really excited about that.

* We made chili, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and muffins at home this week.  We froze extra waffles and pancakes for later.  We also made honey-cinnamon roasted chickpeas, kale chips and no bake energy bites for snacks.

* We made homemade ice cream using our hand-cranked ice cream maker.   Delicious!

* The children and I went to the Minnesota Zoo using the membership that my parents bought us for the children's birthday earlier this year.  My parents had also given the children money to purchase  a plush animal each and they were on sale so we had extra for ice cream!  Only cost?  Gas to get there as we packed a lunch.  We love the zoo and the children played a game while they were there and "won" a packed of milkweed seeds each.  We planted those in a large open area we have in the back yard when we came home.  I'm really excited as milkweed is a flower that the bees and monarch butterflies love.  I ran an errand in the area as well since it's quite a distance from where we live.

* I blanched and froze kohlrabi that we weren't going to eat before it went bad.  We'll eat it later this year now.

* We played board games several times this week and made origami animals.  I'm really enjoying the extra time with the children right now! 

* We cleaned out our daughter's room - she actually did almost all the work - and rearranged some furniture in there.  She had a lot of things that had just piled up over the last year or so (literally) and since her room is very small, it was terrible.  We put many things away in other parts of the house and separated out several things for donation.  We also put things away in a more easily recognizable fashion.  Her room looks terrific and she has the study area she's been wanting now too!   We bought absolutely nothing for this project and have a nice little donate pile to take to the thrift store some time next week.

* A buckle came off our son's sandal - the stitching holding it in place gave way.  I sewed it back on.  It took 10 minutes (most of which was finding the correct color thread and an appropriate needle) and we saved an almost brand new pair of $55 sandals!  (Our son wears adult sized shoes and has wide feet to boot - his shoes are not cheep!)

* I used a punch card to get a free loaf of bread at the bakery this week.  We won the punch card at a fundraiser quite a while ago and we still have three loaves of free bread left on it!

I think that's it for now.  I have a whole day at home with no running today and I'm hoping to spend the rest of the morning in the garden and this afternoon at my sewing machine.  That sounds like a day well spent to me!   The children have two birthday parties to run to this weekend and I have a potluck to say farewell to another co-worker ('tis that season of life I guess) plus worship this weekend so a quiet day is welcome before a busy weekend.

We did have some very disappointing news this week, so I'm grateful for a day to just think and do a few things that will "stay done", as my mother likes to say.  It's always rough when plans don't come to fruition but that's part of life so we continue on.

What did you do this week that was frugal?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Goals for July 2016

My pea plant seedlings - coming back well. Hopefully we'll get peas this year!
My summer goals are kind of opposite and two-fold - first, relax and second, finish up several things on my to-do list!  I've put together a tentative schedule and we're going to work on sticking with it.   I have some fun things to do with the children and I'm hoping to have at least two or three days each week that we don't have to drive anywhere.    That will allow us quite a bit of time to do things that we need to get completed.

Here's my to-do list for July:

Work:
* Prep Unit 1 & 2 for both of my fall classes
* Finish research summary

Family:
* Read 2-3 books aloud to the children
* Attend two meeting with John (for his call process)
* Host a birthday party for our daughter (her birthday was in May but she wanted her party in July)
* Play 4 board games with the children
* One date out with John
* Visit three free or nearly free events/museums/locations with the children
* Complete the one project I promised my Dad I would do for the family tree work he's doing

Home:
* Clean out and reorganize both children's bedrooms
* Wash the children's curtains
* Clean out and reorganize the family room
* Scrub the kitchen cabinets
* Prime and paint the stairwell

Yard:
* Keep up with the weeding - spend 20-30minute/day 3-4x per week weeding and deadheading
* Transplant peonies and some irises
* Pick produce and process it as necessary
* Reseed the east side yard - this is a high shade area and definitely needs it

Sewing/Crafting:
* Start the 2016 photo albums for my children
* Hem a pair of slacks for me
* Sew myself a skirt
* Finish our niece's Graduation gift
* Finish at least two other gifts

Personal
* Acupuncture x2
* Get to bed on time
* Read two books for fun
* Get my hair trimmed
* Paint my toenails x 2

That's quite a bit for July, but the children will be helping me with much of it.  We'll see how it goes!  What are you up to this month?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of July 10, 2016


My girlie picking raspberries this weekend.  She's getting so tall and grown up!


We have a week with lots of little things - I'm giving some perennials that are ready to be split to a friend, I have a doctor's appointment, and we have several church events this week.  Most of the day time will be spent at home and I'm happy to not have the daily drive in to work right now.  A slower pace is a welcome change for a while. 
 
Other things on the to-do list are to start getting ready for our Daughter's birthday party in two weeks and to get some much-needed housecleaning done. I'm also hoping to get the weeding caught up after all the rain we had last week and finish our niece's graduation gift.  If I have time I'd like to do some other sewing too.  We'll see.  I'm hoping for a few hours of physical/mental work each day with leisure reading and creative items scattered throughout. 
 
Here's what we're eating this week:
 
Sunday, July 10:
   Breakfast: Banana-Blueberry Smoothies
   Lunch: Baked Eggs, Bacon, Raspberry Coffee Cake Muffins
   Snack: Soft Pretzels
   Dinner: Cashew Chicken, Rice, Cantaloupe
 
Monday, July 11:
    Breakfast:  Scrambled Eggs, Toast
    Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Bread with Butter
    Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Tossed Salad, Cantaloupe
 
Tuesday, July 12:
    Breakfast: Waffles with Bananas and Almonds
    Lunch:  Macaroni and Cheese, Apples
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Maple Roasted Cabbage, Lemon-Butter Kohlrabi, Noodles with Butter, Cantaloupe-Raspberry-Blueberry Salad
 
Wednesday, July 13:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
    Lunch: Ham Sandwiches, Apples, Cut Veggies
    Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: At a Church Potluck: Bring Homemade Cole Slaw
 
Thursday, July 14:
    Breakfast: Raspberry-Lemon Scones 
    Lunch: Fried Egg Sandwiches, Leftover Cole Slaw
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Steak and Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Apple-Cantaloupe-Raspberry Salad
 
Friday, July 15:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Diced Potatoes
    Lunch: Salad with Tuna
    Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
 
Saturday, July 16:
    Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Biscuits
    Lunch: Salad with Chicken and Strawberries
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Zucchini-Potato Cakes with Marinara Sauce, Spinach-Bacon Quiche
 
What are you eating this week?


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Super Savings Saturday - Frugal shopping, garden harvest and gleaning

We have a week of food "stuff" here at our house!  The garden is slowly starting to produce - we've been picking lettuce, basil and strawberries every day for a couple of weeks and today it was a handful of beans to add to that.  Here's today's harvest:

 
We also got three strawberries that we promptly ate!   We've been averaging 2-6 per day with the strawberries so we've just been eating them as they come.  They're little and sweet.  I'm hoping that next year we can have more as the plants mature more.   I had to cut back the kale since it was getting eaten by something.  Hopefully it will recover - I'd love to make some kale chips.  Peppers and tomatoes should be ripe end of this week or next week, depending on the weather.  I can't wait!
 
We also gleaned raspberries and cherries from a friend's yard today.  She was starting to compete with the birds so put out a call for friends to come and pick.  Here's what we brought home:
 
 
Two kinds of red raspberries, yellow raspberries and the cherries.  The cherries are bitter so we'll use those for cooking and for jam rather than snacking.    I'm planning on freezing most of the raspberries for use in smoothies and baking later this year.  Another friend may let us pick too and I'm hoping to get at least 4 liters of raspberries, though I'd like more.  I keep having a feeling that things are going to tighter than tight for a while and anything we have in the freezer and pantry will be a help.  I'm going to halve and pit the cherries and freeze those for the baking.   Raspberries go first though since they don't keep as long.
 
We also got our CSA this week, though I didn't get a photo.  We received:
 
Two large zucchini
3 Kohlrabi
2 Purple Beets (with the previous week's beets I now have enough to make a jar or two of pickled)
Lettuce
A small head of broccoli
Dry pint raspberries
Dry pint cherries
 
I'm going to make and freeze zucchini bread and muffins this week and the pickled beets.  If we don't eat the kohlrabi I'll blanch and freeze those as well. 
 
Our last stop was the grocery store.  Here's what we bought:
 
 
Canned Gisha Mandarin Oranges 10oz 2 @ $1 ea = $2
Crisco Vegetable Oil 48oz $2.79
1lb Bacon $2.99 with coupon
15oz Rope Sausage 2 @ 2/$5 = $5 with store coupon (for our camping trip later this summer)
Cantaloupe $2
4lb Pink Lady Apples $4.99
5lb Carrots $3.49
Sweet Cherries 2.66lb @ $3.49/lb  $6.33 with 1st lb free coupon
Yellow Bananas 2.88lb @ $0.59/lb = $1.70
Cucumber $0.59
Gallon 1% Milk $3 with store coupon (the children like this better than skim)
Greek Gods Yogurt 32oz $3.79
 
Total Spent: $38.13
Saved (according to store receipt) $9.36 or 20%
 
As the garden and CSA give us more produce, I'm hoping to focus on buying meat and pantry items rather than having to buy produce. We'll still buy milk, bananas and a few other things but I'm hoping we can cut way back on produce and stock up on some things we'll need in the future.
 
Come back Monday to see what we're eating this week!




Monday, July 4, 2016

Frugal Days - End of June

 

The children were at church camp last week.  My son left his plush wolf with me with strict instructions to take good care of him.  Each day I took a photo of "Mr. Wolfie" doing something my son enjoys - here playing on the tablet.  We could email the children each day so I sent a photo each day - this was our son's favorite.  The one of Mr. Wolfie helping me weed the tomatoes?  Not so much!

It's officially summer here - summer session is over and the weather is beautiful and warm, some days hot.  I'm ready for summer!   I have two goals for the rest of this summer: Cross some things off my to do list and get a lot of rest.    Those two things sound opposite but I think we can make it work - slow and steady wins the race here I'm pretty sure!  Many of the things I'd like to cross off are little or things that I consider fun (finishing up some sewing and crafting projects!), so I'm really looking forward to my summer vacation now.

The last two weeks have been pretty busy and I feel like we haven't been very frugal.  We haven't been that bad but I feel like we're just kind of limping along here.  A shingles flair up and a bad head cold didn't help.  I am hoping we can really tuck it in the next few weeks - we don't know what the fall holds financially at this point and we may have to tighten the belt in a very, very big way come August.

Here's what we've done the last two weeks that may be considered frugal:

* I enjoyed two pot luck parties to stay goodbye to friends/co-workers who are moving away.  I brought cut fruit and paper plates/cups/napkins/silverware from the stash that we already owned. Both parties were super fun and the food was delicious.

* My husband took the children to a local small town parade while I was at one of the pot luck parties.  They had a great time and brought home a grocery bag full of candy.

* We bought 4 cinder blocks and 8 3-1/2 ft-long 2"x4" boards to make holders for our cut logs for our fire pit/campfires.  We typically camp in the same county live in so we can use our own logs for the fire (we have trouble with Emerald Ash Borer here so transporting logs across county lines is prohibited).  We have one holder for wood that needs to season and one for wood that is ready for use.  We need to get 2 more cinder blocks and 4 more boards to make another for wood that needs to season.  The cost for the 4 cinder blocks and 8 boards?  $16.  We'll spent another $8 for the additional materials.  And we don't have to worry about ticks or other bugs in our logs anymore!  We don't have a decent saw for cutting the boards, so we spent a couple of dollars more (total) for pre-cut.  We will have holders for al of our logs for $24 - we're very happy with that price.

* I cut flowers from the yard to decorate our kitchen table several times and for two bouquets for our secretary at work as well.

* My husband borrowed several books that he needed from a friend rather than buying them.  They are theology books that our local library doesn't carry so this was very helpful!

* I baked a rhubarb cake one night and made buttermilk coffee cake for breakfast and snack.

* We took the children to the local Splash Pad for a few hours one afternoon to play.  They had a great time.  No admission price and my husband and I had some time to talk while we were there.

* We updated the budget book and had a really long conversation about our finances.

* We had storms come through and a large branch broke off our huge maple.  It landed partially on the roof and partially in the tree.  We carefully rolled the branch off the roof and into the front yard.  Then we used our reciprocating saw to cut it up into somewhat smaller pieces and piled it by the fence in the back yard.  Our neighbors paid someone to come out and do this for them.  Apparently we saved quite a bit of money doing it ourselves!  We will have the arborist that comes through in spring and fall trim off the rough end left on the tree so that it doesn't get infected.  Later we cut up the logs into pieces for our fire pit. 

* My husband and I went on a date out on a weeknight while the children were at church camp.  We used a gift card to pay for part of the meal and we had leftovers for lunch the next day. No sitter to pay made it an inexpensive date!

* We carpooled with friends to church camp, which is approximately 2 hours away from where we live.  This worked out wonderful for us since both the friends are Pastors and busy on Sunday, so we took all the children to camp and one of the friends brought all of them back, since John and I were both working on Friday when the children needed to be picked up.  The children had a blast and are already looking forward to going back next year!  

* My husband did two weekends of Pulpit Supply (filling in for local clergy who are on vacation or medical leave).  We set aside the money from those two paychecks for summer fun - one for our camping trip later this summer (park fees, groceries, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.) and one paycheck for my birthday and our anniversary and a few other things we'd like to do with the children later this summer.  We will have to watch the money (Pulpit Supply doesn't pay much!) but we will be able to do everything we'd like this summer, which I'm very grateful for!  We did have a plan B but it's nice that we can stick with plan A.

* We continued to eat down the freezer (we're almost to empty!) and we made biscuits, cornbread, soup, waffles, cookies, pizza and breadsticks, and calzones at home these last couple of weeks.

What have you done the last couple of weeks that was frugal?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Work Home and Family: Homemade Gifts Part 15

I'm woefully behind on posting homemade gifts, though I'm still hoping to hit 52 by the end of the year - one gift for each week.  I'm hoping to get caught up on posting in general once summer session ends here very, very soon! (I may just be a wee bit excited about summer session ending.  I have a great group of students but, man, it's been intense!). 

The school year for the children ended the first week in June and we needed gifts for their primary teachers, two women and one man.  All have a green thumb so I borrowed an idea that I saw many variations of on Pinterest and ended up with a very inexpensive gift that will hopefully be helpful.  I'm not entirely sure this counts as a "homemade" gift but it worked anyway and cost very little.

Gift #15: Herb Plants and Garden Gloves


 
About two weeks before school let out for the summer, my Dad came home from the local hardware store with a whole stack of garden gloves - some for us and some to take with him when they returned home after their visit.  They were on sale for $1 a pair!  So I decided that would make a good teacher gift. 
 
Borrowing from the ideas I saw on Pinterest, (here's one version that has super cute printables too!) I bought three herb plants at the same hardware store and three pair of the bargain garden gloves.  The children wrote notecards that we then attached to popsicle sticks from our craft stash that read "Mr./Mrs. __________________,  Thanks for helping me grow through 5th grade!" and then signed them.  We wrapped the pots in plastic and patterned tissue and then tied the gloves on with curling ribbon. 
 

Total cost for 3 gifts: $7.50 or $2.50each

You could reduce the cost of these by using only the plants and starting them from seed or cuttings in your own garden.  You also used a flowering plant rather than herbs.  Other variations included painting the "Thanks for helping me grow" on a terracotta pot rather than printing on a paper or including a gift card to a store of your choice.  The variations of these are just about endless!

Being in middle school, they have many teachers other teachers - study hall, music theory/choir, band, and their before/after care person too.  All of those people received hand written thank you notes rather than a gift this year. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 26th, 2016

 
 
Hard to believe it's the end of June already.  I feel like summer hasn't really started yet and here it's almost July! 
 
We're eating a lot of salads this week - lettuce from the garden and lettuce, spinach, kale and Swiss chard from the CSA mean lots of greens to use up.  I'm totally fine with that! They're delicious!  We still working on emptying the upstairs freezer - it's taking a lot longer than we had anticipated and I think we're going to have to step up the game if we want to have the deep freeze fixed before we have all the produce in. 
 
So, with all of that, here's what we're eating this week:
 
 Sunday, June 26:
    Breakfast: Smoothies
    Lunch: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Baked Salmon, Rice, Strawberries and Blueberries 
 
Monday, June 27:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Cashews
    Lunch: Tossed Salad with Leftover Salmon
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Baked Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana Salad
 
Tuesday, June 28:
    Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter, Smoothies
    Lunch: Leftover Chicken and Potatoes or Potluck at work (Bring Fruit Salad)
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Pulled Pork in the Crockpot, Buns, Cut Veggies, Sliced Apples


Wednesday, June 29:
    Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
    Lunch: Tossed Salad with Cashews, Strawberries, Blueberries and leftover Pork
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Potluck at Church: Bring Fruit Salad and/or Tossed Salad

Thursday, June 30:
    Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter, Smoothies
    Lunch: Soup from the Freezer, Tossed Green Salad
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Soup from the Freezer, Sliced Apples, Baking Powder Biscuits

Friday, July 1:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Almonds
    Lunch: Peanut Butter Crackers, Cut Veggies, Strawberries and Apples
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
   
Saturday, July 2:
    Breakfast: Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Strawberries or Blueberries (whichever is left by this time0
    Lunch: Soup and Biscuits
    Snack: Leftover Coffee Cake
    Dinner: Sausage, Corn and Potatoes in the Crockpot

What are you eating this week?