Friday, April 22, 2011

Frugal Friday/Living Well

Frugal Friday

Another week of savings behind me...Kay sent me photos yesterday of her kitchen. She'd complained that she'd found builder's beige beyond boring in her apartment. She remedied that in her kitchen by using a pretty green vinyl shelf liner on the back splash wall of her little kitchen. Fairy lights strung under the cabinets added additional lighting and brightened up the room considerably. I think she said she spent less than $10 on her makeover

I had the pleasure of visiting this morning while Chance did a bit of locksmith work for a friend.  Lovely time chatting I had, but oh the further pleasure of complimenting the hostess and being told, "I bought it all at Goodwill or the dollar stores..."  I promise you not a single item there looked to have been thrifted or inexpensive but it was all so lovely, truly lovely.  My favorite?  The gorgeous windows that she had sitting about, which were salvaged from an older home that had been torn down. 

As Jan and I were talking today she asked me a question similar to the one Tracy posed earlier this week: did I save more as a working woman or as a full time homemaker.  I had to tell the truth: despite a technical business degree, I save far more as a full time homemaker than I can make in the workaday world.  Were it a necessity, I'd certainly return to work because let's face it , you can't save cash if you've no cash to save!  However, as long as Chance and I have income by some means, I can surely save us far far more by being at home, trimming the budget, clipping coupons, making good use of what we have (and believe me this is a full time job!) and net us about twice as much annual savings as I can make in cold hard cash at any outside job.  I really should plan to do another Year of Savings to show how much savings can be netted through the day to day work of homemaking.

In the meantime, we'll settle for what I did this week...

Saturday:  Synagogue morning and as is my habit these days, I stopped off to pick up dinner on my way home.  Splurge?  Yes, sometimes.  This day however, I chose to buy a medium pizza for $7.50 at a chain pizzeria.  Two meals from that pizza for the two of us, at $1.75 each meal.  Not such a bad deal for easy takeout. 

On the flip side, going into a store beyond hungry is always a mistake.  I went into the dollar store to buy a mailing envelope for Chance...And came out with chips and cookies and a few cans of clearance priced speciality ingredients.  Not complaining mind you, since I seldom have found coconut milk for $.50 a can or green chilies for $.33.  But definitely spent more than the cost of a padded envelope!  I will report here that I tried some of the Clover Valley cookies which appear to be similar to Girl Scout cookies.  I could do without the Coconut Caramel ones but oh the chocolate covered peanut butter cookies were mighty good and for just $1.50 a box, a fair substitute for GS cookies.

Home again Home again...No extra cost in coming home is there?  I contemplated taking time to go off thrifting but ultimately I felt being at home was the most economical choice.  Besides, I had looked over the checkbook the day before and felt really it was time to put the brakes on discretionary spending...and after that little stop at the dollar store and the pizzeria it seemed a very good idea indeed.

Sunday:  I'd planned to go see Granny, planned to go off to the craft store, to the mall to spend coupons I'd received for dollars off purchases...I stayed home in the end. Why?  Remember my deciding I ought to put on the brakes a bit?  I held firm to that choice.  Besides with a holiday coming upon us (Passover) I needed to do the grocery shopping a day earlier and that meant Sunday was my day to gather coupons, make out lists for the stores.  I used online ads to make out the grocery list.

The fridge was fairly empty...and that made it easy to find the lone zucchini in the back of the drawer, as well as the potatoes I'd cooked earlier in the week.  I made roasted vegetables to go along with my beef roast (seasoned with minced garlic and home grown rosemary).  Since it was just myself I made enough vegetables for two...I know, why two, when it was just myself?  Perhaps intuition?  Mama came in as the vegetables were in the oven.  By the way, I looked about to see what I had on hand before putting the zucchini and potato into the oven.  A shrivelling tomato, half an onion, some mixed peppers from the freezer, a little garlic and olive oil and there was a nice mixed vegetable dish.

Work aplenty to be done, that's for sure, but now and then I find something interesting on tv and for what we pay for cable, well I might as well use it, right?  The Tudors proved intriguing.  I'll be looking for this series to rent on Netflix when I'm all done with the other series I've lined up in my queue.

Having tired of looking for a comforter for my bed to use in the warmer months, I decided to flip my quilt over to the light khaki plain backing.  Since the quilt is bound nicely it really looks rather decent.  I thought perhaps I might have enough fabric to make pillow shams but I don't...At least not of the pattern I originally intended but I've just thought of another piece of fabric which I know I do have plenty of...hmmm...Nothing like FREE decorating!

Washed bed linens.  Noted that Kay had slept on the newly bought pillowslips and gotten eye makeup on the one case.  I doctored it with pure Dawn detergent and set it aside to dissolve the makeup.

Monday:  I didn't accomplish very much in my  house Sunday and since Tuesday was a holiday I knew I needed to work away.  I did several housekeeping tasks before I left home to do my shopping.

Boiled eggs, intended for breakfast, one to be roasted for the Seder plate and to make chicken salad for Chance's lunch.  The water the eggs boiled in was saved and cooled to pour over the orchid which loves the added calcium.

Washed two loads of laundry, one of clothes and one of towels.  I put the pillow case in with the clothes.  That soaking did the trick.  It got the makeup out of the pillow case.

While out shopping, I began to hear a funny noise in my car.  Don't you just hate that?  It completely unnerves me.  I knew something was wrong even though the car handled just fine.  I hurried through my shopping and went back home and called my own personal shade tree mechanic to ask him to come look over my car.  "Can't do it until Thursday evening, Mom," he said.  "Do you think you can just stay home until then?"  I thought of all I'd meant to do and then said "Oh yes,  no problem."  I wonder how many others have discovered that just staying home is a HUGE money saver?  It meant no visit to the fabric shop to buy more material (and now I've thought of that other piece of fabric isn't that a good thing?) and no trip to the garden center, sigh. 

Paying attention to the coupon on the front of the bag of coffee I bought netted me a free bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies. 

I bought whole bean coffee and ground it FINE, which nets a greater amount of flavor from the coffee when you brew it.  By the way, and this is as much a note to myself as to you all, you can even open the bags of ground coffee and grind them again on FINE setting.  I'm thinking it's high time I got one of those battery operated grinders to have here at home, since I plan to stock up on coffee in the next few weeks and I wouldn't want to open vacuum sealed cans to grind then store.

I'd planned to prepare a Seder plate for our first Passover at home.  A friend who is Jewish shared that I could substitute the leg bone of a chicken for the Passover Lamb shank.  That was a huge savings for our budget, since the leg of Lamb was $5.99 a pound.  I had a whole chicken in the freezer and thawed it to roast when I returned home.  Other substitutions were made: celery and romaine lettuce were acceptable for the parsley and bitter herbs required.  I had both of those on hand as well.  Our usual grape juice, the use of half an apple and chopped walnuts, honey and cinnamon to make the sweet 'mortar'...I needed only to purchase a small bottle of ground horseradish to round out the Seder plate.  I was so pleased to manage it in a budgeted way.

I didn't have a lengthy list this week but was careful to check and double check what I needed to buy.  Good thing, because I very nearly forgot half and half which wasn't on my list at all and which I'd have missed having in my coffee!

I hid a portion of the grocery budget away in my purse before I went into the grocery.  My purpose?  I knew Chance would want some special something over the weekend and I was right.  I had just enough to pay for the steak and baking potatoes he requested (on sale this week at the local grocery) and a gallon of milk with change leftover.

I don't purchase frozen pies very often but a good quality name brand frozen Apple pie was on sale this week for $3.99 and I had a $1 off coupon.  I can't buy apples to make apple pie this time of year for $2.99.  I put the pie in the freezer to save for a few weeks.

Tuesday:  A holiday, a no-work day for me at home.  I took advantage of the free time to go through the stacks of magazines Mama has given me over the past three weeks.  It really was quite a hefty pile.  I found art project inspiration in the pages, new recipes to try (some using ingredients I currently had on hand), a few ideas for gifts, an idea for a color combination that created a new outfit from my closet, some natural remedies for colds and allergies, coupons for products I use...I gleaned quite a lot.  I think I get good use from these gifted magazines.

Dinner was an easy freezer meal of frozen pot pies heated and served with canned Three Bean Salad that needed to be used up.

Wednesday:  I promised Chance a good breakfast. He wanted grits and I was happy enough to make them.  I used a can of evaporated milk that was nearing expiration date as my liquid.  This made the grits rich and creamy, a nice change from our usual and no need of adding butter to them.

Chance got up earlier than I did.  He had washed a load of clothes and hung them to dry.

I mixed up a quick sweet biscuit dough using an egg for part of the moisture to make scones to go with our breakfast.

It occurred to me as I dug about in the china closet that I was wasting valuable shelf space in the fridge with bulky cartons and bottles...and letting perfectly good pretty pieces stand about useless in the cabinet,  as well.  I decanted the grape juice into a carafe with a stopper, poured orange juice into a glass juice bottle that Granny gave me a couple years ago (formerly a Tang dispenser).  I washed grapes and put them into a pretty china bowl on the bottom shelf of the fridge, which made them a quick grab for snacking.  The fridge seemed neater and prettier, too.

Leftover roast chicken, Steamed broccoli and pasta salad...That was the menu based upon contents of our fridge.  To the cooked pasta I added a few green onions, diced tomato, fresh thyme leaves, and halved black olives from the fridge.  The juice from the tomato and a bit of olive oil was all the 'dressing' the salad required.

The water used to steam broccoli in was cooled and then taken outdoors to pour into the ivy and cactus plants.  Nice nutrients in the water for those plants.  I never salt the water I steam my vegetables in and so it's perfectly fine for plants.  You could save in a freezer container for soup if you wanted as well.

The chicken starred a second time that night in Pollo Quesadillas for our supper.

When I put the Apple Pie in the freezer, I pulled out a Pumpkin Pie I'd put into the freezer in January.  I thawed it for our dessert.

I just didn't feel well.  I'll lay it at the feet of allergies but boy was it nice to have ready made food on hands (or practically ready made) and a clean house.  I got by with meal prep and clean-up as the only necessary tasks.

Thursday: The least expensive remedy I know for any ailment?  REST!  I spent as much time resting Wednesday as I could, including a late afternoon nap and then went to bed early.  I felt right as rain come Thursday morning and ready to tackle the chores put off the day before.

I used up leftover won ton wrappers, about to expire cream cheese, leftover spaghetti sauce, the second half of that zucchini used on Sunday and a bit of chopped onion and green bell pepper to make up a deep casserole dish of lasagna.  Oh and I almost forgot, some goat cheese that had worked it's way to the back of the drawer went into the dish as well.  Very tasty, so much so, that Chance urged me to set aside a portion for Alan and not let him see the casserole nearly full of leftovers, lol.

While I was chopping vegetables for the lasagna, I chopped additional onion, some celery and a carrot to cook in the chicken broth I made from that roast chicken carcass.  Picked over the carcass and tossed the meat into the pot as well, then seasoned and added rice.  I had a nice pot of chicken rice 'stew' to have for supper. 

Went through the recipe file to cull a few more recipes and to find a little inspiration for the next week or two.  I do wonder why I'm so much  more inspired by dessert recipes than vegetable? lol  I managed to cut down on the dessert recipes and pulled a few entree ideas that would use ingredients already on hand.

Refilled water bottles and stocked the fridge.  Chance is disinclined to drink water but he finds a cold bottle of water very appealing.  I comply by filling plastic soda bottles with water (after washing in the dishwasher) and placing in the fridge to chill.

The cause of all that horrid noise in my car when driving?  I was beginning to think we'd not find out, because even though Alan drove around what we call the Big Block (about a 6-7 mile area) the car didn't make so much as a tiny squeak.  Fortunately just as we turned to come up the drive I heard a teensy little squeal, enough that Alan at least had a clue where the noise was generated.  A drive around the Little Block (about 2 miles) and still no noise, but this time when he came up the drive it began squealing in earnest, a horrid sound, really.  Alan had a good idea what it might be, so jacked up the car, removed the wheel and just as he touched the part he suspected was the culprit out fell a piece of granite the size of my pinky finger tip...That new gravel paving on the main road into the place had loose gravel and a piece had lodged in my wheel in such a way that it would periodically dislodge and rub against the wheel well.  Gracious!  All that horrible racket and worry over a piece of pea gravel!

Cleaned off the front porch while Alan was working on my car.  What a difference a good sweeping and removal of winter junk can make of a front porch...Unfortunately the sweeping stirred up a good bit of pollen.  I had to take an allergy tablet last night to offset the sniffling and headache.

Friday:  Plans for the day?  Chance promised to re key that lock.  My plans were pretty simple: make meals, straighten house and wash a load of dishes in the dishwasher.  I started the dishes just before we left home.

Breakfast this morning, was breakfast burritos...It's a week of unleavened bread for us, so no yeast risen breads in the house.  We have some Matzo crackers on hand but we're also using tortillas and homemade biscuits, scones etc. as bread. 

Plenty of leftovers to eat today (lasagna, Chicken Rice Stew) but Chance suggested steak and baked potato.  I used the set aside grocery money to purchase that and another gallon of milk (meant to become homemade yogurt on Sunday). 

Chance washed a load of clothes and hung to dry.

I have a bowl full of food scraps to feed the dogs this evening.  They like human food okay but the cat will have none of it.

Supper tonight will be leftover Chicken Rice Stew.

Living Well

This week has been a funny sort of week.  I haven't felt well (I know it's just allergies but they do make you feel pretty cruddy), we've had worries:  car troubles that weren't troubles but who knew? and heartaches we must endure because it's asked of us to do so, and heartaches only we can cure because it's a matter of letting go of what we are holding onto and allowing God to have control. 

It's a week like this that tiny blessings seem monumental:  the discovery of a huge patch of pink honeysuckle in the overgrown field, a penny on the ground, finding half an allergy tablet when you thought you were out, lol, and realizing that beauty is as near as the china closet shelf if we'll only look and use what we have, or a son who suddenly speaks up in a way he's not accustomed to doing and shines a bright light of revelation on scripture I've read dozens of times and failed to see all the glory in it...You see, how funny it's been?

We are blessed, every minute of every single day.  We are tried, for nearly every minute we are blessed.  That's just the way it is.  And yet, I stand here and look about my home where the sun shines upon grass gone green, smell the honeysuckle and the roses, note the full pantry and fridge, the car that only God could have provided, and know that we want for nothing despite going along for four years without an increase in pay.  I feel shame at my lack of praises for the good and simple things, the very things that make the hardest of the worries a little more bearable.

So praises I'll sing now of clean laundry, and pretty dishes, of roses and loving pets, of a husband worthy of respect and honor, of children who have grown into adults better than I dared hope they might considering the faulty parenting that went into them.  Praises of plenty and lacking little, of good books to read and refuges found in make believe worlds, of the simple but wonderful combination of chicken and rice.  A mixed pot of praises to go with the mixed pot of life we've lived.

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