Sunday, January 31, 2016

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - January 2016 Blessings

The beautiful sunrise one morning this past week. I spent a bunch of time just looking at it. 
We've had a lot of blessings this month, the sunrise above is just the beginning:
Watching the Rose Parade on TV to ring in the New Year.
A retirement party for a beloved co-worker.
My husband's 42nd Birthday.
Two meals out - one with a gift card and one at a fundraiser.  Such a treat this month!
The ability to sleep in several days this month.
Catching up the ironing.  (Hurray!) 
Having plenty to eat on a tight budget.
5th Grade Boy's Basketball.
Board games to play as a family.
New insulation in the attic.
Sunshine after so many days of gray and snow.
Acupuncture.   This has been such a huge help with my PHN!
Advil. So grateful I live in a time when this is available and safe!
Ordering seedlings for my garden (they will ship in May).
Our children reading books that we like too.
Our daughter getting her beautiful jewelry displayed at a local venue for an entire month.
A new semester at school for me and the children.
The children being so excited about the things they are learning at school.
At home date nights with my husband and a renewed commitment to make our marriage the very best it can possibly be.
Hot Tea.
Hot Showers.
Quiet evenings at home.
Lots of books to read from our local library.
Free videos to watch online and from the library.
Revisiting books from my childhood just for fun.
My children singing at the top of their lungs!
What have been your blessings in January?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Super Savings Saturday - $51/$100 for February Spent Today

And yes, I know it's still January, but today's shopping starts our February budget since I do my shopping for the coming week on Saturday.  We're still keeping our $100/month for everything we need grocery, toiletry, and paper product wise this month.

We spent $51.94 on the above groceries at one store. 

Everything in the first picture was an even $20 - that came to right about $1/lb for everything in the picture.  We have about 16-17 pounds of apples and pears, 2 lbs of onions and the two limes.  The store was running a $20 promo - fill a bag with a variety of things from a particular bin for $20.  Other options, aside from what we purchased, were potatoes (which we bought separately for $0.33/lb), winter squash (which we still have in our pantry), red bell peppers (which didn't look good), oranges, and grapefruit (both of which we already have in the fridge).

In the bottom picture (plus a gallon of milk) the pricing broke down like this:

10lbs of potatoes $3 (coupon)
Life Cereal $1.99 (coupon)
15oz tomato sauce 2 @ $0.79 = $1.58 (coupon)
8oz tomato sauce 4 @ $0.39 = $1.56
Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup 3 @ $0.79 = $2.37 (coupon)
Farmland Bacon 1lb $3.99 (coupon)
2lb Baby Carrots $1.99
Yellow Bananas 2.23lb @ $0.59 = $1.32
Cantaloupe $1.50
Greek Gods Yogurt oz $3.79
Kemps Skim Milk 1 Gallon (Not Pictured) $3.79
1 dozen Large Eggs $2.49
Crest Toothpaste $1 + $0.07 tax

Total Spent Today $51.94
Total Saved (According to the store receipt) $25.27 (33%)

We also received a $1 coupon for use on our next shopping trip.

The apples and pears should keep for the next couple weeks - we eat about 6-10lbs of fresh fruit per week so I'm not entirely sure exactly how long this will last but I'm anticipating at least two weeks.  It depends on how we eat the fruit and what other fruit we bought (this week bananas and cantaloupe) and have in our pantry/fridge already (oranges, grapefruit, canned mandarin oranges, canned pears).

We had hoped to get ground chicken but they were out and weren't giving rain checks since the coupon is still good for a couple of weeks so we bought the bacon instead even if it was a bit more expensive.  We'll try to get some ground chicken next week.

The potatoes, tomato sauce, cereal, soup and toothpaste are to either flesh out or fill up holes in our pantry.  I still need to buy some more flour and a couple of other things this month.

We have had two very busy weeks with this week being particularly busy and complicated by medical issues. I'm really ready for a quiet week or two.  So, come back Monday to see what we're eating!

What did you purchase this week?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Work, Home and Family: Homemade Gifts Part 4: Name badge or Key Lanyards

Lanyard on Left: The original.  All the rest: What we ended up with!

So, I've been trying to come up with homemade gifts for our children's myriad of teachers that don't involve food.  Since I don't know what teachers have allergies or likes/dislikes food-wise, I need to come up with something else.

A vendor came in to my workplace a few months before Christmas and left a re-useable tote bag with about 40 of these blue lanyards (in the picture on the left) for us to hand out as propaganda to whoever.  They were nice and sturdy and the key clip was nice.  The key clips can separate from the rest of the lanyard fairly simply so they are easy to use.  The problem?  The company logo was in BOLD letters on the other side of the lanyard (ideally, the front side of the lanyard so everyone knows what company they are from).  

My co-workers were just going to throw them away so I brought several home, sure I could do something with them.  I have a whole collection of ribbon bought on sales many years ago, so I dug out the ribbons and proceeded to take apart one of the lanyards so I could see how it worked.

I then cut the ribbon to the appropriate lengths and sewed them back together using a whole lanyard as a model.

Ta da!  Lanyards for the children's myriad of teachers! 

My Cost: $0 since the lanyards were free and I already had the ribbon.

Your Cost:  Ribbon can be found for as little as 50-cents a spool depending on sales, which ribbon you're buying and where you buy it (check out thrift stores many have craft supply sections and great deals on things like ribbons and fabric).   The clips and ring for making lanyards can be found at many craft stores and online (Etsy particularly) for around $6 and up.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Moving the Target and This Week's Menu

So after a long discussion, John and I decided to move the grocery budget from $80 to $100 and to continue at that rate for the foreseeable future.  I've been feeling quite like a failure in that I missed my $80 mark this month.  I do understand that food prices have gone way up and we were not starting with a fully-stocked pantry, etc. like we have for our other challenges we've had in the past. 

Going forward for the next few months, we're going to be spending $100/month on groceries, toiletries and paper products.  That leaves us with an extra $60/month to put toward our medical debt.  YAY!

Given that, I stopped at my least favorite place to shop and purchased the above for $15 and change.  That brings us in right under $100 for the month of January.

I bought:
* 3lbs apples
* 3lbs pears
* 18 ct flour tortillas
* 2lbs white onions
* 2lbs carrots
*2.something lbs bananas
* 5lb flour
* diced olives
* evaporated milk
* 2 boxes of crackers

That should hold us for at least a week!   *Evil Grin*

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 24:
    Breakfast: Smoothies
    Lunch: Leftovers, Crackers with Cheese, Apples and Pears
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Waffles with Applesauce, Sliced Apples and Pecans

Monday, January 25:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Cinnamon
    Lunch: Leftovers from Saturday night for adults, PB&J, an apple, yogurt for the children
    Snack: Crackers and Cheese
    Dinner: Perfect Potato Soup, Cornbread, Sliced Apples and Pears

Tuesday, January 26:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas
   Lunch; Leftover Soup
   Snack: Cut Veggies
   Dinner: At a School Fundraiser

Wednesday, January 27:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Sliced Apples
    Lunch: Tossed Salad with Pecans, Mandarin Oranges, and Sliced Apples
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Fajita Omelets, Biscuits

Thursday, January 28:
    Breakfast: Yogurt Parfaits
    Lunch: Leftover Omelets
    Snack: Cut Veggies
    Dinner: Venison Stew in the crockpot, Homemade Bread, Sliced Apples

Friday, January 29:
    Breakfast: Waffles from the Freezer, Applesauce
    Lunch; Leftover Stew, Bread
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner:  Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, January 30:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Scrambled Eggs
    Lunch: Sandwiches, Apples or Pears, Carrot Sticks, Cookies
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Bacon and Spinach Quiche, Bread

What are you eating this week?

January 2016 Goals - Update January 25, 2016

My daughter's American Girl Doll - looking cozy for winter!

1. Celebrate my husband's birthday.  Done!

2. Deep clean the kitchen, living room and main bathroom.
          Washed the walls in the kitchen and two of four walls in the living room and cleaned out the coat closet this week.
          I also cleaned my oven.  Yikes!

3. Sew a Memory Quilt for a relative that recently lost a family member.
         I did get this all laid out this week.  Need to sew it next week - hoping to send it by Valentine's Day.  Then she'll have it for her loved one's birthday the beginning of March.

4. Finish a set of scrapbooks for a church event.
       Did a bit of journaling in the ones that were almost done - those are finished now.  I have two more (of 6 total) to finish now.  I can do this!

5. Write a minimum of 1200 words per week on my schoolwork and paper writing.
         Since I've hit my goal for the month already, I focuses on smaller writing things this week - several letters of recommendation and going through my labs for this semester (including writing up equipment lists).  That was more than plenty this week.

6. Make at least three presents off our 2016 present list.
       I finished the three presents I had already started and started working on another - our nephew has a birthday coming up in February and I really want to have his gift done to mail him.

7. Purchase and install a new storm door.   Postponed.

8. Figure out how to generate at least an extra $400 each month and do so.  We earned an extra $20 this week.  That means we have $300 to go this month. 

9. Be fully prepared for Spring Semester Classes before they start (syllabus, assignments, copies, etc.)

10. Clean off/out my office at work - I left it in quite the state at the end of last semester!

11. Weekly date night with my husband.  Had a mini date while the children were at a church event this week.  Played a board game we already owned after the children were in bed one night.

12.  Weekly individual time with each of my children.  I deliberately spent a lot of time one-on-one during regular activities this week. 

13.  Bake one breakfast item weekly to freeze for use later.  Pancakes this week.

14. Plan for each lunch so that I have a whole, nutritious lunch, not something that is an afterthought.  Made sure to make a full breakfast before leaving the house each morning.  Brought lunch to work two days this week, ate a catered lunch at a meeting and ate the others at home - usually leftovers or salads.

15. Attend 3-4 Jazzercise classes each week.  I taught four classes this week and attended one more. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Frugal Friday, er, Saturday - Use It Up, Wear it Out...You get the drift!

My daughter's favorite bath soak - great for her sore feet after dance class!
Wow - what a week.  And I overdid it physically this week, so I'm hoping to lay low this weekend and do some sewing and a bunch of planning. 

I inventoried our cupboards a while back and decided that I wasn't going to buy more of certain things without using up what we have first.  The bath soak in the picture above is one thing that I will wait to replace.  My daughter was super sad - she loves this stuff - but I have several other kinds to use up.  I did find out where I could get more and I'm quite positive this is what we'll get going forward!  I love it too.

So, the name of the game this week has been using what we have in the house rather than buying more.  I did buy my son one pair of pajama pants - he grew enough that he needed some NOW and I didn't have the time to make any this week.  I found a pair on clearance for under $5 so now he has a pair to last until I can make some.   I'm not sure if that counts as frugal or a frugal flop but he's happy and I didn't have to stay up too late working on things that could wait.

So what else did we do this week?

* Used up the spinach that was starting to look a little worse for wear in egg and potato saut├ęs for lunch three days this week.

* Worked on getting the freezer completely cleaned out so we can do a bulk meat order this spring.  It was pretty good from earlier when we defrosted it but I want to make sure I have the entire thing for meat if we need it.

* Used up a few odds and ends in the cupboards that we've had sitting around for a while - whole wheat pastry flour, some spices we don't use often, and a jar of plum jam (we love plums but not plum jam) was used to make shortbread cookies this week.

* Mended more items than I want to admit.  Mostly buttons, fallen hems and pulled out seams.  The only things I have left are the "stuff" that's more complicated - replacing a zipper, mended a couple of tears and transforming a couple of pairs of pants into shorts.  Those are on the agenda for this week. 

* I cut up a couple of old t-shirts into rags for cleaning.

* I also cut up several old pairs of John's pants into quilt squares.  The knees and cuffs were pretty tatty but the rest of the material was fine. 

* We brown bagged all but one lunch - which I used a gift card to purchase.  I met a friend that I hadn't seen for quite a while and that was a lovely treat!

* I cleaned the house using vinegar and water - I'm making so much progress at deep cleaning our main rooms this month.  Hopefully I can tackle each non-main (is that a phrase?) room as the year continues.

* Used Pintrest to find some inexpensive storage ideas for some things that we have that just plain need to be stored better.  I think I've found a few that will work!

* Used up the tail end of a bottle of laundry detergent we didn't like the smell of to wash some items we're donating.  Clean Items + Used up detergent = win!  I'm sure someone will think they smell "fresh!"

* Used up half-used candles in place of tea lights a couple of night.  Love the ambiance of candles and I had a few too many 80% burned candles so I decided to burn them and use them up!  Candles are something else I'm not buying for a while!

* John enjoyed a fancy dinner courtesy of the Synod Office during a meeting for First Call Candidates.  He enjoyed the dinner and came home with a bunch of information.

* Used credit online to buy a birthday gift for my hard-to-shop-for Dad.  I think he's going to love it!

* Worked on birthday gifts and the memory quilt. I found out that the family member this memory quilt is for is in the hospital so that moved up higher in priority!

* Used note cards we already have to send notes of encouragement to several friends going through rough times.  I can't do much otherwise, but at least I can pray and write something nice.  Real snail-mail usually brightens anyone's day!

* Our children's school is doing a project with our local utility provider.  They sent home a kit to test our energy usage as well a variety of small energy tools and four CFLs with each child.  So we now have 8 free CFLs (YAY!) and a free way to check our energy usage and some tools.  I'm pretty excited about that!  We do quite well with energy usage (we're consistently in the top 10 lowest energy usage in our neighborhood) but I do think we can do better!

*  Baked homemade pizza and breadsticks, shortbread cookies, and bread this week.

What have you done this week that used up what you have in your home?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Work, Home and Family: Homemade Gifts Part 3: A Dance Tote Bag

The Dance Tote Bag I made for my daughter for Christmas! She loves it!

So, I made this tote bag for my daughter for Christmas - I apologize for the mediocre photo (all the good ones have her face in them!). 

I used an online tutorial I found here and it took me about 3 hours with several interruptions to make this bag.  I do sew but sporadically and I'm pretty impatient about it so this wasn't a difficult project to do and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out!  The tutorial shows a serger, which I don't have, so you can totally make this without one.  Just backstitch and clip your seams. 

Before sewing the inside and the outside of the bag together, I added an extra pocket (square flap sewed with a pleat on each end) and two loops of elastic to hold my daughter's dance shoes.  The extra pocket holds her jazz shoes and the two loop each hold one tap shoe.  I used her shoes to measure the size I needed for these and sewed them into the inside layer of the bag before I sewed the two halves together.

My Cost: $0 since I already had the material, etc. 

Your Cost: Will vary depending on the material you use. I purchased the material on 50% off sale a year or two ago for $4.50/yd (regular $9/yd).  I bought two yards of the black-on-black print on the bottom (music staffs and notes print) and one yard of the polk-a-dot.  So this cost me $13.50 for three yards of fabric.  Thread and elastic will cost a couple of dollars each. My Aunt gave me lots of elastic a few years ago and I had thread from other projects.

I have a ton of fabric leftover from this project and I will use it to make a matching suit pack for my daughter to use for her dance costumes.   I'm also hoping to have enough to make a little zippered bag to hold her hair "stuff" (I have a wipe-out zippered make-up tote for her make-up).

What did you make this week?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 17, 2016

Krumkaka!!!  Super yum!  I was thinking of making these this week for cookies but John requested oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips, so I made those instead.
How about another week starting with temperatures well below 0F?  That's what we've got!   We're still trying to work on our pantry challenge and working on keeping our budget is low.  That means vegetarian meals and meals made from things that we have in the house and the little bit we bought on Saturday.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 17:
     Breakfast: Banana-Peanut Butter Smoothies
     Lunch: Pancakes with Apples, Applesauce and Pecans
     Snack: Homemade Cookies
     Dinner:  Bacon and Spinach Quiche, Tossed Salad

Monday, January 18:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Clementine's
    Lunch: At a school event or out with a gift card
    Snack: Homemade Matzoh
    Dinner: Veggie and Potato Pocket Pies, Tossed Salad

Tuesday, January 19:
    Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
    Lunch: Leftover Pocket Pies
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Soup from the Freezer, Biscuits, Sliced Apples

Wednesday, January 20:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
    Lunch: Leftover Soup
    Snack: Matzoh
    Dinner: Sausage and Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash, Sliced Apples

Thursday, January 21:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Caisins
    Lunch: Leftover Stuffed Squash
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Sugar, Grapefruit

Friday, January 22:
    Breakfast: Leftover Pancakes with Applesauce
    Lunch: Soup from the Freezer
    Snack: Matzoh
    Dinner:  Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, January 23:
    Breakfast: Cranberry Bread from the freezer, Scrambled Eggs
    Lunch: Tossed Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs and Bacon
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Ground Pork in the Crockpot, Rice, Sliced Apples

What are you eating this week?

January Goals - Update after Week #2

Our 2016 "King Cake" - really a cinnamon roll before the "log" of cinnamon roll is cut placed in the ring.  The ring popped open in the oven.  Tasted DELICIOUS!

We're into the third week of January this week.  I'm feeling pretty productive this new year!  I'm hoping my health holds and I can keep it up.  John and I are working on putting together Plan A - mama is well and able to do everything she'd like, Plan B - mama is okay but not great and can only do so much, and Plan C - mama is out of commission!  On the advice of a friend who has long been living with a chronic illness, I'm also re-writing my to-do lists in "high energy", "moderate energy", "low energy" and "no energy" tasks so that I can still get things done even if I'm feeling really lousy.  The thing that frustrates me the most is that things just pile up when I'm sick and then I'm always behind. Hopefully my categorizations will counteract that!

1. Celebrate my husband's birthday Done!

2. Deep clean the kitchen, living room and main bathroom.
          I washed the walls, ceiling, cabinets and vents in the main bathroom this week.
          I also cleaned the light fixture and washed the glass shades from the light fixture in the bathroom.
          This week I'm hoping to get the walls and ceiling washed in the living room and the kitchen and clean the oven. 

3. Sew a Memory Quilt for a relative that recently lost a family member.

4. Finish a set of scrapbooks for a church event.

5. Write a minimum of 1200 words per week (4800 words per month) on my schoolwork and paper writing.
          I didn't keep track of how much I wrote this week but I got a LOT of things crossed off my to-do list this last week.  I'm guessing I'm well over my total for the month already since I wrote 4000 words last week. 

6. Make at least three presents off our 2016 present list.

7. Purchase and install a new storm door.  We decided to wait on this until doors are on sale.
8. Figure out how to generate at least an extra $400 each month and do so.  We generated a total of an extra $80 this last week.  We have $320 to go!

9. Be fully prepared for Spring Semester Classes before they start (syllabus, assignments, copies, etc.)
  Just need to make copies to have this one finished.

10. Clean off/out my office at work - I left it in quite the state at the end of last semester!

11. Weekly date night with my husband   This week we watched a movie that we already owned for an at home date night and we had a second shorter date night while the children were at a church event where we talked through some budget issues that needed to be discussed.

12.  Weekly individual time with each of my children.  I spent some time just talking with each of my children this week.

13.  Bake one breakfast item weekly to freeze for use later.  I made extra pancakes to freeze for later.

14. Plan for each lunch so that I have a whole, nutritious lunch, not something that is an afterthought.  I brought lunch to the workshop I attended this week 4 times and ate the really nice lunch provided the fifth day.  We made lunch at home the other two.  Breakfast - I enjoyed muffins and fruit at the workshop each morning and we had smoothies one morning and I made muffins and fruit (the children's request) another day.

15. Attend 3-4 Jazzercise classes each week.  I taught Jazzercise twice this week and I attended another class for a total of three classes this week. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Super Savings Saturday - The Rest of our January Budget

Well, things didn't quite go as planned and I spent the rest of the January $80 budget today.  I had hoped to leave another $5-$10 for next week but laundry detergent was on sale and I didn't want to miss that since we really need it (I have a long story about making homemade laundry detergent and really, really, really messing up our 60 year old, really tiny cast-iron plumbing so I buy liquid detergent rather than make my own).  And unfortunately laundry detergent isn't cheap!

Here's what we got at, well, Cub Foods (since that's on the apple bag).  Right now that's the only option for us for groceries that doesn't require driving out of our way:

Yoplait Yogurt 6 @ $0.50 = $3
Canned Corn 4 @ $0.50 = $2
Bacon $3.99
Pepperoni $2.39
Oil $2.50
Milk $3.49
Apples 5lbs @ $1.49/lb = $7.45
Bananas 2.5lbs @ $0.67 = $1.68
Era Laundry Detergent $5.99 - $1.50 coupon = $4.49
Tomatoes 1 dry pint $2.50

Total: $33.93  (including $0.44 in sales tax)
I misplaced the receipt so I can't tell you how much I "saved". 

Before I went shopping today I did a price per ounce comparison with the individual yogurt tubs and the 32oz containers that are usually cheaper to buy.  In this case, the individual cups were cheaper - I figured out the magic price is $0.66/cup for the individual cups being cheaper per ounce.   My daughter was thrilled!

My husband was quite upset that we didn't get carrots or celery this week (they were expensive this week here!) so he may use some of his Christmas money to buy those this week.  If he does I will let you know.  If not, I may take an additional $10 to buy carrots, celery and more apples next week.  We'll see!  I'd really like to leave that money to go toward the debt repayment that we need to do.

Come back Monday to see what we're eating!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Frugal Friday - Frugal and Not-so Frugal Week

The apple pie I made for John for his birthday.
This last week was a mix of frugal and not frugal.  I guess some weeks are like that. 

The not frugal?

* My daughter and I had a date out for lunch and then did a little necessary shopping - we came home with four items, all of which were on our list.  It wasn't frugal but it was budgeted for, so we didn't worry about spending the money.

* We had insulation and baffles put into our attic and our attic weather sealed.  This definitely wasn't frugal, but it will save us quite a bit of money in the long run.  Again, this was budgeted but it was really difficult to part with that much money.

On to the frugal stuff..... 

* I made homemade pizza and breadsticks, biscuits, jambalaya, and pizza sauce this week.

* I enjoyed free muffins and fruit each morning at work during a retreat and a free lunch one day.

* We ate all meals at home (except the above mentioned ones) and we all took lunches from home (except the above mentioned ones).

* I worked on more sewing this week - mending several items (mostly replacing buttons and repairing fallen seams) and hemmed pants for my daughter.  I also worked on a quilt top that I've been working on for quite a while.

* My children received a free t-shirt for an event that they attended this week.

* I saved clementine peels and made candied citrus peels for a snack.

* We renewed library books online.

* We watched a few videos free online.

* We ordered seedlings for our garden this summer using an ordering special. I estimate we saved half price over what we usually pay.

* I earned a $5 Amazon gift card with Swagbucks.

* My husband and I had an at-home date night watching a movie we already owned. 

What did you do frugal-wise this week?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Work, Home and Family - Homemade Gifts, Part 2: Homemade Pin Cushion Container

I've been having problems getting my photos to upload to my computer right now, so I decided that I would put off summarizing (and showing photos) of what I have made and am making this month. 

Instead, I thought I'd share some of what I made for Christmas 2015!

My children have a teacher who loves to sew, so we decided to make her this homemade pin cushion container that can hold pins on the top and other odds and ends - needles, extra buttons, etc. - in the bottom of the container.


* Canning jar with a ring and a lid (any size will work - I used a pint jam jar given to me by a friend that I wasn't planning on re-using)
* Scrap of fabric, slighter larger than the jar lid
* Batting or Stuffing or something that can act like these (an old knee-high nylon stocking will work well too!), enough to make a small mound on your jar lid
* Liquid Glue  (I used craft glue, but school glue or adhesive like Krazy Glue or Gorilla Glue will work too)
* Ribbon, enough to wrap around the jar
* Button(s) (I used two)
* Coordinating Thread (optional - you can glue the buttons together instead)
* 4-6 Binder Clips

Trace around the lid on the scrap of fabric using a fabric pen, a scrap of hand soap or a pencil.  Cut out the fabric slightly larger than the traced lid. Make sure its only slightly larger, too much extra fabric will keep you lid from fitting well later!

Glue the batting onto the center of the lid, leaving it "puffy" (in other words, don't squish it flat!).  Make a line of glue around the outside edge of the lid.  Place the cut scrap of fabric on top of the batting and press edges down onto the line of glue, keeping the edges in line with the edge of the lid.  Use the binder clips to hold the fabric in place until the glue has dried. 

While waiting for the glue to dry, glue ribbon around the jar, overlapping the ends.  Stack buttons and sew together with the thread, tying the ends of the thread in a decorative bow (as shown) or gluing he loose ends behind the buttons for a more streamlined look.  If you don't have thread, glue the buttons together and let dry or use one button.  Glue the buttons onto the jar on top of the ribbon in the location of your choosing.  To do this project without buttons, you could tie the ribbon around the jar instead or simply glue it on with the ends tucked under.

Once the glue on the lid has dried, place a ring of glue around the edge of the fabric and place into the rim.  Allow the glue to dry so the rim and the lid are attached to each other.  You may wish to set the lid on the jar UPSIDE DOWN so the lid and rim have a tight fit. A medium-weight object (such as a golf ball or something of similar size) can be placed on the lid to apply weight, creating a tighter seal with the rim.  I didn't find this necessary, but if you're definitely looking for a tighter seal it works!
I filled the jar with chocolates but you can fill it with sewing notions or leave it empty as you like.

 Place the lid on the jar and share your gift!

* My Cost: This gift cost me $0 to make since I already had all the items needed.   The chocolates were left over from an event, so no extra money was spent on those either.

* Your Cost: Canning jars can vary in price or you may use a leftover jar that you already own and the rest of the notions can be purchased at places such as dollar stores or cut off of worn out clothing items.  A spool of thread costs a couple of dollars full price at a fabric store and can be used for other projects as well.  School glue (not glue stick) works for this project but does take longer to dry than the craft glue I used.  Using adhesive glue, such as Gorilla Glue or Krazy Glue works but be careful to work quickly so you don't end up with extra glue on the materials.

What homemade gifts have you given lately?

Monday, January 11, 2016

January Goals Update - January 11, 2016

I'm dreaming of warmth!  And our summer camping trip!

January is just rolling along and we are in the middle of a deep freeze here!  BRRRR!!!  Our high yesterday didn't even make it above 0F (-17.7C) for the day.  I was very happy to spend the day at home with a little boy with an upset stomach so neither one of us had to get out of our flannel pajamas all day long.   I was off from work last week and it was good week to stay inside and get things done. This week is even better to stay inside - it's cold!  I have meetings all week this week so I'm glad I'm not itching to go outside.

Here was my goals list from last week and I've updated it for you:

1. Celebrate my husband's birthday    Done!  We had a wonderful day!

2. Deep clean the kitchen, living room and main bathroom. 
   Washed the kitchen cupboards, bathroom cupboards, dining table and chairs, and the piano with Murphy's oil soap
   Changed the slipcovers on the chairs in the living room so I could wash the others. 
   Washed the kitchen, entry, and bathroom floors. 
   Scrubbed the bathtub. 
   Washed all the curtains in the living room and bathroom (we don't have curtains in our kitchen).
   Washed the shower curtains and bathroom rugs. 
   I still need to wash walls and ceilings, clean the light fixtures, clean the carpets, do a thorough dusting and clean the oven (I keep putting this last one off because it really needs it).

3. Sew a Memory Quilt for a relative that recently lost a family member.

4. Finish a set of scrapbooks for a church event

5. Write a minimum of 1200 words each week (average) on my schoolwork and paper writing  I wrote 4000 words last week.  I'm hoping to make up the difference this week.

6. Make at least three presents off our 2016 present list.  I made two presents and started three others.

7. Purchase and install a new storm door   We decided to postpone this because of the super cold weather we're going to have these next couple of weeks.  Plus, storm doors aren't on sale yet!

8. Figure out how to generate at least an extra $400 each month and do so  Came up with a couple of ideas for this for this month.  We need to get an action plan in place! 

9. Be fully prepared for Spring Semester Classes before they start (syllabus, assignments, copies, etc.)

10. Clean off/out my office at work - I left it in quite the state at the end of last semester!

11. Weekly date night with my husband.  Put together a puzzle we already had this last week.

12.  Weekly individual time with each of my children Set up my son's new study space with him this week and took my daughter on a lunch date and a special shopping trip to a store we rarely go to for a couple of needed items.

13.  Bake one breakfast item weekly to freeze for use later Made extra waffles Monday night for the freezer.

14. Plan for each lunch so that I have a whole, nutritious lunch, not something that is an afterthought
Brought lunch to work on Monday but forgot to eat it (oops - but I really wasn't hungry at all!) and ate a nutritious lunch every other day at home - I'm calling this a win!  I did have one day where my daughter and I went on a lunch date - I chose a responsible, healthy meal involving lots of vegetables rather than the hamburger and fries I really wanted. 

15. Attend 3-4 Jazzercise classes each week Taught Jazzercise two days this week and attended a third class.  Learned six new routines at home as well.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 10, 2016

Homemade French Bread - I think I posted this before but I LOVE this picture!

We spent a good chunk of our money for the month this weekend stocking up on eggs (we bought two dozen) and canned diced tomatoes (we were totally out so we bought six cans). 

In total we spent $36 for groceries this week.  That puts us just under our pie-in-the-sky budget of $50 (we've spent $48 and change) but still keeps us in the $80 that I'm hoping for this month. 

What did we buy this last week:
* 2 dozen eggs  (I can't remember the exact price of these but they were the lowest we've seen in quite a while!)
* 6 cans (15oz) diced tomatoes ($0.68 each)
* 3 cans (15oz) chicken noodle soup  ($0.75 each)
* 1 bunch celery $1.49
* Apples ($1.29/lb)
* Pears ($0.99/lb)
* Bananas ($0.59/lb)
* Salad greens (spinach and baby greens mix) ($2)
* 2 3-packs of disposable razors  ($5.49 for two)
* 1lb turkey sausage ($2.50)
* 2 boxes breakfast cereal ($2 each)

We ended up eating a couple of different things than what were on the menu last week - I made a corn and potato chowder one night that we didn't have on the menu at all and we had spaghetti instead of the stir fry because John really didn't want rice that night.  I didn't spend anything extra or buy anything else to do that. 

So, here's the plan for this week:

Sunday, January 10, 2016
    Breakfast: Toast with Peanut Butter
    Lunch: Baked Eggs, Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits, Oranges
    Snack: Leftover Biscuits
    Dinner: Roasted Chicken, Diced Potatoes, Apple-Pear-Mandarin Orange Salad

Monday, January 11, 2016
    Breakfast; Scrambled Eggs, Leftover Biscuits
    Lunch: Leftover Soup (from the freezer), Crackers, Orange or Grapefruit
    Snack: Cookie
    Dinner:  Chicken Pot Pie, Tossed Salad, Sliced Apples or Pears

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Craisins
    Lunch: Leftover Pot Pie
    Snack: At a school event
    Dinner: Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Oranges and Grapefruit

Wednesday, January 13, 2016
   Breakfast: Waffles (from the freezer) with Applesauce
   Lunch: Leftover Stir Fry
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Jambalaya over Rice, Orange and Grapefruit

Thursday, January 14, 2016
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Cinnamon, Grapefruit
    Lunch: Leftover Jambalaya
    Snack: Crackers with Cheese
    Dinner: Crockpot Beef Stroganoff, Diced Potatoes, Tossed Salad

Friday, January 15, 2016
    Breakfast: Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies
    Lunch: Leftover Stroganoff or at a work event
    Snack: Oranges
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
Saturday, January 16, 2016
    Breakfast: Cranberry Orange Bread
    Lunch: Soup from the Freezer, Tossed Salad
    Snack: Cookies
    Dinner: Tomato Sauce over Noodles with Mozzarella Cheese, Garlic Bread

What are you eating this week?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Frugal Friday - The Beginning of 2016!

We have the most wonderful bulletin boards at church!   Had to take a photo!
We're into the season of Epiphany.  The Christmas decorations re down (I do miss my twinkle lights!).   We are kicking off 2016 with a tightening of our belts and both a pantry challenge and a gift-making challenge.  Fortunately, we're light on birthdays at the beginning of 2016 so we're off to a good start!

I took this week off from work and spent quite a bit of time cleaning and resting and just enjoying a break.  Back to work in force next week with a series of meeting and prep for spring classes, though, so I'm very grateful for the break!
I'm so grateful that my treatments for my chronic shingles (or post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN) have been really helping and I have more energy than I have probably had for three or more years.  I do have to be careful - taking care to eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep (the last one is the most important!).   I overdid it a couple of days so I spent the others reading and napping and doing "light" things that I could do without much physical stress on my body.

So, here's the run-down of all the thing we've done this first week of 2016 in the "frugal" realm:

* I baked four loaves of French Bread, granola, and cinnamon roll ring (in place of a King Cake for Epiphany). We also made homemade pizza and breadsticks, homemade chicken noodle soup, homemade corn chowder, and garlic bread.

* I mended three pairs of pants for my son, a pair of pajama pants for my daughter, and a dress for myself. 

* I made two birthday gifts for my husband.

* I started three birthday gifts for a brother-in-law and two sister-in-laws.

* I completely cleaned out and reorganized my sewing/craft area.  It desperately needed it (it was basically an unusable space for quite a while) and now I have a nice work space and have a much better idea of what I have and what I need.  I made a list of partially done projects and things that I have all the materials to make.

* I washed my kitchen cabinets, my dining table and chairs, and our piano with Murphy's Oil Soap. 

* I scrubbed the all the hard-surface non-wood floors in our house. 

* I scrubbed my entire refrigerator.  I really need to do this more often!

* I cleaned out and inventoried both freezers and the pantry and put together a menu for the month of January using what we have in the house.  I do need to buy a few things and will try to stock up but I'm planning to keep within our pantry challenge budget this month for certain!

* My husband and I went through our goals for the year together.  We printed out some things to keep us on track with a couple of goals and we put a few things in place to make this work!

* We spent $12 and change on groceries this last week - apples, shortening, onions and eggs.  We have approximately $67 left for the month for groceries and toiletries to meet our $80 goal or $37 if I'm shooting for the $50 goal.

* I read a couple of books that we already owned. 

* We returned several books to the library and checked out several more.

* We watched several shows online for free. 

* My husband ordered several books online for his Ministry Collection.  He has a budget for books from his current Residency and will be reimbursed for all of them.  These books will a good foundation of his library when he has his first congregation.

What did you do this week? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Work, Home and Family - Homemade Gifts, Part 1

So, with our tight budget this past year, I needed to stretch our dollars a bit and make some things for gifts.  The year, 2016, the budget is even tighter and we definitely need to get our collective rear in gear and make as many gifts at home from things that we already have as we possibly muster.

So, with that in mind, here are my gift-making goals for January:

1. Birthday present for John - decorative pillow cases for our bed
2. Birthday present for John - mini-scrapbook of 52 things that the kids and I love about him
3. Birthday present for my Brother-in-Law, Harrison - a glasses/contacts care kit
4. Birthday present for our Nephew, James - letter pillows that spell his name
5. A blanket of Buddy
6. A memorial quilt for a family member

John's birthday was over this past weekend - his birthday is RIGHT after New Years - so his gifts are already done.  

This week, I'm planning on working on the gift for my brother-in-law and perhaps a few more of the same thing for my other in-laws.  After those are done I'm planning on finishing the letter pillows.

As we go through the month I'll post the things that I've made and update my progress. 

What gifts are you working on in January?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - January 3, 2016

Christmas Eve Dinner - Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Whole Kernel and Creamed Corn, Lefse, and Fruit
We're heading into a pantry challenge in January. 

On Friday last week (New Years Day), I inventoried the freezers and wrote up a menu plan for the month that used what we had in the house.  We ended up with a pretty nice menu plan and I need to buy: shortening, fruit and eggs - the eggs are the only thing I didn't have on my initial purchase list.

I'm also interested in seeing what we have left at the very end of this month.  I'm hoping to spend the money that we have wisely and end up with enough that we can do a pantry challenge again in February.  I'm hoping we can do something like this going forward.  Meat is the biggest problem that I see - meat is something that has been difficult to purchase for us this year and I'm thinking it's going to be tighter going forward but we'll see what we can do!

With that in mind, here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 3, John's Birthday
    Breakfast: Smoothies (using fruit from the freezer)
    Lunch: Baked Eggs, Cinnamon Biscuit Twists, Grapefruit or Oranges
    Snack: Christmas Cookies
    Dinner: Crab Legs, Oranges (John's Birthday Present)
    Dessert: Homemade Apple Pie (John's Request)

Monday, January 4:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Sliced Apples and Bananas
   Lunch: Apples with Peanut Butter, Yogurt, Carrot sticks or Cherry Tomatoes, Christmas Cookie
   Snack: Leftover Pie
   Dinner: Waffles with Applesauce and Walnuts (extra made to put in the freezer)

Tuesday, January 5:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Blueberries
    Lunch: Salad with Chicken and Walnuts
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Cashew Chicken (in the Crockpot), Rice, Grapefruit or Cuties

Wednesday, January 6:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Banana-Peanut Butter Smoothies
    Lunch: Leftover Cashew Chicken
    Snack: Leftover Muffins
    Dinner: Veggie Pot Pie, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Thursday, January 7:
    Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
    Lunch: Leftover Pot Pie
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup (in the Crockpot), Homemade Bread, Sliced Apples and Pears

Friday, January 8:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Spinach on Toast
    Lunch: Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup
    Snack: Cinnamon Sugar Toast
    Dinner: Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Grapefruit

Saturday, January 9:
    Breakfast: Blueberry Coffee Cake
    Lunch: Salad with Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
    Dessert: Homemade Candied Citrus Peel with Dark Chocolate

What are you eating this week?

Goals for January 2016

Stocking stuffers - "crystal" grow trees - our children love these!

I'm hoping to get back to posting more often here in 2016.  One of the things I'm hoping to track here is my goals for this year.  I'm simplifying things goal-wise and came up with 9 "overarching" goals for this year.  With things being simpler and more straight forward, I'm hoping to actually hit all 9 of my overarching goals for this year: 

What I'm going to be doing here is putting things in pieces - the nuts and bolts of meeting those 9 goals in terms of daily/weekly/monthly items.

With all of that in mind, here's my goals for January:

1. Celebrate my husband's birthday
2. Deep clean the kitchen, living room and main bathroom.
3. Sew a Memory Quilt for a relative that recently lost a family member.
4. Finish a set of scrapbooks for a church event
5. Write a minimum of 1200 words on my schoolwork and paper writing
6. Make at least three presents off our 2016 present list
7. Purchase and install a new storm door
8. Figure out how to generate at least an extra $400 each month and do so
9. Be fully prepared for Spring Semester Classes before they start (syllabus, assignments, copies, etc.)
10. Clean off/out my office at work - I left it in quite the state at the end of last semester!
11. Weekly date night with my husband
12.  Weekly individual time with each of my children
13.  Bake one breakfast item weekly to freeze for use later
14. Plan for each lunch so that I have a whole, nutritious lunch, not something that is an afterthought
15. Attend 3-4 Jazzercise classes each week

What are your goals for January this new 2016?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

These are A Few of My Favorite Things - 2015 in Review

John's Birthday kicked off our new year!    Missy made the decorations.

Epiphany - Cookie party with my parents, my best friend and her husband.  Yum.

My daughter deciding she needed to cook dinner more often - this chicken was from her child's cookbook and turned out fantastic!

Finishing swimming lessons and qualifying for swim team!  Go Buddy and Missy!

Dying Easter eggs - they turned out particularly good this year.  My photos, not so much!

My flowers made me absurdly happy this year - I'm not sure why, but they were amazing!

Buddy and Missy turned 10!  They're so much fun right now!

Mother's Day with my Mother, my Mother-in-Law and my cousin Diane.  So special!

Kick off to summer!  This is the basket I put together for my children, mostly from the Dollar stores, of activities for them to do this summer.  We had a blast!

Minnesota's Biggest Candy Store!  A fun field trip while John was out of town.  These Hot Air Balloons covered the ceiling of the main room, even though my photos didn't turn out so well.

Walking back to the car from the Spash Pad.  This is a favorite every summer!  Free and fun!  Love that.

Homemade ice cream - yum!

Camp Wapo in Amery Wisconsin.  Enough said!

My 40th Birthday.  Thanks to my MIL for the gifts pictured above!  Unfortunately, this is the only photo I have from my birthday!
First day of 5th grade!  Can't believe my children are in Middle School now!

We had SO MUCH RAIN this fall.  Perk?  More rainbows!

Fall pumpkin picking!  We came  home with two huge ones!

Fall color.  This lonely little tree was a good example of the bright colors we had this year.

Trick Or Treating!  I'm always intrigued by what the children pick for costumes.  And the candy hall - oh my word!

Missy playing the piano and the trumpet at church this last year.  She's loving her music.
Christmas with my parents here!  Wonderful!
So many blessings this last year!
Wishing you a happy and blessed 2016.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Super Savings - Food Shopping Goals for January and a Pantry Challenge

We're still trying to pay off these unexpected medical and other bills from 2015 - they'll be with us for quite a while yet - so we decided we're going to try to knock off a chunk of them right away this year by doing a pantry challenge and putting some of our grocery money toward those bills.

So, we're doing a pantry challenge in January! 

Our goal for January is to spent $80 on groceries, toiletries and paper products total for our family of four - two adults and two 10-year-olds.  

My personal outside, crazy goal is to spend $50 rather than $80 and putting that other $30 toward the bills too but I'll be happy if we spend the $80.

With that $80 we need to get:

* Fruit (weekly - I'm hoping for citrus and bananas depending on sales)
* Shortening (I'm almost totally out and use it for baking certain things, though I can use butter if I need to.  I may have to wait until March to get sale prices around Easter instead.)
* Laundry Detergent (We're getting low and I'd like to find some on sale.)
* Milk (Three gallons this month - we're starting with a gallon and half in our fridge right now.)

I'm also hoping to stock up on the following items that are usually on sale in January:
     * Tea
     * Brussel's Sprouts (I'll blanch and freeze this for later.)
     * Canned Tomatoes
     * Canned Soup
     * Canned Chili Beans
     * Canned Kidney Beans
     * Meat - if I can find some on sale only
Depending on the sales that are offered this month. 

I'll update this more as the month goes on. 

I'm also hoping to get into a regular habit of bread baking each week.  It's such a money saver and I have been pretty lax about it recently. 

What are your food shopping goals for January?