Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Super Easy & Thrifty Hamburger Mushroom Gravy


This recipe is a mainstay in our meal planning repertoire and has been for so very long.  I have posted this recipe before and I'm sure you've seen it appear on many of my meal plans.  My children absolutely love this dish.  If you would like to make it yourself click here.


Cost:  Rice 25¢ + mushroom soup 89¢  (I found some for 49¢ each on markdown) + milk 20¢ + sour cream 25¢ + onion 15¢ + 1/2 pound ground beef $1.50 = $3.24.  For just over $3 (even less if you find good sales or markdowns) I made six servings.  

It also very good over pasta or mashed potatoes.  We always had this with canned green beans and we still do, but any vegetable on the side or a salad makes this meal complete.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

June $100 Grocery Budget 2021


This month I challenged myself to very minimal grocery shopping.  At the beginning of June we had a full fridge and pantry along with plenty of items in both the kitchen freezer as well as the chest freezer in our garage.  We had no immediate needs for anything so I was determined to see how long I could go without going to the grocery store.


We had plenty on hand to make our own diner meal

Over the last five months I had managed to squirrel away quite a bit purchasing mainly items I found on sale or marked down.  With loads of meal options it seemed prudent to work off of our current supply rather than to continue to purchase more groceries, even if there were good sales to tempt me.  Fortunately I was able to stave off any of those temptations.


Shopping the fridge & freezer I made this pesto shrimp with asparagus

We made wise use of what we had on hand and ate our leftovers to minimize food waste, which is something we try our best to do at all times.  I always feel quite guilty whenever I toss food in the trash.  Once we had used up our fresh produce we did stop into Fred Meyer to see what they had on markdown and lucked out with baby spinach for 99¢ and salad mix for only 25¢.  A pound of deli turkey, half gallon of milk, a bunch of bananas and a head of iceberg lettuce were purchased mid month at Winco and we kept going for a couple more weeks.


The hens have kept us well supplied with eggs

We still have quite a bit of food in this house so next month I plan to continue with our minimal grocery spending and shopping too.  I'm curious to see just how far we can take this.  It honestly wouldn't surprise me if I end up doing the same thing again in August as well.  I'll keep you posted, but know my grocery posts may be a bit on the boring side if that is the case.


Bean soup from our freezer
I shopped our freezer quite a bit for veggies too

In spite of not purchasing much we enjoyed some delicious and nutritious meals.  I spent a total of $40.95 on food in June and nothing on nonfood items.  I will roll over the remaining amount I did not spend on food this month to use next month, or more likely in August or September.  I put the entire $25 of our non food budget into savings.  Are any of you doing any crazy grocery or meal challenges?  I would love to hear about it.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Last Week's Thrifty Moves


Sorry I missed my Thrifty Moves post last week.  It has been a crazy last few weeks for me and time completely got away from me.  Sunday morning started out cool and sunny.  I opened up the windows and set the box fan at our back door to blow in the cool fresh air.  I was greeted by our Catalpa tree in full bloom.  It's so very pretty.  I began the day with a nice long walk and by the time I got home things were really starting to heat up.


I finally had a week off with no doctor's appointments and no testing and was determined to keep it that way.  Then my regular doctor wanted to see me on Tuesday even though I already have an appointment scheduled with her on the 6th of July so I politely declined.  Another doctor wanted me to do another test and again I pushed that one off too as it wasn't dire.  This girl needed a break, so I took one. 😊


The majority of the past two weeks has been spent going to work, keeping appointments as well as walking and riding my bike as often as possible.  The extreme summer heat we are experiencing right now is wreaking some havoc with my routines as well as any plans for camping trips, but we'll just have to wait it out and see what happens.  Right now I try to do as much as I can early in the mornings.


THINGS WE ATE IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS:  Egg salad sandwiches (keto), roast chicken sandwiches (keto), grilled hot dogs (keto), black bean soup, waffles (keto) & sausages, Italian sausage & peppers, grilled cheese sandwich (keto), sausage & broccoli egg casserole (keto), grilled hamburgers (keto).



Laundry Room & Half Bathroom - Scrubbed sink & toilet, vacuumed & mopped floors, washed rug.  Daily swish & swipe. 

Kitchen & Dining Room - Cleaned microwave, appliances & kitchen cabinets.  Cleaned dining room light fixture, chair rail & baseboards.  Vacuumed & mopped floors.  Daily swish & swipe. 

Bedrooms & Main Bathroom - Scrubbed tub & toilet, vacuumed & dusted.  Daily swish & swipe. 

Other - two large loads of laundry.  Cleaned doors.  Vacuumed & dusted living room, hallway & both entryways.  Swept front porch and garage.


THINGS I DID TO SAVE A SMALL BUNDLE OF $$:  Sunday I downloaded a digital store coupon for a FREE jar of pasta sauce.  So did my daughter so we now have two FREE jars of pasta sauce in our pantry.  On Saturday I downloaded a coupon for FREE pasta as did my daughter.  We now have two packages of pasta to go with the pasta sauce.  Free food.  Yay!


I trimmed my own hair and I think I did a pretty good job too.  I made two batches of foaming hand soap refill solution to top off our dispensers.  I added some water to an "empty" jug of laundry detergent and gave it a good shake which gave me enough soap for one more load of laundry.


THINGS I DID TO EARN EXTRA $$:  I sold more items on eBay as well as from my Etsy store.  Such a blessing! 😁  A friend of mine bought some eggs.  I will put money that toward the next bag of feed.


How was your thrifty week?



Friday, June 25, 2021

Making Things Better #6


You may not find this of much interest as it may seem a bit repetitive.  Mostly I've been working on more decluttering, downsizing and re-organizing.  It's what I can do and to be quite honest it seems to make me very happy.  I guess that in and of itself is making things better. J


I worked on the bottom drawer

I have been working on my craft and sewing supplies and given the fact that I have A LOT of that stuff it will likely take me a fair bit of time to work my way through it all.  I spent about three hours one Saturday morning just going through all of my laces, ribbons and trims.  I put a very full stuff gallon Ziploc bag of items into the donation bag, tossed out some stuff and then re-organized what was left.  I was able to empty two plastic shoe box storage bins and get everything to fit nicely inside my one storage bin with room to spare.


I pulled a bunch of stuff out of my sewing table

Next I worked on the elastics, zippers, snaps & buttons and the other fasteners plus the items I had in my sewing table.  In the process I was able to clear out another bin and get all of those items re-organized into the bottom drawer of my storage tower.  I had some cute rectangular containers that were part of my lunch bag I received on my last birthday.  I wasn't using them for food but was able to repurpose then to hold sewing supplies.  One is now full of all types and sizes of snaps and the other is full of covered button sets and supplies.  I corralled all of the zippers into one quart sized Ziploc bag.


My great grandmother's embroidery basket and her wooden hoop which I use
Some of these flosses are hers as well as the thimble and some of the needles inside

I gathered all of my embroidery supplies together and decluttered several items I haven't use including a few I had since the 1970s (no judgment).  I figured it was about time.  Then I went through the craft supplies in my crafting center once again and was able to eliminate two more bins.  I combined all of my jewelry making supplies into two bins, one shoe box sized bin and one Plano container with compartments, and I decluttered quite a bit in the process.


I put all of my embroidery transfers, extra floss and needles
into a vinyl zipper case that a curtain set came in

I've shredded quite a bit more papers and stayed on top of any items coming into the house as well.  I filled a grocery bag full of cross cut shredding and got that out to the recycle bin along with more cardboard and other recyclable items.  I got out another kitchen sized trash bag to put all of the donation items in and set it in the garage for us to add more items to.  Lastly I took out a small bag of trash and called it good.


Once I was done I gave everything a quick wipe down and vacuumed the carpet

As I said this may not thrill some people, but it sure does me.  For me it is progress and another way for me to make our lives better.  That's what is important.



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Laverne - What Is Making The Cut?


Last week I talked about my current plans for Laverne and for early retirement.  I am ever so excited about it and I have so much to do to prepare and get ready.  Laverne is a 19ft motorhome that I've been restoring since I purchased her in the spring of 2017.  Since then I have been working to restore her interior and exterior as time and finances have allowed. So far we have taken her on only one adventure to test her out and determine what needed to be done and I was very happy with her performance.  The biggest thing that keeps her grounded is that she needs new tires, six of them.  So for safety sake she is not allowed out of the neighborhood.


One of the large storage bays I've refurbished

Inside Laverne has an amazing amount of storage as well as a few smaller storage areas you can access from the outside.  Over the years I have cleaned all of those storage bays up and refurbished them so they are really nice, clean and very usable.  So what do I plan to put inside my motorhome?  That is a really good question!


Lightweight & durable

Food & Kitchenware - I will do a whole other post on this particular subject.  As you might imagine I've got a good list going and a lot of ideas.  You may remember last year I found a vintage set of melmac dishes on eBay.  They were still in their original box.


CDs & DVDs - I plan to spend a fair bit of time in remote areas without wifi or cell service so I will be old schooling it a fair bit.  I don't want any subscription services either so streaming music isn't my bag.  Laverne has a nice stereo in the cockpit so depending on what kind of a day I'm having this hard rocking mama has it covered.  I had put my old laptop in to use as a TV and it has a DVD player so I can watch my favorite movies like Tombstone or My Cousin Vinny.  When I'm in town and have a wifi connection I can watch Youtube or Amazon Prime.  Prime is probably the only thing I will keep and Netflix will likely go.


I got this vintage sewing box to store my supplies in
I already know where it will go inside Laverne

Craft & Sewing Supplies - I have designated a fair bit of my storage space to this because crafting and sewing are going to be a huge part of my retired life along with the travel and outdoor activities.  I've been downsizing, sorting and organizing these things quite a bit so not only will these things fit in Laverne but so they are more manageable too.  I'll do another post on this too.


Quality Shoes & Good Clothing - I have one closet for hanging items and several bins.  Most of the bins will be in the cabover sleeping area next to my bed.  I am still working on my "bedroom" storage areas and I'm sure there will be a post about that as well.


"New" active wear from the thrift store

There is much more that will be added to her and of course I will need to keep weight in mind so I don't overload her.  A common mistake made by a lot of people is to overload their RVs.  Fortunately Laverne is a very rugged all season motorhome with a steel frame and a solid chassis and I know that I don't need a whole lot to be happy so weighing her down isn't a huge concern but I do want to be mindful.  More posts to follow on how I get her road ready and outfitted.  I'm definitely in my happy place!


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Easy & Thrifty Chicken Pasta


Last month I started posting recipes that show how I use super thrifty meals intermittently in our meal plans to help us stretch our extreme grocery budget.  My goal is to serve delicious and nutritious meals my girls want to eat and this simple and budget friendly pasta dish is a pretty good one.


Creamy Pasta & Chicken 

2 packages Knorr Chicken Broccoli Pasta

1 can chicken breast

1 cup milk

3 cups water

1-2 cups vegetables (optional)


I chopped up and mixed in some leftover veggies I had to boost the nutrition

In a large sauce pan combine milk and water, bring to a boil.  Add both packages of pasta, chicken and vegetables.  Stir well, lower heat to medium and bring to a light bubble.  Stir often to prevent pasta from sticking to bottom of pan and cook for 8 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and serve immediately.  Serves 4 to 6.


I purchase these pasta packages on sale and used leftover meat and vegetables to bring the cost down even more.  While we don't eat these often I do like to have them on hand for a quick and easy meal which helps avoid the temptation to either eat junk food or grab something at the drive-thru.  This is a fantastic meal to make while camping or backpacking.  Also a great college student meal that is cheap and easy to prepare.


Cost:  Pasta $1.98 (sale price, I found them for 49¢ each on markdown) + Canned chicken $1 (Dollar Tree) .  I used leftover chicken breast I had in the refrigerator (approximately 50¢) and some leftover roasted veggies I chopped up for extra nutrition.  For less than $2 I made six servings of pasta which was two solid meals for two hungry people.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Revisiting An Old Post - Under The Kitchen Sink


It has been over five years since I revamped the cabinet below our kitchen sink and I cannot tell you enough what a game changer that has been for me.  Not only is it nice and bright so I can see what is in there but it is so much easier to keep clean and tidy.  It feels cleaner under there and I am still just as thrilled now as the day I did it.  Click here to see what I did.



Friday, June 18, 2021



Many people have tried to figure out ways to save on their grocery bill while still providing good solid nutrition and for some families milk is not even an option or is in short supply.  While we don’t drink a lot of milk now, not like when my girls were younger, we still use it for cereal, cooking and baking as well as my daughter still enjoys a glass of milk or cup of hot chocolate from time to time.


I purchased this half gallon of milk on sale at Fred Meyer for 77¢ and
turned it into a gallon of milk.  That's pretty darn cheap!

One thing we do, and have done for years, is to "cut" our milk.  I buy whole milk and I literally dilute it with filtered water.  On part milk to one part water.  My girls have always preferred this to skim, 1% or even 2% and so do I.  It has a much better flavor and texture with half the sugar and calories of whole milk.


The half gallon is ready for the freezer and the quarts into the fridge
If no one told you, I bet you wouldn't know the difference

It stores well too.  I will buy a half gallon, pour off have of that into a couple quart jars to make the diluted milk, then fill up the half gallon with filtered water leaving a couple inches of head space for expansion.  After giving it a good shake it is ready for the freezer.  You can do this with a gallon too.  You literally are doubling your milk and paying half the price per gallon.


It works perfectly for cooking and baking

So if money is tight, or even if it isn't, this is a great solution to affordably provide plenty of milk for your family.  A cup of milk is considered a serving and since most children, especially teenagers, will drink more than one cup at a time I don't think there is any worry of them not getting enough nutrients plus you are also able to get them to drink more water and consume less sugar.  That's a bonus right there.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Our Kitchen


By far the busiest room in the house, and my favorite, is our kitchen.  We have a very small galley style kitchen with counters on each side and pathway that goes straight through.  You can access from either the front entry way or the dining room.  Not too long ago I did an upgrade which was to reconfigure a couple of cabinets which allowed me to get our microwave up off the counter and gave us back a previously unused cabinet where our range hood was "vented".  If you are interested in how that went you can click here.  After that little project was completed the girls and I painted all of the cabinets and then the walls.  Over the years I've done a lot to this little kitchen in order to maximize storage and efficiency.


As you can imagine it doesn't take long to clutter or mess up the kitchen and if you have all three of us working in there it could easily get chaotic, but we employ a very simple process of clean as you go in order to stay on top of things.  Dishes are done daily and I also do a complete wipe down of all the counters, stove top and microwave to keep them nice and tidy as well.  At the end of the day I walk through and make sure everything is put away and the dish cloth and towel are deposited in the laundry basket.  I get out a fresh set in the morning.


On a weekly basis I choose something to give a deeper clean whether it is the cabinets, appliances, kitchen sink window , walls or floors and I don't spend more than fifteen minutes on this task.  That's it.  By staying consistent and rotating these tasks using my checklist I'm able to make sure everything gets a good cleaning on a regular basis.  I no longer have marathon cleaning days to get things clean nor do I ever have colossal messes to contend with.  It is always clean.  My daily cleaning is only a few minutes as well.  I love that.


It feels so good to wake up each day and walk into a clean and orderly kitchen.  I know that whenever I am ready to prepare a meal my kitchen is always ready for me to do that.  The pots and pans are clean and waiting for me, our dishes are clean and ready to serve our meals.  And the bonus is that no matter who stops by for a quick visit I don't have to worry about the state of my kitchen.  Best of all, I don't have to spend a lot of time to have this.  I think my kitchen is wonderful.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Revisiting An Old Post - Berry Syrup


I make my own pancake syrups, have for many, many years.  Our favorite syrup is the one I make with Mapeline flavoring which is found in the spice and extract section of your grocery store.  A bottle of that lasts us a very long time so it is a thrifty way for us to have plenty of pancake syrup.


Pancake Syrup 

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. Mapeline flavoring 

In a medium saucepan combine water and sugars.  Bring to a boil, boil for one minute and remove from heat.  Stir in flavoring.


I like the richer flavor that comes from using brown sugar, but if you don't buy or have brown sugar you can substitute a cup of granulated sugar plus a tablespoon of dark molasses which is what I do.  I rarely buy brown sugar anymore because we don't use it up before it becomes hard as a brick.  If your sugar does get hard though you can soften it overnight by adding a slice of bread to the bag or container.


I keep our syrup in a glass Snapple bottle which is the perfect size for this particular recipe.  I also make my own berry syrups using fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries.  To find the recipe for that click here.



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Change Is Constant - Finding My "New Normal"


Oh my gosh!  2021 has been a wild ride for me so far, but while I've had my fair share of frustrating days I'm not about to give up or give in.  No way!  While I have no qualms or concerns about death or dying I sure don't feel the need to just sit back and wait for it to happen, because who really knows?  That day could be anytime, tomorrow or decades from now.  A couple weeks ago I decided to just get on with it and get back to living.  Is this what my doctor wants me to do?  Well, sort of…  but not exactly, however I'm just not one to sit and vegetate.  It drives me nuts and it is stressing me out!  I do not plan to do anything stupid or jeopardize my health, but at the same time I've got to do things.  I've got to live and that is what I plan to do.


I was discussing this at length with a friend of mine who knows me pretty darn well.  He asked me if I could be fully retired and ready to pull Laverne out of my driveway in 20 months.  Without hesitation I said yes!  He is retiring (early also) in 21 months and he has challenged me to do pretty much do the same.  He knows I'm ready, I know I'm ready and with all that has just happened to me this year I feel this is something I seriously need to do.  I've done a whole lot of thinking, soul searching, financial planning and talking with my girls.  I need to be done so I can get on with life and do all those things I've been planning to do for a very long time.  It really needs to be this way.  Now I am officially in retire early mode.  So what does that mean exactly?  Well let me tell you.


We are so close to completion!  Click here to see inside!

Laverne is a HUGE part of my plan.  She will initially be my home, my transportation, my safe haven and most importantly my adventure mobile.  In the next year I will be getting her ready to hit the road with new tires and batteries last on the list so both will be as new and fresh as possible since right now I do not know exactly how long I will be living in Laverne.  But I will tell you I am super excited about this!!


Downsizing, organizing and preparing what is inside of my house and preparing to sell our home will also be a big part of my process.  Right now the plan is to rent a small storage unit in about a year and a half to set up and store the personal belongings that are most important to me.  This will also act as my home base, if you will.  A place where I can swap out things I need with items I no longer currently use.  A space to store my overflow and extra items so I can keep Laverne as clutter free as possible.  Sporting equipment will be here, off season clothing, bulk items like T.P., laundry detergent, etc.  You get the idea.  It will basically be a giant closet.


A new wardrobe is going to be necessary as well and right now I am working on that.  I've been shopping for new, durable and comfortable footwear and thrift store shopping for clothing items that will fit my new life because obviously my current office wear isn't going to cut it.  So far I have a brand new pair of hiking boots (the catalyst that has spurned me in this direction), light jackets and leggings in a variety of lengths, some active wear tops and a good pair of winter boots.  I also have an insulated fluorescent lime green and black safety jacket for being out in the woods or to wear when I'm on my bike.  I'll need a few more active wear pieces and other clothing items for various activities and weather conditions so I will keep hunting the thrift stores but I am already off to a good start.


There will be BLM land, forest service land, campgrounds and RV parks in my future.  Lakes, rivers, creeks, hiking trails, mountains, deserts, kayaking, fishing, campfires, rocks, dirt, water, rain, snow and sunshine.  Loads of fresh air, exercise, beautiful scenery and new people to meet along the way.  Can you tell I'm a little bit excited?  This is what I need!  This is what is in my currently bruised and battered heart.  This is what is going to heal me.


I've got gobs of ideas!

I spent an entire afternoon in Laverne figuring out the last of the improvements I plan to make and coming up with good storage solutions for the things I want to take with me.  With the help of my girls and a few friends we are drawing up plans to get me ready to roll.  We are also making up a plan of what we want to talk to my cardiologist about and my oldest is planning to go with me to my appointment in July.  At the time of that appointment I will only have eighteen months left until my retirement date!  That is not a lot of time at all.  I better get busy!!


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