Friday, July 31, 2015

My Uber Thrifty Month In Review - July


July was a tough month for us as it seemed our money didn't go as far as we would have like it to.  We all feel that way from time to time, I'm sure.  This is the first month since we moved back into the house where we really felt it, however.

I was blessed and grateful that all of our monthly bills were paid well before their due dates.  I really like it that way and hate to be late paying any bill.  I also paid the mortgage as usual, two weeks ahead.  It is truly making an impact on my principal balance doing it this way and I am seeing results.

Instead of waiting until my gas tank was empty I refilled it while I still had nearly a quarter of a tank so it was less money to fill up this time.  I also used my rewards card and saved 10¢ a gallon.  I read an article in the news that gas prices should be going back down this fall and here they have dropped 2¢.  Lower gas prices will be nice.

On the 1st my oldest got her braces put on and I used funds, as planned, from my savings account to pay for that visit.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to put any money back into savings this month and I never like that.  I always want to put something into that account, even if it is only $10.  I am hoping to do better in August.

I did contribute funds to my retirement fund and received my quarterly statement in the mail showing my progress so far.  Looking good!

I also took some funds from savings to pay off another bill I've been working on all year.  I was so close to having it paid off so I went ahead and decided to take care of it.  One big check mark on my debt elimination checklist.  One down, two to go.  I'm smiling about that!

To save some extra money I did not renew anyone's phone service in June or July.  We are being very sparing and using our rollover minutes in hopes of making it until the middle of August so we can renew for school starting up again.  Our phone service isn't too terribly expensive but it has saved me $75 so far.

With my oldest daughter's help I listed some items on eBay to try and generate a little more income.  We took some old eyewear inventory from our shop and listed it using free listings I was offered.  I was able to sell everything I listed and used all of that money to pay on my interest free PayPal account.  In fact, I was able to make two payments on that account this month.

I re-opened my Etsy store and listed several handmade items for sale.  Mostly crocheted crib size baby afghans and some handmade embroidered tea towels.  Each item cost me 20¢ to list and I will pay for these listings using money from my eBay sales.  I plan to continue to make items and add them to my store each month through Christmas.  Hopefully I'll be able to sell some of those items and use the money for my debt elimination goals or the orthodontist.

We did not dine out this month.  In fact, we didn't spend any extra money at all for entertainment.  We did manage a few fun family outings, however.  We attended our friends annual 4th of July barbecue complete with water balloon fight and fireworks.  It was a ton of fun (albeit wet fun) and we had a blast.  We invited friends over for dinner and then played a game of dominoes afterward.  One day I packed a homemade poor boy sandwich and some water bottles and we ate our lunch at the park and enjoyed the MK Nature Center on a Sunday afternoon for free.

We watched TV shows on Amazon and YouTube.  We also borrowed a lot of books from the library and read quite a bit.  I read two books I already had from a great sale I came upon at a thrift store well over a year ago.  I spent around $3.00 for a grocery bag full of paperback and hardback mystery novels I had selected.  As I finish them I have been passing them off to my next door neighbor to read.  When she is done her son takes them to the thrift store to be donated again.

I sewed and crocheted a lot.  I was able to finish a Christmas gift, two birthday presents, a wedding present, make my youngest a set of bedroom curtains (finally) and two skirts for my oldest out of recycled clothing items.  I really tested my creativity on those skirts and it was a lot of fun.  I also managed to stitch a few items for my Etsy store as I had hoped I might.

I took advantage of back-to-school sales and bought the last items we needed off the supply list.  Fortunately they were loss leader sales items and I spent less than $3.00.  I also used my credit card to purchase a tent on sale and with a coupon as well as a set of drawers for my sewing supplies that was on sale for half price.  I will pay that off next month so I do not accumulate any interest.

So while it felt that funds were extremely limited I do feel I managed to be fairly resourceful and productive and also still managed a few fun things for us to do as a family.  It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money to have a good time and in our case, this month, it didn’t take any.  We made it just fine.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

KIS - Drink More Water


I used to be a soda drinker.  Diet Coke to be specific.  I loved the stuff but about five years ago I realized it probably wasn’t good for me.  Not to mention that soda is kind of expensive.  It also has no nutritional value, whatsoever.

One of the simplest things we can do for ourselves and our bodies is to drink more water.  Eight glasses a day to be exact.  My daughter's bought me a Brita pitcher for my birthday last year and I love it!  We tend to have a lot of chlorine in our tap water and this pitcher takes that out making it much more palatable.

Now that I've replaced the soda with water I've gotten to the point that I don't really care for it much anymore.  I'll treat myself to one every once in awhile because it sounds good but after a few sips I'm pretty much over it.

My new water habit has carried over to my girls and as a result I see them drink more.  They don’t care for soda much anymore either.  Whenever we go out to eat we order water.  We use the Brita and refill water bottles to take with us on picnics or to have when we are running errands.  My girls take their water bottles to school with them and I take mine to work.

Drink more water and get on a healthier path.  If you already do then keep up the good work!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Monthly Meal Planner - August


I can't believe I'm already making a meal plan for August.  Our summer is going by way too fast!

This is the culinary adventure we will be taking next month:

Bean & Cheese Burritos, Lettuce Wedges
Pork Chops, Pesto Orzo, Green Beans
Tomato Basil Pasta, Spinach Salad
Taco Soup, Cornbread, Tossed Green Salad
Grilled Hot Dogs, Veggies & Dip
Broccoli Quiche
Chinese Chicken & Cabbage
Roasted Chicken, Rice & Gravy, Buttered Carrots
Pancakes & Sausage, Fresh Fruit
Tuna Casserole, Garden Salad
Tortellini Soup, Breadsticks, Caesar Salad
BLT Sandwiches, Veggies & Dip
Nachos
Weiner Wraps, Baked Beans, Carrot & Celery Sticks
Tamale Pie, Garden Salad
Bacon & Eggs, Toast, Fruit
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Tomato Basil Soup
Spaghetti w/ Meat Sauce, Caesar Salad
Mushroom Gravy, Steamed Rice, Green Beans
Buffalo Chicken Pizza, Spinach Salad
Clam Chowder, Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
Swedish Meatballs, Egg Noodles, Steamed Vegetables
Easy Fried Rice, Garden Salad
Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli
Tuna Schooners, Cole Slaw
Pan Fried Noodles w/ Vegetables
Chicken & Cheese Quesadillas, Salsa, Lettuce Wedges
Tater Tot Casserole
Meatloaf, Rice Pilaf, Garden Salad
Vegetable Cheddar Quiche

I can hardly wait to get cooking and sink my teeth into some of these meals.  How about you?  What is on your menu plan next month?


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Upcycled Throw Pillows - Sweaters


This was a super fun and super fast project.  My oldest is the family fashionista.  Her sister is more like me preferring things plain and simple.  When the oldest tried to hand down these two sweaters to her sister it was a no go.  She like the knit patterns but the style of the sweater just "wasn't her".  Too bad,I thought, because they are in really great condition and cute too.  They ended up in the donate bag until…

…I had an idea.

The girls had put throw pillows on their "wish list" for their birthdays and Christmas.  I thought turning these sweaters into pillows would be a fun project and they would really love them too.


First I bought two travel size pillows at Walmart.  They were $3.48 each.


I washed the sweaters and once they were dry I turned them inside out.  Since they flared a bit I stitched the side seams straight with two rows of stitching and trimmed them.  When using sweaters it is important to stitch first and trim after so the fabric doesn’t unravel.


I stuck the pillow inside and measured it for length then stitched a straight line across the sweater just under the arms with two rows of stitches and then cut off the top of the sweater.  This left the finished end of the sweater for my final seem.  I finished all three seems with a zig zag stitch for extra reinforcement.


All stitched and trimmed.  Ready to turn right side out and stuff.

I stitched in a couple of inches on each side, turned it right side out and stuffed the pillow inside.  Then I whip stitched the remaining seem closed by hand.  Voila!


Too add a little more décor I used a big needle and some carpet thread I had to sew a button in the center of each one.  To easily find the center I measured across diagonally on each corner and placed a pin.  Pushing down I poked the needle through from the back and pulled the thread nice and tight as I sewed the button in place securing it well with a good knot.

I made both of these in less than an hour.  Super cute and super fun.

What do you think?  I love how these turned out and I think the girls will love them too.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves


I sold six of the eight items I had listed on eBay.  I relisted the two unsold items using free listings I still had on my account.  I used shipping supplies I picked up at the post office for free as well as some foam wrapping I had saved from some of our new furniture.

While picking up milk I grabbed three packages of college ruled notebook paper on sale at Albertson's for 58¢ a package.

I splurged and bought us a new three person tent on sale and with a coupon.  No kidding!  The tent was on sale at Fred Meyer for $29.99 and I cut a 10% OFF coupon out of the store ad to save me an additional $3.00.  $26.99 is not too shabby for a tent.  We got home and set it up in our living room to check it out for space and quality and decided it’s a keeper.  I plan to take advantage of the end of year sales this summer to re-outfit our gear so we can start camping again next summer.

I hope they'll scoot over and make room for me.

While picking up the tent I also grabbed two packages of #2 pencils and three composition notebooks on sale for 49¢ each.  I also used a 10% OFF store coupon to save a little bit more.  That officially concludes school supply shopping for this year.  So far, clothes included, I've spent less than $100 on back-to-school stuff.  Whoooo hoooo!

I cheated and bought two loaves of bread off the markdown rack for 58¢ each this week because, to be honest, I'm tired.  I also grabbed a package of hotdog buns, a package of hamburger buns for 58¢ each and a large package of English muffins for 75¢.

I repaired my flip flop with some E6000 glue.  It came apart at the spot in between your toes as often happens.  We'll see how long it holds.  I also fixed my daughter's sport sandal.  A plastic ring broke so she couldn't fasten the strap.  I made her a new one by making a loop out of narrow  triple fold black bias tape and stitching it in place.  Works perfectly and you can't even tell it has been repaired.

Saturday I got up bright and early to do some Christmas shopping.  I had carefully crafted a list and a game plan.  I headed out and was home by 10:30 having spent only a third of the funds I had set aside at the beginning of the year.  I was able to get a lot accomplished.


I treated myself to these super cute tiny mason jars.  No, I didn’t need them and I have no idea what I'm going to use them for but I wanted them and bought them.  They were 2/$1 at Dollar Tree and I think they are adorable.  I'll probably use them for spices.

I washed up all of the chick feeders and put them away in one of the empty bins I had in our garage.  All clean and stored away for next time.


I also washed up all of the camp stuff we kept, including the camp box.  Once everything was dry I organized it and put it all away in the box.  Now it is back in its place on the shelf in the garage and I now know what we have and what we still need.  Of course, I've made a list. J

I invited a couple of my girl friends over for a visit Saturday evening.  They brought a bottle of Merlot and I made cream puffs.  We had a great time and dessert was divine.  It had been a long time since I'd had a cream puff.

I washed out a gallon Ziploc bag to reuse.

I gave our kitchen scraps to the chickens and had a serious discussion with them about laying some eggs.  Hopefully they'll take it to heart and get busy.

I composted coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, lettuce core and the tough parts from a head of broccoli.  I added water to the compost bin.

How thrifty were you last week?


Friday, July 24, 2015

Grocery Budget Update - July


This month I went over budget a little bit.  I began the month with a $42.22 deficit.  Now I have a deficit to carryover of $43.33.  I'll just have to keep working at it.  I did get free ice cream.

Dollar store purchases

Our nonfood items came in a at $24.86.  I stocked up on more dish soap because I found it at a great price and I had coupons to save even more.  I also bought canned cat food, dry cat food, dryer sheets and plastic food storage bags.  My best bargain was a three 200 count bags of cotton balls for 25¢ each. 




Groceries

 $$$





Powdered sugar - 2#

       1.59
Cash & Carry
Brown sugar - 2#

       1.59
Cash & Carry
Mozzarella cheese (2)

     20.96
Cash & Carry
Ground beef - 10#

     25.90
Cash & Carry
Seasoning sauce

       2.09
Cash & Carry
Soy sauce

       4.79
Cash & Carry
Soy sauce

       1.29
Cash & Carry
Sweet chili sauce

       2.77
Cash & Carry
Cider vinegar

       2.08
Cash & Carry
Strawberries - 4#

       5.48
Cash & Carry
Romaine hearts - 6

       3.98
Cash & Carry
Bell peppers - 6

       2.49
Cash & Carry
Sugar - 16#

       7.52
Sale
Ketchup (2)

       1.50
Sale/Coupon
Ice cream cones (3)

       3.00
Dollar Store
Cookies (3)

       3.00
Dollar Store
Graham cracker crust (3)

       3.00
Dollar Store
Milk - gal (2)

       3.98

Ice cream - 1 gal

       3.99
Sale
Spinach

       1.59
Coupon
Cole slaw mix (2)

       1.96

Eggs - doz (2)

       3.58

Cream

       2.49

Buttermilk

       1.54

Cauliflower

       1.99
Sale
Broccoli

       0.72
Sale
Carrots

       0.89
Coupon
Celery

       0.66

Cucumber

       0.69

Bananas

       1.22

Buns (2)

       1.98

Mushrooms

       1.59
Sale/Coupon
Green onions

       0.59

Milk - gal (2)

       3.98

Ice cream

 FREE
Store Coupon




Total

 $ 126.47


$126.47 ÷ 30 days ÷3 people = $1.36 per person per day!

Cash & Carry purchases

Even though I went a little bit over budget I think I did fantastic.  Lots of good healthy food including loads of fresh produce.  How did you save money on groceries this month?  Were you able to find some good sales and stock up on anything?

This budget month runs from 6/20/15 through 7/20/15.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

KIS - Making Things From Scratch


Preparing foods from scratch allows us to better control what we are eating.  By staying closer to food's original form we maintain better nutrition and overall heath.  Processed foods tend to be higher in sugars, salt, fats, calories and preservatives.  In choosing to prepare our own food we consume far less of the things that adversely affect our health.

I purchase the best quality ingredients I can easily afford to prepare our foods.  Because time is always an issue I look for shortcuts in my preparation.

Use a bread machine to mix up bread and pizza dough
Make items in larger quantities
Schedule investment cooking time
Simplify recipes and meal plans
Eat more foods as they are - fresh fruit, raw vegetables, green salads, nuts, etc.


There are several items I routinely prepare from scratch and use on a regular basis:

Fresh breads, rolls, biscuits, cornbread, pizza dough, bread sticks
Pancakes, crepes, waffles
Pancake syrups, jams, jellies
Salad dressings, fry sauce, tarter sauce, dips, sauces
Beans, chili, refried beans, taco meat, burrito fillings
Soups, broths
Rice, rice pilaf
Macaroni salad, potato salad, pasta salad
Cookies, cakes, brownies, donuts, puddings, desserts

Surprisingly it takes very little extra time to make you food from scratch.  In less time than it takes to order take out and wait for delivery one can easily prepare a fresh delicious healthy meal.


Rather than head to the store deli or drive thru on the way home from work head straight home, defrost some chicken breasts or lean beef in the microwave while you prepare a nice salad.  By the time the salad is finished your meat will be thawed and ready to cook and season.  While your meat cooks you have time to make a nice dressing and slice up some fresh bread.


On the weekends make it a routine to schedule a little time for food preparation.  Bake some bread, make some yogurt or a nice dessert.  Put dried beans in your slow cooker.  Once tender divide them into freezer containers.  Whenever you need a can of beans you can easily pull one of these containers out and quickly thaw in the microwave or add directly to your recipe.


Investing a little time and effort in preparing your foods will definitely pay off in the long run.  You'll know what you are eating, you will find healthier ways to eat and you'll probably save some money too.