Monday, September 19, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well with sticking to our budget.  Benny did take off work on Saturday to spend the day with little man, which was awesome and I think they both benefited from a "boys day."  Mom and I took baby boy to a baby shower for my cousin (out of town), and Mom drove, which saved us on gas and wear and tear on our car.  It was a great weekend for us all and we had some much needed family time, even though we were all in different places.

  • We cooked all meals at home.  We had several shared meals, which saved time and money with meal prep.
  • We composted all appropriate kitchen scraps, brown paper, and paper towels.  We're calling this week to pick up spent grains from a local brewery for more compost material.  
  • Used the crock pot twice to fix black beans and black bean chili.
  • Made an expired corn bread mix that was donated to us.  It didn't rise as much, but tasted great, so we'll use the rest of the mix up soon.
  • Appreciated heirloom tomatoes donated to the food pantry (they came from a farm and they were the ugly ones that wouldn't sell... they donated over 150 lbs!).  They were going to be bad by Wednesday, so I took a box and made homemade pizza sauce in the crock pot.  We'll eat the rest fresh or freeze them for later use in soups.  If I weren't juggling the boys, I would have taken more to make and can salsa.
  • Used our herbs and garlic from the garden to spice up meals.
  • Made smoothies with food pantry fruit.
  • It was super doubles at HT this week, and I managed to stock up on several necessary items and keep the food budget in tact.  The bill was $40.
  • Continued to hang all clothing and diapers to dry.  The season for using the outdoor clothesline is waning, as the fall rains begin to set in, but we're making use of our drying racks and ceiling fans to dry things indoors.
  • Used family cloth and cloth wipes while at home to cut down on the use of disposables.  
  • Repurposed mismatched pillow cases for changing pad covers.  They work great and are easy to change.
  • Gratefully accepted some hand-me-downs for little man from a coworker.  He loves the new clothes, and it's nice to have a few things he can grow into.
  • Reused gift bags and greeting card fronts for gifts for a baby shower and birthday party this weekend.  Little man made a tie dye t-shirt for his friend using a kit we had, so it was a cheap gift and he had fun making it.  It's also nice that these can be made ahead and are unisex, so they work for either gender.  
  • Began getting estimates for some carpentry work we need done around the house.  We had planned to do it earlier this summer, but it just didn't happen.  We're hoping that we might get a better rate on it now that its not the busy season and people are needing jobs more.
  • Spent time weeding the garden some and planning for fall preparations.  Would like to find some free straw bales for the garlic beds so I don't have to purchase any.  
What did you do to live and save green last week?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm linking up to The Prudent Homemaker today.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well with our budget.  We've thankfully filled our rental space upstairs, at least until December, so that eases the budget (and she's a great fit so far!).  We did have a hefty dental bill this week, but it was for expected cleanings for me and little man, so it was within the budget and paid with our HSA money.  The food pantry was a huge help this week and we were glad to be able to save some produce that would have otherwise gone in the dumpster.

So, here's the breakdown for those interested in specifics:

  • Made all meals at home.  We did have one treat out thanks to Mom, when a local restaurant was having a fund raiser for the food pantry.  Packed lunches from leftovers.
  • Composted kitchen scraps, brown paper, and paper towels for minimal household waste.
  • Put one quart of strawberries in the freezer from the food pantry.
  • Froze one gallon of mixed fruit from the food pantry for use in smoothies.
  • Put up two quarts of bell peppers in the freezer from the pantry and our CSA.
  • Made a quart of pickled jalapenos from some that were in the freezer that needed to be used.
  • Picked up a few veggies from the food pantry that I knew we would use in meals this week including mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and celery.
  • Used bread bowls from the pantry to make two batches of croutons.  We're loving these in soup, and they're a popular snack lately.  They are a nice free substitution for crackers, since they fit that crunchy craving.  Little man loves them.
  • Used the crock pot to make a white bean and kale soup with ingredients we had on hand, saving on electricity.
  • Took advantage of two shared meals.
  • Made mint tea with mint from the garden.  Need to harvest more to freeze or dry.
  • Spent less than $30 at the grocery store for milk, cream cheese, some yogurt, and a little fruit on sale.  Also picked up four packages of natural sausages for $2 each on discount.  We love these on the grill or in jambalaya.
  • Enjoyed snacks at our parenting class for kids with speech delays.  They provide child care, so even though we're paying for the class, we don't have the additional cost of child care.
  • Used rags to clean spills
  • Made homemade shower cleaner (need to make one for upstairs too) using white vinegar and dish soap
  • Hung most laundry to dry, except sheets and towels, which needed a quick turn around this week.
  • Used HSA money to pay for two dental cleanings, which meant that we could use this money pretax from my paycheck, saving us some in the long run.
  • Carpooled most days to work, saving on gas.
  • Continued to pump breast milk at work, saving on formula.  It is nice that the baby is getting close to solid foods, so I won't have to pump as much soon.  We keep our pumping supplies minimal, using a hand pump and one bottle that we wash between feedings.  This minimalism really helps us cut down on clutter and saves time in the long run not having to worry about set up, etc.
  • Figured out Benny's work schedule and Mom watches the boys one day so that he can work.  He's working about 12 hours a week, which is nice for the budget and gives him some time away from the boys.  Grateful to have a mom who will keep the boys for free.
  • Accepted an invitation to a baby shower.  Taking some things that we didn't need for the boys, as well as a few hand-me-downs she might appreciate.  Made a card and will reuse a gift bag.
  • Grateful for a scholarship for one of little man's preschools.  He goes two mornings a week to a speech/language preschool and two mornings to a church preschool.  The speech/language one isn't cheap, so we're glad to get help with the other.  We're hopeful that by investing now, his transition to school in a few years will be much easier.  
  • Used a gift card to purchase two bed pillows for us for Christmas (we needed some new ones badly).  The older ones will go to the boys' room.  We're trying to really use gift cards and coupons to keep holiday spending minimal. (Does anyone know how to environmentally responsibly dispose of used pillows that aren't natural materials?  I've thought of reusing the filling for something, but not sure...)
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September Menu Plan

This month, as usual, is all about making what we can at home and saving the most of our paychecks.  To that end, we're going to continue taking advantage of the gifts we get from the food pantry at church (food items clients don't want or items that will go bad before the next open day for clients), make use of our CSA veggies, and our freezer stash.  Our hope is to glean some apples later in the month from some friends for drying and making homemade applesauce and apple butter.  We'll also continue to take advantage of shared meals with family and friends, and community meals when possible to stretch our leftovers.  If I can save enough, we might use a portion of this month's budget to stock up on some wine for the year when they have the case sale at HT.  Hopefully, we can continue to keep our grocery budget to $100 or less this month, especially with still getting CSA veggies and pantry items.

So, without further ado, here's the plan for this month:

Breakfasts:  baked oatmeal (using the recipe from Simply in Season), bagels with cream cheese or as egg sandwiches, french toast casserole, blueberry muffins, winter squash muffins, zucchini flax muffins, zucchini and oatmeal waffles, egg and cheese sandwiches, smoothies, breakfast egg casserole with veggies

Lunches:  Our lunches are mostly leftovers.  Right now we're rounding out lunches with fresh tomatoes (so yummy from our CSA), salads, and seasonal fresh fruit (mostly peaches).  I know that at least one lunch this month will be free for me at school, since our PTO is doing a lunch for teachers.

Dinners:  beans and greens stew, pot roast in the crock pot, black bean chili with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions and corn bread on the side, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, homemade pizza with pesto and veggies x3, breakfast for dinner with homemade applesauce, tomato basil soup, meatball subs with roasted veggies, veggie wraps with hard boiled eggs

We've been doing pretty well with trying out new recipes, even amidst finding our new groove as a family of four with me back to work.  We loved the zucchini oatmeal waffles, and are anxious to try the beans and greens stew.

What about you?  I'd love to hear your menu plans, or if you've found new recipes that might be a cinch to make with two little ones in the mix!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was hit and miss on the frugal accomplishments.  We did really well with our regular things, but ended up having to get the Subaru towed for some work.  (Thankfully, we have AAA, so the towing was free.)  Here's how we saved last week:

  • Cooked all meals at home or with friends from things on hand.  This included broccoli and cheese casserole, lentil sloppy joes, black bean enchiladas, homemade chicken tenders, salads, black bean burgers, bagel pizzas, and homemade bagel chips.
  • Accepted castoffs from the food pantry including kale (loads of it), bagels, sugar snap peas, snow peas, red peppers, jalapenos, two loaves of french bread, squash, and some broccoli and carrot mixes.  We processed most of this for the freezer.  
  • I made four batches of bagel chips for snacking.  We made one batch of kale chips in the dehydrator.
  • Continued to compost kitchen scraps, used paper towels and paper bags, and composted shredded paper.
  • Picked and froze three quarts of blueberries from friends.  Began picking blackberries as they ripen.
  • Made two sticks of herb butter for the freezer using parsley, dill, and garlic from the garden and our CSA.
  • Made two gallons of herbal tea using mint and lemon balm from the garden.
  • Browsed my canning books to refresh my memory on the amount of fruit needed for some recipes.  Planning to try making blueberry mint jam with a friend in the next week or so.
  • Used an empty cardboard box to line the new garden bed as a weed barrier.
  • Took containers to local brewery to collect spent grains.  We'll pick those up this week and spread them in the garden mixed with compost.  We'll cover them with newspaper, as the spent grains can be kind of smelly.  This will need to rest for a few months before planting.
  • Spent a few days with friends helping them install kitchen cabinets and mow their grass (their mower is broken).  This saved them significantly, and they'll return the favor when we have some patio work to do, which will save us some money.
  • Had some unexpected news that our downstairs tenant will be leaving, but we've already scheduled several showings, and had two that are promising.
  • Showed the upstairs space to a very promising tenant.  He seems like he'll be a perfect fit with our family and really seems excited at the prospect of living here with our family.
  • Renewed books online to save a trip to the library.
  • Hung all laundry out to dry on line or on drying rack.  Most laundry was washed in cold water, with the exception of diapers and towels.
  • Completed one scholarship application for little man's preschool.  I plan to call about another application tomorrow.
  • We celebrated our anniversary with a meal out, which we budgeted for.  The restaurant is one of our favorites, the Blowing Rock Ale House, where they make everything from scratch including condiments.  It's worth it to save for and splurge every once in a while.  We skipped dessert and made these cheesecake bars at home.  We replaced the graham cracker crust with a chocolate graham cracker one, which made them doubly good.
What about you?  What did you do to live and save green last week?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July Meal Plan

This month is all about using what we have, minimizing expenses, and not heating up the kitchen.  We'll of course be making good use of the excellent summer produce from our CSA, be purchasing our share of fresh fruit from local vendors to feed little man and ourselves, and picking our share of fresh goodies from our garden, generous friends' berry bushes, and the neighborhood roadside blackberries.  We're also probably going to be gifted some items from the food pantry, so we'll include those in the plan too.

Without further ado, here's the plan:

Breakfasts:  egg and cheese sandwiches on bagels, fruit smoothies with yogurt, homemade granola and yogurt with berries, crockpot oatmeal and a new breakfast rice porridge I'm dying to try, bagels with cream cheese, raspberry muffins, blueberry muffins or blueberry buckle, whole wheat and berry scones

Lunches:  leftovers, grilled/roasted veggie sandwiches with herbed ricotta cheese, smoothies, chicken salad sandwiches

Dinners:  lentil sloppy joes with roasted veggies, dinner salads with hard boiled eggs or tuna, roasted turkey (using the crockpot roaster) with salad and crock pot baked potatoes, black bean tacos with summer squash and greens, beans and rice with fixin's, turkey salad with fresh fruit, grilled lamb chops (from the food pantry that are in our freezer) with salad and rice pilaf, veggie stir fry, sausages over rice with cucumber/squash vinegar slaw, pesto pizza with salad

Putting Up Projects:  This is the time of year that we try to put away fresh goodies for later in the year.  I'll be making the following things this month for later use:

  • pesto with fresh greens and basil, and garlic from our garden (goal of at least 10 half pints)
  • cook and freeze at least two quarts of greens (kale or swiss chard) for use in winter soups/stews
  • freeze fresh berries (goal of at least three quarts of raspberries, five quarts of blueberries, five quarts of blackberries)
  • make and freeze applesauce (goal of at least three quarts this month, at least 10 quarts total for the season)
  • peel, slice, and freeze peaches (goal of at least five quarts)
  • make at least 10 half pints of peach salsa
  • make at least 10 half pints of peach rosemary jam
  • make at least 10 half pints of mixed berry jam
  • make at least five half pints of apple butter
The canning will be tough this year with the boys, but if I can meet these goals, then it will make Christmas gifting so much easier since all the prep work will be done.

What about you?  What are your July menu plans?  Are you putting up any summer produce for later use?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past month has been pretty good in terms of frugality.  There were a few expenditures out of the ordinary, but nothing that we hadn't planned for.

  • We continued to eat at home for all meals.  I'll include a meal plan for July soon.
  • The crockpot was used at least once a week for meal prep, which yielded leftovers for lunches.  It also saves on electricity and doesn't heat up the house like using the oven or stove.
  • Washed out produce bags for reuse.  We get a lot of bags with our CSA share, and if we're careful, they can last us the entire year, which means we have to buy very few storage bags.  The only ones we do purchase are freezer bags for storing produce from the garden for later in the year.
  • Kept up our grocery budget and managed to keep it to our $100/month goal.  This is largely due to having CSA veggies now.
  • Continued to use rags for cleaning, homemade cleaners, and very few paper towels/napkins.  What paper was used was composted.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps.
  • Enjoyed a few pot luck meals with friends, which made for easy meal prep and fun entertainment.
  • Picked blueberries and raspberries at friends' houses, so we didn't have to purchase these.  I managed to put one quart of raspberries in the freezer.  All other berries were eaten by our resident three year old fruit monster!
  • Harvested and braided our garlic, which should provide for the rest of the year.
  • Continued with cloth diapers and baby's diaper rash is gone!  This means less expense on diaper rash cream.
  • Used the clothesline to hang most laundry.  When it was raining, we hung clothes inside on racks.  We've even managed to hang towels and sheets out, which saves even more on our minimal dryer usage.
  • Prepared three more raised beds for the garden.  We'll use these for more raspberry plants, some gifted strawberry plants, and annual herbs such as basil.  These were filled with our own compost, spent hay, and lined with old newspapers and cardboard.
  • We are continuing to look for more sources for our compost.  I've found  a local brewery that will let us have spent grains, and we'll begin collecting coffee grounds from the coffee bar at church.  I might also find some things from the local food pantry, though I'm looking for more brown material than greens.
  • Kept our electric bill to around $100 by not running the AC and keeping windows open.  We draw the curtains in the afternoon to keep the sun out.  The ceiling fans are a huge help.
  • Made use of our Playhouse membership, public library story time, and pool membership (gifted for our birthdays) for free family outings.  
  • Found free music in the park for Friday night family fun.  We take a picnic dinner, and it really helps that the park is only a 10 minute drive.
  • Found out about some grants to help us pay for little man's speech services in preschool.  This new preschool is pricey, but the services they provide are amazing.  We'll continue to watch our budget to keep this a reality for the school year.
  • Have a potential lead on the room rental upstairs.  This tenant can't afford our usual $400/month, but we can negotiate some labor for rent.  He's willing to help with our painting projects, so it'll all work out.  Praying he finds a job to make his move a reality.
  • Found a dresser at Goodwill for the boys' room.  It was $40, a little more than I wanted to pay, but is in good shape and very well built.  It will add much needed storage to their closet.
  • Continued to post things on eBay for sale.  We sold some Mary Kay products, and Benny sold some electronics.  
  • Found clothes in the lost and found bin at school for the boys.  It will take a few years for them to grow into them, but it's worth the storage.  Otherwise, things were going to be donated to Goodwill.
  • Asked a friend about hand me downs for little man to save on clothing purchases.  You never know until you ask!
  • Made a birthday present instead of purchasing.  We bought a pack of t-shirts to tie dye, which yielded several shirts for the cost of one new toy.  The gift was useful, and it gave little man something fun to do, and he loves wearing his new shirts.
  • Got a good report from the endocrinologist and I don't have to go back for two years!  This means no $65 copays for a while, and fewer three hour road trips there and back.  It also means peace of mind.
  • Combined errands whenever possible.
  • Found kit to attach to downspout for the rain barrels.  Hoping to get rain barrels installed next month so we have that water to use when things get really hot.
I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green!  Feel free to leave a comment!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Baby's Arrival and April Menu

I've been absent for a little while because baby boy arrived on March 9!  He was a little early, but really healthy.  He's doing well and we're all adjusting to being a family of four, which is a little turbulent at times with a three year old around. But we're loving it, and are blessed to have church family and friends who have been a huge help with meals.

However, our meals run out this week, so we're back to planning our own.  We're going to try to keep things easy and simple, so that means lots of crock pot meals and things we can prep an evening before while the boys sleep.  We'll also be making use of seasonal ingredients, including greens, ham, and eggs.  So, without further ado, here's the plan for the month:

Breakfasts:  oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, homemade granola and yogurt, smoothies, waffles, egg sandwiches, muffins (some in the freezer, and we may make some pumpkin ones too)

Lunches:  leftovers, hard boiled eggs and fruit, egg salad sandwiches, yogurt

Dinners:  lentil curry with naan and yogurt, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, black beans and rice with corn bread, chili with cornbread, jambalaya, salmon and pesto pasta, pesto pizza, open faced meatball sandwiches, split pea soup with whole grain bread (using leftover frozen Easter ham), loaded mac and cheese with ham and broccoli/green beans, cabbage and sausage soup in the crockpot, lasagna (frozen) and salad, egg pita sandwiches and roasted potatoes, and possibly a ham and broccoli or asparagus quiche (we'll make a double batch)

We'll need to purchase a few things to make this menu happen.  We'll try to find all of these things on sale with a coupon.  There are several on sale this week at both Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods.  Here's the list:

  • milk
  • fruit
  • naan (we'll use a gift card for the local bakery)
  • frozen veggies (mostly broccoli)
  • kidney beans
  • farro (for the curry)
  • brown rice
  • yogurt
  • avocados
  • cream cheese
So, how're your spring menu plans going?  I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green this spring!  Leave a note in the comments!