Wednesday, December 31, 2014
This Week In My Home: Frugal Through the Holidays
Saturday: We weren't home most of this day. When we left we picked up mail, took off the trash. We cut off all indoor lights and fans and lowered the heat.
Supper was Sausage Gravy and biscuits. I made the biscuits from scratch. The sausage gravy is very frugal. I stretch two sausage patties with the milk gravy. It is just right for the two of us.
Sunday: Packed John's work lunch and made him breakfast.
I wasn't home for a good portion of this day. Lowered the heat and turned off the fans before leaving home.
I went to meet my son and his family and had the pleasure of watching my youngest grand son get his picture made with Santa. So proud of my daughter in law. She discovered Bass Pro Shops offered FREE photos with Santa. This was an Oops photo but it's my favorite one!
Brought home leftovers from my lunch to have for supper.
Stopped to look for a few items I need to finish off the last Christmas gifts. I was shocked when the young man told me the total. I saved a LOT of money. Apparently all I'd chosen was on a deep discount. I spent $6. I got two photo frames and 1 bottle of Powerade. Both frames were priced far higher than my total amount ended up being. I can't say I was displeased!
Worked on Swagbucks for one hour this morning and exceeded the daily goal. Came home this afternoon and worked another half hour...I bypassed the second daily goal.
Brewed a single cup of decaf coffee.
Monday: After our breakfast, I rinsed dishes to load into dishwasher. I noted the hot water was cooler than usual. I don't think we've run out of hot water but twice all these years we've lived here. About an hour later I tried the hot water again. It was cooler than before. John checked the breaker. It hadn't switched off. He turned it completely off and on again and checked the hot water again in 20 minutes. No warmer...We called a repair man who recommended his son. Turns out his son really isn't a plumber but telling him that his dad told us to call brought him out to see what the trouble was. LOVE rural life, lol. The element had burned out.
Seems all these years our water temperature has been set on LOW...Guys recommended we turn it up a bit for safety sake with the dishwasher. We did. Noted that the hot water is now really hot. Won't be using that at the same rate we have in the past so I'm sure this will end up being a savings. Proved that this afternoon when it took just a moment or two for the water to run hot enough to start the dishwasher. In the past I've rinsed and washed dishes before it got hot. Repair was covered by our sub account for the house.
Baked sugar cookies for Christmas. Damp weather had the dough stickier than usual and not prone to impressed designs. With that fail, I rolled into balls, rolled in colored sugar and have some of the prettiest Christmas sugar cookies I've had ever. The colored sugar is especially vibrant and pretty. I bought that sugar at end of Christmas sales last year.
Made a Dijon sauce to go over our bit of sirloin. It was easy to make. I lacked cream but used canned evaporated milk and it thickened up as nicely as cream would have done. It's an easy and inexpensive thing to make. A tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard is put into the pan I cooked the steak in. Then I added perhaps 1/3 cup of milk and stirred, scraping the pan.
After the repair was made we heard a weather report that predicted some rough weather for our area tomorrow. We decided it was worthwhile to go on down to John's work, no matter the late hour, to pick up his check. We couldn't make a deposit this evening but we could at least bring it home and write out checks for the pay period. We'll leave early tomorrow morning to do banking and pick up the bare basics groceries: milk, bread, eggs, cinnamon rolls for holiday morning breakfast and lettuce.
I took a portion of my allowance from last week and offered to buy us a take out pizza, a real treat for us. There's a good pizzeria in John's work town within a block of his work place.
After our yummy supper, I sat down to write out checks for tithe and bills. It is our short pay period. There is just enough for bills, a small amount for grocery and allowances. We both know that this pay period is shorter so we try hard to stay well within bounds of what was earned. We have a code phrase that is used when there's just enough for basics. "Gas and groceries!" That means that is all the 'shopping' we will do unless we spend our allowance or have funds in another sub account that are earmarked for a special category.
The extra pay day in November is slow to catch up with an every other week schedule like ours. This week I found I didn't need to set aside half the home insurance. That money was set aside in another sub account, earmarked for our upcoming bulk meat purchase.
We started a new category this pay period for a vacation account.
Tuesday: We should be running a LOT less hot water now that the temperature on it has been reset. It only takes a little running to make it really warm. It also is not necessary to run the water at the same rate in the shower. I can use less water for the same short period of time. I think this whole hot water element burn out is going to be a boon to savings in the coming year.
Used up leftover biscuits for breakfast this morning. I split and then toasted with cheese on them.
We kept it all local today. We posted bills, went to the bank and got our weekly cash and made our deposit, then stopped by the local grocery for basic items. I was shocked at the amount of money it cost to buy the few things I did. I mean, I can get a buggy FULL of foodstuffs at Aldi and stock up a little too for about the same amount...BUT I didn't want to go out with the weather all foggy and rainy as it was today and I didn't really want to buy a lot of groceries so this was the best if not the cheapest.
Found milk for $2.19/gallon. It had a sell by date of Dec 25 on it and I may run by and pick up two more gallons at that price, Made a mental note that I've often found milk in this store at a low price near the sell by date. I'm going to make it a point to go in once a week and check the dairy case.
Had a bad migraine this morning. I took a low dose aspirin and Tylenol together to help set it right. I've found that the higher dosage aspirin in the over the counter medication is too much for my tummy...and since I was out anyway, I just made up my own combination with a milder dose of aspirin. Worked well enough.
I didn't take a thing out to make for lunch. I picked up a 1 1/4 pound packet of ground chuck that was reduced in price at the grocery. I made four small slider sized burger patties with half the package and then made sloppy joe with the other half. I added carrots, celery and onion to the sloppy joe to stretch those and ended up with enough for two more sloppy joe for supper one night later. So that packet of meat made enough for10 servings.
Not a lot went on here at home today. John and I both slept poorly last night. The rain on the metal roof and the overall gloom just made a nap necessary. Being on the backside of mild colds as well, we needed that extra boost.
Supper: leftover chicken rice soup. I'd found it on the back of a rather full shelf and I'm glad I did, because it was quite good.
Wednesday: I prepped John's work lunch for tomorrow.
Washed a full load of laundry. Put in dryer to dry. We only had about 4 inches of rain and lots of clouds and humidity. Nothing dried INDOORS hanging up. I knew it wouldn't dry outdoors either.
Fed the dogs and cat a can of stew we hadn't eaten and apparently weren't going to eat. One of those "What was I thinking when I bought that to stock the pantry shelves?" items...Lesson learned. BUY what we EAT, not what seems like a good idea (they so often aren't!).
We attended the later Christmas Eve service and thoroughly enjoyed it. We viewed lights all the way home. Lovely way to spend a Christmas Eve.
Thursday: John made his breakfast and packed his lunch. I overslept and very nearly missed telling him goodbye!
I found gift bags and tissue in my stash for gifts.
I played my little game of 'pretend no one is home' for the bulk of the day, not flushing toilet or running water or electric. It's just a brief respite but it's a respite.
For two of my gifts today, I used my printer, photo quality paper and family photos from the computer files to make presents. For the third gift, I used bananas I'd frozen to make banana nut bread. I know that my brother especially likes the bread and think he will appreciate it.
Friday: Mine and John's holiday celebration was today. And it was a matter of 'use what you have' rather than going exactly as to plan. I'm sorry to say that I didn't shop for groceries anywhere except locally this week and it showed in our menus. For breakfast I cooked the last of a package of bacon and we had that with our cinnamon rolls instead of the sausage balls we'd normally have for Christmas breakfast.
For dinner there were no fresh mushrooms nor frozen peas, nor fresh asparagus. Instead I recalled John's statement earlier in the week that he really liked Harvard beets. I had canned beets in the pantry and made them Harvard beets myself. I made just plain old mashed potatoes to go with our roast. That suited my husband, too. I made a nice salad for our green vegetable. No dressing, but I mixed up my own from Mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar. It was all quite good.
We put the bones from the roast right into the freezer to have for soup bones.
Dessert was Molten Lava cakes. I wasn't up to a big dessert bake today, but this recipe suited us. It's rich and decadent enough to be special, it suited me because it used basic foodstuffs that I always have on hand.
I pinched a nerve in my back and couldn't use my right arm very well. John popped my back and I felt some release. I am sure it will get better now over the next day or two.
We didn't have yeast so I couldn't make Challah, but I did save back a yeast roll to use as Shabat bread.
John washed two full loads of clothes. He brought in his bedding from work which made up the second load. He hung to dry outdoors, along the curtain rod of the sunny window in the kitchen sitting.
I washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.
Last day for Christmas tree lights in our home. I turned them on in the morning and kept them on until we went to bed.
Now the season is as wrapped up and as done as the grocery budget this pay period!
We had breakfast for supper tonight. I kept it simple: cheese omelets and toast with leftover salad.
Saturday: Leftovers for our main meal: roast, potato pancakes, salad.
No more Christmas lights for us. I'll remove decorations over the next day or two and we'll get the house ready for the New Year.
This evening, I started my weekly planning. I had told John we'd be going to meat market. I was amused to note that I had more than enough meat on hand (though no chicken) to plan a week's worth of meals. Sometimes our concept of 'nothing' is really askew isn't it? As a challenge to myself we will use those meats up before we start in on the newly purchased meat.
I've read a great deal about the great properties of sour cherries in treating inflammation. I have some dried sour cherries on hand so I ate a handful in the hopes that it will help heal this bothersome arm.
Sunday: Used up leftovers for our breakfast: cinnamon rolls and some cooked breakfast meats that I'd set aside. We had plenty.
Took along a bottle of water when we left home this morning.
We visited a church we've partnered with in the past, then went to Bass Pro to see if they had work boots for John. We left there without buying anything.
We stopped at a take out restaurant we haven't visited in a couple of years. Dinner for two under $12 was paid for out of John's pocket money.
John stopped at another store to check out boots and found what he wanted, plus two shirts. He paid for these from his Christmas money.
Stopped to buy a newspaper. The woman ahead of me only wanted the calendar inside, so paid for the paper and then turned and handed it to me. FREE! Yes, I liked the price of that paper.
Lots of sales this week per the ads. I don't have money to spend randomly, but if there are excellent sales on anything we can certainly find money in sub accounts to cover the cost. I think I've seen two sales that are worthwhile. I'll go over the sheets again in a little while, when I'm sitting down with my coupons handy.
I didn't ask to go by the grocery and when I started prepping John's work lunch for tomorrow morning, I rued that bit of procrastination. I had just enough bread to make his sandwiches and enough left over for breakfast toast. I dug about in the freezer and found a biggish heel of Pumpernickel which was enough to cut into slices for supper sandwiches.
One more meal off that Christmas roast. I put the heel of the roast aside in the freezer. I'm saving to cube and make into Beef Pot Pie one day soon.
Monday: Packed John's work lunch, made him breakfast.
Filled the dishwasher full. I added in the coffeemaker carafe, some jars used in Christmas decor, the burner rings from the stove top. Then I washed the whole load. I let the contents air dry for half the time then switched on the heated dry feature for about 15 minutes. That was enough to assure the dishes were completely dry but cut down considerably on electricity usage.
Out for the day today. I batched several errands: a trip to the grocery, the post office and the bank with my outing with Mama.
Went into the grocery. I drove to Aldi this morning because the fiasco with the grocery budget last week and the local store made my frugal feelings hurt...Not to mention using up all of the grocery budget for next to no foodstuffs. I paid for today's grocery from my allowance but felt a deal of satisfaction to come out of that store having spent just under $20 and hauling a BIG Aldi sized grocery bag full of stuff to the car.
A branch of our bank is close by Aldi, so two birds, with one usage of gasoline on that one.
Mama and I went out to lunch. It was my turn to pay. I was just a few dollars short (tip money really) after my grocery run so Mama made up the difference. We both brought half our lunch entree home. I had mine for supper tonight.
The sore arm was extremely painful this morning, to the point I nearly called off the day. I dug about in the medicine cupboard and found an adhesive heat wrap for shoulder/neck/wrist that I'd bought from CVS for free after ECB/coupon. I put that on my shoulder this morning and took an orthopedic dose of Ibuprofen (making sure to eat breakfast before I did so) with a follow-up dosage later in the day (again making sure I ate first). When I got in this afternoon I stretched out on the bed, lying flat and when I went to get up I felt something click in my lower back...Not 100% yet, but I believe the heat and the anti-inflammatory effect of the medicine helped the muscles to loosen up. I have more range of motion than I've had in days. I have not had any pain in hours now. So glad that at home remedies work.
Removed snowflakes from the front door. The sticky residue left behind after the mounting tape was not a good thing. I have Goo Gone somewhere in this house. The trouble is that I keep putting it in places where I tell myself I should keep it instead of putting it where I can find it. Sigh. I dug around in my craft room and found a spray can of adhesive remover John gave me a long time ago. It worked fine. I did remove paint from the door too but I blame the thin coat of paint not the adhesive remover. Will definitely rethink what I use to stick them to the door next year though. Perhaps I'll use clear cellophane wrap on the door first and stick the adhesive to that...An idea worth putting on my Inspirations list!
I didn't feel up to going outdoors to bring in storage boxes so I bagged all the Christmas decorations up in a garbage bag. I'll have John take it outdoors for me.
I stored the fragile snowflakes in a butter cookie tin that I re-purposed. They fit perfectly and I'm hopeful they will be whole next year when I want them.
I used a cardboard egg carton to store the glass pine cones. I could fit them all in one egg carton.
The burlap ribbon was rolled up once more and put away to use to re-use.
I even saved the rock salt I'd used as snow, pouring into a plastic jug. I normally use that to flush down the toilets at least once every other month. It was a plumber's hint to a friend who lived on a heavily wooded lot with septic systems. He said it would keep the lines clear of roots.
Tuesday: Made French toast for breakfast. John likes a larger breakfast on the mornings he is coming in from work. Ever since he asked me to scramble the leftover egg mixture for him I've stopped seasoning the custard with orange juice or nutmeg. Instead I sprinkle the toast with spice sugar (cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with sugar) or drizzle orange juice into maple syrup and heat that on stove top. Same flavors without messing up his egg dish. This morning I had little custard left so stirred in an extra egg.
Wow oh wow. Worked on the 2015 budget. Putting down what we pay annually as well as monthly for items was a shocker. I mean totally dumbfound in some areas. There are two areas we really really need to discuss and look at other options: cell phone service and satellite. Two other areas that look to be tweak worthy are electricity and groceries. We are careful with our electric usage but it's a shock to see the annual total of what we spend in that category. As for groceries...well that one is on me. I could do better and shall most certainly have to do better. My overages killed my budget this past year and I truly feel we should be able to manage on less even eating good meats. I think I need to be more pro sales on personal care, cleaning and other non-grocery items that are lumped into my budget for one thing. Definitely going to work hard on that grocery bit as it is solely on my shoulders.
I found a pair of Lee jeans at Ross for Less about two months ago. I didn't need jeans but when I find pants in my size, I generally will buy them, especially jeans as they tend to get a lot of usage. I learned the hard way not to let my pants get shabby before looking for new ones. It is truly a greater savings to have them on hand than to wait, at least in terms of temper. Anyway, I found this pair of Lee jeans and they have a wonderful fit, better than any other jeans I've ever had. I love them and I get compliments on them every time I wear them. I've looked diligently for more but couldn't find any. I found them online at the brand website yesterday. I ordered two pair, since they were buy one get one 50% off. The savings on the second pair more than paid for the shipping.
Used a canned whole chicken to make a pan of baked chicken and dumplings. Not on my menu but I wanted something besides beef leftovers and needed to use the chicken due to expiration date. I will look for two or three more of these whole chickens (Sweet Sue brand) to put on the pantry shelf. They are reasonably priced, as convenient as a rotisserie chicken and they taste very well. They make a good emergency shelf food item too, I think.
I mixed the remaining peas from our menu into the leftovers which we had for supper this evening.
I dug about on my bookshelves to find books to read for January, study Bible and devotional to use in the coming year and a stack of books to read through the first quarter of the year for Bible study as well. No expense in finding things right here at home.
Went through a stack of magazines and pulled recipes, coupons, inspiration photos, etc. Then I filed them in my file folders. Virginia sent me a Pinterest idea to keep these in a notebook with page dividers and page protectors. I think I would enjoy having my pages more readily available than the folders are. I have dividers and page protectors and there's a notebook in my file cabinet. Project for a rainy day...
John washed a full load of laundry and hung on the line to dry.
Tuesday: John had the propane heat on when I got up. It felt comfortable in the room so I didn't bother to turn up the heat pump.
We kept our breakfast simple this morning, but I did urge John to have another piece of toast since we were going to be out for the morning/early afternoon.
We were going to meat market. I had a full bag of ice in the freezer left from our Christmas party in early December. Even though it was cold (for the South folks, nothing like what you mid Western and Northern gals get!), I felt it would be wise to bring the ice along. I get my meats wrapped in butcher paper and didn't want them to get wet from melted ice so grabbed trash bags to put the meat in and tie off. That way we could pour ice over the bags and not mess up the packaging.
We took off the mail, picked up our home mail and went by the post office to mail a package. We also planned to stop at a grocery for a few necessary items and by the drugstore to pick up a prescription that was ready. We really do try to make our outings count!
To the grocery after the post office. I needed yeast to make Challah. Knowing that I cannot use a full jar of use at this time I opted to buy packets. Three packets of yeast cost MORE than a jar of yeast but there will be little waste this way. After Passover in the Spring I'll buy a full jar of yeast to use. I needed salad dressing. John prefers a refrigerated jar of dressing but I found a large bottle of Ken's was a bogo this week and so we bought that. We've liked the Kens dressings we've used in the past and I am hopeful he will find this one suits him. We bought a single 12 pack of Coke Splenda. I could have kicked myself for forgetting my coupons! I had one for a free 12 pack right here at home. And I bought cat food. That's all we purchased besides sweet rolls for Holiday breakfast in the morning.
At the meat market I bought my meats carefully. I'd set aside $155 to purchase meats with and spent $168. For that price I got two thick chuck roast and 3 sirloin steaks all cut in half. Each half steak averages just about 3/4 pound and each half chuck roast is between 1.5 and 2 pounds each. I got 15 pounds of ground chuck, which is their leanest grind. I had 10 pounds packaged into half pound packets. I made 12 burgers from the 5 pound bulk portion and have about 2 pounds that I will make into meatballs tomorrow. I bought 4 whole chickens and four chickens cut into parts. The cut chickens netted me 4 packets of 2 breasts, and 4 packets of 2 thighs, 1 package of 8 wings, 2 packages with 4 legs and a final back of the backbones the young man cut from those chickens. I consider that a bonus pack because none of the other butchers have ever before given me that back bone. I shall use those for making soup. All of these meats will be used for our meals over the next three months. I will supplement these with meatless entrees and buy a turkey breast and a corned beef to use for sandwich meats.
I asked the senior butcher about buying 1/4 steer. They sell it by front portion or loin portion. I discovered that it was the front portion I typically purchase cuts from The front quarter has the chuck roast, brisket and stew meat, sirloins, rib eyes and ground beef. I figured price per pound at about $7.50 a pound for the pounds and price he told me to figure on. When I got home, I added up the beef I bought today and figured that price per pound came out to $4.50 for half the same amount of meat. I did not buy rib eyes today and don't normally buy more than 1 if we do buy them. I also never see Brisket in the meat case there so I have no clue what the price on that might be. I think we will stick to purchasing meat my way.
I used two cottage cheese container lids to make my burgers. I know that if any of the meat comes out between the lids that I have too much. I like that my burgers are flat and uniform in size. I packaged them 2 to a packet.
For supper we cleared the fridge of sandwich makings: pimento cheese, sloppy joe mixture, egg salad. I'll make up a new batch of sandwich fillings over the next couple of days. I think tuna salad would be nice and perhaps I'll roast a whole chicken. That will net us sliced meat and chicken salad, too. I will also shred a carrot and finely dice some celery. That is quite good atop peanut butter and adds a nice crunch to that spread. That should see us nicely through a week of supper and work lunch sandwiches.
We stopped to fill up the car on our way home. The station in Perry has gasoline for $1.93 a gallon. I told Mama on Monday that filling the car these days with a half tank of gasoline (John doesn't like to let it go lower) is like filling up the gas can for lawn mowing this past summer with a lot better results.
I'd planned Chinese takeout for dinner, but we had a piece of sirloin steak left from our last meat purchase, we've potatoes and salad makings and rolls...Sounds like a steak dinner to me. I told John we can always stop for Chinese on our way home Sunday when we leave church.
When we came in it was a little chilly. I turned up the heat pump to 68. I've found the very early morning just before and after sunrise is the coolest time of day followed by the evening when the sun begins to set. If I can keep the temperature stable in the house those two times of day the heater will seldom come on very often after that time. Of course, keeping the heat stable also means that I add an extra layer of clothing at those two times of day and I don't run to turn up the thermostat!
I had a slight brainstorm this evening: make out a list of every item we'd normally buy someplace other than Aldi then watch for sales and stock up on as many as I can. There aren't a lot of items we don't buy at Aldi anymore but enough to warrant watching for sales and stocking when the prices are lowered.
I keep a clipboard by my chair and jot down these ideas when they occur. When you have so many things to think about and attention is distracted by household and family you really need to have a place to keep these ideas fresh or you lose them. I remember my great grandmother, Big Mama, kept a pencil and an old envelope in her apron pocket and she used that to jot down her shopping needs or to do lists. Granny kept her old envelop by her chair and another in the kitchen next to the phone. I was shaming myself at how bad my memory is then I recalled they used that handy little helper: a list! I keep the sheets by my chair during the month and then when the month is over I take them to my home keeping notebook. I dash through those I did or looked into and keep the page to remind me of the other ideas when I have that lovely trinity of time/money/resource materials to work with to complete them.
I also want to take time tonight to make out a shopping list. I'll categorize them as hobby, thrift, clothing, etc. so I know to look for those items. I'll keep a copy of that list at home and another in my purse in my little planner. I can't name the number of times I've wished I had my lists in that little planner when I was away from home.
Now I'm going to end this here because tomorrow is the New Year and why carry 2014 over into 2015? I'll just start up fresh in the morning!
This past year has been one in which I really had to work hard at finding my balance. I guess it was about mid-year when I began to grasp just how badly I needed to find that place and learn to keep myself fairly steady. I've not always been so wishy-washy, so flighty, so dipsy doodle, so weepy. The truth is that mid-life has been a strange and lonesome sort of ride and I probably spent more time self-examining and self-analyzing and in general figuring out who I was and what I meant to do with myself than I have since my teen years. You all remember that time when things changed in your body, and your mind and emotions were all over the place? Hello mid-life! Right?
Ultimately I went back to my life mentor, Granny. I realized that at my age she was a widow, living on a tiny income, alone in a rural area with family living busy lives just far enough away that a daily visit wasn't going to happen. I never once heard her complain of feeling lonely. I never saw her lay down and refuse to get up. I saw that she ordered her days with a routine of work and rest and interests outside routine and she made a life for herself on her own terms. It occurred to me that while I still had a husband to help set the pace of days in my life, I was at a unique point. I am an adult. I don't have children to tend to any longer. It is an opportunity that I've lived my whole life waiting for, to live on my own terms and do the things I want to do. Just as Granny did.
There are restrictions. There will always be restrictions in life of some sort. Money, time, health issues, family needs happen. But why not live the life I've always thought I'd have some day? Why not figure out a way to have that life? It might not end up picture perfect, but it might still be well lived...sort of like that pretty little portion of flower bed I wanted or that guest room. Neither one was my exact vision but they turned out just fine anyway.
So here's to a New Year. And to YOU. I thank you all for bothering to read. I thank you all for sharing solutions and tips about how you manage things in your homes. But most of all I thank you for stopping here to tell me, "I feel the same way!" because that has done much to ease my feeling that I am alone and that has meant the most of all.
Happy New Year dears! May 2015 be the year we all live well!