Sunday, March 22, 2015

OK.  That's it.
I may be making this declaration rashly but I am going on a grocery-shopping moratorium, well, with the exception of absolute necessities such as eggs and milk.
I was injured by my food this evening.
I opened the freezer and an avalanche of frozen food fell on my already bum foot.
Something has to change.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Steps Towards Financial Fitness (Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments) Volume Nine

March 15-21

-I have completed Herb's closet and now it is time to work on mine.  I have cleaned out the new closet space and have begun painting it.  I also began going through the items in my current wardrobe.  I recently stumbled across Project 333 and decided to take a look at my wardrobe through the 333 lens.  I have more then 33 items but probably only rotate among 33 items or less routinely.  I honestly thought that I couldn't have much more then 60 items in my wardrobe altogether.  I was wrong.  I am not sure just how many clothing items I had in my wardrobe but I can say that I had 12 black ladies cut t-shirts and at least 6 turquoise ones (ridiculous).  Please note that I said "had" - I got rid of 22 items and that was just after some preliminary sorting.
Herb's closet!

-I took a 2-drawer file cabinet and a trash bag full of stuff (including 22 clothing items) to the thrift store.  I did get a receipt for my items that I will file with my 2015 tax information.
-When I dropped off my donations at the thrift store I opted to go on in and took a look around.  Because I am trying to reduce my possessions I try not to go into thrift stores unless I have something specific that I am looking for.  Today I was looking for wooden and/or pewter-looking bowls plates, etc. for a medieval feast I will be hosting and silverware for everyday use.  I found candles for the feast 4/.50,  13 knives (11 for everyday use, 1 vintage butter knife, and one to use with my cheese board), a cool pair of little serving tongs, and a broadway album for a grand total of $6.  Cool!

-I had $40 in Kohl's cash that I coupled with a 20% off coupon and sales to get myself a pair of pants, three undergarments and a set of springy cloth napkins that I intend to use as a gift after I embroider accents.  I paid $2.36 out of pocket.  At the checkout I was given two coupons for Shutterfly that will allow me to have $40 worth of photos printed for a whopping $0!!!

 -I finished yet another lecture borrowed from the library.  I examined Shakespeare's tragedies a bit more by listening to Rediscovering Shakespeare.
-I served one of my favorite quick meals.  These marinated beef strips thaw quickly and cook even quicker.  They take less then 10 minutes to cook.  I serve them with rice prepared in my rice cooker and canned greens.  So easy!  And I only buy the meat on sale so also fairly cheap!
I ate my dinner out of one of the wonderful bowls that Bishop made!

-My sweet daughter turned 25 yesterday.  It was also opening night for one of her shows.  I had flowers delivered to her.  I used a coupon code to have the price reduced and it came with a free teddy bear and box of chocolates.  And, although I haven't mailed it to her yet, I have a birthday package for her.  The total cost of these gifts were $11.  Now I need to get Herb's and Christian's birthday gifts completed and all of them in the mail.

-Although I didn't manage to get the potatoes started yet I did repot some seedlings and have begun to prepare more seeds.

-I did get the tax information organized!
-And last but most certainly not least I enjoyed the gifts of nature - the crocuses blooming, the forsythia beginning to bud, and a most gorgeous sunset.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Steps Toward Financial Fitness (Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments) Volume Eight

March 8 - 14

-I got some seeds started indoors.  These are seeds that I have had sitting in the mudroom for quite some time.  My intent is to get them all planted this year because there is a chance that we will not have much in the way of property for gardening next year.  I am hoping to do some of my planting in containers as a way to practice for the possibility of container gardening on a balcony or something similar.  Check out this blog, I find it very inspiring.

-One of my goals for the last year has been to make some toys for the grandnieces and nephews to play with when they come to visit.  This week I furthered that goal just a teeny bit.  I found two little pieces of wood by a dumpster at a work site.  I nabbed them and used my wood-burning tool and watercolors to make these cute (if I do say so myself) little houses.  I will be looking out for more little bits of wood.

-I baked more bread.  I am doing it... I am baking bread!!!! (Yup, making progress on yet another goal).
-We took advantage of free community programs.  Bishop attended a Super Smash Bros. Tournament at our library. (He is now the tournament champion).  He and I also went to a free program at the nature center - Discover Bluebirds!

-We had more free entertainment by just getting outside (twice!) with friends while the weather was so nice.  We visited two different city parks.
-I was invited to my niece's for dinner (a ladies night, woot! woot!) so I ordered pizza for the boy's dinner.  Last time we ordered pizza I was given the opportunity to earn a $10 coupon by taking a survey.  I did, in fact, earn the coupon and I used it with this order.
-I was blessed to be the recipient of cupcakes from my dear friend Mandi (check out The Cake Truffle Store, the Tres Leches cupcakes are amazing!) and blessed with leftovers from my dinner with Sarah.  Friday evening the boys were out of the house and I had just myself to feed for dinner.  I reheated those leftovers and enjoyed two fajitas (with enough leftover for yet one more fajita) and a yummy dessert.

-Before Bishop went out of the house Friday evening for his campout I needed to feed him dinner.  I offered him a trip through a drive thru or meatball sandwiches using the sandwich filling that I had removed earlier from the refrigerator.  He opted for the meatball sandwich.  God bless, his frugal soul.  He really does help keep me on track.  For his Saturday lunch I served up the rest of the meatball sandwiches to Maceo along with one of Mandi's cupcakes while I went out to lunch with the ladies.
-I finished another lecture that I borrowed from the library.  It was a really delightful lecture and I intend on borrowing it again so that Maceo can listen to it.  He will earn some high school credit for it accompanied with some supplemental resources.  This lecture is entitled 'All the World a Stage: The Theater in History' by Megan Lewis as produced by The Modern Scholar.  Fantastically fun!
-I made a trip to Aldi and was able to stock up on butter and onion.  I bought 16 pounds of butter for $1.89/lb. and 9 pounds of onions for about .23/pound.
-I took two surveys one for a free cookie from Jason's and another $10 off of a Pizza Hut order.
-The temperature became warmer this week so we were able to turn down the thermostat.  One day we even turned the heater off.  By the end of this day the boys were actually begging me to turn the a/c on.  I kept the heater and a/c off and had them open windows to get the air to circulating.
-I completed Bishop's service based scholarship nomination form.  Meeting deadlines is not my forte so, yes, I am proud of myself.  The national winners receive a $10,000 scholarship, the regional winners receive a $1000 scholarship, and local winners receive a $50 gift card to Kohl's.  I do not anticipate him winning the scholarships (yet!) but considering he co-founded a small service group and completed more than 50 hours of service I think he might earn a gift card.  How cool would that be?  But, shhhh, don't say anything to him I haven't told him about my nomination of him.
-Through no effort of my own I had an extremely frugal lunch at Jason's Deli.  After Bishop and I and another family completed the Discover Bluebirds program we went to Jason's Deli to get a carryout order to take to the park.  My friend ordered her food first and received it with no problems.  Twenty-five minutes later my order had not been completed.  I simply asked about it, they jumped into action to rectify the situation.  The manager assured me that "this is not how we do business" and refunded the entire amount of the meal.  He then refunded the entire amount of my friends meals because her food had started to get cold while waiting for me.  Also, none of us had ordered beverages and he told us all to get free beverages as well.  Also, the boys had eaten free ice cream while waiting for the order.  Although I greatly enjoy the fact that I did not have to pay for my fabulously yummy lunch, I found the attitude of the manager most refreshing.  There were no excuses just a simple statement that this is not how business is done at this establishment and action that supported that statement. Jason's Deli has earned my continued patronage and I would recommend them highly to everyone out there - tasty food, healthy choices, large portions and amazing service!

This next week I need to clean out the refrigerator, finish the upstairs closets, research washer/dryers and garage doors, get more seeds started, plant potatoes in buckets, do some cleaning and reorganizing in the basement, and I need to make some progress in the stairwell (I have totally lost traction on this project).  I also need to mail Keegan's and Herb's birthday packages and get photos organized for scout projects and school yearbooks.  I will be going to Kohl's as I have $40 in Kohl's cash and a 20% off coupon.  I want to bring forsythia branches in to force.  I need to make menus.  I know that I need to use the spicy taco meat and roast that are in the fridge.  And I know that I will make corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day.  I also know that I need to get some homemade sauerkraut started with the extra cabbage that I purchased.  I may need to buy more cabbage to enable me to get a variety of sauerkrauts made.  I also need to make more bread this week.  (I am so excited that I could state that so matter-of-factly)!  I really, really, really need to get the tax information organized and to Herb (I am such a slacker) and I need to get the bills paid.  Oh, and I have to keep up with the NCAA men's basketball tournament while keeping up with those boys.  I think I have a full week ahead of me!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Steps Toward Financial Fitness (Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments) Volume Seven

March 1 - March 7

       Sunday:  I began the day rather well.  I was very tempted to begin my day at Panera sitting by the fire, sipping on tea, eating a pastry while working on the computer.  I resisted that temptation.  I stayed home and made pumpkin muffins, ham and eggs for breakfast and I brewed my own tea.  Then it went downhill.  I ordered Pizza Hut for lunch as a treat for Maceo as his show was closing today.  (Eating out = $29.08).  After the show (which was truly fantastic) I gave Maceo some cash ($15) so that he could go out with some friends.  Bishop and I went to dinner at Panera.  (Eating out = $18.14).  Then, as a final treat for the day, I had cookies delivered to the house (Eating out = $26.82).  Not really a great start to a week of frugality but that's ok.  It was a great day!

-As part of my effort to review all subscription services I took a look at my Netflix account.  I had both the streaming and DVD service yet we never use the DVD service.  I cancelled that portion.
- I had two Kohl's coupons that were set to expire today and one that would expire on Tuesday.  I ordered Bishop a pair of pants getting about $17 off.
-I made menus for the week.
-I began making decisions about this years gift-giving.
-I took a Pizza Hut survey to earn $10 off of an order of $20 or more.
-I did my swagbucks and bing rewards.

      Monday:  Although I did stop by McDonald's for a bit of breakfast (thinking that I had to get Bishop to pottery at an early hour but he ended up having a sore throat, so no pottery today.  Eating out = $7.62)  I feel as though the morning has been successful.  I put a roast with potatoes and veggies in the crockpot then did swagbucks and bing rewards, earning a bonus on swagbucks.  Maceo let it be known that he was really craving Pizza Inn but I resisted that temptation and set out sandwich fixings.  There were no complaints.  I did allow a trip to Walgreens for beverages (Eating out = $5) and while out I decided to go to happy hour at Sonic (Eating out = $12; ok so I did give in to the request for buffalo wings as a snack).

-I am reviewing my trash service options to see if I can get a better deal.  
-I deposited numerous checks.

      Tuesday:  I dropped Maddox off at school then went to the Panera across the street from Hobby Lobby to await the opening of that store.  I did get a bagel and beverage.  I used a $1 off a beverage coupon to reduce the price a smidge.  (Eating out = $3.85).  Wanting to make a couple of shadowboxes for Maceo utilizing mementos from two of his show I went to Hobby Lobby looking for frames.  Shadowbox frames were marked 50% off.  I used a 40% off coupon to purchase a frame for a photo that Bishop took of Grandaddy's ranch.  I had the photo enlarged to a 16x20 through Shutterfly.  I utilized a promo code that allowed me to get it for free.  I gave the same photo to my mom for Christmas.  I gave her the matted 8x10 that Bishop earned a blue ribbon on at the fair.  I failed to get her package in the mail prior to Christmas so I gave it to her while she was visiting; my procrastination saved me the price of postage.

 I also gave Christie the gifts for her and her kiddos.  All of her Christmas gifts cost me $0; they were repurposed, re-gifted items from my purging. Besides the frames I had a large 3-ring binder and page protectors for Maceo's music on my shopping list.  I had the page protectors in my hand ready to put in the cart when I got this niggling little thought that I had these items at home.  I didn't buy them and, sure enough, when I went home I found the binder and page protectors.  Also while out running errands I returned some library materials although I have to admit that one is late and will have accrued fines.  The library is such a blessing and a boon to the frugal if one can return resources in a timely fashion.  Yet another thing to work on.  I have been consistently hand- washing dishes but I have to admit that it is not because I have become highly disciplined in this area.  My dishwasher freezes up when the weather turns cold and. boy, has the weather been cold.  However, today it warmed up a bit and I have run the dishwasher twice.  I am just certain that it is using too much electricity, if not water.  This is an area that I can continue working on.  I gave Maceo $40 out of the entertainment budget and he went off to spend the day with a friend.  He returned with a dozen glazed donuts for Bishop and I - score! I know what I am having for breakfast tomorrow!

-I paid off a credit card!
-When refilling Maceo's jug of water I first emptied the stale water into the potted plants in the laundry room - herbs and geraniums that I keep forgetting are in the laundry room awaiting spring.
-I saved my egg shells from the many egg dishes I have made of late.  I intend on feeding them to the chickens or putting them around my plants when the weather warms up.  (Spring IS almost here!)
-I used leftover potatoes that I had baked while feeding all the visiting family to make hash browns to accompany the quiche I served for dinner.
-As I was reorganizing the food storage pantry I noted that my cans of evaporated milk were nearing expiration.  I am going to focus on getting these cans of milk used.  This evening I used the evaporated milk in my quiche.  It turned out well.
-I worked on some pyrography - a skill that I am hoping to master because I have some related gift ideas.

-I hand washed Bishop's scouting pants.  As my washer and dryer are not working properly I now do my laundry at a laundromat.  I am attempting to delay the inevitable trip to the laundromat by wearing clothes more than once and hand washing some clothes.

      Wednesday:  I did begin the morning having a tea at Panera (Eating out = $2.36 ) while I began filling out a scholarship nomination form.  I am nominating Bishop for a service related scholarship!  The snow really set in this afternoon.  By the time Bishop was done with his scouting event all of our afternoon obligations had been cancelled.  We hunkered down at home and, I have to say, there really is nothing better for one's efforts to be frugal and to get work done in the house then just staying home.  While I was digging deep in the pantry trying to decide what side to serve with our dinner of bbq chicken I found a can of paint that seemed to have just enough paint left in it to allow me to paint the upstairs closets.  I got one closet painted.

-I scored a newspaper at Panera.
-Bishop did color guard for the Boy Scout council's annual banquet.  The bonus is that they fed us both lunch.  Maceo had leftovers from his day out for lunch.

-I made bbq chicken in the crockpot using the remains of three different types of bbq sauce that I found in the fridge.  Does it seem ridiculous to you that I had three opened bottles of bbq sauce in my fridge?  It does to me.  I presently have four bottles of sauce in my food storage pantry that I purchased for $1 per bottle.  I would really like to perfect a homemade bbq sauce so that I would never have to purchase sauce again.  Any suggestions?
-I used a lot of odds and ends to make a pasta salad for dinner.  It was quite delicious!
-I got a free (well, I paid for shipping) customized pet identification tag through Shutterfly.  I will put it in Bishop's Easter basket.

      Thursday:  I had a lovely morning at Panera.  I know, Panera again.  Not the best thing for the budget but it truly was a lovely morning so it is very hard to regret going.  (Eating out = $8.25).  The eating out continued for both lunch and dinner.  Although I ate leftovers for lunch I took the boys to Pizza Inn.  (Eating out = $15.65).  Bishop missed his Monday morning pottery class due to a sore throat so he ended up making up that class this evening.  This took quite a chunk out of our evening and because I planned poorly I found myself heading to Panda Express at 8:30 pm for some dinner.  I ordered a family meal and all leftovers will be served tomorrow for lunch.  (Eating out = $34.32).  I cleaned off a shelf in the mudroom.  I am able to purge some items.  I have some that will be donated to the thrift store and others that I will be looking to sell.  I can't wait for the weather to warm up so that I can host my first yard sale.  Also, in my purging I found a book that I will gift to a niece and some recipes to try.  Maybe I will bake bread tomorrow!

-I made Keegan's birthday gift.  It turned out really well.  I love it!
Bishop eating his Panda Express out of a bowl of his own making!  Isn't it beautiful?

      Friday:  We did quite well  eating frugally.  We had leftover quiche for breakfast.  For lunch I rounded up all the different types of cheeses and meats in the fridge and served them with crackers.  And, finally, Bishop treated me to a mighty fine Asian-inspired dinner using only ingredients we had on hand and his culinary intuition. Yum!  Hey, guess what I did today?  I baked two loaves of bread - a loaf of white bread and one of cinnamon bread.  They were not entirely perfect but pretty darn close.  A true success!

-I finished another lecture series that I had checked out of the library.  This one was on Shakespeare's tragedies.  I am making good progress on my goal to listen to at least six of these free lectures during the year 2015.  I have listened to four - two on medieval history, one on Shakespeare's comedies and now one on Shakespeare's tragedies.
-I read an issue of Imprimis, a free publication from Hillsdale College that addresses current and political events.
-I found a can of white paint in the pantry and utilized it to paint the trim and door of the closet I have been revamping.

      Saturday:  I headed out to run errands today.  I began at Panera for a bit of tea and a bagel. (Eating out = $2.79)  I went to Hobby Lobby for some small items to complete some started projects.  I used a 40% off coupon for one item.  Also, I had a coupon for $5 at Kohl's as well as a 30% off coupon.  I went to Kohl's to get myself a new pair of tennis shoes.  I originally had no intention of purchasing anything else but after looking at the men's clearance items I opted to pick up some items for Maceo and Bishop.  Some will be given to them now and the expense will come from the clothing budget.  Other items will be saved for Christmas and the expense will be deducted from the gift budget.  It is really difficult for me to pass up such great bargains and, I guess, that's ok as long as I am within budget.

This little exercise in keeping track of my dining out expenses has proven to be interesting.  I spent $180.88 eating out this week.  Although there is definitely room for improvement I am not too upset about this amount.  Firstly, most occasions for eating out were enjoyable and overall worth it.  Although there were other occasions when I was eating out due to poor planning or due to the desire to have a bit of caffeine.  I would most definitely like to get a better handle on this sort of spending.  Secondly, I didn't spend any money from the grocery budget of $150.  So the dining out expenses can come out of the grocery budget with the additional $30.88 coming out of the entertainment budget and I am still on track with my spending.  Still, what could I save if I could curb that spending?

Christmas Jar of Change:  The previous balance was $67.30.  To that I add $8.28 for a new balance of $75.58
Home Emergency Fund:  Balance remains at $80.
52 Week Savings Plan:  I have made deposits for $51 and $4 for a new balance of $207.  I am making progress!