Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments

We did amazingly well this past week sticking to our budget.  Our grocery spending is down, despite my new diet, largely in part to gleaning from the food pantry.  We're also really excited about a new resource we have for eggs.

So, here's how we saved this past week:

  • Continued to cook all meals at home including black beans and rice, black bean chili and brown rice, crock pot Asian chicken with carrots and quinoa, roasted veggies, salads, steamed salmon, fried eggs, carrot pancakes (shredded carrot added to Bisquick), and homemade pizza.
  • Gleaned from the food pantry, which received over 300 pounds of fresh produce that wouldn't all keep until clients come on Wednesdays.  We received plain yogurt, smoothie juice, spinach, basil, lemon grass, kiwi, berries, green onions, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, apples, oranges, lemons, sweet potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, and butternut squash.
    • Used many veggies for roasted veggies
    • Will process basil for pesto
    • Using fruit in smoothies and just to eat
    • Plan to zest citrus to dry peel and juice some for freezing
    • This has all really helped toward my goal of having four servings of veggies at each meal (seems like a lot, but really making me feel much better!)
  • Struck a deal with friends who have a dozen chickens that we'll check on the hens twice a week, feed, water, etc. in exchange for eggs.  We'll also take care of them when they travel, making the arrangement beneficial to both of us.  We're enjoying about two dozen fresh eggs each week now, and the boys are learning how to care for chickens and take some responsibility!
  • Spent only $8 at the grocery store for almond milk, cilantro, and some produce to use in Thai chicken soup later this week.
  • Made a new batch of home fermented cabbage and carrots.  Tried using dill seed, since I was low on garlic.
  • Had a shared meal with mom this week, saving us both some time and energy in the kitchen.  We were able to help her take down her Christmas tree, which was a big help to her.
  • Composted all possible scraps.
  • Saved veggie scraps for stock in a gallon freezer bag.  Once the bag is full, dump into the crock pot and cook all day.  I sometimes add plain gelatin too, for health benefits.
  • Tried to reuse tea bags two or three times to stretch things.  I love hot tea, especially this time of year, but they can get expensive.  I'm working on drying orange zest, turmeric, ginger, and using frozen lemon balm and mint from the garden when I'm home to make tea.  (This is not as easy when I am at school, so I use tea bags there.)
  • Saved cereal bags to reuse for bread or produce storage.  (We don't generally buy dry cereal, but we had some from cleaning out at my grandmother's.)
  • Used rinsed yogurt carton water for smoothies rather than washing down the sink.
  • Recycled all possible items and saved produce rubber bands for future use.
  • Continued with cloth diaper use, washing at home and drying on drying racks indoors.
  • Washed all possible laundry on cold and hung to dry.
  • Continued with progress toward the goal of getting rid of 400 things.  Getting close to the 100 mark already and don't feel like we're missing anything!  Wow... so much stuff we collect.
  • Emailed birthday invitations for little man rather than paper, saving paper and postage.
  • Saved some gifted items to regift.  They are really nice items and ones we're sure will be enjoyed by the recipients, but are just extra beyond our needs.
  • Made sure the ceiling fans were turning in the proper direction for winter to keep heat down, rather than at ceiling level.
  • Reused plastic grocery sacks for trash and paper ones for collecting items to donate to Goodwill.
  • Vacuumed out dryer vent to make it a little more efficient.
  • Continued to try to prep the house for possible sale, doing maintenance things that need to be done anyway, though our land possibilities are dwindling.  The two lots we were hopeful about haven't worked out (one was essentially sold out from under us through the good ol' boy network, the other is asking an unrealistic amount--pre-2008 level--and unwilling to budge).  I continue to hope that something will work out, as it is a great neighborhood for raising a family with lots of kids and supportive neighbors, but also know that we are comfortable where we are, though the neighborhood is less than ideal.
  • Reread books at home instead of making a trip to the library, saving gas.
  • Used cardboard boxes to decorate like cars and push the boys around when they started to need a new activity.  Used existing blocks and balls to set up a make-shift bowling game for them.
  • Kept heat at 62 during the day and 58 at night.  We use blankets and co-sleep, so we don't worry about the boys getting cold.
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week, we did pretty well with our maintaining our budget.  It really helped that we had some snow days, which saved on fuel costs, and we were gifted some food.  Here are the specifics:

  • Cooked all meals at home including:  turkey and greens soup with barley, tomato basil soup, winter squash waffles, roasted veggies, salads, banana nut muffins, and homemade pizza with homemade pesto and veggies
  • Continued recycling and composting all available items
  • Made a batch of veggie stock and turkey stock for the freezer
  • Gleaned from the food pantry (they closed on Thursday due to cold and ice, so we helped with pick up and took items that wouldn't last til next week):  kale, two heads leaf lettuce, five packs berries, dozen yogurts including a few large ones, two grocery sacks of parsley, produce box of bananas, 20 lbs carrots, two packages of mushrooms, bag of organic apples, bag of clementines, about a pound of fresh turmeric, several pastries and gluten free snacks.  So incredibly grateful for all of this!
    • We made parsley pesto with the parsley and froze this.  We're now stocked with pesto for the year.
    • I froze the bananas for baking and smoothies.
    • The boys ate up most of the berries before I could freeze them, but I did manage to freeze two cups of strawberries.
    • I used many of the carrots in the tomato basil soup.
    • Kale and lettuce have been used for salads, smoothies, and cooked to serve with eggs in the mornings.
    • Researched drying the turmeric, so going to try to do the first step of that tonight.
  • My grandmother passed away right before the holidays.  We've been in the process of cleaning out her place, so I've been able to use several pantry and refrigerator items.  This has been nice because it's provided us with extra meat, including ham and turkey bacon.  It's been kind of special to think about using her foods and recipes, now that she's gone.
  • Continued with using cloth diapers, but beginning to work on potty training with little one.  
  • Hung all laundry except sheets inside to dry.
  • Used things at home to treat little one's cold, including some essential oils, humidifier, and baby vapor rub.  Also continued nursing to treat this.
  • Played with toys and games at home to save on trips out during snow days.
  • Found items for my new diet on sale, so stocked up.  There were also in store coupons for several of them, so I used these too.
  • Cleaned out two more bags of items to send to Goodwill.  Feeling like I will hit my 400 item goal much sooner than anticipated!
  • Combined errands as much as possible.
  • Benny picked up more hours at work since I was at home with the boys on snow days.  This will be nice to help us out since our downstairs tenant broke her lease early (we understand the reasons, but still will miss this income).
  • Deposited holiday checks into savings.  
  • Benny repaired our storm door that wasn't latching properly.
How did you live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Goals for 2018

Around here, we don't really set new year's resolutions, but having goals to work toward is always a good thing.  We've got some big and some small, but having them all together and written out really helps hold me accountable.  So, here's the list, complete with rationales, in all its glory.

More Veggies:  This year, as a part of the healthier me initiative we're working towards, I've got a goal of including more veggies at every meal.  We generally eat pretty well, but I know that there are meals where we aren't as good about including veggies as we should be.  Even if it's steamed frozen broccoli, I've got a goal of including at least one more serving of veggies at every meal.  The hardest for me is breakfast, but I'm finding that eggs with sauteed veggies or some sort of root veggie hash is awesome and really sticks with me.  If there are mornings I do oatmeal, I think stirring in some pureed winter squash or shredded carrot could fit the bill and not change the texture too much.  I've also been sneaking in veggies into waffles, pancakes, and muffins (think pumpkin, zucchini, etc.) without too much fuss.  The overall goal is 80% veggies, 20% protein/grain on the plate.  The trick is going to be getting the boys on board with more veggies.  We'll see how the carrot sticks in the lunch box went over today...

Move More:  Again, as a part of a healthier me, I'm making a commitment to move more each day.  Most days, this will mean some sort of workout after the boys are in bed.  It's not necessarily the ideal time, but it's what works for our schedule right now.  This might be 10-15 minutes of cardio with YouTube, or some resistance training with resistance bands, or maybe some yoga at the Children's Council (dinner's provided and there's free child care... win win!).  I'm not looking to lose weight, just looking to tone things more and overall feel better.

Try 26 new recipes:  This works out to about one every two weeks, which is totally reasonable.  Many of these will be crock pot recipes, thanks to our new America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker books (yes, we have all three now).  They are great books, and some recipes are really easy.  They're also stretching us to try new ingredients and flavors, like Thai chicken soup, which is fun.  I'm sure I'll find some nice salads to try too, and maybe some summer wraps to try when the warmer weather comes.

Spruce up:  We're in the process of trying to spruce up our house with the possibility of selling (we're waiting to see if the land we want will work out... such a saga there).  Even if we don't sell, there's still interior trim that needs to be re-caulked and refreshed, windows that need caulking, doors that need a fresh coat of paint, etc.  There are some light fixtures that need repair, and our basement steps need a little help with trim, carpet, etc. to make them worthy of the real estate market.  If we do sell, we also need to do a little work to the apartment to make it work (install another door, etc.).

Clean out!  We have so much stuff!  With the possibility of selling our house and moving, we're really trying to look critically at things and determine how much we need.  So, the goal here is to toss/donate/sell at least 400 items from our home, from the tiny toys from the treasure box at the dentist to the larger items like the side table that we've never been able to fix the wobble on.  And then there's the clothing... so much!  And we'll keep some as hand-me-downs, but others can go.  We've already shared quite a bit with a painter friend of Benny's, and we're looking forward to being able to share more.

Build up the emergency fund:  We used up some of our emergency fund to pay for some of my medical expenses and a new water heater at the end of the year, so we'd like to build this back up.  We'll do this through Benny picking up some more hours at work as he can, selling more on eBay, and me trying to make a few more Mary Kay orders throughout the year.  We'd love to have at least three months worth of expenses saved up in this account.

Build a new house!  This one is on here because if you put something in writing, then it makes it more real, right?!  Well, we'd love to be able to build a new house in mom's neighborhood, if the land thing works out (prayers please!).  There are so many pluses to this:  boys could walk to mom's as they get older, the neighborhood is a real neighborhood where people actually support each other and do things together, and it would cut our mortgage by at least 5-6 years.  Plus, we could build this one with our rental spaces in mind from the beginning, so it would be a better fit for us all the way around.  And, we'd love to build this home with a few more eco-friendly things in mind, like maybe solar hot water and better day lighting.  So, I'm putting this in writing because when we expect things to happen, they usually do!

So, what are your goals to live and save green this year?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We're in the throes of the holiday season, which means our schedule is busier than ever.  But it also means that there are lots of community meals to enjoy, which means we're spending less on groceries.  We're also really trying to keep our gift spending minimal this year, using what we have around to make meaningful gifts.

Here's what we did this past week:

  • Enjoyed shared meals three times; with mom, with friends, and with our parenting class.  We did homemade pizza night with friends, which was super fun.  They brought toppings, we made crust, sauce, and salad.  We watched The Grinch with the kids and really had a great time visiting.
  • We made meals at home including lentil sweet potato soup, salad, beef and cheddar pie (date night!), turkey sandwiches, overnight oatmeal, and smoothies.
  • We continued with our usual composting and recycling, minimizing our trash.
  • Shared bulk purchased ginger with my mom, saving her a little money.
  • Took several bags of things to Goodwill before the end of the year to get the tax credit and minimize our stuff accumulation.
  • Continued to decorate with existing holiday decor.
  • Enjoyed our shared Netflix account with my mom.  We watched The Great British Baking Show on our date night.
  • Helping baby feel better with his cold using things we already have at home, such as baby Vick's, humidifier, and nasal aspirator.  
  • Made a meal for a family with a new baby using things we had on hand.
  • Took advantage of Super Doubles at Harris Teeter to stock up on steel cut oats, free yogurt, discounted coconut milk, and other staples.
  • Used things in our pantry and freezer to plan meals.
  • Made a gift for one of little man's teachers using a holiday mug we picked up at Goodwill last year, some hot cocoa packets, and a card that he made and signed.  It was sweet, and only cost us about 50 cents.
  • Cleaned the house using existing cleaning supplies, including some homemade orange cleaner.
  • Purchased a pre-lit artificial tree from Michael's that was on flash sale to use next year.  I had gift cards to use, so it only cost about $15 for the tree that was originally $229!  I called earlier in the day to have them set it aside for me, so that I'd be sure there was one when I got off work.  It will be nice to have this for years to come.
  • Took advantage of our Playhouse membership for play time for the boys.  We also had the opportunity for both of them to make a Christmas ornament while we were there, so that was super sweet.
  • Continued to look at house plans online, hoping to find one that will work for us if the new house thing comes through.  This was a lot of fun and has been good for us to have a little mini-date some nights after the boys go to bed.
  • Had a realtor come out to our house to take a look at it and see if it would sell.  She seems to thing it's better to put it on the market sooner than later, so we'll see if this all comes to fruition.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

December Menu and Grocery Shopping Plan

During December, we'll continue to try to use what we have.  There will be a few things we purchase to be able to do some holiday baking for gifting and potlucks, but overall, we're really going to try to keep things well under budget.  This will be helped by the fact that Harris Teeter is doing their Super Doubles deal this weekend, and it's soup season so we'll have soup at least once a week.

There may be a few extra expenses based on my new dietary needs, but we'll take those in stride.  We'd love to keep our grocery budget this next month to around $100, maybe even under $50.  (This would allow us to put the additional $50-$100 we usually spend toward medical bills.)

So, here's the plan and our grocery list below.


  • Fruit smoothies with frozen and seasonal fruit and kale
  • Mini egg fritattas with veggies
  • Banana bars (I usually add dried fruit and nuts)
  • Crock pot overnight oatmeal
  • Cranberry muffins
  • "Big boy breakfast" of eggs, bacon, and sweet potato hashbrowns
  • Winter squash muffins
  • Christmas breakfast:  overnight breakfast casserole with eggs, mushrooms, and greens; monkey bread; fruit salad with citrus and pomegranate seeds
  • Breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese, and sauteed veggies
  • leftovers
  • yogurt with fruit and grain free granola
  • turkey, kale, and cheese quesadillas 
  • salad with seasonal veggies and nuts/hard boiled eggs
  • Homemade pizza with whole wheat crust x 4
  • Roasted veggies (beets, asparagus, carrots, potatoes) over brown rice or quinoa
  • Crock pot Asian chicken with Asian ramen slaw
  • Turkey soup (wild rice, carrots, onion, celery) with salad
  • Breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, gluten free waffles or pancakes with citrus fruit)
  • Dairy free corn chowder made with coconut milk and salad
  • Crock pot winter squash soup made with coconut milk, salad, and bread
  • Crock pot lasagna soup with gluten free pasta
  • Turkey, kale and cheese quesadillas with roasted veggies or salad
  • Black beans and rice with fixin's and corn bread
  • Black bean tacos with winter squash and fixin's
  • Mushroom, sundried tomato, and greens quiche with fruit salad
  • Beef and cheddar pie (I make it with way more veggies and 1/2 to 1 lb beef) with salad for date night
  • Crock pot chicken/turkey curry soup (from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker book)
  • veggies and dip
  • popcorn
  • cheese and crackers
  • bread and jam/honey
  • nuts
Holiday gifts/foods:
Grocery list:
  • eggs
  • canned coconut milk x4
  • gluten free pasta
  • cilantro
  • cheddar cheese
  • powdered coconut milk (to make homemade hot cocoa for me)
  • almond milk (for smoothies)
  • powdered milk
  • frozen dinner rolls for monkey bread
  • gluten free crackers
  • herbal tea (for stockings)
  • candy for gingerbread house
How do you plan to live and save green this month in the kitchen?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Frugal Accompilshments

This past week went pretty well, frugally speaking.  There were a few surprises that really helped us to stretch the grocery budget until the end of the month, which is always nice.  We did travel to see family, which costs more (about $40 in gas plus road trip snacks).  But we tried to compensate for this in other ways, like staying with family.

So, without further ado, here's how we saved this past week:

  • All meals were cooked at home.  This included leftover salad, Asian chicken, and we did easy pasta and sauce one night.  I was also blessed with some leftover portions from dinner with Mom and from our parenting class.  Breakfasts were smoothies, cereal trail mix, banana bars, and oatmeal.
  • Enjoyed shared meals with friends and family three times, including parenting class and Thanksgiving.  
  • We continued to use what we have to make snacks for our trip including banana bars, popcorn, and nuts.
  • Continued to compost and use cloth diapers to save resources.
  • We graciously accepted some things from the food pantry:  fresh fruit, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, yogurt, milk, ricotta cheese, bread, and (huge surprise!) a whole turkey that was smoked at a local BBQ restaurant.  The pantry ended up with extra turkeys, so the restaurant generously said they'd smoke them to ease the burden on pantry volunteers.  We love smoked turkey, so immediately said yes when Mom said one was available for us.
  • Saved smoked turkey carcass for making stock.  It makes a great chili or wild rice soup.  We will use the meat for enchiladas, quesadillas, sandwiches, and to top salads.  
  • Went to Costco with family and stocked up on produce, yogurt, frozen broccoli, frozen salmon, frozen blueberries, honey, and other staples.  (Even though I'm not doing sugars, the rest of my family still enjoys honey in tea or on a slice of bread.) I also found some low sugar, grain free granola that I'm super excited about.  It tastes great by itself or with plain yogurt and berries.  We also found fire extinguishers that we'd been looking for for only $15 each.
  • Continued to plan to purchase land, looked for house plans online.  We will try to broker the deal for the land ourselves to save on the realtor cost.  We will use a realtor to sell our current home, when we get to that point.
  • Accepted some hand-me-downs from my cousin for the boys, mostly baby.  
  • Put together at least two bags of stuff for Goodwill.  Will continue to try to put together at least 2-3 bags each week for Goodwill, Craigslist, or eBay sales to try to clean out.  
  • Pulled out an old wool coat to use this winter.  My black leather one is very shabby and got paint on it from a kid project, so the wool one will work and is still warm and in relatively good condition.
  • My grandmother fixed my open-fingered gloves that were coming unraveled on one thumb.  It took her no time with the right tools, which I didn't have.  I now have a repaired glove, and I know how to fix it the next time, should it happen again.
  • My mom had some homemade lemon nut cookie dough (a slice and bake recipe) in the freezer.  We thawed that and the boys decorated those for Thanksgiving dinner for them, in addition to the traditional pies.  It was fun for the boys, and helped clean out her freezer a bit.
  • Were thankful for an early Christmas gift from Mom.  She paid to have our windows washed, which is something we don't do since we've essentially got a three story home on the side of a mountain.  The windows look wonderful, and it's so nice to have clean screens too!
  • Began decorating for Christmas using existing supplies.  We use an artificial tree,wreath, and garland.  We save ornaments from year to year, and this really helps cut down on the cost.  We have window candles, but won't use those until our toddler is done with pulling things out of windows!  My mom bought a live wreath, which we'll use existing decorations, for us to decorate and hang on our porch railing.
How did you live and save green this week, especially amidst the holiday consumerism push?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This week we did really well, frugally speaking.

I am thankful that I am feeling better, so that definitely helps things.  It is amazing how much energy, or lack of, affects the budget.  It is so easy to rely on convenience items.  That is motivation to me to put a few more easy freezer meals together, like crock pot ones or frozen homemade soup, that we can pull out when we're sick.

We are also beginning the dreaming and exploring stage of purchasing land and building a new home.  When we built this home, we thought it would be our forever home, but we're realizing there are things about the neighborhood and road that will never change.  So, we're looking to move closer to my mom and into her neighborhood, which has lots of kids and very, well, neighborly neighbors.  This would allow the boys to walk to her house as they get older, and would give them playmates in the neighborhood.

Here's how we stuck to our budget this past week:

  • Cooked all meals at home including crock pot Asian chicken with veggies, cauliflower and cheese sauce, banana nut whole wheat muffins, crock pot oatmeal, smoothies, "big boy breakfast" of eggs and bacon, whole wheat pizza, and salad.
  • Took advantage of four community meals with our parenting class, our school faculty, our church, and my mom.  This kept our kitchen clean and meant that we only had to take one dish or item to share.  We took a salad to church, salad to school, and potatoes to Mom's to roast.
  • Thankful for items from the food pantry this week:  gluten free crackers, cereal, plain instant oatmeal, fresh fruit (melon, pineapple, and grapes), and some pouches of baby food (I use them in smoothies, though sometimes the boys will eat them).  These are items that clients typically don't take, so we're glad to use them.
  • Composted all possible items including food scraps, brown paper tubes, paper towels, tea bags, and coffee grounds.  Compost will be added to the gardens to prepare them for winter.
  • Kept grocery spending to $10 for pie crust, refrigerator biscuits, eggs, snack pack (free item of the week), celery, and peanuts (small cans for stockings).  We used coupons for the pie crust, biscuits, and peanuts.  Trying really hard to keep our grocery spending to $70-80 this month, not $150.
  • Continued with cloth diapers, except at night.  We're using free diapers from the diaper bank at the Children's Council for our night time ones, saving expense there.  Grateful for this newfound resource.
  • We made our OCC shoebox this weekend and shopped at home first.  We found:  plastic cups, plastic spoons, foam balls, blanket, new towel, stickers and small toys, new toothbrush and soap.  We went to the Dollar Tree to purchase seven items.  Little man had a great time shopping and picking out items for the box.  We wrote a note to them as a family, and paid the processing fee online.  (This allowed us to use our credit card = points which we'll use for a future vacation.)  Little man is really excited about the possibility of seeing where our box goes, which is enabled by the QR code on the label.  It was nice to be able to do this with things we had around the house.
  • Took advantage of our Children's Playhouse membership (thank you Mom!) and went on Saturday.  The boys had a ball.
  • Combined all errands when possible.  Sundays we usually do our grocery shopping before church, since the boys are up early anyway.  This is nice because it combines the errands, but the store is also very empty before church, so it's easier with the boys.  
  • Had a doctor's appointment out of town on Thursday, but went with Benny and baby.  We were able to make a date of it, use a gift card for lunch, and get some work done for Benny's boss while we were near Best Buy.  This meant that we could count some of the time in the trip as work time for him, which is really nice.
  • Began taking pictures to post more items on eBay.  These funds will help pay for my medical expenses, and it helps to clear out the house some.  We're beginning to feel overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff" we have, so this is helping, even if we can only do a few items at a time.
  • Started another bag of stuff to take to Goodwill.  Will get a tax receipt for this.
  • Had a short craft date with little man last night and really enjoyed painting together.  Going to try to do this more; it really feeds both of our souls.
  • Began cleaning up the boys' room and craft room some more.  Hoping to weed out more things by the end of the year.  Might set a tally amount, just to keep us going and motivated to continue weeding.
I'd love to hear what you did to live and save green this past week?  How do you do it with the holidays just ahead?  Please share!