Monday, February 27, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

February Menu Plan

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

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

Here's the plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

We continue to try to find new ways to save money, and increase our income, as we work toward our budget and savings goals.  We did pretty well over the past two weeks (yes, got behind last week with posting).  Here are our successes, since we had very little in the way of unexpected expenses.

  • Cooked all meals at home, including corn chowder, veggie stir fry, crock pot Asian chicken, fajitas with leftover turkey, French toast and smoothies, crock pot overnight oatmeal, and cream cheese strawberry coffee cake.
  • Tried to cook mostly from the pantry and freezer.  Only one grocery trip for some staples totaling $10.
  • Took advantage of lots of things from the food pantry including:  two gallons of milk, four loaves of bread/bags of rolls/bagels, five containers of cut up peppers and onions, four whole bell peppers, one avocado, five tomatoes, two apples, two kiwi, one onion,  several zucchini, package of green beans, three packages of strawberries, package of brown rice, two packages of mince meat filling, nine cartons of yogurt, and a soft herb and garlic cheese.  
    • Froze many peppers and onions for later use.  Used some to make fajitas.
    • Processed strawberries (many were too soft or moldy) to yield three cups for coffee cake.
    • Froze two loaves of bread for later use.
    • Used three tomatoes for fajitas, and one for homemade guacamole using the avocado.  
  • Gleaned from school cafeteria again:  three apples, two cheese sticks, two cartons of yogurt, three packages of Goldfish, and two packages of Chex mix.
  • Composted all kitchen scraps, including paper towels, tea bags, coffee grounds, and brown cardboard tubes.
  • Recycled anything possible, keeping household trash to about one kitchen bag every two weeks.
  • Had a day of professional development with lunch provided.  Brought home enough leftovers to provide another lunch.
  • Enjoyed a few shared meals with family, saving on dishes and some food cost and prep.
  • Used a gift card to take little man on a morning date to the bakery.  Took my own coffee mug and used the discount card to save on the purchase.  Also got to take him to school, which was a fun treat for both of us.
  • Continued with unseasonably mild weather, allowing us to hang some clothes outside to dry.  Washed all clothing in cold water.
  • Used cloth diapers, washed at home, and hung to dry.
  • Showered every other day, saving on hot water, shampoo, and soap.  Also saves my skin, since the air is dryer this time of year.
  • Enjoyed a fun social event of a birthday party.  Food was provided, so dinner wasn't really needed that night.  We took a handmade tie dye t-shirt as a gift, with a card and bag decorated by little man.
  • Met with our financial planner and set up 529 accounts for both boys.  We will have the $50/month deducted automatically from my paycheck.  With our savings from the changes in health insurance, we'll never miss the money.
  • Plan to contribute an additional $100/month to Benny's retirement account to try to make up for some of what we haven't contributed over the past few years since he's been home with the boys.
  • Exercised at home using You Tube and my yoga mat (we have not had cable since building the house almost nine years ago).  Walked with the family after work on pretty days.
  • Benny earned some extra money doing some online advertising for a painter.  This helped to pay for new shoes he ordered, which he really needed for work and for home since his others were worn in the soles and had holes in the canvas tops.
  • Considering purchasing a new to us car, which we're having looked at by our mechanic today.  I dropped off the car and walked to school, which is convenient and provides me some good exercise.
  • Working on a professional development fellowship application.  I am hopeful that this will provide me with some good networking and publishing opportunities, as well as a stipend that would really help us to pay down the rest of our home equity line debt.
  • Continue to advertise the upstairs bedroom space for rental.  We are hopeful that our current downstairs tenant will stay on with us, but should know in the next day or two if we need to advertise.
  • Continue to post items on eBay for sale, decluttering our closets and helping us to pay for our CSA share this year.
What did you do to live and save green this past week?  I'd love to hear from you!