My Frugal Week(s)
Saturday: I didn't plan ahead as well as I ought to have done. I had no ready to serve meal for today...or did I? I dug about in the freezer and found homemade spaghetti sauce. I reheated the sauce, cooked the last of an open bag of specialty pasta. I roasted asparagus and reheated cheese sauce that was in the fridge and needed to be used up. We had the last of bagged salad John left in his lunch bag. I called it dinner. John called it good food.
I was careful to watch the thermostat and when the AC began to run on and on, I'd inch up the temperature so that it would shut off and take a rest. This gives the compressor time to reset itself.
Sunday: Our anniversary. We didn't do anything much for each other, just small things. I got a funny card for John that has a pet saying of his incorporated into the verse. He went into grocery after church to pick up ice for a road trip we'd planned and bought me strawberries and a chunk of a specialty cheese and a big Hero sandwich for our dinner so I didn't have to cook. The strawberries and cheese were special because I often look at both but seldom buy the berries because I'm the only one eats them and I never buy the cheeses as they are pricey and could be a mistake as I know little about them. John did right well. It's a pungent cheese that appears hard like Parmesan but is actually creamy in texture.
We spent the afternoon packing for our trip. We'd saved from Christmas and birthday monies to pay for this little getaway. I found a great deal online that cost about half what we'd saved as it is off season in the mountains. That meant we had spending money built in as well. We'd also purchased a gas card months ago at Publix ($50 card for $40 with a $50 grocery purchase. I was going to spend more than that anyway.) that we'd set aside for any trips we might take this year.
Packed our bags. I have a checklist that I keep to insure we don't forget important things like phone chargers or toothbrushes or medicines or books...Gracious! we couldn't do without books!
Monday: Packed up our car. Included in our luggage: 1 ice chest filled with cold bottles of water and soda and 1 ice chest filled with frozen meats and dairy items and a grocery bag packed to the gills with items needed to prepare our own meals this week. When we arrived at our destination, we set out meat to thaw. We went off to grocery and spent a grand total of $25 on batteries, buns, ice cream and a few other food items. We shopped at a grocery that I have a rewards card for so we could take advantage of any savings. All told our grocery budget for this pay period was half what we'd normally spend. That purchase at the local store was our last for this week.
I brought along potatoes and eggs, onion, mayo, pickle relish, mustard...I made potato salad for our side, as well as baked beans. Leftovers went into fridge for another day's side dishes.
Tuesday: The day after we arrive is always a 'quiet' day. We rest, read, relax, eat when hungry, do nothing much and it was exactly the right way to spend this day. I hiked downhill to the creek and then had the fun (Ha) of hiking back up hill again. I picked up a piece of mica to add to my small rock collection.
Wednesday: Out of house time. Due to the time of our arrival (first part of the week) and the season not yet starting, most tourist attractions and businesses were closed until Thursday or Friday. We spent our time taking a long drive from one small mountain town to another. We stopped for lunch in Dahlonegha, nothing pricey, but just good simple foods and then headed back to our cabin. Our day excursion cost us less than $20. We used the gas card to refill the car.
Supper was the previous night's leftovers.
Thursday: A historical site was open and we went to that. It happened that Thursday's are 'free admission' days (we didn't know this before we arrived). We drove to an old state park my family visited often in my youth and sat and chatted lakeside. Then we headed to KFC, for the one splurge meal we have on our annual vacation. We spent less than $15 for that meal. Spent the afternoon at the cabin.
I saved the little containers that our side dishes came in. I find them handy for small portions of food or to portion out buttermilk to freeze. They are also the perfect size for an individual serving of pudding or applesauce to go in a picnic or work lunch.
We had leftover biscuits with sausage for our supper.
Friday: Had breakfast and coffee at the cabin before heading home.
Our last task was to empty the fridge. We were determined to pack it all up in one cooler this time and we had a bit of a squeeze to do it. In the end we sacrificed an almost full container of whipped cream but something had to go and that was the least practical foodstuff of all. We broke down packaging to less bulky containers to save space, too. I told John, "It was $.89...we won't go belly up at the bank if we toss it and buy more later." We had just enough room for plenty of ice to keep everything cold. And there was plenty of ice and little water in the chest when we got home. It was very efficiently packed!
We took an alternate route home, seeing some more mountain views and lovely old farmsteads. Most of the places we traveled were strictly back roads, old forsaken state highways or county roads but the views were breathtaking. Wild daisies and mountain laurels bloomed at roadside. We found hidden little water falls, rocky creeks and ancient looking little farms tucked into the mountainsides. It was all lovely in the early morning light. We drove with the windows down even though I had to put on a sweater. The air was so fresh and nice. This route was an alternate way to reach the main road we'd drive home on. It was no further in miles than the way we'd come and allowed us to further enjoy our time in the mountains.
We stopped in one small town on our way and got crackers and cheese from the trunk to tide us over until we could find stop for lunch. We had our own cold drinks (water and soda) along with us as well.
We stopped in the last town before our own to get a quick sandwich meal. Again less than $15. I counted my cash up while John was waiting on the order to be filled. I realized we hadn't spent $100 all week long. I didn't even buy any souvenirs. The money that is leftover will go back into our travel account to save towards the next trip we take.
When we got home and were unloading the car, John came in the house and said "Here's the last thing from the car." I laughed out loud when I looked up and saw a rough old stick in his hand. I'd used that stick to help me hike up and down that steep hillside to the creek below our cabin. He knew that moment of deciding to take that hike on my own was a big decision on my part after years of recovering from being hit by a drunk driver. That stick isn't pretty nor is it straight but it is a wonderful symbol of hidden strength and I am proud to have that as my souvenir of this trip.
John washed a full load of clothes and hung a portion of them to dry. He carefully timed the ones in the dryer and checked them periodically during drying to see which were ready to be removed.
I took a loaf of Challah from freezer to thaw for our Shabbat evening.
Our supper was hamburgers that John had cooked at the cabin and we'd wrapped well to bring home in the ice chest. It was nice not to have to cook a meal from scratch.
Saturday: Used up the last of a can of Spam and some of the specialty cheese John bought for our anniversary to make an omelet. The eggs were left from our trip as well. I find three eggs look skimpy when you piece them out (one for me, two for you), but an omelet LOOKS substantial though it requires no more than 3 eggs.
Having been gone all week there was no prepared meal ready to reheat today for our Shabat meal. I remembered a suggestion John had made a couple of weeks ago: using the chicken nuggets as the meat for Chicken Parmesan. I had frozen plain spaghetti sauce, a half dozen nuggets, some Asiago cheese that I shredded. I cooked pasta, opened the chilled 3 Bean Salad I had in the fridge and sliced Challah. Dinner took little effort and tasted very well.
Eased up the AC thermostat as the day heated up. Generally we peak out at about 79F. We use oscillating fans to help circulate the air.
Sunday, June 1: This week I plan to work extra hard. I was glad that the house needed only minor work this morning. I packed John's work lunch and made him breakfast before he went to work.
Turned up the AC early on. Thankfully it was pretty pleasant today, though it was humid, so the AC needed little attention.
Made out a short shopping list of needed items for the week ahead. I am glad that I set money aside before we left just specially to stock up with when we returned.
Made banana bread. I didn't quite have enough bananas so I topped off the cup with applesauce.
Made a bit over a pint of chocolate syrup. My favorite recipe is Tightwad Gazette's recipe and is nothing more than cocoa, water and sugar with a pinch of salt and splash of vanilla. Isn't it refreshing to be able to pronounce all the ingredients? I have a saved Hershey's syrup bottle (24 ounces) that recipe fills very nicely and makes it much more convenient to use.
Chopped three heads of garlic. I had a feeling they were just about to sprout and sure enough they were just beginning to get that green tinge in the middle. I chopped them very fine and popped them in a jar in the fridge. The jar in the fridge was the last bits of a bought jar of chopped garlic, so the asorbic acid will help keep my garlic from going bad. Though I'm listing this in the middle, I did wait until after all my cooking and prepping was done before tackling the garlic. I don't think garlic flavored chocolate syrup would taste very good in my milk!
Mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I froze a pan full of spoonfuls of dough per Karla's suggestion and set aside a small container of dough to make fresh cookies for us this week.
Made up a batch of caramel corn...and it may be a bit more like burnt sugar corn, but it used some leftover peanuts from the last batch of caramel corn that I'd kept in the freezer as well as the single packet of popcorn I had left from a box of microwave corn.
Went to the grocery and did stick hard to my list. Was happy to find that Claxton whole chickens have NO carrageenan in them. Wish I could find heavy cream or half and half that doesn't...
I ate leftovers today though I did contemplate getting something else while I was out, since I'd left so very late and was quite hungry. No need. I was more than pleased with my leftovers. It helped a lot that I stopped to get the mail as I headed out to the store and the credit card bill was in. I knew it was a heavy month and boy! was it heavy. Fortunately all the money is set aside but I certainly was not tempted to spend anything extra at the grocery.
I shopped at a store I haven't been to in many months....and found they had doubled the store. It took a lot of reminding myself that I was sticking hard to my list, and not there sightseeing, always a temptation in a newly renovated store.
My splurge purchase today was a huge lovely raspberry colored geranium, one of my favorite colors and not easy to find. The plants at this store are deeply discounted. I paid $8.50 for my hanging basket today.
While I was walking around looking at the plants, I noted several coleus leaves were scattered on the pavement. Coleus is the easiest of plants to root. I gathered up the broken leaves and brought them home with me. I put the stem end in water. There should be new plants from those leaves in about 2 weeks, at the most.
Decluttered a drawer of the chiffarobe and not only pulled some things to sell, I also found a broken creamer and an old lidless sugar bowl to go with my teapots on the front porch. I'll plant a few smaller plants in those.
Monday: Potted plants in the creamer and sugar bowl I found yesterday. I put them on the front porch ironing board with the teapots I planted. I wanted some 'lift' on the ironing board and recalled the shortest of the two stools on the back porch. It's just perfect at the wide end of the ironing board and adds nice height for display.
Cleaned out a box I keep next to my chair. I found a quarter! Put it right into the charity box which is where we toss all our change.
Entered MyCokeReward points from bottle caps and box lids I'd collected over the past two weeks. I use these points when there are good deals on 12pack soda coupons or for free snacks.
Culled the bookshelves next to my chair. I found a book I'd forgotten I'd bought for my soon to be born grandson's library. Listed 5 books on Half.com. Here's hoping they sell.
Cleaned out the other side of the chiffarobe. Found three Spanish Olive Oil tins I'd tucked in there. I filled one with dirt and planted basil seeds in it. I used another in the kitchen to replace a bulky tin container I'd tired of. That bulky tin container will return to it's real life as a planter for the back porch plants.
I was clearing out a desk drawer and decided to organize the cards. Glad I did. I found a lovely card for my granddaughter's birthday which is next week.
My daughter in law alerted me to a special offer from MyCokeRewards that netted me an extra 10points.
I made a bowl of Pico de Gallo at dinner today. I saved the juiced lime halves because there's still plenty of flavor left in them. I made a homemade Cherry Limeade using one half this afternoon. Yum!
Peeled some apples John hadn't eaten and cooked them until tender. Now I need to mash and simmer until all the moisture is out and we'll have homemade applesauce.
Tuesday: I had to reschedule my hair appointment last week for this week. I got up a little early and prepared dinner before I went into town. I needed to run errands and my appointment was at 11am. This meant the temptation to stop in town and pick up a meal was nil. Good food waited at home.
This morning's breakfast was bacon and thawed and reheated frozen pancakes. What a nice surprise for me: mine were strawberry!
I picked up the mail and took off trash when I went into town. Carried along stuff to do banking with, but forgot it was a busy day of the month. I put that off until tomorrow when I have to go back to town to lunch with Mama and the lines will be a lot shorter.
Wandered the aisles. Dollar General has a clearance area and I love to see what might be on it. I've gotten some neat food items I'd pass up otherwise but not when deeply discounted (like Andes peppermint chocolate crumbles which amped up homemade brownies to a whole new level). As I explored, I found a soap holder, soap dispenser and toothbrush holder in the cool blue teal that I've used in my master bath re-do this year. They were $.50 each. And then...Oh then!
I found two cloth Chevron patterned shower curtains that EXACTLY match my Matelasse spread. They were less than $10 and full enough to use at my bedroom windows. Happy dance, I have new curtains! Or will when I sew a rod pocket in the top of them.
Supper: a bit of leftover roast beef (thawed and used for sandwiches Monday night) not quite enough for two. A cup of cherry tomatoes with feta cheese I'd put in John's lunch Sunday and he brought back home. A quarter of a Vidalia onion. Doesn't sound like much really but combined with fresh romaine it was a most excellent supper for two. It made me most happy to use those tomatoes and feta. If John refuses something in his lunch he seldom wants to see it back in his lunch bag the next time he works. By the way, I dumped in the last of the feta cheese (about a tablespoon).
I've been busy trying to spruce up areas about the house. Years ago a rock or something made a hole in the siding next to the back door. John filled it in with caulking which discolored a bit. It was just plain unsightly. I had him put a nail just above the spot and hung a cute little canvas over it. I'll show pictures later in another post.
Wednesday: While sorting through my fabric stash yesterday, I found a piece of fabric I'd bought at the thrift store for $1. It's a lovely big green gingham check, almost a buffalo type check it's so big. I was going to refold it into a smaller size and discovered huge stains smack in the middle. I tossed it into the trash at first, then thought of the Shout stain remover we've used with much success of late. I took it to the laundry, sprayed it well, and put in the laundry basket to sit overnight. This morning I washed with my sheets (a full load of laundry washed by the way and hung to dry, too). No more stain. I was very pleased indeed.
Turned AC to 77F before I had breakfast this morning.
Hung pillows on the line to air and sun all day long.
Mama gifted me her gently read magazines.
Brought half my chicken from dinner home. It was just too much to eat at one sitting. I have enough chicken to feed the two of us another meal.
A couple of years ago John insisted I buy a variety of Suduko puzzle books. It's something I really enjoy filling time with for a quick rest break. I've been steadily working my way through them. I've just completed the third book. John suggested it's time I get more. I said I have two more and can wait a little longer. I've been mulling over a subscription. It would cost the same as about 5 or 6 issues of the books but net me a stack of books that might last...well years, lol. Of course, being in the midst of decluttering, I must ask where I'd store them. That should put an end to that idea for a bit!
Armadillos have been digging holes in the yard. I know why they dig (grubs) but those holes are deep enough to really hurt someone walking about the yard...and then last night the stupid thing starting digging in the rosebed next to the bedroom...at 3 am. Maddie went nuts. I told John when he came back indoors after settling things down, that I'd make a trip today to Tractor Supply. There's a product called Repel All that worked beautifully last time we had armadillo trouble. I bought a big gallon jug of the granular product today and put out about the house and in the areas where that pest has been digging.
John noted that the blades he buys at the hardware store are useless after about two cuts. At $18 a pair and the potential of cutting grass once a week at the least it is hard to think of replacing them twice a month. Today he ordered a new belt for his mower at an authorized dealer for his mower. They have blades that are a heavier gauge steel than the blades we've been purchasing. They offered a discount for a bulk purchase. At $16 a pair and the promise of more mowing between changing of blades we'll definitely be taking the bulk buy.
My only other purchase today was a dozen wide mouth quart jars. I needed two to use as light covers (hopefully, fingers crossed) and figured I could use the rest for food storage.
Returned two items that didn't fit well. I asked it be put on my debit card as a credit.
Did banking while I was out today.
I worked in the yard this afternoon, putting out that repellent and picking up limbs. I was so hot when I came indoors. I made myself the most refreshing drink. I smashed four quartered strawberries and put in the bottom of my glass with the juice, added ice, some maraschino cherry liquid (leftover when I used the last cherries) and 7Up. It was the best fizzy drink I've had in ages and tasted so good with the fruit in it.
Thursday: Painted some old plastic flower pots that didn't look very nice at all. What a change a bit of paint can make! And I like them more than the new pots I'd been eyeing.
Took the idea further and painted: a badly faded birdhouse, a stool and an old wood crate.
Dinner today was a makeover leftover and I got NO pictures. Sorry dears, I was so tired and weary that I didn't think of photos until after the plates were scraped. Chicken enchiladas, which used up the pico de gallo I made the other day as well as that partial jar of salsa verde I found in the freezer and the yummy cheese John bought for our anniversary. I took the rice, black beans and some of the leftover corn (Mexican cornbread leftover) and a little pimento to make the side dish.
We ate John's leftover bagged salad for our salad today.
Found two pairs of pants I thought I'd donated/lost. Those are soon to be shorts for summer. Yes! I've been looking online for shorts and haven't found what I wanted. This will suit my need very well.
Washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher. I purposely held over this load until I could fill all possible space.
John washed two full loads of clothes. He hung the majority of both loads to dry.
Friday: We had to run an errand today. I took along a thermal glass of iced water. Boy was it needed! It was muggy and hot.
The errand was an attempt to fix our mower, which worked fine when John parked it before vacation and didn't move when he cranked it after we got back. We replaced the recommended belts, a cost of $36 and John did the labor himself.
When we went out, we stopped by flea market, paid bills, took off trash.
John decided to run another errand. We noted our usual set point for spending in that store and carefully edited what we'd 'look' at. We 'saved' about $78 by avoiding that whole 'just looking' habit.
The belts didn't make the mower work...Now we think and plan out what we do next. We will likely make a firm decision this weekend. The grass has waited two weeks. It will wait a little longer. This is part of living frugally as well, waiting to make decisions instead of rushing right in.
John researched how to make repair the refrigerator freezer evaporator fan. This is not a pressing need but one we know will need to be tended to shortly as well.
Frustration mounted as the day went on. It was good to set the house in order. I find it best to put frustration to constructive use.
Rebecca made note last week that the relentless focus on finances had become a burden that blocked out so many other things that were good, great, and terrific. I've struggled with this too. I find I am so intent on sharing how I've saved money that I lose sight of why I share: to encourage, to teach, to be an example of how saving at home can be a means to an end, increase the standard of living for a household without the burden of a 2nd job.
We live well on John's salary. We live well despite the economy, despite the lack of raises, despite the "raises" that actually net us less because some clever manager has figured out how to take away a perk and give half value back to an employee and tag it as a raise.. We live well despite one modest income and the usual list of bills and needs that arise for any household. We have a quality of life that many who know us envy. It was never our intent to create envy. It's not like we have the latest smartphones (just plain old flip phones ) or brand new cars, or the latest trend in home decor. But we do live peacefully and that is due to the lack of stress and strain.
However, it was a very valid point Rebecca made and while I struggle to balance home and blog, I get out of balance, focusing too much on the financial side and too little on the many other things I want to share to make this a true journal of my home. It is for that reason that I've decided to go back to the balance of sharing how we enjoy our lives, not just how we save, on my Frugal Week posts.
This week, I woke early one morning and couldn't go back to sleep. It was 6 a.m. I went out to sit on the back porch. The breeze was soft and cool, the grass shining with dew, the sun just warming enough. Maddie lay at my feet and smiled to herself. I rocked and listened to the birds singing and a dog barking in the neighborhood on the other hill top. I read my Bible, sipped coffee and waited on John to arrive home.
A few weeks ago, some of my children visited and we all gathered for many long hours on that back porch. I thought at that time, "This is what we built this porch for..." and it made me happy, but you know as I sat there Thursday morning, I realized THIS is what we built the porch for. Family is always welcome, but comes seldom. Yet every day I can sit there and pray and read and listen to the start of a new day and praise God.
Friday morning John and I both took coffee outdoors after I got up. We listened to the birds sing and felt the soft breeze and I listened to him tell me of his morning's reading. We spent nearly two hours there, talking over how God has worked in our lives, of the blessings we've had and the struggles. We talked of the grandchildren to so soon enter the world, Joshua who is due any day now but no later than next Thursday, and his cousin who will be born on July 9 (date absolute). This is what we built the porch for, to cherish these sorts of moments, whether we are with family, or alone and waiting, or together.