Saturday, January 30, 2016

Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments as I Move Toward Financial Fitness

As I was logging the weeks accomplishments I was thinking of the little things that save money that have become routine.  I turn off lights when a room is not in use.  I even turn off the porch light when everyone is home safe and snug.  We all wear our clothes more than once before we wash them, if possible.  We don't shower every day.  I dig out every last bit of chapstick from the tube.  I use toilet paper conservatively.  I turn off the stovetop and the oven before everything is quite done and allow the residual heat to finish things off.  I use a rubber spatula to get every little bit of cake batter, cookie dough, etc out of the bowl.  And really the list could go on and on.
I'm not overly obsessive about these things but they are routine, natural for me.  I could do more but at the moment I don't have to.  I do look at the things I do and I think about if the economy failed, if I had to live through a depression, how could I tweak what I do, how much further could I take it?  I could do more.  I could easily do more.  That is actually comforting for me.  I have developed some good habits but I could tighten my belt more if I had to.

Sunday:  I went to the bakery on the corner this morning.  I did so with purpose.  I wanted to buy a bunch of bagels and some cream cheese spread for us to have as breakfasts and snacks.  With calculation I spent $14 of the weeks $25 grocery budget.  That will leave $11 to buy a couple of staples.
As a very sweet bonus, one of the employees who has become a friend bought me a bagel and tea for breakfast.  She took her break with me.  It was a real sweet time!
Another customer left their Sunday paper at the restaurant.  I looked through it and found that they had left the coupons and sales papers.  That is a nice score!!!
Upon returning home I frosted the cake and set up the nacho bar.  I think it turned out rather nice particularly given the fact that I used only what I had on hand.  Here it is in all its glory.  OK, not all of its glory...the bean dip (aka the best bean dip in the world) isn't pictured here.  At the point this photo was taken the bean dip was still in the oven.

I am paring down my belongings so many of my miscellaneous party-type items have been donated; however, I have kept my football related party items because football is just that important in our family.  It makes setting a fun and festive food spread easy-peasy.  The Broncos and Panthers napkins were purchased years ago at Party City on clearance.  All the teams that hadn't made the Super Bowl were on clearance so I stocked up on party supplies for the teams that our family members love.  Years later I am still using them, although I will need to go shopping again soon.  The solid colored plates were purchased at a dollar store some time ago.  The store always carries the blue plates and I always keep some on hand as they are perfect for patriotic parties as well as football season.  They only carry the orange in the spring for graduation parties as one of our local high schools uses orange as one of their colors.  Two of the family teams use orange as their team colors so I stock up on those in the spring.
I did a little bit on Swagbucks.
I am still going through my paper crafting supplies.  I put nine items in my Operation Christmas Child shoebox supplies and I made another 45 gift tags.
While watching the AFC and NFC Championship games (FYI:  It will be a fabulous SuperBowl with Bishop's team taking on Maceo's team!!!!!) I rolled some of my coins  - $136.50 worth of coins to be precise.
Now, I must begin planning a SUPER Super Bowl party!!!

Monday:  I roasted a turkey that I purchased for seventy-five cents per pound.  You will see several items on the menu that will call for turkey.  I will try to use it all up in a wise fashion.
I ate bagels for breakfast.  It is an easy no-brainer breakfast.
I purchased AFC Champion and NFC Champion shirts for my Bronco loving and Panther loving boys.  Even though I purchased them online I was able to get a military discount by signing up for a new electronic program thingy.  I got $8 off the shirts and no shipping.  Cool.
I did take Bishop to Panera for lunch.  We got around very slowly today.  It proved to be quite the lazy day.  Then all of a sudden it was time for Bishop to go to pottery and he hadn't been fed so I took him out.  I am enrolled in their rewards program and I had some rewards waiting for me.  I had a free "pick 2" that Bishop used and $2 off of a broth bowl that I used.  I did pay for drinks and a ninety-nine cent pastry.  I spent $12; this will come out of our entertainment budget.  Bishop and I had wonderful conversation, I love these moments with him.  To end our time together we enjoyed free blueberry muffin samples.
I took Bishop to cash the checks he received as payment for the baklava he sold at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Bishop had a makeup lesson for pottery, then he went to scouts.  I find that these sorts of activities, although not free, are fairly thrifty.  Scouts is approximately $10 per month for dues.  We also pay a portion of all camping or activity expenses but those expenses are controllable.  I find that we get a lot of bang for our buck as we have formed great friendships and created amazing memories from this activity.  I also feel like we get a lot of bang for our buck with pottery.  The lessons run about $10 per week for one two-hour lesson per week.  He also has access to extra studio time for no additional cost.  He gets personal enjoyment from the process, learns a skill that has the potential to help him earn money in the future, earns high school credit, and he brings home beautiful, functional pieces of art.
After scouts Bishop and I ate our turkey dinner - turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries.  Super yum!  I inserted under the skin herbs that I had grown and previously dried.  It made the turkey very yummy.  The stuffing was just stove top which I had purchased on sale for $1 some time back.  The jar of gravy and the bag of cranberries were only 88 cents each on sale.  And, as mentioned above, the turkey was 75 cents per pound and will yield a lot of leftovers that will be the basis for future meals.

Maceo ate the last of the pizza rolls after rehearsal.  I haven't had a chance to inventory the freezer yet but just digging in there for the pizza rolls helped refresh my memory as to what is in there.  I have egg rolls, stir fry and bean burritos that can be easily served for lunches.  I really need to inventory the freezer!
Maceo did talk me into buying some bottled water so there is another $5 used out of our grocery budget.  That leaves $6 for groceries.  I think I will use it to buy some more cheese.  Cheese is important to us!!!

Tuesday:  I did a couple of errands in the morning.  First to Party City to check out their Super Bowl related items.  They were out of Broncos plates but I did pick up more Broncos and Panthers napkins, Panthers plates, and Super Bowl 50 cups.  I remembered to show my military id and received a discount.
I then went to Aldi to buy some cheese and for $5.15 I was able to purchase two packages of mozzarella cheese and a dozen eggs.  That leaves 85 cents in the grocery budget for the rest of the week.
Then I went to a Panera to refill my tea.  I also ate a bagel for breakfast while there but I didn't purchase it while there this time.  I took one of the bagels that I had purchased from them on Sunday and heated it in their microwave.  I figure its ok since it is their food that I just happened to purchase at an earlier time.
Next I went by the library to see if they had any books on the American Revolution that I wanted to check out for history group and to print a coupon.  Arby's sent me a coupon for a free roast beef classic sandwich if I purchase a small beverage.  That is totally worth the ten cents it costs to print out the coupon!
At home again I made pizza for lunch using ingredients that I had in my home.  I made two different types of crust.  Maceo likes a crust that we refer to as Pizza Crazy Crust which is comprised of flour, milk, egg, salt, pepper and oregano and is yummy.  Bishop prefers a yeast based crust.  I made both types.  Maceo's pizza was just pepperoni with mozzarella cheese.  Bishop and I had pepperoni, green chile, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.  Super good and satisfying.  I had enough yeast dough to bake up another pizza crust to use as the base of another pizza for a future lunch.

Bishop and I went to Hobby Lobby to get him some new sketchbooks while they were on sale for 40% off.  I used a 40% off coupon to buy a calligraphy pen with ink.  I also purchased feathers to try a make some quill pens with and splurged on parchment paper (for school projects) and leather bracelets (a project for Bishop).  I may have spent too much...maybe.
With hard earned cash in his pocket Bishop wanted to go to Game Stop.  He ended up not buying anything but I did renew our membership to their savings program.  It is one of those where you pay for the membership then you get a percentage off of every purchase and a subscription to their gaming magazine.  Since Herb and Bishop got a PS4 for Christmas I assume we will purchase several games during the year so I figured it would be worthwhile to have the membership.  I used points that I had earned and accrued through the program to "purchase" the membership.  No money out of pocket.
After refilling my tea at Panera we returned home to relax and to prepare for science and history groups.  Tomorrow in history group we are studying the American Revolution and what led up to.  I borrowed from the library a book that gives three different perspectives on the Boston Tea Party.  I will be reading that to the kids and despite the fact that the colonists were not getting their tea we will be having some.  I have some brick tea that we will make tea from; there is academic debate as to whether the colonists were receiving shipments of brick tea or leaves.  We will talk about this and then try to use the brick tea.  I am going to serve the tea in my blue willow tea cups.  The blue willow design didn't make its first appearance until 1790 but I figured it was close enough to period and would emphasize to the kids just how important tea was to the colonists.  I will also serve a blueberry cake with lemon glaze with the tea.  I have a cookbook from the City Tavern, our founding fathers would hang out at this tavern, and found a recipe that I had all the ingredients for.  I used blueberries that I purchased on sale in the summer and had stored in the freezer.  I used eggs from my hens and buttermilk instead of regular milk.  I think these activities will be very enriching for the kiddos and no money out of pocket for this.  My other planned activities include making quill pens and using them to write part of the Declaration of Independence or some of Washington's Rules of Civility or some quotes from Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richards Almanac.  I did spend about $19 for some feathers, ink, special paper and a calligraphy pen (in case our quill pens fail and so that Bishop and I can learn how to do calligraphy later on).  Overall, I am pleased with the activities that I have come up with and the money that I have spent.

While making a blueberry cake for the history group tea I made a second one for the family to have for breakfast.
I saved and crumbled the egg shells from my baking to give to the hens tomorrow.
I fed scraps to the hens.
For dinner I reheated the ham I prepared last week and I made homemade macaroni and cheese.  I didn't use the whole milk the recipe called for instead I used canned evaporated milk, which is also what I used when making Maceo's pizza crust.  In the form of milk all I have on hand is buttermilk, evaporated milk, and powdered milk so I have to use substitutes when preparing recipes.  I served the leftover cranberries with this meal.  If there are still cranberries left after this meal then I plan on serving them with pancakes as a syrup of sorts.

Wednesday:  The day was full with science and history groups, vocal and acting lessons, youth group, and rehearsal.  Pretty much every meal was eaten out today.  I really do just need to budget that in, just plan on that when making menus because it is the way most every Wednesday goes.  Bishop and I, and our science group, went to steak and shake for lunch.  I had a $5 off coupon that I remembered to use.  I then bought Maceo steak and shake for his dinner between vocal and acting lessons.  I again used a $5 off coupon.  Bishop had dinner at a friends church before going to youth group.  I just munched on leftovers.  These expenses, eating out, comes out of the entertainment budget.  That means that I still have nearly one dollar left to spend for groceries.  I am likely to buy hot dog buns with money.  I found hot dogs in the fridge and Maceo loves himself some hot dogs.
All the planned activities went over well for history group.  The bread that I made from the period recipe was a big hit.  It is something we will make at home for breakfast and such.  We didn't get to making the quill pens because I had so many activities planned.  We will do it next week when we cover the Declaration of Independence.  We have restructured our group just a bit and will be spending more time on the American Revolution then the book called for.  I think it is going to be great.
In between chauffeuring duties I tried to rest a little and did some puttering.  I looked through my coupons and sales papers, got the dishes caught up, and organized some of the leftovers.  I didn't get a lot done but after having a full day and hurting a bit I am satisfied with my accomplishments.
I did give some thought to what I hope to serve tomorrow for meals.  For breakfast I will make pancakes and will serve it with the leftover cranberries and the last bit of spam.  For lunch I will use the frozen Chinese food and for dinner I will make turkey enchiladas.  I need to debone the turkey tomorrow, get some cleaning done and put away the Christmas stuff (yeah, it hasn't been done yet. some years are like that...for me at least).

Thursday:  I got a late start to the day as my head was hurting but I feel as though I might actually get something accomplished today.
I made pancakes for breakfast.  I used a mix of evaporated milk and buttermilk.  I also made a topping using the cranberries with pure maple syrup added to it.  It was very good.  I was going to serve the rest of the spam with the pancakes but it eluded me (not uncommon with my refrigerator).  I did, however, find a smidge of bacon that really needed to be used so use it I did.

I served the frozen Chinese food for lunch/dinner.  I steamed some additional rice in order to stretch the meal.  The boys ate it all so I made myself one of my favorite meals for dinner.  I fried up some eggs and made some buttered toast.  I prepare the toast in a skillet.  It gets crisp and, oh, so buttery.  For dessert I had a piece of the toast with apple butter.  Yum!
I stayed close to home other than when I had to get Maceo to vocal lessons and rehearsal so I actually got something done at home.
I did a bit of swagbucks.
I did a little straightening up of the refrigerator.
I washed used baggies.
I fed the hens scraps and collected their precious gifts of eggs.
I cleaned out my baking cupboard and replenished all of my baking supplies.
I got a good portion of the Christmas decorations put away.
I made sure that the laundry room was ready for the delivery of the washer and dryer tomorrow.
I cleaned the kitchen.
And I deboned the turkey.
And I watched the Republican debate.
Other then making the allotted payment for Maceo's vocal lessons it was a no spend day.
All in all a successful day.

Friday:  I began the day by getting some housework done, the way that I should begin every day.  I then went to the bakery on the corner.  I met a friend there who treated me to breakfast.  Breakfast and good company after some diligent work...always a great way to start the day.
I was then tremendously blessed to receive a free washer and dryer.  My niece received a new washer and dryer for Christmas and I was the fortunate recipient of her old ones.  I have been going to the laundromat for well over a year so this will be a pleasant change.  I will not take them for granted!
Not only did I receive the washer and dryer at no cost but my niece and her husband delivered them, set them up, and hauled away my old ways.  So blessed!
I was further blessed to enjoy lunch out with my niece and her family.  This may not be the most frugal thing to do but worth every penny.  The company was delightful!
Thanks, Sarah and Kevin!!!
Lunch was so filling I didn't need to eat anything for dinner.
I purchased some grooming items for the dog.  She needs to be washed and desperately needs to have her nails clipped.  I now have what I need to make those things happen.
Bishop went with some friends for an evening and a day at their lake house.  What a great adventure!
Lunch was so filling that I didn't need to eat anything for dinner.
I did give money to Maceo to take his girlfriend out to dinner and a show.  He took her to see 'A Few Good Men' at our local community theatre.  His intent was to buy discounted tickets during student rush; however, a friend had two extra tickets and gave them to Maceo.  Maceo was able to see that show for free and only had to pay for dinner.
I also got to see the show for free as I volunteered to usher the show.
My sister, Roxie, ushered the show.  Together we try to usher every show at this theatre.  Afterwards we stayed up late (very!) talking, it was nice to catch up with my sister.

Saturday:  Because Roxie had spent the night I ended up having breakfast with her at Panera.  In addition to my breakfast I ordered an iced tea as a travel refill; this means that I took my own cup and paid less than full price to fill it up).
I failed with my goal to spend no more than $25 for groceries this week because I did cave in to a request by Maceo to buy some frozen pizza and another case of water.  I spent $14 for groceries today so I am 13 in the hole.  Even then, all in all, $38 is not bad for groceries for three people for a week.  That works out to be $12.76 per person for the week which would be $1.81 per person per day.  I bet I can do better.  I will have to figure out how to address the drinking water issue because that does take up quite a bit of the grocery budget.
Maceo and I had some great inexpensive entertainment.  We went to a local schools production of The Lion King Jr.  It was fantastic and only cost us $13.  We both had only eaten one meal and knew that dinner would be eaten at a late hour so I did buy concessions.  I bought two bottles of water and two candy bars for $5.  Now that I know that this school allows food in the auditorium I will be packing my own snacks in the future.
We went out to eat afterwards.  We went to Applebee's and did the appetizer build your own sampler.  We really enjoyed each others company this evening.  I did get an iced tea to go so that I could have one available first thing in the morning.
Tea is another issue that I need to address in order to get my expenses down.  I don't make it at home because I have no ice at home (my freezer is always to full) but I should really come up with a solution.
I did some swagbucks.

Menu possibilities for this upcoming week...

huevos rancheros
breakfast burritos
bagel and egg sandwiches
berry smoothies
muffins and eggs
pancakes with cranberry syrup and spam

TexMex Quiche
turkey salad sandwiches and applesauce
barbecue beef sandwiches and pineapple
ham and swiss sliders
hot dogs and chili

pinto beans, potatoes and corn bread
turkey noodle soup
turkey enchiladas
bean burritos
Stir Fried Noodles
dine out

Snacks and Sweet Treats:
buffalo oyster crackers
chocolate chip cookies
oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies

iced tea
hot chocolate

 I feel as though I was successful overall and I hope to build on that success this next week.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Menu Planning My Way to Financial Fitness

If I am going to keep groceries down to $25 a week then I need to have some idea as to what I have and what I can serve.  Presently, I am brainstorming ideas based on what I know is in the fridge and the pantries that would be suitable to serve over the upcoming week.

pancakes, ham, and fresh oranges
breakfast burritos
eggs and toast
muffins and eggs
bagels with cream cheese (Sunday)
huevos rancheros  (Monday)

pizza  (Monday)
nacho bar and bean dip  (Sunday)
turkey salad sandwiches, applesauce
barbecue beef sandwiches, pineapple
meat, cheese, and crackers and apples with caramel dip
ham and swiss sliders

turkey, stuffing, cranberries  (Monday)
ham, macaroni and cheese casserole  (Tuesday)
pinto beans, potatoes, cornbread
turkey noodle soup
turkey enchiladas  (Wednesday)
bean burritos

Snacks and Sweet Treats:
football cake  (Sunday)
root beer floats
s'mores (if we light the fire!)

water (of course)
iced tea
root beer  (Sunday)
hot chocolate

This should help me stay on track.
Let the frugal fun begin!!!

Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments

Tuesday:  I have a habit of going to the bakery on the corner in the morning.  I get myself some iced tea and am often enticed to get a bite to eat.  I am a regular there and have forged relationships with many of the employees and with the other regulars.  It is my own "Cheers" where everybody knows my name.  It is difficult for me to resist going down there but I did resist this morning.  I had a tea in the fridge leftover from yesterday and I ate a souffle that I had been gifted.  Breakfast was a triumph.
I was also triumphant for lunch (which served as Bishop's breakfast.  Maceo went out with a friend who treated him to breakfast).  Bishop and I had chicken bacon ranch quesadillas.  I used the bacon that I brought back from the hotel and some leftover chicken that Bishop had previously cooked up for sandwiches.  I used the last of the ranch dressing that was taking up space in the fridge.  The only bread I had in the bread drawer was tortillas so that worked well for lunch.  The quesadillas were a hit.
 I had several packages of tortillas that were open and partially used.  I used two of those packages and saved the empty tortilla bags for future food storage (they are really just large ziploc baggies).
I left the house in the evening to refill my tea and I purchased a loaf of bread.  I bought a large loaf of sourdough bread for $5.26.  This will give me some options for meal preparation as I try not to go shopping for many reasons (some logistical, some financial, all practical).  I guess I should see if I have everything to make bread to help keep me from going to the store.
I paid our bills.  I did this online which saves us the expense of postage.
I redeemed SwagBucks for a $25 Amazon gift card.
Presently the cold water to our kitchen faucet is turned off which has made it difficult for the boys to stay hydrated without purchasing bottled water.  Before the boys each had gallon jugs that they would refill but they balk at refilling it with the hot water so I have been buying cases of bottled water.  Now we have run out of water, the roads are horribly icy and I will not run to the store so after cleaning out the fridge I filled up there gallon jugs with hot water and put them in the fridge overnight.  Hopefully this will satisfy their thirst and keep them hydrated.
Otherwise I spent the day cleaning and getting organized which is the goal for the week.
I sorted through everything in the fridge, taking an assessment of what I have in there.  Some items had begun to mold but the waste wasn't terribly bad.  However, I do want to work towards zero waste in the area of food.
I also pulled everything out of the metal pantry.  I need to temporarily move that cabinet so that I will be able to have the space necessary to move the new washer and dryer in so I needed to empty it.  This also allowed me to assess what I had stored in there.  Oh my, the contents of that pantry covered the formal dining table.  There was a lot of stuff in there.  I will officially sort through it and organize it tomorrow.  I should also pull out everything in the food storage pantry and assess it as well.  And, of course, the freezer needs some attention, too.

Wednesday:  I made breakfast at home again.  The boys were thrilled to awaken to pancakes.  I found a can of Spam in the pantry that I chose to fry up to add some protein to breakfast.
I made a pasta salad to have for a lunch or just a snack.  I used some wacky shaped pasta that had been in my pantry for a LONG time.  I added a can of artichoke hearts, the last of the Italian dressing, some veggies and salami from the fridge, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Yum!  This is a dish that is fun to make.  I consider it a "dump" dish.  I can put in whatever I find around.  I love to use tortellini but I can use any sort of pasta.  Any vinegar based dressing could be used or I could simply use vinegar and oil.  I used salami this time but I could have added pepperoni or ham or any cheese cut into chunks.  I love marinated artichoke hearts and fresh bell pepper in it but I could have put in roasted bell pepper or sun dried tomatoes in their oil.  It is a very flexible dish and always yummy!
Originally I was going to make a lasagna for dinner.  However, Maceo was offered three roles in a professional theatrical production and I wanted to give him a special treat.  Again because the roads are icky I didn't want to go out so I let him order pizza.  ($29.15).  He was thrilled.  It was worth it.  I, myself, ate the pasta salad.
I made a pan of brownies as a special sweet treat.  I used the last of the sprayable oil to grease the pan for these brownies but it is all good because I had ordered a Misto oil sprayer and it arrived today!  I am very excited about trying this product.
I continued to work on organization.  I organized my clothing.  I have packed away the football jerseys (sadly my Bengals are out of the playoffs) and have put out all my sweaters (I am a little behind on switching around my wardrobe).  I was able to get rid of several more items.  I love how I am able to consistently cull items from my wardrobe.  I am making progress in refining my wardrobe, my life.  I also continued working on assessing my food storage.  Wow, I have a lot of food!
I fed the hens some of the food that I pulled out of the fridge yesterday.  They seemed quite happy with it.  I used eggs laid by my hens to make the pancakes and the brownies.  I crushed those eggshells and put them in the chicken's food for tomorrow.
I did not drive anywhere today.  No money spent on gas!

Thursday:  I fed the hens laying crumble, some scraps and the crushed eggshells and I collected the two eggs they had left for me.  As I brought the eggs in I thought about how wonderfully economical my hens are.  I buy a 50lb bag of laying crumble for about $10 and supplement that with leftovers and in exchange, more often than not, they give me an egg a day, even in this cold weather.
I walked down the road to the bakery and treated myself to a bagel ($2.56) and they treated me to a complimentary iced tea.  I did a little computer work while sitting by the fire; it was nice.  One of the other regulars gave me their newspaper including the page with the puzzles.  (Yes!)
I returned home to continue cleaning and organizing.  I had to remove things from the laundry room in hopes that the washer and dryer will be delivered tomorrow although the inclement weather may prohibit that.  I finished pulling everything out of the pantries.  Oh my, my, my!!!
This is most of what was in those pantries.  It excludes 20 lbs of flour, lots of oils, many cans of evaporated milk, and a box of baking goods.

I have a lot of food.  Those buckets in the bottom left corner contain rice, pinto beans, and whole grain wheat.  I have a ton of vinegars - white, apple cider, red wine, balsamic and white wine.  I also have a ton of jams, syrups, and honey.  I have pastas and grains, such as, oatmeal and quinoa.  And so much more.  I have to finish inventorying it and get it re-shelved then on to the freezer.
Maceo ate out with friends prior to going to rehearsal.  Bishop and I had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch and salmon (bought as a managers special) rice and frozen corn for dinner.  I used this recipe as inspiration for the salmon.  Instead of using the fresh blackberries and sugar I used the blackberry jam that I have in abundance in my pantry.  I heated it up, thinned it a bit with lemon juice and water and added powdered ginger.  When serving it we added soy sauce.  Next time I would add the soy sauce to the glaze while making it and I would add more ginger and some pepper to it while making it.  Bishop and I are now contemplating other ways in which we might use our large stock of jams as glazes.
I am still filling up the boys gallon jugs with water and keeping them in the fridge.  They are staying hydrated.  Also, I made sure that Maceo had a Nalgene to fill up with water while at rehearsal.
I did a bit on Swagbucks.
I took a survey related to last nights pizza order.  I will receive $10 off of my next order!  Also, I need to remember that I have a $5 credit at Pizza Hut, a $5 credit at Papa Murphy's and a free cheese pizza at Papa Murphy's.

Friday:  I blew it this morning!  I went to the bakery on the corner for breakfast (that would be two days in a row, not frugal) and I didn't just get a bagel, I ordered a breakfast sandwich (also not frugal) and I got a refill on my tea setting me back $6.54.  I have learned, however, that I can add any or all veggies to my breakfast sandwich for no additional charge.  I added spinach, tomato and onion.
I discovered the blog The Next Chapter in My Life and her February $100 Grocery Budget Challenge.  I find challenges such as this to be very inspirational.  If I didn't have such a crazy February in the making (i.e. having to go to Washington D.C. to help Christian move, Maceo's show opening) I would give this one a shot.  After seeing what I have in the pantries and knowing that I have a ton of stuff in the freezers that I haven't even inventoried yet I am certain that I could do this with little problem.  The problems I would have would involve fighting my own nature to not plan or to not stick with a plan (I am a spontaneous type of gal) and getting Maceo on board (he has very particular tastes that he is used to me accommodating).  I will shoot for spending no more than $25 per week as often as possible.  My start date on that will be this Sunday.
I did grilled cheese and leftover pasta salad for lunch and put a ham in the oven for dinner.  I ended up adding a glaze to the ham comprised of the last bit of strawberry jam that I found in the fridge, lemon juice and mustard.  The ham dinner morphed a bit as I began to put it together.  I decided that I wanted to make little hand-pies for dessert using my homemade biscuit dough and apple butter.  Because I was already making the biscuit dough I decided to bake some of it as biscuits to serve with the ham.  Then, of course, I determined that I should scramble some eggs.  Our dinner ended up being ham and egg biscuit sandwiches with apple butter hand-pies for dessert.  It was warm comfort food.

Maceo went out with a friend to celebrate her birthday.  I gave him $15.  This comes out of the entertainment budget.
I did a bit on Swagbucks.
I worked on reducing the cold weather coming in through the back door.  I made significant progress but I need to focus on putting new seals on both doors.
Bishop and I were going to go to a free reception at our local art museum marking the opening of the new pop art exhibition.  Instead we decided to just spend a quiet warm evening at home, also free.  Our art museum is always free so we will go to this exhibition soon.  Instead I opted to work on finishing up the organizing of my pantries.  I completed those pantries and will now turn my attention to the freezer!

Saturday:  I made a couple more hand pies for my breakfast.  These are truly yummy!

I was originally going to take Maceo and Bishop to Panera as a treat for lunch.  I have a free "pick 2" and a reduced broth bowl awaiting me there.  However, they just preferred frozen pizza for lunch and I treated them to a Monster each ($$$).  I had still intended to treat myself to Panera but decided that I would just eat their pizza leftovers.  Temptation resisted - triumph!
I had to drop Bishop off at a movie theater to meet up with some friends for a friends birthday viewing of Star Wars.  While out and about I decided I would post some show posters at locations I don't normally get to.  I went to a strip mall to post some posters on the community bulletin board of a Panera and noted that there was a Hallmark store and a Dollar General in that strip mall.  I browsed the Hallmark store and found that their Christmas items were marked down 75%.  I bought four items for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for under $8.  Two dollars per item is more than I usually like to pay but I really like these items.  I am going to try to track my spending for OCC.  I have already purchased many clearance items and I don't think that I can figure out exactly what I spent but from here on out I will do my best to document the spending.  (OCC=$8).  I then went to Dollar General to purchase an aluminum roasting pan that I needed in order to roast my turkey.  While there I checked out the Christmas items and found three nice items for OCC for 25 cents each (OCC=$8.75+$7.45 from last week=$16.19).  I also purchased thirteen gift boxes, those for shirts and robes, for a mere $1.25.  I intend on tracking my gift spending as well and that will include wrapping items.  So to begin the tally I will add the price of these boxes with the cost of the cutting boards I purchased previously (Gifts=$51.25).
I continued to sort through my scrapbook stuff, this time my stickers and other embellishments.  I pulled out some items to include in the OCC shoeboxes and some things got filed away as gift tags.  I added 219 new tags to my stash!
For dinner I made a lasagna.  While shredding the mozzarella cheese for the lasagna I went ahead and shredded extra so that it will be ready for some pizza making later in the week.  Then I figured that while the grater was already cheesy I could go ahead and shred cheddar cheese for tomorrows football game day nachos.  Shredding the cheese all at one time saves me the hassle of shredding the cheese later and I only have one clean up.
Tomorrow are the AFC and NFC Championship games.  Bishop's team, the Broncos, is in the AFC Championship and Maceo's team, the Panthers, is in the NFC Championship so I definitely need to make some football food.  I will set up a nacho bar because I have lots of fixings that will be delightful on nachos.  And to make the day extra special I decided to bake up a football shaped cake this evening.  Just using up the stuff in my pantry and feeling good about it! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Frugal Accomplishments While Striving For Financial Fitness

The holidays are over and all of my family members have returned to their respective homes.  I am home after having taken Herb to get settled at his new duty station and after having taken Maceo to Oklahoma for auditions.  I am tired, a little worn out.  Now it is time to rest just a bit, recharge, get focused on my goals and get to the work at hand.
Next week I will begin tracking every penny I spend to get a good understanding of my spending habits.  I also need to return to documenting monetary transactions related to gift giving, etc. in my ledger.  And I want to make an updated list of what I will spend on food items, i.e. I try to pay $2 or less per pound of meat.  I want to be more deliberate again.
In the meantime, here are some of my frugal accomplishments...

-The trip to take Christian to the airport and Herb to his duty station were not particularly cheap; however, I did go through USAA to make the car rental reservation which gets me some perks and I activated Swagbucks shop and earn while making that reservation.  I also utilized a rewards program when making my hotel reservation.

-We took our own snacks and bottled water to munch on while on the road.

-We dined together at restaurants during the trip but we tried to redeem things just a bit by saving all the rib bones and bringing them home to our doggy and after eating at Crackerbarrel I saved the jars that the blueberry syrup came in.  I am hoping that I can get them to re-seal and can package little marmalades in them to give as gifts.

-I stopped by a WalMart while in Kansas.  That particular store had an extensive clearance sell going on.  I was able to purchase large tubes of pro-health Crest toothpaste for $1 each, birthday candles that I had almost purchased for Bishop's birthday for over $2 for a mere 75 cents, and three boxes of Christmas tree lights that were marked down 75% to cost me only $1 each.  I purchased 37 items for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for $7.45 and 11 items to be given to a charity that provides birthday party supplies and gifts to poor families for $10.

-Also at WalMart I found cheese boards on sale for $7 each.  I bought seven of them for gifting purposes.  I imagine packaging them with some homemade cheese or summer sausage; or maybe with red onion marmalade or some other homemade condiment that is complementary with cheese.  I will also keep my eyes open at the thrift store for cheese knives.  I am excited about this gift idea.  I have also been brainstorming other ideas for gifts.  I have thought about making beeswax candles scented with essential oils with wooden wicks in small mason jars and pairing them with homemade loose leaf tea blends packaged in mason jars as well.  I have thought about looking for Christmas tins at thrift stores, spray painting them to revive them then filling them up with Bishop's baklava.  I have thought about making lotion bars and some salves.  I have thought about making essential oil scented play dough and packing it in small jars for the little kiddos.  So many options.  I love being inspired!

- I spent some time making gift tags.  I simply cut into tag shape some vintage ornament boxes that were a bit dilapidated and were just taking up space.  I have twelve new gift tags that didn't cost me anything but a smidge of time.  I also set aside some other vintage ephemera that can be used as tags.  I intend on creating a stash of tags using things that I have on hand.  I have a board on Pinterest for inspiration.

-I scored six pounds of oranges for seventy-five cents per pound.  I probably should buy a lot more.  I also want to make sure that I utilize ALL of the oranges, get the most out of them.  I found a wonderful post to inspire me in my efforts to do just that.

-I washed some ziploc baggies.  I don't always do this.  I never wash bags that have held uncooked meat.  I don't wash super messy bags unless I am desperate.  I do wash bags that are not terribly messy.  I do a similar thing with aluminum foil as well.

-I had a 30% off coupon and $30 in Kohls cash to be used and Maceo needed a new belt so to Kohl's I went.  I did purchase the belt and several items on Christmas clearance.  The Christmas items were originally marked 50% off and now there is 20% off that discounted price.  Additionally the 30% off coupon applies to clearance items.  I purchased Herb a nice winter comfy shirt, five really cool Christmas shirts for the kiddos for next year (I will go onto the Kohl's website and see if I can purchase matching shirts for Herb and I online), and I found a very sweet little gift for one of the grand-nieces that will be tucked into the gift stash.

-While out and about I went by HobbyLobby as I decided that I would use a 40% off coupon to buy a tag shaped paper punch.  Initially I intended only to use items that I had on hand to make a supply of gift tags but I decided that it would simplify the process a bit to have the paper punch.  It was not necessary but I will get enough use out of it to warrant the expense.  While there I noted that the photo storage boxes were discounted by 50% so I purchased one for $2 to file my tags in.  I also checked the Christmas clearance one more time and found two packages of 12 gold and white tags for twenty cents each and two children's chefs hats for fifty cents each.  I am super excited about the little chefs hats.  They will make such nice little gifts for the grand nieces and nephews.

-I got right to it putting that tag shaped paper punch to work.  While watching the presidential debates I began to sort through my scrapbook paper and began to make some new tags.  This is a great way for me to take items that I have on hand and turn them into something purposeful.  I spent $12 on that tag punch otherwise these will be free.  I have a ton of paper - scrapbook paper and cardstock and vintage ephemera.  I also have a ton of embellishments - stickers, buttons, rick rack, beads, and odds and ends that can really make these tags special.
During the debate alone I cut out 414 tags.  I'm not completely done with them as I intend on embellishing some, not all, of them.  The tags that I purchased at Hobby Lobby were originally priced at 12 tags for $2.  If I use that price then I made 34 1/2 sets of tags that would be valued at $69.

-I sliced and dried some oranges that were on their last leg and I started saving orange peels in a container to either dry or to make a cleaning agent with.

-Another expensive trip was taken, this one to an audition in Oklahoma.  I again made the hotel reservations using my military discount and my loyalty card.  I should be getting some serious rewards soon.

-I also did little things to try to redeem myself on this trip.  We only had two meals a day instead of three and we brought back all leftovers.  A breakfast buffet came with the room but Maceo didn't want to eat any breakfast so I loaded up a to-go container which he snacked on then I brought home the extras.  We will have bacon sandwiches then the rest will be given to the hens.

It has been a crazy, busy, expensive time and I anticipate more crazy busy-ness and expensive-ness next month so it is necessary that I get my frugality on!  I will be cleaning out and inventorying the fridge and freezer this week and preparing all my meals from our food storage.  This will also help me get the laundry room (believe it or not the laundry room is where my fridge is located) in order for the delivery of a washer and dryer on Friday.  My goal is to pull everything out of the laundry room, clean it thoroughly and put in new flooring - all before Friday.  I have my work cut out for me so here I go...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments as I Strive For Financial Fitness

Over the years I have researched ways to be more thrifty.  I have learned and employed many frugal little actions but I still seek out ways in which others save money while living a good life.  So lately I have been just piddling on the internet, searching for something new and fresh, something inspirational and motivational.  And I have found it.  I found House of SimpleFrugal in the ValleyHome and Thrift, and Frugaldom, among others.  I am always surprised and delighted with the creativity of others.
In the past I have hit up post-Christmas sales for highly discounted candy.  I would buy the red and green Christmas M&M's.  I would separate the colors and use the red ones as St. Valentine's Day treats and the green ones for St. Patrick's Day treats.  I would buy Hershey's kisses in the holiday foil to be used in the making of Valentine's peanut butter kiss cookies.  However, I had never thought of purchasing the chocolate snowmen and santa's and chopping them up to use in baking yet that is what another creative blogger does.  Brilliant.
I use the little bit of butter left on butter wrappers to grease baking pans; however, another creative blogger uses the entire wrapper to line loaf pans the way one would use parchment paper.  Again, brilliant.
This is just the kind of inspiration I need as I begin a new year and strive to remain motivated in my quest to be financially fit.

Some of my recent frugal accomplishments:

-Bishop's birthday was this week.  I was going to purchase him a card.  I looked at them but didn't find any that I really liked then I remembered that I had cards at home and/or I had card making supplies at home and I should look no further.  In the end we gave him three cards that were purchased for birthdays years ago but were never gifted.

-Similarly, his presents were wrapped in recycled, repurposed bags.  I used a bag that one of my birthday gifts were delivered in.  I also used bags that I brought back from my trip to Korea, cool bags with cool graphics.

-I have run out of large bottles of conditioner but have been able to delay purchasing more as I have been using samples from hotels and gifted convention leftovers.

-I purchased two turkeys at fifty cents per pound.  I wish I could purchase more but I don't have space in my freezer.  However, when I placed the turkeys in the downstairs freezer I discovered that I also had two corned beefs and a bag of crab legs just hanging out down there.  I'm about to get busy saving money on my grocery spending.

-I did end up purchasing another turkey.  This one is a very nice Butterball that I got for seventy-five cents per pound.  I have no room in the freezer but I do have space for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator.  Turkey meals are in our near future.

-I had a couple of unavoidable larger expenses but I made sure to activate Swagbucks shop and earn when purchasing.

-I used my credit card rewards points to buy Christian an airplane ticket back to Washington D.C.  I paid less than $20 for that ticket.  This is a reminder to me that if I can use my credit card responsibly, paying off purchases immediately, than I can earn points that can be used in ways that can truly enhance our lives.

-I went to a local restaurant to get an iced tea, (I take in my own cup, receive a discounted price and am allowed to refill my cup as many times as I would like during the day) and the general manager gave me a free breakfast and tea after we had a discussion about the menu changes.  It was a pleasant surprise!

-I got a free sudoku puzzle at the bakery after another customer left his newspaper at the restaurant.

-I wanted to purchase some clothes for Christian before he returned to Washington D.C.  I, first, took him to a resale store where I had a $10 coupon.  He found two shirts, a cardigan and a pair of shoes there.  Then I took him to Kohl's where he finally found jeans that fit properly (they were buy one get one half off) and two more shirts.  I received some Kohl's cash that I look forward to using soon.

-While at Kohl's I bought two little Star Wars stockings that had been reduced to $2 each.  These will be fun in some Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I have been purchasing little things here and there as I have found them on Christmas clearance.

-Later I went to WalMart to pick up some items for Herb's new apartment and for food for Maceo while the rest of us are in Kansas getting Herb situated and I found some cute Christmas hair accessories for seventy-five cents each that I will put in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

-We did have some less then inexpensive entertainment this week as we sought to do some fun stuff with Christian before he returns to Washington D.C. but we did our best to limit the expenses.  We used a coupon for a ninety-nine cent buffet at Incredible Pizza when we purchased a fifteen dollar game card.  Then Christian used his student i.d. and I used my military i.d. when buying movie tickets.  I also remembered to swipe my loyalty card at the movie theatre - a small victory.

-As always I am feeding food scraps to the animals.  The dog has had some drippings and some bones (after they had been used to make beans or broth, of course).  The hens appreciate any and all scraps.

As 2016 begins I can say that I am doing alright but I will soon be developing some goals and determining some tasks for myself that will hopefully take my frugal efforts and accomplishments to a new level.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy 15th Birthday!!!

I really want to write something beautiful and eloquent that expresses clearly how I feel about this boy of mine, the passage of time, and the man that he has become.  I wish that I could really express all that is in this mama's heart but my words have failed me, they fall short.  I can say that Bishop, the last of my four children to enter my life and the one that arrived when I was certain I was done having children, has brought balance and an extraordinary amount of joy to our family.
At this point in the life of our family, with only the two younger children still at home and my husband living in another state and as Maceo spends much of his waking time at the theatre, I spend more waking hours with Bishop then with any other family member and every moment we explore the world together is delightful and challenging and exciting.
So on this day we celebrated this guy and recognized all that he is and all that he offers this family and this world.

Happy 15th Birthday and I Love You, Bishop!!!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Keeping It Simple in 2016

"Planning a simple life is like writing a love letter to yourself.  You can include what you want to include, you live by your own values, love who and what you love, develop your own usefulness and eventually you become the person you wanted to be in all those private moments of hoping for a life of grace and splendid simplicity."  -Down to Earth

Although there may be many similarities connecting those that express a desire to live a "simple life" there will also be differences.  It might include eliminating tv or the car.  It might mean growing your own food or baking your own bread.  But it doesn't have to be all of those things or any of those things.  It is a personal vision defined by one's own values and dreams.  My path is my own.  I love the definition of the simple life as expressed by Rhonda on her blog Down to Earth.  It so beautifully expresses what I am pursuing when I say that I am planning and working towards a simple life.  And every year I strive to refine what is important to me, what I want to invest my time and energy into pursuing or maintaining and eliminating those things that don't fit.  Every year I strive to refine who I am.  There was a time when I believed that I could have it all, do it all and be it all.  I have since grown up.   I now recognize that there are limitations - limitations in time, energy and money.  I have learned that everything, even my possessions, require energy and my energy can only go so far.  I have learned that life is a series of trade-offs and in order to live a life most fulfilled I must make deliberate choices about those trade-offs.  Attaining this understanding has now enabled me to truly focus on developing a vision - a vision of who I want to be and how I want to live.
For years I have been exploring different ways of living and doing things and seeing what is a comfortable fit for me.  Also for years I have worked on releasing the stuff that doesn't fit; that, in the end,  takes too much energy and trips me up.
For the last two years I have had a goal of sorting through and purging from every nook and cranny of my property.  The first year I made good progress but fell short.  This last year I succeeded (oh my, short of one corner that I just recalled failing to sort through, shucks!).  This last year I started a blog entitled A Life Edited and Curated where I documented a portion of my editing process and will soon move on to documenting the curating process.  I needed this encouragement.  I still need this encouragement.  I need to know that I am making progress towards my goals.  I need to know that more is leaving my house than is entering.  I need to know that I am moving forward toward the goal of being surrounded only by those things that I love the most and that are most useful when attempting to meet other goals.
In the year 2015 I was able to rid myself of over 2200 items that were clogging up my life.  I have begun to create margins in my life, a little extra space that will allow me room to maneuver, to do more work and to create something utterly beautiful and purposeful.  This is part of my "simple life" - a life with margins and maneuverability and only beautiful and purposeful things and spaces.
And doing only beautiful and purposeful things.
As I have made, and continue to make, more margins in my physical environment I find that I am making more space to do the things that inspire me most.  I hope to explore the DO-ing more this year.  In the past I have made lists of things I would like to do.  These lists have contained household projects, skills to learn and experiences to have.  I will likely make one again this year but I am not prepared to do that as of yet.  My head is not yet bursting at the seams with things I want to do (beyond the sorting and purging yet again goal); presently I am content to go with the flow and see what comes my direction.
So, I move forward into 2016 seeking grace and splendid simplicity!