Monday, December 12, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we had some great frugal scores, as well as keeping up with our regular activities.  Here's our list of accomplishments:

  • Cooked all meals at home.  This included lentil sweet potato soup using homemade turkey stock, sweet potato waffles, baked chicken with sweet potatoes and salad, and cranberry currant muffins.
  • Took leftovers for lunch every day to work.
  • We took advantage of lots of overflow from the food pantry and said yes to:  half gallon of milk, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, chopped root veggies, yogurt, oranges, pomegranates, and bread.  This will keep us from having to go to the grocery store this week and maybe next week.
  • Took advantage of three shared meals this week with family, friends, and church.  We took corn on the cob to the meal with friends and tortilla chips to the chili cook off at church.  These meals were fun entertainment and saved us on meal prep and groceries.
  • Saved two cartons of milk from the school cafeteria that kids were going to throw away unopened.  Used these for coffee drinks.
  • The citrus we ordered from the local high school band arrived, so we have two boxes of mandarins and grapefruit.  The whole family loves these, and they will store well for weeks in our unheated basement space.  It's nice that it was a fundraiser for the band program too.
  • Hung all clothing to dry after laundry.  Used lowest heat setting on dryer for drying sheets and towels.  Washed all clothing on cold water.
  • Continued with cloth diapers for baby and night time potty training for little man, saving on diaper costs.
  • Both boys have colds, so we're treating those with home remedies such as homemade broth, humidifiers, Vicks vapor rub, hot showers, and hot tea.  I'm still nursing baby, so his cold isn't as bad, and I'm trying to convince little man to take some of the extra breastmilk to help ease his cold too.
  • Showered every other day to save on water and keep my skin not as dry.  
  • Saved citrus peels for making homemade citrus cleaner.  I'll make some liquid with white vinegar and some powdered with baking soda and borax.  It is great for cleaning the bathrooms, and I use the powder for gifts for some friends.
  • Zested some citrus for drying. I'll store this in a jar and use it in baking.
  • Enjoyed our first delay day due to weather to make waffles with the family.  It was a nice treat to have extra family time on Friday.
  • Carpooled to work most days, saving on fuel.
  • Used our shop vac to clean the car out, rather than paying to vacuum it out at the car wash.
  • Continued to compost all appropriate kitchen scraps, including paper towels, brown cardboard, and brown paper.
  • Stayed home on Saturday, saving on fuel costs.  I entertained the boys with things we had at home, and helped little man make tie dyed shirts for the family for Christmas using dye we already had and existing white shirts.  Baby will look so cute in the onsie, it gave new life to dingy shirts, and little man is so proud of his gifts!
  • Accepted some hand-me-down clothes for the boys.  Some are a bit big still, but they are good quality and we can store them.
  • Browsed magazines and cookbooks we already had for entertainment and to help get new ideas for menus.
  • Posted items to sell on eBay.
  • Reposted our room ad for upstairs.  Hoping to rent that space soon so it doesn't sit vacant too long.  It really helps our budget, and we enjoy sharing the space with someone who's a good fit for our family.
  • Saved cool whip containers from a lab at school for use with Christmas goodie gifting.  The containers will hold holiday goodies well, and will look festive when wrapped in tissue paper tied with ribbon.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments Holiday Edition

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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

December Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

November Menu Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Updates on 2016 Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October Menu Plan

This month is all about using seasonal ingredients and making use of what we have.  We have a huge stockpile right now, and we're trying to make a dent in the home equity line loan, so this month I'm focusing only on purchasing absolute necessities (usually milk, cheese, pie crust (it's just too hard to find the time to make it with two littles) and maybe yogurt or fresh fruit).  I'm also working to use our crock pot to its fullest potential, which means using it for roasted veggies, large batches of beans from dried, and soups/stews.

Here's the basic plan, recognizing that some things may shift and change if we are gifted items, especially fresh produce.

Breakfasts:  french toast casserole, banana nut muffins, zucchini flax muffins, pumpkin nut muffins, egg and cheese sandwiches, steel cut oatmeal with fruit, smoothies, baked oatmeal  (we have a lot of fruit, winter squash, and shredded summer squash in the freezer that needs to be used)

Lunches:  leftovers, roasted veggie sandwiches/wraps with hummus, bean and cheese quesadillas

Dinners:  veggie quiche, kale and chick pea stew with toast, lentil sloppy joes, winter squash waffles with bacon and smoothies, black beans and rice with fixin's, macaroni and cheese with tomatoes and green beans, black bean tacos, black bean chili and corn bread, chicken salad sandwiches with side salad, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, crock pot roasted veggies over rice, homemade pizza x 2, pesto pasta with side salad

Snacks:  roasted squash/pumpkin seeds, popcorn, winter squash pie, fresh fruit, hummus and carrot sticks

Batch cooking/putting up:  process winter squash and freeze puree, make applesauce/pear sauce and freeze, dried tomatoes, chive and sage herb butter

I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green in the kitchen this month!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week has been all about food preservation for us.  We got a boatload of tomatoes from the food pantry (heirloom green zebras), so we've been drying them and making sauces.  I've also been trying to put up some of the carrots that are rolling around in the fridge and taking up too much space.

Here are our weekly accomplishments for this week:

  • All meals were made at home.  We shared three community meals with family and friends, which helped with time and budget.
  • Took advantage of meal provided at school on a day we had a workshop
  • We made six cups of pizza sauce using this recipe.  I added some gifted mushrooms.  We froze this. (We plan to make another batch or two.)
  • We made two batches of dried tomatoes overnight in the dehydrator.
  • Processed winter squash for baby food and stored in freezer in ice cube trays.
  • Used food pantry bread for egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfasts.
  • Froze fruit from food pantry for use in smoothies and Popsicles.
  • Used brown paper bags for draining bacon rather than paper towels
  • Used crock pot to make three meals/sides
  • Composted all kitchen waste
  • Washed most laundry in cold water, except diapers.
  • Continued to hang clothes to dry, either inside on racks or outdoors.
  • Did shared family baths with the boys to save on water.
  • Used rags for cleaning and washable mop pads for mopping the floor
  • Skipped grocery shopping and relied on pantry, fridge, and freezer staples.
  • Combined errands to save on fuel
  • Carpooled to work most days
  • Began weeding and deadheading the gardens for fall.  Need to rake leaves to add to the compost or use as mulch in garden beds.
  • Had a contractor come for quotes on various jobs around the house.  Hope to compare with another contractor in a week or so and compare.
  • Posted upstairs rental space ad on Craigslist to be filled by January.  Hoping for responses soon.
  • Made new chore chart for little man and hoping to re-implement this with him so that there's more motivation to clean up toys in his room and common spaces before bed each night.  Added clearing the table and setting the table for dinner.
What about you?  What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well with sticking to our budget.  Benny did take off work on Saturday to spend the day with little man, which was awesome and I think they both benefited from a "boys day."  Mom and I took baby boy to a baby shower for my cousin (out of town), and Mom drove, which saved us on gas and wear and tear on our car.  It was a great weekend for us all and we had some much needed family time, even though we were all in different places.

  • We cooked all meals at home.  We had several shared meals, which saved time and money with meal prep.
  • We composted all appropriate kitchen scraps, brown paper, and paper towels.  We're calling this week to pick up spent grains from a local brewery for more compost material.  
  • Used the crock pot twice to fix black beans and black bean chili.
  • Made an expired corn bread mix that was donated to us.  It didn't rise as much, but tasted great, so we'll use the rest of the mix up soon.
  • Appreciated heirloom tomatoes donated to the food pantry (they came from a farm and they were the ugly ones that wouldn't sell... they donated over 150 lbs!).  They were going to be bad by Wednesday, so I took a box and made homemade pizza sauce in the crock pot.  We'll eat the rest fresh or freeze them for later use in soups.  If I weren't juggling the boys, I would have taken more to make and can salsa.
  • Used our herbs and garlic from the garden to spice up meals.
  • Made smoothies with food pantry fruit.
  • It was super doubles at HT this week, and I managed to stock up on several necessary items and keep the food budget in tact.  The bill was $40.
  • Continued to hang all clothing and diapers to dry.  The season for using the outdoor clothesline is waning, as the fall rains begin to set in, but we're making use of our drying racks and ceiling fans to dry things indoors.
  • Used family cloth and cloth wipes while at home to cut down on the use of disposables.  
  • Repurposed mismatched pillow cases for changing pad covers.  They work great and are easy to change.
  • Gratefully accepted some hand-me-downs for little man from a coworker.  He loves the new clothes, and it's nice to have a few things he can grow into.
  • Reused gift bags and greeting card fronts for gifts for a baby shower and birthday party this weekend.  Little man made a tie dye t-shirt for his friend using a kit we had, so it was a cheap gift and he had fun making it.  It's also nice that these can be made ahead and are unisex, so they work for either gender.  
  • Began getting estimates for some carpentry work we need done around the house.  We had planned to do it earlier this summer, but it just didn't happen.  We're hoping that we might get a better rate on it now that its not the busy season and people are needing jobs more.
  • Spent time weeding the garden some and planning for fall preparations.  Would like to find some free straw bales for the garlic beds so I don't have to purchase any.  
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 today.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well with our budget.  We've thankfully filled our rental space upstairs, at least until December, so that eases the budget (and she's a great fit so far!).  We did have a hefty dental bill this week, but it was for expected cleanings for me and little man, so it was within the budget and paid with our HSA money.  The food pantry was a huge help this week and we were glad to be able to save some produce that would have otherwise gone in the dumpster.

So, here's the breakdown for those interested in specifics:

  • Made all meals at home.  We did have one treat out thanks to Mom, when a local restaurant was having a fund raiser for the food pantry.  Packed lunches from leftovers.
  • Composted kitchen scraps, brown paper, and paper towels for minimal household waste.
  • Put one quart of strawberries in the freezer from the food pantry.
  • Froze one gallon of mixed fruit from the food pantry for use in smoothies.
  • Put up two quarts of bell peppers in the freezer from the pantry and our CSA.
  • Made a quart of pickled jalapenos from some that were in the freezer that needed to be used.
  • Picked up a few veggies from the food pantry that I knew we would use in meals this week including mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and celery.
  • Used bread bowls from the pantry to make two batches of croutons.  We're loving these in soup, and they're a popular snack lately.  They are a nice free substitution for crackers, since they fit that crunchy craving.  Little man loves them.
  • Used the crock pot to make a white bean and kale soup with ingredients we had on hand, saving on electricity.
  • Took advantage of two shared meals.
  • Made mint tea with mint from the garden.  Need to harvest more to freeze or dry.
  • Spent less than $30 at the grocery store for milk, cream cheese, some yogurt, and a little fruit on sale.  Also picked up four packages of natural sausages for $2 each on discount.  We love these on the grill or in jambalaya.
  • Enjoyed snacks at our parenting class for kids with speech delays.  They provide child care, so even though we're paying for the class, we don't have the additional cost of child care.
  • Used rags to clean spills
  • Made homemade shower cleaner (need to make one for upstairs too) using white vinegar and dish soap
  • Hung most laundry to dry, except sheets and towels, which needed a quick turn around this week.
  • Used HSA money to pay for two dental cleanings, which meant that we could use this money pretax from my paycheck, saving us some in the long run.
  • Carpooled most days to work, saving on gas.
  • Continued to pump breast milk at work, saving on formula.  It is nice that the baby is getting close to solid foods, so I won't have to pump as much soon.  We keep our pumping supplies minimal, using a hand pump and one bottle that we wash between feedings.  This minimalism really helps us cut down on clutter and saves time in the long run not having to worry about set up, etc.
  • Figured out Benny's work schedule and Mom watches the boys one day so that he can work.  He's working about 12 hours a week, which is nice for the budget and gives him some time away from the boys.  Grateful to have a mom who will keep the boys for free.
  • Accepted an invitation to a baby shower.  Taking some things that we didn't need for the boys, as well as a few hand-me-downs she might appreciate.  Made a card and will reuse a gift bag.
  • Grateful for a scholarship for one of little man's preschools.  He goes two mornings a week to a speech/language preschool and two mornings to a church preschool.  The speech/language one isn't cheap, so we're glad to get help with the other.  We're hopeful that by investing now, his transition to school in a few years will be much easier.  
  • Used a gift card to purchase two bed pillows for us for Christmas (we needed some new ones badly).  The older ones will go to the boys' room.  We're trying to really use gift cards and coupons to keep holiday spending minimal. (Does anyone know how to environmentally responsibly dispose of used pillows that aren't natural materials?  I've thought of reusing the filling for something, but not sure...)
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September Menu Plan

This month, as usual, is all about making what we can at home and saving the most of our paychecks.  To that end, we're going to continue taking advantage of the gifts we get from the food pantry at church (food items clients don't want or items that will go bad before the next open day for clients), make use of our CSA veggies, and our freezer stash.  Our hope is to glean some apples later in the month from some friends for drying and making homemade applesauce and apple butter.  We'll also continue to take advantage of shared meals with family and friends, and community meals when possible to stretch our leftovers.  If I can save enough, we might use a portion of this month's budget to stock up on some wine for the year when they have the case sale at HT.  Hopefully, we can continue to keep our grocery budget to $100 or less this month, especially with still getting CSA veggies and pantry items.

So, without further ado, here's the plan for this month:

Breakfasts:  baked oatmeal (using the recipe from Simply in Season), bagels with cream cheese or as egg sandwiches, french toast casserole, blueberry muffins, winter squash muffins, zucchini flax muffins, zucchini and oatmeal waffles, egg and cheese sandwiches, smoothies, breakfast egg casserole with veggies

Lunches:  Our lunches are mostly leftovers.  Right now we're rounding out lunches with fresh tomatoes (so yummy from our CSA), salads, and seasonal fresh fruit (mostly peaches).  I know that at least one lunch this month will be free for me at school, since our PTO is doing a lunch for teachers.

Dinners:  beans and greens stew, pot roast in the crock pot, black bean chili with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions and corn bread on the side, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, homemade pizza with pesto and veggies x3, breakfast for dinner with homemade applesauce, tomato basil soup, meatball subs with roasted veggies, veggie wraps with hard boiled eggs

We've been doing pretty well with trying out new recipes, even amidst finding our new groove as a family of four with me back to work.  We loved the zucchini oatmeal waffles, and are anxious to try the beans and greens stew.

What about you?  I'd love to hear your menu plans, or if you've found new recipes that might be a cinch to make with two little ones in the mix!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was hit and miss on the frugal accomplishments.  We did really well with our regular things, but ended up having to get the Subaru towed for some work.  (Thankfully, we have AAA, so the towing was free.)  Here's how we saved last week:

  • Cooked all meals at home or with friends from things on hand.  This included broccoli and cheese casserole, lentil sloppy joes, black bean enchiladas, homemade chicken tenders, salads, black bean burgers, bagel pizzas, and homemade bagel chips.
  • Accepted castoffs from the food pantry including kale (loads of it), bagels, sugar snap peas, snow peas, red peppers, jalapenos, two loaves of french bread, squash, and some broccoli and carrot mixes.  We processed most of this for the freezer.  
  • I made four batches of bagel chips for snacking.  We made one batch of kale chips in the dehydrator.
  • Continued to compost kitchen scraps, used paper towels and paper bags, and composted shredded paper.
  • Picked and froze three quarts of blueberries from friends.  Began picking blackberries as they ripen.
  • Made two sticks of herb butter for the freezer using parsley, dill, and garlic from the garden and our CSA.
  • Made two gallons of herbal tea using mint and lemon balm from the garden.
  • Browsed my canning books to refresh my memory on the amount of fruit needed for some recipes.  Planning to try making blueberry mint jam with a friend in the next week or so.
  • Used an empty cardboard box to line the new garden bed as a weed barrier.
  • Took containers to local brewery to collect spent grains.  We'll pick those up this week and spread them in the garden mixed with compost.  We'll cover them with newspaper, as the spent grains can be kind of smelly.  This will need to rest for a few months before planting.
  • Spent a few days with friends helping them install kitchen cabinets and mow their grass (their mower is broken).  This saved them significantly, and they'll return the favor when we have some patio work to do, which will save us some money.
  • Had some unexpected news that our downstairs tenant will be leaving, but we've already scheduled several showings, and had two that are promising.
  • Showed the upstairs space to a very promising tenant.  He seems like he'll be a perfect fit with our family and really seems excited at the prospect of living here with our family.
  • Renewed books online to save a trip to the library.
  • Hung all laundry out to dry on line or on drying rack.  Most laundry was washed in cold water, with the exception of diapers and towels.
  • Completed one scholarship application for little man's preschool.  I plan to call about another application tomorrow.
  • We celebrated our anniversary with a meal out, which we budgeted for.  The restaurant is one of our favorites, the Blowing Rock Ale House, where they make everything from scratch including condiments.  It's worth it to save for and splurge every once in a while.  We skipped dessert and made these cheesecake bars at home.  We replaced the graham cracker crust with a chocolate graham cracker one, which made them doubly good.
What about you?  What did you do to live and save green last week?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July Meal Plan

This month is all about using what we have, minimizing expenses, and not heating up the kitchen.  We'll of course be making good use of the excellent summer produce from our CSA, be purchasing our share of fresh fruit from local vendors to feed little man and ourselves, and picking our share of fresh goodies from our garden, generous friends' berry bushes, and the neighborhood roadside blackberries.  We're also probably going to be gifted some items from the food pantry, so we'll include those in the plan too.

Without further ado, here's the plan:

Breakfasts:  egg and cheese sandwiches on bagels, fruit smoothies with yogurt, homemade granola and yogurt with berries, crockpot oatmeal and a new breakfast rice porridge I'm dying to try, bagels with cream cheese, raspberry muffins, blueberry muffins or blueberry buckle, whole wheat and berry scones

Lunches:  leftovers, grilled/roasted veggie sandwiches with herbed ricotta cheese, smoothies, chicken salad sandwiches

Dinners:  lentil sloppy joes with roasted veggies, dinner salads with hard boiled eggs or tuna, roasted turkey (using the crockpot roaster) with salad and crock pot baked potatoes, black bean tacos with summer squash and greens, beans and rice with fixin's, turkey salad with fresh fruit, grilled lamb chops (from the food pantry that are in our freezer) with salad and rice pilaf, veggie stir fry, sausages over rice with cucumber/squash vinegar slaw, pesto pizza with salad

Putting Up Projects:  This is the time of year that we try to put away fresh goodies for later in the year.  I'll be making the following things this month for later use:

  • pesto with fresh greens and basil, and garlic from our garden (goal of at least 10 half pints)
  • cook and freeze at least two quarts of greens (kale or swiss chard) for use in winter soups/stews
  • freeze fresh berries (goal of at least three quarts of raspberries, five quarts of blueberries, five quarts of blackberries)
  • make and freeze applesauce (goal of at least three quarts this month, at least 10 quarts total for the season)
  • peel, slice, and freeze peaches (goal of at least five quarts)
  • make at least 10 half pints of peach salsa
  • make at least 10 half pints of peach rosemary jam
  • make at least 10 half pints of mixed berry jam
  • make at least five half pints of apple butter
The canning will be tough this year with the boys, but if I can meet these goals, then it will make Christmas gifting so much easier since all the prep work will be done.

What about you?  What are your July menu plans?  Are you putting up any summer produce for later use?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past month has been pretty good in terms of frugality.  There were a few expenditures out of the ordinary, but nothing that we hadn't planned for.

  • We continued to eat at home for all meals.  I'll include a meal plan for July soon.
  • The crockpot was used at least once a week for meal prep, which yielded leftovers for lunches.  It also saves on electricity and doesn't heat up the house like using the oven or stove.
  • Washed out produce bags for reuse.  We get a lot of bags with our CSA share, and if we're careful, they can last us the entire year, which means we have to buy very few storage bags.  The only ones we do purchase are freezer bags for storing produce from the garden for later in the year.
  • Kept up our grocery budget and managed to keep it to our $100/month goal.  This is largely due to having CSA veggies now.
  • Continued to use rags for cleaning, homemade cleaners, and very few paper towels/napkins.  What paper was used was composted.
  • Composted all appropriate kitchen scraps.
  • Enjoyed a few pot luck meals with friends, which made for easy meal prep and fun entertainment.
  • Picked blueberries and raspberries at friends' houses, so we didn't have to purchase these.  I managed to put one quart of raspberries in the freezer.  All other berries were eaten by our resident three year old fruit monster!
  • Harvested and braided our garlic, which should provide for the rest of the year.
  • Continued with cloth diapers and baby's diaper rash is gone!  This means less expense on diaper rash cream.
  • Used the clothesline to hang most laundry.  When it was raining, we hung clothes inside on racks.  We've even managed to hang towels and sheets out, which saves even more on our minimal dryer usage.
  • Prepared three more raised beds for the garden.  We'll use these for more raspberry plants, some gifted strawberry plants, and annual herbs such as basil.  These were filled with our own compost, spent hay, and lined with old newspapers and cardboard.
  • We are continuing to look for more sources for our compost.  I've found  a local brewery that will let us have spent grains, and we'll begin collecting coffee grounds from the coffee bar at church.  I might also find some things from the local food pantry, though I'm looking for more brown material than greens.
  • Kept our electric bill to around $100 by not running the AC and keeping windows open.  We draw the curtains in the afternoon to keep the sun out.  The ceiling fans are a huge help.
  • Made use of our Playhouse membership, public library story time, and pool membership (gifted for our birthdays) for free family outings.  
  • Found free music in the park for Friday night family fun.  We take a picnic dinner, and it really helps that the park is only a 10 minute drive.
  • Found out about some grants to help us pay for little man's speech services in preschool.  This new preschool is pricey, but the services they provide are amazing.  We'll continue to watch our budget to keep this a reality for the school year.
  • Have a potential lead on the room rental upstairs.  This tenant can't afford our usual $400/month, but we can negotiate some labor for rent.  He's willing to help with our painting projects, so it'll all work out.  Praying he finds a job to make his move a reality.
  • Found a dresser at Goodwill for the boys' room.  It was $40, a little more than I wanted to pay, but is in good shape and very well built.  It will add much needed storage to their closet.
  • Continued to post things on eBay for sale.  We sold some Mary Kay products, and Benny sold some electronics.  
  • Found clothes in the lost and found bin at school for the boys.  It will take a few years for them to grow into them, but it's worth the storage.  Otherwise, things were going to be donated to Goodwill.
  • Asked a friend about hand me downs for little man to save on clothing purchases.  You never know until you ask!
  • Made a birthday present instead of purchasing.  We bought a pack of t-shirts to tie dye, which yielded several shirts for the cost of one new toy.  The gift was useful, and it gave little man something fun to do, and he loves wearing his new shirts.
  • Got a good report from the endocrinologist and I don't have to go back for two years!  This means no $65 copays for a while, and fewer three hour road trips there and back.  It also means peace of mind.
  • Combined errands whenever possible.
  • Found kit to attach to downspout for the rain barrels.  Hoping to get rain barrels installed next month so we have that water to use when things get really hot.
I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green!  Feel free to leave a comment!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Baby's Arrival and April Menu

I've been absent for a little while because baby boy arrived on March 9!  He was a little early, but really healthy.  He's doing well and we're all adjusting to being a family of four, which is a little turbulent at times with a three year old around. But we're loving it, and are blessed to have church family and friends who have been a huge help with meals.

However, our meals run out this week, so we're back to planning our own.  We're going to try to keep things easy and simple, so that means lots of crock pot meals and things we can prep an evening before while the boys sleep.  We'll also be making use of seasonal ingredients, including greens, ham, and eggs.  So, without further ado, here's the plan for the month:

Breakfasts:  oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, homemade granola and yogurt, smoothies, waffles, egg sandwiches, muffins (some in the freezer, and we may make some pumpkin ones too)

Lunches:  leftovers, hard boiled eggs and fruit, egg salad sandwiches, yogurt

Dinners:  lentil curry with naan and yogurt, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, black beans and rice with corn bread, chili with cornbread, jambalaya, salmon and pesto pasta, pesto pizza, open faced meatball sandwiches, split pea soup with whole grain bread (using leftover frozen Easter ham), loaded mac and cheese with ham and broccoli/green beans, cabbage and sausage soup in the crockpot, lasagna (frozen) and salad, egg pita sandwiches and roasted potatoes, and possibly a ham and broccoli or asparagus quiche (we'll make a double batch)

We'll need to purchase a few things to make this menu happen.  We'll try to find all of these things on sale with a coupon.  There are several on sale this week at both Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods.  Here's the list:

  • milk
  • fruit
  • naan (we'll use a gift card for the local bakery)
  • frozen veggies (mostly broccoli)
  • kidney beans
  • farro (for the curry)
  • brown rice
  • yogurt
  • avocados
  • cream cheese
So, how're your spring menu plans going?  I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green this spring!  Leave a note in the comments!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week was pretty good for us, frugally speaking.  We didn't have any unexpected expenses, and we were able to take advantage of a community meal, which saved some meal prep and food expenses this week.  I also had a snow day, so this saved on some fuel, since I didn't have to drive to school on Friday.

Here's what we did this week to continue to stick to our budget and keep things frugal:

  • Made all meals at home, including potato soup in the crockpot, lasagna soup, smoothies, salad, foccacia using the bread machine for dough, waffles with fruit, and oatmeal.  
  • Had lots leftover from Greek Day at school, so this made up lunches for several days.  These included hummus, pita chips, olives, grapes, and cheeses.  We will use some of the cheese this upcoming week for homemade mac and cheese.
  • Used brown paper bag for cooking bacon instead of paper towels in the microwave.  This paper was then composted.  (Our composter is closed, so we don't have concerns about animals getting into it.)
  • Continued with regular composting and recycling.  We continue to add brown paper to our compost, and are acquiring some of Mom's pecan shells to add to the compost as well.  
  • Made a minimal trip to the grocery store to pick up some produce and almond milk that was on sale.  The almond milk should last us for at least two weeks.  They had a lot of produce discounted, so I picked up some bell peppers, fruit, and blue potatoes unexpectedly.  
  • We had a meal at church on Wednesday night for the kids worship service.  This made meal prep easy and allowed us to stretch leftovers one more day.
  • Used the crockpot for two meals, which yielded leftovers to last most of the week.  This saved significantly on electricity.
  • Enjoyed a big family breakfast on Friday of waffles, smoothies, and bacon.  This meant that lunch was just snacks of fruit and cheese.
  • I saved an unopened carton of milk from being thrown away in the school cafeteria.  I took this home, though if we get more than a few, I usually take them to the food pantry or save them for kids who need a drink during the day.
  • We took advantage of a cooking class at the Playhouse for little man, where he made homemade granola.  He really liked this, so we're trying out a granola recipe at home this week.  He also enjoyed painting there.
  • A potential upstairs tenant visited, and we think she would be a good fit.  We're waiting to see if she sends us references.  Fingers crossed!
  • On our snow day, we finalized our taxes and got them in the mail.  We're hoping for some of a refund, which should help to round out the baby fund.  We also took some more pictures of eBay items to post online.
  • We planned two shared meals for the next week with friends.  One our friends will host, one we'll host.  This is a nice way to get some social time in without spending a lot to eat out.  It's also a fun culinary stretch for us, since both of these friends are vegan/vegetarian.  We're planning meals of enchiladas for one and these egg sandwiches (the pitas with feta) for the other.
  • The weather was beautiful, so we spent a lot of time outside over the weekend walking, blowing bubbles, and I spent some time surveying the garden trying to assess what needs to be done next.  We need to trim back some of the dead flower heads we left over the winter for the birds.
  • We discussed scheduling our mulch to be delivered and spread.  We should do it soon, before too many more perennials come up.  So, maybe we'll have that done right before/after baby comes home.
  • Benny touched up the paint on the coffee table where it had gotten scraped and scuffed.
  • Benny also finished the new TV shelf to add to our TV nook above the fire place.  It looks great, even though it doesn't quite meet his "OCD" tendencies.  And it was so much cheaper than purchasing something ready made.
  • We cleaned off the mantle and dusted some parts of the house.  We'll finish this deep cleaning this coming week.
  • We organized the freezer and put some things in the large freezer downstairs.
I'd love to hear what you did to live and save green this week!

Monday, February 29, 2016

March Menu and Grocery Shopping Plan

This month will be a little different for us since we're expecting baby #2's arrival mid-March.  So, we're stocking the freezer and hoping some friends bring us some meals.  We're also trying to stock the pantry with easy to fix meals, such as pasta and stir fry.  And, we're able to take advantage of Harris Teeter's Super Doubles this week, which is really helping to save.  So, we're hoping to keep this month's grocery budget to under $100.

It's really helping out that my mom is volunteering at the food pantry and able to bring us some items that would otherwise be labeled as "waste"  (they only are open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so what's left on Thursday in terms of fresh produce is usually tossed because it won't hold until the next week, but it's still good.).  Most of this, we end up processing for the freezer or dehydrating and using at our leisure.

Just a few of the items we've been gifted from the food pantry include:  Panera bread and bagels, jalapeno peppers, potatoes, pomegranates, kiwi, citrus, bananas, fresh herbs, turnips, carrots, mushrooms, and many others.  It's not like we get a whole crate, but even a small grocery sack helps to offset our grocery bill and round out our meals.

Here's the menu plan for the month, including some gifted items:

Breakfast:  bagels with cream cheese, quiche with gifted eggs from friends, gingerbread muffins with dried cranberries, banana breakfast bars, oatmeal with dried fruit, lemon poppy seed muffins, smoothies, egg and cheese sandwiches, homemade yogurt with cereal and fruit, and "big boy breakfast" of eggs, grits and sausage or bacon.

Lunches:  leftovers, egg salad sandwiches, fruit and hard boiled eggs, pasta salad with olives, canned salmon, and veggies

Dinners:  lasagna soup with bread and salad, baked potato soup with fixin's, beans and rice with fixins and corn bread, veggie stir fry over rice or noodles with egg rolls, bean tacos/quesadillas with fixins, lentil sloppy joes with cheese and steamed veggies, hot dogs/sausages with sauerkraut and oven fries, Asian ginger chicken with rice, breakfast casserole with smoothies, waffles with fruit and sausage, open faced meatball subs over homemade bread with oven fries, pizza with pesto and veggies, pasta with pesto, and any gifted meals from friends/family once the baby comes.

Snacks:  popcorn, dried fruit, yogurt, fresh fruit, carrot sticks and dip, tortilla roll ups with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, smoothies, crackers with peanut butter

The plan is to make the more labor intensive meals (waffles, lentil sloppy joes, stir fry) early in the month and save the "quick and dirty" ones for once the baby arrives.  Many of the easy meals are crock pot meals or one pot meals on the stove, so they will come together quickly.  Unlike many of the "recommended" ideas for when you first bring baby home, we will not be doing paper plates, etc.  I find this really wasteful on so many levels, and am blessed to have a wonderfully helpful husband who does dishes and knows his way around the kitchen (sometimes more than I do!).  So, we'll use our regular stuff and run the dish washer like we always do.  We are hopeful that having some meals from friends and family will help to ease the kitchen cleanup, so that it's just plates/silverware we're cleaning up and not the whole kitchen.

Here's what we'll need to purchase this month to make this menu work:

  • salad greens (we'll use a gift card so we can buy organic and in bulk)
  • avocados/guacamole (HT has this on super doubles this week, so we'll stock up)
  • whole grain hot dog buns (I usually make these, but am too tired right now to think about that!)
  • organic milk or almond/soy if it's on sale with a coupon
  • canned tomato products if they're on sale or have a great coupon
  • 5 lbs potatoes (these are on sale at Lowes Foods this week, so I'll probably get them there)
  • paper towels (these are on sale at HT)
  • onions
  • diapers (not a food item, but necessity before baby fits into our cloth ones... on sale at HT w/ super doubles)
  • large bag of popping corn (still can't find this locally in bulk... ideas for online?)
  • kefir (for smoothies and general health in recovering after the baby arrives)
  • yogurt (if deeply discounted, there's some at HT this week for less than 20 cents a carton)
And here's what we'll be making from scratch:

  • whole grain sandwich bread (I may cheat and use a gift card to buy a loaf from the local bakery, if I'm too tired)
  • yogurt
  • cooking dry beans (lentils and either black/pinto beans) for easy use later
  • of course all our regular meals, as mentioned above

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week was a little different for us, since Benny's mom came with our two year old nephew.  It was great fun for little man to have them here, and it definitely helped out with groceries, since she brought a bunch of stuff from Costco for us.  Here's what we did to save this week:

  • I made pizza dough in the bread machine twice to make pizza on Sunday night when they got here, instead of opting for a Domino's deal.  (Takeout would have been easier, but more expensive, and not as healthy.)  We used homemade pesto and veggies we had in the freezer for the toppings.  I added slices of meatballs to one.
  • Monday night, we got to have a date night while Benny's mom watched the boys.  We used an Applebee's giftcard and took advantage of their burger special, so we had enough to order dessert too.  We didn't have to pay anything out of pocket, and we really enjoyed the time together.  (Though, for the record, there are other places in town we'd much rather go for a really good local burger, but this was free.)
  • Tuesday night, I had a Wesley Foundation board meeting, so dinner was provided.  I got to bring home a few of the leftovers.  Benny cooked at home with his mom, and they had French toast and fruit.  During the day, they went to the Playhouse, and had lunch out, which Benny's mom treated for.  They all had a great time and the boys were wiped out.
  • Wednesday they left, and Benny and I helped out with serving dinner at the Wesley Foundation for church that night.  This meant that not only did we get a free meal of tacos after the students were served, but we also ended up coming home with some things that the students wouldn't eat (leftover sour cream, extra salsa, and taco shells).  This gave us at least three extra meals this week.
  • Thursday and Friday were snow days for us, so I didn't go to school, which saved on fuel.  These days gave us a little bit more time to catch up on prepping for baby, and general cleaning.
  • We made a double batch of quiche last night with the last of the pie dough we had in the freezer, plus frozen broccoli and cauliflower and a few chopped tomatoes.  We used cheese that had been purchased on sale and frozen, and some powdered and evaporated milk, since we were out of regular milk.  I used saved butter wrappers to grease the pie dishes.  Little man loved the quiche and requested a piece of "pie" for breakfast this morning, which I happily gave him.
  • Benny's mom brought a boatload of stuff from Costco for us, including a lot of fresh fruit (most of which is gone, thanks to two hungry boys and a pregnant mama), organic cereal, yogurt (which is also gone), crackers, quinoa and kale mix which they didn't like (and we love), dried fruit, and some cheese.  She also brought some stuff for our Greek day at school, which I'll probably end up with some leftovers of.  There were also some things in there to stock our freezer when baby arrives, such as soup and whole grain bread.
  • Mom gave us some bagels from the food pantry (they were going to be labeled "waste" otherwise), and a jar of bacon grease (we are currently out because I haven't been doing as much bacon) that we like to use for frying eggs and greasing pans for corn bread.
  • We made our list for Super Doubles, which starts tomorrow.  I've budgeted about $30 for this trip.
  • I found a deal on Vitacost, so I'll be able to save about $10 off my probiotics this month.
  • I made this salad dressing recipe to take with our salad to a friend's house for dinner tonight.  I've made it once before, but was out of some of the ingredients, so I substituted some things.  I hope it's good.  I reused an old salad dressing bottle to take it in.
  • We continue to cut down on our waste and are filling a kitchen trash bag about every 2 1/2 weeks, which is including night time diapers.  (This would be much less if we weren't using these.)
  • We used scrap paper for little man's collages and scissor practice this week.  He had a great time doing that today, which made my artist soul happy.
  • I found a few more crockpot recipes to try out once the baby arrives.  My mom is graciously filling some freezer bags with the ingredients for these, so that all we have to do is thaw, dump it in, and cook.
  • We finalized our Barnes and Noble list, so we'll place that order using gift cards.  It will be nice to have some new books for us and puzzles for little man once baby arrives.  
  • Benny found a way to repair the sink top in the apartment, so we're thinking if it works out (he did the first step today), then we won't have to pay for a whole new top or entire vanity.  (It was damaged when the mirror inexplicably fell off the wall, while our tenant was out of town, so we're not charging her for the damage.)
  • Someone is coming to check out the upstairs rental space on Monday (hurray!).  She sounds very nice and normal, so we're hoping this will work out.
  • Because I did have school earlier this week, I did get to tutor two days, which meant that I did get paid for that this week.  That extra money will go towards the baby fund, I think, at this point.  I also offered to tutor over the summer, so we'll see if that pans out.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well.  I limited grocery spending to $10, including a pack of diapers.  We also had a few snow days, so that limited travel, which saved on gas.

I continue to dream about spring gardens, which I think every gardener does.  I'm having to keep myself in check though, and think realistically about what I can do after a c-section and with a newborn and three year old in tow.

So, here are the details for this past week:

  • Made all meals from scratch.  Was thankful for some leftovers that Mom gave us after Sunday night dinner, which made several lunches this week.  We used the crockpot to make another batch of "lasagna soup" with a partial box of pasta we had, and it turned out really well.
  • Graciously accepted some gifted potatoes.  Our 25 lb bag we purchased at the end of market season is almost out, so we're glad to have a few more for baking and roasting.
  • Made banana breakfast bars and lemon poppy seed muffins for the freezer for when baby comes.  (Our church is far less organized about providing meals than a few years ago, so we really don't know that we can count on that this time around.  We do have a few friends who have offered.)
  • Continued to compost and recycle, as we usually do, and took recycling off with other errands this week.  Now that we've almost got little man out of diapers (he's only in them at night time), and we're buying more in bulk, we're filling a kitchen trash bag about every two weeks.  (Yes, this will change when baby #2 arrives.)
  • I cut up a torn brown paper bag to use for cooking bacon in the microwave, instead of paper towels.  (We are on our last roll of paper towels, which I think we purchased back in August as a six-pack, but I'm hoping to try out a paper towel-free kitchen.  We're already really close.)
  • Washed all clothing in cold water and hung to dry.  We only used the dryer for towels.  It was even warm and breezy enough yesterday to hang a few things out on the clothes line (it was in the mid-40s).
  • Continue to look for deals on laundry detergent, as we are on our last bottle.  I only use the Seventh Generation stuff, or All free and clear, or Charlie's Soap.  I've considered making our own, but just don't have the time or energy to go there just now.
  • Made more homemade shower spray using dish soap and white vinegar and a re-purposed spray bottle.
  • Made use of a free online printable chore chart for little man, so he is now helping regularly with feeding pets, putting his clean clothes away, putting away toys, and dusting.  He also get stickers for doing his speech homework.
  • Spent a total of less than $10 at the grocery store for a cantaloupe, two bags of frozen veggies, two boxes of frozen egg rolls, and a pack of diapers.  
  • Was tempted to order Domino's pizza for when Benny's mom comes into town, but have opted to make a double batch of our own dough and make our own.  It will be cheaper, and healthier, and the boys can help to put toppings on, which is always fun.
  • Had a doctor's appointment, and had to get yet another prescription, but thankfully it was only $12.  
  • Picked up two books from The Children's Playhouse, which loans out books on parenting, kids activities, etc.  The local library has a lot, but the Playhouse has more in terms of parenting books, which is really nice.  We also took little man to the Playhouse two days this week to play, which he really enjoyed.  (Thanks to my mom for the membership for the year.)
  • The snow early this week was perfect snowman snow, so little man finally got to make a snow man with Daddy, which was super cute and he really enjoyed.  Hurray for free entertainment at home!

  • Made plans with friends for a shared meal next week, which will save on prep, and be a lot of fun.
  • The chickens are laying again!  That means that we don't have to purchase eggs from the grocery store, and that we'll get healthier eggs.  This is super exciting... we'll have hard boiled eggs for snacks, quiche for dinner, dinner salads as spring greens come in, and yummy breakfasts!
What about you?  How did you live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Update on Habits and Goals for 2016

I felt like it was time to revisit the earlier post from this year on habits we wanted to cultivate or goals we wanted to accomplish.  Some things we're really working towards, others might just have to wait until later in the year when baby is a bit older and we're getting a bit more sleep.

Know Where Every Dollar Goes:  We're steadily working toward this.  We continue to look for a deal on YNAB.  We've also contacted a new financial planner, as our current one just isn't really serving our needs.  We look forward to meeting with this new planner in April.  We're also in the process of finalizing our taxes, so that's helping us assess last year's spending.

Invest More for Retirement:  Meeting with the financial planner will give us a clearer picture of exactly how much each month we need to invest.  Once we have the upstairs space rented, this will be easier, as well as having the home equity line paid off.  Currently, any additional income we make is going toward the baby fund or the home equity line.

Intentionally Work on our Home Improvement Projects:  This year, we've got several things on the list that we'd like to tackle.  Many of them are small projects, but they're also the type that we tend to put off just for that reason.  We'd like to be very intentional about checking these off each month so that they're done by the end of the year.  A lot of these projects will be tackled in the evenings after little man is in bed, or while he is at preschool, or on weekend afternoons.

  • Paint trim in boys room, including closet doors by March.  (This includes new caulk, etc. where needed)  Maybe we'll get this done.  Right now it's up to Benny, and I know painting is his least favorite thing to do.
  • Touch up trim/paint in rental spaces by end of January. Yay!  This is done!
  • Advertise upstairs rental through Samaratin's Purse and have rented by February, if not sooner.  Advertise both spaces for August/when lease runs out and have filled by April for upcoming season.  We've got the apartment rented, but are still advertising the upstairs space.  We're hopeful that some of the recent inquiries we've had will pan out.
  • Install Ecobee thermostat in apartment by January 15 (this is when our new tenant moves in).  This was done on time, hurray!
  • Organize garage space by March 15.  This includes installing some drywall and pegboard, as well as generally sorting and storing tools, etc. Ha, this is a mammoth task, especially with a three year old and pregnant mama.  We are going to try to tackle another small corner this weekend.
  • Have new mulch spread and gutters cleaned by March 15 (this is a job we will hire out).
  • Paint shelving and trim in craft room downstairs by March 15.  Paint chairs to go around table in craft room. We are thinking that once the home equity line is paid off, we might have the funds to pay a painter friend to spray these with his industrial sprayer.  It would get the job done faster, and with a more professional finish.
  • Move forsythia bushes to front bed and plant creeping Jenny ground cover.  Have this done around the same time as mulch is spread so that mulch and compost can go here.  (March-ish, depending on soil workability.)
  • Mulch leaves with mower and add to compost by end of February. If the ground and leaves are ever dry enough, we'll get this done by the end of the month.  We may also just add a few handfuls of leaves here and there as we add kitchen scraps.  Hopefully they'll break down this way.
  • Have mower serviced for spring by April 30. The local hardware place is running a 20% off labor for spring service right now, so I think we'll try to take advantage of this soon, maybe after payday.
  • Paint exterior doors in chosen new color by June 30.  I'm hoping this will be able to be done well before June, since it's a small job.  Maybe it'll be something we can tackle while I'm home on maternity leave.
  • Have new front porch railings installed and bead board on the ceiling of the porch.  Maybe an outdoor ceiling fan installed over the table area?  by June 30
  • Can at least two batches of peach salsa and two of berry jam for Christmas gifting and personal use.
  • Have both porches re-stained (we're thinking of hiring this out to a contractor who Benny does a lot of work for at the paint store).
  • Maintain garden beds with regular weeding and trimming throughout growing season.  Prepare for fall/winter by October 30.
  • Make curtains for craft room shelves to hide some supply bins by November 30.
  • Make reusable coffee sleeves for Christmas gifts by November 30. (And learn how to use new sewing machine)
  • Make at least one batch of citrus marmalade by December 15 for Christmas gifting.
Have at least 26 dates with Benny:  This works out to be at least two a month, which I think it do-able with a newborn being around.  We're working towards this.  Weather and Saturday school have gotten in the way, but we've had a lot of family time thanks to snow days.  So, maybe it evens out.  We are sure to have one date this coming week when Benny's mom comes up and has agreed to hang out with little man while we do an early dinner out with a gift card.  Maybe 13 dates in a year is ok...

Read at least 26 new books this year:  I've been doing really well with this one.  So far, I've read a few books on toddler/preschool games for speech and educational growth, am working on my annual reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I've put together a Barnes and Noble order for some new books to read while I'm nursing the new baby.  We'll purchase these with Christmas gift cards.

Try at least two new recipes a month:  This one has been going really well and has definitely added some new things to our menus.  We've enjoyed breakfast banana bars, crockpot lasagna soup, crockpot Asian chicken, crockpot quinoa tacos, and baked pumpkin spice oatmeal.  I still have another muffin recipe I want to try this month.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week was pretty good for us in the budget department.  It was snowy all week, so there was no school for kids, and I got to work from home most days.  We also made great use of our pantry and freezer, so we saved quite a bit on groceries.  There were a few things we "splurged" on, but they were also things we would really use in the long run.

  • All meals were cooked at home.  We did two crockpot meals this week, so that saved on energy.
  • Turkey stock was made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass in the freezer.  We used the meat  and some stock to make turkey noodle soup.  The rest of the stock was frozen for later use.
  • Black bean chili was made with dried black beans from the pantry, and all other ingredients were in the pantry/freezer.  We made cornbread to go with this.
  • We made banana chocolate chip muffins, foccacia, and banana breakfast bars (I added raisins and nuts to these bars) for breakfast treats using ingredients we had on hand.
  • Our Valentine's treat was homemade cheesecake brownies, a new recipe.
  • Because of the snow, the food pantry didn't have many clients this week, so we graciously accepted extra bagels, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and oranges.  We'll process the peppers for the freezer.  This was extra nice, since we had already used all of our frozen peppers from the CSA this summer.
  • All clothes were washed in cold water, towels and sheets on warm.  Everything was hung to dry.  We continue to have success with potty training, and are doing much fewer loads of laundry because of it.
  • On Thursday, little man had preschool, Benny had to work, and I had a workday.  So, we took one car out and combined trips.  I was able to drop them off, and I took the car to work.  I also combined this with a doctor's appointment and a quick grocery run for some cheese that was on sale, kefir, and bananas for our weekly fruit.  (We find that having fresh fruit around keeps little man eating healthier snacks.  Prior to little man, we made do with our frozen stash of fruit or winter veggies to eat more seasonally.)  Combining all this saved on gas.
  • Little man helped to make all the Valentine's cards for his friends at school.  We saved by not having to purchase any, and didn't give any candy.  (At least in our house, this causes more grief/meltdowns than anything.  So, we chose to not give candy to others.)
  • We did venture out on Friday for some errands.  We "splurged" on the cheapest birdseed to refill our bird feeders (it is fun winter entertainment).  We planned the most efficient route so we were conservative with our fuel.
  • We also went to check out the new Goodwill, which had some awesome finds.  I found a new straw cup for little man (his previous one had broken), discounted egg dye for 75 cents, and some brand new fun tights for after this baby is born for five dollars (they would have normally been over $15).  They had a fabulous teal storage ottoman that I really wanted to snatch up for extra storage in the living room, but because it was still brand new, the price was more than normal Goodwill prices.  Benny and I gave it the 48 hour wait test, decided we could sell a few more things on eBay and trim grocery spending a bit more, and call it Valentine's Day present (we hadn't done anything for each other).  We picked it up this afternoon. Little man has had a ball filling it with his toys, and it emptied the smaller basket for the baby toys, and forced us to go through the current toys and weed out a few things he no longer plays with.
  • Because we didn't have school, I didn't tutor this week, so no extra money from that this week.  I did manage to sell some Mary Kay, so I made about $60 from that.  It also helped to clear out some more of the closet space.  And it will help to round out the baby fund.
  • We continue to advertise the upstairs rental space and hope to have that filled for the coming academic year.  Our current downstairs tenant is really sweet, and we hope she likes it enough to stick around beyond her year long lease.
  • Ebay items continue to be posted, and we probably have a few more things we need to put in the mail.
  • After signing up for Ebates, we received our first check in the mail.  We plan to put that toward the home equity line.
  • We received our explanation of benefits from the recent round of testing for the baby.  It was more than anticipated, but maybe in the long run with other medical expenses this year, it will be a wash because it will help us reach our deductible sooner.  We'll wait for the bill from the hospital and see if there's any room for negotiation if we agree to pay it in full.
  • I made another batch of orange cleaner for the bathrooms, and we mixed up some citrus vinegar cleaner to use on the floors and windows.  Little man really enjoys helping clean, so this is a cleaner we can feel ok about him using.
  • I cut little man's hair at home, saving on the cost of a haircut.  
  • We're beginning garden plans, thinking that we'll keep things easy this year with mostly herbs.  I may try to start some from seed, but with the baby coming, we may just opt to purchase plants this year.  We go through a lot of basil and cilantro, so we know we'll have those.  We planted our garlic in the fall, so it will be ready to pull in June.  All other herbs are perennials.  We're also looking forward to hopefully a bigger berry harvest this year, perhaps including raspberries (free from a friend) that we planted last year.
What about you?  I'd love to hear how you're living and saving green this week!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week, I feel like we've done really well with our frugal accomplishments.  We haven't had any unexpected expenses, and we've been able to take advantage of some great savings opportunities and a few small earning opportunities.

Here's how we've saved this week:

  • Cooked all meals at home including potato soup, loaded mac and cheese with broccoli, bean and cheese quesadillas, whole wheat banana muffins, pizza, and smoothies.
  • Took advantage of two free meals at church (a potluck on Sunday and pizza for our kids worship service on Wednesday) and shared dinner with Mom on Sunday evening, and she generously gave leftovers for my lunch on Monday.  So a total of four free meals.
  • Purchased bananas at the cheapest location and used savings apps for cash back on them.  These were snack for preschool one day.  The other day we made trail mix using ingredients we had on hand (popcorn, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower seeds).
  • Kept grocery spending to about $20 for the week, with coupons.  There was a good deal on almond milk, but we opted to skip it, since we still have half a gallon of regular milk in the fridge, and we have powdered milk, powdered coconut milk, and evaporated milk in our pantry right now.  I did purchase some kefir and yogurt, which we don't normally purchase, since I've been on antibiotics.  The hope is that these will help to maintain the "good" bacteria in my body, keeping the "bad" ones in check.
  • Washed all clothing in cold water, but towels and sheets in warm.  Everything was hung to dry.
  • Continued to recycle and usual.  We even encouraged recycling and composting at little man's birthday party on Saturday, which really cut down on the waste.  I am trying to get better about composting our brown paper, such as toilet paper tubes and paper towels (though we use so few of them), newspapers, and flour/sugar sacks.  The added browns really help the compost, and they break down quickly.
  • Combined errands as usual for the most efficient route and to save on fuel.
  • Carpooled to school daily, saving on gas.
  • We have added one trip each week to get little man to speech, but Benny is combining errands or a fun trip for little man in with this, so it's not too bad.
  • Gratefully accepted a scholarship to fund part of little man's preschool.
  • Continue to advertise the upstairs rental and are hopeful to have the space filled for the summer.
  • Benny found some new gaming stuff he can sell online, so he is working to post this.
  • Sold a few more items on eBay, so shipping these soon.
  • Tutored twice this week for $35, which is going toward home equity line payoff.
  • Benny picked up a few extra hours at work, so that money will also go to home equity line payoff.
  • Little man got some money for his birthday, so this will go toward his savings.
  • My quarterly haircut was on Thursday.  This is a splurge for us, at $35, but I only have it cut four times a year.  It's worth it to me with curly hair to pay for a good cut.
  • To accommodate paying for my haircut, I regularly cut Benny and little man's hair.  I cut Benny's hair on Sunday using the clippers we've had for 10 years, and we hope they'll still keep going strong for 10 more.
  • Little man received some unexpected gifts for his birthday, so we opted to save what we had purchased for his birthday for his "big brother" gift when the baby comes, and for Easter.  This will save us on these expenses later.
  • Made some Valentine's cards, and will work to make more at home with little man to give to his preschool classmates next week.
  • Used handmade thank you notes to write all of little man's birthday thank you's on.  Most of these can be hand-delivered, saving on postage.
  • Found some magnets at school that I wasn't using to use to hang little man's artwork, so we didn't have to purchase these.  We will decorate the magnets one snow day as a craft project.
  • Plan to line up a babysitter (hopefully for free) to keep little man so Benny and I can have a date afternoon soon.
What about you?  How did you live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 1, 2016

February Menu Plan

This month we're again focusing on using our pantry and freezer staples, but also trying to put a few meals in the freezer for when baby #2 comes.  I'm also focusing on including more whole grains and less sugar, since I've slipped up on these a bit (pregnancy cravings) and I think that's affecting my overall health some, which in turn is getting passed on to baby.  We're also going to take advantage of as many free meals as we can through community and church events.  We know there are at least two or three this month, so that will help out with the grocery budget too.

Looking at the menu, we'll need to purchase some of the following:

  • organic milk
  • butter
  • ricotta cheese
  • molasses 
  • bananas
  • cabbage
  • apples
  • other fresh fruit/veggies on sale

So, here's the plan for the month:

Breakfasts:  egg and cheese sandwiches, oatmeal with dried fruit and seeds/nuts, whole wheat banana muffins, cappuccino chocolate chip muffins (to satisfy the chocolate craving without a lot of sugar), fruit smoothies with freezer fruit or donated fruit from food pantry, whole wheat pancakes/waffles with eggs or sausage, homemade banana bread with jam or cream cheese, gingerbread pancakes, chunky monkey muffins (a chocolate, banana, peanut butter muffin)

Lunches:  leftovers, bean and cheese quesadillas with salsa, smoothies, homemade yogurt with fruit and granola/dry cereal

Dinners:  potato soup, loaded mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms, veggie stir fry over rice with egg rolls, crockpot lasagna soup with ricotta and mozzarella, rice and beans with cheese, salsa, and cornbread, black bean crockpot chili, lentil and turkey sloppy joes over potatoes or homemade bread, rosemary white bean soup (we'll add some diced veggies because we found it a bit thin last time), chicken with roasted root veggies (potatoes, turnips, and beets) and brown rice pilaf, turkey and black bean tacos with fixin's, homemade pizza with sausage, onion, mushroom, or whatever we have on hand (x 3-4; this is our standard Friday night dinner), maybe tomato basil soup, open faced meatball subs with oven fries, sausage and apple skillet meal over barley/brown rice

Snacks:  popcorn, homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, fruit (usually oranges or bananas this time of year), homemade yogurt with dry cereal/granola or fruit, toast and jam, homemade hot cocoa

New Recipes to Try:  This is for my New Year's habit to break us out of the rut we sometimes get into.

These aren't really menu items, but things I want to make this month before baby arrives next month. 
What about you?  How are you living and saving green with your menu this month?  I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This week we started out strong, but ended up being kind of a bust, thanks to some medical expenses that were out of our control (but necessary for baby).  Here's the lowdown:

  • I carpooled to work daily.  This was my week to drive, so I drove the car with best fuel economy.
  • All meals were made at home, except on Monday when we joined Mom at Chick-Fil-A.  She had coupons to use, and paid for what was not covered, so it was a nice treat.
  • Wednesday we served a meal for the Wesley Foundation, so we had dinner there with the college students.  This was a lot of fun, and nice to have a free meal.
  • We continue with our regular composting and recycling, which really cuts down on our trash and helps out with our spring gardening.
  • Our spice order arrived from San Francisco Herb Company, so we're excited to have new nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and refills on our spices.  We also have some new things, such as coconut milk powder, to add to smoothies or to reconstitute for regular use.
  • It was our week to do snacks for preschool, so we opted for frugal homemade caramel corn for little man's birthday on Tuesday.  Later in the week, we did apple slices and a large carton of vanilla yogurt.  (There are some in the class who can't do nuts or gluten, so this is limiting some of our homemade options.)
  • We did a fun gift for little man's birthday and he got to pick out a beta fish from the pet store.  He's super excited about helping to take care of it, and is loving watching it.  (And we already had all the supplies on hand, so we only had to buy the fish.)
  • We're hosting the birthday party at our house, and made it a potluck, so we're only having to prep a few things.  The only special item we bought was a candle for the cake (which a friend is making), and some chips.  We will also make the requested caramel corn again, and will have some hot tea/cocoa set up.  We are using our regular mugs for hot drinks, and will use plastic plates we have on hand for easy cleanup.
  • The budget buster this week was that I ended up having to go to the hospital birthing center last night for some tests.  Without too much detail, there was some concern about baby's status, and they couldn't check it at the office.  Thankfully, all the tests showed that everything was ok and I just ended up with a prescription for an antibiotic.  Regretfully, we don't have a large enough OB clinic to accommodate the lab testing there, so we're just waiting for the big bill to arrive.  Hopefully, since it was during the day, it won't end up costing as much as an ER visit would.
  • On the up side, rent is due this week, and I got paid.  My paycheck was a little less this time, due to now covering Benny with our family health insurance, but it really ends up being a wash because the money comes out pre-tax.  This medical coverage is also better for Benny, so that will be nice if/when he needs it.
  • We continue to advertise the rental space upstairs, and are having a few interested parties, so we're hoping to have that space filled soon.
  • I found a summer professional development opportunity that pays a significant stipend, so I'm hoping I'll get accepted.  We'll figure out the nursing/pumping thing once we find out if I'm accepted or not.  It sounds like a great opportunity, so I'm really hoping it works out.
What about you?  I'd love to hear from you about how you're living and saving green this week!