Friday, February 18, 2011

Frugal Friday - Living Well

Good Morning!  It's a beautiful, B-eee-U-T-full, day outdoors.  I know it's still February.  I know there are still five weeks of winter. I know it will be cold in March and even in April and perhaps a bit nippy with frost in May.  I do know all this, but gracious goodness!  It's that lovely reprieve of winter in the midst of February that has me happy as can be.  The windows are open and it's not yet noon, the birds are singing, the sun shining.  I'm going to enjoy this lull as long as it lasts and I promise I will not complain when February returns to being, well, February-ish.

All this gorgeousness aside there's been plenty of reason to try and be mindful of the budget.  Routine things that occur periodically, like a birthday dinner out and Valentine's Day, tax preparation and oil changes.  Well they all come around in February, along with a bevy of family birthdays.  Two more to go...

Saturday:  Chance felt much better Saturday, so we were off to service.  A very pleasant day, and an unusual one, because of his illness, we worshipped with our other co-leader providing music.  Very nice for Chance to get the day 'off'.  We started an exciting new class on Old Testament nutrition which gave us food for thought about some of the food choices we make today.  After service, we discussed meal options.  We'd meant to go out to eat, but Chance didn't really feel up to that just yet.  He suggested take out pizza.  A reasonable option for us.  Vegetable pizza for $10.

We filled up with gasoline in that town, where it is less expensive than our home town station.

Sunday:    Chance had signed up to work an extra shift late last month and so he was off to work.  I made good use of the time at home and made bread and yogurt.  I used Rhonda's recipe once again, this time adding in 1 cup whole wheat flour and accidentally adding too much oil, but that is the easiest bread dough I've ever had the privilege of working with.  It doesn't seem to matter if you make a minor mistake here or there, it just goes right ahead and rises beautifully anyway.  2 loaves of bread...

Should have been two pints of yogurt as well, but alas, it was merely soured milk this time.  Oh it shall be used to make up biscuits, but it is not yogurt by any stretch of the imagination.  Sigh.

I bought an inexpensive bouquet on February 1...and on Sunday I decided it was time to trim the stems, cull the flowers that were looking worn.  I made a smaller bouquet.  To extend the life of the spider mums, I simply pulled away the brown looking petals on the bottom of the flour.  My bouquet looked very nice, almost as good as new.

I did laundry and took advantage of the sunny day and light breeze to hang the towels and sheets to dry.

I thought about going out to get a paper, or to do a little weekend grocery shopping, but you know, I just wanted to stay home.  Glad I did, too.  The house looked very nice at day's end and the checkbook balance was the same as it had been when the day started.

Monday:     Valentine's Day.  We are definitely not into BIG, high priced Valentine's Day gifts.  I like a card now and then, but I must say that the prices put me off.  I told Chance just what I wanted: a box of candy but not until Tuesday when it was 50% off!  He laughed and agreed.  Then my sweetie made me breakfast, a very nice breakfast.  Now there's real luxury in my opinion and a truer declaration of love than any silly card written by someone who doesn't even know me and merely signed.

Not a lot needed to be done in the house this day, so I decided to go through the February issues of the magazines Mama had given me.  Lots of information there about holistic cures for common ailments, ideas for decorating, recipes...I tore out a lot of pages this time.  I decided that I need to start a section in my Home Keeping Journal for natural remedies.  I'll organize them by ailments so that I might look up say "cough" and see that lemon and honey works well as does rosemary tea.

Coupons, and coupons and coupons.  I haven't noticed half so many grocery coupons in magazines in the longest time, other than All You magazine.  It seems many of the magazine publisher's advertisers figured out that tough economy plus coupon equals happy consumer. 

No need to cook dinner this day, except for boiling potatoes to mash.  I cooked on Friday, while Chance was not well and so I merely had to reheat the dish and make a second side.  Since it was a special day, I really wanted a dessert, something a little special.  What could be more special than chocolate?  In the freezer, I had dark chocolate cupcakes.  For frosting, I thought perhaps a semi-sweet chocolate ganache.  To make the ganache even richer, I stirred in a scant teaspoon of instant coffee then poured over the cupcakes.  Gracious it looked elegant and tasted very nice.  And it's so easy to make.  For four cupcakes, I used 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips melted in the microwave, 2 tbsps or so of half and half, stirred until thick and glossy, then spread over the cupcakes.  Nothing to it and hardly any extra cost at all.

The dreaded moment arrived just as I prepared to go organize the guest room closet...Chance announced that we might as well get busy and do our taxes.  Why the dread?  We decided this year to save money and do it ourselves online.  We used Turbo Tax and though it is free to figure your taxes it does cost to transmit them to state and federal revenue sources.  There is also a small fee if you choose direct deposit.  It took about three hours, was very user friendly, explaining each step that might be in the least confusing, telling you how and where to find information required.  Our end cost was just under $70.  The fees came from our house fund.  We saved about $100 over our former bookkeeper's fees.

Tuesday:  A day of errands...We were up and about early and ready to leave early as well.  Oil change and tire rotation was on the schedule.  We'd discussed this in early January and we'd meant to set money aside but didn't.  However, aware that we'd talked about doing this, I was careful to leave a little extra money in the account.  It was well worth it when my husband said "We'll need to move that from savings," and I could reply "Oh no, we've got it in the account."  He was so pleased.

We decided to go out to eat for a belated birthday dinner.  I'm not going to complain here but simply say that we had a coupon good for $5 off two dinners, plus a gift card that had been given to us.  We paid about $5 for our meals when all was said and done. 

Off to the drugstore where I found two wonderful little hearts of chocolates at 50% off.  Bargain and chocolate are two words that aren't often in a single sentence in a frugalista's life, lol, but when it is you can bet she's a very happy frugalista!

Home once more, and I found it was time to get busy with the household duties. Namely, making lunch for Chance's workday on Wednesday.  I follow a formula to help me insure I pack all that is required.  It's a little mantra I say to myself as I look over the basket I've packed: fruit, vegetable, sweet, salty, lunch, supper.  If I can nod yes to all six then I feel sure I've plenty of food to carry him through the day and variety enough to make it a pleasing meal.

Such a big meal midday warranted a light supper of cereal for me and toast and fruit for Chance.

Wednesday:  A planned day with Mama.  She had a new stack of magazines waiting for me, as well as a variety of crackers and granola bars.  I added the crackers and granola bars to our snack basket when I got home.

Mama wanted to go to Walmart.  Remember how I said I normally avoid Walmart when I feel spendy?  Well I didn't feel I needed to avoid it this day but instead I went in with a mental list of things I meant to get.  What were they?  Dog food for one.  I was out at home, and hadn't been near the grocery where I had the
rain check for the sale prices.  However, I'd brought along my coupon which made the Walmart bag cost roughly the same price as the grocery's rain check price.

Business card blanks.  It's happened time and again.  Someone asks for my blog address and there I am having to find a piece of paper and pen to write it down.  I'd checked online and found the cost and number of cards rather pricey.  100 blanks cost $3.  I can design my own card, which I love.  I'm not heavily invested and can easily change the design at any time if I so desire.

A new journal.  I am a serious journalist, but honestly I can't see paying a high price for a fancy journal.  They do look elegant and they are sturdy, but it may be that at some point in the future I decide to do away with  a few years worth of journals.  I've done it in the past and it would hurt me to spend lots of money on something that might well end up shredded!  A pretty composition book suits me just fine and if I happen to get list making happy and write out a shopping list or home making task list in my journal I don't mind in the least tearing it out.  $4 for a pretty new composition book.

A candy thermometer.  This was clearance priced at $3, which was an additional bonus.  Now I can not only attempt candy making, I can test the temperature of the milk when making yogurt and assure that I get solid yogurt and no more yogurt milk!

Replacement blind for the broken one in the dining room.  $6 for that item.

My bouquet at home needed an added boost.  1 bunch of white tulips for $2.50 (reduced price of course) seemed the very thing.

It's been a long time since I walked out with so much for so little money at Walmart!

I was very good at Walmart and didn't splurge on unnecessary items.  But I really wanted something pretty and just for me.  Satisfaction found in the form of a pretty mug at another store for just $6.  It's a beauty with a lovely bird and it looks like spring.  Far better than a glossy magazine I instantly regret buying when I sit down to read it (and yet, I look all too often at those magazines and contemplate spending my money upon them!).

Thursday:  Another day at home.  There seems to me an automatic savings in any day spent 'at home'.  My savings began early: boiling eggs for egg salad for work lunch. I added an extra one to the pot and had it for breakfast.

Used one portion of the egg salad to make tuna salad.

Packed Chance's work lunch.  Pantry came in handy with a fresh supply of chips, crackers and grahams to add to the snack cupboard and to boost his lunch.

My dinner: leftover mashed potatoes and short ribs from our dinner on Monday.  

Cleaned and organized the contents of the refrigerator.  Found a slice of pineapple which I used as a side salad for my dinner.  I tossed only two items.  Also noted that we have quite a large amount of produce on hand.  I don't think I'll be buying much more than fruit this next week.

Cleaned out the pasta and snack cupboards.  Found a hidden box of hot cocoa mix.  I just opened up the packets and added to my homemade mix which I use on a regular basis.  I think I'll like the store bought better now that it's mixed up with the homemade.

Organized the two cupboards and was happy to find I had a little leftover space that allowed me to add a few items from the overcrowded pantry.

Cleverness occurs now and then.  I'd complained of that overcrowded pantry and the unstable cans that cascade down each time I open the doors to a friend.  She directed me to this site:  I love this and will definitely be saving sturdy cardboard to make my own.  In the meantime, we emptied a large tissues box and inspiration drove me to the kitchen where I discovered it nicely fit my soup cans, tomato paste cans and a few others.  I've not yet decided which to put into my 'found' organizer but will be working on that early this next week.  I also have another box or two that I think might work well with very little assembly required on my part...  There's nothing I love better than organization tools that are low cost or FREE.

Baked a roast beef  in a slow oven for sandwich meats.  It smelled so good that I thought it would be nice to have some for my dinner.  What to have with it?  Well why not try to make Yorkshire Pudding.  Oh that was so good and the leftovers went out to the doggies to boost their dog food.  They loved it, too.

Warmer weather meant a warmer than usual home.  As it got warm and then almost hot indoors, I opened windows and turned on the whole house fan to keep temps more tolerable.  We didn't shut windows until bedtime last night.

Never dreamed watching an old movie could give me fashion hints for today, but it did.  A lovely brown ensemble with a gorgeous cobalt blue accent.

Had a very full dishwasher and so I did a load of dishes late last night, just before bed.

Friday:    Not especially hungry this morning, I made a fruit smoothie from juice, yogurt (used for starter for the last batch) and ice cubes.   A light breakfast for pennies.

Started bread dough early this morning.  Rolls and a loaf of bread were the order of the day.  The rolls were made for use as hamburger and sandwich buns.

Cut into an apple as I began to pack Chance's lunch.  It was a little bruised and so I tossed it into the freezer bag of apples I'm gathering to make jelly.

Made a pretty salad of red cabbage, yellow bell peppers, and orange carrots tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Using what produce I had on hand I had a lovely colorful salad to go with my dinner.

I've been wanting auxiliary pantry space.  Cleared the guest room closet, reorganized contents and discovered the room I need.  I have shelving in the shed that Alan has said I might use.  I will soon have the additional pantry space I want.

Found poster board at the back of the closet.  Whoo hoo!  Now I can start one of those inspiration boards I'd planned to hang in the craft space.

My legs have looked a bit dry lately. Remembered a hint from a former tip column to use hair conditioner to moisturize skin while in shower.  I happen to have lots of little tubes of conditioner on hand.  Legs are looking better already.

A problem pan had a stuck on mess.  I found patience, baking soda, and scrubbing has worked wonders.

I checked the temperature early this morning, hoping to avoid that overheated house syndrome from yesterday.  I opened windows about 10am this morning.  So far the temperature is at least 10 degrees cooler.  No need to turn on that whole house fan to cool things down.

While looking for components for the fresh table setting, I discovered a bag of  Hershey kisses.  I've put them in the candy bowl so Chance can help himself. 

Sorted coupons this morning and am ready to start my shopping lists using the pre-view feature of the store ads.

Living Well
Now....... wouldn't you just feel like Spring was very  nearly here if you had that pretty cup to drink from in the morning?  I most certainly do.  At Christmas this year I came across a seasonal mug that was just lovely.  It cost a whole $5 and I turned away from it.  Why?  The budget wasn't tight, I had money to spare, the cup was beautiful and useful and I'd have enjoyed it mightily.  Yet I turned away and regretted it every day thereafter. 

It was Chance who opened my eyes last week when HIS cups were in the dishwasher.  He has a favored few: one that has a polar bear drinking Coke, one of Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons, another that is cobalt blue glass and last, a mug that states his status as grandparent.  These are his favored mugs and he wanted to know just where they were?  "I like MY mugs," said the man of the house, " not all these matchy-matchy, no personality mugs." 

Later, as I put away the mugs and glasses, I could see what he meant.  MY row of mugs were matchy-matchy and I'd long ago tired of the mugs but they were still perfectly good.  His row truly did say a good deal about his personality and because his mugs were all gifts, they said something about what he cherishes in life as well.

So this week when Mama and I were in a gift shop and I spied that pretty mug above, I latched onto it and wouldn't let go.  It pleased me on many levels.  For one thing it's pretty and it looks fresh and clean.  It has one of my favorite spring flowers, Quince.  And inside where your eyes will see it each time you take a sip of warm coffee or hot cocoa, there's an inscription: "Our nest is blessed."   Cost: $6, but that's only the monetary cost.  The wonder of that pretty mug sitting at my right hand instead of one of those tiresome mugs I've had for years because they 'match'...  Well, words can't describe the utter bliss of it.  The old mugs?  I think it's time they went off to a new home, so they are in the thrift shop pile.  And there's a second lovely mug with a gold finch at the same store that I think I shall just have to go back and purchase, because a girl really should have an alternative pretty Spring mug!

Gratitudes this week:

Inspiration that flowed and the presence of mind to run and jot down the ideas while they were there where I could grab at them.

Looking around a store and realizing that my wants are few and my list of needs very short.

Red Satin Valentine of good chocolates.

A prayer rather quickly answered and a child who called to say, "I don't know what you pray for me, but I wanted to let you know that I FEEL it and I thank you."

Sunshine and open windows.

Reading once more, after months of barely getting through a book.

Enough and some left over.

Peepers and Geese.


Rhonda said...

I like that pretty mug too and I know you will enjoy it.
I think Chance might be right about having his favorite mugs too, while I like to decorate and organize, we need those things that are "ours" and say something to us

hope you have a great weekend

Kay said...

I broke my favorite mug in Dec. and have missed it every day since! I've tried some of the other mugs we have in the cupboards but they just aren't "right." Thanks for the "permission" to get another one that is.

MotherHen said...
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MotherHen said...

"Your" mug is very pretty, I have a set of matchy matchy mugs that go w/ my china set but I also have several mugs that have roosters on them. I collect rooster stuff so anytime someone sees one they get it for me. Out of all the coffee cups that I have there are just a few that I use routinely, lol. I like what Kay said "the other mugs ... they just aren't "right"" I so agree there's something about favorite cups that I just can't put my finger on or should I say my mouth on, lol. Hope you enjoy your new mug & I'm enjoying this beautiful weather we are ,here in TN, too!!