Friday, December 19, 2014
This Week In My Home: Living Frugally Living Well
Saturday: We were out yesterday and I had no time to prepare meals for today. I made sure I thawed meat last night and had a menu plan that would take less than 20 minutes prep overall. I think I did very well. I roasted a whole chicken, baked sweet potatoes alongside, steamed green beans and made a salad. It took exactly the amount of time I'd allowed and no more for preparation.
We did not have breakfast for supper this week. We opted for sandwiches, since I was already making John's work lunch for tomorrow at that time. It saved time for me.
We did not run any lights all day long today, just opened the curtains to let in the natural sunlight and that was it. John even turned off the TV until time for the Army Navy game! I was surprised and pleased.
Sunday: Washed a full load of clothes. I did not want to hang this particular load to dry. I needed to shrink some things, lol, so I put in the dryer. I timed the load to come out a little early. Everything was perfectly dry except for a spot or two that dried quickly at room temperature.
Cleaned out the refrigerator. I tossed only a single serving of pudding that had gotten lost over the week with all the extra foods in the fridge.
We cut up a whole summer sausage for the cheese plate for our party last weekend...Little of that got eaten. I realized I could use it to make a tasty bean soup. I'll plan that for the next week's menu.
I was slated to make mac and cheese for the EMS dinner tomorrow. We bought pasta according to the servings on the box but I realized after boiling two pounds that I would fill two big lasagna pans with just three boxes instead of the four we'd purchased. I made cheese sauce from scratch and poured over the cooked macaroni. To reduce calories, I cut the milk with water. I've never made such a large quantity before so I also overpurchased cheese. 1 pound was more than sufficient to make the cheese sauce and to top the macaroni casseroles.
I opted not to go to town or to leave home today. I figured the crowds would be even heavier than they were on Friday afternoon when we'd been out and I'd no desire to be out in the hurry and wait mode. Staying home suited me best and shopping on Monday morning seemed the least crowded time to go in my opinion. Staying home also allowed me to really think about the purchases I planned to make. Waiting almost always will save money.
Cleaned out the fridge freezer. I decided to let go of two items that simply have not been used and for which I have no plans. I've held onto to these two items so long I can't remember when I bought them but I think Katie still lived at home. I kept saying to myself it was throwing money away to toss them. At this late date any value they had must have long since been gone. So I dumped them and freed up the space in my freezer.
I never turned on the TV at all today, nor the tree lights either, which is unusual for me this time of year.
We're fighting off something. I have a scratchy throat, so I'm taking extra vitamin C and will go to bed extra early tonight as well as be sure to drink extra water.
Monday: John washed a small load of clothes and hung to dry.
John asked to go with me today to purchase the crudite platter we needed for the party. I had every intention of buying produce and making my own but he requested that I 'just buy one'. Pricey...but my husband thought he would save me some work. I've learned the hard way that if I insist too often and too hard on the most frugal method of doing every thing, then he starts to feel as though he's not done his part in earning. In the end, I took it for what it was worth. He was 'giving' me an hour of my time for about the same price that platter cost him in working. I appreciated it and thanked him for his thoughtfulness.
I had an idea about our post holiday menu, something special, something we'd normally not do: Prime Rib. Wowza. I priced it today at the market and a small roast costs nearly as one third what I'd spend on meats for one quarter of the year. I just cannot justify spending that much for an item that might make three meals and soup. I mean I can do that with a chicken for under $5, right? So I put that idea out of my mind and am trying to figure out what else I might do instead that would be special.
Came home and put macaroni and cheese and baked beans in the oven to heat. I took them hot from the oven and packed into our insulated bags. They were still hot when we set them up on the table at the party.
Bought dog food on sale as a BOGO. I figured the cost per pound and this was $.20 a pound cheaper than the big bags we normally buy.
We purchased some electronics at the grocery, not your usual place to purchase them but I promise you I went armed with prices. One was a SD for a video camera. It was the same price as it sold for elsewhere. We also bought a flash drive for half the cost I'd seen them in other places and lithium batteries which were on sale for a very good price. Just sorry I didn't have my coupons along to save another dollar or two. Lithium batteries are longer lasting than regular batteries and well suited to cameras and video cams.
Gave myself a manicure prior to dressing for the party.
We were out late so we never plugged in the Christmas tree
We kept the heat turned low all day long, never running heat or AC after the very early morning hours. We didn't even increase it when we came in later, just bundled up in sweaters and robes.
Suggested John rub his feet with Vapor Rub cream and put on socks. It stopped his cough within a half hour.
Tuesday: Sorted the leftovers from the party. We'd given some foods away last night to keep from being too overloaded. As it was I had a quart of beans to put in the freezer and served some with leftover hot dogs for dinner today.
We had a small bit of rain this morning. I hurried outdoors and set two potted plants so they could be watered with the drip from the porch roof.
I put an side dish sized portion of mac and cheese in the freezer, and a casserole dish for a main entree was set aside for dinner on Thursday.
I separated the crudite platter into stir fry vegetables, salad vegetables and snacks. I used some of the remaining vegetables on our dinner salad today.
Washed a very full load of dishes in the dishwasher.
Made latkes from scratch for our Chanukkah evening. There are boxed mixes but goodness, a grated potato with an egg and a bit of flour, seasoned and fried is pretty simple. I doubt it cost me more than $.15 for this special treat and only that much because of the cost of the egg.
I used the vapor cream on my feet, chest and throat. I'd had a scratchy feeling in my throat for two days and had developed a small cough.
Wednesday: Made John's breakfast. Packed his lunch.
Stripped our bed and put a full load on to wash, adding in every piece of clothing that needed to be washed.
Reheated frozen leftover French toast for my breakfast.
Used vapor rub cream on my chest after my shower. I barely coughed all day long.
Hung sheets to dry. This filled the line. I hung a few other pieces to dry on the tension rod. I put a few items in the dryer.
Fed the dogs a small portion of table scraps. Misu really likes grits and I always save her a spoonful when I make them for our breakfast.
Gathered mail to be posted, trash to be taken to the dumpster, things meant to go back to Mama's, water for the day before I left house this morning. I even packed some Vitamin C and Tylenol to offset the symptoms of a very very mild headcold.
Mama needed to go to the grocery store. I decided to stay in the car. We've spent enough this pay period and I really need the grocery money for next pay period to cover next pay period!
I'd told Mama about the Prime Rib I'd wanted and how very much it cost. While in the grocery she found rib roasts (not prime rib but a good cut all the same) were on sale for $7 and she found a smaller roast that weighed 3 pounds. She bought it and told me about it when she came out of the store. I was going to pay her for it but she said "It's my gift to you..." Gracious but that was nice! And I can't say how pleased I am to have something nice for our Christmas dinner. The rib roast will work very well for my menu, too, as it's the traditional roast for an English roast dinner. I'm so happy she knew there was a more affordable option, because I didn't!
Filled up my car while we were in Perry...$2.08 a gallon ya'll! I nearly crowed I was so pleased over that price. I told Mama when I got back in the car that last spring I was horrified it cost us nearly $45 every time we put in a half tank in my car. Today it was under $20!
Came home and made myself a single cup of coffee. I sipped it while I folded the laundry from this morning and had a little quiet time. Very restorative.
Thursday: Made pancakes from scratch. I was really disappointed in my last batch but these rose up so lovely and high. I used 2 tsps of baking powder and 1 tsp of cream of tartar.
Shopped at home this morning and pulled a 5 pound bag of flour, jar of mayonnaise, a loaf of bread and a box of waxed paper. This pantry business is much less expensive than having to run to town for needed items.
Our dinner today was Chicken Rice. It's a very economical meal and a healthy one as well.
Made Challah for our Shabat tomorrow night.
Mixed up a full batch of the sugar cookie dough I found earlier this year. I made a small batch of cut cookies for our Hanukkah celebration. The rest will be Christmas cookies.
Cashed in Swagbucks this evening and claimed a $50 giftcard.
Received a free issue of a magazine in the mail today.
Friday: John made breakfast this morning. It was so nice to have someone put a plate of food before me for a change. He does that about once a week. Sweet! He serves a bit more food than I do and maybe it's not exactly frugal, but I'll close my eyes to it, because it's a very nice thing for him to do. Sometimes we need to appreciate and not count, you know?
I took something out for dinner but it did not thaw. I decided to see what I had: macaroni and cheese, leftover chicken rice, vegetables...I decided to heat up the mac and cheese, make a pan of roasted vegetables to go along with it. It was tasty, hot and good. And frugal.
Washed a full load of dishes.
John washed a full load of clothes.
Put a few drops of Eucalyptus oil in the shower this morning after the water got hot. My own vapor steamer right in the shower.
Continue to make good use of the vapor rub.
We've kept the heat set at 67 all week long. It does get a bit chilly but we put on more clothing, socks or slippers. It is not cold in the house, just a little cooler than we're used to. I say this, I cannot imagine having my AC set at this temperature!
Went through my recipe files today and tossed all those untried but saved recipes. I'm almost down to nothing but Tried and True samplings at the moment!
Saved all my family photos to a flash drive. This is something I've been meaning to do for months and only just did. I also saved all the documents related to family history on another.
Went through junk mail and found one included address labels and another had notepads.
Most of all the savings this week have been big because we've not ventured into a store since Monday...That is a pretty big thing this time of year.
I was thinking of Granny the other day and her preparations for Christmas...I remember her Christmas decor far better than I remember Mama's or most of my own. I'm not sure just why. It isn't that Granny's decor was all that fancy or special. Perhaps it was the simplicity of it that I loved.
There was always a huge live tree, one found on the place, not a bought tree. It usually was a cedar but sometimes a long leaf pine. Never perfect but always aromatic. I don't recall ornaments on the tree, though in later years she often bought for me the same ones she'd purchased for herself. What I recall are the bubble lights and the big bright (and hot!) bulbs, the tinsel and the beads.
On her mantel were three wise men on camels and a nativity. The wise men were of gilt on plastic and far larger than the nativity but it didn't matter. Upon the mantel also were a mother cat and two kittens and a bulldog, all disproportionate to the nativity. Again, it didn't matter. There was a lovely old etched mirror without a frame above the mantel and it reflected the bundle of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling light. Her front door had glass panes in the upper half and she had a cling film stained glass paper that she put on the panes.
Granny was all about the confection's when it came to Christmas and she filled a variety of tins and glass candy dishes with them. A variety of Brach's candies: caramels, Neapolitan coconut bars, toffees. In an old tin with a bronze colored lid and a Currier and Ives scene on the sides she kept cream drops. In the lovely old glass candy dish rimmed with gold were little round mille fleur candies and in dish were long strips of ribbon candy. There were cellophane wrapped candies: butterscotch, cinnamon, peppermint. And in another dish there were coconut bonbons. It was truly a child's dream come true to see the array of candies and the big bowl of assorted nuts in shell in a bowl with nutcrackers handily place atop. And big baskets of tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.
In the kitchen we were assured of seeing a wondrous display of cakes: Japanese fruitcake which was spicy and rich with raisins and frosted with a coconut, pineapple and lemon concoction. A lovely pound cake with a rich deep sad streak atop it and thick crusty sides. A beautiful red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and finely minced pecans sprinkled around the sides. A fresh coconut cake not frosted with thick fluffy frosting but a simple cooked frosting of fresh grated coconut and sugar and coconut water. Pecan pies, too, as if all the other riches weren't enough. And the one thing we children were never allowed any of, a big punch bowl of eggnog set among all the cakes.
I remember the days leading up to Christmas as well, on the few occasions we were allowed to visit during that time. Nuts were cracked and shelled out by hand, after many a morning and afternoon picking them up from under the trees. Coconuts were carefully punctured and the coconut water saved and then the coconuts were split, freed from their hard shells and skins and grated by hand on the box grater. Granny had a stand mixer but she made all of her cakes by hand, using a wooden spoon to cream butter and sugar and beat in eggs, one after the other. She carefully greased and floured her cake pans and then lined them with waxed paper which was also greased. She stood over the stove and cooked most of the frosting. She didn't take shortcuts except to use frozen pie shells for the pecan pie.
And with all this plenty there was always roast chickens, a ham, dressing, dumplings, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, butter beans that tasted still of summer and a rich tomato jam to go atop them, giblet gravy and creamed corn...
Perhaps it was the rich abundance of foods...or the mandate that we could have anything we wanted as long as we ate it and didn't waste it. Waste was the sin. I think that is what led me to allow my children to have all they wanted on Christmas Day in their childhood. I wanted them to remember that sometimes in this world there is a plentiful supply of good things to partake of and we should do so when they are before us.
Perhaps it was just the great joy of being with Granny and knowing that her traditions were strong and true. For all that Christmas might appear to be about the candy or cakes or the tree, the truth was there on her mantel in the wise men who tirelessly sought the sleeping infant just a few paces down the mantel, guided by the star that adorned the top of her tree.