Saturday, November 21, 2009

This week Time Magazine published The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting. The article discusses the rampant "helicopter parenting" that has become the norm in our culture, and the growing movement away from it, towards what they termed "slow parenting." In recent years, the expectation has been that the 'good' parents will do everything possible to protect their children from getting hurt or failing, and will provide the child with a multitude of structured activities to give them the most educational and future career opportunities. I liked this article as it related to our lifestyle, because it has been a difficult balancing act for our family. I have wondered if our frugality would mean less opportunity for our children, and like any mother, I've felt the pressure to make sure that my children have every advantage.

Also, this weekend I finished up a book that I borrowed from the library called The Boy who Harnessed the Wind.

I heard the authors interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago and was intrigued by the story. The story is about William Kamkwamba, an African boy with what most would agree, were no opportunities at all. After enduring a famine which nearly killed him and his family, and being forced to withdraw from school due to a lack of money, he used the knowledge that he gained from library books on Physics and Energy, to build his own working windmill that brought electricity to his home. His story is inspiring and fascinating, and what I loved the most was how he took what most people would call garbage, and used it to fulfill a need and a dream that he had. I had to laugh when he would describe the process he went through to build and refine his invention. Throughout the book he says things like, "I needed washers, but I didn't have any. So I went down to the local drinking house and found old beer bottle-caps on the ground and I fashioned them into the washers that I needed." He didn't even have basic tools--wrenches, hammers, drills, things we all take for granted, but each step of the way he figured out how to solve the problem with what little he did have. Most people in our country would give up on a project until they could go to Home Depot to buy the exact thing that they needed! Here, it seems there is rarely any need to have that kind of creativity. It seems that now money can solve every problem that we once had to try to creatively figure out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

$2.00 Kate Spade bag

Today I did a little Christmas shopping. I'm planning to try my hand at canning some yummy treats for Christmas, but I don't have canning supplies so I went over to Goodwill to see if they had anything. I didn't find canning supplies, so I decided to look around and see if they had anything else that would be great Christmas gifts. I found a brand new book for a family member, and then I found this:

Yep, a Kate Spade bag for $2. All purses and backpacks were half off today. It's got a little wear and tear, but it's still in really good shape. While I was there an auction was also going on. Maybe ten people were there actually bidding on stuff. A lady walked away with two Coach bags. She paid $26 total. I was soooo tempted, but I passed. I kicked myself later for passing up a set of 6 Dallas Cowboys collectors glasses for $6! Hubby would have liked that. I'll definitely know for next time though.

Sooooo, do I behave myself and give the purse as a gift, or do I keep it for myself? Decisions, decisions....

Friday, November 13, 2009

We did it!!!!

This morning I made a $986.19 payment to Sallie Mae and paid it off! So at this point we have paid off:

A loan from my brother-in-law
A loan from my grandparents
Capital One
Michael's Car Loan
American Express
and now Sallie Mae #1

We have one more Sallie Mae loan, and then our final debt is our large federal student loans. Those loans have been moved to a federal loan forgiveness program for public service workers, so they will be moved to BS6 on Dave Ramsey's plan. We plan to have Sallie Mae #2 paid off this Spring and move on to filling up our 3-6 months emergency fund and then saving up a 20% downpayment on a house!

I feel just a little bit lighter today :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maximizing oven energy (and Mom energy)

On Sunday I was trying to keep a four-year-old entertained, so we decided to bake banana muffins for breakfasts this week. Here is the recipe I like for banana muffins:

1-3/4 c. flour (wheat or white)
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. sugar (I always cut this down to 1/3)
1 large egg, beaten
1 c. mashed ripe banana (usually 2 medium-ish bananas)
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. oil (vegetable, canola, coconut, they all work)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Mash the banana in a separate bowl and add the egg, milk, and oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and stir just until moistened. Pour batter into greased muffin pan and bake at 400 until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Makes a dozen, depending on how big you want your muffins.

Since the oven was already hot, I turned the heat down to 300 and made crutons and bread crumbs. I had a full bag of bread in the freezer. I save the heels of the bread or other bread we won't eat before it goes bad. For the crutons, you just butter the bread, cut it into cubes, add seasonings if you want and dry them in the oven on a baking pan. You don't want your oven to be hotter than 300 or so. For the bread crumbs, I just dried the whole pieces of bread out, pulled them out, put them in a ziploc bad and crushed them with a rolling pin.

And then....(you thought I was done using my oven, didn't you?), I made yogurt. I have one burner on my stove that gets really hot when the oven is the point where it will simmer liquid. I use that burner first whenever the oven is on, so I used it to heat the milk for the yogurt. I turned the oven off and used the warm oven to incubate the yogurt.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

R.I.P. loyal friend

On Friday, I had to say goodbye to a loyal and true friend who has been with us a long time. After five years of service, my coffee grinder finally died. I had often wondered when the day that I would have to say goodbye would be here. With multiple daily uses, it far exceeded anyone's expectations.

But seriously, of all months for my coffee grinder to die--it had to be THIS one?! This leads me to admit one of my shamefully non-frugal addictions--good coffee. Yes, I am a coffee snob. I only drink coffee made in a french coffee press with freshly ground beans. And I don't buy just whatever brand. This is the one thing where I am brand loyal. I know this goes against everything I stand for, but I guess we all have our vices. Anyway, When the coffee grinder met its end, I was making coffee for company that we had over. I heard this awful crunch, and immediately my husband rushed to remedy the situation. "It's okay", he said, "tomorrow morning after your run, just go by Target and get another one." He was already foreseeing what the next morning of a coffee-less wife would mean for him. Initially, I panicked, thinking that we had no money for a new grinder! I was already hatching a plan to find somewhere to grind my beans, but knowing that it would not be the same as freshly ground beans. Then I remembered that we both still had $10 in spending money for the month. All day that day, I had been craving junk food, and I was very tempted to stop at Whataburger for lunch, and after I picked up Ethan from school I contemplated stopping at Sonic for some ice cream. But since I only had $10 for the whole month, and I had a long run on Saturday which would not be made any easier by junk food the previous day, I thought better of it. My darling husband also contributed his spending money to the coffee grinder fund. He says that a happy wife is worth it.

But for crying out loud, I'm starting to run out of ideas to avoid Murphy's attempts to sabatoge our giant November snowball! We are out of school supply/lunches money, we have $5 in the grocery envelope for the next seven days (but a well stocked kitchen at the moment), and we are both now out of spending money for the rest of the month. Our car maintenance envelope probably is also in short supply, and will not be enough to cover more than $100 repair. But we're just going to try to keep on truckin'. 22 days left!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Most people who read my blog probably know that our older son has mild autism. He is mainstreamed in school and after a really rough kindergarten year, so far 1st grade has been wonderful! He is doing really, really well in the school's new Spanish Immersion program. Everyday a folder gets sent home, and in it is Ethan's behavior chart. They can earn green, yellow, or red for the day. Well, on the third week of school or so, Ethan started bringing home a few yellows. I really did not want to see this behavior become a habit, so I started trying to think of incentives for him to get green everyday. I decided that for every five consecutive days of greens, he would earn some kind of reward. We hardly ever eat at restaurants or fast food joints, so for the first one I told him we would go to McDonald's after school to get an ice cream cone and play in the play area. That got him VERY motivated to be on his best behavior in school. Something like that is a real treat for my kiddos. It took some yellows before he worked the kinks out, and I don't think I'll ever forget the proud look on his face when he got in the car and he had his 5th green to show me :)

Since then we've gone to McDonald's two more times, and his behavior has really stayed consistently good. I'm so proud of him! For this month, though, I don't have money for McDonald's. I also didn't want that treat to become so common that he didn't appreciate it anymore. I thought and thought about something free that might be as motivational as our trips to McDonald's. And then I remembered this park that Ethan loves. We go to parks a lot (free!), but this one is farther from our house and I don't like its set-up very much (harder to keep track of both of them), but Ethan LOVES it. With autism, kids can have some strange obsessions, and one of Ethan's is apartment buildings and homes with more than one story. This park has a play structure that is three stories tall, and he's always said it's like an apartment. So he was more than happy for a trip to that park to be his reward.

We went yesterday after school and had a nice time. He got to play apartment to his heart's content. So one more problem solved without money!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finally found the stupid pencil box at Fiesta of all places. Almost $3, which is all we had left in the school supplies and lunches envelope. Ethan was happy to have a new pencil box, and didn't make a big deal out of having to give up his one day a week of "lunch on a tray."

Unfortunately, last night my husband sat on my glasses. It was my fault really. I set them down on top of my book in our bed, and he rolled over on them. They didn't completely break, but the frames are a bit bent and need to be repaired. Surprise, surprise, there isn't any money to repair glasses this month! I still have the current pair of contacts I'm wearing, so for the rest of November I'll get my pick of bent glasses or a pair of disposable contacts that should probably be disposed of.

26 days left!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I just spent the last half hour going to multiple stores trying to find a pencil box for Ethan. Walmart had one left--a pink one. I seriously considered it, since it was less than $1, but Ethan already has enough things that make him a target for being picked on! I checked Target, and then to Office Max which wasn't open yet. He usually buys his lunch once a week, but I told him that we wouldn't be buying lunch in November, because we need to use that money for a new pencil box. He was okay with that.

I've really been trying to include the boys in this process. We've started talking a little bit about what debt is, and that Mommy hopes that they will never get into debt because it will make your life much harder. We've also been telling them that we have to be careful with our money because we want to save money to buy a house where they can ride bikes on the sidwalk and have a nice backyard. They really like that idea :)

At times Michael has been less than enthusiastic about all of this, so I got a chuckle last night when I was making dinner. I was roasting a chicken and decided to use the oven heat to make some banana muffins for breakfast. Ethan asked me why I was making the muffins now if we couldn't eat them now and Michael said, "Because Mommy is using the heat from the oven already being on to save energy and save money. And Mommy really loves that Daddy knows that that's why she's doing that." Sigh. What a guy. :)

28 More Days of crazy-tight budget!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 1-15 Meal Plans

Spaghetti Carbonara and Caesar Salad
Lemon, garlic, and herb roasted chicken, roasted vegetables, asparagus
Chicken and corn chili, cornbread
Rice with cheese and tomatoes, greens
Homestyle Hamburger Helper, green beans
Manicotti alla Romana (subbing cottage cheese for ricotta--it is much cheaper), caesar salad, and garlic toast (we have company that night)
Grilled chicken legs, baked potatoes, skillet cabbage
Pork steaks on the grill, pumpkin carrot rice, greens
Bubble-n-squeak (with leftover pork), steamed cauliflower
Slow-cooker chicken tortilla soup
Falafel with Avacado Spread, baked french fries
Navy beans with bacon, cornbread
Italian vegetable soup
Torta pascualina, salad
Leftovers/Breakfast for Dinner
I got an email from Michael a little while ago saying that due to changes in payroll, that $20 he will make from working the extra after-school shift today, will not be deposited until the first of December. We're just gonna roll with it. I'm going to drop the November Christmas budget by $20, and add that amount to December's Christmas budget.

Also, this morning I remembered that Ethan's teacher told me on Friday that the top broke off of his pencil box. I have no intention of not paying off Sallie Mae because of a pencil box, so I may have to pull it out of the grocery envelope or something. I still have $12 left over after shopping yesterday, which should be going for buying extra produce next week. I'm going to send her an email and ask her if it can wait a couple of weeks, if not, I'll pull it out of that envelope.

Only 29 more days of the super-crazy tight budget!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I think I can, I think I can

Currently on the chopping block is the first of two private Sallie Mae student loans. We've been whittling away at the original $7,000 balance since February. The current balance is $990. We had about a $650 snowball to throw at it in November, and figured it would be paid off by December or January at the latest. I sat down to do the budget and realized just how close we really were to paying it off. I usually think of our budget as pretty bare-bones, so I really didn't think we could come up with $300+ to pay it off this month. But out of sheer curiosity, I decided to just see what would happen if I cut $10 out of this category, and $20 out of that category, without really getting radical. Suddenly, the amount that we needed started to look feasible. So I got a little bit more radical. I cut out all of our spending money, cut the grocery budget down, etc.

I dropped:
$10 off my YMCA dues (I had upgraded a while back so I could take group ex classes at other branches, but I've only used the upgrade once in a month)

$20 for clothing (leaving $0 for this month--we should be fine with what we've got)
$15 for haircuts (Michael just got one, and I can do without)
$40 for all of my spending money
$20 for half of Michael's spending money
$50 from car maintenance (leaving $50)
$15 from school supplies/lunches (we should already have enough in the envelope to cover November, but if not, ds can skip the one day a week that he buys lunch and take his lunch that day)
$30 from Christmas sinking fund
$20 from Thanksgiving dinner budget (leaving $60)
$55 off of a big purchase that the husband is making this month that he over-budgeted for
$30 off the grocery budget

And all of a sudden we only needed about $60 to pay it off in November!

So I cleaned out my couch coushions, change jar, car, and a couple of old purses and found $12.50. Michael did jury duty and netted $5 after parking/lunch. So now I only needed $47.50. I did a pinecone survey and was down to $44.50. I realized we had come in under budget on our November electric bill by $10, so now I only needed $34.50. I asked Michael if he could pick up another after school shift, which he was able to do, and now we were down to $14.50. I finalized the budget for October and saw that we were underbudget for gas by $15.94, and we were there!!

Now, that is a bare-bones budget! No money for clothing, spending money, haircuts, school supplies/lunches, or any extras. I dropped the grocery budget to $140 for each half of the month, but I found out that my life insurance application was approved, so we may have another $15 bill to add to the budget in a couple of weeks. That may have to come from the grocery budget. We're still going to be saving $120 for Christmas.

It will be a huge challenge to stay totally focused and disciplined in order to pay this debt off in November! If all goes as planned, I'll send off that payment on/around November 15.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Family Time and Date Night

One of our favorite family activities is to get outdoors to hike or camp. Michael found this new park with pretty fall foliage and hiking trails that was free. So yesterday morning we took the boys out there to check it out:

Not a whole lot of fall colors yet:

But it was still pretty. We loved all the cactus.

Then we went over to Michael's mom for the afternoon and she fed us lunch :) Michael helped her with some organizing and arranging, and then that evening we went out by ourselves!

We went to a restaurant that we found in our entertainment book. We purchased it for $20 from a neighbor kid doing a fundraiser. Last month I used one of the b1g1 free deals at my Moms night out, and last night we got my meal for free as well, so we've already paid for it and it is still good until the end of next year. We had $20 in the entertainment envelope, so we both got waters, and I splurged and used my spending money for a margarita. We ended up spending $23 including tax, tip, and what I chipped in for the margarita.

Then we headed over to Michael's school where the theater department was putting on the play "Almost, Maine." It was a cute romantic comedy, and since he teaches there, he doesn't have to pay for tickets and we get the best rock hard, butt-numbing seats in the house! I think they must make good money selling seat cushions during intermission. We still had a really good time though! The kids work really hard to put on a good show.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More of a brag post than a frugal post

One of my weight loss/fitness goals was to run a 5k. I ran my first one in February, and came in at 37:53, or a 12:11/mile pace. I had such a great time running that one, that I did another one in April, and yesterday I ran a 4 mile race. I came in at 43:09, or a 10:47/mile pace, so I'm definitely improving! It's become a really fun hobby for me. I really love having a race to look forward to, and trying to beat my best time. As someone who spent their whole life as an overweight/obese person, it's awesome to get out there with fit people and be able to keep up! And as far as recreational sports go, running is really cheap! I have totally flat feet, so I did go get fitted for some running shoes in January, after struggling through awful heel pain for months from my cheap cross-trainers. I spent about $75 on the previous year's model (cash, of course), and they solved all my pain problems. Now that I know what kind of shoe I need, I'll probably stick with the same brand, but shop around and buy them online next time. Other than the shoes, the only other cost is the registration for the races themselves. I used my spending money to pay for this race, which was $15 for YMCA members. I'll be doing the Turkey Trot next month, which is also $15 for Y members. One of the keys is to register early. People who register the day of the race always pay a lot more. For the race yesterday, it was $10 more to register the day of the race.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our lunch today--Leftovers recreated

Last night we had lemon & garlic roasted chicken, roasted vegetables (carrots, potatoes, and beets), steamed squash, and homemade biscuits. We had leftover biscuits and about 1.5 cups of leftover chicken, once I'd picked the chicken clean.

I took the chicken bones and put them in the crockpot overnight to make chicken broth.

For lunch I made a gravy out of 1 c. chicken broth and 1 c. milk, seasoned it up, and threw in the sliced up leftover chicken. Served the creamed chicken over the leftover biscuits. We only had five biscuits, so husband and kids had those, and I had mine over whole wheat toast. Peas on the side and we had a whole meal for four people.

Good comfort food on an overcast, chilly day!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stuff I never buy-Grocery/Food Edition

People often ask me how I keep my grocery bills so low, and I think I can attribute it to the things that I do not buy, that most people regularly purchase. I should say "seldom buy" because I do very occasionally buy some of these things, but they are definitely not regulars on my grocery list. I'm not saying we never EAT these things...we do occasionally have treats in the house, I just generally find the grocery store variety to be too overpriced to warrant purchasing it. I also think there are many less-expensive alternatives to these things.

So without further ado, here is my things I never buy list:

Frozen waffles
Pop-Tarts, toaster strudels
Other frozen breakfast foods
Sugary cereals (maybe one box a month, mixed with less expensive, plain cereal)
Individual packets of oatmeal

Canned soups
Pre-packaged salad greens
Bakery breads
Pre-cut fruits/veggies like baby carrots or sliced apples

Sodas and cokes
Juice (1-2 cans of frozen concentrate per month)
Capri-suns or juice boxes
Bottled water

Fruit snacks
Individually packed puddings, jello, chips, crackers, etc.
Granola bars

Frozen pizza
Frozen dinners
Frozen lasagna
Pizza rolls/frozen snacks
Chicken nuggets
Fish sticks
Frozen garlic toast

Boxed dinners
Rotisserie chicken/pre-prepared meats
Cream soups
Mac and cheese boxes (except the super cheap 4/$1 boxes, you can't beat the price on those)
Canned broths
Rice mixes
Spaghetti sauce (ragu, prego, etc)

Pre-seasoned meats
Expensive cuts of meat that aren't on super-great sale

Baking mixes
Pancake/waffle mix

cookie dough/ready to bake cookies
Ready to bake biscuits/cinnamon rolls

Salad dressings (only ranch and italian--make any others)

Bacon bits

Gravy packets
Spice packets (italian seasoning, taco seasoning)

Sliced cheese
Deli lunchmeat
Specialty cheeses
Individual yogurts
Go-gurt or drinkable yogurts for kids

Paper napkins
Paper towels (one roll a month and have learned to do without if we don't have)
Paper plates
Ziploc bags (seldom have to buy--wash and re-use until they fall apart)

Organic foods (just not in the frugal budget at this point)

Name Brands of anything

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yesterday I did my weekly fridge check/clean-out. I really like to buy certain fresh herbs to cook with--namely parsley and cilantro. I had parsley in my fridge that wasn't going to get used before it goes bad. I chopped it up, put it in an old salsa jar and put it in the freezer. A little bit comes off really easily to put in soups and other dishes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Today's frugal lunchbox

For today's lunch we have a homemade "lunchable".
Wheat crackers ($1.39/box, 9 servings in the box, 1/2 serving=about $0.09)
Slices of cheese ($1 for 8oz. brick, 1 oz=about $0.10)
1 slice of deli turkey ($1.99 package, 12 servings, 1 oz=about $0.17)

1 banana (3 lbs. for/$1.00, so probably about $0.11)

Homemade chocolate pudding (I'm going to estimate this at $0.27, 1/2 c. milk, a bit of sugar, cocoa, and corn starch)

Water in a re-usable container=free :)

TOTAL: $0.74

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meal Plan October 3-15

I didn't shop until the 3rd this month, since I was sick the first couple of days of the month.

My grocery budget for this planning period was $150.

Mushroom-chicken bake, mashed sweet potatoes, corn
Chili and cornbread
Cream cheese crockpot chicken, mashed potatoes, mustard greens
Homemade hamburger helper, steamed zucchini
Lemon-garlic roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens
Italian vegetable stew(subbing ground turkey breast)
Chicken fajitas on the grill, avacados and all the fixins'
English muffin pizzas, salad
Chicken enchilada casserole, black beans, lettuce & tomato
Ginger glazed mahi-mahi, brown rice, roasted veggies (beets, squash, carrots)
Tuna Burgers, potato salad
Barbecue stuffed baked potatoes, steamed broccoli
Leftovers/breakfast for dinner

I picked up the ground turkey breast when it the 1 1/2 lb. packages were marked down to $1.99. I also had leftover cabbage in the fridge which is another ingredient in the italian beef stew. It also calls for kidney beans and so does the chili, so on Sunday we cooked a bag of kidney beans and set some aside.

In the freezer I had some cooked brisket which will be used for the stuffed baked potatoes, and some cooked chicken which will be used for the chicken enchilada casserole. Mahi-mahi was on sale $3.99 lb., and whole chickens were on sale for 0.59/lb. so I bought three of them.

For breakfasts we'll rotate:
eggs and english muffins
cereal and fruit
Oatmeal (I like mine with peanut butter and honey)
Banana muffins with peanut butter and fruit

I bought three dozen eggs for $1/dozen at the 99 Cent Store, and I got english muffins at the bread outlet for $1/package. I got a box of generic rice krispies for $1.50 at Save a lot, and 2 gallons of milk for $1.99/gallon at Kroger. We still have a huge container of old-fashioned oatmeal, but I bought some steel-cut oats for myself. It should last me a couple of months. I stocked up on fruit at Fiesta, except for bananas which were 3 lbs/$1 at Save a lot.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Scratch Beginnings

I just finished reading this book (borrowed from the library!):

The author is a 24 year old recent college graduate who set out on an interesting social experiment. He got on a train and went to a new city with just $25 and the clothes on his back. His goal was to have a job, a fully-furnished apartment, a vehicle, and $2500 at the end of one year. He lives in a homeless shelter while he struggles to attain those goals. He didn't allow himself to use any contacts from his previous life, and did not tell any potential employers that he went to college.

His writing style lends itself to a quick read--I finished it in about a day.

I really admire this young man's courage and tenacity. I cannot imagine putting myself in that situation. So many people have opinions on poverty and homelessness, but this guy chose to put his money where his mouth was by giving up a year of his life to really experience it for himself.

His experience really re-affirmed my belief that America is full of opportunity, and that our choices (not unseen forces that our out of our control) largely control our destiny. He had to make tough choices in order to be able to acheive his lofty goals, and his discipline and patience paid off in the end.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

September 2009 Wrap-up

I just finished resolving September's budget. It was a really stressful month and a lot of unexpected expenses happened. We were still able to put some money towards the current Sallie Mae snowball, dropping the balance to just under $2,000. It should be paid off in January, which is slower than I would like but October-December is always an expensive time of year.

Here are the numbers for September:
15% of our monthly income went to car repairs
19% of our income went to pay off debt
We spent $94.69 on unplanned expenses related to the flu
We spent an unplanned $24.56 to send a gift to my little sister who was in a serious accident

I made an extra $6 doing internet surveys (every dollar counts, right?!)
Michael made an extra $60 monitoring the cafeteria after school for three days

I also applied for term life insurance, so I should be hearing back on that soon.

Update on Michael and financially planning for illness

He did end up having the flu. I got a touch of it--no fever, but a little bit of cold symtpoms, and so far the boys don't have it.

We still ended up spending money that was not budgeted in advance and I felt like our spending was a little out of control this week. This morning Michael and I talked about planning better for illness. For one thing, it makes sense to make sure we have enough in our Medical Envelope to cover co-pays for everyone in the house. Michael's is $25, and we didn't even have that in the envelope. Then there was the $25 co-pay for the tamiflu. I went and bought more cod liver oil, and occillococcinum when I started feeling bad, and I had to run out and buy more ibuprofin. I bought the occillo at the health food store, and found out later that it was on sale at Walgreens for much cheaper, so if I had planned in advance, we wouldn't have had to spend so much and I wouldn't have been so stressed out running around to get everything we needed. We also ended up buying some extra groceries (not much--$15 worth), because we had nothing in the house and I was feeling too yucky to really make meals.

Michael is better at actually organizing stuff, so today he is going to go through the medicine box and see what we actually have and try to organize it. He's making me a list of his preferred OTC meds, and I'll add mine and the kids. I'll shop around to make sure we have stuff specifically on-hand, and I'll make sure we have stuff on hand to treat the flu since this flu season won't be over for a long while. I'm going to make a list of meds to keep on hand, and we're going to keep cash in our medical envelope with money for :

Doctor co-pays for each of us
1-2 prescription co-pays
money for vitamins and OTC meds
$20 for emergency groceries

That way, the money is right there and on-hand for if we get sick. I was way too stressed with all of it this week, when I needed to be taking it easy.

I'm also trying to figure out a way to plan some easy and healthy meals for if I am sick and can't cook. It seems like we eat the worst when we're sick because no one has the energy to cook! I might just start working on a list of quick, inexpensive meals. It would be good just to have that on-hand anyway.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My husband is sick, and I'm really hoping it's not the flu. He is running a fever and hasn't really eaten anything in two days, so I'm worried that it is. The man turned down steak and baked potatoes last night, so I knew he was really sick. We really don't visit the doctor very often, and try to treat things at home, but he is going to go ahead and go in today, since the flu is so widespread here right now. I'd rather keep the kids home if I know someone in our house has it.

I've realized that in months where one of us is sick, our budget kind of goes by the wayside. If it does, it isn't a huge deal, because we almost always have enough money waiting to go to the snowball, and if that has already been sent, we have the emergency fund available. But, I have tried to do a few things to keep it from happening anyway. Illness is just something I know we'll have to deal with, so I should be prepared.

As a preventative, the boys and I have been taking cod liver oil (for the vitamin D) and getting as much sunshine as we can. Michael can't stomach the cod liver oil, and really hates to take any pills or medicine.

I try to already have medicine we'll need on hand, purchased as inexpensively as possible. My dollar store carries aspirin, ibuprofin, and antibacterial spray (lysol). They also have a number of other medicines that you might need.

I'm also a big believer in home remedies, like chicken soup. When whole chickens go on sale to below 79 cents/lb, I stock up. I always make stock from the bones, and freeze it to make soups. I didn't happen to have any stock today, so I bought a whole chicken and am making a big pot of soup for dinner. If you throw a splash of apple cider vinegar into the stockpot, it helps extract everything from the bones. I also like my neti pot, as an alternative to decongestants. I bought one several years ago, and instead of using the little salt packets that they come with, I just use a cheap container of table salt. I don't have allergies, but I've heard that people who do have gotten a lot of relief from using a neti pot regularly.

If I feel like I'm coming down with something my regimen is lots of water, lots of sunshine, stay away from sugar, extra vitamin D and C, light exercise, and go to bed early. I don't know how much good it does, but at least it makes me feel like I'm being proactive.

I try to do extra cleaning when we're sick. I do a quick clean on the bathrooms a couple of times a day and wash our linens daily until we're well. If it's a particularly bad illness, I'll lysol all the light switches, phones, computer, etc. I try not to do that too often and stick to natural stuff as much as possible.

I do think that when this illness is over, I'm going to clean out our medicine cabinet, and put money in the budget to re-stock it so we'll be more ready for next time.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yay for Deregulation!

Last year everyone was cursing Texas's deregulation of electricity. This year, with natural gas prices at all-time lows, we're celebrating lower electricity bills! For those that don't live in Texas, it can cost a LOT of money to cool your house in the summer. $400-$500 electric bills aren't that uncommon, especially in older homes. In one of the places we lived a few years ago, we would have summer bills that averaged about $350, and that was in 1,000 square feet.

We were locked into a year long contract since last summer, and when it expired I decided to switch. Our rate went from 0.14 per kwh to 0.10 per kwh. I was totally excited to get a bill for $107 today! We have NEVER had an electric bill that low, even when we lived in a tiny apartment five years ago. I need to do some research on when the best time to lock-in a rate is. The rates are so low right now that I'm tempted to go ahead and lock-in, but I'm not sure. I felt like I jumped the gun last year and locked in right before rates dropped, because I was afraid of them going up. I've heard that January is the best time. Going to have to research all of that. If anyone has any thoughts on that, feel free to leave me a comment!
This seems to be the month of the car repair. Almost all of our snowball has gone for car repairs this month. First it was my car needing bearings before it could pass inspection, then last week Michael's car started leaking oil. We also have been thinking about a trip to Georgia to have Christmas with family, and we're feeling really nervous about Michael's car (supposed to be the reliable one!). Our mechanic has been recommending a tune up for it. Thankfully, we did have some money saved up in our car maintenace envelope, so we didn't have to dip into the emergency fund. So far this month we've cash flowed:

rear bearings on the Kia
Oil change for the Kia
Inspection for the Kia

Some kind of $60 oil repair on the Buick (can't remember exactly what it was)
Tune up on the Buick

Somehow we do still have about $280 to throw at our current Sallie Mae loan this month. At least that's something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

$20 starts a fall wardrobe

Because of my weight loss, I'm having to buy new clothes for every season. I cleaned out my closet the other day and realized I had two long sleeve shirts, and no sweaters at all. I've given away all of my bigger clothes. So last week I hit up Goodwill on half-price day and got some GREAT bargains. I'm sure my husband thoroughly enjoyed the post-shopping fashion show. My best score was a pair of boots for $4. I'm not in need of a lot of pants or skirts right now. My sister was able to give me about six pairs of jeans and other pants, and I bought skirts during the summer. I just needed long-sleeved shirts and sweaters to pair with what I already have.

White Keyhole shirt -- $2

Baby blue sweater -- $2 (my favorite color :)

Brown dress boots -- $4

White button-down tommy hilfiger shirt NWT -- $2. I've been looking for white shirts to go with the skirts I have.

Black shirt $2

Black & white stripes $2

Red sweater $2

Grey Gap sweater $2 (I won't be wearing it with another bulky sweater underneath, of course.)

I don't know what color you call this, but I like it :) $2

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meal Plans 9/1 - 9/15

Spent $137 on groceries yesterday, leaving $13 in my grocery envelope for replenishing produce if necessary.

Here is my meal plan for the next two weeks:

Beef Tacos, lettuce & tomato
Beef curry, cooked zucchini
Pork chops, mashed sweet potatoes, cooked cauliflower
Ham & potato quiche, basic cooked greens
Steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob
Chicken curry, steamed broccoli
Mediterranean Tortellini, salad
BBQ stuffed baked potatoes, salad
Spaghetti, green beans
Pot roast, roasted vegetables, greens
Tuna Burgers, baked french fries
Grilled chicken salad with mango salsa
Hot dogs, potato salad, green beans
Beef & cheese enchiladas, black beans
Chicken & corn chili, cornbread
Leftovers or breakfast for dinner

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some savings on big car repairs yesterday

I drive an '01 Kia Optima with 125,000 miles on it. We've been lucky that it's not given us many problems in the last couple of years. We took it in for some regular maintenance about six months ago, and our mechanic told us the rear bearings needed to be replaced. We put it off all summer, because with Michael home, we mostly drove his car. But in the last couple of weeks since school started, I'd really noticed how dangerous the car was feeling, especially if I got on the freeway. I took it in to get inspected this week, and it failed because of the bearings.

I originally took it to Jiffy Lube for the inspection, since I had a coupon for 15% off inspection. Their computer was down, so I thought I'd take it over to Firestone. I decided to ask them if they would take Jiffy Lube's coupon, and they did. My car ended up failing inspection which I thought might happen, and I told the guy what our mechanic had quoted us on the bearings. I asked him if he could beat my mechanic's price, and he knocked 10% off the labor and parts. They are also open on Saturdays, which is a big bonus, since it's a major hassle to take our car to our regular mechanic during the week. Michael and I go totally opposite directions everyday and it's hard to share one car.

So I saved $40 on the rear bearing repair, and $6 off the inspection. I also noticed a survey at the bottom of my receipt, which will get me $10 off a future repair.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Homemade Croutons

I keep a ziploc bag in my freezer and collect the heels of bread, hamburger/hotdog buns, bagels, as they get stale or are just about to get stale. When it starts to fill up, I make croutons or bread crumbs. On this occasion, I made croutons. This was a good cooking activity for the kids to do. I had three hamburger buns that we hadn't eaten. First I buttered the bread, then I had Ethan cut it up into squares with a butter knife. Spread them in one layer on a cookie sheet, and while the oven is already on for something else at not too high of a temperature (200-350-ish), bake them until they are completely dry. Let them cool, and store them in a ziploc bag in your freezer. They are really good too! You could even bake them with some parmesan or some italian seasonings on them if you wanted to. If you wanted to do garlic croutons, use a little garlic salt after you butter them. That night I needed them to make a stuffing to go with a turkey roast we had for dinner.

This is a great way to use something that most people throw away (stale bread) to make something that people usually buy (croutons).

Finished crutons (note my well-loved ziploc bag, lol--this is probably the 8th time it's been used):

Monday, August 31, 2009

A little rant and some homemade jello

At the beginning of last year, Ethan got made fun of for his homemade lunches. In a class of 24 kids, he was one of only about two that regularly brought lunch from home. The main reason for this is that the school is a Title I school, which means that a high percentage of students are on free/reduced lunches (I think it's about 75%). We don't qualify, so Ethan brings his lunches from home. I was unaware that this teasing was going on, until he came home from school one day, sat down on the kitchen floor, and tore into his lunch box to eat his uneaten lunch. Certain things were apparently totally unacceptable, such as leftovers from last night's dinner, in a thermos. I even bought him a really cute kids foogo thermos, but apparently that was not socially acceptable enough for the other kindergarteners. The offending food that day was chili from the night before.

As much as I want to protect him from teasing, I've felt like there is only so much that I can do about this. I won't let him buy his lunch everyday, because the food is not healthy, and I can pack him a much healthier and less expensive lunch. I also don't want to teach him to bow down to peer pressure. I know that a lot of the things that we do are a little counter-cultural, but we have more important things to worry about than whether or not his friends approve of his lunch. He does get to choose one day a week to buy lunch. I try not to pack any 'weird' leftovers, and just stick to sandwiches, fruit, etc. Sometimes I'll put chicken noodle soup or mac and cheese in his thermos--he says those are okay. The thermos is apparently where we get into trouble, lol.

I am hoping that this year will be better. This year, he is at the same school, but he's in their brand new Spanish Immersion program. We're in a large, urban district and there are only two elementary schools that offer it, and any students in the district could apply. My thinking is that the kids in this program are generally going to have parents that are a bit more involved, might be the types that will be more likely to pack a lunch, and for that matter, teach their kids some manners!

I have been trying to pack him more interesting, kid-friendly lunches so far this year. Last week I gave him homemade "lunchables". I pack him wheat crackers, and slices of meat and cheese. I also made homemade chocolate pudding for last week's lunches. This week I thought I'd make some homemade jello. I thought about just buying the packets of off-brand jello, but I really don't want him eating all that artificial stuff.

I bought a large box of plain gelatin from Kroger. It was about $5 for 32 packets, so about 16 cents a packet.

I usually buy fresh fruit, but I do like canned pineapple. It's hard to find a really good pineapple, and it's usually really pricey. I thought I would make good use of the leftover pineapple juice from two cans. I will never again throw that juice away--two leftover cans yielded 1 1/2 cups of pineapple juice!

With my first batch, I used 1 c. of pineapple and 1 c. of orange juice.

We ate it all pretty fast, so I made another batch for Ethan's lunches. I decided to decrease the juice, and add fruit to this one. I used 1 c. of pineapple juice and 1 c. of water for the liquid. I added about a cup of diced pineapple and one banana. Yesterday I bought a bunch of brown bananas for 19 cents a lb. at Save a lot. The skin was brown, but the banana was just fine inside. I sliced those up thinly and added them in. When it was close to setting, I put the jello in small containers for lunchboxes. I also tasted it just to be sure it was good ;) It was delicious!

This whole process was ridiculously easy. It was essentially the same as making jello the way most people make jello (well, maybe everyone just buys those little containers now?). I like to make this kind of thing before bed, so everything is ready to go in the morning.

As a side note, did you know that gelatin is actually really good for you? I'll probably do a separate post on that later.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meal plans 8/30 through 9/15

-Tonight is pork steaks on the grill, mashed potatoes, salad
-Pot roast, roasted vegetables, peas, fried plantain
-Tangy tuna mac, and fresh spinach salad (both from More-with-Less Cookbook)
-Torta pascualina (basically cheese and spinach pie), cooked carrots
-Cheesy italian tortellini (I got free tortellini from a Schwann's promotion), sauteed zucchini
-Chicken pot pie, basic cooked greens (MWL cook book)
-Creamed chicken and biscuits, cooked carrots
-Grilled chicken legs/thighs, basic baked beans (also MWL), corn on the cob
-Brisket, potato salad, green beans, peach pie (Labor Day!)
-Beef and cheese enchiladas, black beans
-Beef Tacos, lettuce and tomato
-pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob
-Turkey, cornbread dressing, zucchini
-Ginger-glazed mahi-mahi, brown rice, roasted broccoli, cornbread
-steak, baked potatoes, veggie
-Rice with cheese and tomatoes (MWL), veggie
-Leftovers or breakfast for dinner

Giant bags of chicken thighs/legs are on sale for 0.49/lb. at Albertson's this week, so I plan to boil them and pick off the meat, and make stock which will be used at the sauces in my creamed chicken and biscuts and chicken pot pie. That chicken will also be used for the grilled chicken meal. I already have three lbs. of ground beef in the freezer, so that will be used for the tortellini, enchiladas, and beef tacos. Spinach is on sale at Tom Thumb, so I'll be picking up three packages to use in the spinach pie and spinach salad. I'll probably save some for my lunches, as well. Corn on the cob is on sale at Kroger 4/$1. The turkey is a pre-cooked turkey roast that I got free from the YMCA. We ate one last cycle and it was SO good. I have two pot roasts already in my freezer, as well as one portion of mahi-mahi.

My budget for the next two weeks is $150.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tonight I made meatloaf sandwiches for dinner. Since the oven was going to be on for an hour to cook the meatloaf, I decided to go ahead and make the banana muffins for tomorrow's breakfast. When I bake, I try to bake multiple things at the same time to save energy.

The whole family is sick, so we definitely won't be spending any money on anything this weekend.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A day of memories for $20

We decided to take this Saturday to spend some time with the kids before Ethan goes back to school on Monday and our schedule gets all crazy hectic. We took them to ride the Forest Park mini-train. It's a really cool old children's train that has been in Fort Worth since the 1950's. It makes a five mile round trip along the Trinity River, by the duck pond, and even stops at a little depot for popcorn and drinks. It's a pretty inexpensive outing, at $11 for the four of us to go, and only $1 for popcorn.

Then we decided to do some more grown up entertainment, so we went to a local museum that is free. We've taken the boys a couple of times, and I love that each time they seem to understand more and more what it is we're looking at.

Then we headed to Dairy Queen for ice cream cones!

We ran a couple of errands, dropped books off at the library and picked up our free pics from Walgreens, then we headed home for dinner. I made a big pot of homemade beans and cornbread, and Grandma came over and joined us for dinner.

After dinner the boys put on a production of The Three Little Pigs (with a guest appearance by Spider Man).

Now they are off to bed early so that Mommy won't have to drag Ethan out of bed on Monday morning! I am dreading tomorrow morning though!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Photo prints

Michael has had the same family pictures on his desk at work since he started teaching in 2005. He mentioned wanting to put the cost of some new ones in the budget for this month. I told him that I'd first like to see if I could find a deal for free prints, since I do see them occasionally. Yesterday, my online friend Dina posted a Walgreens deal for 20 free prints for yesterday only, so we got them uploaded and will pick them up tomorrow. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sometimes it's just not worth it

Just sometimes though :)

Today there is a big county-wide back to school fair. Families who are under certain income limits can get a new backpack for their child with some general school supplies, a new pair of shoes & socks, and a haircut. We qualified, so I thought we would go. It was from 8am-2pm, so I figured we would maybe be gone a couple of hours. We got there at about 8:45, and it was sheer insanity. There was a line that was thousands of people long, and it didn't seem to be moving at all. I'm looking at that line thinking that not only will my kids never make it through without having to get out of line to go potty, but I was standing there really thinking there was no way that I was going to make it through that line without having to go potty!

So we decided to leave. It just didn't seem worth it to me. Ethan's school supply list really isn't that extensive, and I already have money in the envelope for school supplies. If we wanted to, we could buy the whole package from the school for $20, which I think is a bit overpriced for what you're buying. He got new shoes last week, and he still has his backpack from last year.

I'm glad that they have programs like that for families who struggle to make ends meet. But as I was looking at the sheer numbers of people who showed up for what amounts to about $25 worth of stuff, I realized that we would be fine without that help, and obviously there are a lot of people who need that help more than we do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So this is my trash bin

When I first started getting our finances in order I was looking for any little way that I could trim our budget. Everyone is issued the same standard-size trash bin. I noticed some people had larger ones, so I wondered if they had smaller ones. I called the city and found out that you can save $5 with a smaller receptacle. We only go through 1-2 kitchen bags of garbage every week, so I figured it would be fine, and it has. It helps that around the holidays, they allow an extra bag of garbage that doesn't have to fit in the receptacle.

We live in a duplex, and I've noticed that the way the city works is that they just leave the same receptacle from the previous tenants for new tenants, and it is the tenant's responsibility to call and change if they want to. I know this because our next door neighbors have had an upgraded size the entire three years we've lived here, even though there have been large and small families that have lived there. A young couple lives there alone now, but they still use the same large one from the previous occupants. I doubt they even fill it half-way. They just inherit whatever size (and bill) the previous tenant left. The city will actually not charge you at all the first time you change sizes.

I added it up, and I've saved $190 since I switched sizes. Not a ton of money, but certainly worth one five minute phone call.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Frugal Rule #122

Don't pay for services you can do yourself. This is probably obvious to most frugal people. If you're reading this blog and you have a maid, dog groomer, or a gardener, I'm going to assume you read just to point and laugh at the crazy frugal lady.

When I last visited my sister, I was accompanying her on errands and one of her stops was to take the dog to the groomer. I was floored. The groomer? Seriously?! You're a college student who waits tables to pay the bills! Wash your own dog! I am surprised at some of the services that people (even broke people!) will pay for.

So Foxy got her monthly (ummm, ish?!) bath today. I bathed her and had the kids help me brush her. Lately I've been making the boys take more and more responsibility for her. No groomer necessary when you have kids!

I also cut Andy's hair today. I still have never paid to have it done professionally since four year olds don't care if Mom cuts their hair! I'm going to cut it myself as long as I can get away with it. I'm dreading the teen years.

Monday, August 17, 2009

8/15-8/31 Meal Plans

8/15 -- Family pizza & movie night (Domino's had a coupon for $3.99 1-topping medium)
8/16 -- Steaks on the grill, grilled corn on the cob, baked potatoes, salad
8/17 -- Falafel with avacado spread, tortilla chips & homemade pico de gallo
8/18 -- Turkey roast, cranberries, cornbread dressing
8/19 -- Homemade baked beans, cornbread (leftover from yesterday)
8/20 -- Turkey strata (with leftover turkey), basic cooked greens from More with Less Cookbook
8/21 -- Tangy tuna mac, salad
8/22 -- Pork steaks, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots
8/23 -- Beef tacos, lettuce & tomato
8/24 -- Goulash, zucchini
8/25 -- Chicken caesar salad
8/26 -- Pakistani kima, fried plantains
8/27 -- Beef & cheese enchiladas, black beans
8/28 -- Pot roast, mashed potatoes, greens
8/29 -- Meatloaf sandwiches, salad
8/30 -- Tilapia Veracruz, brown rice, pico de gallo
8/31 -- Leftovers or breakfast for dinner

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I've been meaning to try this for a while now, but for some reason I thought it would be harder. Jacki, resident crafty homemaker on my Mom's board described it as "so easy you'll feel silly", so I finally decided to take the plunge. She was right, it really is stupid easy. I don't know why I waited so long.

I used the recipe in my favorite cookbook in the whole wide world The More with Less Cookbook.

First I boiled my jars and lids. It'd been a while since I had used them.

I decided to try a small batch first to make sure I wasn't going to waste a ton of milk on a flop of a project. I started with four cups of milk, and heated it to 180 degrees.

When it reached 180, I let it cool to 110 degrees. It took about 20 minutes.

Then I added 1/3 c. of plain yogurt that I already had on hand. Per Jacki's suggestion on her blog, I'm going to put the rest of this yogurt in an ice cube tray to use as a starter for future batches.

I stirred 1 c. of the warm milk and the yogurt together, then added the rest of the milk. I poured it all into two jars. I put both jars in my hot garage overnight, and by morning, I had yogurt!

I sort of felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he's yelling "I have made FIRE!" I guess turning milk into yogurt isn't as cool as making fire when you're stuck on a deserted island, but I was pretty excited about it :) Anyway.

My plan was to have one plain batch for us, and a flavored batch for the kids. Ethan will not eat plain yogurt even if it is topped with fruit or honey. I still won't buy those squeezable yogurts or the "kid" yogurts, because I don't want him eating all that sugar and artificial colors. I give him a little bit of the plain with some yogurt and fruit and make him eat it, 'cuz I said so. Gotta love Moms.

I had half a bag of organic frozen strawberries that I bought at the dollar store ages ago. I threw those and a few spoonfulls of frozen orange juice concentrate into a blender with a little bit of the yogurt. I blended it up and mixed it back into the jar with the rest of the yogurt and one packet of stevia.

And guess what?! My healthy- yogurt hating child said, "YUM!" and ate every last bit of the bowl I gave him! I think it helps that it's pink.

I've been looking for other healthy lunchbox options and will definitely be making this often!

And the best part, you ask?! Well, the price, of course! I did a little math and I made that amount of yogurt for about 52 cents. Those teeny-tiny cups of generic yogurt were on sale at Kroger today 2/$1. Woo-hoo!

My kiddos, getting in on the yogurt-making action:



And Foxy is never far away when someone is in the kitchen:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tomorrow is the 15th, so that means grocery shopping day. That makes today meal planning, grocery list-making day. We also have plans to go swimming at the Y with our friends, and today is Andy's last swim lesson for the summer. He's done SO well with his lessons.

As Y members we paid $45 for 8 25-minute lessons, and we got a $10 discount for signing up for a subsequent session. That works out to about $5 a lesson, which I don't think you could find anywhere else. Since we do pay for a Y membership we try to really use all the advantages of it. They offer a lot of extra family programs that you couldn't get with a regular gym. My kids attend a fitness class for kids two days a week, and enjoy playing with their friends in the childcare room while I work out. We use the pool a lot, and take advantage of their monthly cookouts, and lunches they have. They usually have programs for the kids around holidays, as well. Since having a membership somewhere is kind of a frivolous thing, I want to make sure we get the most out of it that we can.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This should win me some kind of frugality award

So I read in my Tightwad Gazette about a way to get more out of a container of deoderant. The reader said she would save 3-4 old deoderants with just the little bit left in them and use the leftovers to make another half full container of deoderant. So I thought I'd try it.

I had four leftover deoderant containers, and I took a knife and scraped out every little bit that I could out of them (a knife with a sharp point, like a steak knife worked best). I pulled out that little plastic thing, and there was a whole bunch underneath it. I dumped all the tiny bits into a coffee mug and nuked it for ten second increments, until it was liquidy enough to pour back into one of the deoderant containers.

My husband actually thought I'd lost my mind. He stood there watching in wonder in the kitchen at what his crazy wife was doing with all these leftover deoderants. He asked me if I thought the deoderant was going to catch fire in the microwave.

I poured the liquidy deoderant back into one of the containers, and stuck it in the fridge to harden for a little bit. You would never know I did this--it looks like perfectly normal deoderant. I ended up getting about 1/3 of a container of deoderant out of it. I was curious how long it would last me, so I put the date (7/26) on top. I just used it again this morning, so I'm currently at 18 days and counting. It should last me at least another week.

This really made me realize something. Just think how much is wasted when we don't use every bit of a product in a package. Think of how much more packaging is created by all the new product that is made, when we could have just tried to finish up every last bit of something! I know when I get a new package of something, for some reason I just feel this urge to use it, even if I still have some of the other product leftover. My husband does this with toothpaste. I'm the one who usually ends up using all the dregs in the toothpaste tube. I once showed him that he stopped using the old toothpaste and had moved onto the new tube, and it took me 2 full weeks to get through the rest of the old tube! I've noticed this with contact solution too. It always seems like the bottle is just about empty, but sometimes that last little bit lasts another full week or two.

I would have never thought to do this with deoderant, and I'll admit it's a bit weird, but it really proved to me how true the old saying "waste not, want not" really is.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Taco Tuesday was a hit! I really enjoyed it. They also gave you a bunch of their homemade tortillas and honey....yum! My husband was less than thrilled with it, but he's a Mexican food snob. I don't know what he expected for $3.33 a plate.

Today is my hubby's first day back teaching. He's pretty nervous, since he's teaching AP History and AP Government for the first time. He went and got his hair cut yesterday, which was $15. We didn't have a coupon this time. He still won't let me touch his hair! He does wait as long as possible to cut it, and he seems to be getting it cut shorter and shorter each time, so he doesn't have to get it cut as frequently.

His Mom gave him a bag of clothes that belonged to his Dad, and he found a few things he could use. Some of the silk ties were really nice, and some screamed 1980! There was a brown belt in the bag, but he has one that he likes a lot better and he needs a black one. The back of it was black, so he used a tiny screwdriver to remove the buckle and put it on the other side, so now he doesn't have to buy a black belt.

(Thank you, honey for being a good sport and letting me take your picture!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Taco Tuesday

A Y friend told me about Taco Tuesday at a Mexican cafe. $3.33 for three tacos, rice and beans. I have just enough spending money to buy three taco plates which should feed the four of us. I'm feeling a bit under the weather today so it will be nice not to have to cook, and to treat the family to a rare dinner out.
Yesterday was a productive day. I got some cleaning and organizing done. I'm noticing that being organized lends itself to being frugal. That gives me more incentive, because I am NOT a naturally organized person. Ethan spilled a jug of water the other day, and I hadn't noticed that a lot of it ended up in the vegetable drawer. I'm bad about checking the veggie drawer anyway, so yesterday I got in there and cleaned it all out, bagged up everything, and hung some cilantro in the garage to dry before it went bad.

Today I need to make a trip to the health food store. I was going to go pick up my vitamins last week, but I remembered that every Tuesday they take 20% off the cost of all vitamins/supplements. I also have a coupon for 25% off of one item, so I might see if they will let me use both.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cinching the belt a little tighter

Our main financial goal that we're working towards at the moment is saving for my graduate school for the Spring. I will not be going if I don't get an assistantship, because we really cannot spend more on education right now. But, if I do get an assistantship, paying for school will be in the form of a monthly paycheck, so I will need to have money to pay for my classes at the start of the semester. In order for this to be possible, I will also need to somehow earn or save an extra $1200 between now and January. So the next few months will be very, very lean. Michael is on-board with this and we're working together to make this possible.

I've dropped our grocery/toiletry budget to $300 for the month of August. I may try to go lower in September. We have $0 budgeted for eating out or entertainment. Michael and I will still each get our $40 for spending money.

Yesterday was grocery shopping/errand day. I found some really good deals in the Albertson's and Tom Thumb circulars this time, so my two-week grocery trip involved trips to Tom Thumb, Albertson's, The 99 Cents Store, Fiesta, Save a lot, Kroger, and The Mrs. Baird's outlet. The only one of those that is not all on the same two mile stretch of road is Albertson's. I have to go about a mile out of the way to get there. I did plan a good menu, and was able to stock up on some excellent meat deals that will last us much of the month. I spent $142 yesterday for two weeks worth of groceries, and also had to buy deoderant, soap, toothpaste, and dog food. I really used my grocery price book this time to make sure I found the absolute best prices on everything we needed. I bought three pot roasts, a family pack of chicken breast, and five lbs. of 93/7 lean ground beef. I have $8 left if I need some extra produce or a gallon of milk.

The Y where I work out at goes to the food pantry and brings back stuff to give to its members (it is a very low income area), so I got a few things that were helpful in meal planning. I got two turkey roasts, an angel food cake, bagels, and kaiser rolls, so I worked those things into my meal plan.

Here is my plan for the next two weeks:
English muffin pizzas, broccoli
Hamburgers on the grill, oven fries
Chicken with asparagus and roasted red peppers, mashed potatoes
Roast beef sandwiches on kaiser rolls, salad
Taco salad, corn on the cob
Turkey roast, cranberries, steamed broccoli
Pizza Rice Casserole, salad
Baked chicken nuggets, baked potatoes, greens
Chicken & Corn Chili, cornbread (double recipe)
Creamed chicken (or turkey if I have leftover) with cornbread dressing, salad
Grilled jamaican jerk chicken, rice, grilled corn
Beef tacos, lettuce & tomato
Pintos & cheese, cornbread
Steak, baked potato, peas
Breakfast for dinner/pantry meal

Friday, July 31, 2009

Today I sent the husband out to run the frugal errands for a change!

I sent him to Half-Price books with a stack of kids summer reading logs. I just heard about their summer reading program earlier this week(it ends today) and asked the employee if I could just take a stack of logs and fill them up with our reading logs from the library. He said yes, but I wonder what they'll say when Michael actually shows up with the stack, ready for his gift cards! They supposedly get a $3 gift card for each completed log. We had eight, so we'll see :) I also found out that educators get a 10% discount card that they can use anytime, so since he's a teacher, he's going to sign up for that. I signed up for their email list a while back and still have some really good coupons to use, as well. I have a feeling Mom might be redeeming a couple of those gift cards.

After that he's going back to the bread store to redeem another coupon. They had more B1G1 free coupons, so we're going to stock up on English muffins, which are my favorite breakfast food.

Then he's going to run down the street to Kroger to get our free pint of Starbucks ice cream from the Facebook promotion. We have some movies we got from the library and are planning to spend the evening watching movies and sharing some ice cream :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Creative use of leftover mashed potatoes

Last night we had breakfast for dinner. I used some of my bread from my bread store deal to make french toast. I also had leftover mashed potatoes and was trying to figure out a creative way to use them up. Pancakes and mashed potatoes didn't exactly sound appealing. I thought hash browns sounded good and figured that grated potatoes can't be that different from mashed potatoes. I added an egg, a couple tablespoons of flour, and about 1/4 c. of finely chopped onion to my mashed potatoes, sort of made patties out of them (as best I could) and I dropped them into a little bit of hot oil in a skillet. They weren't very pretty, but they tasted really good! They were gobbled up by my husband and kids.

We had enough leftovers this morning that the kids had french toast and potato pancakes for breakfast.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bread Store Score!

Our Mrs. Baird's outlet is always a good deal, but today I got an exceptional deal! I always go through those annoying junk mail circulars that come every Wednesday just to see if I can find any really good deals or coupons. Last week, there was a coupon for the Mrs. Baird's outlet. They had a buy 1 get one free deal on bread and you could use the coupon twice. I got four loaves of bread for $2.28. That's 0.57 per loaf for you math people :)

I'll be going back tomorrow, because they had another coupon (you could only use one a day), for buy 1 get one free on muffins, so I'll be able to get my english muffins for super cheap. I'm lucky it's super close to my house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I realized that I never posted about Andy's birthday, which was June 24. We budgeted $100 for party & gifts. We ended up having a make your own pizza and cupcakes party! It was really fun. I sat down and made a list of items we would need and estimates of prices. I wanted to get a pinata, but realized we wouldn't have enough money for one. I was originally going to buy biscuit dough for the pizza crusts, but I ended up just making two pizza crusts from scratch--it was much cheaper that way. To feed the adults, I just made one large pizza. The kids were able to just pull off a hunk of dough that I had prepared earlier and top their pizzas with whatever they wanted, then I popped them in the oven. Some of them got really creative!

I baked two boxes of boxed cake mix cupcakes, which was way more than we ended up needing! Because we had the kids doing all the cooking, I didn't really have to have any games which would have cost more money.

I did want to get some party favors, so I went to the dollar store to hunt for something that would go with our cooking themed party. I ended up finding these really cute Ratatouille cookbooks with gummy food and spoons in them. They came with a little soup recipe. Very cute, and $1 each. I also bought all the cups/plates/napkins/streamers at the dollar store. I bought candy to decorate the cupcakes there as well.

As his gift, we got him a really big kiddie pool (big enough for Mom and Dad to lounge in :) ).

The kids all really seemed to enjoy themselves and Andy loved his cooking party!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

10 summer looks for $25

Went to Goodwill today and snagged some great deals! I spent $25 on everything, including one pair of dressy sandals. Here are ten looks I put together!