A Year of Savings: 2013
Mar 1: I started the pantry inventory yesterday and today, I decided I needed to use some of the surprise ingredients I found: frozen chili, a can of pineapple (one of several that will expire come May), a box of just expired macaroni. Determination to salvage was strong after tossing those two long expired items the last day of February.
So I made up TWO entrees from the box of macaroni, with a bonus single serve entree. Chili Mac for dinner today, along with Pineapple Upside Down Cake with a single serve casserole of chili mac for the freezer was the first meal. Entree Two: a freezer main dish of Macaroni and Cheese with a lovely homemade cheese sauce. A frozen entree of mac and cheese at the grocery goes for $9. I know because I have bought them on occasion, gasp... I used 1/2 and 1/2 that had just reached the expiration date to make my cheese sauce, saving half a bottle from spoiling which increased my savings in making this dish. Savings: $11 (not tossing the macaroni or the half and half and NOT buying frozen mac and cheese).
Made up my favorite little cake recipe and poured over drained crushed pineapple, brown sugar and melted butter. Yummy! I thought of a dozen ways to use those five remaining cans of crushed pineapple. Now I just have to choose which ones I will make. In the meantime I saved $.50 making a conscious effort to use the pineapple.
Here's a bigger savings: $32... How so? I noticed an ant on the counter top where I do baking early this morning. I killed him and then found two more. Then I noticed what looked like three or four 'bodies' lying about. We've had a little spider that came in on the houseplants who has made it her personal business to kill ants this year. Honestly she's the best pest control I've ever had! She seems to track down all those little scouts and has no mercy whatsoever. Natural pest control at it's best, lol.
However, she was unable to keep up with this infiltration. And they discovered the baking cupboard where boxes of dried fruit, and more importantly two tubs of Ghiradelli melting chocolates were stored. Hence the 'bigger savings'. I discovered that the bottom of the dark chocolate tub was cracked just before the ants got into that container. The cupboard was emptied, the chocolates and fruit repackaged...and disastrous loss was avoided. Thankfully because...
I inventoried the bottom pantry cupboard this afternoon. Oy. Three cans of black beans, two of peaches and two cans of coconut milk went into the garbage. Expired months ago. Losses of -$5.77. Not good. I felt ill even though the monetary amount was small. And I came up with a possible solution. I'm buying some brightly colored dot stickers. I'll color code to highlight those that need to be used immediately, soon, or simply first.
Mar 2: I wanted to make a real Shabat dinner this week. But I hadn't done prep work. Solution was to use a container of cornbread dressing from the freezer, leftover mashed potatoes, canned green beans, cranberry sauce. All I needed to do really was to bake the chicken to go along with the easy side dishes.
When I opened the package of breasts this morning I found two large breasts. Only one was XL and the other was XXXL. I cut the biggest in half for our meal today, put the second breast on to boil with homemade chicken broth (from the freezer) for a second meal. That allotted me two meals from one package of breasts. Savings: $2.23
The potatoes were initially meant to be potato soup with Reubens but I lacked ingredients essential to a Reuben. I added some half and half to the potatoes to moisten them and then put in a casserole to reheat. It kept them nice and fluffy and didn't dry them out.
Leftover gravy, mashed potatoes and the meat I stripped from the second breast went into the leftover broth. I will make meal from this tomorrow. That is a NO WASTE couple of meals. Love it!
Our midday meal was so hearty that we ate our dessert as a late snack this afternoon. Neither of us wanted supper. Savings there: $4.
Mar 3: It's been cold cold cold all weekend long. We ran the little propane heater nearly all day long yesterday and it's been on all morning thus far today. The floors are chilly cold to the barefoot, so I've had on slippers all day long, too. Not complaining. It's the first time this winter we've had the heater on for the full length of the day. It cuts down on how often the electric heat pump must come on, saving us electricity.
I made chicken and dumplings today...I used the leftover gravy and mashed potatoes from yesterday's meal, the meat from that XL breast, and added in chicken broth leftover from making the gravy. All I really needed extra was two cups of those lovely frozen mixed vegetables we bought at meat market and two bay leaves, a handful of chopped onion. Voila. I added in a can of evaporated milk that was expiring this month, and made dumpling batter. One hot and delicious meal for one cold gray gloomy day. Bonus savings: $4 my allowance for meals...We have enough leftovers for another meal later this week.
Preventative maintenance this morning. The ant scouts were out on the other counter where we keep foodstuffs in the cabinet above. I moved everything out, wiped down the shelves, sprayed a line against the back walls and sorted through items so that all was nice and neat (and well away from the ant spray even though it had dried by the time I put things back in. I tossed only two items. I'll count my loss for only one as the first was a bottle of dill that I know was several years old and all but crumbs had been used. The other item a loss at - $1.79.
I wasn't inclined to do too much today except play about on the computer. Occasionally I take a day out to follow all the blog links within whatever blog I'm currently reading. This week it was Tracy's Enchanted Cottage wherein she was so kind as to list my own blog as one of her favorite frugal sites. Well I checked out her other favorites. Gems!
John offered to buy me a subscription to one of those genealogical sites so I could happily pursue my new hobby. Kindness itself that man...but one of those favorite bloggers made comment on her blog that she was doing research and she could access those sites free through the Family Search website (Latter Day Saints has a huge genealogical database that links to other archival paid sites) at the public library! Now and then I luck upon info that is free through that site but I get frustrated when 'evidence' is just a credit card charge away, lol. Per this young lady, I can access those paid sites without charge through the site via library systems. This is truly savings! $98 a year for one of those sites and some were pricier.
Mar 4: Fashioned a new wreath for the back door. I spent NOTHING. I used just what I had on hand and it's cute as can be. I'll try to get a photo of it to post later this week. I'd have liked it to be a bit wider and a bit more this or that but to have used just what I have...well I'm pretty satisfied and it certainly did cut out that desire to go buy which can bring hardship to a budget.
I worked on the wreath while sitting out on the back deck. I find that moss is such a messy medium to work with indoors and I learned my lesson at Christmas when I made that moss covered sphere to use on the dining room table. Ugh! The bonus of my work space, aside from fresh air and sunshine and a certain red dog sitting adoringly at my side (and snitching flowers as it happens, the little scamp!)? Getting to see hundreds and hundreds of geese winging their way northward and hearing their lovely calls as they flew. Sometimes saving money just has benefits that are beyond cost.
Made a meal from some leftover roast beef. That beef roast cost me $18. We ate from it twice last week (and I will include the fact that both kids ate from it while we were gone) plus I put up two packages of meat in the freezer before we left on our trip. I used one of those packets, frozen bell peppers, a sliced onion (that had sprouted so I wanted to use it up right away before it spoiled) and made Italian Pepper Beef for our main meal today. We had enough leftovers from that dish to make two more hearty servings. Wow. That 'expensive' roast is looking less pricey by the minute. Safe to say that we just had an additional savings of $3.
I replicated those Mc breakfast sandwiches again this morning, this time I used sausage. Savings: $5 for two homemade sandwiches with coffee.
Mar. 5 Harvest Day in our home. I broke the news gently late last week that we were going to have to buckle out belts a tad tighter with the new budget. No complaints from my husband, though he likes it no better than I do. We will survive, however, and bills want paying no matter what else goes on, just as people want to eat come meal time no matter if the world is ending. I explained my hard and fast grocery budget and suggested some treats would be better halved in the amounts (we should eventually start to lose weight we've cut so many of our treats in the past three years, lol).
Our new routine is that I take the check to deposit, the bills to post and pick up local purchases from local stores. I gather any trash that needs to go to the dumpster, too. Trying to make this trip to town count as much as it can, just to save on gasoline.
I did do one thing you might think foolish, especially in light of the other thing I did today...There's a branch of our bank in three towns within 15 miles of us. Personally, I like the one in the town to the west, 11 miles away. It's simple really: they call me by name when I come in, even at the drive thru. In the town to the east, where I've banked for nearly 20 years, they still ask for my I.D. I had to go to the town on the east of us today, but I drove to the bank in the town to the west first. Yes, I know, with gasoline costs what they are, but I just LIKE having someone treat me as though they KNOW me. I paid about $1 for that trip over to the bank and back again. Loss -$1.
And then I drove to the town to the east and bought gasoline because it's $.10 a gal cheaper than it is here in this town. Mind you I also went by the pharmacy. Savings for 11 gallons of gasoline $1.10.
We also do take out for dinner on this day, our little treat for the pay period. Right now it comes from the grocery money, previously from the entertainment budget (which took a header this past budget cut). Today I wanted Mexican. I went through a half dozen options and eventually decided that this was the only thing that would do. I was pleased to discover that I could order a Burrito plate (with three sides! and free chips and salsa!) for the same price as a chicken dinner with two sides. Not such a hard 'hit' on the grocery budget at all and nice to know.
Went to the pharmacy drive thru. There's nothing tempting at the drive thru window. No pretty new nail polishes or rosy lipsticks or pastel colored candies for Spring. Sure does make it easy to avoid impulse buys.
Mar. 6: Leftovers for our dinner today. That's like a free meal in my opinion. Our salad today was Ambrosia. I used orange segments I froze in January, a can of that 'gotta use it or lose pineapple' (savings $.50) mixed with some coconut and a few chopped maraschino cherries. It was a nice cold contrast to the hot chicken and dumplings.
We really enjoy eating these little sausage links made from beef or turkey. We enjoy them so much I have to be careful that we eat only a serving and not a whole box! Fair warning this morning to my husband when I did cook the whole box. "These are being saved for another meal..." savings: $.50, insuring that we do get two meals from the box.
I managed to finish that freezer inventory (last of the big inventory for this quarter) this morning. No surprises in the big freezer. I was pretty sure of what I had and I didn't have to toss out too much. Some beans and rice had slipped to the bottom and were undated, so I'm sure they were older than six months, and 3 hamburger buns. Not sure when we had those nor why they were at the very bottom of the freezer. I tore them into bits to feed to the birds, though Trudy has decided I really meant her to sit guard over them, sigh.
There's an ant trap in the bathroom, the sort filled with an attractive poison. Those always make me nervous. Not because I'm afraid of contamination but because it becomes a regular "Party Like It's 1999" for the ants who trek to and fro and come in droves. I fought my instincts and left the thing in place. Lo and behold this morning I found the trap devoid of poison, dead ants littered the counter and floor. It does work if you leave it alone instead of panicking at the site of the ants the way I normally do. Letting the ant trap do it's job and getting good use from the trap saved $1.50.
Sat down with my inventory lists, the grocery store sales sheets, and my coupons today. I made out a 'short list' of items to purchase, mostly fresh produce and dairy items, but a few really good sales items that will benefit pantry and freezer next month. I figured what I mean to spend and I should save half of my budget. I'll actually post my savings tomorrow. Planning ahead is only half the battle. Fighting impulsive urges and sticking to the list is the harder half.
Mar 7: Grocery day. I planned carefully and kept on task. Savings today: $24 below the balance I've set in stone. Not a huge savings, but I filled the holes in our pantry. Next pay period, I hope to just spend the bulk of my money at meat market. Any leftover this pay period will help cover costs of produce/dairy products needed.
Mar 8: We had to run to town to pick up pain reliever for John who was experiencing some allergy problems. We made the trip count: took off trash, took an article to the post office to mail.
Shopped at home this evening...What is the point? It kept me on task and I wasn't distracted by sundry other "oh I could use this!" items. I bought a new set of pantry shelves. Researched several options and determined I could use a set from Walmart that are made from a resin type material. Final cost with delivery here to the house was $42. That is a savings of $30 over other options. I made sure to measure my space, and to check on the weight capacity of each shelf (250 pounds) which should work beautifully for me.
Bonus of having new pantry shelving? I now have shelving I can use in two other areas where I wanted to put shelves. Neither requires a heavy load capacity and no damage will be done if they do come apart. I can use what I have in the pantry now. Savings: $60 at the least, based upon pricing of the lowest quality options.