Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Year of Savings in 2013

February 8:  Grocery day.  I came in well under my budgeted amount this week, as well as under the usual amount I spend.  I'm sorry to say that while I have a set budget we typically are about $30 over it at the end of a day's shopping.  So you'll understand that I'm especially proud to have come in under the $10 under my budgeted amount.  That's a savings of $40.

I earned enough Swagbucks the last week to acquire another $5 gift card.  That's $5 I can spend on household or personal needs that didn't come from our budget!

Put $3 into the vacation/call time fund after we returned home today.

Came close to buying a bottle of French salad dressing but after questioning John, we decided I'd make more of my own.  Bottled dressing at the store cost $2.29.  I figure my savings $2.00.

Paid $2.00 for Bleu Cheese today. The packet of cheese will make two jars of Blue Cheese dressing.  The jar of a similar dressing in the refrigerator section goes for $4. I save $ 5 making two jars at home.

 I prefer to buy bread at Publix, but this week I just plain forgot.  We picked up two loaves at Aldi ($1.29 each, a savings of $3) and I told John I'd make a batch of homemade bread (a savings of $4.50) to make up our usual four loaves per pay period.  He was agreeable to that, as he really likes the homemade bread, just finds it a bit too tender for making sandwiches for work lunches.

February 9:  Use it up!  Found the tail end of a bag of french fries at the bottom of the freezer.  There was just enough for two small servings so I baked them in the oven.  We skipped our more usual chips with our supper sandwich.  Small savings to be sure but savings nonetheless of about $.50.

February 10:  I had green onions in the fridge that just didn't get used as quickly as they ought.  I stripped off the bad green portions, trimmed the tops and then diced them down to about 1 1/2 inches above the root ends.  I had about 1/2 cup of chopped green onion that went into the freezer.  Then I took those root ends and set them in the window in a glass of water.  I've been reading on Pinterest how these roots will grow more green tops and I'm all for getting more for my money!  Savings $1.29 for not wasting the onions and a possible future savings of the same if they grow as well as predicted.

Today was all about using things up, too.  I finished off the last of the free full sized bottle of dish detergent sent to me via a survey program in December, by rinsing out the bottle well.  That was the last drop and I saved $2.99 by using all of that bottle of detergent and not buying another bottle.

Took one hot dog and two baked potatoes and made up an entree for our Tuesday dinner.  That meal is from leftovers (and if I remember it will be a Leftover Makeover feature).  Served with a salad and a second vegetable, it will make a great low meat meal for the week and I can save meat for another meal, stretching my budget out that much further.  Savings estimate: $3  the cost of 1/2 pound of meat.

Made the last bits of chicken (1 breast and 1 thigh) into a chicken pot pie for today's main dish.  I put the bones, skin and fat into the freezer to use to make broth.  Incidentally, the broth used to make gravy for today's pot pie was the liquid drained from the roasted chicken the other day.  That triples the savings from that little bird.  One chicken equalled 1 pint broth, 3 full sized meals (we have enough pot pie leftovers for another meal) and a future quart of homemade chicken broth from the bones and skin.  I paid $4 for that chicken.  The broth alone is a savings of $1.50, bringing the cost of the chicken down to $2.50.  Which means I averaged $.30 a serving for chicken dinner.  Who says you can't save money by eating at home?!

Feb. 11:  Employed that shop at home trick once more in my pantry.  I 'bought' mayonnaise, olive oil, butter, coffee, juice, and peanut butter.  All bought on sale at best prices.  I saved $10 over the usual store prices buying on sale.  I saved even more by not having to go to the store and steer through the impulse laden shelves...

Feb. 12:  I so love cell phones.  Yes, they cost you to use but I have to say this for sure, the built in long distance is a huge bonus to a mom with kids who all live in the distance.

Of concern to me has been the responsibility of protecting the music that John has written.  He's seen to copyrights, but the physical pages with lyrics and chords represent 10 years of work and really concerned me, since the copyright process was merely recorded CDs.  We've had the discussion a number of times about this for three good reasons.  First was a book I'd begun writing on floppy disk, only to discover that was obsolete before I'd finished.  When our computer died, so did the book, since there was no physical copy.  Then John began recording his music on CDs.  However, the latest machines now use flash drives.  I feel strongly two things  will not be obsolete: pen and paper.  So we decided to make copies, but safe  storage was a big concern. We finally settled on our safety deposit box...and then when the copies were made we realized we didn't have enough room in it.

We upgraded to a larger size.  Honestly the savings here can't even be calculated at this point but peace of mind knowing his work is safe is priceless.

We got our tax refunds back this week.  First we tithed, then we put money in savings ($1,000) and finally we splurged.  Our big splurge was a trip to the grocery where we limited ourselves to a $20 splurge fest.  Our favorite snack food (one salty and one sweet each) and steaks for dinner. We saved $1.89, what we had left of that $20. Just call us big spenders. 

Only 1 item in this week's sale paper for the local grocery seemed worthwhile.  I bought green bell peppers for $.50 each, a savings of $.19 over the best price I've seen anywhere.  savings $1.14.  I have a plan for them.  I'll make up a batch of stuffed peppers and put them in the freezer for future easy prep meals.  I'll chop the other two peppers and freeze to use in other recipes.

Feb. 13:  A refund was due us on the smaller safety deposit box.  I had it applied to our new box rent.  Savings: $6.46.

A trip to Walmart used to mean pointless items tossed into the buggy.  Today's trip I stayed on target by thinking hard about what I'd pick up before we arrived.  I chose to purchase OTC pain relievers and a special brand of lotion we like.  I saved $6 purchasing those items at Walmart instead of elsewhere.

I priced some of the items on that shopping list I have. Pillowcases were the same price at Walmart as they were at Ross last week but the ones at Ross were a higher count and much better quality.  Quality wins out in this case.  I kept my money in my pocket for my next trip to Ross. Savings, albeit temporary: $11.00 (cost of 2 sets of pillowcases).

Feb. 14:  Valentine's Day is a quiet thing in our home.  We didn't buy one another cards.  For goodness sake, this man tells me I'm beautiful right off the bat each morning and any man who can do that doesn't need to buy me a card!  And honestly?  I've yet to read a single card that says what I feel about him, so why go for second rate?  We saved $10 right there.

No flowers either, not even a grocery store bouquet.  Saved $10 there, too.

What DID we do?  We kissed one another and said "I love you."  I made a meal I thought he'd like and he did.  We shared our usual after dinner bite of chocolate over cups of coffee.

Lest you think we are completely lacking in romance I did buy him something.  Two king sized Tootsie Rolls, his favorite candy treat which he savors whenever I spy them and purchase them for him.  And yes, I'll have chocolates too, but not yet.  At my earnest request he's buying me a BIG box of chocolates.  Tomorrow when they are half priced!  What can I say?  I'm greedy when it comes to chocolate and I'm frugal, too!

This week's Savings:  $1128.27

This Week's Meals

Brrrr!  A deep cold front came in this weekend and it's about as cold as it will get here.  Yesterday the wind shook the house and rattled the windows it blew so hard.  Today, thankfully, the wind is quiet.  However, it was a perfect weekend for the meal my girl Katie requested for her visit.

One meal down...six to go for this week.

Vegetable Beef Soup, Cornbread
I'd thought I'd make a dessert but John brought in boxes of chocolate yesterday, one for me and one for Katie, so we let chocolates suffice.  The soup is a bit of leftovers (roast, some beef stew) and a few cans of vegetables.  Not a pricey meal to make but it really did hit the spot today.  Since the majority of it consists of leftovers and my family doesn't much care for leftover soup, I expect the dogs will eat well for a day or two, but I'm not aggrieved over that.  Their food costs more than that pot of soup did.  

Tacos, Whole Kernel Corn, Green Salad with Ranch dressing
I've been craving tacos for a week.  I don't have tomatoes to top these with but lettuce and cheese and sour cream and green onions will do well enough, right?

Fried Chicken, Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Black-Eyed Peas w/ tomato jelly
I'll pick up chicken from the local diner, make the rest of the meal here at home.  I have a hair appointment this morning, it's Harvest Day and I'll need to pay bills and pick up the local sales items while I'm out, so I'll definitely cook ahead.

Leftover Chicken, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Dressing, Cranberry Sauce
I know we'll have leftovers from the chicken.  There's a pan of dressing in the freezer so I'll just heat it up and I'll put the green beans in alongside.  I've got instant potatoes and I'll make homemade gravy from broth  I've stored in the freezer.

Vegetable Pizza, Salad
Grocery day usually finds us eating hamburgers at Sonic but I think I'll change up our 'routine' and we'll bring home a nice homemade pizza.  I'll have it prepared and in the fridge ready to just pop in the oven when we get back from the store.  I won't get all the groceries put away before dinner will be ready.

Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, Chips,  Grapes, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Should my husband look at me and say, "Let's go off somewhere today," as I suspect he might do, I've got a picnic menu in mind.  I can prepare it quickly and pack it right up.  And if he says no such thing and we end up staying at home, never mind.  It's still a nice easy meal to prepare.  I might go the extra pace and grill the sandwiches, add a nice canned soup to the menu.

Corn Moussaka, Tomato and Cucumber Salad, Warm Pita Bread, Puff Pastry Fruit Turnovers
I love this recipe for Moussaka with it's rich flavors. I've been making it for 30 years now and it never fails to wow those who eat it.  And it's so easy!  I'll buy the turnovers from the freezer section at the grocery.  They aren't very expensive and taste so good for an occasional splurge dessert.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan

Here it is time to plan meals all over again.  I've made a pretty good start thus far.  I have at least two meals in the fridge and a third one planned, so minimal effort on my part to finish off the week.  Let's see how well we can do with that last bit of planning.

Chicken Pot Pie, Coleslaw, Coconut Cream Pie
Leftover chicken, broth, frozen mixed vegetables and a pourable crust.  It's an easy enough meal to put together on the first day of the week.  Mama made the pie for my birthday last week.  It's homemade and tastes pretty good, much better than that frozen one I was going to buy myself!

Bones and skin from the chicken went into the freezer to make broth with later on.

Beef Stroganoff, Noodles, Green Salad with Beets and Egg Yolks, Russian dressing, Dark Rye Rolls
I'm making stroganoff from scratch using sirloin I bought on sale last month and froze.  I plan to use baby Portabella mushrooms which have a meatiness all their own that will allow me to cut down on the amount  of meat the recipe calls for.  The dressing will be homemade.  I've got a recipe in my file that I plan to try, since the homemade French and the homemade Blue Cheese dressings have been such a hit. 

Twice Baked Potato, Green Peas, Green Salad, Biscuits
Since John took me out to eat on my birthday, I didn't make the meatloaf and twice baked potatoes I'd planned for last week.  The potatoes were baked and in the fridge, so while I made Chicken Pot pie today I went ahead and prepared the potatoes.  I had a hot leftover from supper one night so I sliced it up and added to the potato mixture before stuffing the shells.  I think this will make a nice hearty main dish from my leftover potatoes.

Leftover Chicken Pot Pie, Pineapple Salad, Lemon Pudding
We had enough pot pie to serve us another meal.  I think with the addition of the salad and the pudding we'll find we've had just enough food.

Pepper Steak over Rice, Snow Peas, Tangelos
I should have enough steak to net us a second meal that will stretch nicely with a trio of bell peppers (green, orange, red) and onions.  I'll serve over rice with the snow peas on the side, but they could be tossed into the stir fry, too.    The last of the Honeybells should be eaten this week.

Waffles, Sausage, PanFried Apples
Sweet Potato or Pumpkin?  That's my big question about waffles tonight.  Which will I choose?  I do love breakfast for dinner and it's been a long while since I've made it, but who says we can't have breakfast for dinner even if we do eat dinner midday?

Corned Beef, Steamed Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes, Cornbread
I know my husband...a week of eating meat in bits and pieces in other dishes won't generate complaints but he'll start to prowl the kitchen and look 'for something'.  He's a meat eater and so am I, and though I do like to cut back here and there, we really will be ready for a solid meat main dish.  I bought a corned beef a few weeks ago and put it into the freezer. I think it will be delicious on a cold blustery day, don't you?

A Year of Savings: February 2013

February and a new month to begin saving anew.  I thought I did fairly well in January and our repayment of that car loan shows the hard work we put into savings.  We are just a few dollars shy of breaking another 'barrier'.  I want to go as far below that mark as we possibly can.  So I'm looking for ways to amp up the savings.  There are just 28 days this month to make a dent, so I'll have to work a bit harder than last month.

February 1:  I know I'll have to go to the store this weekend and it's my own fault.  I didn't buy milk nor cat food this last pay period and I knew I'd need them both.  However, I want to stay away from the store until at least Sunday  when I will go into town to buy the Sunday paper.

In the meantime...I'm out of more than milk and cat food.  I haven't got any of my favorite purchased cleaners for the bathroom.  I do however, have a decent enough substitute in three items: that powerful homemade shower cleaner (works very nicely on tubs and sinks, too) and plain old baking soda and vinegar to clean the toilets.  Worked beautifully.  Trip to town avoided.

Savings: $4 the cost of cleaners

February 2:  I like to have an easily prepared meal for our Shabat day meal.  The less work there is in putting a meal on the table, the less clearing up after, the more real rest  the day affords.  I planned ahead on Friday and made pizza dough.  I mixed it up until it was a firm ball of dough, then put in a zippered plastic bag to sit overnight in the fridge.  Cooked beef and onions on Friday, too, and had the vegetables in the freezer all prepped.  All I had to do today was to 'toss' the dough until it began to feel light and stretchable, then spread it on my pan, top with the prepared toppings and bake.  It took me a whole ten minutes today to prepare the meal.

We could have gotten take out, or even frozen for the day, but home made is always the best in my opinion and for just a few minutes work I saved $10.

February 3:  Today was the day to go into town.  Milk was gone and the cat food bin was empty.  Sunday papers were on the shelves.  The hardest part: deciding where to shop.  Where was the least temptation to overspend?  Our local grocery was the spot.  Their prices are a bit higher than the stores a few miles away, but the range of products is limited and the higher prices kept me on target.  Besides the local store had potatoes for $.29/pound about the lowest price I've seen on potatoes in a long time.  Even at Aldi they haven't been that cheap.  I saved $2.99 the cost of a five pound bag elsewhere.

Not going into the dollar store today saved me money as well. My 'setpoint' for that store is about $35.  Going to the grocery saved me $8 off that setpoint.

John is going to a super bowl party tonight and didn't want a heavy dinner.  He wanted me to pick up something for dinner today and not make a big meal.  He paid for the take out from his allowance, a savings to our budget of another $5, the cost of a Subway sandwich.

February 4:  I was out of French dressing today and it was important to have it to go with my salad.  I went online and looked up recipes but found nothing quite like what I wanted. I  decided to wing it.  After all most all salad dressings are based on oil and vinegar, sugar and salt, right?  It's just getting the balance right and then adding whatever flavor is best suited to the salad.  I used ketchup as the flavoring (I wanted a paprika tomato base), mixed up my ingredients and tasted until it was just right.  It was so good, I think I might just mix up my own from now on.  I saved $3.29, the cost of a bottle of dressing, and discovered that I am developing my own little recipe file of dressing recipes to make up: blue cheese, thousand island, and now French.

Made a roast chicken for dinner and discovered as I rooted about in the fridge that half an apple was sitting on back of the shelf, where it had been pushed  a few days before.  It wasn't spoiled, just a little dried out on the edges, which I trimmed.  Then I used that apple and some onion to fill the cavity of the chicken, which imparted good flavor and kept it moist as it roasted slow and long.  I used another apple in the salad which polished off that batch of apples.  Using all the apples saved me about $1.50, because we buy apples individually per my husband's request and they are always pricey compared to bagged apples.

John's birthday tomorrow.  He's a man of simple tastes: yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  I made a cake from scratch, using a recipe that makes just a 8-inch single layer.  That cake didn't cost me as much as a boxed mix and frosting nor anywhere near as much as a cake from the bakery!  I saved about  $4.

February 5:  While we were up visiting with Katie we went into a bookshop.  She began to look at Bibles and mentioned that she needed a new one.  We looked and looked at the various versions, styles and covers and finally she sighed, "What I really want is my old Bible!"  Her dad asked where it was and she said she'd left it at the church we left during her senior year.  That was almost four years ago!

John took a chance and asked our former pastor's wife to check.  We told her about where Katie thought she'd left it...and then we waited. Bless April, she found the Bible near the area where Katie thought it might be and offered to meet us so she could return it.

I'd happily have bought Katie a new Bible, but I know how lovely it is when you're used to a certain one and you can turn to just the book you want and know just about where to read, when you just feel comfortable with a certain translation, etc.  I'm not counting savings here because it's intangible compared to having something lost be found, something loved and thought gone forever to be returned.  I'm sharing only because this was the saving this day, the opportunity for my daughter to know that someone besides just us cares for her enough to make a little extra effort, to take the time to go out of their way for no reason other than love, as April has done several times now.

February 6:  Today was my husband's day to spoil me and I do love it.  I'm not a fussy person, like simple things and he knows that.  We went out to dinner at The Bullock House in Warm Springs, ate our meal from the buffet and then John ordered a single serving of dessert which we shared.  I wandered about the grounds and into two of the gift shops without damage to our bank account, lol.  I spent my allowance on my purchases and came out under $20.  By the way, our dinner and ride up was under $20 as well.  I could have asked for a pricier meal at a chain type restaurant without half the charm and John would have happily provided it. However, charm costs a good bit less than chains.  We saved about $20.

February 7:  We meant to buy groceries today but the rain began at 7am and didn't stop until 3pm.  We joked about 'high water' marks on the house but that rain was much appreciated and badly needed.  And yes, we postponed buying groceries.  Extending ourselves by one more day is a savings because it's one day less of groceries I must plan to buy.  Savings $14.25 our average daily expenses per our budget.

Total:  $73.03

A Year of Savings: January 2013 Totals

January 22:  Feeling splurge-y.  Well I was this day at least.  I didn't feel well, didn't have an easy meal in the freezer, didn't feel like making a meal from scratch.  Take out?  I opted for grocery freezer section which is generally less expensive than take out and marginally healthier than most options.  I needed Blue Cheese dressing but at $4 a bottle locally, I was definitely not feeling like that much of a splurge.  I came home and made my own for about $1.25 worth of ingredients, including the blue cheese, which offset the cost of my splurge a little.  Savings in making my own dressing at home: $2.25

January 23:  A dozen oranges languishing on the fruit stand...Every time I walked by them I checked them for spoilage but then I found one with the telltale soft spot.  Once one goes, they all start spoiling.  I was just not going to lose my money by throwing them out.  So I spent an hour or so this afternoon, peeling long strips of zest from the rinds.  I sectioned the oranges and put them in the freezer (along with the rind in a separate bag).  I'm sure to get my money's worth from them now.  Savings: $2.29

January 24:  There's a fact out there that 20 minutes in a store equals $20 overspending on impulse purchases.  I told John I had a short list for Aldi and so I did.  My goal: get out of the store for $20.  I spent $17.  Savings: $3.

We've been using a dealership to service our cars for sometime now.  It was time to have the oil changed in the Toyota and we debated where to go.  Should we go to the dealership where Mama had the car serviced?  To the dealership where we purchased our newest Honda?  To the Honda place across the city?  We finally settled upon the dealership where Mama normally had the car serviced...After all it couldn't be much more than what we'd been paying right?  Turns out the Toyota dealership is rather luxe.  John and I were a little worried about the cost, but we'd committed ourselves.  We were used to paying upwards of $50 for service.  We crossed our fingers, settled in and waited.  Humph.  Turns out this luxe treatment was just the way they treat their customers.  Service was half the cost of the other place.  Savings to us: $25.

John offered to take me out to lunch and suggested a variety of places.  I know we're going out to eat this coming weekend.  I suggested we go to Sonic.  Savings: $20

January 25:  Last night I noticed as I drank my milk that it tasted just a bit 'off'.  I'd been  meaning to make yogurt and decided to do so before the milk spoiled.  2 quarts of milk made into yogurt and incubating, I still had milk to use up. I looked up a recipe for gingerbread after recalling my favorite Grace Livingston Hill author mentioned sour milk in gingerbread several times.

The yogurt did not set up.  I thought it was a big loss but after reading online I discovered that I'd essentially 'saved' my milk.  Seems that yogurt cultured milk is good for about a month even if it doesn't 'set'.  I plan to freeze mine in 1cup portions to use in baking.  Savings: $1.50, for a half gallon of milk that didn't get tossed out.

January 26:  Another rescue mission: 1/2 dozen Gala apples that got a wee bit wrinkly.  I cored  and chopped them and steamed, then mashed with the potato masher and made the best homemade applesauce.  The apples were so sweet that I didn't even need to add any sugar.  Savings: $1 for half a bag of apples.

January 27:  Off to visit the kids and we ate our dinner out today.  Lest you think we are spendthrifty I'll share that this meal did not come out of our bank account and no it wasn't a 'free' meal either.  John and I paid for it with allowance/gift money that we'd set aside.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I won't list the 'savings' but the peace of mind we had knowing we'd taken the kids out and we wouldn't have to pinch and scrounge to make up for it is just about priceless.

January 28:  It was a big spending day today.  How much did we spend?  $260.00.  How much did we save?  $250.00.  How's that?  We didn't spend a penny that wasn't already set aside for the services we purchased today except $10.  That's right.  We only spent money that was already allocated for the services we purchased, except that one small amount.  Now that is truly savings!

January 29:  We'd contemplated new floor mats for the Honda and I wanted new ones for the Toyota as well, until John priced the Honda mats at $147.  Wow.  While he's researching Honda mats from someplace other than Honda, he decided to clean mine.  Are they perfect?  No, but the majority of the dirt and stains from spills that Mama and Granny made in the car were removed.  We hadn't gotten around to pricing them, but I'll bet they cost at least (and very likely more) than the Honda mats.  Savings $147

Over this past week I've heard at least 6 times, from myself or John, "Oh we're out of ----, better go to the pantry and get some."  That pantry has been the greatest boon for us.  Yes, it cost a bit to get it stocked, but we did it in increments, a little at a time.  Yes, it takes up space. But when you figure that for every twenty minutes you are in a store you spend $2/minute, and you note that no less than 6 times this week we had an outage, filled from our own freezer or pantry, then you can see that  is equivalent to say three trips to the store and I'll wager we'd have spent $15-20 each time.  Figured conservatively, I'll say we saved $45 easily.

January 30:  I planted peas today.  Last year I harvested two pods but this year I'm certain they will do better.  I waited a little longer to plant them, I have a better idea of the sun requirements and my pot has better drainage.  Gardening isn't hard.  It's all about learning what you did wrong and NOT repeating the same mistakes again.  I did not purchase new seeds.  I had seed left from last years packet.  I know many will tell you not to use the seeds from year to year but I thought I'd see how they do.  Ultimately, if they germinate I will have lost nothing.  Since I use the square foot method of planting (yes you can do this in a pot, too), I use fewer seed.  There's a savings in that as well, since using few seeds mean I can stretch a packet to cover more than one crop. Not a huge savings but about $2.00.

January 31:  Two big savings today.  First, I was out with Mama today, instead of yesterday.  We visited three stores. I went into two, but purchased in only one.  My store of choice for shopping was Ross.  I had a list, looked only in those areas related to my list.  I stayed right on target and no doubt saved myself money.  However my real savings came in a bit later when we went to the two other stores. I stayed in the car at Target.  There's always something I want at Target.  I average about $50 a trip when I go in, so I'm counting that as my savings today.  It might sound iffy to you, but I've talked about spending setpoints before where we condition ourselves to spend a certain amount at a store.  That is my setpoint at Target.  Staying in the car for certain saved me that much money!

Second big savings was coming home and making cookies instead of stopping in at the grocery to buy them.  I haven't baked in a few weeks since we had plenty of candy from after Christmas sales and fig bars we bought at Aldi.  However, John made comment earlier this week that we were down to the 'dregs' of the candy and cookie jars and he was right!  There was very little left in either one.  I had plenty of cookie dough in the freezer so set two rolls in the refrigerator to thaw while I was out today.  After John left for work, I made cookies, two batches, the equivalent of two packages.  Of course, my homemade cookies taste far and beyond better than store bought, but the savings is substantial.  My homemade cookies saved us $8 the average price of two packets of cookies.

Total for this week: $557.04

Total for this month:  $1231.33