Frugal Friday

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It’s Frugal Friday again, time to talk about what went well (and not-so-well) in the finance department around here.

On my couch this week

This week I made a concerted effort to use what’s in the freezer. At the moment both of our outside freezers are plugged in and two thirds  full.  I’d like to get things cleaned out a bit so I can defrost one of the freezers and turn it off for awhile– at least until it’s time to butcher the cow this spring.  In the freezers I have lots of on-sale butter, as well as ground beef and chicken that I’ve bought on sale in the past few months.  But the biggest space hogs were definitely the turkeys– two of them.  So Saturday evening we had turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner.  On Sunday I made a turkey soup with Thai flavorings and coconut milk that was quite good.  Then Monday we had turkey sandwiches for lunch, and that about finished off that turkey.

GF noodles Another time this week for dinner I jazzed up ramen noodle soup  for the kids by adding meatballs and chopped spinach.  Since I try to limit my own intake of wheat and didn’t happen to have any GF noodles at the moment, in my version of the soup I added broken-up sheets of spring roll wrappers, the kind made from rice flour.   The rice wraps cooked practically instantly in the hot broth and acted a lot like egg noodles in my soup.  Quick and yummy.  I am writing the idea here hoping that I will remember it for another day.  It was so easy and good.

Had an odd thing happen with bananas this past week.  I bought a bunch quite green, because there wasn’t much selection in the grocery store at the moment, and they never ripened.  Not a bit.  How can that happen?  I was going to return them to the store to get my money back, but ended up being too lazy to go, and just threw them away.  Ah well.

I feel like I almost always focus on food in my frugality efforts– or at least when I write here.  I’m going to try to think more about what I do to save money that doesn’t involve food. I had several days this week that I went nowhere.  Which I love.  Monday I almost hit the clothing clearance sales at Fred Meyers — hello, 50% off lowest-marked prices.  But then I realized we didn’t truly NEED anything clothing-wise, so I opted to stay home –and save 100% instead.  Yay, me!  Staying home bores some of the kids, but thankfully the quickest-bored ones now have their own licenses and vehicles, so now they can drive themselves places (and waste their own gas.)

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.I requested a book from PaperbackSwap.com this week instead of automatically going to amazon.  In case you don’t know, PaperbackSwap.com lets you list books, send them to others for credit, and then use those credits to request other books.  Sometimes you have to wait awhile to get newer books, and they don’t have every book.  But when I’ve got a few credits built up, it’s a great way to lay my hands on other books that I want for just the cost of shipping.  Speaking of credit, if you sign up and list 10 books, mark me (owlhaven) down as the person who referred you, and I will get a credit.  Then if you like the service, you can refer other friends and earn credits that way too.

 

How did your frugality efforts go this week?  I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

during this the last week before school starts again

I can’t think of one frugal thing that I did this week. I did do a lot of other things, however. So I guess I’ll just tell you about all those things instead. Sunday was our Zeytuna’s 17th birthday party and Wednesday John and I took her out to dinner and a movie, which is a tradition at our house. We saw The Maze Runner, which was kinda violent, but had (I thought) an intriguing story line. We enjoyed it.

Monday I took Emily and Julianna out to pick out paint and new bedspreads for their room.They’d been begging for new paint in their room for a good long time as there were lots of chips and they were itching to try out some new colors in the room. They had Christmas money to spend, which purchased the bedspreads– hooray!!– and I bought two colors of paint and a new shade for their window.  Here’s how it looked a few days ago, with Julianna buzzing with excitement and John busily installing the shade.

RoomPaint (3)

Here’s Emily washing baseboards and laying down blue tape at the edges.

RoomPaint

And here’s Julianna painting away.   She and Emily were both thrilled to help out with this project.

RoomPaint (1)

Tuesday was spent first moving beds, then cleaning up all the stuff we’d unearthed from under the beds, and then finally painting. Whew. What a job. It actually stretched partway into Wednesday, and I was very grateful that John painted the white trim for us, since I was sick of painting by then.  As you can see, it turned out really cute.  It’s a delight to peek into their room now!

 

RoomPaint (5)

They especially love their poster wall, installed strategically across from the beds so that they can both see them all.  Lots of fun!

RoomPaint (4)

On Wednesday, John got my new baby gate painted and mounted on hinges at the bottom of the stairs. We opted to distress the white paint, and then added a layer of poly for extra protection.  As you can see, it sits snug against the wall when it’s not needed.

Gate

 

And here it is, swung shut. I think it turned out really cute, and it’ll be nice to have a permanently mounted gate that we can easily shut when we don’t want the little kids climbing the stairs.

Gate (1)

On Thursday I went over to Amanda’s house, and helped her sort and organize baby clothes into bins by size. With baby #3 coming in April, she is working to make space and keep the house functioning well with another little one added into the mix. Very fun. On Thursday I also got some new shades from amazon to go in my bedroom. They are pleated shades that have no strings– so neat and easy. It was very nice to throw away my dusty beat up old ones and replace them with something crisp and new.

Then today I began the day by taking Emily and Julianna to the rec center to meet Amanda and Erika and all the grandbabies for a swim. They’re the only people in the world that I’d don a swimsuit in January for, that’s for sure.  We had lots of fun, and ended with lunch at Panda Express.

Monday starts school again, though I don’t think any of us are quite ready for Christmas break to be done.  How did your week go?  Feel free to comment below and tell me how your frugality efforts went — hopefully a lot better than mine!

Why Pinterest works for me

I’ve heard a lot of people groaning over Pinterest because it makes them dissatisfied with what they have.  I understand that feeling–I’m most likely to be tempted when it comes to cute clothes. But in general I use Pinterest simply as a tool.  I think it excels as a springboard for creative thinking. Whether I’m trying to find a new use for chicken breasts, or a way to accessorize a jacket that I already own, or am seeking just the right paint color for a bedroom, Pinterest is there with tons of beautiful photos and brilliant ideas for doing the very thing that I’m attempting.

endless dish soap

Thanks to Pinterest, I know the very best GF banana bread recipe.  As of a few weeks ago, I am the happy owner of an almost-bottomless dish soap dispenser. I’ve got some great smoothie recipes. My hubby made me a great permanently-mounted baby gate for the bottom of my stairs–I’ll get you a photo once it’s painted. And what girl wouldn’t love this sparkly use for those Christmas lights that we  all just peeled off our Christmas trees?

What do you think?  Have you found it possible to use Pinterest for good, or do you avoid it to keep your longings in check?

 

Frugal Friday: Going Green

Frozen AvocadoDid you figure out what’s in the mystery photo? Read on and all will be explained.

 

MAKING USE OF BONES
I brought home the bones from our Christmas prime rib.  They went into a big pot of water where they simmered overnight into a nice bone broth.  I then used that broth to make beef and barley soup that we served Sunday after church.

 

SAVING AVOCADOS
On Monday I spotted avocados at Costco — 6 in a mesh bag for $3. I’d signed up to bring guacamole to a New Years party at church, so this was a great find. The avocados were so soft that a man looking at them beside me said, ‘These’ll need to be used about 20 minutes from now.’ But thanks to Pinterest, I knew that avocados can be halved and frozen without going brown. I took a chance, and picked four of the mesh 6-pack bags– 24 avocados in all. Even if I had to throw away three or four, I figured it was still a good deal. At home when I sorted them out, 9 were still quite firm and will last just fine til Wednesday. The rest I peeled and stuck into ziplock bags in the freezer.  Avocados freeze beautifully with NO browning if you peel them and remove the pit first.  As you can see in the photo, the frozen avocados are almost as green as my front door!

 

DOUBLE THE PIZZA, DOUBLE THE FUN
When we made too much pizza dough one night, we tossed the extra into a bag in the fridge to be the start of a quick meal a different night.  Our youngest two had a good time making pizza all on their own that night.

 

STASHING AWAY EXTRA BREAD
Each Christmas eve my mom serves clam chowder in bread bowls.  This year there were lots left over, and so I brought them home and stuck them in the freezer.  Some I will use for stuffed french toast casserole.  I might make some of the rest of it into croutons for soup or salad.  Then anything we don’t use will go out to the chickens.  Almost every day our chickens end up eating leftovers from our kitchen, whether that be fried rice that’s beyond its prime, vegetable scraps, or stale bread.  Not much goes to waste around here!

 

BEANS AND RICE, RICE AND BEANS
(Can you tell I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts?) Thursday dinner this week was chili, made with tomatoes I’d canned from our garden and ground beef that I got on sale several weeks ago.  I love making soups and stews in the winter time, and I routinely double the recipes so that we can get two meals from one meals’ worth of effort.

 

STAYING WARM IN WINTER
It’s been cold here and we’ve kept the wood stove roaring for warmth.  We harvest wood for free each summer on John’s mom’s property in the mountains. Our furnace is electric, and it can easily cost $350 or more to heat the house in the winter for a month, and so as much as possible we try to keep the house warm with the wood stove, and limit the furnace use to the week hours of the morning when it is very cold and the fire burns down.  We also pile blankets on the beds and turn on a fan in the hall to blow heat toward the bedrooms. In general it works pretty well.

 

What did you do in the frugality department this week?  I’d love to hear about it.  And as always, my cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week is on amazon if you happen to need some inspiration in the cooking/ grocery spending department.

Frugal Friday

Lotsa candles!

Lotsa candles!

It’s almost Christmas! I’ve been wrapping like crazy and still have a tiny dab of shopping to do for a few folks that I’m feeling clueless about, but I’m getting there. We also got another birthday celebrated — hard to believe, but our oldest son is now 23.  Happy birthday, Jared!

Here are some quick frugal highlights this week.

  • I returned something that we’ve never used and got a nice chunk of store credit to help with Christmas shopping.
  • I used a $10 off $10 or more coupon from JCPenney to help with more Christmas shopping.
  • I’ve been wrapping all our gifts with wrapping paper that I bought last year on fabulous sales. I’m nearing the end of wrapping and still have lots of paper left.  I’ve also been using bags that we saved from other years.  Every bit helps!
  • I stocked up on butter since it is currently on pretty decent Christmas-baking sales.  Ditto on chocolate chips.  And potatoes.  Hooray for sales.
  • I bought a bunch of dry goods in bulk at Winco and after emptying the various flours, etc, into proper containers, I saved all the bags to use for other purposes.
  • I’m working hard to use up a Costco size bag of spinach so it won’t go to waste.  Might need to puree and freeze a bit of it so we can add it to smoothies later– that bag is huge, and I think the last time I bought one that size, we were feeding more people on a regular basis!
  • Lidya got a mega-ham as a Christmas gift from her employer— 18 pounds!  She promptly gifted it to me, and I’ve so far made at least 3 meals from it– one ham dinner for everyone, a ham and split pea soup, and a stir fry with ham and veggies.  The last of the ham went in the freezer to use a bit later.  What a nice gift.
  • I’ve been enjoying filling up the gas tanks on the vehicles with the lower gas prices.  Perfect timing with all the Christmas erranding.  It would sure be nice if those prices stayed down for awhile.

I’ll check in next week to share our Christmas photo, but other than that you may not hear much from me til after the new year.  Hope your Christmas is wonderful!


Frugality this week

This week I’ve been Christmas shopping, which tends to lead to feelings of non-frugality. But I felt good about overall resisting the siren call of Black Friday shopping, which often seems to end up with me impulse-buying a fair number of random items.  I did buy a few carefully chose items online for excellent prices.  It’s always fun when the UPS man comes bearing goodies.

I opted not to renew amazon prime this year.  Yes, the free shipping is nice.  But I find that when I have prime, I am much quicker to impulse-buy on amazon.  Amazon is already my budget’s Achille’s heel. I just shop smarter if I put an item in my cart and then force myself to wait til I have $35 worth of merchandise (to get the free shipping) before hitting that ‘buy’ button.  Half the time when I wait, I end up deciding is not as important as I first thought to own that particular item.

At Wal-Mart this week I happened upon 10-lb logs of ground beef marked down to $2o each.  It has been probably half a year since I’ve been able to find ground beef for less than $3 a pound, so I bought 40 pounds.  Seemed extreme to spend $80 on ground beef in one trip, but who knows when I’ll see the price that low again.  I probably actually should have bought more than that.

Table sparkleI bought 40 pounds of potatoes for 99 cents/10 pounds.  That’s a LOT of food for $4.

I copied a Pinterest idea for some sparkle on the dining room table using items I already had.  Looking at the photo I think I’ll remove the natural items and redo it with all glass balls, but it is fun the way it is too. The tiered tray is something I made a few years ago using gorilla glue and thrift store candlesticks and plates in different sizes.  Originally it was used to serve cupcakes at our oldest daughter’s wedding.

Our Christmas tree is getting very old and tired. I think we got it in 1999 for $70, so I think we’ve gotten our money’s worth from it. I was sorely tempted to take advantage of Black Friday sales to buy a new one.  But instead I opted to use it for (at least) one more year.  Once decorated, it didn’t look half bad.  And even on a good sale, the type of tree I had in mind would have been $100.  So it’s just as well that I waited.

I wanted to support a brand new Ethiopian restaurant called Kibrom’s in Boise, but didn’t have much in the eating-out budget.  So instead of bringing everyone and getting a full meal, we stopped in and bought injera plus a triple batch of our favorite entree (doro wat) and asked them to package it up for take-out.  They got some business, and we all had a taste of yumminess at a lower price.  Another time we’ll bring everyone there to eat, but this was a nice compromise.

That’s all I can think of for now.  On Monday I’ll share my latest Stitch Fix goodies.  I’d love to hear how your frugality efforts are going this month, especially related to holiday expenses.

 

 

Books, frugality, birthdays, and an awesome pencil sharpener (do these topics actually go together?)

My birthday girl, a few years ago...time flies!Life has been nutty around here.  Wednesday alone I had three different interviews for Forever Mom.  By the end of the day both of my phones had dead batteries and I felt certain I had lost all ability to construct a complete sentence.  Whew!  What’s really cool is that people are interested in Forever Mom–here’s a review on adoption.com. (By the way, if you go read it, will you also share it on facebook so more people can see it?  Thank you so much!)  I am so humbled and so grateful that folks are appreciating the message of the book.  And also relieved.  Because, honestly, my heart went right out there in every page. I’ve never felt so trembly-kneed when sending something out there.  So thanks for all your support.

I don’t have many frugal thoughts this week– it was kind of a fish sticks and corn dogs and cereal kind of week around here with all busyness. I did bookmark this great-looking blog post sharing 52 Meatless Meals so that I can intersperse all the rich holiday food with some frugal and good-tasting meatless dinners. I also earned a free turkey at Winco.  (They have a promo where if you spend  $100, you get a free turkey– yeehaw!)  The man in line behind me looked in my heaping cart and told me I should have gone through the line twice and gotten two turkeys.  He was right.  I actually ended up spending $300 on groceries yesterday– apparently I’ve skipped shopping lately too, because we were out of so many things.  So I could have gotten THREE free turkeys, but ah well. Now we are stocked up and I hope that I remembered most of what I’ll need for the next couple weeks.  Potatoes were on a screaming good sale 99 cents for 10 pounds– so we currently have about 4o pounds in the pantry, and I am signed up to bring mashed potatoes to every Thanksgiving gathering we’re attending.  (That reminds me– I still need to buy sour cream.  Because in my opinion, mashed potatoes reach greatness through butter and sour cream.  And maybe garlic.  But I’m aware that not everyone agrees about the garlic.)

 

For those of you who asked, I am in the process of getting an email subscribe feature added to my blog.  I should have done it a long, long time ago but somehow never got around to it.  I will let you know when it is up and running, since I know a lot of people prefer to read blogs in email form.  Thanks to those of you who emailed me lately and encouraged me to get it together.  :)

 

Finally, I have meaning for awhile to tell you about a REALLY neat pencil sharpener. Let me tell you, as a homeschooling mom of many, I have bought SO many pencil sharpeners over the years– from the old fashioned manual kind that you mount on the wall to the really nice electric kind.  I don’t know if it is just a function of having a lot of kids, but every sharpener I’ve ever owned til now has always ended up disappointing me. So when I heard about this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies, I was all attention.  This sharpener is different in that it holds the pencil for you, which I think makes it much more likely that the pencil will enter the machine straight and be sharpened properly. (Watch the video to see what I mean– it’s a little different.)  I also need to disclose that I was given a sharpener for free in exchange for a review. The bottom line is we’ve been using this sharpener for several months, and we really like it a lot.  It makes pencils SO sharp! The only thing I don’t love is that the clamp that is supposed to hook it to a counter is a little chintzy– we can’t make it stay. But since the sharpener holds the pencil for you, it’s not a big deal to just hold the sharpener steady with one hand while turning the handle with the other.  I am working on getting a freebie to give away here on my blog, but I don’t have it yet. I will keep you posted.

Anyway, we are off to homeschool craft day and then we are celebrating my BABY’s tenth birthday– oh be still my heart!! There she is above several years ago with a PENCIL in her hand, which is my very best attempt at making this post actually hang together.  Pencils.  Birthday girl.  Books. You get it?  OK,  that’s all I have for you today. But as usual, I’d love to hear about your frugal successes for the week! So comment away!

Frugal holiday beauty

This weekend I have the fun of attending the Joy for the Journey adoptive mom retreat in Lancaster, PA. So instead of my usual frugality post, I thought I’d share some fun and frugal ways to decorate for the upcoming holidays.

thanksgiving-decor

 This silver and white decor could be lovely for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

 

Christmas ball decor

Lots of pretty ideas for Christmas balls- A big box of glass Christmas balls is $10 at Target or Walmart.

 

Here are a couple of affordable and pretty ways to decorate pine cones.

Dip a pine cone in glue and dust with Epsom salts for snow-sparkled pine cones.sparkly pinecones

 

Or gather a bunch of pine cones with some red ribbon for a lovely alternative to a wreath.pinecone-cluster-collage

Did you know that you can slip ping pong balls over LED lights to make these lovely globe lights?

DIY_ping_pong_lights6

Then finally here’s a sweet craft you can make with some wood rounds and an etching tool.

Etched-Birch-Ornaments-7

 

Before you buy decor items at full price, be sure to look at your local thrift stores and craft stores. Often thrift stores seem to be the depository for half-done craft projects, which makes them a great place to look for ribbon, yarn, silk flowers, and many other craft and decor items such as knitting needles, beads, crochet hooks, baskets, tins, and wreaths.

If you have more ideas for affordable Thanksgiving and Christmas decor, I’d love to hear them!

 

Gifts kids can make for friends

Gifts Kids Can Make

If your kids are like mine, they enjoy giving their friends gifts at Christmas time.  The problem is, even a $5-$10 gift, multiplied by 3 or 4 or 6 friends, times whatever number of kids you have in your family, can add up to a lot of bucks.  But if you can think of fun gifts that your kids can make for friends, suddenly gift-giving gets a lot more affordable– and a lot more personal. Here are a few gift projects that might spark a kid’s creativity and help solve the dilemma of gift-giving on a budget at your house.

 

paper clip earrings1.  These paper clip earrings would be quick and fun to make, and could be done in any color, depending on the preferences of the gift recipient.

 

Decorating Mugs

2. These coffee mugs decorated with sharpies would also be cute.  Just make sure you follow the directions on the site and be aware that you’ll need to buy the right kind of sharpie.  Not all sharpies are created equal.

 

teacupcandles3. Fill a thrifted teacup with melted candle wax and add wicks (purchased at the craft store or on amazon) and you have a sweet delicate gift for a teen girl or maybe even a grandma.

 

paracord beaded bracelets

4. These paracord bracelets are completely awesome looking.  I wasn’t able to find an exact tutorial, but my son who has made quite a few paracord bracelets says it isn’t a complicated design.

 

 

licorice jar
5. What kid wouldn’t like to get a jar of his or her favorite treats?  If licorice isn’t a favorite, suggest mini Hershey bars, nuts or even beef jerky. (Tho that last option might put you back into the $10 range, depending on the size of the jar.)

 

Duct tape wallets

6.  Duct tape wallets have been a popular project at our house for years.  Here’s an easy tutorial.

 

iPhone wallet

Make Your Own IPhone Wallet

7.  A teen who knows how to sew and is game for a more challenging project might enjoy zipping out one of these I-Phone wallets.  You might even want to make one for yourself!

 

washers

8. For a fun and colorful necklace, just use nail polish to decorate a washer in bright colors.

 

Be sure to visit the bloggers linked above  to see the details of each of these great ideas!  And happy crafting!!

Frugal Friday

chalk art in progress

This week when making my frugal list, I tried to think of things I do routinely every single week but don’t often mention here. This week’s frugal successes, in no particular order…

  • I checked out the clearance racks at the local Family Dollar store and found some items of clothing on really good sales– the start of my Christmas gift stash.  Bonus:  when I got to the checkout counter, two of the items were buy one, get one half off.
  • I combined leftover gravy from the Sunday church pot-luck with ground beef and served it on really big biscuits for a nice meal on Monday.
  • I washed a couple of gallon-size ziplock bags to re-use.  Usually I don’t wash out sandwich bags, but I almost always wash out the larger sizes, unless I’ve used them for raw meat.
  • We had our very first fires of the fall in the woodstove.  (We have electric heat and try not to use it at all, except in the coldest nights of winter.) I made frugal fire starters with dryer lint and egg cartons.
  • As per usual, I sent kids out to feed the chickens with kitchen scraps at least once or twice a day.  We also fed the last of the garden zucchini to the cow. This gets fresh food into their diet, decreases their need for store bought food, and uses something we’d otherwise throw away.
  • A few weeks ago when making lasagna, I had half a dozen lasagna noodles leftover that I stuck in the freezer, not sure what I’d do with them. One night this week I decided to make taco soup with ground beef, garden peppers and tomatoes, and corn.  When I realized I didn’t have any kidney beans to add to make it heartier, on a whim I pulled the leftover lasagna noodles out of the freezer, cut them crosswise, and used them like egg noodles.  Super yummy.
  • I overbought corn tortillas a couple weeks ago. So a couple times this week, I cut a stack of tortillas into quarters, tossed them in a dab of salt and olive oil, then baked them in the oven til light brown.  They made nice very sturdy chips that I served with homemade salsa and guacamole.  Yum!
  • I had some extra homemade pizza dough in the fridge after making pizza one night.  A couple mornings later when I couldn’t think of a thing for breakfast  (we were out of milk, flour, and eggs) I grabbed that leftover pizza dough out of the fridge, rolled it out on the counter, slathered it generously with butter and cinnamon/sugar, then rolled it up into cinnamon rolls.  Nobody complained about that breakfast!

When I asked the kids what else I did this week to save money, one of the boys said teasingly, “You ordered takeout pizza!”  Oh.  True.  But in my defense, I did order it on a $3.99 special, so it could’ve been worse.  How about you?  What did you do to save money this week?

PS- I’ve been pinning chalk art lately– the photo above shows my 12yo daughter’s first attempt at graphing and copying an idea.  (You just erase the lines when you’re done drawing.)