Friday, February 26, 2016

Frugal Friday - It's starting to look like spring out there!

The snow is starting to melt and we're starting to warm up - we've been above freezing most of the week!   We had one day where huge, fat, fluffy snow flakes and then rain but otherwise it has been really very nice.  I quit wearing my boots to work - I wasn't quite as brave as my colleague that wore sandals one day, though!
I keep feeling like we haven't been very frugal.  I am starting to wonder if it's just that we aren't doing anything 'extra' in terms of frugality lately.  Who knows?  I think we all go through times when we feel like we are not being as frugal as we possibly can.   I'm still trying to find that perfect balance between frugality, physical energy and time.  Since I have days when even the basics are physically hard, that's been a very difficult balance to find.

Here are some of the "frugal" things we did this last week:

* Made homemade pizza, corn-potato chowder, biscuits, and muffins this week.

* Rearranged my daughter's room, moving some things out of her room and moving in a small shelf that we had elsewhere.  Grandma and Grandpa bought her a beanbag chair for Christmas and now she had plenty of room to actually use it and enjoy it.

* Froze some leftovers that we weren't going to eat so we can use them later.

* Went through all the items that didn't belong in the living room and moved them all elsewhere, recycled them or added them to the donate pile.  I'm so glad to have that chore done!  And it looks like we had a complete makeover - without spending anything! 

* Brought home a partial bag of hamburger buns after Lenten dinner at church this week.

* Returned library books.  Checked out several others.

* Watched a couple of movies and TV shows online for free.

* My husband received a beautiful homemade candle from a parishioner as a gift. 

* We took down the outdoor Christmas decorations down and packed them away for next year.  They look like they're still in good condition.

* I went through the box of greeting cards that we have and discovered we have enough Easter cards that we don't have to buy any this year! YAY!

Frugal Flop:

* I tried to salvage the rock candy we tried to make for my son's Valentine's gift to his classmates. It didn't work. I feel pretty stupid that we wasted the sugar we did on that.  Live and learn I guess.

* I didn't have any time this week to work on gifts.  So now I'm behind on that - I'm hoping I can get caught up before we get to the point of having to buy some!

I think that's it for this week.  How about you? 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Menu Plan Monday and the Last $8 of our February Grocery Budget

Our version of Hoppin' John served over rice.  It was delicious!

This weekend was a whirlwind of Basketball games, church events and a variety of other "running" so I'm actually glad that the week has started - it's going to be calmer than the weekend was.

We did get to the store amid everything else and spent our last $8 (and change) on groceries:

* A gallon of milk $3 on sale
* Apples  ($1.94 total)
* Peanut Butter $1.99 (15oz jar - also on sale)
* 2lbs bananas $1.18

We still have oranges and a few pears in our fridge and bananas and blueberries in the freezer. We have fruit and we have carrots, lettuce, and mushrooms as well.  Our freezers are getting pretty bare - which is okay so we're not too heavy on meat.  We actually hoping to have a week or two with the downstairs deep freeze completely empty and turned off before we get around to filling it again.

We have a tournament basketball game this week or next (day to be determined) and John is on call on Monday - our busiest day this week - so we have backup plan of Culver's gift certificates for dinner on one night and then shifting things around if we need to.  If John get's called in, I will have between 30 and 40 minutes to pick up both kids from school and drop one of them off at dance, which is not enough time to get home, feed everyone and get back to dance and I don't have a good means to take 3 full meals with me and have it stay good for 11 1/2 - 12 hours, so I'll have the gift certificates along just in case! 

We're going to do brunch on Saturday with some friends - they're bringing smoked salmon! YUM!  I'm so excited to see them - it's tough to get together some times these days.

If everything runs smoothly this week, here's what we eating this week:

Sunday, February 21:
   Breakfast: Blueberry-Banana Smoothies
   Lunch: Waffles, Sausage and Sliced Apples
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Calzones - mushroom, onion and olive for the adults, cheese for the children

Monday, February 22:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Sliced Apples
   Lunch: Soup from the Freezer
   Snack: Carrots
   Dinner: Refried Tacos with Lettuce, Olives nd Cheese, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Tuesday, February 23:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Craisins
    Lunch: Leftover Tacos
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Chicken Legs, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans, Sliced Apples

Wednesday, February 23:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Hard Boiled Eggs
   Lunch: Leftover Chicken and Potatoes
   Snack Carrots and Cookies
   Dinner: At Church before Lenten Worship

Thursday, February 24:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Soup from the Freezer
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Potato and Corn Chowder, Homemade Bread, Oranges

Friday, February 25:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Cranberry Bread from the Freezer
   Lunch: Leftover Chowder for adults, PB&J, Carrots, Apples and Cookies for the children (they have a field trip and must bring a sack lunch that doesn't need heating up)
   Snack: Cookies
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, February 26:
   Brunch: Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Baked Eggs with Shredded Potatoes, Apple-Pear-Banana-Mandarin Orange Salad
   Snack: Cookies and Popcorn
   Dinner: Tomato Sauce with Noodles, Garlic Bread, Oranges

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Frugal Saturday - Valentine's Week 2016

I just went digging through my photos to find a photo from this week only to find that I hadn't taken any at all. Opps. 

We've still been having lovely sunrises when the clouds aren't around and the weather has warmed up to about 40F!  The snow is starting to melt, though it's wayyy too early for spring here. I'm totally enjoying not having to bundle up quite so much every time I walk outside.

We had a pretty crazy week this week, in spite of not so many things going on, so I'm feeling a bit rushed this week in general.  We did a few things that were frugal and I'm really looking forward to a trip to Sam's Club to stock up on a few things when our grocery budget resets itself.   Here's what we did this week:

* Ate most of our meals at home or took meals with us.  We ate one meal at church before Lenten Worship on Wednesday this week.

* John was assigned his Region for call by the church - Region 3: Minnesota, North and South Dakota - so we celebrated with ordering Chinese takeout from our favorite place.  We ordered only two main dishes for the four of us and paired it with rice and fruit we had at home so we managed to keep that to $12 with tax - it came out of our "General" category (the one we use for household items, clothes, etc.) rather than the grocery budget.  We don't have a recreational budget right now.

* My best friend also treated me to breakfast one day.  I hadn't seen her in ages (she's had pneumonia for about 7 weeks!) and it was SO good to catch up.  She has a big birthday this year so I need to start conspiring with her wonderful husband to do something special for her.   We already have some ideas - nothing huge, but something that will have her whole family together and I'll do the cooking and baking for her for a change.

* I mended lining that had pulled apart at the seams in a winter coat and sewed buttons back on several articles of clothing. 

* We brought home a Ziploc bag full of hard taco shells, a bag of shredded lettuce and a can of refried beans after the Lenten supper at church on Wednesday night.  They had a few things leftover that were on a table in the Narthex for people to take (with a sign saying "Please take!") so we grabbed the taco shells.  As we were leaving a little while later they asked us if there was anything else we could use - the lettuce was going to be thrown if no one took it - so we nabbed that and the can of refried beans.  A main dish for free! Can't beat that!

* Taught some extra Jazzercise classes this week (and I think I'm ready to take out stock in Advil! LOL.). I need to remember to not up the size of my hand held weights the weeks I'm teaching extra classes.

* We cleaned out the children's closets and drawers and made a list of items they need for both school and "play" clothes.  We don't need much.

* I also cleaned out three drawers in my own dresser and moved some things around and added a few things to the donate pile.  I updated my list of things I need too - not much there either, thankfully.

*  I renewed library books on line.

* We watched several videos online and listened to music on the radio or Pandora.

*  A classmate gave our daughter a pair of very lightly used black dress shoes.  School dress uniform requires black dress shoes so we tucked these away for when our daughter grows into them - which should be pretty soon!  We passed on a pair our daughter had outgrown to a different classmate as well. 

* A mom for the girl's basketball team at my children's school works for a screen printing business and donated t-shirts for all the children playing basketball this year.  My son received a really neat new shirt that has the team, the year and his name on it.  He's outgrown most of his t-shirts so this was really nice.

* I made up a menu to go with the $8 that we have left in our grocery budget this week.  I think we'll just make it!  And I'm really looking forward to that trip to Sam's Club next weekend - did I mention that already?  **Grin**

* We celebrated Valentine's Day at home with a special homemade dinner and some time together.  My husband bought me new socks and a set of colored pencils and I got him a box of his favorite candy purchased on sale after Christmas.  We bought the children each a regular bag (not a holiday bag) of their favorite candy when they went on sale a couple of weeks ago and we all made homemade cards for each other.  Then we all took a long nap. It was a wonderful Valentine's Day!

I think that's it.

What have you done this week?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Work, Home and Family: Homemade Gifts Part 6 and 7: Embroidery Kits

Many years ago when I was in college, I would go to a small run down shopping mall near where my Grandmother lived once or twice a year.  There was an amazing stitchery store in the mall that also included items to make silk flowers and a few other fabric related craft items.  I think it was probably the only reason the mall was still open - that store was packed with people every single time I went in there.  My Grandmother told me she only went in when she was with someone because she was afraid she would get smooshed into a corner!  She did lovely crochet and they had beautiful crochet yarn in this store.  She only purchased when she had a special project to do - baptismal gowns, wedding gifts and the like.  She didn't need to go to that store very often, but she was always happen to go with me - especially when I was the one driving and paying!

Consistently they had two sale bins filled with items - embroidery patterns, odd-sized scraps of linen and Aida cloth, embroidery kits, mis-died flower petals and crochet yarn. Since they were so inexpensive ($1 or $2 for a full kit on clearance - patterns were less!), I ended up with enough projects to last me until I'm at least 200 years old!  ** Wicked grin **

The first embroidery kit project in this post came from that stash.   I have quite a few others that I'll show as the year goes on. 


This is the front and back of a Bible Cover that I made for my daughter for Easter - it's the perfect size for her school Bible and since we have Holy Week off this year, I'll sew it around her Bible when that week comes.  There is plenty of fabric to make it so it can be slipped off and washed.  Excuse the wrinkles in the photo - I haven't pressed it yet. I'll do that when I sew it into the actual cover.  And don't worry, I'll post a photo of it on the Bible once it's done!


This pillow case kit I found in the clearance bin at JoAnn Etc. when my children were toddlers, along with quite a few others.  They were on clearance for about $2.50 each and I decided to get a few to make for Christmas presents.  This one ended up in my son's stocking this year - and he was quite pleased (he loves Eyore!).
My cost:  Originally $1-$2.50 on sale.  I've had them for a while, so I was able to make them without spending anything out of pocket this year.

Your cost:  Kits full price at the craft or fabric store are expensive!  Clearance bins and sale racks help reduce that cost but I have found that second hand stores and garage sales have an enormous amount of these types of projects.  Some are half-completed but many are brand new in the original packaging and unopened or opened once and then put back in the package.  The most expensive I've seen these is $2. 

What have you made lately?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of February 14, 2016

How about a paper covered wagon?  My children are studying settlement of Minnesota by the homesteaders right now.  This was made by my daughter a couple of years ago but she apparently kept it or the last few years and brought it out again this last week.
Nothing huge this week and I *think* we're all healthy.  I like both of those!  I'm hoping to get a little baking done this week - bread and some waffles or pancakes for the freezer.  We have a full fridge and a full pantry but our freezers are getting quite bare - especially in the meat department.  Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, February 14th, Valentine's Day:
    Breakfast: Smoothies (fruit from the freezer)
    Lunch: Baked Eggs, Biscuit Twists, Sliced Apples
    Snack: Valentine's Cookies
    Dinner: Chicken Flavored Rice, Butternut Squash, Apple-Banana-Melon Salad

Monday, February 15th:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
    Lunch: PB&J, Carrot and Celery Sticks, Apples
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Taco Soup (in the Crockpot), Tortilla Chips, Oranges

Tuesday, February 16th:
    Breakfast; Oatmeal with Pecans and Craisins
    Lunch: Leftover Taco Soup
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Steak Stir Fry, Rice, Sliced Apples

Wednesday, February 17th:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Fried Eggs, Ham
   Lunch: Leftover Stir Fry
   Snack: Carrot Sticks
   Dinner: At Church for Lent

Thursday, February 18th:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Apples
   Lunch: Leftover Soup
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Turkey Wild Rice Soup (in the Crockpot), Bread, Sliced Apples

Friday, February 19th:
   Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
   Lunch: Leftover Soup
   Snack: Carrot Sticks
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, February 20th:
   Brunch with Friends over: Blueberry Buckle, Fruit Salad
   Sack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Pasta with Sauce, Garlic Bread, Applesauce
   At Home Date Night Dessert: Apple Pie Wraps

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Super Savings Saturday - We have $8.21 left for the rest of February!

So, I can't find my cable for my iPod so I have zero grocery photos from the last two weeks for you.  I can tell you what I bought at three different stores over two weeks (if I find the cable I'll upload the photos):

Store #1:
2 bags of spinach (coupon)
1 package chicken legs (on sale)
3lb ham
1 lb carrots (coupon)
5lb flour
2lb sugar
3lb bananas
32oz yogurt
36oz Smart Balance spread
1 dozen eggs
4 15oz cans corn (coupon)
1 15oz can green beans (coupon)
1 package tortilla chips (coupon)
4 packages of Cool Aid drink mix

Store #2:
5lb flour
4lb sugar
1lb carrots
fresh mushrooms
1 package tortilla chips
2 lbs red onions
6lbs apples
6lbs bananas
2 dozen eggs
1 package crackers

Store #3:
1 container baking powder

I now have $8.21 left for the next two weeks.  I'm thinking a gallon of milk and bananas but we'll see what we need to get.  I already have a short list of things that will wait until next month unless we run out sooner (toilet paper is one of them!).

Come back Monday to see what we're eating.

How did you do this week with your shopping? 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Frugal Friday - The Sick Chidren and a Really Long Week Edition!

Good heavens, am I glad it's Friday!  This week seemed to last forever and we all voted at work on Monday that it was such a Monday we should just all go home and take a nap.  However, since we're all responsible adults, we decided we really couldn't do that.  My colleague who was selling Girl Scout Cookies for her daughter's troop did donate a box to the "Monday of Monday's" and we all enjoyed a treat with our afternoon coffee! 

Either way, I'm really glad it's the weekend!

Both children had horrible head colds this week and John and I both felt like we were coming down with head colds, so we decided to rest and not do much this week.   I feel like our week wasn't very frugal but at least we didn't run all over and spend a ton of money either!

So what did we do this week?

* I made biscuits, pancakes (twice!), Hoppin' John, and soup from scratch this week.  We used up some black-eyed-peas from the pantry and a ham bone from the freezer, both of which we've had for quite a while.  I felt really good about that!

* I hemmed two pairs of pants for my daughter (one was part of her dance costume) and let down two pairs of pants for my son.  I also sewed a button back on a suit coat for my husband. 

* We napped a lot, took hot showers, drank lots of water and ate a lot of soup rather than spending money on medication that most of us can't take or doesn't work for us anyway.  We did take extra vitamin C that we already owned.

* I printed off free online Valentine's for the children to take to their dance classes and to school. I sent oranges we already had in the house for a "healthy" treat for the class party - we were told not to send candy this year!
* My husband officiated at a funeral and was paid an "extra" $200 that we will put toward debt repayment. 

* We watched movies from the library and that we already owned.  I read a book aloud to the children that we already owned as well.  We renewed library materials online to avoid late fees and an extra trip to the library.

* Our daughter had her dress rehearsal for dance competition this week and I did her hair and makeup myself rather than paying to have it done.  No one could tell the difference! And, man, did she look grown up!

* The garlic clove at the top of the page is a SINGLE clove from a bulb that we received this summer through our CSA.  The recipe I was making called for 3 cloves but in this case a single one did just fine!  We all got a huge laugh out of that!

Frugal Fails this week:

* My son really, really wanted to make rock candy for his classmates for Valentine's Day.  Unfortunately, it didn't harden onto the sticks like it should have.  We will try it again this next week and will send it at the end of their social studies unit on the pioneers if we can get it to work. (We've made it before and I have an idea of what happened so hopefully it will work!)

* Spending $10 on a take-and-bake pizza one night this week.  We were all exhausted and both children were blowing and coughing a lot, so John surprised us by picking this up on the way home. 

Heading forward:

We will be filing our tax return this weekend.  I'm hoping we get a nice return we can put toward our debt repayment.  We're seriously hoping to have that all paid back by the time my husband is done with residency in August.  Plugging away little by little we'll get there!

My husband and I also have a date out that we've been planning for a while using the cheap babysitting through our local school district.  Our church used to have a monthly date night for parents where we got three hours of free sitting each month in exchange for working one night a year.  That has since ended, so we've been taking advantage of the $6/child three hours four times a year that the school district has.  We have a gift card that we'll use for a dinner out and have a couple of other things planned as well.

What did you do this week that was frugal?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Frugal, er, Saturday - Two weeks worth of "frugal"

Another beautiful sunrise!  We've been getting spoiled with these the last few weeks.  Sunsets too!  They've been such an encouragement to me!

The last two weeks have been busy and difficult here.  John ended up in the ER twice and my shingles are back in full force. I discovered that driving is a major stressor for the muscle knots that I develop (compounded by the shingles) and my right leg has been basically numb for the last week.  Since I have an 18-mile one-way by the shortest way commute to work, that's definitely not a good thing.  Stress levels go up, shingles come back. Anyone, want to invent a way to teleport?  I'd be all over that!

After more than a month of feeling back to normal this is really discouraging for me.  I'm trying to stay optimistic, but in the middle of terrible pain and the inability to do simple things like walk across the room without holding onto things, it's really difficult sometimes. 
I feel like we haven't been terribly frugal the last two weeks.  We spent the entire amount of "extra" money we had the last month on Power Ade -type drinks, medications, and the like.  I had planned on buying Buddy new school pants, since he's grown quite a bit, but that has to wait now.  Uff da.  We did do a few things.  Here's what we did:

* Ate almost all meals at home or took meals with us.  I ate one meal out with friends that I hadn't seen in almost 2 years and John ate one free meal at work.

* Cooked a turkey in the crockpot (it turned out delicious!) and froze the leftovers.

* Continued to eat down the freezers in anticipation of a big meat purchase later this spring.

* Made and froze waffles and scones for breakfasts later.

* Downloaded several free coloring pages from the internet.

* Checked out several books and audiobooks and a couple of movies from the library.

* Watched a few free shows on and YouTube.

* Caught up the ironing.  YAY!

* Started making homemade Valentine's for the children to take to school for Valentine's Day.  We're making rock candy for my son to take and my daughter is making decorated sugar cookies.  No child in their class has allergies so we can make and bring our own candy/goodies.

* Mended two pairs of pants for my husband and shortened my daughter's dance costume.  The legs were way too long - something that's never happened for her before!

* We earned a collective $165 to pay toward our debt repayment these last two weeks.

I think that's it for us.  What did you do these last two weeks?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Work, Home and Family - Homemade Gifts Part 5: A Playing Card Scrapbook

So that's not the best photo ever, but I think it's enough to get the idea across.   And, yes, I totally stole this idea from somewhere on the internet and I don't have a clue where anymore.  If you know, please email me so I can give proper credit.

I'm a bit behind on posts this week - it's been quite the week and a half here - two ER trips, lots of medication, 12 inches of snow, and a variety of little things have left me with little time and feeling a bit like I'm getting pecked to death by hens!  A quiet evening yesterday made up for it so I'm hoping that for the rest of the week the "pecking" quiets down!  Lent starts next week and I'm hoping for a quiet and contemplative Lent rather than a rushed, hectic one.

This was one of John's Birthday gifts.  And I had the children make this with me.

I bought the deck of cards at the Dollar Store and used scrapbook paper we already had, ribbon we already had and three ball point pens to make this gift.

I cut the scrapbook paper to the size of the middle decoration on the cards using my paper cutter and then used scrapbook adhesive to adhere them to the cards.  Before I adhered them, I divided them between the children and myself and we each wrote down the things that we love and admire my husband.  We titled it "52 Things We Love About You" but you could change the title to fit your scrapbook.

It was great fun to see what the children had to say (so many things that I wouldn't think of!) and they had a blast making this!   After everything was adhered, I used a hand held paper punch to punch holes in the cards and then used the ribbon to tie them together in a "book".

Additional ideas for this book:  photos instead of sayings, write through the alphabet twice with a single word for each letter, thumb-print pictures (I need to try that one!), and favorite memories or events. 

Our children loved this so much, they each asked if we could make them one for their birthday! I think we'll do that - its was fun and easy and my husband loves reading it occasionally to remind him that we love him even on the tough days.

I'm thinking of having the children make these for their teachers this year at the end of the year with favorite memories and a couple of photos. 

Total Time: About forty-five minutes, including cutting the paper, writing the statements, and punching the holes.

 My Cost: $1.07 for the cards.  I had everything else on hand.

Your Cost: $1.00 plus tax (the $0.07 for us) and whatever the cost of other supplies are.  Plain typing or lined writing paper and cellophane or two-sided tape, a glue stick or craft glue would work just fine and you could use a piece of ribbon, a (clean) shoelace, a bit of rope for a more rustic look, etc. to tie this together. An awl or ice pick or craft punch would work for punching the holes too.  Wouldn't a heart shaped craft punch look great for Valentine's day?   A single hole in the corner rather than two across the top would work too.

What did you make this week?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 31, 2016

Scones - I made some this last week - cranberry and orange(what's in the above picture)- to put in the freezer for breakfasts.  I've been snitching - shhh! Don't tell!

We had a super busy week this last week and I'm really tired this week.  We're gearing up for a snowstorm this week and I'm hoping a few of our evening activities are canceled - we could all use the rest!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 31, 2016
    Breakfast: Cold Cereal
    Lunch: Snack-y lunch (crackers and cheese, cut veggies, etc.)
    Snack: Popcorn
    Dinner: Soup from the Freezer, Cornbread, Sliced Apples

Monday, February 1, 2016:
    Breakfast; Waffles from the Freezer, Bananas
    Lunch: Crackers with Peanut Butter, Cut Veggies, Apples, Cookie
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Turkey (in the crockpot!), Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday, February 2, 2016:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Craisins
    Lunch: Leftover Turkey and Potatoes
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Noodles with Tomato Sauce, Garlic Bread, Apple-Melon-Pear Salad

Wednesday, February 3, 2016:
    Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Toast
    Lunch: Leftover Noodles and Sauce
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Sliced Melon

Thursday, February 4, 2016
    Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
    Lunch; Leftover Pot Pie
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Sliced Melon and Pears

Friday, February 5, 2016
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Scrambled Eggs
    Lunch: Leftover Stir Fry
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, February 6, 2016
   Breakfast: Cranberry Bread, Oranges
   Lunch: Soup from the Freezer, Biscuits
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Bacon and Potato Quiche, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

What are you eating this week?