Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Uber Thrifty Month In Review - June

Despite my reservations heading into this month we managed to fare rather well.  It took a little jostling and creativity but we did it and for that I am truly grateful.

Thankfully we had our lowest power bill to date.  I was able to pay on all of our utilities before they were due.  I paid the mortgage two weeks early and I am seeing results in the interest I'm saving by doing this each month.  I only bought one tank of gas and used it sparingly.

I added funds to my financial goals and to my savings account.  I also made two payments on my no interest PayPal account.  My bed is officially paid for and now I just have the new sewing table and dresser to work on.

Both girls got started at the orthodontist this month and I was able to pay for this first visit in cash.  We just tightened up our belts a bit to make that happen.  Next month will be a bit different as the oldest will be getting her braces put on and that visit will be the most expensive one.  I'll probably take money from savings to handle that payment.  After that it will be a flat amount every month until we are done.  Fortunately our dentist provides in house financing and does not charge interest.  Because both girls are going to be doing this at the same time he has also been very generous with the discounts.

In the last two months I've really focused on filling our pantry and freezer with plenty of basics to keep us going through the summer and well into winter.  I've also been stocking up on household and toiletry items as I find them on sale for really good prices.  I've been able to do this each month while staying within our budget.  Now that I have this new orthodontic expense every month I'm trying to prepare for the leaner months ahead, especially this winter when electric bills are highest.

As you already know I was extremely blessed and fortunate to come across a clearance sale at JC Penney which allowed me to get all of the girl's school clothes purchased for just $88.10.  I used my JC Penney credit card and will pay it off in July.  This month I paid it off in full for my work shoes I bought on sale and with a coupon in May.  Paying it off in full saves me from being charged any interest so I make sure before I use that card that I already have the funds to do exactly that.  If for some reason I can't incorporate that payment into my regular monthly budget I can pull it from savings.  The goal, however, is not to ever need to do that.

I started preparing for Christmas gift giving.  (Can you believe we have less than 6 months until Christmas?!)  My goal is to make or purchase at least two gifts each month during the summer as well as to acquire stocking stuffer items as I find them on sale.  I was able to do this in June and have a plan for what I'm doing in July as well. Fortunately I already have my Christmas budget funds set aside.

Now to make July an uber thrifty month as well and to meet all of my financial goals.  The idea is to be debt free (except my mortgage) in 2016 and to have an emergency fun as well as savings set aside for big expenses and retirement funding.  It's been tough but so far, so good.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

I made a bottle of maple pancake syrup and a pint of chocolate ice cream syrup.

I sold a scarf and ear warmer set to one of my blog readers.  Thank you very much!

The only grocery shopping I did was to pick up two gallons of milk at $1.99 each.

I picked my first blueberry.  It was delicious!

I went through my pantry and pulled some stuff to make a big bowl of trail mix for us to snack on last week.  Peanuts, multi grain Cheerios, Craisins, raisins and M&Ms.

Since appetites are a little off with the summer heat I made a nice veggie platter and kept it in the refrigerator for snacking along with a variety of salad dressings for dipping.  We also kept our Brita water pitcher full and drank a lot of ice water.

Since I don't have a Costco card I ordered our Kirkland brand vitamins online through Amazon.  They shipped for free in two days and I got the discounted price for being a Prime member.  I think that made them less than at the store.

I stopped at Walgreens and picked up three packs of sugarless gum on sale for 69¢ each.  I used a $1.00 OFF coupon making my final price 1.07 plus tax.  I kept one pack for myself and put the other two in my stocking stuffer stash.

Also at Walgreens I bought four sleeveless undershirts on sale for $2.oo each.  I plan to pair them with some sleep shorts for the girls to have as summer pajamas.

I printed off six online grocery coupons from Coupons.com.

I took the girls to the dollar movie Tuesday night.  We saw Mall Cop 2.  They thought it was pretty funny.

I set up the toaster oven from our old RV in the garage so we can bake things without heating up the house.

I composted coffee grounds, tea bags, the core from a head of cauliflower, egg shells and onion skins.

We took advantage of the cooler nights and mornings and opened up the doors and windows.  I also did my watering at this time as well.

I renewed a couple listings on Craiglist for items I have up for sale.

I splurged and bought four used, but in very good condition, DVD sets of Burn Notice, our favorite TV show ever!  Seasons 1 through 4.  I found them on eBay for $20.50 and free shipping.  While little missy is still recuperating I thought we'd have a marathon over 4th of July weekend.

I watched a few TV shows online for free.

How thrifty were you last week?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Monthly Meal Planner - July

We brainstormed this month's meal plan as a family and came up with a good list of favorites.  The girls included a lot of their favorites and I got a few of mine too.  As usual I've added in a lot of fresh salads as side dishes.

This is what made the list for the month:

Sopa Seca, Lettuce Wedges
Corn Dogs, French Fries, Veggies & Dip
Pork Fried Rice, Cabbage Salad
Meat Loaf, Baked Potatoes, Sour Cream, Green Beans
Beef Tacos, Lettuce, Cheese, Salsa
Mac & Cheese, Peas & Carrots
Chicken Caesar Salad
Chili Dogs, Veggies & Dip
French Dip Sandwiches, Au Jus, Garden Salad
Beef Stroganoff, Egg Noodles, Steamed Broccoli
Pork Verde, Steamed Rice, Garden Salad
Denver Omelet, Toast, Fruit
Chicken Caccitore, Pasta, Spinach Salad
Cheese Quesadillas, Sour Cream & Salsa, Garden Salad
Grilled Tuna Sandwiches, Tomato Basil Soup
Pesto Pizza, Caesar Salad
Minestrone Soup, Garlic Bread, Garden Salad
Lemon Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Steamed Vegetables
Grilled Burgers, Lettuce, Tomato, Potato Chips
Eggs Benedict, Fresh Fruit Salad
Pasta Salad & Grilled Chicken
Steak Fajitas, Cheese, Sour Cream, Pica de Gallo
Sweet & Sour Pork, Steamed Rice, Garden Salad
Baked Ravioli, Caesar Salad
Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Cole Slaw
Fettucine Alfredo, Spinach Salad
Mongolian Chicken, Steamed Rice, Garden Salad
French Toast, Bacon, Fruit
Nachos, Tomatoes, Onions, Sliced Olives, Salsa
Creamy Broccoli & Chicken, Steamed Rice, Garden Salad

Yum!  I think we came up with a pretty good plan.  Do you make a meal plan?  What's cooking at your house this month?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Healthier Fudge Brownies

I fiddled with my favorite brownie recipe in an attempt to make it a little healthier and I think I hit on an acceptable version.  Trying to reduce both the fat and sugar and improve the nutrition while maintaining flavor and texture can be tricky, but I think this one turned out pretty good.

Healthier Fudge Brownies

5 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbs. instant coffee granules (optional)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flower
1/3 cup all purpose flower
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl whisk together cocoa powder, instant coffee, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt to combine well and break down any lumps in the cocoa powder.  Make a well in the center.  Add eggs and oil.  Stir with a wooden spoon until blended.  Batter will be quite thick.  Spread into a lightly oiled 8" square baking pan.  Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 18 to 23 minutes.  Cool and cut into 12 squares.

I tried one with a scoop of light vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup and it was fantastic.  They are pretty good plain too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Grocery Budget Update - June

This month I squeaked in under budget with 26¢ to spare.  I began the month with a $42.22 deficit.  Now I have a deficit to carryover of $41.96.  I'll just continue chipping away at it.

Our nonfood items came in a at $23.74.  I stocked up on bath soap, dish soap, more T. P. because it was a killer deal, and tissues.  I also bought canned cat food, litter, and some toiletries.

Here is the list of all the food items I bought last month.  The items in red are my stock up items:



Eggs - 1 doz. (4)
Store Coupon
Bacon - 1 lb. (4)
Store Coupon
Cereal (5)


Granola bars (3)

Cereal bars (2)

Juice (3)

Store Coupon
Ice Cream (2)
Store Coupon
Mozzarella cheese
Cash & Carry
Bell peppers (6)
Cash & Carry
Hot dogs (2)
Store Coupon
Buns (2)


Milk - gal


Mayonnaise (3)
Salad dressing (2)

Tortilla chips (3)

Sour cream
Popsicles (3)


Ground beef - 3#

Ground turkey - 6#

Cream cheese - 3#














Avocados - 2

Cole slaw mix - 2

Whipped topping - 2
Store Coupon
Ice cream cones

Dill pickles


Milk - gal


Chocolate chips

Sour cream

Ground beef - 3#

Sliced almonds

Ice cream - gal


Garlic bulbs (2)


 $ 124.74

$124.74 ÷ 30 days ÷3 people = $1.39 per person per day!

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 5/20/15 through 6/20/15.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

Ever have one of those off weeks?  Well last week was mine.  I just couldn’t quite get things in sync and to top it off I ended up breaking a dinner plate, my vintage coffee pot and a canning jar.  Definitely not thrifty moves!  In spite of everything I trudged on.

And then the youngest decided, in keeping with the spirit of breaking stuff, to break her foot of all things.  She simply stepped wrong and that was that.  My poor baby.  Fortunately it is a simple fracture and six weeks in a boot with crutches and she'll be good as new.

Nonetheless, I did manage some thrifty moves last week…

We went to the mall Sunday evening and picked up the girl's school clothes I had ordered online.  When we got home they gave me a little fashion show.  They had so much fun.

I made four pints of vanilla yogurt.

I filled the gas tank on my truck and saved 10¢ a gallon using my Fred Meyer rewards card.

I did a big bulk shopping haul at Cash & Carry which used up a large chunk of our budget for the month of July.  I have just enough left to keep us in produce and dairy throughout next month.  I bought some produce, soy sauce, asian seasoning sauce, sweet chili sauce, vinegar and a 10# chub of ground beef on sale for $2.59 a pound.  I forgot the olive oil.  Dang it, next time.

The three of us made four dozen meatballs and a couple of meat loaves for the freezer.  We froze the rest of the beef in smaller packages for future meals.  I won't need to buy ground beef for a long time.

The girls and I canned 11 half pints of strawberry jam with berries I bought for $1.12 a pound at Cash & Carry.  I made homemade labels on the computer for the jars.  I also made a bottle of strawberry pancake syrup.

During a trip to the dollar store we found ice cream cones, graham cracker pie crusts, cookies and ketchup so I stocked up.  I used a 50¢ OFF coupon on the two bottles of ketchup.  I love that Dollar Tree accepts coupons.

Albertsons had 4# bags of sugar on sale for $1.88 each so I bought four.  I also spotted 200 count bags of cotton balls for 25¢ each!  I bought three.

A family friend graduated college and was packing up to move home.  She sent home two bags of hand me downs for the girls.  Darling summer tops, sweaters and skirts for them to wear.  Several items they can wear right now and a few they'll need to grow into.  The girls were very happy to get them and, of course, we had another fashion show.

Another very thoughtful friend treated us to very nice dinner at a nearby restaurant.  We thoroughly enjoyed our night out.  It had been awhile since we'd been out to dinner.

I took the girls to the orthodontist.  The oldest got her spacers put in and will get her braces on in two weeks.  The youngest will get started in October.  Her case is more complex and will involve expanders and a lot of finagling.  I'm bracing myself.  Two at the same time.  Yikes!

I saved my banking until their dental appointment so I could make my deposit on the way home saving me an extra trip and some gas.

I composted coffee grounds, onion skins and egg shells.  I gave the chickens our kitchen scraps.  They especially enjoyed the trimmings from the strawberries.  I also picked dandelion greens for them.

I watched a few cooking shows on YouTube for free.  I also watched a couple episodes of 48 Hours Mysteries on YouTube that I had never seen before.  My youngest watched some videos on YouTube to learn how to make new patterns on her jewelry loom.

I used a 60%OFF coupon at JoAnn Fabrics to purchase a Wilton 9" square baking pan with a lid.  My final price was $3.49.  I used a gift card to pay for it so no money out of pocket and I've finally replaced the one I broke last winter.

I used a couple more coupons to buy Christmas stocking stuffers for my girls.  They love pens and since they were on sale I was able to get them each a set of colored gel pens for just $3.00.

I bought myself two tubes of Chapstick and used a coupon to save me 50¢.

We installed the A/C units in our upstairs bedroom windows.  It is expected to get over a hundred by the end of the week here.

I received a nice packet of coupons in the mail from Fred Meyer.  Everyone of them is for stuff I usually buy.  Love that!

How thrifty were you last week?

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