Monday, March 23, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments and Garden Preparations

Last week was a rather unusual week for us.  I was presenting at a professional conference, but it was close enough to family to combine with a visit.  So, Benny and little man also went.  It was a wonderful conference and a great visit with family.  Here are some of the things we did along the way to save money.

Since the trip was professional, I was able to get reimbursed for mileage and meals.  I won't see this money for a few weeks, but it will be nice that the money will more than cover the cost of the trip.

While at the conference, I was able to gather several activities to use in my classroom.  This will be wonderful for planning for next year, and a few of them I can use this year.

While visiting with Benny's family on Sunday after church, we went to Costco.  We purchased several things in bulk that we normally use, including flax seed meal, all purpose flour, red bell peppers, and strawberries.  You really have to know your unit price when shopping, because some things at the warehouse clubs are not great deals.

We took our cloth diapers traveling, so we saved the cost of disposables while there.  This is a huge blessing!  I can't imagine how much we've saved by doing cloth, probably at least $1000.

On the way back on Tuesday, we stopped at Panera and bought a dozen bagels.  We purchased these with gift card money, and it made breakfasts easier since we were coming back in the middle of the week.  We ate them as egg and cheese sandwiches, and plain with butter or peanut butter.  Little man loved them.

I collected unopened milk from students during lunch and took it to the food pantry if I had enough.  I only had two small cartons this week, so one was used for coffee and one for baking. I also had a coworker give me grapes at lunch on Friday, so these came home for little man's breakfast.  He loves fruit, especially grapes, but we generally don't purchase a lot because they tend to be pricey.

There was no grocery run this week, but we did find a deal on Chutes and Ladders for little man at Walmart.  With the coupon, it was $1.77 before tax, so we will save this for his Easter present this year.  It's fun to begin thinking about board games with him!

We ate Sunday dinner with my mom, which included hotdogs, slaw (from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook), sauted tomatoes (they were on their last leg, but so good with garlic and olive oil), and baked beans.  I also made a loaf of bread and we made our favorite chocolate stout cake dessert.  Mom had all the other ingredients, so it was nice that all I had to provide was the bread.

All laundry was washed in cold water except diapers.  We hung it all out to dry, some on the line outside now that it's warm enough to do so.

We made a huge pot of white bean rosemary soup for the week, which will be great for lunches.  We thought it was a little thin, but loved the flavor, so we will add some chopped celery or barley next time after pureeing and let it cook those things.

We did our usual composting, recycling, etc.  We also collected coffee grounds from the coffee bar at church.  Our Christmas wreath was finally deconstructed, and we added these branches to the compost.

Our garlic is finally emerging from its straw mulch, so exciting!  This is the first year we've grown garlic, and so far it has been super easy.  We will definitely do it again next year, and maybe plant even more so we don't have to buy any.

We cleaned out the flower bed and trimmed things back (I left some seed heads up for the birds over the winter).  We will hire a friend from church to pick up the free mulch from the landfill and spread it for us.  This is a job we could do ourselves, but it is easier to hire him, and we feel like it's worthwhile because he uses the money from these jobs to pay for his college education.  We may also pay him to trim back some of the larger trees along the back of our property that we can't easily reach, but he has the tools to do.

At school, my gardening class planted some herb and flower seeds for our plant sale.  There are a few varieties that I want, so it is a win win.

I will plant the leftover seeds from the plant sale at home, and hopefully little man will help this year.  We would love to have some more sage, parsley, lavender, marigolds, and zinnias for our garden this year.  I love zinnias... so happy and full of color!

What did you do last week to live and save green?  How are your gardens doing?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm linking up to The Prudent Homemaker and Strangers and Pilgrims this week.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Last week was finally back to a regular work week for us with no snow and beautiful spring weather. We saved by:

 •Benny stayed home with little man and took care of many chores, spent time outside in the spring weather, filled the bird feeder with discounted birdseed, and enjoyed being a SAHD

 •Took advantage of produce manager cleaning out bins and got free carrots, parsnips, and other veggies. Some went to our friends’ chickens, some were still good enough for us to eat.

 •Purchased cabbage on sale and with 20% off app, as well as BOGO apple cider vinegar, toothpaste (with coupons), and ketchup

 •Made all meals at home and from scratch including sweet and sour stir fry w/ homemade egg rolls, winter squash pancakes, muffins, focaccia, black bean burgers w/ homemade whole wheat buns, and pesto pasta salad

 •Tidied up back garden by trimming back and pruning, did minimal weeding to prepare for spring plantings.

 •Have the first herbs coming back including chives, oregano, sage, lemon balm, and mint. The chives will be big enough next week to begin harvesting.

 •Carpooled to work as usual to save on fuel and have time to plan with my teammate

 •Took walks and hikes numerous nights for exercise and family time.

 •Made a powdered orange cleaner (1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 2 tablespoons ground, dried orange peel—I grind in a coffee grinder) and finishing up orange infused vinegar for use as a cleaner. The powdered orange cleaner has been great for cleaning the sink or counter tops.

 •Began assessing freezer contents and using up in preparation for CSA and farmer’s market season 

•Cleaned out little man’s drawer and noticed lack of summer clothing, so emailed a few friends and colleagues with older kids to see if they had hand-me-downs. They did! So we now have enough clothing for little man for the spring and summer, which saves us some money and helped friends clean out their closets.

•We did a little yard work, so one garden now has a rock edging and the stone cages we had the rock in are now deconstructed. We’ll recycle the wire and we have friends who are going to use the pallets for their garden edging and compost bins.

•Cut little man’s hair at home… not perfect, but an improvement and it didn’t cost us $10 or more. 

•Met a friend for some time together. We opted to BYO coffee and a walk in local gardens instead of a brunch meeting or coffee at a coffee shop. It was wonderful to be together and a great way to celebrate the coming of spring.

What did you do to live and save green last week? I'd love to hear from you! I'm linking up to The Prudent Homemaker and to Strangers and Pilgrims this week.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

It was another snowy week for us, so that meant that I got to stay at home while Benny went to work.  He was able to work almost a full 40 hour week, so we will appreciate that income in savings.  Little man and I did not venture out because of our snow-covered road, so we were able to save on gas as well, since I was not driving to work each day.

We made all meals at home, except for Saturday lunch with friends (we took a salad) when the snow cleared and Sunday dinner with my mom (we again took a salad).  Our "winter" salads consist of loose spinach, citrus, dried fruit, nuts/seeds (whatever we have on hand), and some feta cheese if we have it.  They are always tasty and well received, and a cinch to put together.  We also made vegetable soup in the crock pot (clean out the freezer soup), homemade french bread (four loaves), flat bread with olive oil dipping sauce, homemade pizza with white sauce, lentil sloppy joes with roasted asparagus and oven fries, broccoli apple salad, double batch of quiche, zucchini banana flaxseed muffins, breakfast oatmeal cookies (these weren't our favorite, but little man liked them and they helped use up bananas in the freezer), and banana chocolate chip muffins.

We continued to minimize waste by composting as much as possible.  I started a batch of citrus infused vinegar to use for cleaning using peels that would have otherwise gone to the compost.  Once they're done infusing the vinegar, they can go to the compost.  Also, I began drying orange peels for use in a powdered cleaner using baking soda, borax, and ground citrus peels.  Froze more orange peels for use in marmalade later, or for candied peels.  I will post later about the recipes for these and their effectiveness.  We we are really trying to use organic cleaners now that little man is big enough to help with simple cleaning like wiping counters, and it is nice to be able to use something that would otherwise be considered waste.

I read more on perennial herbs that grow well for our area and began planning our spring gardens.  I would like to remove some of our hosta plants that the deer ate last year and replace them with herbs that can be used in the kitchen and for crafts.  (The herbs do not seem to be something the deer are interested in eating.)  I am thinking of planting some new types of sage, more chives (we love these and would like to use them more), dill, more varieties of basil, lovage, and more lavender.  I might also plant some nasturtiums also; they would be pretty on salads.

We used the gas logs more to offset the electric heat.  This was really effective one day, because the heat didn't come on until the sun started to set.  We keep our heat pretty low at 62 degrees anyway, to conserve more energy.

We washed and reused plastic bags and containers.  I am in the process of gathering our large jars from Costco (sun dried tomatoes, olives, etc.) to repurpose for storage containers for items we buy from bulk bins (corn meal, specialty flours, lentils, etc.).  Strangers and Pilgrims has fun pantry labels for containers like these and other wonderful homemaking ideas.

All laundry was hung to dry, and we continued to use our cloth diapers, wipes, and family cloth.  I wore the same jeans all week, since I didn't really leave the house and didn't get them dirty.  Sweaters were worn more than one day also, saving on laundry time and supplies.

We did a small grocery run and kept it to about $20.  This included stocking up on dish soap, frozen salmon, frozen meatballs (I prefer to buy local, grassfed beef, but we're out until market season), oranges and strawberries (a treat, but on sale), canned tomatoes, free shampoo, and frozen veggies.  Southern Savers really helps us out here by matching up store sales with coupons, and it's free, unlike the Grocery Game that we used to use.  (Though it doesn't always seem as comprehensive or quite as accurate for our area as the Grocery Game.)

A few of our eBay postings sold, so that's money we can put toward our CSA subscription for this year.  I can't wait for that to start again!  I'm so ready for fresh local veggies again.  It really does help make our meal planning easier and it allows us to spend less during the spring and summer months on groceries in general.  It's also nice to be able to stock the freezer with the extras so that we have local produce in the winter too.

On a non-frugal note, we think our microwave is about to go (it's beeping and changing screens, even when no one is using it or anywhere around).  It's an over the stove, integrated hood type, so it's not cheap to replace.  We're thinking we'd like to replace it with an actual range hood and a counter top microwave.  We've discovered that we don't use all the fancy features that came with it, and we'd rather have an actual vented hood.  We're thinking that the tax return we get should cover the costs of this replacement, plus maybe our water filter for the house too, so at least it wouldn't have to come out of savings.

What did you do to live and save green last week?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm linking up to The Prudent Homemaker and Strangers and Pilgrims this week.