Friday, July 6, 2012
Thrifty Thursday - Cutting Back
I know it's been two weeks since I shared my thrifty doings. I've no excuse other than being busy this past week. We took a quick trip south of us to visit the grandbabies and between the whirlwind trip and the rush to get there from the work week, I confess I was mightily tired. But it was grand to see those children! Focus is on the past week and all that we did to save, even while traveling.
Friday: Before traveling to leave home, I packed a bag with frozen water bottles, cold soda, granola bars, crackers with peanut butter and a bag of cheese sticks. I knew we wouldn't be on the road for endless hours, but long enough to get good and hungry. And besides it was HOT outdoors so we'd definitely need plenty of water to carry along.
I used stored water to water the plants heavily. Glad I did. It got extremely hot while we were gone.
Turned the thermostat up to 80F before we left home. John turned off ceiling fans. We felt the less electricity used while gone the better.
We had mapped out a route that ran along old state highways which we found saved us a good hour of time in travel.
We stayed the night in the same hotel we'd stayed when we went down to check out the house for the kids. We earn rewards points that can be used for free movie tickets, extra discounts, etc. This place also offers an evening snack and a continental breakfast as part of the package. They also give discounts for AAA.
I forgot to ask John to stop at the store for a small bottle of milk and another of grape juice. We settled for water to substitute for the grape juice but I asked at the front desk for a small cup of milk (I knew they kept it on hand for breakfast). It was given to me as a courtesy.
We made up a small traveling Shabat kit in May when we went to the beach. It's just a pretty little box in which we put a small sherry glass, two votives, a small box of matches and a damask napkin. We'd bought bread the day before and brought along with us. It wasn't a properly mandated kiddish but the water and bread served nicely for our away from home Shabat evening.
Saturday: We headed back home after visiting with the kids one more time. I had a bottle of water from the day before. John kindly supplied two more. That was sufficient to see us home.
We discovered that less traffic meant we shaved another half hour off our trip time. We'll definitely be planning our next trips for the lower traffic hours.
I planned ahead so we had a prepared meal in the fridge when we returned. No need to stop anywhere on the way home.
I wanted ice cream or something cold for a dessert, but we didn't stop on our way through town. I mixed up instant pudding, poured into individual servings before it was set and insured we got the full four servings the box promised. It was cold and creamy and hit the spot on this hot evening.
Sunday: John did a full load of laundry as soon as he got up. We've agreed to stop using the dryer, at least through these months of heat. John hung everything to dry in the laundry area.
After three days I was more than ready to cook a meal. I took out a steak from the freezer, just one. We halved it and each had a gracious plenty.
I had peaches about to be overripe, so I pared them and made an easy cobbler. Since the oven was on anyway, it seemed reasonable to put in a side dish of potatoes and to start the steak searing in the oven as well. I put the steak in towards the end of cooking time and then finished on stove top.
I made homemade croutons from the last of our Shabat loaf of bread.
Filled dishwasher to the brim and washed a full load.
Used stored water to put on plants at back door.
Found a saucer was cracked through though still holding fluids. I certainly didn't want to chance having it break while we were using it to eat something hot! I didn't throw it away but instead took it outdoors to sit under a pot that had no saucer. Now I can have a small reserve of water under that plant after watering so the soil will be thoroughly soaked.
It was very very hot. I kept the shades and curtains pulled closed all day long. I loathe sitting in the dark, but hate to have my electric bill climb steadily higher because of my stubborn refusal to block what heat I can. I turned the AC up higher to keep it from working so very hard, too.
Today began tracking our costs for the July Challenge. What luxury to find that many items used were not purchased with this week's money at all but were stored items.
I made simple syrup to store in fridge and juiced a dozen lemons so we'd have the ingredients for John's favorite Frozen Lemonade on hand.
Monday: I 'shopped' at home today for ingredients we were out of in the kitchen. I found every single item needed stored in my pantry or freezer. John chuckled when he asked me what I was doing as I was on my way to the guest room closet. "Going shopping," I told him and he laughed out loud when I came out with my arms laden.
Filled water bottles to store in fridge. John drinks more water if individual bottles are on hand. It's less expensive than buying new bottles each pay period to wash well and refill.
A freezer meal of Black Bean and Corn enchiladas was our dinner today. I made these up last month from leftover ingredients from another recipe I'd prepared. I knew the enchiladas needed to cook only a little while in the oven. I turned on the overhead stove vent to pull out the excess heat so the rest of the house wouldn't be so terribly hot.
I find that corralling leftovers in a basket is a great way to insure we use them up. Today I used up a jar of mixed fruit I'd opened during John's work week, we had leftover chicken from Saturday and pimento cheese sandwiches for our supper. I checked the fridge again after supper to see if anything more needed to dealt with. I tossed quite a few things last week (mostly fresh produce) that we'd not eaten and I was determined to have no waste this week.
Planning a snack is far easier on my budget than having a ramble through and eat just whatever looks good. I've been trying to make it a substantial enough snack that it's looked forward to and enough to carry through until dinnertime. Today we had hummus with pita chips and a soda.
Another full load of laundry done today. This time it was sheets and towels. We hung them outdoors to dry.
The animals apparently found it too hot to eat much. I picked up the food and stored it so that the ants wouldn't get all over it.
Ants have been frustrating this year but are especially bad now that it's so very hot. They are everywhere in our home, at least the scouts are and every now and then I find the full army coming in behind them. We are being vigilant to look for them and immediately put out traps or spray along the trail so that we are not completely infiltrated and begin to lose foodstuffs they might get into.
Made our last trip to the vet today. I sat down with the checkbook this afternoon to total it up and see if we needed to move money from savings. I am pleased that we managed just fine with what we had for vet visits and our little trip. Told John until payday we're going to 'no spending' status which means little things like a quick run to the grocery or dollar store can wait and we'll stick with only absolute necessities like filling the cars.
Tuesday: A little cooler today. Turned up the AC immediately when I got up. As the day went on it got hotter. I listen to hear if the unit is cutting on and off as it ought. If not, I'll turn up the temperature a bit until it begins to do so. It's not a lack of freon as it was last month when we called repair people. It's just that it's been very very hot and it's working really hard to try to keep the indoor temperature to the level set.
Dinner today freezer entree put up more than two months ago. I dumped the frozen block into the crockpot and let that do the thawing and heating. Much less heat produced than using the oven.
Washed a full load of dishes. I'm putting the dishwasher to full use of late. It's more water efficient than hand washing.
Packed John's work lunch for tomorrow. Included an electrolyte replacement drink. This is super necessary when the days are super hot as he is more likely to become dehydrated or overheated while working.
The day heated up quite a bit after dinner. I turned the AC up a bit higher so it would cycle on and off.
Thunderstorm this evening cooled things down nicely. When electricity was erratic we cut off AC entirely to prevent any damage to the unit.
Wednesday: We've had Directv for years and I can't complain about the quality nor the service. Our satellite went out last night in the storm. It will be five days before I can see a technician (and only because I argued am I seeing a technician. First they wanted to send me a new part. Uhm no. If new part doesn't work I then have to wait still longer to see a technician.) Customer service was mighty upset that I'd have to pay full price for a service call. I'm paying for service I can't receive...do you see the problem here? When I mentioned this, I went on and told him how I felt about their service. Not only did I get an immediate credit for the expected downtime, I also got a deep discount on the cost of having the technician come out. And why? Because I complained? Nope. I had just told the guy on the phone that we really enjoyed the years we've spent with them and their great service and I was sure they would get our problem squared away as soon as possible. Being nice still counts for something in the world, folks.
Mama wanted to go out today, more for the ride part than for shopping. I asked if she'd like to go into the foothills northwest of here to that little town John and I visit a couple times of year. She said yes. We had a great lunch and received coupons for a free appetizer next time we 'stopped by'. Then we took a long meandering drive from there through old state highways to other little towns and came back in a circle to where we'd started this morning. We stopped for peach ice cream on our way down the highway.
I went into grocery while I was in town. I wanted to buy ice cream which was, unfortunately, pretty picked over. I brought home orange sherbert instead. I like it just as well on a hot summer's day and it's so much less expensive than ice cream.
I brought over half my meal home in a take out box. I made a nice Southwestern Chipotle Chicken Salad for John's lunch tomorrow with that food. I included a small container of ranch dressing and some cheddar cheese in the salad to tone down the heat just a bit.
Received the statement for my little personal savings account. This is the account where I stash my Christmas and Birthday monies and whatever I save from grocery money and allowance. I save the latter two for vacations and the first two are my clothing and extra decorating allowance for the year. I'll be making a withdrawal this week to pay off my credit card for the shoes and bras and tops I bought last month when I was piecing out my wardrobe for summer. Because I have the cash on hand, I will not pay a service fee or any interest on that credit card since I can pay off the full balance right away.
This business of a savings account and credit card work far better for me than having the cash stashed here at home. I'll nickel and dime it to death if it's here in the house. I won't pull out that credit card to use unless I know just where the money is coming from to pay it off at end of the month.
Thursday: Watered plants with stored water. I do this to rotate water bottles and keep fairly fresh water on hand in case of power outages, more a necessity in summer with thunderstorms and such than in winter.
I did housework early and ate lightly...then out to get a haircut and run an errand (you know me, I have to make a combination trip so that the gasoline usage really counts. Wanted to stop in town at the diner and buy lunch but talked myself out of it. I had thawed ground beef here at home, slider sized rolls in the freezer. I made dinner in a matter of minutes after I arrived. I didn't save much by not stopping, only about $5 but that's $5 still IN my pocket.
Turned the AC up to 79F and then to 80F a little later to keep the thing from working so hard and to save a bit on electricity.
Fed the dogs the last of the food they liked just okay. The temptation is to go back and get the brand they really liked but that never seems to work in my favor. If I mix the two they eat the one they like, and I'm stuck with the wasted bits of the one that was okay. Well, they finally ate all of the okay food and we've gone back to the one they really like...Honestly, I don't know who told dogs they could be picky eaters...
Packed John's work lunch, giving him the last of a jar of mixed fruit. I poured the fruit syrup into an ice cube tray to freeze. I add these into the frozen lemonade when we have them for a mysterious little something 'extra' in taste.
I know I'm late sending this out. I just forget it last night and then this morning just as I thought of it Mama called to say she was coming out for three or four hours while pest control sprayed her house. Went right out of mind as I started listing jobs to do before she got here...