Friday, August 28, 2015

End of summer, start of school

Blogging was not at the top of my list this summer, but I do hope to start posting a little more often now.

As I mentioned in my last post, we met up with my parents in South Dakota for a few days, and had a wonderful time. I am so thankful my dad felt up to traveling (his first time out of CO in nearly 3 years!!) Here are some photos from our time together:

A stop at the iconic tourist destination on our way out

We saw over a hundred buffalo and many other animals at Custer State Park

Spending the afternoon at a beautiful lake
A visit to an imaginative children's attraction

My mom wanted a pic of my kiddos in this pumpkin, because look who got a photo at the same spot 29 years ago?!

Mount Rushmore
Swinging by the corn palace on the way home

The older kids started school this week, so here is a photo from the first day. 
And with that, we launch into a new season!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*A friend gave me an eggplant from her garden. I think I'd only tasted eggplant once, and I'd never cooked with it. I recalled a recipe I'd wanted to try, and it was quite good--very much like hummus. 
*We attended a wonderful event in a nearby town with an organized family bike ride, followed by free supper and swimming at the local pool. 
*I took advantage of some deals to make a highly unusual on-line order of some new clothing for myself. I had a couple gift cards from past birthdays, plus a discount code and free shipping. I also earned some cash back.
*I won two movie tickets from the library for filling out a survey.
*I took the kids out to lunch using coupons they'd earned from the summer reading program. I spent just a couple dollars for all 4 of us to eat.
*We went to a garage sale that had a free box and found a couple new items to use in shoeboxes.
*We continue to harvest from our garden, mostly green beans, tomatoes and bell peppers. Plus zinnias, of course!
*I stocked up on some amazing grocery deals, including cereal for $1/box (reg. $3.49/each!) and syrup for 98 cents/bottle, plus it had a coupon on it for free pancake mix. I only paid $7.90 for $33.30 worth of the three products mentioned! Plus, I earned several cents off per gallon of gas.
*We attended a free pool party.
*We scored some leftover goodies from a potluck we attended, and it provided supper for the next night.
*I redeemed an offer for a free dessert with purchase when celebrating a friend's birthday at a restaurant.
*We met up with my parents in South Dakota for a long weekend, and my mom and I planned and brought meals to save on food costs. We ate out just twice on our four-day trip. Here's the lovely view from our cabin:
*We purchased a Groupon to save money on one of our trip outings. (However, we learned later that we could've used a discount code that day to further sweeten the deal. Oh, well!)
*I made laundry soap and peanut butter cookies.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

I didn't keep a frugal list on vacation, partly because there wasn't much to report in this regard, so this list is from the past 2-3 weeks.

*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Received lots of free samples in the mail: vitamins, shampoo, diapers, mouthwash, lotion
*Our kids earned some great prizes from a healthy living program they participated in. They each won some tickets to nearby attractions, which we used for a fun and frugal family day. Both attractions are fairly expensive, and these passes enabled us to go to two cool places for very low cost!
*Harvested lots of garden goodies: flowers, onions, rhubarb, green beans, a few tomatoes, and peppers, including this unusual multi-colored one
*Redeemed coupons for free mini pizzas and had a picnic at an outdoor spot where the kids have been wanting to eat.
*The kids also earned a boatload of prizes from the library's summer reading program, including lots of food coupons and some school supplies.
*Grocery deals: snack mix for 79 cents a bag with sale and cpn (reg. $2.49 each), a loaf of bread for 39 cents, a free 2-liter of pop
*Went to the pool twice on their discount nights--a huge savings ($6 for our family vs. $17 if we go on a regular afternoon)
*Attended a free concert, and watermelon was served at no cost
*Visited three different shops that were having major clearance (one store was 50% off everything, one was 75%, and the other was a $1 bag sale--the best! I paid just one dollar for everything pictured below. My favorite find was the doll leotard for Natalie, especially because it's the exact same color of a leotard I already had to give her for Christmas!)
*Made lots of stuff with blueberries and strawberries, including jam, syrup, pie, muffins, and crisp--here's a pic of the syrup--I added the berry pulp I strained to the waffle batter, which was delicious!
*Nathan attended an athletic clinic at no cost because of Eric's employment at the college
*Made pasta salad, granola bites, apple French toast cups, Scotcheroos, and I tried making some homemade Pedi@lyte when Natalie wasn't feeling well. She liked the taste, and I felt good knowing I'd made something healthy and inexpensive that was nourishing her better than just plain water.
*Took advantage of ordering some natural health goodies when free shipping was offered. I also had some rewards points to spend.
*A friend gave us a bag of girl clothes her daughter outgrew. I selected a few things and passed it on to a friend with twins.
*Cooked a pot of black beans
*I received a coupon from our local movie theater for a free medium drink and popcorn. There wasn't anything we wanted to see before the coupon expired, but it did not indicate in the fine print that a purchase needed to be made to redeem the offer. I picked up the goodies (value $9.75--crazy!!) and a movie from the library for a free but indulgent date night!

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer stuff

This summer has flown by! Here is a recap of some of our summer:

We were so blessed to have Monica, her kids, and my mom visit for a few days in mid-June. They drove many extra miles to make it happen, and we are so grateful for the time together.

The kids were involved in baseball and gymnastics, which kept us busy most nights the month of June.

At the end of June, we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Reggie. He would've turned 15 next month, and it's been quite an adjustment without him around, especially for Eric.

We spent a little over two weeks in Michigan. En route, I got to stay overnight with my dear friend, Mandi, in Chicago.
It was great to see family and the kids always have fun at the lake. There were 20 of us staying at the cottage for one of the weeks, but I don't have any of those photos on my camera, so maybe I can share more later.

A few days after getting back to Iowa, we had to say some very hard goodbyes--Eric's brother, Ryan, and his wife, Alyssum, moved last week to Minnesota. Though they'll only be a few hours away, we will deeply miss their presence here.
As you can see, we've had a lot going on. I did want to check in before getting even more behind. Blessings!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

We continue to have a very full summer. I've been keeping my frugal list, and will share that here, but hope to share other updates and photos soon.

From the past two weeks:

*Eric goes out in our yard on rainy nights and digs for nightcrawlers for fishing. He said they sell for $4/dozen, so this is a nice expense to avoid since we have a good supply.
*We happened on to a free meal at the park recently, where they served hot dogs, chips and ice cream.
*We picked strawberries at a local patch, and I made a double batch of jam, a pie, and a berry-rhubarb crisp. We enjoyed the rest fresh.
*The kids earned really nice $15 water bottles from a healthy living program they're participating in.
*Made popsicles and syrup.
*Attended a free event at a local dairy farm--we got a free tour, plus supper and lots of activities.
*We continue to harvest spinach from our garden, and have gotten a few peas as well.
*Nathan has a great eye for spotting pop bottle lids at parks, so we've earned quite a few rewards points by entering the codes.
*Ordered some free photos
*Scored some deals in the clearance cart at the dollar store--3 packages of tortillas, some cereal bars for our trip (two per pkg), and a padded envelope--all for a quarter each
*Eric's brother brought over some grocery items they don't want to take when they move. (Insert sad face about the move part.)

Will check in again in July, but I'd love to hear from you in the meantime!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Cooked a pot of black beans
*Made scones, "animal" crackers, blueberry muffins, brownies, granola, banana bread
*Had an outstanding trip to the grocery store, combining sales and coupons--best deal by far was paying less than $6 total for 2 gallons of milk and 4 boxes of cereal!
*Took advantage of several free nature programs offered by a local state park--a couple of these included lunch and prizes!
*Used two coupons for free mini pizzas the kids had earned from school
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Picked our first garden treat: spinach!
*Went with a friend to S@m's, and brought my calculator to be sure I was only by things at both a good price and a quantity we can actually use. (I've made that mistake before, buying an enormous container of baking powder.)
*Scored hot fudge sundaes for $1 each, and redeemed a coupon for a free pint of ice cream earned from donating blood
*Eric was invited to participate in a golf excursion through the college (at no cost to him)--he got to play 9 holes of golf, have a pizza buffet lunch, and he even won a prize (a nice stadium seat) for one of his shots.
*Redeemed a coupon for a free Italian soda, and one for a free tub of whipped cream
*Purchased heavy cream marked down half-price for making homemade ice cream
*Had a family outing to the pool on B1G1 night
*Made something I've been wanting to make for years--homemade laundry soap! I'm only one week in to using it, but have no complaints so far.

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*My mom graciously agreed to re-cover our couch pillows, which were in quite yukky condition. I was shocked at the high cost of brand new pillows, and these were still fine in form, so I am thrilled she was able to re-cover them. Thanks, Mom!
*Made rolls, scones, syrup, strawberry frozen yogurt, soft pretzels with cheese sauce, chocolate peanut butter bars, granola, pumpkin bread
*Eric used a rebate check to purchase something at a hardware store. He also used a discount card to get a small percentage off on some paint we needed.
*Scored some grocery deals: crackers for $1/box, cheese for $1/pkg., 5 ears of corn for 80 cents total (combining sale and Saving*), hummus for $1.50 (sale and cpn, reg. price $2.99)
*Took advantage of some great thrifting deals--one store was 50% off everything for a couple days; the other store was having a $2 bag sale (a couple of the items that fit in my bag were a nice pair of shorts for Eric and this game, which Nathan had enjoyed the day before at a friend's house)
*Stopped by a dollar store that was having 50% off all clearance prices, and got some great deals, including granola bars for 72 cents/box and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce for 47 cents.
*Attended a couple of free essential oil classes, one locally and one on-line. I have been doing a lot of research on natural health lately. The local class I attended even had a free make-and-take: we each got to make one small spray (I chose bug) and one small roller (I choose sleepytime) to bring home. Fun!
*Received an awesome box of free samples in the mail: several lotions, a small container of shredded parm, shampoo and sunscreen
*And the best freebie of all: a FREE 15-minute flight for Nathan, as part of a young pilots program. We'd gotten an advertisement about it, and there are no strings attached. He had a fun time, and I was grateful his motion sickness did not come into play!

On the flipside, I admit I went quite a bit over on our grocery budget this month. We also had an unusually high number of recreation/entertainment purchases, so it's good we can balance out higher months with lower ones.
I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!