Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

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

Here's how we saved this past week:


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

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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


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

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March Menu Plan

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

Breakfasts: 

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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


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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did really well, frugally speaking.  I manage to stay away from the grocery store for two weeks, except we did buy bananas.  The weather was reasonably warm, so we were able to hang clothes outside a few times, and have some outside play time and family walks.  The warm weather also meant that we were able to conserve on energy bills, with heat not running.


  • All meals were cooked at home.  These included potato soup with homemade turkey stock (in the crock pot), black beans and rice, black bean hummus with carrot sticks, waffles with sausage and fruit smoothies, loaded mac and cheese with broccoli and sausage, french toast casserole with cranberries and pomegranate seeds, and banana chocolate chip pecan muffins.  
  • We enjoyed a shared meal with family of baked ziti and salad.  Mom also sent an extra serving home with us, which made a nice lunch portion.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps.  Enjoyed our new stainless steel compost bucket that Mom gave us for Valentine's Day.
  • Really appreciated salvaged items from the food pantry, including two milk crates full of produce.  We salvaged two cups of strawberries, a few raspberries, a pear, a nectarine, two bags of snow peas, asparagus, two packages of green beans, four packages of mushrooms, jalapenos, chopped onions, two large cartons of yogurt, and a gallon of milk.  We also salvaged a whole produce box of overripe bananas, which we froze for use in smoothies and baking.  (The boys also like to eat these frozen as a snack.)
  • Continued to hang all laundry up, either inside or out, saving on drying costs.  All clothes were washed in cold water.
  • Used items at home for some basic science experiments with little man (baking soda and vinegar in a bottle to fill a balloon, etc.).  He really enjoyed these, so we're going to try to do a family science night at least once a week at home.
  • We also used items at home to do some fun water color paintings with salt.  They turned out really neat, so we'll frame a few.  Some will hang at home, others will be gifts.
  • Took the boys to the playhouse on Saturday, which was really fun.  They both had a blast and it was nice to visit with some other parents too.  The free coffee and tea was a bonus for me!
  • Enjoyed a last minute invitation to a birthday party.  The friends requested no gifts, so we just made a card by re-purposing the front of a previous birthday card.
  • Finalized plans for the car sale. Will hopefully get the title transferred on Friday.  Looks like we'll be able to barter for our outdoor painting needs, which means it will benefit both of us in the long run.
  • Found out the in-laws are coming this weekend, so have to get things ready for them.  They will likely pick up dinner for us one night, which will be nice, and we will fix breakfast and lunch for them while they're here.  I am thinking a breakfast casserole with sausage, mushrooms, peppers and onions that I have in the freezer.  
  • Since the weather is nice, we're hoping to do our next round of bug spraying outdoors for pest control.  Doing this ourselves with a concentrate we found online has saved us hundreds.
  • Also want to take advantage of the nice weather to try to get some garden chores done.  I'd like to cut back the raspberries and asparagus while they're still dormant.  I might also try to rake and chip some leaves for compost.  (This might not happen with hosting in-laws this weekend, though.)  
  • I might try to order some tri-color sage plants too.  I've been wanting to try them as a foundation planting along one bed of the house.  If I order, I will find a coupon code.
  • Benny has picked up some more side work with technology.  We will continue to try to pick these up.  These funds should go directly toward Benny's retirement fund.
  • We have a lead on the upstairs rental!  She's coming up early next month to take a look at the space, but sounds super sweet and should be a good fit for us.  If she signs, it sounds like it will be a year lease, which will be nice.
  • I continue to look for professional development opportunities with a stipend, but am also exploring options for tutoring.  Hoping to be able to earn an extra $20-$40/week tutoring.  
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was pretty frugal for us.  We ended up with one snow day, so I was able to work from home.  That day was nice because we were able to get some extra house work done also.  The weather has been a bit crazy, because later in the week, it was almost 65 and warm enough to take a really long walk with the family.

We're working on selling our Subaru because my father-in-law is selling his car to us.  It is in better shape, though just a year newer, and has four wheel drive, which we need.  He is selling it to us for a significant discount, so its definitely a step up for us.  We're hoping that the sale of the car will allow us to make a bit of money to pay for some staining/painting to be done in the spring.  (This is the kind of work that we can do, but Benny really doesn't like doing and its hard to carve out the time with two little ones.)


  • Made all meals at home including tomato basil soup (we leave out the cream), meatball subs (we use leftover tomato basil soup as marinara) with oven fries, homemade pizza with veggies and pesto, crock pot black beans with rice, black bean dip with crostini, whole wheat waffles with blueberry pomegranate syrup (homemade), and blueberry muffins.
  • Shared one meal with family of rice and beans.  We did use a Chipotle coupon to get free chips and dip to go with this meal.
  • Gleaned several bags of Chex mix and Goldfish crackers from school, as well as yogurt and cheese sticks.
  • Composted all kitchen scraps we could including brown paper bags and paper towels.
  • Made a large pot of coffee and used it for cold coffee drinks for the rest of the week.  Flavored it with baking cocoa.  This saved on the cost of heating water multiple times and filters.
  • Made a crock pot of turkey stock using a turkey carcass that we had in the freezer.  Will freeze some stock and use it for a meal this week.
  • Made crostini from bread from the food pantry, making it free.
  • Treated a sick dog over the phone with the vet, rather than taking her in.  She had some sort of stomach bug, but seems just fine now after a day or so of rice, beans, chicken, and chicken stock.  Hoping she won't turn up her nose at her kibbles now!
  • Treated baby for pink eye over the phone using an existing prescription we had for eye drops.  Thankful that we caught it early and that the drops worked, saving a doctor visit copay and time waiting.
  • Exercised at home using YouTube, saving on the expense of classes.  We also took a long walk one day, which was good exercise for all of us.
  • Washed all laundry in cold water, except towels and diapers.  
  • Hung all laundry to dry except towels.
  • Used homemade cleaner to clean the bathroom and old washcloths as rags.
  • Took advantage of Harris Teeter Super Doubles event to save on stocking up.  Spent about $30 and saved over $40.
  • Meal planned for the rest of the month trying to take into account what we have on hand that needs to be used up.  This should save us overall this month.
  • Called about getting funds directly deposited to the boys' 529 accounts.  Kind of got the run around, so will try to do this through our local bank after my check is deposited.
  • Used existing supplies to make cookies and Valentines for little man's preschool class.  He helped bag them and make tags.
  • Took the gifts from little man's birthday party (he asked for items to donate to the humane society in lieu of gifts) to the humane society.  He loved visiting with the dogs and cats!  It was a fabulous afternoon, and we hope to go back again soon.  (It was so nice to not do the gifts thing at the birthday party and just have it about having fun with friends.  We did do gifts at our family birthday dinner.)
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 10, 2017

February Menu Plan

This month is all about using up some of what we have.  I did take advantage of Harris Teeter's Super Doubles event, but aside from that, we're really going to try to stay away from the grocery store except for absolute necessities.  I plan to use some of what we have in our freezer and pantry, including some things like powdered milk, frozen veggies from our CSA, frozen bread, and scraps that have been saved for making stock.  We're also going to continue to take advantage of gleaning from the food pantry to stretch our budget too.

We're also going to try to save some money on our electric bill with cooking too.  We'll work to use our crock pot to do the heavy lifting and use the microwave or toaster oven for reheating.  We'll only use our upper oven, which is smaller, for baking when necessary.

Here's the plan:

Breakfasts:  egg and cheese sandwiches, overnight oatmeal in the crock pot, smoothies using frozen fruit, french toast casserole with frozen blueberries, bagels and cream cheese, toast with jam, and whole wheat waffles with fruit and hard boiled eggs, winter squash muffins, strawberry cream cheese coffee cake, blueberry muffins, cappuccino chocolate chip muffins

Lunches:  leftovers filled in with fresh fruit or yogurt, egg salad sandwiches, PBJ

Dinners:  tomato basil soup (we make it without cream so it has other uses too), meatball subs with tomato basil soup as marinara, fajitas with rice, leftover turkey, and frozen peppers and onions, corn chowder with garlic toast, potato soup with homemade turkey stock and garlic toast, waffles with fruit and sausage, black beans and rice with fixin's and corn bread, black bean chili, homemade pizza (x4), french toast with smoothies and sausage, jambalya, crock pot Asian chicken over rice, veggie stir fry over rice with egg rolls

Batch cooking for freezer:  homemade turkey stock, homemade veggie stock, black beans, muffins

Special Meal:  We will celebrate Valentine's Day later in the month, so that my mom can keep little man overnight.  We'll do a dinner out and make some peppermint brownies with icecream as our dessert at home.  We'll do an early dinner and take advantage of a coupon we have, so that we can have time for an at home movie with dessert.  The cost of this meal will come out of our regular grocery budget, if possible.

Snacks:  popcorn, chocolate mint cookies (we have some cookie dough we purchased from a fundraiser that we need to use up), fresh fruit, nuts, toast and jam

Drinks:  water, hot tea, hot cocoa, maybe iced tea made with loose tea

What are you cooking up this month?  I'd love to hear from you!