The Power of Less

In this day and age of more is better and more is more, I think there is a world of power in the principle of less. 

Let's think about it.  First there's the basic principle of budgeting.  You should always spend less than you earn.  That literally means, as my husband is so fond of saying, "If you make $200 you don't spend $202."  He's quite right.  In the tightest of budgets the ideal is to spend no more than $200 if that is all you have.  If you're very wise and highly motivated you figure out a way to save a portion of that $200 and live on less

The ideal is not to accumulate more debt but to decrease debt so that you can live better with less.  Yes, it might well mean less car than you think you'd like to have, and less home than your contemporaries might have, but in exchange for having to earn less, you have more of a rather precious commodity: time. 

One of the wisest decisions we made many years ago was to buy less house than we needed at the time we made the purchase.  We had three children living at home.  Despite some rather vehement family objections (not within our household but outside), we chose not to buy a four or five bedroom home.  Instead we opted for a three bedroom home, which was one bedroom smaller than we'd been living in.  Why?  Because we recognized that our family was changing.  One son had already left home, our oldest daughter was nearly the age to leave home as well.  We saw the long view ahead of us and now, when many of our empty nest acquaintances are downsizing, we find that our home is just perfect for the two of us.  Yes, it does seem to bulge at the seams a little when we have a house full of guests, but it seems to fit us all despite the smaller size.   We've had children move in and children move out, the most recent being Sam and Bess extended stay with us.  It meant adjusting ourselves to not having a dedicated craft room, or being able to access our deep pantry, or having a music room ready at any moment for John's desire to play, but we managed just fine.  We recognized that it was a short season.

In September...Goals, Projects, Plans

I thought with the start of a new month I'd let you all in on some of my plans for the month of September.  I generally have a listing of goals but I've discovered something funny about my 'This Week In My Home' posts: if I write it down on the blog I'm 90% sure to accomplish it.  The 10% that doesn't get done is usually due to schedule changes or out of the ordinary occurrences.   The goals I keep in my Home Keeping notebook are about 50% likely to get done.  So you can see why I'm anxious to share.  I'm bound to find I accomplish far more if I've got the accountability factor!

The items listed here are not ALL of my goals for the month, nor are they my ONLY goals.  I will incorporate these items into my usual routine cleaning and work schedules.  These are extra items I hope to accomplish over the daily stuff. 

I really enjoyed the deep cleaning I did this past month.  I didn't quite get finished, however.  So for my first set of goals I'll share my deep cleaning plans for this month.

Update September 7:  Will I get any of this done?!  Monkey wrench thrown into plans has proven to be my undoing. 

Week 1: Kitchen
Clear and clean, declutter and organize the casserole/appliances cupboard.

In My Home This Week: Autumn Beckoning

This week in my home...

...The sprucing up continues.  I painted the back door last week and touched up the front door.  Then I sorted out a cabinet that was a jumble, got our bedroom closet cleaned up, laid six bags of mulch in a new landscape area about the house, shopped with John for a few necessary tools to do some home reno work...And in between times I've scrolled through loads of photos on Pinterest looking for Fall decorating inspiration, scanned vintage magazines for inspiration in kitchen and savings...I feel I should be simply writing, "And the work goes on."   We're just hitting the tip of the iceberg.  Really.  I've dining room chairs to sand and paint,  paint for a table in the living room, the back porch to clean and paint...Oh no...I'm never at a loss for things to do!

Officially, this weekend will be the last weekend in August.  Not the last weekend of summer, but certainly we can hear the beginning strains of the grand finale music.   We don't make plans for Labor day weekend.   No need to since John has worked every Labor Day I can recall.  Most Labor Days are spent laboring!  I worked myself hard last year as did most every one I know.  I think everyone I know starts to get anxious to finish up the summer tasks come that  Labor day weekend.  So we might say that this weekend is the last summer weekend for many of us. 

Frugal Friday: Using What I Have

This is my first handmade apron.  The fabric is blue and white stripe and the pockets and ties are white with blue birds in flight.  It took about two hours to make.  The part that goes over the head is a little bit too big for me.  I think I will leave it as made and just knot or use a d-ring to take it up.

Saturday:  I received a very nice surprise in the mail.  It was a set of three books from Wanda Brunstetter: her newest book, an Amish cookbook and an Amish quilts book.  All three are brand new and were completely a surprise to me.  I signed up months ago for a free book from this author and apparently my name is still on the publisher's list.

John had asked that I make a pot roast for dinner from the shoulder roast I purchased the other day.  It was a two pound roast.  I'm not very familiar with shoulder roasts and I wasn't sure if it would shrink as much as chuck roasts usually do.  It didn't.  It was tender and cut nicely.  I will get at least two more entrees from this.  I have meat, vegetables and gravy for a beef pot pie and beef and gravy to serve as open faced sandwiches for another meal.  I suspect the pot pie will be two meals for us.

We had leftovers from last night's supper for our evening meal.  There is enough of the BBQ chicken to make another sandwich.

Fall Harvest of Produce

Hard to believe that August is almost over, isn't it?  Well, it is.  And it's time to start thinking of what's seasonal for fall.                                                                                                                    

It can be confusing this day and time to walk into a grocery and plan to buy only seasonal produce.  You'll find all sorts of things out of season...How can you tell if it's currently in season?  First look at the country of origin.  If it's outside the U.S. and below the southern equator, it's in season for that part of the world but not ours.  This list should help keep you aware of what's in season for the next three months.

Fall- September, October, November
Brussel Sprouts
Chinese Cabbage
Celery Root
Head or Iceberg Lettuce
Leaf Lettuce
Mandarin Oranges
Chile Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Winter Squash
Star Fruit
Sweet Potatoes

As you can see there are a variety of fruits and vegetables, enough to allow plenty of variety in any diet.  Remember that seasonal foods are usually locally grown or provided by growers in nearby surrounding areas and are always the better priced foods because they are available in quantity.

I've already seen plenty of fresh U.S. grapes in the markets as well as fresh mandarins.  Aldi has mushrooms at $.79/punnet this week, too.  Keep your list handy and see if you can spot all the great seasonal buys in the sales ads.

Iced Tea Chat: The Golden Days

Come on in!  I have a lovely peach iced tea.  There's plenty of ice and we'll need it.  It's no less hot, despite the rather optimistic forecast on the city website.   The Farmer's Almanac is nearer being right with their prediction which was for hot weather through this week.  And how hard is it to believe that we are rapidly winding our way into the last week of August?  Gracious!

I've not been working hard of late.  Truth told, it's too hot to work hard.  It's too hot to do much at all, except sit quietly and sip something cool.  It takes almost no time at all to work up a hard lather.  It just wrings me out to do any hard tasks.  This week I laid six bags of mulch in the last flower bed area on the back side of the house.  I moved the landscape brick in place and finished the job a tiny bit frustrated because I almost had enough brick to finish the one section and almost had enough mulch to finish another section and no more of any of those items.  It will wait until next pay period when I can get more. 

I sat on the back porch after that job and looked about at the next big job of washing down the back porch.  The idea of scrubbing that porch after laying the mulch just filled me with overwhelm.  As I enjoyed the lovely breeze, I looked about at the porch and thought of the many projects in that space alone: refreshing the paint on the cafe set, cleaning, painting the flooring, cleaning and painting that old cabinet I'd put there at the end.  I looked at the back door area.  Sam put new screening in the door but he put it in before the window was cleaned and so there are big dog paw prints on the glass behind the screen.  The storm door could use a good coat of paint and the hardware on that door needs paint as well.  Then the back door...I got up then and grabbed a soapy rag and a scrubby and went to work on the door thinking I'd at least get off the layer of grime.  No luck. 

Make it Yourself: Dried Sweetened Cocoanut

Image result for coconut

I don't know how this would price out in comparison to buying your own, but I do know some folks just like fresh cocoanut.  Granny made a fresh cocoanut cake every year  at Christmas when cocoanuts were in the market and she did all the hard work herself.  I didn't even realize you might dry your own cocoanut from the fresh though! 

The Power of a Penny

You all asked me to share some of my old Penny Ann Poundwise writings.  I've edited the post below slightly.  I used to call my family by fictitious names to protect their privacy, so that may read strange to you.  Chance (John), Kay (Katie), Amie (Susan), Jd (Doug), and Sam (Alan) were their former names. 

We no longer save our change for vacations but donate it to charitable ministry programs that we feel are worthwhile.  It still adds up to a decent sum of money and I'm always surprised each month when we cash in the coins so we can write our checks.

What I find more puzzling today is that it's often coins of all denominations that people feel is not worth picking up.  I mentioned a few months ago about a woman dropping a handful of quarters and walking away as they rolled across the pavement.  John related this past week that he stopped in a parking lot and picked up $.78...which a man who'd been sitting in the corner of the store then said "Give that to me..."  John pointed out that he'd been the one doing the work of picking it up, to which the man had no reply.  John is not uncharitable but it seemed to him that the man might at any point have picked up those coins.  Instead he waited for someone else to do it and then asked for it!   John also finds change at work, dropped by co-workers, who feel it isn't worthwhile to bend over and pick it up.  Of the saved change we donate to charity each month, I can say sincerely that $5 a month or more is change John picks up off the floor at work!

Last, the link in the first paragraph is good for the blog mentioned.  The Boomer House is listed on the right sidebar of the linked blog.  Donna doesn't blog there any longer but there are loads of good posts well worth reading.

Did You Ask?

Did You Ask?  *2006 post...

Several years ago, Joyce Meyer ministry sent out a small banner with a scripture verse that read: ...You have not because you ask not... James 4:2

We had a prime example of that in our home just this afternoon.  We picked up my daughter's contact lenses and brought them home this afternoon.   When she saw them she said  "You didn't get solution."
 "I didn't know you needed any."
"Well they usually just give it to you when you pick up my contacts."

This is true.   George is always good about giving us free solution as they have tons of sample bottles from sales reps.  However, this particular day her dad went in to pick up the contacts and contacts is all he picked up.   George apparently wasn't the one to wait on him.  Some of the other assistants simply don't offer free solution to patients.

"I  haven't had any solution for over a month!" she said.

"I can't read minds dear," was the remark I made as she shut the door.

She didn't state her need prior to today, nor had she asked me to get contact solution. She didn't receive solution because she didn‘t ask.

In My Home This Week: Golden Days Begin

In my home this week:

...Now isn't that pretty?  I note that colors in the depression and war years tended to be very saturated which is not typical of today, and bedrooms were often unashamedly feminine.  I think this is just lovely though I'd choose a lighter color for walls and carpet I think.  I've sighed over a dressing table all my years, from earliest girl hood onwards and only recently have determined that I shall have to sigh over them for a long while yet.  There's simply no practical place to put one. 

No crying over what I can't fit.  How blessed I am to have a house full of furnishings!  There was a day and time when we had plenty of empty spaces in our home and I despaired of ever being able to have enough to fully furnish my home.  It took a change of mindset and a willingness to acquire good quality used in place of the new I once longed for but the compromise has worked out well for me.  I am able to look about my home and feel a small amount of pride that it's comfortable, attractive and pleasant.  It makes me feel very thankful.

I've enjoyed this process of making a home from this and that.  I've always enjoyed the creativity involved in making a house a home, whether it was a rental or my own.  I look back over the years and see how each house had it's truly lovely spots that made my heart swell just looking at them, even in the rudest of houses.  In one house it was a simple little dining room which when dressed with a tablecloth and flowers from my yard and the wedding china on the table surely rivaled many finer homes.  In another home it was a bedroom well furnished with a lovely open fireplace by which sat a small rocking chair and a bed placed between the two tall windows.  In another home, it was again a dining room with a quilt hung upon the wall and tall ceilings that made that narrow room in the middle of the house feel cool and lovely even in deep heat of summer and in still another it was a sunny light filled living room where people gathered often.  This weekend I watched with joy as my daughter in law settled in a wing chair and wrapped herself in a lovely blue knit blanket that Amie made for Mother's Day this year.  Another comfy spot for someone to feel at home in...

Frugal Friday: More for the Money

Saturday:  Cashed in Pinecone Research points.  I opt for a PayPal payment which works out very well for me.  That credit allows me to transfer to savings, or use as spending on something that gives big bang for the buck.

This weekend it's Big Bang money.  I opted to purchase four new to me issues of vintage women magazines.  This translates to many hours of reading pleasure for me, especially as I limit myself to reading only that month when it's timely.  In other words, I read September issues in the latter part of August or early September, just as I would modern day magazines.  The difference is that these old issues never fail to inspire me or just allow me time to while away a few hours reading some good fiction stories.  I find the recipes are far more economical and less step/ingredient heavy although they aren't always 'Dinner on the Table in 10 minutes!' sorts of things, and too the menus offered up are generally more balanced nutritionally.  Yep, Big Bang. 

Made dressing for dinner.  I used cornbread I'd saved in the freezer, broth from the freezer.  It smells awesome baking...And to think it was all leftovers!

Roasted Chicken for dinner today, Chicken Sandwiches for dinner tomorrow and perhaps a pan of Chicken Fried Rice when  I boil the bones for soup and pick them over. Of course, that's today's plans.  Often times I find things don't quite go the way I'd planned but I know I'll get mileage out of this one chicken and that's a fact.

Balance in a Teeter Totter World

During my Boot Camp time, I came across some good advice.  I came across some expected advice.  I also came across some advice that out and out felt wrong. 

It was on a blog post, one of those bulleted  types of posts: "Ten Things To Do Every Day In Your Frugal Life", sorts of things.  And yes, that is a made up title so if you  do a search and find a blog post so titled  then please understand that is NOT the blog post I am citing. 

On this particular post, there was plenty of the expected stuff: stop buying coffee shop coffees, stop eating out, cook meals at home...  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  But tucked in among those was the statement that you should go online and check your bank account balance every single day first thing in the morning, perhaps even more than once a day.  Everything in me rose up and screamed 'NO!' 

John and I are a bit smitten when it comes to certain movies, like "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory".  There's one scene that absolutely floors me with the spot on wisdom written into it.  The scene where Charlie finds the last golden ticket and after showing it to his family tells them he's going to sell it.  A woman has offered him a lot of money and the family is desperately poor.  They could most certainly use it.  His Grandpa George says to him: "There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?"  

Retirement Remedies: A CEU for the Kitchen: Saving Sugar

I love reading my old vintage women's magazines.  I almost always find a story I failed to read in the past or haven't read in a couple of years and get fresh inspiration on how to use what I have to stretch things a bit further. 

We might well think we have some sort of corner market for things like cutting down on meat or repurposing furniture, but honey!  These old magazines point up that most of what we thought we came up with grandmothers and great grandmothers were doing years ago.

For instance in this current magazine I'm reading, Woman's Day September 1945, the opening pages were ideas for pastas.  And what is the very first recipe?  Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower...ha!  We are just recycling doggone good ideas from the past!

Well rationing was current then and one of the things that got rationed was sugar.  This particular magazine suggested ways to save sugar.  One suggestion throughout those years was to use corn syrup.  I don't know that it would save money even if we did opt to use corn syrup (I've been mildly allergic since infancy so I'm not going to eat it in anything except Granny's pecan pie recipe! lol).

Too Good Not To Share

I've had great comments on the recent 'Graduation' posts.  I thought they were too good to wait until September to share!  It looks like you all have graduated to a higher level of frugality yourselves.  Congratulations!

Karla: You mentioned baby shower gifts and one of the things that is my standard gift to new mommies is a package of diapers in the next size up from newborn. This makes it easy to use coupons and get them on sale ahead of time. Just thought I'd share.

Another tip for winter months that my mom used to do. After using the oven for baking, she'd open the oven door a bit to let the heat escape into the room after it was turned off.

Gramma D: I keep a don't need to buy list, a buy next month list and buy when you go shopping list. The don't need to buy list is so I don't have a stockpile of things that I may not use for a while. For instance, if I find a really good sale on shampoo and buy several I put it on the don't buy list. If I notice something that I don't need right now, but might need soon that goes on the next month list so I can watch for sales, coupons, etc. Saves that old finding something at the back of the cupboard that should have been used a while ago to be at its freshest. When I make my list I always consider cheaper options. This is a good way to save a bit. If I write down a certain kind of cereal but I know there is another kind I like just as well that is what I get unless I have my mind made up I need a certain item, nothing else will do and it is well worth the extra. It seldom is.

Debbie: Great posts and ideas! I was wondering about your internet provider. Did they offer you a discount because of their shoddy service? We found that our DISH TV, which we also bundled with our internet and phone service, gave us a lower price because of their "outages".
Our phone service did NOT offer a discount for service outages, not even when asked and that was another reason we left them.  I have had that courtesy extended from DirecTV for outages to our service, which is why we've been with them for many years.

How To Receive a Blessing

This Chatting on the Front Porch post from August 18, 2009 ties in with last week's Iced Tea post where I spoke of learning how to receive a blessing.  You'll note it mentions the same incident I recalled in that post of the man who refused a blessing we wanted to give him...

Do You Know How to Receive?

This past week my husband and I experienced an overflow of God's blessings in our lives. I believe those blessings flowed because of how we received each one: with thankfulness, praise, and happy hearts.  Let me share with you about what I've learned just this week about receiving blessings.

My husband and I were walking on the streets of a lovely little mountain town when we happened upon a shop devoted to a specialty that someone we knew happened to enjoy.  We thought immediately of this person and husband said he wanted to get something for him.  We went into the shop, spoke with the owner and asked for his expertise in choosing a gift.  We bought what the owner said was the best and left the shop feeling happy that we were going to bless our recipient.

When we got home we called this man and asked that he stop by when he was in the neighborhood.  Well as things transpired he was in the neighborhood the next day for unrelated reasons and I ran out to greet him and give him the gift husband had chosen.  Not only would this person not even look at the item, he point blank refused it, saying "I don't want it." 

Weekend Reading

I have a list of links saved up for weekend reading.  I'd meant to post last weekend and I just didn't have time to get to it. 

Georgene shared this post on her blog, "5 Things Tidy People Do" .  It spoke to me because I am a tidying sort of person...and it's not at all what I used to be!  I LEARNED to be tidy and anyone else can, too.  I have only one exception.  I will leave dishes in the sink overnight on Shabat evenings, but I start Shabat with a clean, empty sink and all dishes put away...I just choose to honor the 'rest' by rinsing and stacking neatly so I can load dishwasher first thing on Sunday morning.

Gramma D had some questions about CVS shopping this past week...And I think Rhonda's post on shopping at CVS is a good one to share.  I personally count the ECBs when I earn them as a sort of rebate on the items bought.  But their value is in USING them to purchase needed items.  Rhonda has a great system and if you read through her blog she lists several Facebook group pages, vlogs and blogs that will help anyone interested in trying their hand at CVS savings. 

This Week In My Home: Cusp of Changing Season

 In my home this week:

I am torn.  Part of me wants to rush right ahead and start planning fall things.  Not decorating for the season, no gracious no!, but planning ahead.  There are things I tell myself each year that I'm going to do once the season is already well upon me and then I don't.  Because I hadn't planned ahead I couldn't execute my own ideas or arrange time to do those things I'd wanted to do, or purchase necessary items to complete an idea.  And part of me wants to just loaf my way through the rest of this month and do nothing much at all, but I really want to enjoy the rest of summer.  Y'all feel that way, too?

Well I'm going to balance myself by working a bit and yes, I am going to start planning for fall. Otherwise I shall never get that leaf shaped cookie cutter I've promised myself for the last five years  so that I might make leaf shaped sugar cookies and sprinkle them with orange and brown and yellow sugars. (ordered cutters this morning and due to arrive next week, now to put color sugars on my list).   Nor will I do a few other things I've wanted to do forever, like plan a little weekend (which for us is too often a mid-week)  trip to see the changing leaves.  And start planning fall d├ęcor outdoors, with fresh flowers to boost the well worn ones who've given their all and the dead ones who said "Hang it!" and promptly died.  That's the sort of thing I want to plan ahead for. 

But yes, I want to enjoy summer, the last bits of it.  Mind you, I've just said goodbye to our peach season.  It officially ends this weekend.  Golly, I shall miss our good local peaches!   Next year...Next year, I mean to bottle some of those peaches and preserve that good summer feeling I get with a good ripe grown in my own home county peach.  And that's another thing.  I want to start now to plan for next summer, instead of letting it slide away from me half done.  I could buy pectin and canning jars NOW, and not wait until I haven't the cash flow for both peaches and jars...  You see, after a holiday is over and done I write out a list of things that went well and things I regretted not doing and things that might go easier.  Why not start a seasonal list of that sort, too?   Then come next spring, I can review what it was I meant to do this summer but didn't get around to and PLAN for it...

Stick Tights and Beggar Lice

Monday, 17 September 2007

  • Stick tights and Beggar Lice

    Growing up in the country as I did, I had occasion to wander about the fields playing as a child, and just walking as an adult.  I've enjoyed the countryside and all it had to offer, but it pays to be cautious in all seasons.  In spring and summer there are snakes, and the poison ivy and thorns and other dangers.  In autumn and winter there are other pesky things to watch for, like stick tights and beggar lice.  Both these plants are pretty enough when in bloom, but both produce a fruit, a nut if you will, that is spiny and when fully ripe, will stick tight to your clothing, embedding themselves so fully that often you will find the pesky things days after your trek over the fields.  These plants literally do 'stick tight' to you, despite your best efforts to rid yourself of them.  And often you don't know you've acquired them until they get their spines through your clothing and prickle your skin.

Frugal Friday: Boot Camp Graduation Week

I used a single curtain panel to cover both my newer ottoman and a pillow on the chair seat.  It was a good quality fabric and cost less than $2.  Remember I said I paid $36 a few years ago for an ottoman slipcover?  This one comes in at about $1.  And  a pillow cover for an 18 x 18 pillow would be at least $15.  Less than $1 for that. As you can see, I'm in the process of getting the newer chair slipcovered.  This is to protect the chair from wear as well as to add a lighter feel to my living area.

Saturday:  We didn't have bagels for our morning least one of us didn't. I did have one bagel in the freezer and frozen croissants (my choice) so the meal was simple enough.

I had fun this morning.  I didn't feel well so I treated myself to a pretty coffee tray, something I'd gotten out of the habit of doing while family was staying with us.  I have a pretty coffee cup and saucer from the booth that I kept for myself.  This makes one more in my little collection.

I cooked a steak dinner today.  It was easy enough.  John and I only ate half of our steak.  More and more we're sharing one, which is what I should have done today.   I'll be using leftover steak later in the week for another meal.

John asked for a peach cobbler earlier in the week.  I've learned to half my recipe but it still serves about six or so.  No problem with John who will happily eat peach cobbler several days running.  I noted while I was paring peaches that it's time to put the rest of these in the freezer.

I really wasn't well so I gave in to feeling bad and spent the afternoon napping and even went to bed later in the early evening hours and went to sleep for two hours.  I feel more than ready to sleep again, so I'm listening to what my body says it needs.

Sunday:  Feeling better, I started a load of dishes right away this morning.  I washed on a short cycle since I rinse my dishes well before putting them in the dishwasher.  I do this because I don't do a load of dishes every single day and my machine is not top of the line, though it's been mighty faithful for the past 20 years.

Window Shopping: An Exercise for Future Spending

We had the most fun today.  We went to a DIY store and walked nearly the whole of the store, every aisle, every department.  I just want to share here that the store we visited was a Home Depot.  I never used to be a fan...Note that 'used to be'.  The Lowes in our area are very difficult to get any sort of help in at all.  Even if you find the right person in the right department, invariably they will say, "Oh, I'm busy right now but I'll be back in a minute or so."  No minute is ever as long as those at Lowes, let me just say that.  I like the brightness of the store and I have no quarrel with quality of product nor prices...but geez!  The service is abysmal.  

So recently John decided he would become a Home Depot convert.  True, it is darker inside than Lowes, but products/quality/price are fine and the service!  Gracious you can barely make it down a single aisle without being asked twice or three times if you need any help.  It's lovely!

That all said, we were, obviously, shopping at Home Depot.  We started at the front of the store and walked into nearly every section except the cabinets and appliances areas.  I don't need to go into those areas at the moment and it might have spoiled my day if I had. our walking through, John and I did something we've never done before: we let ourselves actually think about what we'd like to do to our own home, in replacing and updating.  We came away not discouraged but deeply encouraged, because we found so many things that answered a desire but weren't pricey at all.  Now granted we couldn't buy them all today, but most of the work we've talked over the past few years we find requires $50 or $100, if done one job at a time. 

Boot Camp Graduation: KP Duty

Of all the areas where I strive to save money, the grocery category is always the one I focus on hardest.  I focus here because for us, it is the highest spending category for us.  Yes, it is, despite years of cutting costs!  It's not that we eat loads of high priced foods but my grocery budget includes: foods, personal care, pet foods, paper products and cleaning products.  I can say day and night that it oughtn't to include any of those things but it does, and it will until the  end of my days...Which leads to my first cost cutting method:

Determine once and for all, how much I shall allot to each grocery category of food, cleaning, personal care, paper and pet foods.  And keep those other things strictly separate from my food budget!  I find it reasonable to suggest at present that I allot $10/ a month to pet foods.   This will purchase a large bag of food for Maddie (16 pounds) or for the cat (10 pounds).  I will set aside $10 for paper products (paper plates, napkins, paper towels and toilet paper) and $10 for personal care items.  I will set aside $5 for cleaning products.  I think an envelope system would work best for these amounts.

Now what follows are random thoughts, written out just as I captured them when I was brainstorming: 

I've yet to determine what my target for groceries shall be.  I'm waiting to make that decision a little bit later due to the fact that John received a small raise.  It remains to be seen if this will lower our income (in case we are in a new tax bracket) or actually be a help.  I can't determine that until John has received a couple of pay checks.

I don't want to give up the purchase of that good quality beef we like...but I am going to price and see if the one market that has weekly sale prices on good ground beef isn't the best market for that item.  John has also asked me to check prices at The Fresh Market on the other cuts of beef we normally would buy.  If it is the same price, the savings in gasoline alone makes it worthwhile to shop there instead.  It is another 'wait and see, check it out' thing, but it possibly will save us a little.  Not buying such a large quantity at once also will save.  Now that I've just the one freezer, I do need to decrease my stocking up to the space available.

I think we'll be cutting down on other cuts of beef and living mostly on chicken and ground meat.  It's one way I can trim costs.  Though I really like the chicken breasts from The Fresh Market, the best buy still is whole chickens from the market in the next town.  They've been $.88 a pound for the whole birds, but recently were just $.75 a pound which is a fairly big drop in price.  That will definitely be the bulk of my chicken purchases since I am very adept at cutting a whole bird into parts.

Boot Camp Graduation Part 2

Continuing with my ideas for savings after finishing my frugal boot camp.  Groceries is one of our biggest expense areas and I'm saving that for a whole separate post. The items listed here are in no particular order.

Insurances: Car, Home, Medical

I have researched car and home insurances so often that I'm an old pro at it.  I think we're about as low as we're going to get on car insurance and our home insurance is such a good policy that reputable insurance agents have encouraged us to keep it and not switch policies.  I'll bow to the experts on that score.  We've been taking advantage of the monthly payment option with both car and home insurance.  If we can pay the house insurance annually and the car insurance in six month increments we'd save a substantial bit of money, almost enough to cover six months of car insurance.  This is something I am going to try and focus upon in the coming year, saving enough ahead to pay those amounts in full when they come due.  Occasionally as an incentive they offer a substantial discount and that would be the time to take advantage and make the switch so I can maximize the savings.

I'll have to find a new provider for health insurance next year.  In the meantime, we are just managing to make that payment each month.  Really there is nothing I can do in this area.


John wears a basic wardrobe that doesn't vary.  It's the same in season and out.  He buys multiples of shirts in the one or two colors he prefers and ditto for his jeans and caps.  He says he's boring.  I say his method is incredibly thrifty, lol.

One thing I've learned over this past year with limited clothing choices is that I am very nearly completely satisfied with a basic set of clothing myself.  If I learned anything from my husband it was the ease of a 'capsule wardrobe'.   I have begun a list of items I want for my wardrobe that I think will make it a little more versatile.  I need a nice pair of  pants in a good neutral, a blouse or two in compatible neutrals, a blazer in a good solid neutral.  I won't be an all black, or all gray sort as my accessories will lend the color needed to liven up outfits.  I'll buy those at thrift stores or off clearance racks as I always have.   And like John I'll buy certain basics in bulk (think 3 white tee shirts or two white blouses in different styles).  I think this will net me far more mileage than a couple dozen new items each season ever could.

Iced Tea Chat: Fleeting Summer

Hello, hello, hello!  I thought I'd take a little time to have an iced tea chat.   The front lawn is strewn with yellow stars under the Sweet Gum tree.  I love the sight of the yellow stars strewn haphazardly over the green lawn.  Reading back through old posts, this is a familiar sign this time of year.  It is a reminder of fleeting summer days, as is the slightly later dawn, the later hour of the sun slanting in the western windows and the earlier dusky evenings.  As we went down the driveway to church on Sunday, John said, "Ooh!...but then we're getting close to September..." as we came near the Sweet Gum tree.  "Yes," I said sighing, "we are...unfortunately."

"Unfortunately?"   "Yes, because it means summer is very nearly over.  Peaches will be gone by end of the week..."  Also over are all the plans made for these glorious days.  Too late to bring them all about this year.  The season is nearly done.  Time to think of autumn and what I'd like to do in these months ahead.

But end of summer is not without charm.  Here in August we can start to expect a few cooler days.  Not exactly chilly but cooler temperatures.  Seasonal changes start to show and add to the anticipation of the coming season, but don't subtract from the last lovely days of the current one.  I find this time of year I'll stand in the sun for a bit and soak it in, too aware that come winter I'll long for hot summer sun.  I will make a big pot of soup or chili.  I shared that idea with Mama today as we puttered about, after talking about how pleasantly temperate the weather was.  "Chili...I've been thinking I'd like a pot of chili."  And Mama nodded and said "Or a good bowl of beef stew..."  Obviously she feels the same way I do about the waning summer days.

I received a note from a dear friend yesterday.  Her daughter was in labor.  She'd written me earlier in the week, puzzled about how a Grandmother feels when she has her first grand babe in arms.  I explained to her how it was for me.  While I'd had to come to know my own little babies and  realize they were not a stranger of any sort, and I'd had that overwhelming sense of all I didn't know or understand and I was responsible for this tiny thing, when I saw my first grandchild (and all the others I was privileged to greet) I simply felt awash with love.  This child, even more than my own, was truly blood of my blood and flesh of my flesh and heart of my heart.  The mystery of who they were was a fun one I would watch unfold.  The experiences I'd had raising their mama or daddy had filled me with confidence I wasn't privileged to have long ago.  I had no grave concerns.  I had love and nothing but love.

Boot Camp Graduation

You know what?  Boot Camp is tough!  Seriously....I spent so much time reading and researching and thinking, that my head ached several days in a row, lol.  Did I learn anything?  Yes, I did.  I was reminded of much and I came to appreciate afresh the work that goes into living frugally.  Yes, work.  It's not just a matter of saving, it's creating the savings in the first place sometimes.

So I did just loads of studying and reading and note taking.  As my last test of Frugal Fitness, I sat down with a pen and paper and covered over eight pages front and back with things to incorporate into my frugal life. Eight pages...and lest you think I'm being repetitive and merely writing down what I did two years ago, no...There are a few that are repeated because I need to continue to practice hard at that particular mindset/skill or because I never incorporated them and I should at least try, but some of these are new to ME, though not necessarily new. 

It is sobering, after all these years of attempting to leave frugally and well, to discover how much more one might be doing.  I am not interested in living in a deprived way but I do want to be a good steward of our resources and I do indeed want to determine where I might save a little more, in order to make the best of what we have, as well as to add whatever I might to our retirement years.

I took my budget sheet and worked my way down each category and listed savings means for each that I might use to trim costs further.  This is the way we paid off our debt load. It is the way we will successfully retire on a low budget.  I find it a little disheartening at times to look at how slowly raises came over the last fifteen years, how costs have risen,  and how many avenues we've employed only to have them dead end, but we travelled each path as long as we feasibly could and new pathways opened from there.  In order to not be overwhelmed, I will take one item from each category and work upon it until I have become mistress of it and then incorporate another.  I don't want to overwhelm myself.  Boot Camp is meant merely to fire the creative thinking parts of my brain and it worked very well.  Now the real training begins.

Shhh! Be Quiet!

It was so annoying....The two behind us in church today talked loudly through the music service, talked through the prayer, talked through the baptism, talked well into the sermon.  And in the rare moments when they actually listened to the sermon, one of those behind us would laugh loudly at the pastor's jokes, so loudly that we'd miss the next sentence or two. I warred with myself inside: should I turn and stare meaningfully at them?  Speak up?  Shush them?

I'd seriously considered moving.  There were empty seats ahead of us and empty seats to the side of us.  But even as I thought of these possible moves, those places filled.  I felt I was just stuck and I began to seethe inside.

I have a hearing problem.  It doesn't require hearing aids but one ear has a 50% hearing loss.  If there are two competing sounds going on (like two conversations) I generally miss the one that is deepest toned or farther from me, while being far too aware of the nearest conversation or higher pitched sounds.  This day, all I could hear were the two voices behind me.

In My Home This Week:

In my home this week...

...We have worked hard this past week.  I don't know what is upon us, but a definite determination to let go of things has hit us.  Mind you, I've about got such notions out of my system now and the house feels tons lighter due to it, but this week the bug bit John.  He hauled boxes and bags of things from the music room and music room closet, both of which are solely his province.  If the house felt lighter with my work, I promise you I heard the house give a great huge sigh as John's work progressed.  No need to ask if we're done yet, because we're not!

I finished up all I meant to do to in the laundry, back entry and kitchen this past week.  What I've left behind me are prettier, neater, less cluttered spaces.  It makes me feel good to walk into those areas. This next week I shall begin the same deep cleaning of another space.  I think it will be ever so slightly easier this go round as I'll no longer be deep in boot camp.  I'm graduated as of Friday at sundown! 

Frugal Friday: You're In the Army Now...

The most definitely not photo shopped but oh so good Tamar Adler inspired soup of leftovers.  It was delicious and  made enough for two meals for me.

Saturday:  Katie brought us a handful of vegetables from her little garden.  Two Roma tomatoes, two cucumbers, a squash and a beautiful jalapeno pepper.  I sliced the tomatoes and a cucumber, cooked the squash and served those items with our dinner today. 

Katie also brought me a small baggie of Coke caps so I can enter the codes into MCR site.

I took the leftover tomato slices and put them in with the leftover green beans and potatoes to make soup tomorrow.

I prepared and pre-packed the non-perishable parts of John's work lunch for tomorrow.

I saved coffee grounds, peelings and paper towels we used through out the day and added to the compost heap.

I watered plants using water I'd stored.  I tossed this particular bottle as it was another of the round ones.  I can fit six flat bottles in the same space that five rounds one fit.

Sent Katie home with a truck load of stuff gathered from the shed.  I won't have to donate it and I know it's all going to be used and loved in her home.   One thing that made me super happy was that she immediately spied the twin headboard I'd trash picked.  It has really good bones and I was hopeful she'd like it for Taylor's room when she moves up from the crib.  She did like it and took it home with her.  I can't wait to see how she transforms it but that will be a little while yet.

Frugal Boot Camp: Frugal Luxuries by Tracey McBride

I first purchased this book when it was published in 1997.  I cannot imagine not having space on my bookshelf for this lovely book.

And there's good reason why I chose to end my boot camp with this book.

Tracey McBride elevates frugality.  It's not about being cheap or miserly.  It is about living well, savoring the good things, learning to make the very best out of the lesser things and moving gently through life to a rhythm that is different from that of the world at large.  It is because of Tracey that I began to keep a gratitude journal after I left my last job and money was so very, very tight.  Every night I wrote out five things I was grateful for and I found that often enough, the things that had meant the most during the day had little to do with cash flow and a great deal more to do with appreciation.  It amuses me no end that at times I wrote out the menu for the day.  Amazingly the ones most appreciated and which tasted the best were also the most economical ones, but they were seasonal and delicious. 

While I understood the rudiments of a frugal life (which Tracey beautifully explains with quotes from well loved authors and clearly written explanations), I had not gained the 'better life' ideals.  I learned these from Tracey.  Not only how to better manage our income but how to graciously ask for help (calling debtors and creditors if we were unable to make a payment),  how to enhance what we had (using herbs and wine or fruit juice and vinegar to create the subtle quality of wine in a dish), and how to expand a wardrobe (purchase only items that will go with at least five other pieces in your current wardrobe) among many other tips and helps.  The final chapters under Shelter are probably the most lovely chapters of the book.  It is through these chapters I learned to scout thrift and yard sales to look for beautiful pieces to bless our home and enhance our lives.

Beauty in frugality is a rare thing.  It's a delicate balance of not only stretching the dollar but making sure that the stretching of it is both gracious and life enhancing.  I know this from experience now, but I learned of it first from Tracey.

I get hard focused sometimes on 'making do' but ultimately I want to live well, in a genteel way, if you will.  While I might well be focusing on 26 ways to stretch my grocery dollar, I want above all for the people who sit down to my table to never guess that the meal was merely a means to stretch a dollar.  I want them to gain a wonderful memory of a meal eaten with good people, in a home filled with peace and joy and lovely things.  

Frugal Boot Camp: Blogs Worth Reading

During my weeks of Frugal Boot Camp, not only have I been reading the books upon my book shelves and scanning Pinterest for interesting money savings tips, I've been reading the archives of some of the blogs from my favorites list.   Some of these bloggers are fairly new to me.  Some, like Rhonda and Annabel I've been following for a good long while.   I spend a good bit of time online (don't ask how much, please.  You'd be shocked I ever get a thing done!)   Some may be new to you.  This is a shortened list because I follow other's blogs on a less regular basis but I follow them.  I just prefer to keep my favorites list short and then I'll do a marathon reading day and catch up with others.  But I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you.

Can I just share how I go about reading blogs?   I follow a few weekly.  I visit some on a routine basis throughout the month.  Now and then I take time to go to a blog I've enjoyed and read all the archived posts.  Another day when I've a need to rest harder I'll go to a blog and read through their blog rolls, the blogs they've listed in the side bar that the follow.  I've found some terrific blogs this way.

The blogs I'm featuring here today are here because they boost my frugal thinking power. I've learned things, I've thought harder about the things I do and why, I've been inspired  by the bloggers I'm listing below.  Some you may be familiar with as well.  Annabel started blogging about 3 years ago after she left a group list I'd stumbled upon.  I've followed her ever since.  Annabel adds elegance to being frugal.  She makes the most luxurious things and yet none of them are pricey.  She's a great one for 'getting the look for less'.  I've known Rhonda via email, various groups and her blogs and mine for years upon years.  We've raised families together and seen life changes together and I count her as a true friend.  Years ago when I was having trouble staying motivated, I posted Rhonda's blog title on my kitchen bulletin board.  "If you do stuff, stuff gets done."  It was just the daily reminder I needed when I was gazing at a project I had been procrastinating tackling.   Rhonda's money saving skills are spot on.  She cooks from scratch, she sews, she decorates, she gardens.  She works hard in her home and she's an inspiration to me every time we 'talk'.    And if you're looking for a recipe, check Rhonda's.  I've never ever tried a recipe she recommended and not liked it!  I'd heard about Patsy for years before I visited her the first time.  I thought I wasn't much interested in her blog at first, as I seldom use canning to preserve anything, but there came a moment when I realized that Patsy had a lot to teach me about building a pantry. Over the years I've come to appreciate what she has to offer.  Brandy has a lovely blog.  She is a talented gardener as well as photographer and she too has seen the hard times and lived to tell the tale.  She is such a gracious spirit and truly does her best to make things beautiful.  Her blog is fairly 'new' yet but she has a world of information and such on her website so explore it fully.  Sarah mentioned this blog to me about a year ago I think.  I let it go unnoticed for a  bit but after her second mention of it I went and then another reader mentioning her to me, I went ahead and checked it out.  It's such a charming old fashioned sort of blog and interesting as can be.  It's full of good solid thrift.  I discovered Mimi's blog about the time I did Annabel's.  I've only recently gone back to read her archived material.  It's a blog full of gems...which suits Mimi's sparkling style.

Now there are many more I read, but I don't have time or room to share them all.  However, if you'll start with these few and read some of those featured on their bloglists, you'll soon have a world of new bloggers to boost your frugal fitness.

P.S.   Sarah mentioned in comments about Laine's letters.  How could I possibly forget?  I've got that link in my favorites list as well!  And yes, she was very influential in my early frugal years of homemaking!

Frugal Boot Camp: More Than Enough

As part of my frugal boot camp I read back through archives of the old Penny Ann Poundwise newsletter and this article stood out as a good reminder of things I might do yet to trim and cut our costs.  We no longer make instant coffee, so the tip on the coffeemaker isn't good but we have cut our coffee consumption this past week.  I still run the dishwasher and washing machine on short cycles unless things are heavily soiled, which is very seldom.

Penny Ann Poundwise
August 5, 2005
More for the Money
How Much Is Enough?

Several years ago, when I first started writing this newsletter, I
wrote a column titled same as this one. I've had occasion to ask
myself the same question again this week.

Frugal Boot Camp: The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn

From $4.03 to $16.97 in paperback on Amazon this book includes all three of Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette books. 

Amy Dacyczyn published "The Tightwad Gazette" newsletter for several years.  The books she later published were compilations of the articles and recipes and tips she shared in those newsletters.  Her very practical, down to earth manner of writing clearly explains cost breakdowns (I found my own scribbled calculations in the margins of one page), the mindset that is required, and many practical recipes, examples, and more related to living a frugal life.

Questions, Answers and Comments, Oh My!

Since the bulk of the past month has been all about Frugal Boot Camp,  I am going to address comments chronologically starting with the first post of the month and working my way through to the last post.  I won't be highlighting individual post this month.

I mentioned saving dishwater to water plants rather than running extra water.  Sarah reminded me that Granny and Grandmama both had two dishpans, one for washing, one for rinsing.  I do remember them both taking those dishpans outdoors and dumping that water on the flowers outdoors.  Sarah wisely suggests pouring the water into a bucket to take outdoors.

Saving water was a hot topic during this first post. Gramma D asked me if I'd been told "If it's yellow let it mellow..." No, we weren't.  Granny had an outhouse (and for a short time during my growing years so did we.), but that was one area of 'savings' we didn't use. 

Both Sarah and Gramma D mentioned Joanna York.  I vaguely recall reading her articles in women's magazines.  I did a search to see if anything came up but I didn't find a thing about her.  I was sure she'd written a book or two but I'll have to look a bit harder to find that.

Off the Beaten Path

We were sitting in the kitchen talking the other day when a strange car pulled into the yard.  The man in the car drove around and looked hard at our new shed and then pulled up to the porch and stopped.  It seems when the delivery truck brought the shed last Monday they stopped first at his place.  He sent them on, but was intrigued.  He'd come to see the shed up close.  Now honestly, I was a little put out.  This is not at all the usual around our home!

John went straight to the door and spoke with the man.  They walked about and looked at the sheds and came back to stand in front of the back porch.  He and John talked a good little while and John took him out to the new shed so the man could examine it more closely.  This man was interested in purchasing a shed for his property.  John smiled when he came indoors, a little of it relief.  To come up to our house takes a bit of boldness.  People don't generally show up here except on purpose. We don't live on a main road and you have to drive about a quarter mile into the property to get to the house.  You don't just wander by our place.  However, it helped to discover this man is actually a neighbor.  He lives up the road from us and like our place his is off the road, just not as well hidden as we are. 

Frugal Boot Camp: All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is a revision of his popular book Square Foot Gardening.  Available on Amazon for $10 and up,  I found mine at Dollar General for $5.

Why a revised book?  Because the author simplified his method in several ways.  He now urges that a gardener not dig six inches down in the earth below the garden boxes but simply use a good soil mixture atop a barrier in the bottom of the box (weed mat, cardboard).  He's added upright supports for some plants in the boxes.  He's made the boxes more portable by suggesting some of the boxes have bottoms so they can be placed on patios or near a home's doorway.  In short, he's made gardening even easier as well as frugal.  Because fewer seeds produce a maximum crop and labor is decreased his methods insure a novice gardener a good measure of success and because the size of the boxes can easily be accommodated to the smallest yards, every one who's interested may have a garden. 

Diary for July: Week Two

July 7, Shabat Saturday:   So very much I want to chatter over today and perhaps I will...I don't typically write on Shabat, having al...