Friday, January 10, 2014
My Frugal Week: January 4-10
Jan 4: An easy and economical breakfast that tastes like something special: Creamy Butterscotch Oatmeal. I lost this recipe years ago but recently found it on a blog (whose name escapes me). John likes things plain and simple but he thinks this oatmeal is the best and asks for it at least once a week. It's especially satisfying on a deeply cold morning. For two: 1 cup oatmeal, 1 3/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 well beaten egg. Combine all in a saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. This takes about 8-10 minutes. I did try it in the microwave and it didn't take any less time and came out grainy, so opt for the stove top method.
When I made the oatmeal this morning I had planned to incorporate the leftover cooked apples from yesterday's lunch. I also found a half apple in the fridge and chopped that into the oatmeal as well.
Washed a full load of dishes and a filled sink besides. I caught water to hand-wash with while rinsing the dishes for the dishwasher.
Shopped at home: 1 packet each decaf and caffeinated coffee, 1 pound brown sugar, 1 layer of chocolate cake, and chocolate frosting to frost it (those two items from the freezer).
I froze the cake and the frosting back in November. The frosting was just a butter-cream. It freezes well and only needed to be stirred and spread on the cake.
Put a quart of spaghetti sauce up to use in lasagna later this month.
Measured out the amount of pasta we needed to serve us for dinner today, using a measuring tool I received in the mail.
It has been quite cold today. We used the propane heater this morning to keep the heat pump from going into defrost mode. I turned on the little kettle of water to simmer and help humidify the air. That made 68F feel quite comfortable today. I kept the curtains drawn to help shut out the cold. With overcast skies, we didn't have sunshine to help warm us up and it felt less gloomy with shades drawn and lamps on than it would have otherwise.
Noted on the box of dog biscuits the recommended daily servings per pound weight. I was pleased to know I'd kept Maddie right in the range she was supposed to receive. That is her evening snack.
Jan 5: John brought home the Sunday paper. There were a wealth of coupons this week! I clipped and sorted them right away. Now I can easily match to the sales ads and see what items I might get for free or very little. I am determined this year to stock up and pay very little for items such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, cleaning products (the few I use) and paper products. For the most part, these are items we do not buy at Aldi.
When I got up this morning I turned on the kettle to humidify the air and make that 68F feel warmer. This kept the heat pump from coming on as frequently.
I buy a turkey sausage that comes frozen, pre-shaped in patties this time of year (bulk turkey sausage is scarce during the holiday season). This morning I took three patties from the package, chopped them finely and cooked them to make sausage gravy to go over biscuits. Those three patties made enough gravy for three servings. I put a portion aside for supper for myself one night.
Made a batch of biscuits and baked them.
Someone gave EMS a dozen donuts. John brought home two. I reheated these in the microwave for a sweet addition to our breakfast.
I planned to make oven fried chicken today and thawed a package of 2 bone-in breasts. The breasts were quite large. I felt 1/2 a breast would make a generous portion for us. First I cut away the rib section and put those in a bag to be used for making broth later. I froze that (it was still icy to the touch). I cut both breasts in half. The upper part of the breasts I set aside for our oven fried chicken meal. I took the lower portion of the breasts and boned them, removed the tenderloin and then flattened the rest to make a fillet. I seasoned and floured all the meat, placed it on a greased baking sheet and cooked until done. I made sure to remove the tenderloins and the fillets long before the bone in pieces. The tenderloins were my supper tonight with a biscuit left from breakfast. The two fillets will be sandwiches one night this week. That's two breasts transformed into 5 servings of meat, not counting the rib portion I put back in the freezer! I paid $.99/pound for these breasts and they weighed about 2 pounds altogether. The cost per serving works out to about $.40.
I peeled and diced all of the potatoes which had started to sprout and cooked them all at once. About half were made into potato salad for today's meal with a portion set aside to go into John's lunch and the rest of the potatoes were put aside for hash brown casserole. I'll go on and mix that up and put in the freezer, then will work it into a future menu plan.
Used the last of the cabbage I steamed to make creamed cabbage as a second side dish for the chicken dinner today.
Refilled my detergent bottle from the monster bottle I bought early last month. I think I'll have enough to fill my bottle one more time. I paid $3.29 for that huge bottle which makes the cost decrease considerably over the usual 10 ounce bottle. Next time I have coupons I plan to buy a couple of these to keep on hand. My goal this year is to slash every cost I can and maximize my savings.
Had a coupon from a bookclub that saved me $20.14 off any order from the bookclub. I chose two books, and with shipping will pay just $13.
Discovered a $10 off $50 bed/bath purchase in the Target sales paper which I clipped. I planned to buy new towels and rugs this month for our bath, and new pillows for the master bedroom while the white sales were on this month. The coupon is good until Feb 1. I have plans to use it when John's next work day comes along, this coming weekend.
I had quite a time last month with slow and clogged drains. I decided it was well worth my while to do the drain cleaning once a week in the kitchen. So while cleaning the kitchen up yesterday, I took time to put a bit of baking soda down the drains. I also used some of the soda and a damp cloth to clean the sinks and the stove top. I poured vinegar down the drains and then used the hot water in the kettle to flush the drains.
As the temperature warmed up I realized we no longer needed that added humidity in the air, and so I cut off the kettle. This made the house feel less humid and the temperature more comfortable overall.
Jan 6: Decided I simply have to get the most of my food budget, so instead of allowing the Challah to go to waste as I've been doing, hoping John will eat it (he does eat some but never all), I sliced it and used to make French Toast for our breakfast this morning. I had some of the batter leftover, so I poured it into a clean glass jar and stored in the fridge. I mean to make muffins tomorrow morning and I'll substitute that mixture for a portion of the milk needed in the recipe. It will add richness to my muffin batter.
Shopped at home, brought 1 gallon milk and a pound of butter from freezer and a package of Mac and cheese from the pantry.
There were small amounts of fruits that were 'orphaned' in the fridge. I don't know just why we stop eating fruit as we get down to the last bits but we do. I took an orange, an apple, and a few grapes today and made a tasty fruit salad to go with our dinner. It was delicious and I felt so virtuous using up a good portion of the orphans. Now to figure out what to do with the last three Clementines...
Had enough Cheeseburger Mac leftover to send a portion in John's supper tomorrow night. It will be a warm and welcome entree on a very cold evening.
A few months ago I downloaded the free Amazon Kindle app to my computer. I've subscribed to a couple of daily newsletters that list free books. I've tried not to go nuts with it, but I added about 8 books to the library today. I found five or six Beth Moore books on Money Saving Mom site that were listed as free to Kindle. I look forward to spending time reading them. Savings at $13 a book: $78.
Sat down with the CVS sales sheets, the freshly clipped coupons and went over the ad with a fine toothed comb looking for good deals. I think I found the few that will benefit us the most. It took quite a bit of math skills to determine how many to purchase of each item and how best to utilize those ECBs. I used the online site of the store to determine prices not in the sales ad. I noted on my paperwork that I wouldn't buy an item if it cost over a certain amount at my local store.
Took time to go over a couple of grocery ads as well. I may do the bulk of my shopping at Aldi but there are still a few things we buy at other stores like Decaf coffee, pet foods, turkey sausage and a few other items. Should any of those be on sale it's worth my time to match coupons and pick up those items.
We're in a deep freeze. I've made sure the pets have sheltered areas (neither would come indoors without totally freaking out. I do not have an area where I could shut them up) and fresh water periodically since their usual watering buckets are frozen. The cat has already made good use of her snug little spot. Maddie has spent so much time running about that I doubt she's chilly in the least, lol. She does love brisk weather! I've also made sure to give them extra food (extra calories equal extra warmth). Fortunately while we're very cold here we're not experiencing the extreme lows many are. The wind has died down somewhat and that will keep the temperatures more stable.
We put up a light in the pump-house. A 100 watt bulb is sufficient to keep the pump and pipes warm and prevent freezing. I have opened cabinet doors under sinks and will keep the propane as well as electric heater going tonight. I'll also leave a faucet trickling water so that we keep the pipes between the house and the pump-house from freezing. I have water enough to flush toilets and use for washing up if need be. And we have drinking water on hand as well. These are preventative measures.
Funny that we used to routinely do this every winter but the past three or four years have been so mild that we've not had hard freezes...so this all feels a bit strange.
Jan 7: Brrr! For the South, this is COLD, not the worst cold we've ever had, but cold and after our mild winters the past couple of years, it feels colder. The heat pump is really only good down to about 28F. I thought it odd when I heard that figure, since heat pumps are all you can get in the South these days, and these are/were normal winter temperatures. That fact and a couple of February weekends with sleet that froze up our unit's fan back in the early days of living here. It led us to purchase a ventless propane heater for emergency back-up heat. I've never regretted that purchase. Last night when the heat pump couldn't keep up with the cold any longer, I lit the propane and it helped. The heat pump went into defrost mode less often and came on less often. The house stayed cool but wasn't bitter cold.
Harvest Day in our home. In November we had 5 pay periods. Because we pay half of our bills every other week, we have a lag period over the next few months where we don't need to make a half payment on one bill or another. Last pay period that was our house insurance. I added that amount to our half payment on the car loan. This week it was the power and phone bills. Again, those half payments were added to the second half payment on the car. I noted the due date on the car loan was five days beyond our next Harvest day and that happens to be the time we'd be able to skip the half payment on the bank loan. Instead we'll go ahead with that half payment and we'll have paid off a nice chunk of that loan with all these extras. It doesn't strain our budget to pay extra in this way when we'd normally have set the same funds aside anyway.
Made muffins this morning. I never use a mix to make muffins. It's easy enough to just measure out flour, sugar, milk, oil, eggs. I used the remaining portion of the French toast batter as part of my milk. I saw a recipe in a magazine that I somewhat replicated. Theirs called for shortening (which I am out of at the moment), but I followed their instructions for flavoring (vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg) and then dipped the warm baked muffins in melted butter and a cinnamon sugar mixture to follow. So very good and I had every single item on hand. I daresay they weren't less expensive than a muffin mix, but they sure did taste good.
After we paid bills, I went out to post office, banks, and the local salon for a hair cut. I meant to run a couple of other errands but just plain didn't feel up to it. I slept poorly last night and the cold made me ache something fierce. I contemplated running the extra errands but it would mean buying take out for dinner as I'd not have time to finish making our meal before John had to lie down to rest for his evening of work. I saved more money choosing to run those errands tomorrow and preparing our dinner.
We had Chicken Rice today for dinner. I can't call it soup, though Granny did. It's too thick for soup and it's hardly a stew being as it's only chicken and rice and the usual savory seasoning vegetables (carrot,onion, celery, garlic). It has a little broth still visible but not enough to make it soupy. It's very economical, simple, hearty and perfect for a cold day. I served with a tossed salad (tomatoes, lettuce, some of the Snow peas from the veg tray on New Year's) and a warm Peach Cobbler. The peach cobbler wasn't really needed but it was a good way to use up recently expired canned peaches. We found the meal provided us with enough warmth that we peeled off our sweater/sweat jacket and sat about with just two layers on instead.
Ran a full load of dishes.
John washed a full load of clothes just before I started the dishwasher.
Brought the space heater in from storage and set it up in the master bath. It was just plain cold in that north facing room last night and I think it made the heat pump run more often, even with the propane heater on, especially with the sink cabinet doors open. This evening I set the heater on the lowest temperature. I had the cabinet doors open, it was just as cold outdoors, but the heat pump came on far less often. I didn't have to shiver hard every time I needed to go into the bathroom either. Plus and PLUS.
Jan 8: Got up in the wee hours this morning and lowered the heat pump thermostat slightly, since it had begun to run for longer spells and go into defrost mode.
Got up about 6a this morning and turned up the propane heat, turned on the kettle to humidify the air.
I did not have bread enough to make toast for breakfast this morning. I reheated the leftover muffins from yesterday's breakfast.
John had to work a little late, so I worked ahead and went through the house to tidy and pick-up, fed Maddie (I had to coax her a little) and the cat, did my Bible study. I had plenty of time to accomplish these things and make breakfast, too, while I waited on him to arrive.
Made a hash-brown casserole, using leftover onion dip as the sour cream. I had enough of the casserole for dinner today and a tad leftover for two small ramekins for breakfast one morning.
I'd meant to wait until tomorrow to go to CVS after not going yesterday but I just felt I had to get out of the house for a bit. John asked me to go by CVS to pick up his prescriptions if they were ready and I decided to buy eggs and bread (and yes, I could have made some bread but it never gets eaten entirely, so why bother?). John had made plans to do a couple of extra errands while we were out getting groceries tomorrow. Going to do these things today just seemed a good thing all around.
I decided to go by the gas station and fill up the car as well.
At CVS I did very well with my purchases. I did two transactions. On my first I bought a blush at 50% off, aspirin, Advil, and the special purchases I went in for: Colgate toothpaste ($2.99 with a $1.25 ECB incentive), Gilette deodorant (buy 2 get $3 ECB), Aleve 50 ct tablets (Buy one get one 50% off, plus buy $20 worth and get $10 ECB). I stopped by the Kiosk and printed off $5 and $2 ECB rewards as well as a coupon for FREE peanut butter M&Ms. I had $10.50 in coupons to use on these purchases as well. My total out of pocket for all of these items was $40.97 and I earned $10.25 in ECB. With sales I saved $36 for a total savings of 46%. The Aleve was my best deal in this batch. I bought 4 bottles for $24.84, used $10 in coupons. That works out to a little over $3 for each bottle ($8.59 each regular price), so a huge savings on that product. If I had done a separate transaction on this deal and applied the ECBs I earned last month directly to that purchase I'd have paid only $7.84 for all 4.
My second transaction was a purchase of 5 bottles of ALL detergent. On sale 2/$6.99, I had 3 coupons that totaled $6 on 4 bottles. I used the $10.25 ECB earned from the previous transaction and paid out of pocket, including tax $2.45. I expect this detergent to last me ten months. That's $.24 a month for laundry detergent. I can't make it myself for that little.
Stopped at the local store to get bread and eggs. Scanned the new sales flyer for possible sales. None caught my eye. Did purchase a marked down package of cubed steak from the meat department. We stopped buying the cubed steak at the nice meat market because John felt it was too high priced for so so quality. This was a very good price per pound.
Came home to cook dinner. Yes, the temptation was there to purchase takeout especially after waiting for the prescriptions to be filled. There was a communication error between the workers and my prescription was ready but placed in the main files and not in the customer waiting files. No harm done. I had time enough to get my manicure in order (filing and lotion) and a nice conversation with a woman who sat across from me.
Cashed in swagbucks to earn my second $5 Amazon gift card for the year.
Jan 9: We shopped for groceries today. I had my list made out and our only stop for today was Aldi. I hadn't been to Aldi in a month or more and was out of quite a few things. Some of the items I was out of I bought one for now and one for later, and a few I just bought one for now and will pick up one for the pantry next trip. We were watching our prices and our bottom line. I spent exactly what I had left of my grocery money for the pay period. That's good. The 'bad' is that I still have items I need to purchase and they aren't things that can wait. I'm not going to worry about it. We had an especially good pay period and I will make up the difference over the next grocery period.
Our 'splurge' item today was a box of buttermilk pancake mix. I'd have normally skipped that but my husband asked for it and said that if we had mix then HE could make pancakes some mornings. He explained that he doesn't know how to do it my way. Yes, I have cookbooks galore and he could use any one of them, but this is quick and easy for him and I'll benefit since he'll make breakfast for me. Worth.every. penny.
I skipped buying paper towel today. John nor I could remember how much we had at home. We started laughing when we realized we were drawing a blank because we so seldom use them these days. I came home and found we had five rolls and we have one roll in the car as well. I bought the 8 pack of paper towel months ago!
I did purchase aluminum foil today, again the small roll that fits in my vintage paper dispenser. I haven't had any aluminum foil in the house in two weeks. I ran out right after my shopping day last month. I'll be using less of that as I found that cleaning the pans I normally put it in wasn't that difficult. I'll keep it on hand to wrap entree items for the freezer but will be mindful of the fact that I don't NEED to use it as a matter of habit.
We made a big purchase today, a new mattress set. Ours is about 12 years old and no longer comfortable, especially if you have a back that is painful as John and I both know from personal experience. We debated over the price we'd pay and did a little research to avail ourselves of any changes since our last purchase. The most notable is that mattresses are now marketed as not needing to be turned. The truth is you CAN'T turn them. They are essentially one sided these days! However, there are warranties on mattress construction. Prices range from fairly inexpensive to Golly Gee Willikers! and quality does, too.
We lay on several mattresses and for longer than a minute or two. The most expensive was not the most comfortable mattress. We discovered that the prices we'd seen at online sites didn't include box springs and so we'd determined what we'd pay for the mattress, but the salesman told us if our foundation was more than 4 years old it nulled and voided any warranty on the mattress. We had to refigure our pre-determined spending point to include a new foundation since ours is 12 years old. In the end, we found a set that we both liked and which we felt we could best afford. It cost a chunk but it was by no means GGW in price, lol. As we paid for the mattress set it brought home to me that I'd spent X amount of money and saved for X number of months, which covered the price...Makes me remember WHY I work so hard to save every month.
Our new set has a 15 year warranty and a 100 day return if it proves uncomfortable with an equal in value replacement or, if we can't find one that suits us, money back minus the original delivery charge (they will return to pick up the set). Did we get the absolutely best buy? I don't know. We went armed with information and a list of needs and an idea of what our budget would be. We both had a set point that we would not go over. We tried lesser priced models and the difference was beyond more than noticeable. We prayed over the purchase before we shopped. We feel we went in well armed to do business and in the end that's the best we can do.
John used what I'd planned for tonight's supper (chicken fillets) for our breakfast this morning. No great harm as we've plenty of alternates. We had the last of the Chicken Rice (with a little water added so it was more soupy) and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Mindful of my goal to read more this year, I've started two books. I'm half through both of them. One is on my Kindle app and was FREE and the other is a hard copy I've owned for years.
Jan 10: We planned to finish the grocery shopping today and go to the meat market as well. I did the housework in the morning hours, while we waited for the rain to lift.
I'd already worked out what I meant to purchase at the grocery and the meat market and in what amounts. I bought a little less meat than I did the last time we bought because I have a handful of beef products left in my freezer and though we are in winter now we'll possibly be having warmer temperatures by March, when we'll eat less roast and long slow simmered meals and be looking for lighter fare.
At the meat market I found prices were up a little. I considered my options and cut back still further on my purchases. We'll fill in with chicken, turkey and meatless options.
At the grocery we stuck hard to our list and cut that down further too when some of the fruit we'd meant to purchase looked less than prime. On my list was fruit, pet foods, decaf coffee, and soda. Don't think I splurged on that soda. It was on sale, buy two get one free. I had two coupons for FREE 12 packs and I came home with 3 FREE 12 packs of soda. I used myCokerewards to purchase coupons for 30 points each during a special they ran a few weeks ago. I also had a coupon for one of the fruit items we purchased. Though I spent about one week's grocery money today, I still saved 30% of my purchases buying on sale/with coupons.
We headed home after this and called it a day. Nice to walk in and put away groceries and meats and know that we had nothing to do until time for Shabat.
What else did I do that I haven't written about this week? Washed out baggies; continued to make coffee using the BOLD setting and less coffee; used the large eggs for baking and the Jumbo eggs for frying; took a lot of my overflow out to the shed so that I freed up floor space; went through the magazines Mama gave me and culled the recipes, coupons and inspiration items; fed Maddie a few table scraps and cut back on her dog food portion accordingly; emptied the canister on my bagless vacuum then washed canister and filter; set my cruise control for 55 to save gas mileage, skipped sodas while out running about and brought water from home to control thirst and stay hydrated; cut back on the pain relievers I'm taking now that that I'm not hurting as much...
And that is my Frugal Week.