Friday, January 14, 2011
Frugal Friday - Living Well
Another week...Saving money is work, you know? It takes effort and time and organization to stay on top of all the potential savings areas. Sometimes I hit each area that deserves attention. Sometimes I slip up and miss something or plan poorly. It happens. I don't waste time beating myself up. I just plan to remember the mistake and do better from that point forward.
Consistently missing at hitting a point? Then stop and analyze why it's a problem area. Perhaps it's not an area where your frugal muscle is strong. Consider reading up on the subject, taking lessons from someone who is strong in that area. Every little bit helps.
Maybe it's a matter of assessing what your priorities are and determining if it's really an area that requires work or if you can trim elsewhere to offset the costs in that area. It's all about what is important to you. As long as there's no hardship being created, as long as the area isn't making your debt grow, then it's okay not to choose to trim that area of your budget.
I'll do as I did last week and try to look at each day to see where I generated savings for my household.
Saturday: I went to synagogue then drove up to the thrift shop...How was that frugal? I chose not to go to the store to buy NEW items that cost lots more than thrift items. I also eliminated several "Oh that's nice," items from my list of possible purchases. I have some hard and fast rules when I shop: I can buy books, soemthing useful for the household or that fits my current decor. I avoid pretty china (except those two particular patterns and one other all of which are hard to find). I try to limit myself to $30 and finally I shop only twice a month. I spent $17 Saturday, which means I have an allowance of $13 to spend if I choose to shop again this month. Here's another thing I do. I don't carry over a balance. Once the month is done, the $30 is considered used whether or not I spent it.
I was hungry plus hungry by the time I headed home. Not a good thing with me. I have two tendencies: overeat and spend too much. I had nothing thawed at home, so the two options were take out or grocery store. I decided to stop at Subway because their 12 inch subs are a good bargain for $5. I put half the sandwich in Chance's lunch for the next day.
Sunday: I was invited for dinner at Mrs. Harris' home. I decided, with the weather warnings it might be best to stop at the grocery and get dog food, milk, eggs. I picked up this week's Sunday paper, as well. I scanned the store's weekly ads to see if anything was too good a buy to pass up. I found only one item: deli roasted chicken for $4.99, which is about the cost for a whole chicken from the meat department. A cooked chicken for the same price? Savings for me.
I filled up with gasoline on my way home. I've been told all my life that a full tank doesn't allow the collection of moisture inside that one partially filled does, which is common in cold weather. I don't know if it's true or not, shall have to ask Alan, who is our mechanical genuis. In the meantime, Chance's theory is that it can't hurt to have a full tank of gas when bad weather is coming in.
It was cold and breezy Sunday. Barely above freezing. I plugged in the pumphouse light, to keep the pipes there warm and I've left it on all week long, day and night. Frozen pipes burst. That's a very expensive OUCH for a homeowner, not to mention having to do without water.
I checked my supply of bottled water (drawn up right here at home using PET rated bottles).
Boiled eggs to make egg salad for Chance's lunch.
Monday: Ice, snow, sleet, cold. I drew up a bathtub full of water to have on hand just in case we lost power. That water would be used for flushing and washing.
With a crew that is two men short, Chance felt it was best to push through the snow and ice and make his way to work. He left plenty early so he could drive slowly and carefully. What we didn't know: the county declared it an 'emergency holiday' and is paying workers accordingly. If he'd called out we'd have missed that additional money. It was a nice bonus for trying not to create a hardship for co-workers.
Carb and protein meals are best when the weather outdoors is below freezing. We've tried having salads and it only means we're starving again in an hour's time. So not worth it. Spaghetti with meat sauce is inexpensive and hearty. I used 1/2 pound ground beef, making my sauce from scratch using tomatoes, tomato sauce, carrots, onions, green peppers brought the cost down even more. Slow simmering added flavor.
It was so cold and gray outdoors...I kept the curtains pulled in all but the living room. That kept the drafts down to a minimum.
The heat pump loses efficiency as the temperature drops below freezing. To keep the unit from working hard, I turned up the propane heater and let it run all day and well into the evening.
I swept ice from the front porch to keep that area clear for the pets. And to insure I didn't slip and fall. Broken bones and injuries are no fun and are surely not a money saver!lol I tried to clear the back deck but the ice was too thick and immovable.
Tuesday: Ice still on the ground. I decided to forgo the Big Shop and stay safe at home. As I contemplated my pantry/freezer/fridge inventory, I realized that I didn't need to shop at all. I decided to put off shopping for one week. That's a savings of 1/2 my grocery budget!
Leftover spaghetti sauce and spaghetti from the day before were in the fridge. How to use it up? I decided a pan of lasagna for dinner after synagogue Saturday was one way to use up the sauce and incidentally, the partial box of lasagna noodles in the pantry. However, I found I barely had enough noodles to make one layer of noodles in the traditional method of making lasagna. So I decided to break up the noodles and then lay them jigsaw fashion over the meat/cheese layers. Worked out beautifully! Why do six noodles make two full layers broken into pieces but 1 layer only when used whole? I've no idea, but I have a pan of lasagna ready to heat and eat come Saturday.
Temptation when the weather is dreary and curtains are pulled is to turn on ALL the lights. I opted to turn them all off and leave them off. No need to waste that energy when I wasn't in those rooms. As the afternoon cleared the skies and sun poured into the living room west facing windows, the room heated up enough to warrant turning down the propane heater.
Cleared my bookshelves and realized I'd purchased two books I already owned. Not a great loss of money there but certainly a heads up to me to make a list I can carry with me of books I already own by the more commonly found authors to avoid duplicates in the future.
I pulled about fifty books from my shelves. No plans to replace them right away, either. I kind of like the empty spaces on the shelves. The books culled will be listed for sale on Amazon or eBay.
Our bed pillows had gone flat and I was contemplating replacing them. I'd just read a post from a firend who washed and dried hers and she said the pillows were fluffy once more. I decided I had nothing to lose. At best I'd extend the life of my pillows. At worse, I'd toss them which I'd meant to do anyway. Worked out beautifully. I don't think I'll wash these cheap pillows a second time, but it sure did extend the life of them, fluffing them nicely and making them smell nice and fresh once more.
I washed sheets. Putting them into the warm dryer immediately after taking out those pillows cut down drying time by about 15 minutes.
Wednesday: Chance off work and home for the week. A big breakfast prepared at home, cost about $1 each. Compare that to the restaurant costs of eating out. We saved about $10.
A casserole from the freezer was heated for dinner. I'd forgotten it was in the freezer until I did that inventory Monday afternoon. I made a salad and there was dinner from leftovers I'd combined to make a meal in a dish.
We went for a ride Wednesday afternoon. It was so beautiful outdoors despite the frigid air. Chance took me out to supper. We chose Chinese buffet, one of the least expensive options besides the dollar menu. Ordering water instead of a drink keeps dinner costs down.
Thursday: Grandmama used to make Spaghetti and Cheese instead of Macaroni and Cheese. And there I had all that leftover cooked spaghetti in the fridge. I made up a batch to serve alongside our roasted chicken.
Heated canned green beans alongside the chicken and spaghetti dishes in the oven. I use an enamel pan with a lid to steam vegetables when I'm using the oven. It works beautifully.
"Dressed up" the green beans using a bit of leftover tomato, a little diced onion and celery and a sprinkling of red pepper. The cookbook calls them Cajun Green Beans. We called them delicious.
A special concert at synagogue for the evening was our plans. Chance had to go over early. I'd planned to come later, but he convinced me the gas savings was worthwhile. I had to hurry a bit to get ready but it worked out just fine.
I packed peanut butter crackers, clementines and water for a snack since we wouldn't have time for supper between prep work and the concert hour.
After the concert we were asked out to eat, but we don't eat late in the evening. We opted to go along and had coffee and hot chocolate. The peanut butter crackers had worn off by that time, so we shared an order of fries. Nice time out and we enjoyed ourselves.
When others make suggestions of how they earn additional points using a feature of a blog or website I haven't tried before I pay attention. I earned an additional Five Swagbucks this week by watching Swagtv in odd moments.
Friday: Most of the savings this week have been in the kitchen, from the moment I decided to not buy groceries. We had half the chicken leftover yesterday. That's another meal for us. We used the second half of the pound of ground beef for our lunch today.
Chance wanted steak Wednesday night but I convinced him to wait. We had steak in the freezer, bought at a very good sale which I could thaw and prepare for our meal tonight.
I needed a dessert for tomorrow, and a side dish. I had two boxes of brownie mix bought on sale at Christmas time for about $.20 a box. The two boxes combined with a homemade chocolate frosting make a treat of the brownies. Rich and moist and delicious, this trick of frosting boxed brownies came from a friend whose father ran a successful local bakery for many years. People beg her to bring these to any dinner or party and they are gone in a heart beat.
The frosting recipe called for buttermilk...None on hand and while I might have used vinegar to sour the milk, I chose instead to use a spoonful of sour cream. It works just as well and adds creaminess to the frosting.
I had fresh lettuce in the fridge. There was my side dish, a big salad. This time of year fresh tomatoes can be expensive, but I don't let that limit me to plain green salads. Canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed, black olives, fresh onion, carrots, celery are all good inexpensive additions to the salad bowl.
The good thing about culling those books? I found just loads of good reads on my very own bookshelves. No need to go to the library. I saved gasoline and picked something to read off my shelf.
After a bit of reading and work I was able to get AdSense up and running on my blog. I just needed to figure out where the trouble lay.
And that's been the week. Of course, there were lots of other little savings sprinkled all through the week: washing glass jars to reuse as storage containers, washing and drying zippered bags, making sure the washer and the dishwasher each contained a full load and used the shortest cycle, keeping shampoo and toothpaste and detergent levels at recommended amounts, cleaning appliances to keep them in good working order, noting repairs that must be made in the warmer months to keep the house in shape, switching off lights in rooms that weren't in use, lowering the thermostat to 60F at night and when no one was home, reusing printouts that weren't needed (as scrap sheets or to print grocery lists on the blank side), redecorating small areas with items already on hand, reorganizing a problematic cupboard to work more efficiently for food storage, mending clothing...It all adds up.
We've had a lovely week in many ways. The unexpected snow and ice was beautiful in it's own way and without the damage that normally accompanies these storms it was almost (and I say that with emphasis) welcome with the change of pace it brought. It was lovely to shelter in the warm house, stepping outdoors only a few times a day to admire the beauty and tend to the animals and come back into the warm house to snug in once more. We've still got ice on the back deck and here and there a little patch of snow remains but mostly it's a memory.
The change of routine this week in not going to the grocery was more than pleasant. It felt out and out abundant! It's wonderful to know that the stockpile in the home is enough to carry you through a week. So worth the months it took to build up that stockpile. And a good opportunity to discover where a little more care in stockpiling might take us a little further along (like in having more coffee on hand, lol).
Luxury: a roll of prepared cookie dough in the freezer requiring only 1/2 hour for fresh baked cookies, just enough time to thaw and bake.
I consider time spent in a thrift shop some of the most pleasing. I love looking at objects from the past, wonder at the collections that show up (a dozen mushroom salt and peppers anyone?), like using my imagination to see how something might look if it were painted, or recovered. And then there are the books...Lovely, beautiful shelves of books, just waiting to be reclaimed and taken home for someone to cherish once again. Time well spent!
Change of pace...That's been the theme of this week: I went to Shabbat service, took off for a jaunt at the thrift shop, enjoyed the snowy weather, and not grocery shopping, went for a long afternoon ride and had supper out, attended a concert, went out for a late night cocoa, slept in...It's all been different and I've really enjoyed it. I must say it's a good thing I resolved to be more adventuresome this year...
Shabbat is lovely enough but this week I decided we needed that little something extra. Why not a candlelit dinner of steak and a gorgeous salad? Sounded just right to me, too.
So another week ends. I feel a bit redundant at times in my money saving talk, but it's what I do to afford the little luxuries and the big necessities, too.
Posted by Terri Cheney at 4:06 PM