Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here is my list of frugal activities from the past two weeks:

*Bought a pair of colorful curtains for $3. Sometime in the next year, we plan to move Naomi in with Natalie (Nathan and Natalie currently share), and I'd like to adapt the decor to be a little more girly. I am thrilled to have found these curtains to help that endeavor.
*Received free samples: tea, gummy vitamins
*Printed a free 5x7 from the wedding and put it in a $1 thrifted frame.
*Found several pairs of pajamas for Nathan for $2-3 each. My experience is that it is very difficult to find pajamas in his size, especially ones that aren't covered with characters.
*Scored a great deal again with a local grocery store gives you 50 cents off per gallon of gas when you buy 8 specific products. Those items were on sale, and I had coupons, so if I estimate a $10 gas credit, I essentially got 8 boxes of cereal for free!
*Other grocery deals: soup and pasta sauce for 74 cents each combining sales and coupons, refried beans for 50 cents/can, juice for 49 cents combining cpn and C51, 3 boxes of Kashi for just over a dollar a box, granola bars for $1 combining sale and cpn, free mac and cheese cup with Saving*
*My best deals came from hitting a store that was having a 50% discount on their clearance section. I was also able to use a couple coupons to sweeten the deal. I got everything you see here (22 items)--some groceries, a birthday gift for a party Natalie's attending (2 craft kits and some ponytail holders for $2.40 total!), and some OCC shoebox items--for just $12.89. I was pumped!
*Dropped off a bill near the post office to save $1 on postage fees.
*Searched our library catalog for books the kids were interested in from the book flyers they bring home from school.
*Opened/closed windows based on temperature (ours have been rapidly declining--fall is here!)
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Placed my first on-line order since acquiring a REDcard, and was pleased to get free shipping and 5% off my order. Also, I went through Ebates so received about 20 cents in my account.
*Received a book through PBS
*Made a huge batch of cinnamon rolls; well, that was the goal, actually. I've used the same recipe for years, and make them every fall because it produces 7 pans. I think it must have been the humidity because the dough was extremely sticky even after adding TWO CUPS of flour. I ended up lobbing handfuls of dough into pans and calling it good, because I couldn't get the dough to roll out. Oh, well! It was a huge mess, but at least the end result tastes good (albeit not as yummy as the real deal).

*Scored some great deals at a local consignment store. Since it's 30 miles away, I only go a few times a year. I made a very specific list of what we needed, and loaded up 2 boxes of clothing we no longer need to store up some credit for next time. I was pleased to find almost everything on my list.
*Stopped by a dollar store and got a couple spices (that price is hard to beat!) and a couple lunch containers.
*Baked an apple cake and a double batch of pumpkin apple muffins.
*My father-in-law is here helping us with some home projects. He had been pricing various types of siding as some of our original wood siding is rotting. (Our house is 105 years old!) He was at a home improvement store lamenting to a fellow customer that he couldn't find what he was looking for, and the guy said he had just taken some wood siding off of a house. My father-in-law ended up going to the guy's house and getting a load of wooden siding for just $20! This was a huge savings, not to mention re-purposing the wood that could otherwise have been burned or trashed. He is serving us in many ways during his visit, and we are grateful.
*A friend let me stop by for an early peek at her garage sale. I found a couple clothing items for the girls, and a pair of white church shoes for Naomi for $1--I'd been looking for these, specifically, and was thrilled to find them at such a low price. As I was leaving her garage, I noticed some ice cube trays--another item on my list, as one of ours broke last week. I went to grab a couple and she said I could just have them. Hooray! I'd seen some at the dollar store, and opted not to buy them because they were such low quality. These are really nice--and were free!
*Redeemed a coupon for a free gourmet cupcake at a grocery store bakery
*Made a batch of syrup
*Dried the rest of our basil leaves
*Diced and froze 14 2-cup portions of apples to use in muffins throughout the winter
*Attended a nearby county fair on half-price admission day
I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Frugal brunch

It's been awhile since I've posted about frugal hospitality, though I occasionally make brief mentions in my frugal lists. I wanted to highlight a specific event that I recently pulled off for very little money. Now, granted, this took a fair amount of time--some people are more willing to spend money than time, but I am usually the opposite. (I spent about 7 hours on tasks related to this event! And I probably spent just over that in dollars, somewhere between $5-10.)

I was asked to be one of three hosts for a progressive brunch our church's women's ministry was coordinating. As the stop for baked items (the other two stops were egg bake and fruit), I knew I wanted to have variety. The challenge was finding recipes that used inexpensive ingredients, especially those I already had on hand. The other challenge was that I was told to expect 33 people, much bigger than I was anticipating! I combed through quite a few recipes before settling on my list: a double batch of pumpkin apple muffins (I decrease the sugar by 1/2 cup and don't bother with the streusel as they're yummy without), a triple batch of cinnamon roll bread, and a double batch of chocolate zucchini bread (new recipe, won't share link as I didn't love it).

Because the pumpkin, apples, and zucchini were all free, that lowered the costs of the baked items quite a bit. Next, I needed to figure out drinks. Water would of course be offered, but I also wanted to make a punch. Rather than find a recipe and shop for those ingredients, I looked in my pantry for what I had, and created a recipe from it. Love being resourceful this way! Here's what I did . . .

I had a packet of red kool-aid mix that Nathan got at the end of the school year. I mixed that up, along with a pitcher of raspberry lemonade. I also had a 2-liter of 7up that I'd gotten free, so I decided to mix all that together. I remembered I'd frozen some lime slices (the lime was free from a friend), so that made the perfect ice cubes, and I deemed it "raspberry lime punch." It was quite tasty, and cost about a quarter to make a huge batch!

It ended up being a chilly morning, so I also wanted to serve hot drinks, which was a last minute decision on my part. I checked my hot drink cabinet, and noticed some caramel apple tea I got for free with a coupon last fall. It smells wonderful, but it contains caffeine, which I avoid. I also had some cappuccino mix a friend gave me this summer when she moved away, and I won't drink that, either. Perfect solution! That means that drinks for 30 people cost about a penny a person!

Next, I wanted to have some simple but festival decorations. Our temps are suddenly feeling like fall, so I wanted to go with that. I knew I would use my small dessert plates to be nicer and avoid so much trash. I had about 10 red paper napkins left from last holiday season, and I picked up a package of orange ones in the same size for $1 so that I could alternate colors. I had a bunch of plastic yellow cups left over from this summer's rehearsal dinner, so those worked great with the colors. I used my white mugs for the hot drinks, and since not everyone wanted a hot drink, I had enough.

I used my fall table runner, and picked a lot of zinnias from the garden. Simple but pretty! And when I got out my fall decorations, I found a package of fall muffin liners my aunt gave me, so those were a nice addition.

I hope the brunch was a blessing to the women who attended. Just wanted to share these details as I always get excited about hospitality on a budget! It is definitely possible if you use your resources.
I asked Nathan to take a picture of me with the table mostly set. (My shirt was a dollar at a garage sale last week!)

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!