Friday, December 9, 2016

Only Two More Weeks Until Christmas

A little more than two weeks and it will be Christmas Day?  Hard to believe isn't it?  Are you ready?

This is the most ready for Christmas I have been in a very long time.  I completed my list and made all of my deadlines and it has felt wonderful!  As a result I can honestly say I am really enjoying the season.

Sorting and organizing the Christmas decor

If you have followed this blog for any length of time you probably know I started my Christmas preparations literally on Christmas Day last year.  While ideas were fresh in my head I jotted them down.  I collected the bows, tissue and gift bags that morning I wanted to save and reuse this year too.  I was already off to a good start.

I bought my first Christmas gift in January.  I made a more detailed list for gifts I wanted to give and I worked on it all year long.  My goal was to have all of my gifts purchased or made by the end of Thanksgiving weekend and I made it easily with two days to spare.

I finished up our annual Christmas letter and printed it out.  I tucked them into the stack of cards I had ready for the mail, all addressed and stamped.  They will go out to the mailbox tomorrow morning!

The fruits of my labor sitting under the tree

We started listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving.  In the car on the way home from our vacation, in fact.  We were so caught up with the holiday spirit we decided to put up our tree and have Horse Doover Nite a whole week earlier than originally planned!  For those who don't know what Horse Doover Nite is you can read about it here.

New cookie cutters to use this year!

Next up is baking cookies, watching more Christmas movies and spending time with our friends and family as we wait for Santa's arrival.  I am super excited for everyone to open their gifts and to spend that wonderful day with my girls.

How are things going with you?  Are you ready for Santa?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Uber Thrifty Month In Review - November

I ended the month with nearly $100 left in my checking account.  I used part of it to pay our power bill, the lowest one we had all year, super early and then the rest I put toward my debt elimination goal.

Our annual bill for our auto insurance and homeowners coverage came due.  I shopped around and found our current MetLife policy is still the most economical.  I anticipate and plan ahead for this expense each year as it is much less expensive to pay it all at once than in installments.  There are service fees associated with paying in monthly, quarterly or semiannual installments and I don't want to pay those.  Our insurance company also offers an additional discount if you do pay it all at once.

I had the money put aside in my savings account after I got my tax refund in February.  After paying for it over the phone with my credit card (I like to accumulate the rewards points) I moved that amount from savings over to my checking account and then went online and made a payment on my card.

I paid the remainder of our monthly expenses early including our mortgage payment.  I was able to make a triple payment this month on my debt elimination goal.  Whoo hooooo!

I stuck to our grocery budget buying items on sale and with coupons as much as I could, took advantage of some surveys to earn fuel points on my rewards card lowering the amount I paid at the gas pump and grouped errands so I wasn't wasting fuel either.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we went on a weeklong family vacation to Arizona.  I set a budget and we were thrifty with our spending.  As a result we had a very nice time and came home with money left in our pockets.

This year we made it all the away until November 16th before we needed to turn on the main heat for the house.  The weather up until then had been warmer than usual so we only needed the fireplace in the living room occasionally.  Now that the main heat is on, we keep it set low and use the fireplace when we are home for added warmth.

While December is often one of the most expensive months for a lot of people I plan on ours to be one of our thriftiest all year.  We'll see how well I do.  Fingers are crossed and I am hopeful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Old Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

This pie is an ooooooold recipe and our very favorite coconut cream pie ever.  It is a custard pie as opposed to a pudding type filling.  The ingredients are very basic and simple making this a delicious and thrifty dessert.

Coconut Custard Pie

1 unbaked deep dish pie shell
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups scalded milk
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sweetened whipped cream

In a large bowl beat eggs with sugar, salt and vanilla.  Slowly begin beating in the milk.  Stir in the coconut. Pour custard mixture into pie shell and bake in a 450° oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and bake additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven to rack and allow to cool to room temperature.  Chill 2 to 4 hours.  Top with whipped cream.

Can you believe how simple the ingredients are and how easy it is to prepare?  I was surprised myself the first time I made it.  Then I tasted it and was absolutely amazed.  It is delicious. 

This is why I love old fashioned recipes so much!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Our Christmas Home

Over the years I have thinned down our Christmas décor to make it much more manageable.  I prefer the look of vintage ornaments and décor so I've only kept the items I like really like and have let the rest go.  A few friends have made or given me ornaments and I have those as well.

A dear friend made these crocheted snowflakes for me

The ornaments I cherish the most are the ones that belonged to my grandparents.  They just don't make ornaments like these anymore, unfortunately.  Last year I picked up a couple ornaments at the Antique Mall and I hope to go there again this year and find a new one to add to my collection.

The girls have hung their stockings on the fireplace.  I decorated the mantle with simply with a Santa I handpainted at a ceramics class I took over twenty years ago.  I always pull my grandmother's pink Fenton bowl out of the cupboard and fill it up with the colorful bulbs from my grandparents old tree lights.

This year my aunt gave me her Christmas candle wreath.  It has a brass plate underneath it.  I took a candle I had purchased on clearance a couple years ago and fit it inside the wreath and placed it in the center of our dining table.

Not a lot of décor, but more than enough to suit me.  I prefer simple and pretty.  I think I managed that quite well this year.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

After two weeks of clearing out the fridge and a week away on vacation I was more than ready to get back to cooking.  However, I have to say it is nice to have the refrigerator thinned out and all clean inside.

Sunday I baked bread, made a coconut cream pie (look for the recipe this week) and a pumpkin pie.  I was in the mood for some quality time spent in my kitchen!

I went to Winco to pick up produce and a couple of dairy items on my list.  I also went there to get bulk spices to refill my nearly empty jars in the cabinet.  I save so much on spices buying from the bulk section it's ridiculous.  I checked and found pasta I needed for Christmas dinner was on sale.  I bought jumbo shells and manicotti since both were on sale and I know they will definitely get uses.  Their cans of parmesan romano are always a great price so I grabbed two of those while I was at it.  I also have plans for the lids on those jars.  I seldom buy salad dressing, except for blue cheese, as I prefer to make my own.  I bought a bottle of ranch however, as I was working a lot of hours and decided to cut myself some slack.  Both bottles were on sale too.

While there I happened across these cookie cutters, also on sale.  We all agreed this is what we wanted for our Christmas treat this year.  I am so very much looking forward to decorating cookies with my girls this year.

Then I got this brainiac idea to cut the cute little images on the back of the cardboard out to use as gift tags for Christmas presents.  My darling daughter did the hard work and cut them out for me.  We put the rest of the cardboard in the recycle bin and the girls will be using these when they wrap their gifts.

In the kitchen I set out a bottle of peppermint scented holiday soap I had picked up for 99¢ while Christmas shopping.  A festive little touch for my kitchen.

I used items I already had on hand to complete two extra gifts for my girls.  I can hardly wait to show you all of the Christmas gifts I made this year.

I mended a floor pillow for a friend.  It had been placed too close to the fireplace and melted a corner.  Once I was done you can't even tell it ever happened.  Good thing too, because I know she spent a small fortune on those pillows.

I darned a hole I found in my sock while it was on my foot!  No procrastination in this case. Ha, ha!

I used granulated sugar and molasses to mix up some homemade brown sugar.

We shared our kitchen scraps with the chickens.  Two of our girls our going through a hard molt and look just awful.  The other two, however look beautiful with their new feathers.

We use the deep litter method in our coop so I cleaned out the nests and put that bedding under the roost.  I then refilled the nests with nice clean bedding.  I scrubbed the water feeders and raked out the lost feathers in the pen area.  The coop is winter ready and they seem pretty happy.

Coconut Cream

I worked several hours of overtime.  I was able to work from home after the girls went to bed which made it nice.  I plan to use the extra pay to pay off the JC Penney card I used for the girl's coats and make an extra payment on the viola I put on my PayPal account (no interest).

When we arrived home from vacation I had just under a quarter tank of fuel left in the car and I managed to make it last throughout the week.  On the way home from work Friday evening I stopped at Fred Meyer's gas station to fill the tank for $1.91 a gallon!

After buying gas I stopped in at Fred Meyer to pick up milk and lettuce.  I was happy to find bags of salad mix on markdown.  We didn’t need much so I just picked up a package of smoked sausages and some salami too while I was there.

Saturday we stopped into ShopKo and picked up a red Christmas storage bin on sale for $4.99.  I went through all of our Christmas décor and put the mini tree, lights and ornaments in it.  I plan to use this bin to hold the Christmas items and décor for my future retirement house.

The youngest and I spent some time mending a string of colored Christmas tree lights.  We were amazed when we were successful and all the lights worked.  This means no new lights are needed this year.

I washed out a couple of Ziploc bags to reuse.

How was your Thrifty week?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Goals For December

The month of November went by lickety split, not unlike all the months this year.  We were also gone for a little more than a week on a family vacation so that left me with a lot less time to get stuff done.  That being said I think I made some pretty good progress on last month's list.  Now I am ready to tackle a new one.

This is what I have planned for this month:

1.          Make or purchase a gift for someone
2.         Send a card or letter to someone
3.         Family Nite Out or Outing
4.         Be creative - sew or craft something
5.         Do some investment cooking
6.         Decorate for Christmas, put up the tree
7.         Make a new 2017 day planner
8.         Take my oldest on a Mommy/Daughter date
9.         Create a new menu plan for January
10.       Organize/back up my photos/files on the computer
11.        Plan my goals for 2017
12.        Enjoy a Family Christmas Movie Nite or Family Game Nite!
13.        Bake something to share at work
14.       Bake something to share with our neighbors
15.        Complete a retirement house project
16.       Invite guests over for dessert, appetizers or dinner

This is how I did last month:

1.          Try a new recipe
2.         Send a card or letter to someone
3.         Family Nite Out or Outing  a family vacation - finally!!
4.         Be creative - sew or craft something
5.         Do some investment cooking  beanless chili
6.         Finish my Christmas shopping  Done!!!
7.         Wrap any new gifts as I finish them
8.         Complete and print out our annual Christmas letter
9.         Create a new menu plan for December
10.       Put away the Halloween decorations
11.        Make my youngest daughter's orchestra dress  I got it cut out
12.        Enjoy a Family Movie Nite or Family Game Nite!  Phantom Of The Opera; 10 Things I Hate About You, Turner & Hooch, Holes, played a new game called Cat Stax
13.        Buy Christmas postage stamps
14.       Complete a retirement house project  food storage containers,
15.        Invite guests over for dessert, appetizers or dinner

Big Horn Sheep - Lake Mead 

I did manage to finish up one item I didn't complete last month.

11.        Come up with a list of goodies to make and share at the holidays

I'm really pleased with all that I accomplished last month as we head into Christmas and wrap up another year.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My December Meal Plan

Last month our meal plan went completely out the window as I was in kitchen fridge and freezer clean out mode.  We had a bunch of odds and ends of things to use up and we made some surprisingly good meals.

Now that the fridge is cleared out and the freezer has been thinned down I am ready to get back to an organized meal plan.

This is what I have planned:

Poached Eggs, Toast, Fresh Fruit
Chicken Corn Chowder, Garden Salad, Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
Beef Stroganoff, Egg Noodles, Green Beans
Pork Stir Fry, Steamed Rice
Steak, Red Potatoes, Caesar Salad
Chicken Noodle Soup, Biscuits, Tossed Green Salad
Lasagna, French Bread, Spinach Salad
Garlic Soy Chicken, Steamed Rice, Special Salad
Ground Beef Tacos, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Salsa
Scrambled Eggs, Gingerbread Pancakes, Sliced Oranges
Canadian Bacon Pizza, Caesar Salad
Minestrone Soup, Breadsticks, Lettuce Wedges
Roast Chicken, Stuffing, Gravy, Buttered Carrots
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce, Spinach Salad
Egg Scramble, Toasted Bagels, Fruit Salad
Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots, Veggies & Dip
Clam Chowder, Garlic Cheddar Biscuits, Garden Salad
Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich, Potato Chips, Tossed Green Salad
Beef Patties, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli
Vegetable Quiche, Hash Browns
Won Ton Soup, Egg Rolls
Combo Pizza, Garden Salad

Lots of leftovers for extra meals and lunches during the week will help us with our busy schedule, not to mention stretch the grocery budget a bit.

For Our Christmas Dinner:

Spinach Manicotti
French Bread
Garden Salad
Steamed Broccoli

Chocolate Mousse w/ Whipped Cream

Mine will hopefully look this pretty
What great meals are you planning to prepare this month?  Do you have something extra special planned for Christmas?

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