Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home Work and Family - Easy and Fun Summer Family Fun

One of the really nice things about not graduating in December is that my schedule has calmed down a bit. Yes, I am still mentally (and sometimes physically) hanging at loose ends but I do have more 'free' time.

And I'm using it to enjoy time with my precious family.

Since we're working at becoming debt free, that means things can't be expensive.
Since we're still busy it means things have to easy too.

So what are some of the things we have been doing?

* Bubbles! I don't know why, but bubbles are a huge hit with my kids! They got a mega page of bubble wands in all different shapes and sizes and a gallon jug of bubble solution. We have spent literally hours playing with that. The kids blowing, John and I blowing with the kids chasing, all four of us ohh-ing and ahh-ing over really large, really tiny or particularly spectacular bubbles. It's a ton of fun!

* Free crafts! We live in the Twin Cities so we have Lakeshore Learning Store, which has free crafts for the kids every Saturday. Stores like JoAnn's, Michael's and probably other places too have free make-and-takes fairly often too. I even heard a rumor that our Barnes & Noble has a book reading with a related craft and our local library has a night once in a while with crafts too. This expands on my creativity (or lack thereof) and gets us all out of the house. And it's perfect for those rainy days!

* Library Summer Reading Program! Our library has a fun reading program where the kids read or get read to for 40 hours between June 13 and August 13 and they get a free book to keep! (Books are donated by community members so there is no cost to the library). If we read 40 hours, the kids get their name on the bulletin board at the library. We're shooting for 40 so they can get their names up! We love to read at our house, and curling up under a blanket tent with flashlights and a stack of books (we check out about 20 per week) is a heap of fun for all of us (though Mom's legs usually stick out of the tent!).

* Free local events! Our local library supports a program that brings in local musicians, theater troupes and the like for free performances at a small theater/stage in town. We've seen the Minnesota Zoo Mobile, a couple of local bands, a magician, and are looking forward to another local band this next month. We also have local festivals for our small towns, bigger things in Minneapolis and St. Paul complete with parades, candy, and free shows/exhibits/entertainment. All fun!

* Picnics at the Park! Last night we took a picnic to the park for dinner. I had homemade pizza on the menu, but the kids wanted to go to the park so we took hot dogs, chips, and drinks to the park and ate there. Bonus perk was that John and I got some relatively kid-free talking time while the kids played on jungle gym always within eyesight and usually within a few steps of us! Just taking a walk and going to park is a hit too, but having a picnic there was even more fun.

* Flying a kite! My kids both got kites for their birthday from a neighbor who used to take her kids kit flying all the time. Now we're picking up the tradition! Yes, it requires a windy day, but it's a heap of fun too! I recommend hooking the kite up to a fishing rod - the fishing line is less likely to break, leaving you with a run-away kite, and you can just real it in when you're done!

* A wading pool! When our kids turned 2, they got a wading pool from my cousin for their birthday. We still use it and now it's become the home of experiments (see what floats!), splashing contests and floating contests! We love it! And Mom and Dad get to stick their feet in and get cool too!

* Play doh! I don't let the kids play inside with play doh - I have a thing about it getting squished all over the place. So we play with it outside at the patio table. We have fun trying to sculpt animals, each other, and using the shaping kits the kids have gotten for their birthdays for the last 3 years.

* Ice cream cones! A couple years ago we made a tradition of walking to the library and stopping at Dairy Queen on the way home to get kiddie cones. Not free, but less than $5 for 2 kiddie comes and 2 small regular cones. We get all sticky, finish walking home, wash off, and cuddle up with our new books from the library. How cool is that? We also sit out on the front step eating homemade Popsicles or ice cream cones and watching the cars go by. How many red cars can we see? How many motorcycles? Anything really unusual? That's fun too!

I'm sure there are other things that we do that I'm forgetting.

What do you do for inexpensive and easy summer fun?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Goals Update: Digging Out from Overwhelmed

Ever since I found out I won't be graduating in December, I feel like I've been dumped on my head. I have no plan, no idea of how to rearrange everything that I had so carefully scheduled and no idea of whether or not it's going to effect my job or my family relationship or anything else.

Monday this last week I hit the proverbial wall. I was stressed. I had been fighting the beginnings of a migraine for about 4 days, though it hadn't actually become the full-blown thing yet. I even skipped good friend's surprise birthday party to stay home and make sure it didn't have the external stimulation to become a full blown migraine.

I told John I needed to talk - really talk - about everything that was weighing on me. We scheduled time on Tuesday evening after the kids were in bed and everything had been 'put away for the night' so to speak. He was on call Monday night and we had an awards banquet on Wednesday night, so that was the first night we had certain time.

I sat down and just did a stream of consciousness diary entry on everything that was weighing on my mind. Three typed written pages later that was done. Then I wrote out a detailed list of everything I think needs to get done.

Tuesday night I shared the diary entry with John and then, after he had read the first one and we had talked a bit, the list.

The list started out as 15 pages and is now down to 4 1/2. We decided to end with our planning at September because that starts another chapter with my new job and the kids in kindergarten.

I felt a million pounds lighter.

It had felt like I had to do everything no later than yesterday for so long, I was having a terrible time prioritizing things. Do I still have a lot to do? Yes. But it's not quite so overwhelming. Especially since some of things involved pre-k physicals for the kids, eye doctor appointments for the kids, hair cuts, getting ready for vacation and our anniversary retreat, and a few other things that are one-shot need-to-be-done deals anyway.

So, what have I accomplished since that 'meeting' with John?
* cleaned out two bookcase
* moved furniture and washed two walls in the living room
* wrote another paper for school
* finished working with 2 transcripts for school
* planted an absurd amount of annuals in the yard
* read through 3 sets of Bible study materials as part of a curriculum project for church
* spent several hours on a project with another student at school
* attended the awards banquet with John
* attended Bible Study
* attended worship
* cleaned off my cedar chest
* relocated or pitched or recycled or donated two laundry baskets worth of material
* washed 9 loads of laundry
* spent 2 hours ironing
* played a ton with my kids
* visited with a dear friends
* read 2 books (one for school, one for fun)
* read many, many books to my kids
* finished the last of the thank you notes I needed to write (and mailed them)
*caught up our budget book and on paying our bills
* organized my coupons (again)
* took the kids to the eye doctor
* ordered glasses for Buddy
* attended a church meeting
* prepped for that church meeting and another one
* worked out 5 times
* and probably a ton of other things I am forgetting

Plus I got back on track with a new to-do list system that John helped me put together.

How cool is that?

Am I completely out of my funk? No. But I'm getting there.

What more can I ask for?

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 27th

I totally spaced posting groceries this week, but I definitely did go shopping! And we are eating well again this week and here's what we're having:

Sunday, June 27:
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Out for All
Dinner: Grilled Steak and Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, Homemade Bread, Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana Salad

Monday, June 28:
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Toast, Strawberries and Bananas
Dinner: Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice, Grape-Cantaloupe-Strawberry Salad

Tuesday, June 29:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothies
Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Lettuce Salad, Cantaloupe-Peach-Grape Salad

Wednesday, June 30:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Peaches and Cinnamon
Dinner: At Church

Thursday, July 1:
Breakfast: Waffles with Bananas and Pecans
Dinner: Grilled Kielbasa, Rice, Lettuce Salad, Pineapple-Cantaloupe-Peach Salad

Friday, July 2:
Breakfast: Cold Cereal with Bananas
Dinner: BBQ Chicken Legs, Pasta Salad, Grape-Cantaloupe-Pineapple Salad

Saturday, July 3:
Breakfast: Homemade Caramel Rolls with Peaches and Pecans
Lunch: Pasta Salad with Ham, Grapes and Sliced Peaches
Dinner: 15-Bean Vegetable Soup, Baking Powder Biscuits, Sliced Pineapple

What are you eating this week? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 20th

We have another busy week here! I'm so grateful that it's summer and cool, easy things are on the menu. It makes life just so much easier.
Here's what we're eating this week:
Sunday, June 20, Father's Day:
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Pancakes with Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries and Pecans
Dinner: Chicken and Veggie Fried Rice (see pic above), Strawberry-Grape-Blueberry Salad
Monday, June 21:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon
Dinner: At a Friend's House (BBQ for a birthday party)
Tuesday, June 22:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothies
Dinner: Hamburger Gravy, Noodles, Salad, and Melon-Grape-Banana Salad
Wednesday, June 23:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon
Dinner: Out for Lea and John, PB&J with Vanilla Pudding and Grapes for Buddy and Missy
Thursday, June 24:
Breakfast: Waffles with Blackberries and Pecans
Dinner: Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, Salad, Strawberry-Banana-Blueberry Salad
Friday, June 25:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Pecans
Dinner: Vegetarian Chili, Baking Powder Biscuits, Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana-Salad
Saturday, June 26:
Breakfast: Out for all (Bible Studies)
Lunch: PB&J, Celery and carrot sticks, Fruit
Dinner: Steak, Corn on the Cob, Pasta Salad, Fruit
What are you eating this week? Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Super Savings Saturday - $56.57 HAUL!

Yes, this week's haul was large enough that I need 3 pictures (yes, there is some overlap between 2 of them!) to show you all the details!
It was a week for details - that made me very happy!
Store #1: Total: $26.36 (store listed savings $17.21)
4 boxes Kellogg's Nutrigrain Bars $1.75 ea (store coupon)
2 lbs Strawberries BOGO (store coupon)
2 pints Blueberries BOGO (store coupon)
2 pints Blackberries BOGO (store coupon)
1 bunch radishes $0.50
2 green peppers $0.66
2 Cherry Tomatoes BOGO (store coupon)
1 Goldfish Crackers $1
1 lb yellow onions $1.99
Store #2: Total: $30.41 (store listed savings $21.22)
Store Brand 5lb Flour $2.29
Betty Crocker Warm Delights 2 x $1.75 - $0.75 - $0.75 -$0.75 - $0.75 = $0.50
Cascadian Farms Fruity Os Cereal $2.50 - $1 - $1 = $0.50
Pringles 4 x $1.69 - $1 = $5.76
Old El Paso Taco Shells 2 x $1.50 - $0.60 - $0.60 = $1.80
2.52 lbs bananas x $0.48/lb = $1.21
2.03 lbs grapes x $0.99/lb = $2.01
16 sweet corn x $0.25 = $4
1lb carrots $1
2lb celery $1.49
8oz store brand cheddar cheese $2
8oz store brand mozzarella cheese $2
Yoplait 32oz vanilla yogurt $2.69 - $0.55 - $0.55 = $1.59
1 gallon store brand skim milk $2.49 - $0.31 = $1.98
1 gallon store brand skim milk $2.49

The Pringles and Goldfish are for our family vacation in a couple of weeks and the Warm Delights are for our date nights this week and next. I plan on cooking and freezing 4 of the sweet corn for later on.
There you are have it! I spent $56.57 and saved (according to the store receipts) $38.43.
Did you get any 'screamin' deals' this week? Head over to Money Saving Mom to share!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Healthy Habits in 2010 - Those Pesky Snacks (AKA Stress Eating!)

Ahh, yes. Cookies. Peanut Butter ones here in the picture. And for some reason, soooo much better than usual. Not sure what I did, but they are darn yummy! And this was the second batch I had made. And we made a batch of oatmeal (my all time favorite!) too.

Uff da!

Yep, I've been stress eating. For the last month and half - starting right before the onslaught of food for the kids' birthday (and the 4 dozen cupcakes that made their way through our house!). And the leftover party food (pulled pork, potato salad, lots of fruit and veggies). And the rhubarb came in so my mom made jam. And I made crisp. And then for date night this week I made a blackberry cream pie!

Oh my, oh my.

Couple all of that with everything that has been going on and the stress eating has gotten seriously out of control. It almost makes me wish that I was one of those people who can't eat when they're nervous. Almost.

I love my food. And I love treats - cookies, cake, chips, candy, crackers, etc. The more the better. Last week when I came home the day I found out I wouldn't graduate in December I told John I wanted to eat a whole bag of potato chips for dinner. Just a bag of potato chips. Nothing else.

Did I mean it? Not really. I mean, I don't even like potato chips really. I like tortilla chips and veggie chips but not potato chips.

I just was more a statement of my need for comfort eating at the moment.

And it made me realize that the backsliding in my weight/size that I'd been blaming on not working out enough, was probably more due to what I'd been eating rather than real back sliding in the exercise department. I have been eating more. Way more. And certainly more than I need.

Then I realized this weekend that I was snacking on Mini-Wheats because I was needing something to do and really didn't want to work on the couple of obvious projects I had hanging around. We as humans really don't need that much fuel. And we tend to eat way more calories than we need. I know I do.

So, this week, it's back to watching my portion size and monitoring my eating for emotional eating.

How are you doing with your healthy habits goals? Care to share?

Goals Update - Graduation Derailed

Wednesday this past week I found out that no matter what I WILL NOT be able to graduate in 2010.

You see, I have been working on this dang written exam for A YEAR now. I have on committee member who will not sign off on the thing (no one else on my committee and a couple of other random faculty can figure out why) and he did not understand that in order for me to take Dissertation credits this summer (which I need in order to graduate in December!) I needed to have the exam approved and my preliminary oral exam completely completed by June 25th. So, he's out of the country until the 30th and basically told me 'isn't going to happen.'

He knows I have this job and the requirements that go along with it.
He knows I need 24 Dissertation credits to graduate.
He knows that no one else can figure out why he's 'concerned.'

Basically it appears that he really doesn't give a hoot.

I'm furious.

Why? Because I've been sitting on everything else for about 10 months - my IRB forms and thesis proposal, my first 3 chapters, the analyzed data from a previous study that I've been using as the basis for my own study.

My advisor told me to go ahead and file the IRB and start taking my data as soon as it's approved.

And that we would do both the preliminary oral and the thesis proposal, which are typically 2 separate events, in one session so that I can move forward.

My advisor also said that if this cranky person doesn't sign off now, we're going to drop my minor and get someone else.

Small comfort? Some.

I'm still furious.

Especially since I don't want to drop the minor and have no idea who else to ask to be on my committee.

Especially since I've spent the last 2 months scrambling so that I'd be completely ready to meet this June 25th deadline.

Especially since I had worked out how to have another faculty member do this exam over Skype from a 3rd-World country on the other side of the globe.

That's life.

And I guess the good part is that I don't have to scramble anymore.

I guess I'll hold on to that.

I'll write more about the other goals I have for this graduation thing next week. I have to have a couple of questions answered before I can solidify my new plan (which I think has moved past Plan A, Plan B, etc. to about Plan Q at the moment!).

I'll be back tomorrow the Healthy Habits in 2010! Have a good afternoon!

Menu Plan Monday - Week Of June 13th

Oh, my, oh my! I thought our schedule was crazy before, but with John at his Intensive classes this past week it's been downright nuts! Not to mention finding out some things that just plain made me furious and kept me from getting work done (more on that later today).

This week is a repeat, so I'm trying to think of things we can eat that would be relatively easy and tasty at the same time. Since we cut down our meat consumption, I'm starting to feel like I need to take a better look at how to utilize our options. So I will do that this week, but right now we're still trying to 'eat normal' (or something like that!)

Here's what on the menu this week:

Sunday, June 13:
Breakfast: Cereal and Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Pizza Party at John's Intensive

Monday, June 14:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Blueberries
Dinner: Pork Chops, Roasted Potatoes, Spinach & Lettuce Salad, Strawberry-Melon-Banana Salad

Tuesday, June 15:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Strawberry-Banana Smoothies
Dinner: Chicken Calzones, Spinach & Lettuce Salad, Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana Salad

Wednesday, June 16:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans, Raisins and Cinnamon
Dinner: At Church or Salad with Chicken, Mandarin Oranges and Strawberries (depending on what time John gets home)

Thursday, June 17:
Breakfast: Waffles with Strawberries and Pecans
Dinner: Leftovers with Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Friday, June 18:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Apples
Dinner: Vegetable Soup with Homemade Rolls, Orange Wedges

Saturday, June 19:
Breakfast: Coffee Cake Bread and Bananas
Lunch: Pasta Salad with Chicken on Spinach, Fruit
Dinner: Shrimp Kabobs, Rice, Spinach & Lettuce Salad, Fruit

For more menu inspiration, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Friends!

John and I have been so blessed to have a wonderful family. Everyone gets along. Nobody has grudges or fights or makes rude comments. The kids have their normal kid squabbles and there is sometimes miscommunication, but we all get along. What a blessing!

However, we live 3 1/2 hours away from John's family and 2 1/2 days away from my parents. That means we don't see our families very often, usually only 2-3 times a year. Yes, my parents come for a month or more at a time, but that still means that the majority of the time, they aren't around.

That means friends are a huge part of our life.

We have many, many friends, most of which are part of our faith community as well. John is part of Lion's International, so we have friends there. I am a volunteer class coordinator for Jazzercise, so we have friends there too. Then there's work friends and school friends for both of us. Our kids are in preschool and daycare, so we have additional friends from those places as well.

John has a friend he has Bible study each Saturday morning. I have a friend I meet regularly for coffee or breakfast or desert with. I also have a Bible study group.

Is there overlap between these groups of friends? Of course! But it still adds up to a LOT of friends.

I am so grateful!

All of these friends make life worthwhile.

They carry us through our joys and sorrows. They bring food when new babies are born, help rake our yard in the fall, provide both regular and emergency child care when needed. For a while we had a babysitting swap with one set of friends. Another set of dear friends have been adopted as "grandparents" by our children - no official connection needed! And it's good for both them and the kids. We have other friends who provide that "iron sharpening iron" that goes on between friends who truly talk about important things in their lives. And we have friends who provide a good laugh when we need one.

A simple meal is turned into a grand time when friends are involved, be it a hosted meal, a buffet, a cup of coffee or pancakes in a restaurant, a crazy sponsored picnic, a pot luck at home or at church, an impromptu ice cream cone at DQ or McDonald's, or our next door neighbor coming over and saying "We have fresh salmon! Come eat with us!". (Yes, she does do that occasionally!)

Bumping into a friend while out and about running errands can make a ho-hum (or downright lousy) day brighter.

Prayers of friends can be a true encouragement. As can a hug. Or a card or a note. And a friend hooking one friend up with another saying, "this person's been there and can give you support" can be one of the most important things people do for each other..

Other than family, friends are what makes life truly worthwhile. If you have family and friends, you are rich beyond measure. No matter what else you have in life.

Truly, friends are one of my favorite things.

What more can I ask for?

Super Savings Saturday - I Splurged a Little! $83 and change

Alas, I don't have pictures this week since my camera battery is charging!

I did get A LOT of stuff - and spent about $85 in three different shopping trips. I had $25 from last pay period, and $80 from this pay period, so I have about $16 for next week. I'm okay with that! I also can't find my receipts (I have NO idea where I put them!) so I don't have exact totals today either. **Sigh**

Trip #1: Farmer's Market:
2 lbs organic 85% lean ground beef
1 lb organic pork chops
Total: $14 and change

Trip #2: Grocery Store #1
2 1lb strawberries (BOGO)
1 36oz Old Orchard Grapefruit Juice
1 10-pk Oscar Meyer All-Meat Wieners
4 packages Sargento Low-Salt Shredded Cheese
4 boxes Kellogg's Mini-Wheats
2 2-lb bags Arctic Shores Pre-cooked Shrimp (70ct was on sale, we got 90ct because they ran out!) (BOGO)
Total: $38 and change (after coupons and sales)

Trip #3: Grocery Store #2
2.3 lbs bananas
1 large pineapple
1 large cantaloupe
2 boxes Cheerios
2 boxes Lucky Charms
1 package Marcel Napkins
1 32-oz Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt
2 gallons store-brand skim milk
1 doz large store brand eggs
2 42oz bottles Northland Cranberry-Raspberry Juice
5lbs Russet Potatoes
1 jar Green Mill Pizza sauce
1 lb package store-brand baby carrots
2 candy bars (I was hungry - but I did save one for later this week) :)
1 bag Hershey's Dark Chocolate with Almonds Minis (we're taking turns providing dark chocolate for the office at work!)
Total Spent: $30 and change (after coupons and sales)

Total spent is roughly $83 and change.

For all we got, not bad. I'm especially happy with the shrimp deal we got! I'm sure others could do better, but I'm really happy with the haul I got for that amount!

Pictures will be back next week. In the meantime, check out Money Saving Mom for even better deals that I got here!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Frugal Friday - Inexpensive Gardening Tips

I love my garden! As I wrote about on Sunday, I'm a bit of a "ball twine and duct tape" gardener, meaning the easier the better! I truly don't have a lot of time and bit of weeding and dead heading each week is usually all I can manage. So, I need low-maintenance plants that pretty much fend for themselves.

Also, with both John and I both being in school, money is definitely something that we need to watch! Still, I've found that it's easy to have a lovely garden with a bit of elbow grease and a bit of ingenuity. I'm sure I could have done this cheaper than I have, but these are ways I've saved money on our garden:

Clean out your yard! You would be surprised what you already have! When we bought our home, the previous homeowners had buried the orange day lilies under literally piles of junk (broken appliances, pieces of concrete, bags of old leaves and trash). We cleaned those out when we moved in in September and in the spring, Surprise!, we had day lilies! After talking to the neighbor we also found out that the people who had build our house put in really, really good dirt along the fence line and around both the house and the garage. Additionally, we have 5 beautiful lilacs that just needed trimming to get them back to their original glory! Love that!

Take advantage of those free plants! We were even more fortunate because we have 'invaders' - plants that had come up under or through the fence from the neighbors. We have the lovely bleeding heart pictured above and raspberry bushes. How cool is that?

And more free plants! Perennials like lilies, irises, peonies, and hostas (or "pastas" as my son calls them!) need to be divided occasionally. Our neighbor across the street had irises that she had gotten from the people who built our house. Guess what? I have a bunch of those in my yard now too - hers needed to be divided and so she shared! My cousin shared peonies, giant and miniature irises, more day lilies, Asiatic lilies, goat's beard, columbine, and rhubarb. When my Aunt moved west, she split her peonies and dug up some of her bulbs for both me and another cousin. I traded orange day lilies for hostas, coral bells and lily of the valley with a friend. Even better, now that my plants are established, I've been able to pass some on to others! Once generous soul in our town even put clumps of day lilies out on his front yard in plastic grocery bags with a "Free" sign on a stake next to them. They were gone in a matter of hours!

Gift plants! The year I was pregnant with our twins, we purchased two hydrangeas for the Easter garden at church. We took them home and planted them, thinking "what the heck? Why not?" Miraculously, they have grown and bloom about every other year! Not bad for what is supposed to be an "indoor" potted plant! We've done the same thing with mums. This year we got a Fragrant Heliotrope. It smells great and it is makes it through the winter, we'll have a fragrant purple addition to our flower beds!

Even more free plants in the form of seeds! Many annuals re-seed themselves. I have friends who collect their seeds each year from four-o-clocks, cosmos, and several others (whose names I'm struggling to remember right now!). As their own plants reseed themselves in that location each year, they have seed to spare. I have gotten lots of free seeds that way. Another friend who was moving had extra heirloom vegetable seeds as well. I was able to get seeds for zucchini from her this year!

Make your own compost. Several years ago our city ran a deal where we could buy a compost bin for about $10. We did. And we've added our grass clippings, deadheaded flowers and leaves, used tea leaves and bags and vegetable and bread scraps plus a little bit of water to make our own compost. It's free, easy and we just use a spading fork to add it to the ground each spring and fall, enriching the soil for our plants. I add my coffee grounds to the soil directly around the base of my hydrangeas, rather than adding them to the compost. In the fall we also mulch our gardens to protect them over the winter by adding our mulched leaves. John empties the bag from the leaf blower directly onto the flower beds, covering the plants and providing a layer of insulation to get them through the winter. I do not put pulled weeds in my compost, since I really don't want the seeds from the weeds in my compost.

Take advantage of sales. Our local greenhouses often offer two for one deals on things like hanging baskets, selected annuals and/or perennials, and vegetables. I've bought hanging baskets this way and reused the baskets for several years by planting petunias in them. One local greenhouse even has a coupon each year for a free tomato plant with accompanying purchase of a specific amount! Our Menard's store (and others) run $1 or 99-cent geranium plants each year. And at the end of the season, plants are almost always 50% off or more! We also use sales for things like bark, fertilizer, and the paving stones, sand and gravel base we used to make our patio!

Reuse what you have or buy used. As I wrote above, I plant petunias in my old hanging baskets each year. Pots - even decorative ones - can be found cheaply at garage sales, secondhand stores or even clearance sections. Keep these and use them again next year! You wouldn't believe how many people I know who throw these out each year and buy new the following spring. You can also find great deals on gardening tools at garage sales and second hand stores.

How do you save money on gardening?

Check out Life as Mom for more Frugal Friday!