Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*We redeemed two free passes to the swimming pool that the kids received from the library.
*Earned a $5 Amazon credit from Swagbucks
*Ordered some much-needed socks for Natalie with a discount and free shipping. I was glad I waited for these sales to maximize the savings!
*Made syrup and corn dog muffins
*A friend cut my hair and Natalie's, and gave Naomi a trim, for a total of $10
*We took advantage of two free meals that the college served for staff.
*Mended two pairs of shorts
*Sold several items on-line
*Eric ordered dog food using a discount code and scoring free shipping
*We attended a free juggling performance
*I entered KFR codes and ordered 2 free books for the kids
*Grocery deals: ice cream bars for just 99 cents/box (reg. $3.99--sale + cpn), sale/cpn deal of 4 boxes cereal and a gallon of milk for $8 total, stocked up on inexpensive produce for as low as 79 cents/pound
*Harvested garden goodies: onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, zinnias
*A friend gave us a cantaloupe from her garden--Natalie was so excited!
*Used a code to order free photo prints
*Took advantage of store offers to get a free cup of yogurt and a free roll of mints
*Toiletry deals using coupons: 50-cent deodorant, toothbrush and paste travel kit for 47 cents, free hairspray, package of razors for 18 cents
*Bought some swim goggles on clearance for Natalie, because we lost hers this summer
*More grocery deals: 10 boxes of name brand mac and cheese for just 30 cents/box
*Redeemed coupons for 2 free slices of pizza that the kids earned from the summer reading program
*Harvested most of our basil plant, dried and froze it to use all winter long in soups, etc.
*Made a huge batch of applesauce using apples we scored free from a local acreage that doesn't want the fruit
*Attended a matinee movie with friends and redeemed a coupon I'd been saving for a free bag of popcorn. Yum! Such a treat, and I loved the movie!
*Posted on FB that I was looking for local organic garlic to purchase. A friend said I could have some from her garden, so I traded her with some garden tomatoes. We were both thrilled. Yay, I love swaps!
*Made banana muffins, granola bites, granola bars (not impressed with this new recipe--they didn't stay together very well), and peanut butter chocolate bars
*Ground flax seed and wheat
*Went to the zoo, using discount passes I'd purchased
*More grocery deals: snagged two packages of close-dated cheese for 98 cents each (reg. $2.99 each, I was pumped!), a bottle of ranch dressing for just 25 cents combining sale and cpn, great deal on bananas combining C51 and Saving*
*I wanted to highlight a particular deal: I bought 4 boxes of Cheerios for just 83 cents each. But I almost missed out on it because it didn't seem as great at first. Sometimes it does pay to pay attention! Cheerios were not on sale at the store (the reg. price was $2.88, and I try to pay $2 or less per box of any kind of cereal), but they were offering a (store) coupon for $4 off you bought 4 boxes. So that made each box $1.88--not bad, but it got better. Before the shopping trip, I looked on-line and found a printable coupon that was $1.10 off 2 boxes. So this was already a pretty great deal. But then a $2 catalina printed at the register making it even better! Woo-hoo!

*A not-so-frugal purchase was paying regular price for chicken (I really try to stock up and stay ahead with buying on sale, so it pained me to pay full-price when I ran out); once again getting overcharged on a receipt and I didn't catch it until later; and making way too many small grocery trips this month (a huge pet peeve of mine--but with getting back from vacation and a crazy summer, I haven't been as organized with meal stuff--oh, well!)
I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Out with the old, in with the new

About two years ago, my favorite Bible started really falling apart. I didn't want to give it up yet, so I taped it multiple times, and even resorted to some staples for re-affixing the cover. It's not just the sentimentality of the Bible (which I received from my church at my high school graduation in, cough, 1997) that makes it hard to move on from, it's also the size, which has made it much more convenient to travel with. This Bible has accompanied me on millions of miles: to France, the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, all over the U.S., etc. I had it in college, when I got married, and for the births of our three children.

Though I had looked at various replacement Bibles, I hadn't landed on a solution. But this past spring, when I stopped by a garage sale on campus, I found a Bible almost the exact same size as mine, and in like-new condition--for a dollar! I snatched it up but let it sit for a couple months because I still wasn't ready for the transition. I decided to bring both Bibles with me to Michigan, and I finally took the time to transfer all of my underlining and notes to the new book. I'm so glad I did that, because now it feels like mine, but in much better condition (at least for the next 17 years or so!).

"The unfolding of your Word gives light; it gives 
understanding to the simple." Psalm 119:130

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ABC summer recap

Whew, summer went by quickly, especially with 3 trips (including 2 long ones) and a family wedding. We did complete most of our ABC summer list, but didn't have time to hit everything. I may change things up next year--having the kids give more input or not being confined to the alphabet--we'll see!

Here's how this year's list played out--some wins and some losses:

A---- park--This was a dud! The park I'd chosen looks more fun from the road than it is in reality. And the bugs were terrible. We only stayed about 5 minutes!
Bowling--This didn't happen. Our local bowling alley is closed for the months of July and August! We'll have to go when the weather cools off.
Camping--Eric took the older two to a new campground about an hour away. It was very hot the night they went, but they still had a good time. (Bonus: they also camped for two nights in Grammie and Pepaw's backyard.)

Dairy --Ice cream treats from a local spot
Entrepreneurial lemonade stand--Once again, our kids and the 2 neighbor kids next door had a whopping success--they made around $37 selling lemonade and homemade brownies. Everything cost a quarter, but they got a lot of tips. I talked the kids into donating $25 of the proceeds to a good cause.
Fishing day--Eric, Nathan, and Natalie attended this event, but pouring rain cut it short. They did fish quite a bit in Michigan, though, too.
Golf--I bought a discount certificate for half-price mini golfing at a place we'd never been before. Keeping it real--the beginning was fun, the middle was full of tears, and thankfully they rallied some by the end. It was a difficult course, so maybe we can find more suited to children later this summer. Naomi loved getting a plastic club and tagging along!

Habitat program--Held one morning at a local state park--so great they offer these educational programs at no cost!
Ice cube painting--Notsofun. I put a rainbow of water colors in ice cube trays and froze them. Then I set out butcher paper and the cubes on a hot day. It was very messy, and hard to use. We will not do this again!

Jump on neighbors' trampoline--Got to do this a couple times, and they loved it.
Kansas City--see here
Laundromat--We take our comforters for an annual cleaning, and made an outing out of it. I brought snacks and activities so the kids would have stuff to do while we waited. They loved putting the coins in and watching the timers and machines.

Marble water slide--A fun idea I found on-line where you slice open a pool noodle to create a marble track. Not real impressed with how it turned out. Oh, well, the pool noodle was free, so I spent nothing but a little time.
Nature center--A really cool place that we just learned about--we went with some friends and had a great outing.
Outdoor movie--The out door movie dates for these did not work for us, but I did take the kids to a free indoor movie (It was the girls' first theater experience!)
Play center--A friend of mine actually took Nathan and Natalie along with her kids one day, but I will take Naomi sometime this fall.
Quilt reading party--Never formally happened, but plenty of books were certainly read this summer!
Races--Eric, the older kids, and some friends went to a cool race track.
Stairwell slide (using a huge box)--Looked more fun than it was. When I was telling a friend, she suggested just using sleeping bags, so I'll keep that in mind for winter.
Trail ride--Didn't happen. The night I wanted to go ended up being super-hot.
Unique treats from a local Mexican bakery--Glad we did this. It was interesting to see what the kids picked out from racks of unfamiliar baked goods.
Visit a county fair--Our first-ever trip to our county's (super low-key) youth fair. I was glad to check it out. It wasn't amazingly fun, but we definitely enjoyed it more by going with some friends. And admission was free, though there are certainly plenty of other parts that cost money.

Water park--Didn't happen. It's over an hour away, and we just never had the time or energy to pull it off.
eXciting water games--We invited some friends over one hot afternoon and enjoyed doing water balloons and other water games.
Yogurt shop--Always a treat, though pricey!
Zoo--See water park. =) But I do plan on us going this fall.

So there you have it, more glimpses into our summer!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Thank you so much for the many kind comments on my recent post about my dad. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers! I have so many things I want to write about, but first I'll jump back in with a frugal post from the past 3 weeks.

*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Scored a great deal at a grocery store: By purchasing 8 products of the same name brand, you could earn 50 cents off per gallon of gas! I rounded up several coupons, stacked them with the sale prices, and got amazing deals. For example, I purchased several boxes of cereal for $1.18 and earned the 50 cent gas discount on top of that! I waited until my gas light came on to make the most of it, and saved over $7 on a tank of gas.
*Stopped by the bread outlet and bought over $13 retail value of bread for just $2.55
*Redeemed coupons for free mini pizzas for the kids that we received from the library
*Attended a free kids' movie at a local theater that has a few no-cost summer matinees (I've been wanting to do this for years and am glad it finally worked out.)
*Took advantage of a free shipping offer to order some more Tummy Tuneup
*My new sister-in-law is from Alaska, and she brought home 40 pounds of salmon that she and my brother-in-law caught themselves! They blessed us one night by cooking some for our family. I had just seen 5 oz. wild Alaska salmon fillets advertised for $6.99 apiece, so this was a huge treat!
*Made raspberry sorbet using free raspberries we picked--oh my word, it was delicious!
*Harvested lots of garden goodies: tomatoes, peppers, onions, green beans, potatoes, and zinnias
*Snagged some free school supplies using coupons: 2 rulers, a package of erasers, and a roll of tape. I have a basket where I stock up on school supplies as deals come along, and I was pretty excited to do most of the kids' school supply shopping in my own home! I spent less than $5 on the items we still needed. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg if you're strategic!
*Natalie attended a free dance workshop at my in-laws' church
*Stocked up on inexpensive grocery staples while I had access to this store
*My mother-in-law sent us home with several random grocery items--always a blessing!
*Picked amazing blueberries at a local farm while we were in MI--they were just $1.89 a pound! I ended up bringing home many more than planned. We've eaten a ton fresh, I'll use some for baking and some for freezing, I gave some away, and . . . I swapped a pint with a friend who used to live in MI for 2 jars of home-canned pears!

*Eric, Nathan, and my father-in-law attended a Tigers baseball game. Eric waited until the last minute (hours before--yikes!) to buy tickets as the price decreased significantly. They managed to find free (and legal) parking, which was a big score, and they brought some of their own food and drink (also allowed) to help offset those costs. Plus, they got there in time for batting practice, and Nathan caught a ball, which became a special souvenir.
*On our last night in MI, a local gymnastics place was having a free open house. We took the girls and they had a wonderful time. It wasn't too crowded, so they got to use a lot of the equipment, plus they were serving free cookies and juice.
*A friend gave me a large head of cabbage from her garden, because she had more than she could use. I shredded it for the Asian coleslaw we like, and brought it to a church potluck. I also made salsa using tomatoes from our garden.
*Made a batch of granola and some berry muffins
*Ground wheat into flour
*Lots of grocery deals: a jar of marked-down pimento cheese (for a dip Eric loves) for only $1.49, a pound of carrots for just a quarter (sale and C51), a package of frozen burritos for just $1.88 (reg. $4.49--this was combining sale and cpn), 4 frozen pizzas for just 54 cents each (sale and cpn--these are nice to bake and send in school lunches), 2 jars of alfredo sauce for 69 cents each (pumped about this, as I typically pay $1.50 on sale--they were on sale for 99 cents each and I had a cpn), a pound of bananas for just 3 cents (sale and C51), and a free box of Jello via Saving*
*Attended two free pool parties--one sponsored by MOPS, and the other by our church
*Stopped by our neighborhood book swap box, and exchanged one of our kid's titles for a book from the box
*Eric and the kids picked a big bin of apples from a local yard. We check every year, and the owners have never wanted any of them! Now we need to schedule some time to make sauce.

I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guarded hope

It has been a long time since I have shared an update about my parents and how they are doing on the journey with my dad's cancer.

I am so thankful for the time we had together in June, but it was clear that my dad was having more back pain and also fatigue. He had some tests a couple weeks after our visit, and we were anticipating learning that the cancer had spread. That is indeed what had happened, but I was not prepared to hear that it was time for my dad to begin chemo treatments. Though we've known all along that chemo would eventually be the chosen option, it was still very hard to receive the news, and it makes the distance between our houses seem that much further.

It will be six years in November since my dad's diagnosis. There have been many ups and downs since then, and we continue to pray and have guarded hope.

What do I mean by "guarded hope?" Last Sunday we attended my in-laws' church. The service featured several baptisms, in which each individual shared their testimony before being immersed in the water. One older gentleman shared that he had been pretty lazy in his faith for awhile before being diagnosed with some pretty serious cancers. It was a major turning point for him, and he was desperate for God in ways he hadn't been before. As he continued to grow spiritually, he learned that the cancer had miraculously disappeared. People in the sanctuary began clapping for God's amazing work. And we should praise God for His marvelous deeds. But this man's testimony made me sob.

Of course I am happy for this man and for God's work in his life. But it hit me hard that day that though we can hope and pray for miracles, God is sovereign and He obviously does not always heal disease here on our earth. So we pray for God's will to be done and for the strength to live into whatever that is. We pray--with guarded hope.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here's my latest compilation of frugal activities from the past two weeks:

*Harvested garden goodies: tons of green beans, spinach, zinnias, raspberries, tomatoes, a pepper and an onion
*Bought a bag of really ripe bananas for just 50 cents
*Redeemed several coupons for free mini pizzas
*Bought chicken for 99 cents a pound. It's hard to beat this price, but I don't buy bone-in very often, and I forget how much I hate that process! However, I was out of chicken and the boneless hasn't been on sale for a long time.
*Made a batch of granola
*Eric received a pear and some garden potatoes--there are informal agreements at both the community garden and Eric's place of employment where people can give or take extra produce--we've given a lot of beans away
*I was super excited to discover a new book swap box near our home, just like the ones I mentioned from our recent CO trip! I brought two books with me and swapped them out for two new titles. Will do this often--love.
*I attended a free coffee shop concert with a friend and redeemed my coupon for a free drink that I won from the library
*I used a coupon for a free 12-pack of Coke. I showed Nathan how to look for lids and enter the codes, and he loves it. He has found quite a few lids out and about!
*Scored a package of tortillas for just 49 cents, combining sale and coupon. We go through tortillas very quickly, and I'm usually thrilled to pay a dollar for a package of 10.
*Received several free samples in the mail: shampoo, face cleanser and lotion x 3. These often come in padded envelopes, which I save for my own mailing purposes.
*Something I always endeavor to do is to be creative and persistent in using up leftover bits and pieces. I've mentioned it before, but it's truly something I enjoy--avoiding waste, being resourceful, trying to be creative. I had a big hit last week--I had some cooked noodles, some bits of ham, and a tiny container of chipotle sauce that Eric brought home from a work lunch. I decided to make homemade mac and cheese, adding the chipotle to my usual sauce. It gave it a wonderful kicked-up flavor that we both loved, and I added ham to Eric's.
*Ground wheat into flour
*Made 3 batches (total) of raspberry jam and strawberry jam--the raspberries were free from a neighbor who is on extended vacation and told us to help ourselves!
*Ordered some free photo cards with promo codes
*Made bread, banana bread, M&M bars, and a brownie pudding dessert
*A big savings this summer is that I'm not currently attending an exercise class that I've done for almost a year (I was going an average of twice/week). While $5 a class is not exorbitant, and I enjoy going, I'm taking at least the summer off, especially with all we've had going on. But if I don't workout, I definitely start to notice in my waistline. I was inspired by this post and decided to check our library's selection of exercise DVD's. I've found one I like (well, I don't like it, exactly, but it's brief, intense and effective!) and have been doing that 3 times a week.
*Stopped by a thrift store during their semi-annual clothing clearance sale. I bought 6 items for just $3 total. I was most excited about a pair of baseball pants for Nathan to wear next season--and they hardly looked worn.
*Got a great deal on 4 boxes of cereal, combining a sale and coupon
*Another friend of mine moved away last week (wah!), and she graciously blessed us with some perishable items, including bacon (Eric was pumped!) and a riding toy for Naomi. I brought her some flowers from our garden on her last day of work, and watched her kids for several hours in the days leading up to the move.
*I think I mentioned last time that I recently "discovered" a library in another nearby town. I've known the director there for years, and she lives just a few minutes from me. She offered to be a courier for me to check out and return books. What a blessing! I've already taken her up on it once--she is so sweet. She keeps a box in her garage for friends to pick up and return their library items. She said since she's going there every day, it's no trouble. Isn't that thoughtful?! I am so excited that they've had several books on my list that I haven't been able to get in town.
*I had what I call a ROCKSTAR grocery trip--I paid just $1.63 for all this, and the total would have been $11-something. I combined sales and coupons, and redeemed store loyalty points (which, granted, I've been saving for a long time) to score the Nut*lla for free. Woo-hoo!
*Purchased some of my favorite toiletries on half-off sale and with $1 shipping

I'd love to hear about your frugal activities!