Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past four weeks:

*Scored several freebies: candy bar (Saving *), baby wipes, mousse, quinoa/rice mix (coupons)
*Eric purchased a couple short-sleeved work shirts for $3 each at the thrift store
*Made granola, pumpkin bread, lentil soup, "better than Pam," banana bread
*Cut boys' hair
*Attended a free local egg hunt and carnival; filled eggs with treats I had on hand
*Took advantage of after-Easter clearance, snagging a couple gifts and some holiday items for next year at 50-70% off
*Used a gift card to buy lunch at CFA for Naomi and me
*FINALLY accrued enough diaper rewards points to order a large box of "free" diapers--I have been hoping for months that I keep buying the last box, but Naomi has not been very interested in potty training!
*A friend I made some lip balm--something I'd been wanting to try for a long time. We split the ingredients and the finished product, and I have plenty to give as little gifts. Fun!
*Grocery deals: spinach for 24 cents (sale and cpn), avocado for 23 cents (sale and C51), 1/2 gallons of milk for 99 cents (super-sale!), whipping cream for 99 cents (awesome markdown price!), 2 loaves of French bread for 60 cents each, free eggs with purchase, stocked up on tortilla chips at $1.25/bag
*Attended a free fairy tale workshop and program at the library--it was both fun and educational, and they provided snacks and several different craft stations. We love our library! According to a new feature at the bottom of our receipt, I've already checked out $2000+ worth of materials in 2015!
*With somewhat warmer weather, we've been trying to walk/bike more places. All-around win.
*Made pasta salad, granola bars, corn dog muffins, syrup, venison burgers, black bean burgers, brownie pudding pie
*As I've mentioned before, I try very hard to only buy on-sale produce. Here is an example of some of the deals I got the other day (Keep in mind that these are prices from 4 different stores--price matching is awesome!): celery $1, red pepper $1, onion 69 cents/lb. +Saving*, mango 77 cents, strawberries $4.98 for 4 lbs., grapes $2.19/lb., bananas 48 cents/lb. Buying on-sale produce makes a big difference in the budget!
*Attended a swap meet in my sister-in-law's dorm, and brought home an unopened container of organic almonds (random!), a car first aid kit with most (packaged) items still included, and a dress (which, humorously and unknown to me, had belonged to my SIL!)
*Bought a pair of shoes for Nathan for $2 at a garage sale
*Took Naomi out to lunch, and had coupons for a free kids' meal plus a free brownie.
*Made hummus, peanut butter cups (very yummy!), banana blueberry bread (new recipe--not yummy), granola bites, strawberry pie, vanilla ice cream, granola
*A friend gave us a pair of girls' tennis shoes that her daughter had outgrown
*Attended a delightful play at the college at no cost (staff and spouses receive free admission--a wonderful perk!)
*Visited a consignment shop when some of their clothes were 50% off, and scored some great deals, especially with having store credit to apply as well.

And though this wasn't a frugal outing, here's a pic from my recent mother-son date with Nathan--a delayed part of his Christmas present! I'm glad to save in some areas so that we can splurge in others sometimes. I had no coupons for any of our activities--bowling, pizza, ice cream shop--but we had fun (Mostly--Nathan doesn't like to lose, and his mama beat him twice in bowling!) and spent some rare 1-1 time together.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter exploring

Though we'd decided not to travel for Easter, we had a hard time figuring out our plans, and I am grateful for how things came together.

Saturday was spent doing a variety of egg hunts. And on Friday, we painted/colored a set of plastic eggs. I hadn't been able to find them last year, so it was fun to add those to our decorations this season. 

On Sunday, we attended the early service at our church and then took off on an adventure. We first drove to a state park about an hour away. We had a picnic lunch and then went on a 5-mile bike ride, stopping to hike on some rocks midway. 

Next we drove about 20 minutes to a historical site called Devils Gulch. It was interesting to explore there. Then we hopped back in the car for about 10 minutes and drove to another state park, which was absolutely beautiful. We hung out there for a couple hours, climbing on rocks, and just enjoying the beauty of God's creation.
After several hours of exploring these different sites, we drove 20 minutes again to a nearby city for supper. We devoured our delicious Easter dinner, and then drove home. We were all tuckered out, but it was a nice way to spend the holiday!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Draining vs. energizing

I told a couple people this week that I had recently made two lists: one of things that drain me, and the other with things that energize me. I have been trying to use these lists to help me avoid drains when I can, and either way, to seek out what energizes me, especially when I'm feeling worn down.

I thought I would share my lists, and hope this may inspire some of you to consider doing something similar. Of course, I already knew instinctively most of what was on the list, but having it written down was clarifying for me. These are not exhaustive--just what came to mind initially. 

Here is what I find draining:
*Drawn-out decisions
*Interrupted sleep
*Interrupted conversation (repeatedly)
*Cold, gray weather
*Too-long to-do list

Here is what I find energizing:
*Fresh air
*Talking with a friend
*Healthy food
*Beautiful scenery

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Would your lists be similar? What would you add--or take away?

photo by Monica

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Used a gift certificate to get a free pedicure. I watched a friends' kids several times last summer, and she surprised me with a gift certificate to a local salon. When my mom was here, she encouraged me to go out and do something relaxing, and I remembered I had the certificate. Nice!
*Scored several loaves of bread for 39 cents a loaf on the day-old rack.
*While my mom was here, we went to my favorite consignment store. They were having a spring sale with all clothes and shoes 25% off, and I had a decent amount of credit. I had just gone through the kids' spring/summer clothes, so I had very specific things to look for, and I had great success.
*I made a batch of strawberry jam, some cinnamon muffins, pancake mix, pasta salad and pizza muffins (for school lunches)
*Used a coupon for a free donut that Naomi received at a library program. Eric earned a $5 coffee shop certificate from the library.
*Received a coupon for a free TwiX bar--my favorite!--from an on-line sweepstakes
*Scored two boxes of Fr0zen cereal for just $1.27 each--on sale for $1.97 and I had two 70-cent cpns
*Used several discounts to order some gifts for upcoming occasions
*Purchased a sweater for $2 off a local swap site
*The older kids received a free chapter book for participating in the library's occasional after-school program.
*Eric spotted a white wicker rocking chair on the curb at some friends' house--he confirmed they were getting rid of it, and brought it home for our porch, which has all white wicker furniture!
*Bought a brand new box of 20 super-cute birthday cards and a bundle of colored pencils at the thrift store.
*You may recall that our washer fritzed out a couple months ago; now it's our dryer's turn! Eric patiently tried several approaches to fixing it, and it became clear that we need to replace it. We decided to buy a new one, and Eric was able to get a couple different discounts. Every little bit helps!

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Grammie's visit

We are so grateful my mom was able spend 9 days with us. She was a huge help with all the kids, especially Naomi, and she did many acts of service around the house.

We were able to squeeze in a little fun during her busy visit.

 Celebrating Natalie's 6th birthday
Going out for donuts after school
 Lots of hanging out
 Grammie got to read a couple books to Nathan's class
 And have lunch at school with Natalie
 We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with plenty of green and rainbows
Thanks for coming, Mom. We love you!

Today is our final day of diet and activity restrictions following Naomi's surgery. Hooray!

Friday, March 20, 2015

A nICE and COOL celebration

We were late to jump on the Fr0zen bandwagon and didn't see it until it was on DVD last spring, but Natalie is definitely a big fan. She asked me months ago if that could be the theme of her birthday party. That allowed me to acquire some winter/snowflake goodies at great prices, and have a jumpstart on stuff for this special occasion.

I followed a similar format to Naomi's recent party since it had worked pretty well. We started with refreshments--each girl got to decorate their own snowflake sugar cookie, and we had some other goodies detailed below.
Next we played several games: a "musical snowflakes" game, a scavenger hunt based on lines from the movie's catchy songs, and pin the carrot nose on 0laf. Then the girls colored some pictures from the movie, and we played the soundtrack in the background. It was so cute hearing them belt out the songs!
Then we opened a few gifts, and since there was a little time left, the girls wanted to play the musical snowflakes game again, and then have a "dance party" (their words--so funny!) We handed out favor bags on their way out the door--these goodies, tied up in the bag with sparkly silver ribbon.
So it was a success. And though I am pleased with how it came together, I am happy to hang up my party-planning hat for awhile. Our family of 5 has birthdays in one half of the year, so now I'm off the hook at our house until October!

Here is the cost breakdown:

Food (homemade sugar cookies and frosting, snowflake crackers, baby carrots--Olaf's nose!, almond bark popcorn, blue lemonade): less than $5
Decor: $0--I adapted a poster Nathan brought home from school, used snowman/snowflake dishes I already had, and took advantage of the used party supplies we were blessed with. I also left some of my winter and snowman decor out, and my mom and I made a little display of those items.
Favors: I spent $2 for a package of bags, but only used 5 of 20, and will save the rest for another party. I bought a package of Frozen character stickers at the $ store, and divided one package up in half-sheets for favors and to use on invites, etc. My mom and I made the pretzels, and Natalie made each girl a blue and white bracelet. The glittery pink snowflake ornaments were bought on Christmas clearance--about a dollar for 6. My mom bought a pack of character lip balms at a discount store, and we gave one to each girl. The rock candy sucker was in the bag of goodies we received from a previous Fr0zen party. I was thrilled to have such a fun bag of goodies, and spent less than $3 on favors for 5 girls!
Activities: free (lots of great printables on-line: coloring pages and games)
Tableware: $2 (snowflake cups and napkins purchased on Christmas clearance, clear cups on hand)

Total cost: less than $10

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

It has been a very full two weeks with Naomi's tonsils out (Thanks for your prayers!), my mom's visit, and celebrating Natalie's birthday. I did manage to keep a list of at least some of my frugal activities from that time period, so here they are:

*Made granola bites, apple coffee cake, blueberry muffins, corn dog muffins
*Had a friend take Naomi's 3-year photos for a small fee
*Ordered some needed jeans and socks for the girls, taking advantage of a sale, Ebates, and free shipping
*We went out for ice cream, and had a coupon for a free take-home pint with any purchase. We bought a large dish of ice cream, split it among the kids, and enjoyed some of the pint ourselves. Hard to beat $3 for all 5 of us to have ice cream!
*Scored a free candy bar (Saving *) and more free C0ke (once again, reaping the SC benefits from W-mart!)
*Cooked a batch of white beans
*Grocery deals: cereal for $1/box, 5 lb. bags of potatoes for just 88 cents each, stocked up on milk at $2.49 gallon and $1.68 for a 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk (a special treat during Grammie's visit!)
*Finished up our free movie trial on-line--a great chance to see some movies we can't get at our local library
*Received a free sample of lotion
*Natalie earned a cpn for a free pizza slice from a contest at school
*Ordered a book from PBS (for the 49-cent fee)
*My mom and I stopped by the thrift store, and I bought a few books on B1G1 and a nice church shirt for Nathan for $2
*A random one: I noted in a recent magazine that there was a $20 gadget that would help you get the last drop out of your toiletry bottles. I find that highly ironic to pay $20 to "save money" when you can just turn the bottle upside down--for (gasp) FREE. In fact, I was recently able to stretch out my face moisturizer for more than a month (when the pump stopped working) just by turning it and using the pump stem to help scrape some out.
*A classmate's mom learned that Natalie wanted a Fr0zen-themed party, and since her daughter had the same theme last month, she saved a lot of the decor and misc. items for me. So sweet! I already had most of Natalie's party planned when she offered, but it was really fun to have all these additions to our celebration! I really appreciated the generosity and plan to pass what I can on to someone else. I couldn't resist checking out the retail prices of some of the items, and the brand new price total was over $80! I'll share more about the party on Friday, but we had a great time--and it was very low-cost--even less than Naomi's.

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