Showing posts from January, 2016

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

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 a…

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 (coup…

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

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…

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…

January 2016 Goals - Update January 25, 2016

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 equ…

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

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…

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

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 …

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 17, 2016

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, To…

January Goals - Update after Week #2

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 birthdayDone!

2. Deep clean the kitchen, living room and main bathroom.
I washed the walls, ceiling, cabinets and vents in the main bat…

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 …

Frugal Friday - Frugal and Not-so Frugal Week

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 - mend…

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 a…

January Goals Update - January 11, 2016

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 birthdayDone!  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 bathroo…

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 10, 2016

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 chowde…

Frugal Friday - The Beginning of 2016!

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" th…

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 othe…

Menu Plan Monday - January 3, 2016

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 fre…

Goals for January 2016

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 …

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 roo…

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…