Monday, December 5, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments Holiday Edition

This past week was great for us in terms of frugal accomplishments.  We did splurge on family photos with a photographer, but she gave us a discount since I've taught her children.  Our focus this past week was on saving time and money in the kitchen so that we could take advantage of some holiday gatherings with friends.

  • Prepared all meals at home.  Were grateful for holiday leftovers, gifted soup from friends, and everyone being healthy enough to eat this week.  We made cranberry muffins for breakfast one morning (which were a total hit since 11 of the 12 were gone by the end of the day!) and used pantry items to fill in with the leftovers.
  • Welcomed gifted food from my grandmother who was cleaning out her pantry.  We acquired some fruit syrup, canned goods, baking mixes, and dried fruit.
  • Washed all clothing in cold water and hung most laundry to dry inside.  Only sheets and towels were run through the dryer.
  • Continued using cloth diapers for baby, saving a bundle.
  • Made candied popcorn for little man's teachers using ingredients on hand.
  • Opted not to purchase new glasses for myself this year, but will wait until next year.  My prescription hasn't changed much, so it wasn't a necessity.  The 14 year old glasses will serve just fine for another year!
  • Began putting holiday cards up on the mantle for some festive cheer
  • Listened to Pandora for Christmas music
  • Wore existing clothing to a holiday party and paired green accessories with red sweaters/shirts.  Little man wore a Santa jammie shirt as his festive item.
  • Participated in two holiday parties over the weekend, so were grateful for the food there and gracious hosts.  We did take pizza toppings to share at one, using green peppers and homemade pesto we had in the freezer.
  • Used Christmas books as our advent calendar this year.  I had enough collected that I could wrap them, and might need to borrow a few from the library.  Little man gets to open one a day.
  • Saved my supplement check to pay for car repair/maintenance work being done today.  Using a shop that is close to my school, so I can drop it off in the morning and walk to school.
  • Finally located the box of 12 month winter clothing for baby, so glad to have found winter sweaters and jackets for him.  Also grateful for a cousin sharing baby clothing with us which we'll return to her.
  • Intend to help little man weed through his toys some to give to other kids in need this season.  He has many (though not as many as some), and as with most kids, seems to find the most joy in simple blocks, stones, balls, and time outside.  We will keep the treasures, but need to weed out some to begin making room for more clothing storage as the boys grow.
  • Accepted a small table top tree from my grandmother to decorate upstairs for the boys.
What did you do this week to live and save green?  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

December Menu

This month, as usual, is all about making use of what we have.  We're grateful to have the opportunity for several community meals this month through church, community, and family to stretch things further.  Our largest expense this month will be on baking items for Christmas goodies and gifting, but we're trying to simplify there too, so we'll try to keep things totally in check at our $100/month budget for groceries.

Breakfasts:  breakfast casserole with eggs and veggies, baked oatmeal with raisins and shredded carrots, winter squash muffins, lemon poppyseed muffins, cranberry oatmeal muffins, steel cut overnight oats with raisins, bagels and smoothies made with frozen fruit, hard boiled eggs and toast with jam or cinnamon sugar, banana oatmeal bars

Lunches:  leftovers, fresh fruit, peanut butter and banana/jelly sandwiches, smoothies

Dinners:  turkey enchiladas with shredded summer squash, salmon hash with leftover Thanksgiving dressing and fried eggs, lentil and sweet potato soup, gifted corn and salmon chowder, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, black bean chili with tomatoes, peppers, and onions from the freezer, crockpot lasagna soup, homemade pizza with sausage, pepperoni, and/or veggies and homemade sauce x 3, pesto pasta with tomato salad, mac and cheese with roasted veggies, tuna casserole with salad or roasted veggies

Holiday baking/gifting:  homemade winter spiced cocoa mix, candied chocolate popcorn with pecans, gingerbread house building, rosemary olive oil french bread

What are you up to in the kitchen this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was particularly frugal for us for several reasons:  we had the stomach bug which was miserable, but resulted in frugality; we didn't travel because we didn't feel well; and we took advantage of community meals.  Here are the details:

  • All meals were made at home including butternut squash and chickpea salad, roasted veggies, turkey with rosemary butter, butternut squash casserole, and apple and cranberry crisp.
  • While we were sick, we were grateful for our stash of homemade popsicles, Cheerios, rice, and a wonderful friend who delivered Gatorade to us.  We were also grateful for my mom who kept little man while we were sick.
  • Friends made soup for us when we were recovering, so it was nice to have a meal we didn't have to prepare.
  • Used peppers, onions, pineapple, and sugar snap peas from the food pantry for a yummy stir fry.  Saved the sesame seeds from a bag of bagels to use as topping for the stir fry.
  • Made shared meals with family for Thanksgiving, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
  • Continued to nurse and pump for baby boy, so thankfully he didn't get the stomach bug
  • Used humidifier to ease baby boy's congestion, saving on a doctor's visit.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps, paper towels, and brown paper
  • Planted garlic in prepared beds with little man using garlic saved from last year, so not out of pocket cost.  Used gifted straw to mulch beds.
  • Washed all laundry except diapers in cold water and hung to dry.
  • Little man continues to do well with night time underwear, so we're trading disposable diapers for a little more bed linen laundry in the short term, but most nights he is dry.  Yay!
  • Showered every other day to save on hot water and keep my skin from drying out.
  • Used accumulated credit card points as cash to purchase our last Ecobee thermostat for upstairs.  Will install that this weekend, hopefully.  We really like this brand of smart programmable thermostat, especially because we can adjust the temperature from our phones while we're away.
  • Decorated for Christmas using saved items from previous years, so no out of pocket expense.
  • Used a coupon combined with sales to make ornaments with little man for Christmas gifts for his teachers and family.  Spent about $5 for 12 ornaments and used paints we already had for decorating them.
  • Found coupon code for Shutterfly, so ordered Christmas cards and used Ebates on the order, so 2% cashback.
  • Received my annual supplement check, so will put half of that toward paying down home equity line and half toward car repair/replacement fund.
  • Will take advantage of discount offered to public workers this week at optometrists' office to order new glasses for myself.  We've used Zenni in the past, but for my prescription, we feel like going through the office is better, and I like the frame selection better.
  • Began making Christmas gifts and will give three of those this week while family is in town, since we won't see them again before the holidays.  We love this candied popcorn recipe, and its super easy.
I'd love to hear what you did to live and save green this week!  I'll be posting again soon on ways to save on Christmas gifts and decor.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was a pretty normal week for us.  We continue to save where we can and try to find new ways to save each week.  Here are last week's highlights:

  • Cooked all meals from scratch at home including chili and corn bread, red lentil curry, winter squash casserole, and winter squash muffins.    
  • Took advantage of a few shared meals with family and friends.
  • Prepared meals to share with families in need two times last week using ingredients we had on hand.  These meals included breakfast casserole, fresh fruit, and bagels and a family size portion of lentil sloppy joes with bread and muffins for dessert/breakfast.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps, including paper towels, brown paper, and coffee filters/tea bags.
  • Accepted a flat of tomatoes, two watermelons, overripe bananas, yogurt, and asparagus from the food pantry (things that would have otherwise gone to the dumpster).  Roasted the asparagus last night and hope to process the tomatoes for sauce in the crock pot later this week.  The watermelon will be our fruit of choice this week.  The 
  • Washed all laundry on cold, except sheets and towels.  Hung everything to dry inside or on the clothesline (except with it was too smoky from forest fires), except sheets/towels.
  • Used cloth diapers and washed them at home.
  • Little man said he's ready for undies at night time!  So, we're trying it out, and it's going pretty well.  Only a few accidents, which the extra towels have caught, so minimal extra laundry and fewer dollars spent on night time diapers.
  • Said "yes" to some hand-me-downs for the boys and one for me.  Some were not my style, so they went to Goodwill, but most were welcomed additions.
  • Found a pair of fun slippers for little man at the local consignment sale that should last him two seasons.
  • Had fun entertainment at home with existing toys, colored on paper bags, and read books at home on the holiday to save on extra expenses of being out and about.
  • Renewed library books online to save a trip.
  • Worked to prepare the garden beds for winter.  I still need to plant the garlic, but compost and straw are spread in most beds.  
  • Added raked leaves to the compost to try to balance all the green kitchen scraps.  
  • Accepted donated straw for my garden, which saves significantly on winter mulching.  Will use mulched leaves for additional mulch in other beds.
  • Began to update the Christmas gifting list.  We are trying to make almost every gift we give this year, or use gift cards, so that we're not spending out of pocket.  My lack of canning this summer will make this a little more difficult, but I hope to be able to make a batch or two of citrus marmalade to give at the holidays.  Maybe I can do a batch over Thanksgiving.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, October 31, 2016

November Menu Plan

We're kind of shedding tears around here now that our CSA season is over for the year, but it also simplifies things a bit in the weekly schedule and meal planning area since we know for sure what produce we'll have each week (mostly freezer).  Once again, we're going to make the most of our freezer and pantry stash, and graciously accept overflow from the food pantry where my mom volunteers (they're only open for clients two days a week, so some produce that's donated needs to be used before then).

We'll take advantage of the sales this month on baking staples to stock up on butter, brown sugar, white sugar, Pam, nuts, sweet potatoes, and cranberries.  We love to freeze cranberries for use in smoothies, muffins, and fruit crisps.  The sweet potatoes will keep for a while and are wonderful in soups, enchiladas, and casseroles, as well as just baked and topped with black beans and sour cream or yogurt.

Without further ado, here's the menu plan for the month, with some adjustments to be made depending on what we glean from the food pantry.

Breakfasts:  strawberry coffee cake (with gleaned strawberries and marscapone cheese), winter squash baked oatmeal with raisins, figs, and pecans, egg and cheese sandwiches, egg breakfast casserole with peppers and onions, fruit smoothies, yogurt and fruit, winter squash muffins, lemon poppy seed muffins, cranberry oatmeal muffins

Lunches:  leftovers rounded out with gleaned fruit, salad, or yogurt

Dinners:  tacos with winter squash, turkey, and greens, open faced lentil sloppy joes with salad or roasted veggies, pasta with homemade pesto and salad, winter squash black bean chili, enchiladas with turkey, beans, peppers, onions, sweet potato and frozen shredded summer squash, dinner salads with hard boiled eggs and cranberry vinaigrette, loaded mac and cheese with cauliflower and sausage, homemade pizza with pesto/tomato sauce and veggies x 3, turkey pot pie, winter squash and chick pea salad with tahini dressing and sage from the garden, crock pot pasta with ricotta, corn chowder, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, black bean chili with corn bread

Putting up:  This month we'll focus on processing and freezing winter squash and dehydrating any appropriate fruits from the food pantry.  We'd love to dry some apples and pineapple for snacking, and have already dried some cantaloupe (great with oatmeal) and frozen some winter squash.

Groceries to purchase:  tortillas, eggs, brown sugar, pie crust, tahini, dried chick peas, dried lentils, canned corn, sweet potatoes, cranberries

I'd love to hear your meal plans for this month!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Updates on 2016 Goals

We're working away on our 2016 goals, but its been a while since we revisited them, so I thought this might be a good time to do so.

Saving More and Paying Down Debt:  We keep making progress toward getting the home equity line paid off, but paying for little man's specialized preschool for speech has made this take somewhat of a back seat.  With my small pay raise and having both spaces rented, we're still diligently chipping away at this goal though.  We're looking forward to next year when we home little man will qualify for preK through our very good quality public schools, which would be free and save us almost $500/month in preschool fees. (Baby would still be home with Daddy.)

House and garden projects:  This is the big list we've been chipping away at.
  • Paint trim in boys room, including closet doors by March.  (This includes new caulk, etc. where needed)  Ha!  Need to get this done...
  • Touch up trim/paint in rental spaces by end of January.
  • Advertise upstairs rental through Samaratin's Purse and have rented by February, if not sooner.  Advertise both spaces for August/when lease runs out and have filled by April for upcoming season. Both spaces are filled through December!  Yay!  We're actively advertising the upstairs space for spring with several prospects.
  • Install Ecobee thermostat in apartment by January 15 (this is when our new tenant moves in).
  • Organize garage space by March 15.  This includes installing some drywall and pegboard, as well as generally sorting and storing tools, etc. Space is much more organized, but still needs drywall and pegboard.
  • Have new mulch spread and gutters cleaned by March 15 (this is a job we will hire out).
  • Paint shelving and trim in craft room downstairs by March 15.  Paint chairs to go around table in craft room.  Ummm, yeah... the space needs a general overhaul now from the paint and playdough debris that has overtaken it.
  • Move forsythia bushes to front bed and plant creeping Jenny ground cover.  Have this done around the same time as mulch is spread so that mulch and compost can go here.  (March-ish, depending on soil workability.) Partially done, still need to have mulched and plant creeping Jenny.  Maybe can do this fall still.
  • Mulch leaves with mower and add to compost by end of February. Now there's a new batch of leaves!
  • Have mower serviced for spring by April 30.  Thankfully, this was an easy self-repair after a chat with the friendly folks at Lowe's.
  • Paint exterior doors in chosen new color by June 30.
  • Have new front porch railings installed and bead board on the ceiling of the porch.  Maybe an outdoor ceiling fan installed over the table area?  by June 30
  • Can at least two batches of peach salsa and two of berry jam for Christmas gifting and personal use. Ended up freezing berries and peaches instead.  Just too crazy with two little ones for canning this summer and heating up the house.
  • Have both porches re-stained (we're thinking of hiring this out to a contractor who Benny does a lot of work for at the paint store).  Still working on this, but we've got a contractor in mind.
  • Maintain garden beds with regular weeding and trimming throughout growing season.  Prepare for fall/winter by October 30. I'm on the way to getting the garden beds prepped, the perennial beds are deadheaded and mostly weeded.  Veggie beds need to be cleaned out and trimmed back.  Just need to plant the garlic, but I have some donated straw, so won't need to purchase that!
  • Make curtains for craft room shelves to hide some supply bins by November 30.
  • Make reusable coffee sleeves for Christmas gifts by November 30. (And learn how to use new sewing machine)
  • Make at least one batch of citrus marmalade by December 15 for Christmas gifting. Purchased citrus from the local high school band, so on the way to that soon!
Try two new recipes each month:  We've done pretty well with this, especially with using our crock pot.  I've really enjoyed trying things out in my copy of Not Your Mother's Slowcooker cookbook, including the marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and granola (this was more of a miss we had to tweak).  We're slowly finding our cooking groove while balancing parenting two littles, but we've got a system that works now.  It includes at least one crock pot meal a week, meal prep in the evenings after the boys are in bed, and making one breakfast casserole (eggs, baked oatmeal, or overnight french toast) a week.

Read at least 26 new books this year:  Ha!  Who was I kidding?!  I did get to skim a new book for small group, read a few memoirs while home on maternity leave, browse two new cookbooks, and am now reading Farm City, Grounded, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  So, for a year with a new baby and a three year old finding his way in the wide world, I'd say that's pretty good!

Take at least 26 dates with Benny:  We're doing well to average at least one a month, whether out or at home.  Mom has been wonderful in helping to make this happen since little man is now excited about slumber parties at Nana's house.  We are getting some time with a cup of tea and some conversation after the boys go to bed most nights of the week, so this is great for us.  We know we're on our way to raising two awesome boys and we won't get this time when they're tiny back, so we're savoring the moments, grabbing time for just us when we can, and calling it good.

I feel like overall, we're doing pretty well with our goals and habits to cultivate for 2016!  There are still plenty of house projects left to do, but I'm loving where we are as a family right now.

How are you doing with your goals and habits for 2016?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week we're still trying to keep the grocery budget low, but I did pick up a few staples we were out of (canola oil, sugar, salt, and dried parsley).  We're doing a great job of keeping our weekly expenses low in general, so hopefully that'll help out with the home equity line and saving for a new car.  (My 10 year old one is starting to rust out thanks to our winters, so we're starting to save for purchasing a new-to-us late model, used car sometime next year.)  Here's how we kept our expenses low this week:

  • Continued to make all meals at home.  Enjoyed three shared meals with family and friends that were pot luck.
  • Used the crock pot for several meals, saving energy.
  • Accepted bread, mushrooms, kale, 2 lbs of strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes from the food pantry that were going to go to waste.  
  • Used pantry and freezer items to plan meals for the week including lentil and sweet potato soup, kale salad with sun dried tomato dressing, hot German potato salad with sausages, veggie stir fry over rice, winter squash baked oatmeal, and winter squash waffles with fruit smoothies.
  • Processed peppers from CSA for the freezer.  Chopped tomatoes and froze them for later use in chili.
  • Purchased canola oil and sugar in bulk to save overall.
  • Took leftovers for lunch each day, saving on prep time and money.
  • Made most of our meals meatless, saving on the cost of meat and choosing more nutrient dense foods like beans, lentils, potatoes, and greens.
  • Composted as usual including tea bags, coffee grounds, and kitchen scraps.
  • Washed laundry in cold water (except diapers and towels) and hung clothing to dry inside or on the line outside when weather permitted.
  • Swapped desserts with our housemate, giving us more variety and a fun shared experience.
  • Gleaned apples from an apple tree on commercial property this week, with the owner's permission.  Plan to process apples tonight for making applesauce.
  • Continue to make do with hand-me-down clothing for the baby, even with the changes in seasons, we're able to make things work with short sleeves and a few jackets.  (Most of our things from little man are the wrong season for the size that the baby's at right now.)
  • Carpooled to work four days, saving on fuel.
  • Combined errands and planned our route as much as possible to save on fuel and time.
  • Continued to advertise the upstairs rental space to be filled in December.  A few promising leads, but nothing firm yet.
  • Weeded out a few things in the closet to donate to Goodwill for a tax receipt.  Will try to do more before the end of the year.
  • Ordered two Christmas gifts for the boys using gift card money, so no funds out of pocket.
  • Began planning little man's Halloween costume using things we already have.  He wants to be a fireman this year, so his fireman raincoat and gifted fire hat will be taking on starring roles.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!