Monday, April 24, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments Easter Break Edition

This Easter Break was definitely an exercise in the "stay-cation" mentality for us.  It was an opportunity for Benny to pick up some extra hours at work, and a chance for us to have some more family time.  We took advantage of some local attractions, within an hour's drive, and splurged a bit on treats, but generally kept things cheap and easy.

It ended up being a blessing that we'd planned to keep things low-key, since both boys ended up being sick, though not too sick to slow them down majorly.  It also gave us a chance to do a little yard and garden work before the rains came.


  • Cooked most meals at home including overnight blueberry french toast casserole, black beans and rice, chili and corn bread, strawberry cream cheese coffee cake, homemade pizza, French toast and fruit for dinner, salmon salad (like tuna but with canned salmon) and hard boiled eggs (to dye for Easter of course)
  • Made the best use of our freezer and pantry stash, even using powdered milk for the baking.  Was glad to use up a few things in the pantry that were going out of date.
  • Graciously accepted bread, veggies, and some pre-made deli sandwiches from the pantry this week.  Also stocked up on strawberries, which were 99 cents a pound, but we were limited to four pounds.
  • Picked up a bale of spent hay for free to add to our compost.  Hoping this will remedy our fruit fly situation there.  Continued to compost all kitchen scraps and paper as appropriate.
  • Kept up with regular laundry activities, washing in cold water and line drying when possible.  Diapers and "sick sheets" were washed in hot water or on sanitize.
  • Took a day trip to the science center about an hour from here.  The boys loved it, and it was nice to be able to use the gift certificate that we were given for little man's birthday a while back.  We did splurge here and upgrade to an annual membership, which the gift certificate contributed towards, because the boys enjoyed it so much.  We met my aunt and uncle for lunch afterwards.  It was a blast, and we look forward to going again.
  • Enjoyed a trip to the library with the boys for story time.  Since little man's in preschool, he doesn't get to go as much as he used to.  It's nice that we got to go, he enjoyed it, and we both got some books out of the deal.
  • The trip to Grandfather Mountain was probably the highlight of the week, and one of the least expensive.  It is only about 30 minutes from our house, and we took a picnic out there.  They have a great animal exhibit, wonderful hiking trails, and museums.  Normally, the cost is out of our price range, but for the month of April, they always significantly discount the entrance.  So, we all got in for $9.  We did splurge this day and pick up some breakfast goodies and coffee before the trip.
  • Little man and I enjoyed a date afternoon after some yard work on Saturday morning.  He wanted to go to the bakery, so I used a gift card and got each of us a treat and some bread for later in the week.  Then, we picked up eggs from the grocery store for dying later.  While we were there, we discovered a free Earth Day craft of making bird feeders, so we did that together.  They gave me an herb of my choice to plant, so I chose parsley, since I don't usually have that one in the garden.  (I already had the basil they offered.)  He also requested a trip to the carwash, so I splurged and did that (we usually don't go that often).  He loved it!  Such a fun time, and so special to have that time with just him.
  • Used coupons and freebies to fill the Easter baskets for the boys.  Little man got pistachios, mini-Nutella packs, flower seeds, and some books.  Baby got a board book and a stuffed animal.
  • Enjoyed a couple of family meals with mom and extended family, saving on overall cost.  (Though the road trip probably made up for it with one.)
  • Have played LOTS of egg hunt this week with the plastic Easter eggs we have!  It has given little man hours of pleasure, and has really stretched his thinking about hiding spots.  We've tried to begin introducing words like "camouflage" so that he is learning a little more in the process, but it's great for logic.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, April 3, 2017

April Menu Plan

As usual, we're all about making use of what we have.  We'll continue to work down what we have in the pantry and freezer.  We're starting to get a few herbs in the garden, so these will bring some fresh flavor to some of our meals, where we're relying on pantry and freezer staples.  Making use of the ability to glean from the food pantry will also help us.  We've recently received a lot of bread and grapes from the food pantry, so some of our meals will revolve around these.

I am trying out a few new recipes this month, so I hope they work out well.

Breakfasts:

  • Overnight crock pot oats with dried fruit and nuts
  • French toast casserole with cream cheese and frozen berries
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Egg and cheese sandwiches
  • Banana muffins
Lunches:
  • Leftovers
  • Yogurt with fruit and nuts
Dinners:
  • Roasted turkey with potatoes, salad, and asparagus
  • Turkey salad (using leftover turkey, nuts/seeds, and grapes) sandwiches with fresh fruit
  • Asian salmon soup (we substitute ramen for the rice) with Asian slaw and egg rolls
  • Mushroom tartines with salad or fruit
  • Black bean chili with corn bread
  • Tomato and greens soup with kidney beans and spicy sausage served with toast
  • Sloppy joes with oven fries or roasted veggies
  • Homemade pizza x 4
  • Quiche with bacon, broccoli and mushrooms/onions served with fruit
  • Winter squash waffles or pancakes with fruit and sausage
  • Black bean, squash, and sweet potato enchiladas with fixin's
  • Pesto pasta salad
  • Asian chicken with rice
  • Hot dogs with carrot and celery sticks and dip
Prep ahead:
I will be out of town for a few days this month, so I am going to try making a few freezer meals for Benny to make life easier for him.
  • Make crock pot Asian chicken (put all ingredients in a freezer bag for Benny to thaw and cook)
  • Sloppy joe filling for freezer
  • Prepare and pre-bake pizza crust

Monday, March 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was kind of a whirl wind for us, since we were traveling for the weekend.  We still managed to save quite a bit and stick to our frugal ways, though!


  • Travel was primarily for school, so fuel expenses will be reimbursed.  We could combine it with a visit to family, so that was nice.
  • Radio in the "new" car needed replacing, so Benny ordered one online and he and his dad spent most of the day Saturday replacing it.  Much cheaper than paying for a new one, though we still have to figure out how to program it all.
  • Packed our own snacks from home for the road trip, so we didn't pay for snacks or drinks along the way.
  • All meals were made at home including banana bars for breakfasts, bagels and cream cheese, egg and cheese sandwiches, Thai beef over rice, and guacamole and hummus with pita chips (I honestly don't remember what else we ate for meals!)
  • Continued with our regular composting, recycling, and waste reduction lifestyle.
  • Accepted two gallons of milk, crackers, and fruit from the food pantry.  
  • Gleaned four cheese sticks, several snack packs, carton of yogurt, and three apples from school cafeteria.
  • Reused tea bags a few times for hot tea, saving on the cost of them and stretching them a little further.
  • Gratefully accepted some hand-me-downs from a coworker for little man.
  • Went to Costco with family, saving by purchasing wholesale and didn't have to purchase a membership.  We bought:  almonds, organic raisins, two large cartons of Greek yogurt, grape tomatoes, wild caught salmon (frozen), maple syrup, honey, and a set of clearance pjs for little man in a size that will fit next winter.
  • Enjoyed shared meals with family, saving on cooking and food costs.
  • Took a few walks and spent time at a park, getting free exercise and vitamin D!  Nice to have some warm spring weather!
  • Continued to breastfeed and pump for baby, compiling a freezer stash of milk to help when I have to be away in a few weeks.  This will also help when the boys have colds for a little immune boost.
  • Benny loves watches.  He offered to write a forum post for one company that he really likes in exchange for a new watch and band from them.  Win, win for both!
  • Found a headboard we like on Craigslist for $30 (much cheaper than a similar one we found online), so hoping it is still for sale.  We'd like to give it a face lift with white paint and finally get around to really decorating our bedroom.  We love the boys room the most in the house, and our bedroom has taken a back seat.  We've chosen a new wall color and hope to give some of the existing furniture a face lift with a little paint, find some new curtains, and generally spruce up the space.  
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We've been doing really well with our savings this month, even with the water leak (see the last post).  I've tried to only buy essentials at the grocery store and really work down some of the things that are in the freezer and pantry.  Our new upstairs tenant moved in over the weekend (yay!) and she is a wonderful fit for us so far.

Here's how we saved this past week:


  • Cooked all meals at home from scratch including mac and cheese with broccoli, sweet and sour veggie and chicken stir fry with egg rolls, crock pot cabbage and sausage with corn bread, chocolate whole grain waffles and fruit smoothies, veggie pizza, and crock pot Thai beef (a new recipe that needs some tweaking.. not spicy enough or enough veggies for us!).
  • Gratefully accepted six avocados, kiwi, melon, mushrooms, grapes, peppers, onions, and two gallons of milk from the food pantry gleaning.  Much of it was processed and frozen, though the fruit is almost gone.  We also accepted a whole bag of Panera bread including loaf bread, cinnamon raisin bread, and at least a dozen bagels.  I still find it amazing that many of the clients would prefer white sandwich bread to this, but it often goes bad on the food pantry shelves, so they have learned to save it for us.
  • Gleaned six packs of Goldfish crackers, two packs of Chex mix, one yogurt, one apple, and four cheese sticks from the school cafeteria.
  • Brought home leftovers from Greek Day at school including olives, cheeses, pita chips, and hummus.  I will make an olive and sun dried tomato pesto with the olives (tomatoes from CSA last year).  The cheeses were used in mac and cheese and will be for snacking, as will the pita chips and hummus.
  • Continued with all regular composting and recycling to reduce waste.

  • Continued with regular laundry activities including cold water wash, line drying, and cloth diaper use.  We're glad the weather is warm enough some days to hang things on the clothes line again.
  • Did our usual cloth napkin and rag use to cut down on paper items.
  • Benny had put in his notice at work, so he worked his last shift on Saturday.  Before he left, we used his employee discount to purchase all the paint and stain we will need for the near future.  He is so grateful to not have to work every Saturday now, and we're glad to have a little more flexibility for family time.
  • We made a birthday gift for little man to take to a birthday party, our usual tie dyed t-shirt.  We included some small things of play dough we had around and some free sticker sheets from the doctor's office.  Little man decorated a repurposed store bag as a gift bag with paper punches and colorings.  The little boy was thrilled with the gift (especially the Ninja Turtles stickers!).
  • Made a bulk spice order from San Francisco Herb Company, combining our order with a friend's to save on shipping a bit.  It will be so nice to have some of these things again!
  • Made homemade vanilla using vanilla beans from the freezer and vodka we had purchased earlier for this use (we find that making one bottle will get us through about a year).  It is MUCH cheaper to make your own than to purchase the tiny bottles in the store, and so easy to make.
  • Began using chives from the garden and noticed a little mint coming up.  I will begin using up the mint in the freezer for tea so that we have room for more as this season's crop grows.
  • Carpooled to work three days, saving on gas.
  • Used our medical savings card to pay for a dentist visit and cleaning.  Three of us got our teeth cleaned, one had x-rays, so it was nice to be able to use the rest of this card (it resets in April).
What did you do to live and save green last week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We did all of our usual frugal things last week.  The highlight was probably our frugal date, which was the first in over a month, and so much fun.  (More on the date later.)  It is wonderful that my mom is close and will keep little man overnight once a month for us.

We also saved a lot by accepting gleaned items from the food pantry.  I was also able to share some of this with friends, which was really nice.  So, without further ado, here are last week's accomplishments:


  • Participated in free professional development two days.  Lunch was not provided, so I took my own instead of going out.  I also took my own drink the second day, since drinks were not provided either.  The sessions were great, though, so it made up for the lack of food! :)  The workshop was local, and actually closer than driving to school, so I saved on gas too.
  • Cooked all meals at home including banana nut muffins, overnight oatmeal, pasta bake with ricotta cheese and veggies, homemade pizza with pesto, veggies, and pepperoni.
  • Accepted another box of bananas from the food pantry (we freeze them for baking and smoothies), as well as a gallon of milk, yogurt, partial carton of strawberries, avocado, three packages of portobello mushrooms, and bagels.  
  • Gleaned three apples, three cheese sticks, and two cartons of yogurt from the school cafeteria.
  • Made homemade salad dressing with the leftover marinade from a jar of artichoke hearts and repurposed a glass bottle for storage.
  • Continued with all regular composting, cold water laundry, and cloth diaper use.
  • Made homemade shower spray cleaner with dish soap and vinegar.  Used a repurposed spray bottle for the mix.
  • Used existing supplies to make a birthday banner for baby boy!  Can't believe he's turning one this week!
  • Enjoyed a date with Benny on Saturday.  Mom kept little man so that we could go out early.  We stopped by thrift stores before meeting friends for dinner.  We used a coupon for dinner, then went home for dessert and a Netflix show.  
  • We found an $8 bread machine to replace our old one (the mechanical housing had rusted and wasn't working reliably anymore).  It seems to be a good brand, and for $8, it is cheaper than ordering one pizza out would cost, so it will have paid for itself by the time Friday night pizza night rolls around.  Benny and I each also found a clothing item, which was a nice little treat.
  • Not so frugally, we had a water line burst in the apartment downstairs.  Thankfully, it was over the bathroom, so there's no major damage to fixtures, etc.  The insulation and drywall has to be replaced,   Thankfully, Benny knows some contractors, and got things rolling quickly for replacement.  Our tenant has been super gracious about things.  We are grateful to have enough in savings to cover the repairs.
  • Enjoyed a shared meal with Mom last night.  It was pretty enough for a short walk with the boys too, which was some nice exercise.  
  • Continued to exercise with You Tube videos, saving money on gym or subscription fees.
  • Enjoyed some time in the garden seeing hellebores and daffodils coming up.  The forsythia that we split last year are starting to bloom now, which is fun.  I wish things weren't coming so early, but that is the way it goes.  I will just be grateful for a longer growing season this year.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  What are you grateful for?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March Menu Plan

This month will again be about using what we have.  We're still working on using up things we have in the pantry and freezer to make space for our CSA goodies when the shares start coming in late May.  Here's the plan:

Breakfasts: 

  • egg and cheese sandwiches
  • breakfast burritos with onions, peppers, and mushrooms (frozen)
  • banana-pecan-chocolate chip muffins
  • overnight steel cut oatmeal with raisins, flax, and pecans (crock pot meal)
  • overnight french toast casserole with freezer blueberries, pomegranate seeds, cream cheese, and pecans
  • smoothies and cinnamon toast
  • bagels and cream cheese
  • baked oatmeal
Lunches:
  • leftovers
  • egg salad sandwiches
  • turkey salad wraps
  • yogurt parfaits with freezer fruit
Dinners:  
  • broccoli and cheddar quiche (with freezer pie crust and broccoli)
  • crock pot Thai beef
  • crock pot black bean chili with corn bread
  • roasted turkey with herb butter (both in freezer), crock pot roasted veggies (sweet potato, onion, carrot, and beet)
  • homemade pizza x 4 (pesto, cheese, freezer veggies, artichoke hearts, olives, turkey, pepperoni toppings, depending on night)
  • winter squash waffles with smoothies and sausage or eggs
  • crock pot loaded mac and cheese with broccoli and keilbasa
  • crock pot tomato, bean, and green soup with sausage (using freezer greens, sausage, canned tomatoes, and dried beans)
  • beans and rice with fixins (Greek yogurt, salsa, and frozen guacamole) and corn bread
  • tacos with leftover turkey, black beans, and fixins on tortillas or hard shells (both in pantry/freezer)
  • turkey salad sandwiches with fruit
  • lentil sloppy joes with roasted broccoli or oven fries
Batch Cooking:
  • homemade veggie stock using frozen veggie scraps
  • homemade turkey stock using turkey carcass from roasting
  • banana nut muffins or banana oatmeal bars
Snacks:
  • smoothies with frozen fruit
  • popcorn with garlic salt or cinnamon sugar
  • fresh fruit
  • homemade trail mix with raisins, nuts, and dry cereal 
  • cheese and crackers
  • yogurt
How are you living and saving green in the kitchen this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We're trying really hard to think creatively about our budget, our needs vs. wants, and how to accomplish the most with what we have.  Our big success this week was finalizing the car sale, including bartering for the exterior painting we need done, and we transferred the title of the new-to-us car from my in-laws to us.  We also are skipping the grocery store this week, primarily because my in-laws brought things for us from Costco and Mom brought us two boxes of things gleaned from the food pantry.

Here's the breakdown for this week.  I'll be back later this week with our March menu plan.


  • Cooked all meals at home.  This included crock pot lasagna soup, Asian chicken (yes, this has been a new favorite), steamed lemon pepper tilapia with roasted veggies, lentil and sweet potato stew (see comments for adaptations), breakfast egg casserole, and banana chocolate chip muffins.  The in-laws did treat us to pizza out one night, and lunch one day.
  • Gleaned three bunches of bananas, strawberries, two cartons of mushrooms, a bag of oranges, three loaves of bread, six small cartons of yogurt, half gallon of milk, and a pint of whipping cream.
  • Enjoyed a shared meal with Mom.
  • Continued with our regular composting and recycling.
  • Washed all laundry in cold water except towels, sheets, and diapers.  Line dried everything except sheets and towels.
  • We did go by the grocery store for a deal on diapers and I got 4 packs for $20.  This will last us several months since we only use disposables for night time.
  • Carpooled to work three days, saving on gas
  • My inlaws graciously brought some things from Costco, including blueberries, frozen broccoli, cheese, and rice.
  • Ordered a bulk order of black beans, steel cut oats, and grits.
  • Enjoyed seeing my chives and garlic coming up in the garden (though this is unseasonably early)  Plan to use them in meals this coming week.
  • Benny and I decided on direct deposit amounts to contribute to his retirement, the boys' 529 accounts, and our savings.  He is going tomorrow to set these up.
  • Weeded out some clothing and toys to send to Goodwill.
  • Called the library to renew books, rather than stopping by.
  • Planned a double date with friends.  Mom will keep little man, saving us on babysitting.  We will go to the restaurant early to miss crowds and will use a coupon we have.  Will get water to drink to save money.  Will enjoy dessert and a movie at home.
  • Tried making homemade Hershey's syrup, and it worked!  We now have two bottles of it in the fridge for use in coffee drinks, desserts, etc.
  • Worked out with You Tube videos at home
  • Had to laugh a little when little man reminded me to turn out a light when I left a room.  Glad he's already getting it!
  • Enjoyed reading books at home to the boys and watching baby boy pull up on everything in sight!
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!