Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Uber Thrifty Month In Review - August

August was financially so much nicer for us.  The fact that we didn't have a lot of back-to-school expenses was a big part of why we had much more breathing space.  We enjoyed ourselves by eating out a couple of times and going to the movies on dollar night.

Back-to-school was made easy this year when I found a fantastic online clearance sale at JC Penney back in June and was able to get all of the girls new clothes.  Our school supply box in the linen closet still had most of the items we needed.  I filled in with notebook paper found on sale super cheap at the grocery store and composition notebooks on sale as a loss leader at Fred Meyer.  Everything else we are using is stuff we already had including backpacks and lunchboxes.

I was pleased to be able to pay all of our monthly bills on time or early and to make the mortgage payment early as well which saves me on interest.  Even though we have the added monthly bill for the orthodontist I was able to incorporate it into the budget just fine.

Last month I wasn’t able to meet all of my savings goals.  In fact, I had to take money out of savings to meet certain one-time expenses.  This month I was able to make all of my savings goals as planned which made me very happy.

Along with my savings goals I was able to make some really good progress on my financial goals.  In June I paid off one of my debts, financial goal #1, and now I am diligently working on the next one.  I made a big debt payment on financial goal #2.

I listed and sold some inventory I had in our storage area on eBay.  I used all of that money to pay toward my PayPal account.  I added some extra cash I had after paying bills and made two payments last month.  The sewing table is nearly paid in full and once that is taken care of all I'll owe on is the dresser I bought to store my fabrics.  Not one cent has been paid in interest either.

I used coupons and gift cards to do some shopping for supplies to make Christmas gifts at JoAnn Fabrics.  I also used money I had set aside at the beginning of the year for additional Christmas shopping.  I have a good head start on my gift list already.

Using items I already had on hand I was able to make two birthday gifts, one for each daughter.  I also made items to list and sell in my Etsy store.  I plan to make more items in the coming months to sell and to give as gifts.  My project bin is overflowing.

Our pantry and freezers are full, our chickens have started laying and we have been doing really well not to waste food and use things up.  I bought a 50# bag of chicken food and we have plenty of kitty food stocked up.  In the next couple of months I'll add to our supplies in preparation of winter as much as I am able.

I have seriously counted my blessings and been very thankful this month.  We are so fortunate to have the bounty that we do.  We have everything we need and most of what we want which is pretty phenomenal.

We are very fortunate indeed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wow! What A Difference A Year Makes

Unbelievably we have been back in our home for exactly one year today.  Time really flies when you are having fun and I'm happy to report that we are really glad to be here.  When I look back at the previous two years, the plans that we had and our multiple failed attempts to move to Arizona and begin our lives anew, I have to say it has been quite a journey.  A journey that led us right back to the very beginning.  Apparently, this is where we are meant to be.

As many of you know we had rented our home out while we "moved" with the idea we would never live here again.  Well, we know now, never say never.  We sold and purged almost everything we owned saving only the items we felt were most important to us and the basics needed for our everyday life.  Last year, over Labor Day weekend, we pulled our RV into the driveway.  It, and the back of my pickup, pretty much held everything we owned.  We did have stack of bins in our storage area that friends were going to bring down to us when we got settled in Arizona.  Moving in should've been a snap.

However, easy it was not.  We were greeted with a pile of trash sitting in the front yard next to our driveway and although the tenants had done a fairly good job of cleaning they had destroyed the carpet in the fourteen months they had lived here as well as had done a lot of damage.  The backyard was also in rough shape and full of trash and littered with cigarette butts.  We put a lot of work into cleaning the house, shampooing and stain treating carpets and making repairs.  I'm still not finished with all of the repairs, but I've done most of them.  Our yard is, for the most part, back to normal and looking good.  We have some more reseeding of the lawn to do and I'll want to plant more perennials to replace the ones that didn't survive our time away.

Our house inside has been completely scrubbed from ceiling to floor and in every nook and cranny.  We shampooed the carpets a total of four times to try and get them clean and while they are clean they are disintegrating now so I'll have to replace them.  Not a huge deal as I've had the same carpet a long time and it would probably need replacement by now anyway.  Once the cash is there I'll get it done.

We didn't have a stick of furniture when we arrived and now he have a house full of all brand new contemporary pieces which we absolutely love.  Our house used to be filled with used and hand me down furniture with a few new things here and there.  I didn't love the motif and always had a much different vision for my home in my head of how I would have wanted it.  Now it is how I want it.  The girls have their own bedrooms and are decorated how they want them.  They seem pretty happy to no longer share a room and have their own space.

My bedroom is now in the downstairs bedroom which is a change for me.  I'd had the big bedroom upstairs for eighteen years.  Now it is nicely furnished and complete with a lovely and functional sewing area with shelves to hold my vintage doll collection.  Eventually I plan to paint everything and replace the carpet in there too.

The best part is our chicken coop is now filled with four beautiful young ladies that we love and adore.  They bless us every day with fresh eggs and we dote on them.  There is nothing better than eggs from a well loved and spoiled hen.  Seriously, once the girls were out in the coop it really felt like we had come full circle and we were truly home.

I feel so blessed to have had this second chance to experience the home I have owned this past twenty years.  It is funny how things work out sometimes.  We love our home, we love our life and things are just fine.  It turns out we didn't need to move to Arizona after all.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

I suck at sleeping in so at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning I cleaned out and reorganized the freezer and the chest freezer in our garage so I know what I have.  I rotated older items to get used up before they freezer burn and took a good inventory.  Now I know what we have and what we need to restock.

We have been saving gallon ice cream pails all summer to use for food storage.  Luckily for me my girls were very happy to help me empty the ice cream out of the pails.  I filled them with oatmeal, rice and flour I had purchased in bulk at Cash & Carry awhile back.  The flour is in the freezer while the oatmeal and rice is in our pantry.  No longer do we need to store the big bags in our hall closet.

I made salsa and canned 6 pints to put up in our pantry.  I hope to make another batch in the coming weeks to put up as well.  We have plenty of jalapenos in the garden, that's for sure.  My girls insist it is the best batch I've ever made.

Albertson's had boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.66 a pound.  I splurged and bought 25 pounds since the price of chicken is likely to rise before too long.  I laid out the pieces on a baking sheet and pre-froze them before placing them into bags.  I filled up two of my two gallon bags and put them in the chest freezer for lots of delicious future meals.

I hemmed two pair of pants my daughter had received from a friend last year.  They were too big to wear so we put them up for awhile.  Now that they fit her she can wear them to school this year.

First day of school is hard on a girl.
The new school year began on Monday.  The week prior to school beginning I received a letter in the mail from the school district notifying us that both of the girls schools were providing breakfast and lunch free of charge as part of a new program for students.  While I had reservations about it my girls were super excited.  While I worry about nutrition and food quality, not to mention there are 18 dozen mini muffins in my refrigerator, I agreed to let them give it a try.  It definitely shortened my "to do" list Sunday not having to prep for a week's worth of lunches.  It also means that I have to make other plans for all the lunch food I had already purchased.  I'm curious to see if we notice a big savings on our grocery bill or not.

On the way home from work Monday I stopped at the "Free Wood" bin at the millwork company near my office and picked up several good pieces to use on some craft projects I want to make.

I made another jar of pickled jalapeƱo peppers to give to some friends of ours.  It's fun to be able to share our bounty with others.

Tuesday I used a $10 OFF $10 Purchase coupon at ShopKo to purchase a 16# bag of cat food on sale for $9.99 which made it FREE!  Whooo hoooo!

After work on Friday the youngest and I headed off for a trip to Cash & Carry.  She loves to go there with me and I love having her along.  I bought ten pounds of lean ground beef, ten pounds of lean ground pork sausage and five pounds of grated cheddar along with several bottles of seasoning sauces we enjoy, a bottle of sesame oil, ten pounds of onions and two huge bags of frozen veggies.

Saturday I was up early again.  I got all the meats and cheeses divided up and put away in our chest freezer in the garage.

I baked two loaves of bread.  One whole wheat and one Italian loaf.

My oldest made cupcakes using one of the 50¢ cake mixes and the tub of frosting we bought at the Grocery Outlet Market.  She also made a fruit and gelatin salad for our dinner.

I gave a couple dozen of our smaller eggs to some friends of ours.  We'll be selling our larger ones soon.  Feed money!

I used a $10 OFF $10 Purchase coupon at JC Penney to buy a new pair of knit pajamas from the clearance rack.  Final price was 7.99 plus tax.  I also went online and bought some more shirts for from the clearance rack.  I used an online coupon to save me an extra 20% and had my order shipped to the store for free.  My total cost for five tops came in at $39.42.  I shouldn't need any more tops for a very long time.

I harvested peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden.  We gave our kitchen scraps to the chickens and composted the inedible parts like onion skins, garlic skins and a lettuce core.  I also composted coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells.

Look at that huge green one in the center.  Its Jumbo sized.

The chickens blessed us with 22 eggs.

How thrifty were you last week.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Monthly Menu Planner - September & It's My 1000th Post!!!

I can't believe I have written and put up 1000 posts already.  I have loved doing each and every one.  This blog is most definitely a labor of love.  And the people I have met along the way are fantastic.  I so enjoy hearing what other people are up to and how this blog has helped them in their own lives.  I look forward to continuing this journey and watching it grow.  Thank you everyone for being a part of it.  You are all true treasures!

I have been rather bored lately with meal planning and the repetition of some of our meals.  My girls love these meals and don't mind the repetition but I need a little variety from time to time.  I dug into my recipe books and came up with a handful of meals I haven't made in a long time.  I added these in the with usual cuisine on my children love this month.  Now we will all be happy.

This is what we have planned for our meals next month:

Minestrone soup, bread sticks, garden salad
Grilled steak, shrimp, baked potatoes, Caesar salad
Fish & chips, steamed broccoli
Pepperoni pizza, spinach salad
Chicken sour cream enchiladas, lettuce wedges
Spicy Romano Chicken & Pasta, garden salad
Thai Coconut Soup
Chili dogs, coleslaw
Beef & bean burritos, lettuce, tomatoes
Chicken pot pie
Sopa Seca, garden salad
Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches, veggies & dip
Waffles, scrambled eggs
Cream of broccoli soup, biscuits
Hawaiian pizza, Caesar salad
Quesadilla casserole, lettuce wedges
Beef stroganoff, egg noodles, steamed broccoli
Pork fried rice, stir fry vegetables
Ham & cheese quiche, fruit
Creamy tuna & biscuits, peas & carrots
Taco salad
Pesto pasta, Caesar salad
Beef barley soup, French bread, garden salad
Salsa chicken & rice, corn
Mac & cheese, smoked sausage, spinach salad
Cheese quesadilla, tomato soup

I swear my youngest would eat Sopa Seca every week if I'd let her.  I am very much looking forward to the steak & shrimp (my birthday dinner), Spicy Romano Chicken, broccoli soup and the sour cream enchiladas.  The enchiladas is a new recipe I haven’t tried before.  It sure sounds delicious.

Do you do any type of meal planning?  What are some of your favorite meals?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

KIS - Have Some Down Time

The need for down time is crucial.  Just like our bodies need rest so do our minds.  Down time refreshes the mind and spirit.

Quite often we do not take the time to power down and replenish ourselves.  We are busy and have a lot to do every day.  As a result we tend to push ourselves further than we should by skimping on sleep and attempting to fill all of our waking hours with tasks and responsibilities.

Work and additional part-time jobs, schooling, sports and other activities, chores and other responsibilities can easily fill our days from morning until night.  The thought that we need to stop and take a break from all of this may seem unthinkable.  Even lazy or a waste of time.  But if you don't you set yourself up for burnout.

It is easier to simply take a time out than one might think.  Even if you have to actually write it into your schedule take a moment out of your day.  Meditate, go for a walk, soak in a bubble bath, watch the sun go down or simply sit for awhile and be still.  Clearing our minds and just breathing can do a lot to recharge us and make us feel better emotionally.

Down time will help us to be better parents, friends, employees and co-workers.  It will also make us better people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Grocery Outlet - My Latest Haul

After being introduced to our new grocery outlet store two weeks ago I was eager to see what epicurean delights they had to tempt us and hopeful they still had some of the items we had picked up last time at such great prices.  Last Friday we stopped in on our way back from the orthodontist.

We were pleased once again with the items we found to stock up our pantry.  I made quite a haul and for not a lot of money.  It is fun to have fun culinary items on hand that we normally wouldn't buy because they don't quite fit in our budget.

These cheeses are really expensive but I got them for 2/98¢.

The cheeses were obviously marked down because the date had expired but I'm not too concerned about that.  Plus they'll take back anything substandard.  These olives are delicious at 98¢ and the hummus is fantastic at $1.49 each.  Pop tarts $1.59.

The crackers were $1.49 a box, the breakfast bars only 98¢.  Tortilla chips $1.59.

Chocolate chips for $2.49 and coconut $1.99.

I've never seen this cake mix before but at 50¢ each I am willing to give them a try.  I bought two.  The frosting was only 99¢. 

These big cans of oranges were 98¢ each.  I bought two but now I wish I'd bought a few more.  My girls and I love them.

A 10 pound bag of spuds for $2.99.  All #1 and good size.  No little taters or funky misshappen ones.

I think I got quite a bit and I filled in a lot of the gaps in our pantry.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mini Muffins - One Batter, Three Kinds

Last week I used my favorite banana bread recipe and doubled it with a few minor adjustments to make a big batch of mini muffins to put in the freezer.  I wanted to have something quick for the girls to grab on school days whenever they are feeling rushed.  They tried several of them to make sure they were good so I ended up freezing less than I had originally intended.  But, that's okay.

Mini Muffin Batter

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 400°.  In a large mixing bowl stir oil, sugar, vanilla, milk and eggs into bananas with a whisk until full combined and smooth.  In a separate bowl mix flours, salt and baking powder together.  Slowly stir dry mixture into wet.  Do not over mix.

Lightly spray muffin pans with pan spray.  Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full and bake for approximately 10 min.

After baking 3 dozen muffins divide remaining batter in half.  In one half stir in 1/4 cup baking cocoa.  In the other half stir in 1/3 cup mini semi-sweet baking chips.  Finish baking muffins.

Makes approximately 9 dozen muffins.  Three muffins equal one serving.

This was a super easy way to make a nice variety of muffins.  They freeze nicely and I think these would be great to serve at a brunch too.