Thursday, April 16, 2015

KIS - Organization - Zones

When we really think about it our homes our comprised of zones designated for specific activities.  We have bedrooms for sleeping, kitchens for cooking and eating, bathrooms for bathing, etc.  Therefore, I find organizing in zones specific to our activities is also beneficial to maintaining my home and my sanity.

After turning our entryway coat closet into our pantry we still needed a place to hang our coats, preferably near the front door.  The new arrangement I installed in the laundry room is close to our entry way.  Two simple handmade coat racks attached to a previously unused wall make a convenient area to hang up coats, sweaters, backpacks and my purse.  It is my first stop when I get home and my last one on my way out the door.

As I've shared before, I keep all of my sewing and craft supplies in one area near my sewing table.  Canning supplies are all stored together on a shelf in the garage.  Same thing with our garden tools and supplies.

I try to keep relevant cleaning supplies in a plastic bin under the kitchen sink for general housekeeping.  Laundry supplies are located on a rack next to the washing machine.  Office supplies are all together in one drawer.  Grouping like items together simplifies my ability to have what I need where I need it when I need it.

Keeping these two knuckleheads organized and in the zone is a whole other story.

I find storing items in a hodgepodge not only makes it difficult to ably complete my tasks but breeds discontent.  Neatly organizing my things in relevant zones brings calm and gives me the added bonus completing my chores and projects easier and efficiently.

What's your take on this?  How are some ways you set up zones in your home?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Favorite Recipes

I have posted over a hundred recipes on this blog but there are a handful of my go-to favorites I wanted to share again.  Simple budget stretching recipes that don't taste like you are on a budget.

First up:

Five ingredients to a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Italian spiced sausage and seasoned diced tomatoes makes this soup absolutely delicious.

Diced chicken, zesty seasonings, peppers, onions and black beans make for a mouthwatering taco filling.

This is my favorite cake for making strawberry shortcake.  Lightly sweet and holds up very well to juicy strawberry topping.

Last but certainly not least is my whole wheat bread that I make almost every week.  Quickly toss ingredients into the bread machine to mix up dough before shaping.  Let rise about an hour, bake for twenty minutes and you are good to go.  The aroma of fresh baked bread can't be beat.

Need some more recipes?  Click on Recipes label on the right for a complete listing of all the recipes I've shared.  And look forward to many more to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bulk Bin Buys

We have a Winco store that happens to have a HUGE bulk area.  It isn't close for me to shop at Winco so I only go there three or four times a year and I always have a list of items to buy from the bulk section.  My favorite items to buy in bulk are definitely spices.

For a fraction of what the little jars are selling for on the shelves in the baking section I can buy enough to refill my own jars and then some.  Last time I went I bought peppercorns for my pepper grinder for around $3.  The same amount pre-packaged was selling for $7.98.  I picked up enough garlic powder to refill two jars for 90¢.  Less than half the cost of buying two jars at the dollar store.

Baking chips, nuts, dried fruit, hard candy are some other items I buy.  I like to price these items to see if they are on sale and if I have a coupon.  Once I've compared prices I make my decision based on what is least expensive.

Some items they stock in the bulk bins I don't buy like cold cereal, snack foods and crackers, most candy, pet food, etc.  I assume, because the bins aren't airtight that the cereal and crackers are most likely stale.

Dried beans, pasta, oatmeal and hot cereal are good buys usually.  Also if I need just a little bit of something or want to try an item I'll get what I need from the bulk bin if I can rather than purchasing a whole package.  For example I don't use cream of tarter very often so I'll get a little scoop at Christmas time and it only costs about 15¢ rather than spending over $2.00 for a small jar off the shelf and having more than I need.

Bulk bin purchases definitely help me stretch my grocery dollars.  How about you?  Do you shop the bulk section at your grocery store?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

My darling oldest daughter cut tulips from the garden and made two arrangements to decorate our home for Easter.  She used my one good vase for the table and did the second arrangement of red tulips in a quart sized mason jar.  Both were so pretty.

I bottled my second batch of home brewed beer - another 19 bottles.

Our Easter table

I "baked" the Easter ham in my largest slow cooker.  My youngest made Deviled Eggs for the very first time with some of the eggs we dyed the day before.  My oldest made my grandmother's cabbage salad and her biscuits.  Since I was low on potatoes I used items in my pantry to make my grandmother's macaroni salad instead.  By the time family arrived we had all worked together and prepared quite a spread.  It even felt as if my grandma had been here to prepare some of it. J

I saved an empty relish jar and washed out a two gallon Ziploc bag to reuse next time I bake a loaf of bread.  I sent leftover macaroni salad home with a friend on Easter in a Cool Whip container I had saved just for this purpose.

Homemade vanilla yogurt & raspberries

Sunday evening I pulled out my bag of yarn and began crocheting a new baby afghan to sell in my Etsy store.

I made a jar of homemade buffalo ranch salad dressing.  My youngest was thrilled.

As a family we watched three episodes of Castle this week on Hulu for free.  Now we are caught up and current.  We haven't been watching much TV since we got the chicks.  We prefer to be outside with them whenever we can, it seems.  They are so funny to watch.

I received my strawberry plants in the mail on Tuesday.  By Friday they had come out of their dormant stage and were ready to plant.  As I planted them I discovered they had given me two extra plants for a total of twelve making them less than a dollar a piece.  I was very happy to get the two extra plants.

The new strawberry bed
I stopped on my way home from work Friday afternoon and filled my truck with gas.  I used my Fred Meyer rewards points to save an extra 10¢ a gallon.  When I got home I did another survey to earn an additional 50 rewards points toward my next fuel purchase.  It really makes a difference in the cost savings.

I signed up for a free sample of Fancy Feast cat food to be sent to my home.

I won $15.00 at Bunco Friday night!

I ordered and received a used paperback book I have wanted for quite some time.  I got it from Amazon for only a penny.  The shipping, however, was $3.99 but since the book is out of print and I've been longing for it for so long I felt it worth it.  Plus, after telling a friend about it I am going to share it with him after I'm done reading it so it will be enjoyed twice as much.

My very dear friend shared some raspberry vinaigrette dressing with me.  Two pints to be exact and it is delicious.  She also gave me some soaps and lotions she collected from the hotels she stayed at on her last vacation.

Saturday I took my daughter to see her friend from the neighborhood we lived in last year.  I stopped in at the corner market after I dropped her off so my youngest could get one of their fabulous donuts from the bakery.  When we went in the store we discovered an unadvertised managers sale on strawberries.  Two pound containers for $2.50 each.  I bought two containers of the strawberries along bananas from their markdown bin (they aren't old, just singles taped together), two avocados for 67¢ each, a couple apples and a few oranges.

On the way home, after picking her up, I went to Albertson's to buy milk and a case of tuna on sale for $18.92 which makes it 39¢ a can.  Ramen noodles were 12¢ a package so I bought two cases.  I also picked up six boxes of cereal bars for my oldest daughter to tuck into her backpack for a snack at school.  They were on sale for only 78¢ each.  I love loss leader items.  Plus, because I spent $25, I received a free dozen eggs.

Plus, because of the ramen being a bonus game item we received 103 Monopoly game pieces.  The girls had a ball going through all of them.  I ended up with a gob of coupons plus an instant winner for a free bag of Peet's coffee and a package of Oberti beef jerky.  Not bad!

I'm hoping next week to go back to Albertson's and get some other case goods on sale and another free dozen eggs.

We got lots of good rain last week so I didn't have to water the new grass seed at all.

How thrifty were you last week?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Christmas Cards & Gift Tags

This year I thought I might try and do something a little different.  I am going to print my cards on plain white paper and then our annual letter on the backside before I fold them.  A two-fer!

I thought it might be an interesting and clever way to do it.  This year I am using a vintage travel trailer graphic I found and saved during the holidays.  You know me and my fondness for those old things.  So why not incorporate it into my greeting cards this year?

I recently went through all of my leftover gift tags from last year and I still have quite a few left.  I also have a few sheets of miscellaneous labels I will be using up to make extra tags, just in case.

The paper and envelopes I have on hand and I'll do my printing once it gets a wee bit closer to the occasion.  It feels good to have a plan in mind and know that all the supplies are here as well.  All I'll have to do is buy a few more Christmas stamps, I only have four left from last Christmas, and I'll be all set.

You may enjoy revisiting Making Gift Bags and Tags or this post about Gift Tags.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

KIS - Organization - Containers

I feel that when it comes to organization you don't have to have a bunch of fancy and expensive bins and containers to get the job done and I happen to know a few other bloggers who feel the exact same way.  You shouldn't have to go broke just to neatly store your stuff.

Most of the items I use to keep things tidy are items I've had a long time and repurposed.  I have a few bins I've bought that have stored a multitude of things over the years.  A few things came from the dollar store.  There was a time when I was all about buying bins and storing my stuff all stacked and labeled.  But eventually I wised up and purged a ton of stuff, then sold most of the bins and containers in a yard sale for a fraction of what I originally paid.  What a waste of money that was.

Of course, having less stuff to begin with makes organizing and maintaining that organization much easier.  Once I cleared the clutter and got rid of everything I didn't need or want anymore I got busy and neatly put away what was left.  I still have a few empty containers out in the garage up high on a shelf.  If it turns out I won't be needing them I plan to donate them. 
There are certain things I think are worth investing in:

Sturdy totes with lids to safely store holiday d├ęcor.
Furniture or storage units for hobby and craft supplies, if you seriously do that hobby or craft.
A silverware tray.
Quilted zippered china storage bags.
Assorted containers with lids for organizing kids toys, books and puzzles.  Labeling them with a picture of what is inside is very helpful for toddlers and preschoolers.
Divided food storage containers to organize the junk drawer or your desk.
A bin or wash tub for holding cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink.
Plastic shoe boxes with lids (99¢ each) for storing toiletries, first aid supplies, arts supplies, gift bows, etc.
A day planner.
Coupon organizer, if you regularly use coupons.

Before making any new purchases on storage items I comb through what I already have on hand to see if it will fit the bill.  I used the meat tray that came in my refrigerator in our old house to store my cooking utensils and knives in the drawer so they don't rattle around.  My mom's old Tupperware bread saver which is almost 40 years old holds spice and gravy packets as well as ramen noodles in my pantry.

Saved jars and canning jars are wonderful for organizing beans, pasta, popcorn, etc.  I keep my buttons in an old applesauce jar.  I store homemade salad dressings in pint jars and old pesto jars.

I repurpose the zippered bags linens and bedding sets come in to store various items.  I keep my yarn in the one my bedspread came in.  I put my extra ribbon, lace and trim in the ones my living room curtains came in.

What are some nifty things you've used to store your stuff?

You may enjoy revisiting My Baking Box.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Uber Thrifty Month In Review - March

I was really pleased with how things went last month.  I finished out the month with over a quarter tank of gas left in the truck.  I used rewards points at the Fred Meyer gas station to save 10¢ a gallon when I filled up at the beginning of the month.  I was careful with the trips I made and planned errands so I was able make most of my stops en route home from work and save fuel in the process.

I paid all of our monthly bills and the mortgage well before the due dates.  I put money away in savings and I made the payments I was planning on toward my financial goals.  I purchased a lot more groceries than I expected to by purchasing almost everything I needed on sale and adding coupons to those sale items for extra savings.  We were also very careful not to allow very little food to go to waste.

My PayPal account has only a $150.oo balance left on it for my box spring and mattress set.  I can continue to pay on it interest free until October but I plan to have it paid off well before then.  I made a large payment on my medical, business and miscellaneous debt too.

We bought four chicks at the feed store to raise for fun, entertainment and eggs.  Although we lost two and had to replace them a week later I still feel it is money well spent simply for the sheer entertainment they have provided us in recent weeks.  I was able to keep other expenses low by repurposing our old dog crate as a chick brooder and using pine bedding and feeders we already had.  I did have to buy a new 40 pound bag of chick feed and was lucky enough to get it on sale for $14.99.  Eventually the chickens will produce enough eggs to pay for their keep.  So far I am into this new batch of chickens for less than $50.

I listed and sold our little washing machine.  The listing was free on Craigslist.  I used the money to purchase groceries and non food items for April, Easter greeting cards, a garden hoe, wasp & hornet spray and a new bale of pine bedding for the chickens.  This allowed me to put more money from my paycheck toward debt and savings.

Free tomato plants.

I purchased seeds for a vegetable garden at the dollar store.  We repurposed some milk jugs and used soil we already had and planted some seeds indoors.  My daughter saved some tomato seeds when she made a salad, dried them and we planted them too.  They are growing very well right now.

When my youngest daughter unexpectedly needed shorts because she had decided to join the school track team we went online and printed a 50% OFF coupon and went to the fabric store.  She picked out the fabric she liked and I used elastic, thread and a pattern I already had to sew her two pair for less than the price of one pair at the store.

I feel like I accomplished a huge amount this month and made my dollars go really far.  Our pantry and freezers are full.  We currently have everything we need, most of what we want and I consider myself truly, truly blessed right now.