Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grocery Wrap Up – July

I stayed right on budget this month!  I was extra careful this month not to go over like I did last month.  A lot of what I bought this month was stock-up items. 

I did the majority of my shopping at the very beginning of the month.  I went back to the store once for additional produce for salads.  Our non-food budget spent this month was $7.75, mostly for tissues, food storage bags (double coupons) and some bath soap. 

Here is the final tally of everything I purchased this month: 

Chuck Steak (5)
Pasta (9)
Cheddar 2#
Store Coupon
Cereal (5)
Wieners (4)
Store Coupon
Milk - 1/2 gal (10)
Store Coupon
Mozzarella Cheese - 2#
Store Coupon
Pork Chops - 10.25#
Chicken Breasts 6#
Store Coupon
Soda - 12pk (4)
Store Coupon
Crackers (2)
Salad dressing
Turkey bologna (2)
Sausage links
Bell pepper (2)
Ramen (6)
Elbows (3)
Baking cocoa
Canola oil
Pectin (2)
Chipotle peppers
Gelatin (8)
Store Coupon
Coleslaw mix
Double Coupon
 $ 124.89

The items in blue are my stock-up items.  I am really looking forward to garden fresh produce.  Not only will it taste wonderful but it will free up cash to spend on other items to stock the freezer and pantry. 

How did you do this month?

You might enjoy revisiting Our Grocery Budget.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Party’s Over

Today I start my new job.  After several weeks of searching I found a part-time position with an ophthalmology practice.  The job market right now is incredibly soft so I feel very fortunate to have found a job in my chosen field and that it is only five miles from my home. 

The hours are exactly what I asked for.  I can see my girls off to school in the morning and have time to get things done around the house before I go in.  I will get home not too long after they get home from school on the bus. 

It takes me less than twenty minutes to get there and will require much less gas in my car than it did before.  No more two hour commutes, thank goodness.

Despite the fact I am a part-time employee I will still be eligible for benefits after 90 days and earn vacation pay as well.  Having benefits is important to me and I am thankful I’ll have them again. 

On the other hand, I’m really sad to leave my girls.  My oldest is having a hard time with it, complete with tears when I told them I was going back to work.  The youngest seems to be fine, taking it all in stride.  They really enjoyed Mom being home with them and I really enjoyed it too.  We have been having an incredible summer! 

As the one and only bread winner in the family I have to work outside the home.  Fortunately our thrifty lifestyle has made it so I don’t have to work full-time right now.  A high paying job with lots of hours is not required. 

The biggest lesson I have learned in recent months is that my job is not my life.  It is my job.  It finances my life. My life is at home, with my family.   

I don’t need a big fancy house, a fancy car, fancy electronics or big fabulous vacations.  I’ve pretty much always known that so I have never really pursued that kind of stuff.  I am quite content with my cozy little house and my lifestyle of simplicity. 

I am grateful for this new opportunity and hopeful for what this will bring to our future.  I am also grateful that the biggest concern I have right now is a broken knob on my oven.  No big deal! 

So….Hi ho, hi ho…..it’s off to work I go......

You might enjoy revisiting Keeping Your Resume Fresh.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Vacation – Week 8

Monday – much, much cooler today.  We spent most of the morning outdoors enjoying our yard and garden.  The chicks too, of course!  The girls and I had lunch on the deck and they ran through the sprinklers afterward.  I sewed again and before we knew it, it was time for dinner.  I baked two loaves of bread, trying a new recipe, after supper and it was delicious.  We had bread and butter for dessert. J  Not a bad day. 

Tuesday – another beautiful day today.  I spent the morning with the girls and our chicks.  It amazes me how a chicken will snuggle and how they seem to know which one of us they belong too.  The girls and I took a nice bike ride and went to the park and ate lunch.  It was nice to be back on our bikes again.  The heat has been keeping us off of them lately.  We went to a friend’s for a visit and them home to sew skirts for school.  Cute corduroy skirts with the fat cord.  They love them.  Another great day! 

Wednesday – the chicks spent their first night in the coop.  Up until now we have been bringing them in at night.  They seemed to do just fine.  I’m not sure why I was worried.  We spent the day getting caught up on household chores, yard chores and laundry.  I discovered the celery and an onion had frozen in the refrigerator.  I salvaged most of it and put some turkey wings on with celery, onion and carrot in the slow cooker for broth.  Sure did make the house smell good.  I still have enough veggies and a big old turkey leg in the freezer to do one more batch. 

Thursday – we got up early, packed a picnic and spent the day with my parents antiquing.  It was a lot of fun.  We stopped at a park and ate lunch under a huge shade tree and because it was hot out no one else was at the park.  Under that big tree we were perfectly comfortable.  We finished off the day with a trip to Costco.  I haven’t been inside a Costco in years.  I kind of miss it, sort of.  I picked up flour, sugar, baking cocoa, chocolate chips and onions as part of my stock up for winter purchases (started August grocery shopping a few days early).  100° today and my allergies are running amuck. 

Friday – our day started out with watering the yard and garden, bottling our latest batch of homebrew, finding homes for all the stock-up items I purchased yesterday, and washing my latest treasures found at the antique stores we visited yesterday.  I refilled all my canisters with flour and sugar, refilled my bottle of cooking oil (50/50 canola & olive oil) and reorganized my spice cabinet and pantry.  We got a batch of turkey broth started in the slow cooker and then we were ready to get to the fun stuff. 

First it was a “Field Trip” to the Boise Depot and Platt Garden then to the State Capitol building where we were allowed full access to the House and Senate Chambers.  It was so nice to see it after its interior refurbishing, that seemed to take forever.  She sure is a beauty now.  We took lots of pictures.  After a quick snack we headed to a thrift store and the antique store we didn’t have time to go to yesterday.  We decided after that we have had enough antiquing for awhile.  On the way home we stopped at the carwash to wash and vacuum the interior of the car.  It was nice to have the girl’s help with this. 

We came home and were greeted with the aroma of turkey broth simmering in the slow cooker and a nice cool house to relax in.  Another 100° day today!  I’m not complaining.  I love summer!

Friday, July 27, 2012


When it comes to freebies I am hit and miss with them.  Freebies are usually samples given out by manufacturers to entice people to try their new products or products they already distribute that seem to have declined in their appeal.  Freebies are fun to get in the mail, I have to admit, and a great way to try something out before you plunk down the change to purchase something you might not like.

Freebies come in a wide range of items.  Usually food, toiletries and pet foods are the ones I aim for.  Just the other day I got two coupons for a free can of cat food just for liking them on Facebook.  I have a sample of Honey Nut Cheerios coming and I forget what else.  So far I have received laundry soap, toothpaste, antacid, pantiliners and pads, shampoo and conditioner.  Most of the time the manufacturer encloses a nice coupon too for a future purchase. 

Another freebie I like is the free item at a restaurant.  Quite often restaurants will offer a free beverage, appetizer or kids meal.  I take advantage of those regularly.  It really helps defray the overall cost of dining out.  I signed up with Chili’s to be a member of their club.  They will let me know of their specials and send me promotional coupons via email.  Now I have a coupon for a free appetizer.  I also have the tail end of a gift card with a few dollars left on it to use up.  The girls and I will go and order two appetizers, one being free, and use the gift card to defray the expense of our other one.  We always drink water at restaurants so it will be a very thrifty lunch one day. 

Note:  I always tip the server based on what the bill would have normally cost before any discounts.  A little more if their service was exceptional. 

Usually getting a freebie can be as simple as giving them your name and address and they send it to you.  Sometimes it can be a pain in the keester.  They might ask you to sign up and “become a member” or you might be asked to take a survey and then get inundated with additional offers, I usually pass on these .  It all depends on how much time you have to waste, and it can be a time waster, or how badly you want that particular freebie. 

I did join We Heart Freebies to alert me of coupons and freebies that are available and that seems to work well for me.  I also follow The Peaceful Mom blog and she lists them as well.  I occasionally get freebies from there. 

I don’t really look at freebies as something I can live off of by any means but something fun to do occasionally and get a treat in the mail.  The restaurant coupons are great because we can eat out more often than we normally would because it makes it that much more affordable.  That being said I still don’t think we should go out to eat too often because I personally don’t think it is good for us.  There is too much fat and sodium, plus the high calories too.  Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. 

Do you sign up for freebies?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas – Jam Sets

As you are preparing to start your canning adventures this summer you can also begin crafting some Christmas gifts.  I like to make jams, jellies and fruit butters and I know my less than crafty friends and relatives love to receive a jar of homemade preserves. 

One thing I like to do at Christmas is put a set of half-pint jars of preserves together for gift giving.  I usually will make a berry jam, a jelly or two and an apple or pear butter each summer. 

Collect some fabric scraps and a saucer.  With the saucer, trace a circle onto a sheet of copy paper or scrap paper and cut it out with scissors.  This is your pattern.  I like to cut out my fabric circles with pinking shears.

Remove the ring from the jelly and center the fabric circle over the jar, then replace the ring.  Make sure and use a shiny new looking ring with no rust on it.  At your computer you can make a cute label in Word to tape on or to print ready-made labels, which is what I do.  If you are artsy you can make them by hand too.  Place the label neatly to the jar and you are done.  At this point you can also add ribbon, raffia or whatever else you would like to further embellish the jars. 

I put these jars right into my gift bin so I know where they are when Christmas rolls around.  When I get ready to give them it is fun to nestle them in a basket or box with shredded paper or straw.  I also like to add a fresh loaf of homemade bread, muffins or cornbread. 

I usually plan to purchase a new box of half pint jars every year or two for this particular purpose.  I keep my eyes out for jars at yard sales and thrift stores and grab them if I can get them cheap enough.  Sometimes they are priced to high and I pass on them because I still have to add a lid and a ring.  New jars come with them so I need to factor that in when I buy used jars. 

Recently I have noticed canning jars going for 75¢ to $1 each at thrift stores!  If they are vintage and unique I might get them but for standard jars – no way.

Along with Christmas remember birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and housewarmings are also excellent occasions to put this type of gift together.  I like to give a single decorated jar and a loaf of bread as a hostess gift too. 

So when you are making jam and jelly this summer, make some extra and get working on that Christmas list. J 

You might enjoy revisiting Easy Apple Butter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas Count Down – Only 5 Months Until Christmas!

Can you believe it?  Five months from today is Christmas.  The countdown begins.  Are you ready to get started? 

·         Establish your budget.

·         Begin or finalize your gift list.  Start shopping for bargains.

·         Update your Christmas card list.

·         Start a rough draft of your family letter.  If you plan on enclosing a photo go through your latest vacation photos or get out the camera and set the timer for a family photo in the yard or at the park. 

It really isn’t too early to get started.  Start formulating your plans now to reduce the stress that often accompanies a wonderful time of year. 

You might enjoy revisiting Christmas Cards and Christmas Gifts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going Without vs. Making Do – Broken Oven

Apparently I have cleaned my stove to death.  J 

A week ago Saturday I went to wipe a smudge off the clock on my stove and the oven knob fell off.  The plastic piece that holds the knob onto the control panel had snapped in half.  I don’t even really remember touching it.  Anyway, I got online to see about ordering a replacement and found one right away.  Problem! 

It looked exactly like the item I held in my hot little hand only it didn’t include the plastic shaft that holds it onto the stove.  ???? 

Upon further research I discovered that that particular piece is integrated into the motherboard of the control panel and the only way to fix it is to replace the motherboard.  “What the….?  You have got to be kidding me!”  No joke. 

The new motherboard has the shaft in metal now instead of the original plastic one – smart thinking!  And a $125.00 price tag to boot.  Without it I can’t turn on the oven.  Now the dilemma: 

·         Repair the stove or replace the stove?

·         It is 12 years old and I have certainly used it – a lot!  If this part goes, what’s next?

·         Will it start to nickel and dime me from here on out?

·         Doesn’t it make more sense to put that money toward a new stove?

·         New stoves are expensive so I would have to settle for an affordable model as opposed to getting the stove of my dreams (dual ovens) in the future when I can better afford too.

·         I still haven’t replaced the TV – but I guess eating is more important than watching the tube.

·         I can’t bake bread! – well, yes I can, my bread machine bakes – duh.

·         I can’t sell the old one or even donate it to someone in its present state.

·         I can’t buy a new stove for $125.00

·         I like my stove, actually.  Even though it is hard to keep clean because I have rubbed all the finish off over the years from cleaning it.

·         I don’t like sending big things to the landfill.  I really don’t like it.

·         I can afford to fix the stove in a couple of weeks.  I would have to put a new one on credit.  Even with 12 months same as cash it is still a monthly bill I don’t need right now. 

I have mulled this one over and over for several days, weighed the pros and cons and decided I will most likely fix the old one.  At least then when I get ready to replace it I can list it on Craigslist and recoup some of my investment.  So in the meantime, we will make do. 

I have a toaster oven, a microwave, a slow cooker, a grill and dutch ovens.  My mother lent me her larger toaster oven so I can bake bread.  I don’t like the hole the paddle leaves in the loaf if I bake it in the bread machine and I don’t think it stays as fresh as long, for whatever reason. 

The upside is I can bake bread outside on the deck without heating up my kitchen.  We just learned, a couple of weeks ago, how to do pizza on the grill so we are covered there.  I now have an excuse to explore slow cooker baking and no excuses for putting it off any longer. 

I also have time now to sell some things on eBay and Etsy to add to my PayPal account so I can pay for my part without it affecting my regular budget. 

Any thoughts here?

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Weekend Project – Child’s Rocking Chair

On Saturday the girls and I decided to go “treasure hunting” so we headed out to a few thrift stores.  We were in search of items for fun projects to do this week and we found a big one to start working on right away.


This hardwood vintage rocking chair caught my eye and the $4.75 price tag was definitely within my budget.  I walked around the store and mulled it over and after finding nothing else to tempt me I decided to go for it.

After some serious sanding

As soon as we got home my oldest daughter and I got to work with the sander and took her right down to bare wood.  We had to re-glue a couple of loose spindles.  Then we mixed up some leftover white paint with water and painted nice thin layers of paint on it until we were satisfied with the finish. 

We let it dry overnight and Sunday morning we went through the fabric and trim in my sewing room settling on dark blue denim and polka dot ruffled trim.  I made a pattern to mimic the shape of the seat and made a padded seat cushion.  I cut a piece of the trim to make a covered button to sew in the middle and added ties to hold it in place.


It turned out so cute!  We love the finished product and we are pretty proud of ourselves.  Now we are anxious to look for another piece that needs some love and a chance at a new life.  What fun to find and rehab a viable piece of furniture and because we had everything we needed to fix it up we didn’t have to expend any more cash to do so.  Final price - $4.75!
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