Thursday, May 21, 2015

KIS - Laundry

There is nothing too terribly exciting about doing laundry, but I actually enjoy doing it.  My goal is always to do it as simply, efficiently and inexpensively as possible.  I even tried making my own laundry detergent at one time but found our clothing wasn't getting as clean as I liked and they had begun to develop an odor.  Not cool.

A few years ago when our mismatched washer and dryer gave up the ghost I splurged and purchased a front loading high efficiency matched set from Home Depot.  I had saved up for them in anticipation of ours getting older but when I was offered 12 months no interest I went that route and just incorporated the payments into our monthly budget and kept our savings intact.

I find with these units I am able to get our laundry done much easier and faster.  We use less water doing our laundry and the dryer works faster as well because the washer does a fabulous job extracting water in the final spin cycle.  I also use less laundry soap which has made continuing to purchase our detergent more affordable.

As a family of three we can usually get by quite well washing two loads on Sunday and a midweek load on Wednesday evening.  The washer holds a lot of clothes and the dryer as well.  The girls help with the folding and I am quick to get the clothes out of the dryer right away to avoid wrinkles.  I hate to iron.

I've lately been toying with the idea of tinkering with my homemade laundry detergent recipe to see if I can make it better.  I've also thought about using both homemade and store bought and alternating them to see if I have better results.  Lately, with sales prices and coupons, I've managed to buy detergent so inexpensively that I don't know if it would be cost effective or not and therefore worth the effort.

I currently use liquid detergent, liquid fabric softener as well as dryer sheets, occasionally bleach and Spray & Wash when needed.  I always buy my supplies on sale and with coupons whenever I can.  I buy the dryer sheets at the dollar store.  When the weather is nice we like to hang our things outside as often as possible so I use the liquid fabric softener the most.  I also reuse my dryer sheets and find I can get two to three loads dry per sheet which is great because in the winter I use both liquid fabric softener and the dryer sheets to control static.

One huge thing that has helped us tremendously in simplifying our laundry process is that we own so much less stuff that needs to be laundered.  Fewer clothes, less bedding, less to wash.  It really is that simple.  Love it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another Healthier Cookie Recipe - Chocolate Walnut Cookies

I've added this cookie to my repertoire of healthier cookies.  Lightly sweet and delicious.

Chocolate Walnut Cookies

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour

Cream together butter and shortening.  Add sugar and molasses and combine well.  Add eggs, vanilla, soda and salt.  Stir until thoroughly blended.  Add walnuts and stir.  Add flours and work until it forms a stiff dough.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on lightly oiled baking sheet.  Flatten each ball with the flat bottom of a glass.  Bake at 350° about 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

My youngest loves these.  Needless to say, they didn't last very long.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Our Little Urban Homestead Is Taking Shape

I am getting super excited and hopeful.  It appears that our hard work is beginning to show that all of our efforts have not been in vain.  For one thing our little patch of lawn is a lawn once again.  After several days cleaning up the yard in February you may recall that we had raked and prepared all of the dead spots (there was more dead than alive) and then we all three hand sprinkled grass seed and covered it with pine shavings.  Our hope was to get an early enough start to take advantage of the spring rains and cooler temperatures and improve our chances of success.  The dead spots we worked on are now filled with grass and it looks lovely.  I bought more grass seed a couple weeks ago and we are working on stage 2 which is the other side of the lawn.  It isn't as bad as the part we've already worked on.

This is what we started with.

We have also been working on cleaning up the overgrown weed infested flowerbeds and have been delighted to see that some of our perennials have come back to us this spring.  In the fall we weren't certain what had survived and what hadn't.  I bought annuals to fill in the gaps as well as a couple of new hostas to add in.  The girls got me some pinks and carnations for Mother's Day.

This is the first flowerbed we did.

Our poor backyard and deck was pretty much the landfill.  Our tenants had used it to store trash, not sure why since I paid for trash service.  Unfortunately we weren't able to get to the backyard before the first snowfall so that mess wintered over.  An early spring allowed us to finally get back there and over a period of two weeks we worked diligently to get it all cleaned up back there, make repairs and by the end of March we were able to get some semblance of order in place.

At the end of February we also brought home four chicks and despite a rough start and the addition of two new chicks we have now established a flock of hens.  They lived in the house with us for two months and then we moved them into the coop at the first of May.  They love it out there and are a happy flock of birds.  Within the next few months we should see some egg production.

We planted our raised garden beds.  In March we used compost to amend all of the soil.  In April we planted strawberry starts I ordered from a strawberry farm in Oregon.  I ordered 10 starts, they sent 12, our naughty squirreled stole one and hopped over the fence with it and the remaining 11 took just fine and are growing well.  We even have a few strawberries already.  I'll fill in the 12th spot once we produce a jumper.


We started tomatoes and cucumbers from seed and transplanted them into the garden.  We've also planted carrots, beets, radishes, spring onions, bell peppers and jalapeno peppers, yellow squash, watermelon, cantaloupe and sugar pumpkins.  We still plan to clear more space and plant more seeds.  The peppers we bought as plants from the feed store and we already have two peppers growing on them.  The radishes, beets, and onions are coming up as well.

We added a lettuce bed in front of one of the raised beds and planted two rows of seeds which are already coming up.  We hope to keep us and our chickens in lettuce throughout the summer.  I also want to plant an herb garden.

At the end of April I bought blueberry bushes and a pot of raspberry starts which I was able to divide into three separate plants.  I'm not sure I'm happy with where I've put them so I'll probably be moving them.  I planted the two blueberry bushes on each side of the step leading up to the deck.  They are happy with their new location and so am I.  They are already producing berries.

Blueberry bush

Our fruit trees have been sprayed with organic pesticide in hopes of keeping them bug free this year.  Our pear tree is loaded with fruit.  Our apple tree, which was not healthy, received a big pruning a couple years ago in an attempt to save it.  It looks really good this year and we have apples on it now.  If we can keep the pests and squirrels at bay we may just get some fruit this year.


There is still work to be done, but the three of us girls are certainly up for it.  And the excitement of seeing food growing just adds to our momentum.  There is a great sense of satisfaction in a little sustainability.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

I used the $5 Albertson's coupon my co-worker had given me the week before and funds from June's grocery budget to stock up on breakfast cereal and granola bars that were on sale for 10/$10.  The cereal will come in very handy over the busy summer.  I also bought strawberries for our Mother's Day dessert, cheese on sale and with a coupon for 99¢, cereal bars for 78¢ a box with a coupon, and ice cream for $1.49 each also with a coupon.  I also redeemed a Monopoly instant winner ticket for a free bag of caramels.  Nice!

I made four pints of vanilla yogurt.  I also made a half recipe of a Hot Milk Cake for strawberry shortcake on Sunday.  It was heavenly.  I made two small loaves of whole wheat bread.

The girls had me take them to Fred Meyer Sunday afternoon so I could pick out flowers and they bought them for my Mother's Day gift.  I got some pinks, carnations and begonias.  I picked out the pinks and had them pick out the rest.  I love what they decided to get.  While there I also bought two Hostas that were on sale for $3.99.

I hung two loads of laundry outside on the line to dry.  Sheets smell so good hung out to dry. 

On Monday I filled up my gas tank and used my rewards points at the Fred Meyer gas station to save an extra 10¢ a gallon.  Unfortunately they are no longer doing the surveys and bonus points for gas rewards.  Bummer.

After gassing up I stopped next door at Walgreens.  I used two $1 Off on two bottles of laundry detergent which just happened to be on sale there for 2/$3.  I now have a years worth of laundry soap for $4.  Not bad!

After Walgreens I went next door to Fred Meyer I bought three pounds of butter on sale for $5 bringing the total packages in my freezer right now to nine.  I think I'm well stocked with butter for the time being.

I also used three coupons to buy more cereal for my stockpile.  It was on sale for $1.59.  After coupons I got two boxes of multi grain Cheerios for 84¢ each, a box of cocoa puffs for $1.09 and a box of Trix for $1.09.  We are very well stocked on breakfast items.

I did my first official bit of Christmas shopping.  I had two 50¢ coupons for deodorant and it was on sale this week at Fred Meyer for 89¢.  Unfortunately they didn't have the deodorant in stock and because they are in the midst of a big remodel they didn't think they would get it.  The manager gave me the sale price on the larger size and after using my coupons  I was able to get two for just 39¢ each!  I will keep them for the girl's stockings.

I polished my work shoes.  Then I discovered I had a hole in the sole of one shoe and large cracks forming in the soles of both.  All of a sudden!  I checked the JC Penney website and printed off a 20% OFF coupon.  I took it in to see what they had on sale for replacements.  I ended up buying a new pair of black leather Clarks on sale for $59.99, regularly $85.00.  The coupon gave me an additional 20% off which ended up being another $12.00 savings.  While I wasn’t thrilled about the unexpected expenditure this month I was very grateful for the coupon and the sale.

I used brown shoe polish to touch up a small defect on the edge of our dining table.  Looks great and took less than 30 seconds.  Not sure why it took me over six months to get it done, however.

The girls and I put my new sewing table together and set it in place.  Once I have the sewing area put back together I'll be posting new pictures.  Right now it is kind of a mess and I haven't had a lot of time to work on it.

We had a lot of rain last week so I didn't have to water the lawn or garden.  I only hand watered the flower pots on the front porch.

That should hold us for awhile.

I fed our kitchen scraps to the chickens.  I composted coffee grounds, tea bags, onion skins, egg shells and a lettuce core.

I washed out two large Ziploc bags to reuse.  I saved a lid from a peanut butter jar to reuse with my canning jars.  They fit nicely and are great for jam and yogurt after I open it up.

I sliced up leftover strawberries, laid them out on a baking sheet and froze them.  I then put them in a freezer bag to use later.

I bought three skeins of yarn on sale at JoAnn Fabrics for $2.79 each.  While I was there I did some pricing of fabrics to make my oldest some uniform pants for school next fall.  She has also requested a skirt or two. 

I worked a little bit on the new baby afghan I started for my Etsy store.  I'm trying to squeeze that in whenever I can.

How thrifty was your week?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Planning For School This Fall

I know this sounds crazy, but every year as the school winds down for the summer (they will be done in just over two weeks) I kick it in gear planning for it to start up again.   My preparation begins on the last day of school and I keep on chugging until I make it to their first day.

In fact, I found myself asking my girls to ask their band and orchestra teachers which books they will need for next year so I can order them during the summer.  I also want to sew them a new outfit to wear to their concerts complete with tights and shoes.  They have been sharing their current one for the past three years.  They seem to run neck in neck size wise, one is just shorter.  Amazing huh?

These are fantastic.

There will be the need for clothes, shoes and undergarments.  Coats and jackets plus mittens and hats.  Backpacks and lunch boxes with drink bottles, food containers and ice packs.  School supplies and items for band and orchestra.  Not to mention there will be fees and school pictures.


Just a little bit.

So I eat this elephant one bite at a time.  I make plans and of course there is a big list.  Or three.

I print off the standard school supply list from the school district website.  I also print off the calendar for the next school year so I know when all of the holidays, teacher conferences, early release days, and vacations are scheduled.

On the last day of school we go through all of their leftover supplies and collect those that can be used next year.  I fill in with anything left in the school supply box I keep upstairs in our linen closet.  Items we still need to buy go on the list and I get them when I find them at rock bottom prices.

I find Target usually has the best prices on schools supplies making it worth the crowds and chaos.  ShopKo's loss leaders are pretty good too.  But I'll keep my eyes open everywhere.  Last year, to my surprise, I found notebook paper the cheapest at the grocery store.

I run their backpacks through the wash, hang to dry and do any mending they might need.  If they are completely worn out and need to be replaced I'll add it to the list.  Such was the case for my oldest last year.

Thanks to Grandma the girls were given new lunch boxes two years ago.  They are really nice ones and still in great condition.  I'll run those through the wash with the backpacks.  Their drink bottles and food containers will get a good scrubbing and then soaked in bleach water.  Once dry I put them all in a Ziploc bag and store them until fall.  If I need new bottles or containers I'll add it to the list.

Within the first few weeks of summer we go through all of their clothing and shoes to determine what to keep and what to donate.  Anything that is worn out or full of holes gets repurposed or tossed.  I'll update the list for clothing after that.  Coats and jackets get washed as well.  In the past the oldest has had plenty to pass down to her sister.  However, as they are now pretty close in size it is not too likely there will be much of that this year.

Between sales and thrift stores we usually manage to get what we need for the girl's wardrobes by fall.  We spend the summer working on it so we can avoid the back-to-school masses.  This year we will need to be plenty resourceful too in order to get them ready and spend as little as possible.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

KIS - Bedding & Linens

Once upon a time I used to have a jam packed linen closet that was so full I used the top shelf of my daughter's bedroom closet to store the rest of our pillows, blankets and what have you.  Ridiculous, if you ask me.  No one in their right mind needed that much bedding.  Certainly not for a family of three.

You might say I've radically gone the other way now.  Before we moved I sold nearly everything in a yard sale and what didn't sell, amazingly that was very little, was hauled off to the animal rescue thrift store.  I haven't regretted it at all.

See the lump?  Every time I change my sheets my daughter's
cat crawls inside my bed, stretches out and takes a nice long nap.
Only time she does it.  She just loves clean sheets.

Living small in our RV for a little over a year taught me well what I can live with and live without.  Best downsizing experience ever!

When it comes to bedding we all pretty much have the same thing:

A comforter.  I have matching pillow shams.
A blanket
A good quality quilted mattress cover
A set of coordinating sheets
2 pillows.  I also have the ones inside the shams.
An afghan
A throw
2 decorative pillows

On laundry day we strip our beds, wash our sheets and put them right back on the bed.  I also have a spare set of bedding for company or emergencies, like the night my cat got sick on my bed.  If we have company I use the pillows in my shams for our guests or the girls use one of their two.

Our linen closet stores very little linen now.

In the two bathrooms I keep it pretty simple as well:

8 bath towels
8 wash clothes (split between both rooms)
8 hand towels (split between both rooms
A bath mat

I keep it pretty simple in the kitchen too:

6 dish towels
3 hanging dish towels (for drying washed hands and as d├ęcor - usable art)
6 dish cloths
2 sets of potholders
8 place mats
16 cloth napkins
2 table cloths
Small assortment of cleaning rags

For a family of three it is plenty and we don't miss all those extras.  I certainly don't miss trying to wash, keep up and organize all that stuff we used to have.  Digging through the mountain to try and find what you need is no fun, especially when it all comes crashing down on you.

My sweet enamelware bowl filled with cleaning rags.

The nicest part about deciding to keep it simple is that I can afford to spend a little extra and buy better quality.  And get what I want instead of making due with something cheaper.  I love, love, love my Egyptian cotton sheets.

How about you?  Too much or just the right amount?
We love our cloth napkins.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Healthier Oatmeal Cookies

Okay folks, here's another revamped cookie recipe and I have to say it is my favorite one to date.  These definitely don't taste like anything is missing.  But they have half the sugar, sodium and fat of the original recipe.  Chopping the raisins and cranberries helps to distribute them through the dough so they seem sweeter than they actually are.

Healthier Oatmeal Cookies

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. molasses
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
1/4 cup cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups quick cooking oatmeal

Cream together butter and shortening.  Add sugar and molasses and combine well.  Add egg, vanilla, water, soda and salt.  Stir until thoroughly blended.  Add chopped raisins and cranberries, stir.  Add flours and stir well, then add oatmeal and work until it forms a stiff dough.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsful onto lightly oiled baking sheet.    Bake at 350° about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

If you love oatmeal cookies, especially soft and chewy ones, I totally recommend these.