Friday, March 16, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments for 2nd Week of March

This past week was definitely up and down.  We did a great job with our usual frugal things, but kinda got blind sided with a few things, like a medical bill way higher than we anticipated.

  • Cooked all meals at home including chicken tacos (using the crock pot for chicken filling), beef stew (using leftover steak and baked potato from a birthday meal we were invited to), roasted veggies and flounder, homemade pizza, chicken sausages, oatmeal, banana bars, and smoothies.  Tried very hard to limit food waste by saving some for compost, chickens, and the freezer veggie stock bag.
  • Enjoyed a shared meal with my mom once and an impromptu invitation to a birthday dinner at a fancy steak house.  This was a lot of fun for us, even though it was a stretch for the boys.  They both behaved really well overall, though, which made for a nice dinner.
  • Saved three cartons of milk from the school cafeteria, which was nice.
  • Continued with regular recycling and composting efforts to save on trash going to the landfill.
  • Worked really hard with all the things from my grandmother's estate to make sure we got the things we wanted.  We were also able to give several things to our current upstairs tenant, who will be moving out in a few weeks.  This is a big help to her, and makes us feel better that Grandma's things are going to a good home.
  • Cleaned out several more things, including three large paper bags of maternity clothes.  We posted these on Craigslist, and have had an offer on them.  It's nice to have this cleaned out, and be making our way toward a tidier house for putting on the market.
  • Continued with regular laundry activities, washing mostly in cold water and hanging things to dry.
  • Worked out at home most nights.  I tried a new routine on YouTube with hand weights, which I like, and hope to continue with.  
  • Took advantage of the free yoga class at the Children's Council, which included dinner for me and little man.  This was nice and the instructor was great.
  • Enjoyed birthday celebration at home for baby who's now two!  He did a super great job blowing out his candles, and enjoyed his few presents from family immensely.
  • Going back to review our parenting class materials because little man is giving us a run for our money lately at 5 years old.  We're re-instituting the sticker chart with fidelity, and really trying to be intentional about giving him the attention he needs so that we diffuse situations before they're meltdowns and blow ups.
  • On the down side, we received a bill for the chest x-ray we had back in February for baby.  The bill was almost $1,200, which was way beyond what we had expected.  Apparently we didn't understand a change in our insurance from last year to this year, and while this would have been a few hundred dollars before, it now goes toward the deductible (which seems high to me).  We're grateful that the test came back negative, and that little man is better, but struggling with the size of this bill and the timing (since we're trying to prep the house for sale and both of our rental spaces are empty).
  • To make up for the medical bill and lower emergency fund, we've come up with a plan:
    • sell what we can on Craigslist and eBay (which will also help us clean out the house for sale too), including baby things we don't want to keep, clothing, electronics that Benny has, and other home items that we no longer want or need
    • increase my Mary Kay sales through parties and selling to existing customers (so if you're local and would like to do a party, let me know!)
    • continue eating from our pantry and freezer as much as possible
    • I'll pick up little man one more day a week, saving Benny a trip to school and back.
    • Take advantage of as many free meals as possible, so continuing with yoga class and Benny and baby will go to the food pantry soup kitchen on Thursdays for lunch.
    • Monetize this blog
    • Apply for a teaching award that has a cash award too (we'll see if I get it)
    • Save any unexpected windfalls including tax refund, travel reimbursement for work, and a mentoring check I expect at the end of the year
    • Continue to take advantage of gleaning from the food pantry for produce and milk especially
    • Do what we can of the work to prep the house for sale ourselves (painting, caulking, cleaning, staging)
    • Keep travel to a minimum
    • Have Benny pick up as many extra hours at work as possible
    • Keep superfluous spending to nil.  We will find creative ways to do special things for the boys (like spring break outings) that are free.  This might include a picnic on the parkway, trip to the park, or outing to Grandfather Mountain for dollar days (if Mom can go along with us).
  • Since we had several snow days recently, I stayed home with the boys and Benny went to work.  This allowed him to pick up about 12 extra hours of work, which will help to pay for some of the carpentry work that needs to be done to the house before we sell it.
  • We saved gas by staying home on snow days.  The boys played in the snow some, watched The Sound of Music, and we played with play dough and made some crafts with existing things around the house.
  • We signed up baby for preschool.  He's on the waiting list, so we're hopeful that he will get a slot.  It would really help us out for Benny to be able to pick up some extra hours at work while he is in school, and we think it would be good for his speech too.
  • The gas logs needed repair, so we called, and the repair was done free of charge (hurray!).
  • The workers who came to help get the house prepped for sale came one day this week and got a lot more done than we anticipated.  This was encouraging, but they won't be able to come back for another week or so, so that sets us back a little in terms of timeline.  
  • I carpooled one day to work because of the snow.  We weren't able to get one car out, so a colleague brought me to town after work to meet Mom.  This meant that it wasn't out of his way, and saved a little on gas.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, March 9, 2018

March Menu Plan

This month is again about clearing out the pantry and freezer.  Since we're now looking at prepping the house for sale, we want to have to move as little food stuff as possible.  The big freezer will go to my mom's for storage, so we can still access it there and she can share it as well, but we'd rather be able to defrost it and move it empty.  We're also trying to save where we can to be able to put the extra money toward the land purchase and our emergency fund.

So, to that end, here's what I think we'll be eating this month:


  • Eggs, chicken sausages, and roasted/steamed veggies
  • Overnight crock pot steel cut oatmeal
  • Yogurt with homemade granola
  • Smoothies with frozen fruit, yogurt, and frozen butternut squash
  • Peppermint tea made from frozen mint from last year's harvest
  • Banana bars
  • Almond flour muffins with cocoa powder and shredded coconut
  • Leftovers
  • Salads
  • Yogurt parfaits with frozen fruit and homemade granola
  • Tomato basil soup
  • Spaghetti and meatballs with frozen homemade marinara sauce and side salad
  • Steamed flounder (frozen) with roasted veggies or salad
  • Creamy chai pumpkin soup using canned coconut milk instead of cream and frozen butternut squash instead of canned pumpkin, served with side salad
  • Split pea soup using a mix we have, frozen ham, frozen stock, and frozen chopped celery, served with bread or gluten free crackers
  • Butternut squash and chickpea salad served with brown rice or greens (uses up dried chickpeas and a butternut squash hanging out on the counter)
  • Breakfast for dinner:  pancakes (using a mix in the pantry), bacon (freezer), eggs, and fruit or roasted veggies
  • Taco chicken in the crock pot (using frozen chicken) for tacos, taco salad, taco bowls, quesadillas, or enchilada casserole; served with refried beans (pantry), Greek yogurt, and Rotel tomatoes (pantry)
  • Chicken pizzaiola (using chicken and marinara sauce in the freezer) in the slow cooker (America's Test Kitchen) served over egg noodles or quinoa (pantry) and a side salad
  • Smoked turkey tortillas soup (using smoked turkey and stock, bell peppers, jalapenos, chipotle in adobo, and cheddar cheese all from the freezer) served with corn chips or a side salad
  • Homemade pizza x 4 (using frozen pepperoni, cheese, homemade pesto, bell peppers, and olives and flour from the pantry)
  • Air popped popcorn
  • Pretzels from the pantry
  • Frozen soft pretzels
  • Fresh fruit
  • Carrot sticks and dip
  • Brownies or lemon bars from a mix in the pantry
  • Crackers and hummus or with cream cheese and pesto spread

Frugal Accomplishments First Week of March

We had a pretty frugal week this past week. We enjoyed some shared meals, accepted hand-me-downs, and did what we could to save.  My health has improved slowly with the dietary changes and supplements I've been taking, which is all good, even though it's more expensive.  We've also been making some decisions about things from my grandmother's estate, so are hopeful that we'll have all that worked out by the end of the month.

And, in exciting news, we put in an offer on the land we've been wanting!  It was for more than we'd ideally want to spend, but we're hoping to have the closing on that soon and begin the process of putting our house up for sale, etc. to fund the building of the new house.

Here's the rundown of our frugal accomplishments for last week:

  • Cooked all meals at home including tomato basil soup, homemade mac and cheese with gluten free pasta, roasted veggies, steamed flounder, homemade pizza, oatmeal, smoothies, homemade banana bars, and Asian ramen slaw.
  • Composted and recycled as usual to save on trash.
  • Accepted items from the food pantry gleaning including:
    • gallon of milk
    • apples
    • pineapple
    • romaine hearts
    • purple cabbage
    • gluten free crackers
    • gluten free cereal
    • chocolate coconut water
    • bananas
  • Took advantage of HT super doubles coupon event to stock up on meat, cheese, gluten free crackers, coconut milk, frozen peas, and a few other staples.  Also found parsnips on the discount produce rack.  Said no to some items that were on sale, but weren't needs.
  • Continued to work down what is in the pantry and freezer including canned tomatoes, tomato juice, dried mincemeat (used in oatmeal), frozen bones and veggie scraps for stock, and frozen butternut squash and bananas.
  • Continued to work on cleaning out and added another 15 items to our donation bags.  Some will go to Goodwill, some to the library.  Baby clothes will go to some of the Hispanic families Benny knows through the paint business.  We are also looking at items we can sell on eBay and Craigslist to help give us more of a cushion for building the new house.
  • Did our usual laundry routine with hanging laundry to dry and washing cloth diapers.
  • Enjoyed a shared meal with friends.  We took some roasted acorn squash that we made in the crock pot.  We'd had the squash for a while, so it was good to use it up.  The boys had a great time playing together, and we ended up with a few hand-me-down clothes from their recent cleaning out.  
  • We did our usual Sunday night dinner with Mom, which was an easy sheet pan meal with chicken, onions, and roasted squash.  We had a side salad to go with it.
  • Finalized my list of things I'd like to have from my grandmother's estate.  We're hoping to get some special pieces of jewelry, artwork, blankets, and furniture.  It would be nice to get some of her kitchen things too, which would replace some of ours from our wedding that are wearing out.  Will see how things all sift out with other family members.
  • We are looking at creative options for housing while the new house is being built.  We want to save as much as possible, so we might look into borrowing a camper and renting a month to month site at a local campground.  It is cheaper than most rentals in the area, and would allow us to have the dog with us too.  This might be fun for the boys, and would also really force us to weed through belongings and decide what we need to live with and what could go to storage/sold/donated.
  • Since I'm feeling better, I cancelled an appointment with a specialist, saving the $80 copay.  My labs didn't indicate that I needed the specialist appointment, but I thought I might need one since I was still having some issues.  Glad things are getting better, slow but steady progress.
  • I kept the boys for a while to give Benny some time to gather tax documents.  We still have a little to do here, so we'll need one more session like this and then we'll have things ready to file.  We plan to use the refund to reseed our emergency fund.
  • I began making plans for what I want to take from this garden to the new house.  I will pot up these plants this spring and summer so that we can move them to the new house.  They will probably live at my mom's while we're in transition.  This will save us some money with landscaping the new house, so hopefully we'll only need to purchase a few evergreens and maybe a fruit tree or two.  There are also neighbors in the new neighborhood who love to garden, so I'm sure they will have things to split and share too.
  • I used a free gift card to Tanger Outlets (from the ski slopes trip we took with school) to purchase a clearance jacket for both boys and a pair of shorts for baby.  Baby's birthday is today, so these will be birthday presents for him.  I only spent $1 over the $20 gift card amount, so I think it was a win!
  • Working with little man to make baby a tie dyed t-shirt to go with the new shorts.  He really likes this craft, and it makes for a cheap birthday gift that is really useful.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Update on 2018 Goals

Here's a February recap of the goals we had for the year.  We're making some progress!

More Veggies:  I've been working actively to increase veggies with every meal.  The boys are getting much better about eating them at dinner and love them roasted with something to dip them in (usually ketchup).  Little man has requested asparagus the past few nights, so that 's been good.  I know I feel better for eating this way, and am hopeful that it will improve the overall health of my family too.

Move More:  This has very much been a two steps forward, one step back sort of thing.  I've been doing great with the free yoga class I've been attending, walking more during the day and week, and some exercise in the evenings.  I'm finding that if I do too much in the evenings, it's hard for me to go to sleep at night.  So, while I know it's ideal to work out in the mornings, it's not practical for me when I have boys who wake up at 5:00.  So, work in progress...

Try 26 new recipes:  I haven't tried anything new this week.  I've been relying on my good ol' reliable recipes (more accurately methods) for roasting veggies, making gluten free pasta dishes, beans and rice, etc.  I do have my eye on a chicken and acorn squash crock pot meal I want to try next week.

Spruce up:  This has kind of been on hold while we wait for our finances to sure up some.  We depleted our emergency fund some with medical expenses, so we'd like to not spend too much until we get that built back up.  We're working to get things done inexpensively, but quality workmanship, and we're ok with doing some of the work ourselves.

Clean out!  I continue to weed out.  We have several baby items we can sell, and many more things we can donate.  We're also looking through things to see what we can eBay to help clean out and build the emergency fund.

Build up the emergency fund:  I've been trying to keep our grocery budget low, but the new diet is tough to keep it at the $100-$150/month we usually aim for.  Once the CSA starts, this will be easier.  Gleaning from the food pantry is helping also.  We're looking forward to our tax refund, which will help to build this back up too.

Build a new house!  Some things are shifting in our POA and making our decision easier to move ahead with building a new house.  We just have to secure the land, which shouldn't be too difficult.  We'll have to do this carefully and economically in order to make the finances work out, but I think it will be a good move in the long run.  I'm looking forward to the possibilities of a new garden space, and to being more intentional about the design of our rental spaces.

How are you doing with your goals for the year?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments February 12-18

This past week has been sort of a roller coaster for us.

Little one and I have both been to the doctor's office, he ended up having a chest x-ray.  The nasal swab came back as just a cold for him, so we're hoping he'll kick it soon.  I am hopeful that with my dietary changes, limiting sweets/carbs for him, and supplementing him with frozen breast milk and probiotics that we'll both get better.  I've met with my doctor and we're going to try a new antifungal for me to try to clear up things, as well as adding some new probiotic strains for me.

On the up side, we were able to have a date night on Saturday night thanks to my mom keeping little man.  We had dinner at home of homemade mini meatloaves, roasted asparagus and cauliflower, and crock pot coconut lime rice pudding for dessert.  It was a nice evening for us, even if I did fall asleep on the couch during our date show!

Here are the rest of our frugal accomplishments for the week:

  • All meals were made at home.  This includes split pea soup, mini meatloaves, roasted veggies, smoothies, salads, homemade pizza, biscuits, and steamed fish and veggies.
  • Enjoyed two shared meals with my mom including a lunch out at Panera and a homemade coconut shrimp curry.  There was enough curry leftover for me to have lunch one day too.
  • Appreciated gleaning from the food pantry:
    • salad greens and collards
    • yogurt
    • bananas
    • root veggies
    • butternut squash
    • mushrooms
    • blueberries (which were gone within 4 hours!)
    • juices for smoothies
    • dips for veggies
  • Enjoyed at date night at home, thanks to Mom.  She kept little man overnight and we had mini meatloaves and roasted veggies.  The crock pot coconut lime pudding was great for dessert, and totally fit with my diet.  It was a nice time to reconnect with each other.
  • Began looking through things from my grandmother's house to consider what we might like in the way of furniture, jewelry, kitchen things, etc.  It's sort of bittersweet, but I know she'd love the fact that we're all going to enjoy things that were hers and have special memories for us.  This will save us some money because some of these things will replace things of ours that we'd otherwise have to purchase replacements for, especially kitchen items.
  • Appreciated some Valentine's Day treats from my students.  Most were larger molded chocolate things, so I'll save these to chop for baking.  One student brought me a chai tea latte, because they know it's my favorite.  This was a really thoughtful  treat and a complete surprise.  It's nice when they pay such close attention to small things, in the same way I try to do for them.
  • Made cinnamon buns from a can and sprinkled them with red and pink sugar for Valentine's Day breakfast.
  • Used existing things to help little man make valentines for his classmates.  He enjoyed the activity, and it was a good chance for him to practice writing his name.  His classmates loved the cards and pencils he gave them.
  • Have been using Valentine's Day treats as rewards for little man's sticker chart.  This has been making our mornings go much more smoothly, and has allowed us to meter out the candy a bit.
  • Enjoyed a Saturday at the Playhouse with the boys.  It was nice to go back, since we hadn't been in a while (avoiding it since we'd been sick).  It was great fun for the boys, and some good parent support too.
  • Took advantage of the free yoga class at the Children's Council again.  It's such a nice program, and really gives me some time to center myself.
  • Finished reading a book we picked up from a free little library.  It was a fun mystery by Lillian Jackson Braun, but is one that I'll likely return or donate somewhere since it isn't one I feel like I would reread if I had it in my personal library.  Also enjoyed rereading some devotional material we had in our library at home.
  • Little one has been doing really well with his speech sessions, which we started a few weeks ago.  While they're not cheap ($40 each session at one session per week), we feel like the investment is worth it to hopefully help him out in the long run.  
  • Hung some laundry outside to dry since the weather's been unseasonably warm.
  • Continued with all usual laundry habits--cold water, hang dry, use cloth diapers.
  • Continued with all usual waste habits--composting (including cotton balls and brown cardboard tubes, recycling, reusing brown paper for draining bacon, etc.
  • Saved veggie scraps for stock and to take to the chickens.  Had about 18 eggs this past week for our efforts with the chickens, which has made for a really nice arrangement with friends (and the boys love it, and teaches them some responsibility too).
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments February 5-11

This past week, we were able to keep our overall budget on track.  We did have some extra expenditures for supplements for me to deal with my current health issues, but we know that these expenses should help me to get well sooner and prevent further health issues.  The frugal highlight of this past week was a free yoga class and meal I had through our local Children's Council.

  • Cooked all meals at home including ground beef taco bowls/tacos (used frozen shredded summer squash to bulk up the filling), turkey and collard greens soup with barley, smoothies, homemade herbal chai tea mix with stevia, eggs with roasted or sauteed veggies, overnight oatmeal, pizza, and open-faced meatball sandwiches (used marinara sauce I made this summer with fresh tomatoes and spices from the CSA and food pantry) with roasted veggies.
  • Washed laundry in cold water except for diapers, and continued with cloth diaper use.
  • Composted kitchen scraps or took them to the chickens in exchange for eggs.
  • Gathered about 12 eggs for our work this week.
  • Used the crock pot for cooking two meals (overnight oats and turkey and barley soup), saving on electricity.
  • Continue to eat from the pantry and freezer.  We're really making a dent in things, which will be good once the produce rolls in from the CSA, farmer's market, and food pantry gleaning.
  • Gleaned several tomatoes, avocados, eggplant, acorn squash, chicken sausages, canned biscuits, and a can of cinnamon rolls.  Made a large batch of guacamole for snacking and lunches.  Will roast veggies later this week.
  • Cut little man's hair at home, saving at least $15.  Still need to cut Benny's hair.
  • Went to my integrative health doctor for a check in, and am continuing with a few more supplements for the next month.  Am hopeful that when we do more blood work at the end of March that things will have improved drastically.  I am definitely feeling better, but have room for improvement too.
  • Little man and I went to a free class at the Children's Council.  There was dinner for both of us, 40 minutes of yoga for me, and child care for him.  It was a great evening, and we plan to make it a weekly event.  This allowed me to cook less, relax more (which is critical to my overall health), and gave little man some much needed play time with others.  I also earned a "baby buck" which I can cash in through the Children's Council for wipes, gas card, etc. once I earn enough.
  • Worked out at home other evenings with YouTube videos for free.  I am slowly increasing my workout time.  Right now, some nights I feel good to get in 15 minutes, though I hope to get up to 20-25 each night.
  • We have begun eating dinner by candle light.  The boys love the candles, and it seems to calm them a bit for meal time.  This is saving us a bit on electricity.
  • The boys have been taking a bath together, saving on water.  My goal is to save some of this water for watering plants, but it hasn't happened yet.  (Some nights we're just in survival mode when it comes to bath and bedtime.)
  • Put a few more things in the donation bag, meaning less stuff to store and clean for us.
  • We sold a few more things on eBay, which will fund our CSA share this year.  We're hoping to sell a little more to help increase our emergency fund, and to clean out a bit more.
  • Recycled and composted as usual.  Paper towels and brown cardboard/paper goes into our compost, as it's less of an environmental impact to deal with it this way.  (We're trying to get away from paper towels, but with a tenant upstairs, they are kind of necessity for the average American.)
  • Planning to re-post the ad for our basement apartment and room upstairs, if needed.  Our upstairs tenant may be going month to month on her lease, we're just not sure yet.  
  • Still trying to pursue the purchase of land, but that dream is seeming more fleeting by the day.  For many reasons, lots aren't for sale, or are priced above market value, which makes this all very difficult.  We may be looking at a renovation of our current home instead, just to make it a little more functional for us.
  • We're looking into ways to monetize this blog a bit.  It's more just for fun for me, but we're getting enough page views that I think it might be worth it to at least try.  Anyone have suggestions?  Have you been successful with this?
How did you live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments Second Week of February

This past week we did pretty well, budget wise.  We had two sick in our house, but we were able to recover at home using things we had.  We were also able to take advantage of some items from the food pantry and the super doubles at Harris Teeter, so our fridge, pantry, and freezer are nicely stocked.

  • All meals were made at home including broccoli and ham quiche, creamy pumpkin coconut chai soup (I subbed canned coconut milk for the cream), salads, roasted veggies with turkey bacon and eggs, taco bowls with ground beef and shredded squash and cilantro lime slaw, banana white chocolate muffins, chocolate and orange zest almond flour muffins, and homemade pizza with pesto, ham, sauteed spinach, and dried tomatoes.
  • We shared a takeout meal with my mom, which was nice.  It was a little disappointment because the restaurant didn't package the hot chicken separate from the salad, so the salad was wilted and ruined... but we made it work by steaming some broccoli instead.  It was a reminder that often, eating at home is still simpler than takeout even, and of course cheaper.
  • Spent about $50 at Harris Teeter, but saved $80.  I purchased five packages of chicken sausages, four packages of flour tortillas, four cans of refried beans, two cartons of coconut milk, two cans of coconut milk, unsweetened cranberry juice, cabbage, asparagus, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, and three packages of diapers.  This will be the bulk of our grocery shopping this month.  (See the previous entry to see how we'll use these things in our menu.)
  • Treated the boys to lunch at Chick-Fil-A with a $5 gift card I had.  This was a reward for doing well on errands and having a good day after being sick and down for several days.
  • Washed and reused ziploc bags and produce bags.  Used brown paper bags for cooking bacon in the microwave, instead of paper towels.
  • Washed laundry in cold water and hung to dry.  Continued with cloth diaper use.
  • Saved some compost for the chickens.  Enjoyed 18 fresh eggs this week for our work with them.
  • Started feeling rough myself, so I emailed my integrative medicine doctor and will pick up a refill on a supplement this afternoon, saving the cost of a visit.
  • Treated the boys for illness at home with pedialyte popsicles, hot tea with honey, essential oils, rest, and Tylenol for fever.  The oldest seemed to have it the worst, but little one's snotty nose holds on still.
  • Benny was able to work a little longer on Saturday, so I kept the boys at home after running a few errands.  It was good for him to be able to get these extra hours and to check off a few things on his work list.
  • Updated my bulk spice order list.  We will probably need to place this order within the next month.
  • Benny contacted another land owner in the neighborhood we're looking at.  We're hoping to hear back from them this week.  If we don't, we've got one more course of action before we give up on this dream.
  • Located the door we need for the basement apartment at Lowe's.  Will look online for a coupon or discounted gift card to save some money on that.
  • Used blankets and wool socks when I got cold, rather than turning the heat up.  We did have the gas logs on on particularly cold days to offset the electrical heat.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!