Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's NYE!

Horizontal stripes don't exactly flatter, but here I am modeling my best home made Christmas gift. I was given this pair of PJs by my mother. She sewed them for me, isn't that sweet? Just like when I was a little girl. She said if I laughed at the gift, she would never make me anything again. So, to make sure she makes me more lovely things, I sent her a series of silly photos by email to show her how much I appreciate them. Remember this post when you next make something for your kids. Even years later, it will be appreciated. Nothing says lovin' like a home made present. This is the only photo I dare publish here, in part because it is hard to detect my face. I do have some pride! The other photos were increasingly silly. I am a bit of a ham, I'm afraid. As I get into my thirties however, I try to keep that for my immediate family and have some decorum in public. I am after all in my PJs, not to mention the fact that the stripes did nothing for my derriere, if you know what I mean. Perhaps I have had a few too many holiday treats. Nah, that couldn't be it. Here's to New Year's fitness resolutions. Thanks Mom, for reminding me with the stripey leisure suit, ha ha. Oops. No I wasn't laughing at you, I was laughing with you. Incidentally, I have no idea how to flip the photo horizontally, I will work on it later. Just tilt your head for now, unless you want to comment and tell me how to do it!

I am counting down the last half hour until 2010. So, I will say it now and say it proud to all my online friends and readers, then I'll be off to get some shut eye:

Happy New Year! All the best to you and yours in 2010!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gobble Gobble.

Well, Christmas is finished for another year. Thank goodness! We had a wonderful time and I hope you all did as well. Now it is time to put it all away and get back to real life. After I have a few more days of rest, of course. After all of the eating and cooking and merry making, I am exhausted! We stayed home this year, no travel, just the three of us and had a quiet Christmas at home. But that didn't seem to make it any less hectic. There were several parties and last minute things that still had to be done before the big day. Presently, my turkey carcass is boiling down for turkey soup stock and I have two turkey casseroles in the freezer ready to heat and eat. I also made turkey salad sandwich filling with my new food processor. Turkey is versatile, delicious and a great source of lean protein. It is also fairly inexpensive this time of year, so even though we are a small family, we stuck to tradition and my husband went all out with a grand turkey feast on Christmas day while I was at work. I came home to a fabulous feast! I gladly helped with the clean up and took charge of the leftovers. First thing, I layered them into casserole dishes and popped them in the freezer along with the potatoes and gravy. Presto, two heat and eat meals ready for a busy work night. I had a coupon for $15 off this year, so we got a decent size turkey under budget. We'll have a ham for the New Year. No reason to pare down the festive feast when the leftovers, if taken care of properly, make things easier in the weeks to come. For the ham, I will shred the leftover for easy casseroles and freeze it in bags. Besides, I want to show my son that traditions can still be upheld, even if we are a family of three. I like cooking ahead, it makes things so much easier. I know that we can pull something out of the freezer and eat it with a minimal fuss and it makes resisting takeout even easier, especially since home made tastes so much better and we control the quality and portion sizes.
With all that turkey, I think I need another nap.
Do you have any great turkey recipes? Ideas for leftovers? Feel free to let us know!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Tuesday!

I had quite a productive day off today. I made a plan with my son that today would be baking day. Somehow, the first batch of baking has dwindled down some. I thought I had made quite a lot; cake truffles, chocolate covered pretzels, gingerbread, and shortbread and it's nearly all gone! Well, we did have guests and it was nearly two weeks ago, but still...Needless to say, I had to bake more treats and get some more exercise. I decided on fruit bars, (a slightly healthier option with less sugar which my son loves) peach tarts, and butter tart squares with a shortbread crust, delicious! I also wrapped up 12 burritos with the beef and bean filling I left to simmer on the stove yesterday. My place is aromatic to say the least.
I used up the last of my yeast with the last home made batch of bread and forgot to get more at the grocery store. Since I won't be doing any more shopping for quite some time, ( I hope!) I am trying a new experiment: sour dough bread. I began a starter today using the advice I found here. According to this, I should have a decent "sponge" by the time Boxing Day rolls around. We will probably need a fresh batch of bread by then and I have been dying to try sour dough. I love making bread, it sure releases holiday tensions! Oh, I also gave away a tricycle to a very happy lady whom I met from Freecycle. I have gotten so much from this site, it felt great to get a bike to a kid right before Christmas! My son loved that idea, and it's a life lesson I want him to understand as well. We are so fortunate to have all that we have and to be able to share with other like minded folks is so wonderful. If you haven't checked out your local page, I urge you to try it!

Have a very happy winter season everyone. Whatever you celebrate, celebrate it heartily!

Here's to feasting, family, fun and Frugal Findings!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Frugal Findings

I decided just this minute to change the title of my blog. I don't know yet how the change will affect my readership, if at all. To be perfectly frank, I don't mind at all either way. I enjoy writing this blog and if anyone else gets something out of it too, well that is just a bonus. Also, at the time that I began, I did not realize that Crockpot is actually a trademark name, like Bandaid or Scott towels. The actual name for that device is a slow cooker and while that is not really the focus of my writing, I decided finally, albeit impulsively, to give it up. Some of my best decisions have been made this way. Let's hope this one is in the same category. Sometimes streamlining is just what the doctor ordered.
I shall continue with my posting in much the same manner, randomly and as inspiration strikes me.
I do hope you will enjoy Frugal Findings.

Monday, December 14, 2009

You can call me Martha.

I spent my weekend baking up a storm for Christmas.

How do you like my hot buns?

I may have some company over to visit and wanted to have some nibblies on hand. I have been scouring the circulars for all the loss leaders and planning my snacks around the sales. I am amazed at what they will mark down to get you in the store. If you only buy the few items that are a bargain, you are really smart because you get a deal. I am still working on this though, I tend to think more things are "deals" once I get in a shopping frenzy, especially this time of year. I have managed a few coupon scores though, like $1.50 for dishwasher detergent. I stocked up on that one. I even sent my husband, (although he grumbled a bit, he finally realized it actually was a steal) to snag a deal of fifty cent tin foil and wax paper. He bought six rolls. I was at work and couldn't bear the thought of missing out on the one day sale. I think I may have become a tad obsessed with the deals. Must reign in. After the holidays, that is :)

Oh, wait, that is when the deals really begin....oh dear.

The other thing I made, and this I highly recommend, (right along with chocolate covered pretzels, drool, and yes, the salt and chocolate combo is fantastic!) is cake truffles. All I have to say is, keep these in the freezer, way at the back, or you will eat them all. I think pretty well anything enrobed in chocolate is good and these definitely foot the bill as a chocoholic's fix. They are so freakin' good. I made these from my left over birthday cake which no one wanted any more of. You can use any leftover cake for these! Keep this in mind over the holidays. Even fruitcake could work...

Two desserts from one boxed mix? I'd say that is frugal!

The icing on the cake? Well, the icing that was already on the birthday cake mixed right into the filling. I used peanut butter to stick it all together into balls and dipped them in melted chocolate chips. Then I decorated them with chopped walnuts and other sprinklys and popped them in the freezer on a tray. There is no end to the combinations you can dream up. They also look so great you could give them as a gift.
I also hear that Nutella in the filling is delicious. No, they don't pay me to say that. I am just a sucker for the Nutella.

Along with all the other goodies in my freezer, I think Santa is going to be one happy camper, or, Elf, as the case may be. Ten more sleeps!!

Friday, December 11, 2009


I get floods of ideas from reading blogs and I am grateful to all of you who share your frugal ideas with me so that I can try them for myself. I am not fantastic at linking to give credit where it is due but if you peek in my reading list, you will see my favourite frugalistas from which I derive much of my inspiration. I have been busy, as usual, but I wanted to take a few minutes to jot down some of the ideas I have been trying and some that I would like to try.

Here is what I have been up to:

I made my own recycled candles from white tapers and tea lights

I made my own dry baking mixes

Gifts in a jar, fun!

Made my own recycled gift tags from cardboard Christmas packaging

Christmas mugs filled with candy, HM holiday mocha mix, and HM chocolate dipped pretzels (YUM!) for the teacher and my coworkers

Hand made Christmas cards

handmade birthday card and recycled wrapping

cutting down on food waste by using the freezer (bananas celery mushrooms and tomatoes)

croutons and bread crumbs

making my own bread, pizza dough etc.

Coupons! I bought two DW soaps for three bucks and two deodorants for a buck each, yay!

Here is what I am working up to:

Wardrobe refashion:

I have been saving a few items of clothing that are stained or grown out of with distinguishing features. For example, a too-small, fleece pair of pants with Diego on them, I hope to fashion into a tuque and mitts for the boy. I started on a denim purse from a pair of (too)-skinny-for-me jeans and I hope to start on a few summer items for myself, so when the time comes I won't have to rush out to buy. Must work on the sewing skillz...

I must admit it has been difficult to reign myself in on the holiday shopping, but so far I have stuck to the budget and managed to keep a dollar limit per person on the gifts. I did receive an unexpected parcel from my single-no kids-more-disposable-income-than-me friend so I am wondering what I shall do to reciprocate, but I am sure I will think of something suitable.

Here is my recipe for HM holiday Mocha Mix which I adapted from a site called Bitsy's Kitchen. No idea where that link went, but if you search it, it will come up.

Holiday Mocha Mix

2/3 cup instant coffee

2/3 cup powdered milk

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

four packets of carnation hot chocolate, about 1/2 a cup of powder

a couple of tbsp of cocoa powder, for extra chocolate :)

Blend in the blender then divide into baggies for gifting. 1-2 tbsp per cup of hot water. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Much to say, little substance

I make no apologies for the scarcity of my posts. Ok, maybe, that's an admission that I feel somewhat remiss, but that is all. Life is fun and busy isn't it? When I started blogging I was a SAHM, now I am a working mom and school has started. Waaay different ballgame. So, I don't have the time I once had to devote to my imaginative ideas. I still have a few tucked up my sleeve, though and the best idea I have is scouring the blogs and trying other people's ideas that inspire me. The first thing I did for the upcoming holiday season was to make homemade holiday mixes. I measured out the dry ingredients for brownies, gingerbread, cornbread and cinnamon pancakes into large freezer bags and labelled them with the recipes and instructions on index cards. Now, while I am working through the holidays, all I have to do is add eggs, fat and milk and bake. Beautiful. I plan to do up some more of these. I got the fun of baking and making a big mess in the kitchen, but instead of just one final product I had four. Also I could put the mix in a jar and give it away as a gift. The next thing I tried was couponing. I have been collecting for a while and the other day I decided to be brave and try to go get some deals. I left my son at home and went to get two dollar deodorants, a free lotion and two for one chocolates. Good for stocking stuffers. I learned a few things, like how to organize them in a mini photo album so I can flip through and see them at a glance. I think with some practice, I could make couponing work. It is fun to find a cheap deal, and let's face it, with my inherent hoarding capacity, the idea of stockpiling toothpaste and shampoo at cheap prices is vastly appealing to me. My precious...

I have begun my holiday shopping with a strict limit of $20 per gift outside of my immediate family and those gifts are limited as well. For the office gift exchange, I plan to stuff a dollar store snowman mug with couponed chocolates and call it a day. I also recycled all my boring white tapers and tea lights into candle creations! I melted my son's old crayons into the wax for colour. I did all this after his bedtime of course. No need to have curious fingers in burning hot wax. I even recycled the wicks and after I bought some cute votive candle holders on clearance with Santa and snowflakes on them. I now have all my holiday candles for free and I may give some away as well. (The hoarding again, they look so good all in a big group, ha ha :) They turned out cute. My camera has been travelling around in the van, so you will just have to take my word for all this, I keep meaning to go get it but by the time I do, the kodak moment has usually passed. I hope you can enjoy last year's photo. We don't have snow yet, so this is fun for me. Welcome December!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mondays, whadareyagonnado.

Today I must be feeling better because I finally see how behind the uh, home maitenance, has gotten while I have been under the weather. The man did his best at holding down the fort, I gotta give him that. Nobody went hungry and we had clean clothes on our back, so kudos to him, kudos indeed. Now that I am running on all cylinders again, I noticed that the oven was so bad it was almost a fire hazard. If one more french fry caught on fire in there, it could be the end for all of us! I'm too polite to discuss the state that my bathrooms were in, here in such a public forum. Yikes!!!
In the past I would have waited until I could purchase a CFC laden chemical bomb at the grocery store; otherwise known as oven cleaner.
Now, I use my two best cleaning friends; baking soda and his awesome chemical reactor buddy, vinegar. Not only are they both always available in my house and cheap as borscht (compared to say, Easy Off), they work great, and not just in the oven. I used the same concoction on my shower floor, too. Now, I am no chemistry major, all I know is full strength white vinegar is a pretty strong acid and the fuzzy baking soda bubbles eat away at grease and dirt while I watch the late show. I also squirt a little dish soap in there while I am at it, what can it hurt? I would certainly feel safer getting traces of my homemade cleaning concoction on my casserole, if I were remiss in the rinsing process, than I would with the chemicals in oven cleaner, egads!
Then, when I am feeling good after laughing all my troubles away, I can get up the nerve to go soak up the mess of all those suppers past with a few recycled rags. Whatever grease and mess doesn't come off the first time probably will come off with some elbow grease after warming up the oven.
If a couple of unsightly marks remain after all is said and done, I remind myself, "Hey, who is gonna look in the oven anyways?" As long as we don't ignite a french fry campfire in there, I am good to go.
I think the refrigerator can wait until next Monday...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ugh, winter.

Normally it's not so bad, and I am doing my best to have a positive attitude, but flu season has not been kind to me, and I am just about fed up with being sick! On the plus side, I have had more time and inspiration for frugal ideas. On the minus side, I have not had the energy to carry anything out effectively. Every time I try to complete a project, I end up flopping on the couch in frustration because I don't have complete it to any sort of satisfaction. So I have to be satisfied with what I can accomplish, and that will have to be enough for now. I made an attempt at a wardrobe refashion; a shrug which I made out of sweater sleeves. My husband received a cheap acrylic sweater for Christmas a couple of years ago and the colour is just all wrong for him. It was way to big and baggy for me, so finally I asked permission to cut it up. It has a nice argyle pattern on the sleeves which really is the only redeeming quality of the sweater. I paired it up with some of the burgundy trim from my Freecycle stash and got it all pinned together. I have yet to drag out the sewing machine. Somehow, in my mind, the machine weighs 1000 lbs right now. I got the idea from Wardrobe Refashion, a girl did it with a cabled sweater sleeves. Too cool. I'd find the link for you, but meh, I don't feel like it right now. I also knitted my husband an ear warmer headband. Well, it was going to be a tuque but let's just say the tension was off a little and rather than frog the whole project, I bound it off and called it a headband. He dutifully wore it all around the house and didn't once laugh at me, even though he looked ridiculous and we all knew it :) Now, that is a good man. The final thing I have been dinkying around with is Plarn. Yes, Plarn.It is yarn made from recycling plastic carrier bags. When I told my mum, she said, "That's nice, dear," in the tone that says she thinks it's the medication talking. Well maybe it was, come to think of it. Still, I have visions of reclaiming the world's plastic bags one at a time and knitting them into, well, plastic bags. Strong, sturdy bags, which could carry home, say, a watermelon, or your beach toys. Maybe a rug, where you could scrape the mud off your boots. Or a built in scrubbie in your washcloth. No more hideous bags in the landfill. Plarn for everyone!
Oh, Plarn, you give a sick girl hope.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Free stuff

I love free stuff. I sign up for free samples, coupons and the like all the time. Just today I received a tampon sample from o.b. in a cutesy little plastic case (which I will use as my emergency purse stash). My son got a free calendar and a cookbook from Wisconsin Cheese. Since this is about the only way he gets mail, it's fun searching the net for free stuff to send him. He is always so surprised when he sees his name on the mail. Some of the best things I have received have been the three free regular size powerbars, free cereal, three bottles of Ensure and now, tampons. My latest fun fad is Hippost. You can upload a photo and send it to whoever you want for free! The advertisers pick up the tab for postage. It takes 7-10 days, and your card will say from Expedia or whoever the advertiser is but, so what? It's cute and fun and a great way to send real cards, not just e-cards. I have been homebound with the flu, hence the slowing down of the posts, but I wanted to share my latest frugal ideas with you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's for lunch?

This is my first year of having to pack a lunch every day and it's proving to be more of a challenge than I ever knew! During the sporadic daycare years, packing lunches was fun and easy. Since we didn't have our son in regular care until age four, and only then for a few months, the occasional lunches I packed were like a treat and could be heated up in the microwave, so it was very similar to a lunch meal at home. Now that he is in full day kindergarten however, there are no such conveniences. I am quickly adapting to this and learning to be creative. I have searched the Internet and asked friends what they pack. The blogosphere is a wealth of ideas for lunch ideas for the school aged set.
Here is some of what I am learning:
1) Kids don't have much time to eat. At lunch time, they goof off a lot with their friends. There are many distractions. This means that a whole apple will go untouched, or, come home with two tiny browning teeth marks in it, or even worse, go into the trash after one bite.
2.) If it's mini, round or shaped like a star, it has a better chance of getting eaten. Mini bagels and tiny carrot sticks have not come home in the lunch box yet. Big bagels and celery chunks did not get eaten. Oh, and last week he liked ranch dip. This week, not so much.
3) If the container is not easy to open, forget it. It's not getting eaten. If his friends say, "Eww, what's that?", he won't eat it. It was a smoothie, but he didn't know that so rather than risk it, he just didn't go there. Now, I tell him what I am packing and give him more choices, and he's happy. Lesson learned.
4) If the lunch is too far from the norm, forget it. He likes to know what's in there or it will go uneaten. Surprises are nice though, I will have to think of some good ones.
5) Our school is "peanut aware" so nothing with any kind of nuts can go to school. They also discourage baked goods altogether, and junk foods, for nutritional reasons. So far, the treat part is usually home made granola, without nuts, or commercial cereal, but I need more ideas here.
6) I have also learned that he loves a hard boiled egg, peeled, to eat. He thinks it's neat. Yay, cheap protein!
7) Preparation is key. It takes time to think of good choices, cut it up tiny, make it attractive and package it all properly. 20 minutes before the bus arrives is a stressful time to attempt making a lunch. Ask me how I know.
8) Finally, I have learned that, once again, I feel fortunate to only have one child. Lunch making must be crazy for siblings!! I feel a little bit spoiled, except when the bus is coming and I didn't make lunch the night before. Then I feel like a sous chef in a restaurant during the dinner rush. Breakfast and lunch at the same time. Order up!
What have you learned about brown bagging it? Please, share your pearls of wisdom. I will steal your ideas and put them into practice in my own life.
What could be better than that?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Feeling Frugal

Well I have been trying to think up creative ways to get what I need and still stay frugal. Hard as I tried, I could not find a decent winter coat in the thrift store for my son. So I bought one on clearance and one size too big instead. I guess that's the next best option and they sort of match the thrifted snow pants I got him, good score. Today was a home day. I tried to catch up on the laundry, dishes and some rest. I finished an online project, my Christmas present for my grandma, a personalized photo calendar. There was an online sale 50% off until Halloween, so I figured I better take advantage of it and get that one scratched off my list. I managed to keep under the $20 dollar limit with the rebate and since we draw from a hat in my family, that's the only present outside of my immediate family that I am obligated to buy and I'm done! I used photos of all of the grand and great grand kids, so I ought to get a lot of bang for my buck. Of course, I usually bend the one present rule to include some other special people and that's where thrifting and imagination come into play. Today my son had a birthday party to go to. Against my better judgement, and with some pleading on his part, I caved and bought a store card instead of having him make one like I usually do. Consider me right back on the frugal wagon! We had purchased the same card as another kid and the birthday child barely had time to look at it. Fortunately, I won out on the recycling of a craft paper bag and some tissue and stickers for the wrappings, which immediately went into the garbage pail within seconds of opening the gift. I'm so glad I didn't spend money on them! Presently I am toasting some homemade croutons and thinking what I can throw together Into the Crockpot. We used up the last of the beef stew that I made oh, four months ago. Time for a restocking of the freezer I'd say.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Rules of Thrifting

Happiness is......going shopping and coming home with everything you wanted for $15.49. Yes, I went to the Sal-Mart today. I was on the lookout, as I always am, for frugal clothing for myself for work. My job attire needs to be casual and comfortable and most of all, wash and wear. My wardrobe allowance is small, so I have to get creative. For the most part, I get compliments on my choices, so I must be doing alright. Today happened to be a sale; all pink tags 1.00! I picked up a blouse and a cardigan which almost match exactly for two bucks! I also picked up a near- new hoodie for the boy. One can never have too
many fleece hoodies.
Here, my son is wearing his favourite Spidey jammies,
which I found with a Diego set at Value Village for $3 each.
These looked brand new to me when I bought them and after I washed them,
they looked like all of his other P.J.s. They were the perfect Drive-In attire.
Then, I heard angels chorusing and a light shone down from up above. O.K., not exactly, but there, in the Salmart, was the exact same food chopper that I have been looking to replace since mine was dropped from the counter top a couple of months ago. There was no price on it, and beside it, another chopper sat, (missing a vital part, which in my mind made it fit only for the landfill), for $5. This set my mind to thinking. How can I get my perfect, complete chopper for the best price? This also got me thinking about the Rules of Thrifting. By now, I tend to think of myself and a near expert in sifting through the garbage in thrift stores and coming out with the gems. I have been thrifting most of my life and I while have bought my share of useless and frivolous goods and promptly had to re-recycle them, by now I have honed my skils almost to an exact science. If you are interested, I will gladly share my pearls with you now.

1. Don't buy junk.

This rule seems obvious but in the mind mode of all the good deals you are getting and all the money you are saving by thifting, it is easy to overlook quality and possibly let down your standards a tad when piling on extra purchases. Examine everything with a critical eye. Will you really wear it? Will it fit you? Did you try it on? Will you really fix that button? If there is a shadow of a doubt in your mind, put it back on the rack. This brings me to the second rule...

2. Have a list.

Just as in any other store, you wouldn't just buy things because they are there. Well, maybe you would, but if you are trying to be frugal you wouldn't. I always have a list of things that I need in mind, or at least, categories. For example, we are low on winter gear, my son always needs clothes and Christmas is coming. I found myself almost brand new snow pants today and a cute holiday plate which I could serve my chocolate chip cookies on. The food chopper was on my mental list.

3. Watch prices.

Don't assume everything is a good deal just because it is used. In fact you have to be even more on your toes in the thrift store because the prices vary and never seem to have a rhyme nor reason. In my mind, if I am paying my hard earned money for something it had better be excellent quality and a good price. I will use the snow pants as an example. They were seven dollars. I almost never spend seven dollars on one item in a thrift store. To me that is the extreme end of the scale. But since the pants were in excellent condition, exactly my size and I know that I could not buy them for less than $30 new, I ponied up the $7 before the next lucky thrifter came by to snap them up. The pricing thing brings me to my next rule. It's really more of an opinion. You do what you think is best.

4. Don't expect to haggle...much.

For the most part, the price is the price, even if it doesn't make any sense why one white turtle neck is $3 and one is $5. You are in a thrift store. Do you haggle at Walmart? Just scan for the $3 one in perfect condition and take that one home. Today, the pink tag sale made me challenge myself to find the best $1 deals I could. The woman before me tried to ask for a cheaper deal on something and was denied. While I admired her courage for asking for a cheaper price, I did not admire the way she left in a snit when she was turned down. For the food chopper without a price, I explained, politely, that the one beside it was missing the handle and had been priced at $5. I waited patiently while the cashier asked the manager for a price, (something she was unwilling to do for the abrupt woman before me), and happily accepted the final purchase price that was offered: two dollars. I did not demand that the cashier lower the price nor did I demand haughtily to speak to the manager. I respected the woman who was helping me and bagged my own purchases, as the line behind me had started to form while she was away getting my cheap price. You see, I want to go back to this store, probably often. I like good deals. This brings me to my final general rule.

5. Keep going back.

You don't have to find everything in one day. Neither do you have to buy out the whole store. If they don't have what you want, or it is all junk, walk out of the store! Don't buy something just because you walked in, or just because it's a dollar. That's your dollar. Keep it for something good! Also, some days, there is just nothing worth buying. Attitude is key. I know, for myself, if I am not in the right frame of mind, I can come home with junk, which defeats the whole purpose. It's called thrifting, not junking.

That being said, if you do make a mistake and bring home say, a polyester shawl from the seventies with burgandy trim and a previously undiscovered grease stain, don't beat yourself up. You could use that trim on something, maybe a lampshade. Clear out all your old junk, make a donation and start fresh with a new take on thrifting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

This Panda is Canadian eh.

So I knitted another tuque. Too bad it only fits my son's beloved Panda. I didn't follow a pattern, I just kind of flew by the seat of my knitted pants and this is what I got. Not bad. If I had any babies around I would have had a captive model, but alas, Panda will have to suffice. Try as I might, I just can't squeeze it onto my sleeping son's gargantuan head. Oh well, he will have a surprise in the morning. I'll just tell him I meant to do it all along. He won't know the diff. He wanted a headband anyways. A green one with a blue stripe. My last knitting project, which was supposed to be a cell phone case, is now a sleeping bag for another stuffy we call Bert. I'm sure by the time I am through, all his toys will be very warm this winter. Happy knitting!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beans, beans the magical fruit...

I am really into beans and legumes lately. They are so economical, make a meal stretch beyond any normal limit and can be seasoned as desired. I usually use dried beans, because they are so cheap and can be stored indefinitely. It has taken me some research and patience on how to incorporate them into my meal planning but it has been worth it. There is something so comforting about a warm, filling meal made with beans. Beans very nutritious and fiber-filled to boot! The most recent things I have made with beans are a split yellow pea and ham soup and burritos. Both turned out fantastically well, if I do say so myself and made enough for me to stock up in the freezer for those I-don't-wanna-cook days. For example, I used up the leftover cubes of ham from a shoulder picnic we bought on sale and a pound of split yellow peas and it made almost a gallon of delicious soup! I could feed an army with that! My best trick is to soak, soak, soak, those beans the night before, preferably, and rinse away the soak water. Then bring to a boil, season and simmer one hour or until tender. If foam bubbles up, skim it away; that to me, is the fart gas. Some people add baking soda to help this, but I worry that it might add a yucky taste to your beans. Add more liquid if you need to. You can then freeze for later use or use in your bean dish. I also find, as in the burritos, pureeing the beans a bit with the other ingredients, or slow cooking until quite broken down in the soup, seems to help with the, uh, flatulence. Although in my house, this is regarded as nothing more than humorous! (Ha ha, bean farts :) Not so good for work and school though...) I used up leftovers for my burritos, so no real recipe to speak of; a half a tomato here, a frozen bunch of tomatoes I saved from another dish, a half onion, a dried bit of garlic, the meat and the beans. I let it all simmer away until it was nicely cooked through and reduced the liquid content. Then I pureed it all in the pot with my hand blender. With the seasonings, (chili powder, garlic and onion salt, whatever I had on hand) the filling turned out very good. This method would also be delicious with some ground round if you prefer a non-meat alternative. Very economical, a few tablespoons in a tortilla, (or maybe even homemade naan bread), fills you up nicely once you add the cheese and salsa and whatever else you like. I had more than enough to put some away and I only used a half pound each of meat and beans. Cheap and delicious, that's what I'm talkin' about!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Well, it's actually tomorrow and we are having our dinner tomorrow, but I got started on Saturday making pumpkin pies from scratch. Yes, I could have just bought a couple of pies at the grocery store and I have done that many a year, but I still think it is more cost effective, not to mention satisfying, to make your own. I made enough pastry for two shells, a dozen tarts (I used my peach preserves in those, YUM!) and I still have enough pastry in the freezer for another use. Maybe I'll make Pate au Poulet (or, in English, Chicken Pot Pie,) one of our family favourites. I like to practice making pastry as well, it is a skill that I think is good to have.
Here are my unbaked pies. Thank goodness I heeded the advice to shield the pastry edges with foil during the last half an hour of baking, or else indeed, they would have been too dark. They turned out well and await our dessert for tomorrow night.

The peach tarts, however did not make it that long :) 2 boys, 12 tarts, one was "broken", you get the idea...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thanksgiving weekend medley

This is a child's tuque and scarf I knitted a couple of years ago. It was my first and last knitting project. I like knitting and I hope to get back into it this fall and winter. Somehow it's one of those things I put to the side in place of other, faster gratifications. This project was entirely knit in garter stitch which was funny because that was the only stitch I knew how to do. It made the knitting quite tedious and the toque a little baggy. I have since learned to purl and can now rib and make things stretchy. Gauge is still a bit of a mystery but I imagine the only thing for that is practice. I was lucky enough to receive a big box of yarn and a bunch of different sized needles from a fellow freecycler, so I have everything I need to pick up and knit again. All I need is the proper motivation. It is my hope that posting my one success will inspire me again. I also have crochet needles. Hmmm. Anyone a knitter? What are you making? Any tips for the novice??

In other news, I am growing out my hair. I used to be addicted to highlights and most of my family thinks that I am a natural blond because I wore it that way for so many years. In the last year and a half or so I have been growing out my natural color for a few reasons: a) I have no idea what it really looks like beyond a few inches of roots, although now I am beginning to see that I am what the french call chatain or a dark reddish blond. It's not nearly as bad as I feared and I do have natural highlights which are quite nice. b) my natural hair is so much softer and touchable than the bleached out hair and my natural curl comes out a lot better and c) highlights are expensive and it's one of those unnecessary expenses that I have been trying to pare down in an effort to be more budget conscious and frugal minded. On another note, my husband has told me he really likes my natural hair a lot better. So, there you go! It is a little dry on the ends from the last remaining bleach, so I gave it a bit of a trim and did a home hot oil treatment. I used olive oil and two steamy towels. You heat up a small damp towel in your microwave until steamy. While that is going, you distribute the oil through your hair until all the ends are well covered. Then you wrap it in the steamy towel. Not too steamy, of course, or you'll burn your head. Use common sense, please! While the second towel is heating, you get a hot oil treatment. Switch out the towels a few times then shampoo your hair and condition. Wow, what a difference!
Do you have any home beauty treatments you'd like to share? Recipes? Please leave a comment.
Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! I will try to post again before I go back to work.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cookies and Cocoa

The weather has cooled off considerably around here and we have officially packed away all of the short sleeved shirts and unpacked the sweaters. With everyone out and about in school and at work we have already had the first round of cold and sniffles go through our house. That's when I decided to break out the chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, using my home made chocolate syrup. This cookie recipe, that a co worker found on the Internet, apparently has an urban legend behind it, of which I had no prior knowledge. All I know is these cookies are darn good. They have a crispy outer edge with a soft chewy inside and when warm, the chocolate and coffee flavour remind me of a gourmet coffee shop cookie. I would gladly pay a dollar each for a cookie this good, although probably not $250 like the urban legend claims.
Neiman Marcus $250 Cookie Recipe
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp bking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 c semi sweet chocolate chips
Notes: We added mini marshmallows at work (just because we could, heh heh) and they were fantastic. At home, I added walnuts because that is what I had on hand. Next time, I will add something like pecans or chopped almonds. I also substituted drip coffee and it was still good, though the espresso powder did have better flavour. I wanted to see if I could make them with more frugal ingredients at home and the cookie tin was still emptied in record time.
Enjoy your cool weather delights!

Monday, September 28, 2009

September? Where'd you go?

Hello all. I guess I am not super mom after all. I simply can not work, take my child to swimming lessons, bake and keep a timely blog all at once. Sigh. The fortitude that is required of today's woman is simply overwhelming. I guess I will have to console myself with one of my delicious peach crumble muffins, which are pictured here in all of their splendour. Actually, these are long gone, but their image remains to remind me that homemade beats store bought every. single. time. Today I made chocolate chip cookies. I got the recipe from work. We made them from the Neiman Marcus recipe which uses mostly brown sugar and a hint of espresso powder. Divine. When I made them at home, I just used regular drip coffee and cinnamon. My house smells like what I imagine the afterlife will smell like when I finally arrive in paradise. If baking is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

In the last couple of weeks, my life has been hectic. Work, along with squeezing in the last bits of summer, then a family reunion campout and finally, the start of kindergarten has practically left me breathless! It's also put me in the kitchen a fair bit, which I don't mind at all. Pictured here is the beautiful fruit and cheese platter which I helped to assemble at our family reunion. I have been baking a fair amount as well as scoping out deals on back to school clothes. I got my son all decked out on clearance sales and today, I selected only the finest gently used items for myself and the family from Value Village's Back to School 50% off sale. It was difficult to reign myself in, but I did manage to only buy what I needed. When I got home I gave my mom a ring, just to casually inquire after her white bread recipe. I remember it made a ton of loaves when I was little. Well four large, but we always made sticky buns and dinner rolls so it seemed like more... She gladly gave it to me and I, in turn, extolled the virtues of Kristen The Frugal Girl's Cheap French Bread. (I made this recipe with the best of intentions, but we ate it so fast that my husband didn't get any bread!) I love her blog, she is truly an inspiration to frugal mamas everywhere. Check her out...
So, after some effort and a little banging of the pots and pans in the kitchen, my whole entire domicile is now permeated with the aroma of freshly baked bread. I made two trays of dinner buns, cinnamon buns, garlic breadsticks and a loaf. Whew. There is nothing on this earth so satisfying. Fresh, homemade bread truly is the staff of life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My worldly scholar

The summer is winding down and I, for one, am relieved. I find summer exhausting sometimes! The long days packed with activities and work and beach time, picnics and organizing all the toys and bikes and food...Oi! I am a creature of habit at heart. I enjoy my cosy couch, knitting with a cup of tea and putting a hearty meal Into the Crockpot. You could say I like sweater weather. I have been slowly resigning myself to the fact that the school year will be upon us in a matter of days and that my one and only will be off to kindergarten like the proverbial Pinocchio that he is. I have been on the look out for back to school deals. We decided that he does not need a new back pack, he has two already and the one in better shape is his favourite. Why buy another one? I looked through his closet and he has several pairs of pants. I have been collecting clothes for months in a too large size (clearance sales) so this should get him through the first part of the year. No need to spend more on pants. New shirts were needed, though as all of the summer tees are stained with months of Popsicle juice, beach trips and playing in the sandbox. I looked at the thrift store and found some for three dollars, then I looked at Walmart and found some for...three dollars. New. Glad I kept shopping. The clearance rack had quite a selection of long sleeved tees and I let him choose which designs he liked. We picked out four shirts and a fleece sweater. When I think about the way my son plays in the dirt and gravel and rolls in the grass, paying more than a fin for a shirt seems folly! I found another cool one for $3.50 at A Zellers clearance and it says Peace Rocks in the shape of a guitar. Cute. So, again, I haven't spent a ton on back to school and yet we have all we need. My bargain hunting son even spent his own allowance on a tin Spiderman lunch kit. He already has an insulated cooler bag which I was planning to use again this year, but heck, there is no super hero on it, so we caved. It almost brought a tear to my eye. He loves it, he is so happy and we are well under budget for back to school. Yay.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Everything is just peachy!

Yes, we actually did it. We actually were organized and bought and preserved peaches! This was one of my goals for the summer and so I am very satisfied to have achieved one of my umpteen million mini goals of which I aspire to. Peaches are one goal that is very sweet indeed. These little beauties were half price due to an error in the advertised price. In other words, the flyer was misprinted so they had to sell them at a reduced price. Yay for good timing! We were able to then buy the jars AND the fruit for the same price as the fancier, so called "canning" peaches. After spending the morning comparison fruit shopping, we found these a few minutes outside of town and decided they were worth hauling home. In the land of fruit, prices vary widely as does quality, so I am glad we shopped around. I'm also glad my mental calculator (aka my husband) was along. He was also instrumental to the actual canning process, which, as much as I talk a good game, I am also very inexperienced at. We managed to muddle through and now we have a beautiful bounty of peaches! With the skins and pits that were left over, we boiled them down to reduce, extracted the juice and made a delicious syrup. I didn't bother to process it in the canner, I will just keep it in the frig. It will be fantastic on waffles! Yum!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I got a free sample of Ocean Spray craisins (dried cranberry snacks) today! I completely forgot that I had signed up for them, oh, six to eight weeks ago, I'd say. What a neat surprise. My sample also came with a little red dress pin in support of cancer research. My husband laughs at me for getting these things in the mail. Secretly, I think he is jealous. He tried to eat my Craisins. Last week I got a perfume sample, Boss Orange from Hugo Boss. I never buy perfume, but hey, free is good. They sent me a repeat a couple days later, lucky me! Makes me want to sign up for more free stuff...
Getting ready for back to school too...more on that later. Did I tell you I love this time of year? Fall is definitely my favourite season. Better squeeze in as much summer fun while we still can though!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Goodywill two shoes

This is thrifting gone too far, to the extreme. Not sure if it is a public post. Click on it and see, if you are curious. If it is public, prepare to be weirded out. Or, as in my case, somewhat intrigued...

Hello August

Just got back from two nights in the tent. What a fun time we had with our friends, eating out of a cooler and making coffee on our propane stove. I love camping! It's the ultimate frugal family fun. It is a little tougher to stick to a tight budget, though. As much as I love camp food, with the province wide fire ban, we could not cook on an open fire. This meant that one lunch was Subway sandwiches and I was OK with that. It was so hot, and I just couldn't face a can of ravioli so I certainly did not mind paying for a little convenience. I bought one fountain drink and filled it up again using the ice to cool my own lukewarm canned pop. That was my friend's smart idea. We shopped as we went, not wanting to have too many leftovers to store in the cooler. Most of our snacks were fresh cherries, apples and water. We also had some hummus, pita, baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. I love summer! We visited a friend's property and my son "stole" some just-about ripe apricots from the tree. He carried them to us in a makeshift pouch from his turned up T-shirt. I bit into one and a bug came burrowing out. I screamed and threw it on the ground. Apparently, that was very entertaining to him. He told everyone we met the story of my apricot. Ah, good times. Now that we are home and I have my loads of campy laundry going and washed all the dust out of my hair, I almost feel human again. I planned the menu for the whole month of August using my recipe box, and a cookbook I have from Better Homes and Gardens called Low Cost Cooking. Yes, this book was purchased from the thrift store. Where else? I have had it since I moved out on my own and I highly recommend it for cheap, healthy meals to feed a family. I'm glad to be back at home. Nothing like two dusty nights on an air mattress sleeping to the peaceful sounds of dogs barking, babies crying and generators running RV air conditioning to make you appreciate the luxuries of creature comfort.
Glad I was only twenty minutes from home!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I had a bright idea!

I fixed up my cheap lamp set that I got from Walmart. Sorry for the dark photo, maybe I should have turned the lamp on! I have seen so many people with this lamp set, it bugged me to have such cookie cutter home decor. So what did I do? I got out my trusty glue gun, that's what. I got this funky gold trim from freecycle a while back. I love the feel, it truly changed the whole look of my lamps. Quite vintage, wouldn't you say? I have a whole tote of trim at my disposal, so there may be more tassels in my home decor future. This project worked out so well and I love how it fits in with my eclectic treasures. I also bought a great wrought iron mirror the other day for seven dollars. It looks great propped on my bedside table with the smaller version of this lamp beside it. I now have a matching set of four lampshades that are original and cost me absolutely nothing but an hour of creative energy. Love that. What have you all been up to? I have been busy working and celebrating my second wedding anniversary. We spent the day at the beach, then drove up to the lake where we got married and took a few nostalgic photos. My husband surprised me with colurful daisies and a beautiful card. Very sweet. I know my posts have slowed down a bit. That's OK, quality over quantity, I always say.
Hope you are enjoying summer!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forest Fires

This fire is unbelievable. Here is an article on the Fintry fire, which is a neighbouring community. I am glad that my pantry and canned goods are stocked, and that my husband will spend some time tomorrow organizing supplies. Filling up with gas takes on a whole new meaning when the smell of smoke fills the air of your town and you see the faces of evacuees at the rec center, uncertain when and if they will be able to return home. I don't think we will have to evacuate, so far our town is safe, but many evacuees are here in town and many more are on alert. It gives one pause, let's say. I am praying for more rain. Buckets and buckets of rain...

Rain dampens Okanagan fire threat but Fintry evacuees remain out of homes
By Sunny Dhillon (CP) – 2 hours ago

WEST KELOWNA, B.C. — An afternoon rain storm helped dampen the fire threat in the Okanagan a little Thursday but but not enough to send the latest group of evacuees home.

Ten millimetres was expected to fall on West Kelowna, B.C., and more appeared to be in the forecast over the next couple of days.

It came as 2,200 residents of the Fintry area grappled with being forced out of their homes by an "out of control" wildfire on Terrace Mountain.

The new evacuation order came just hours after the last of 11,000 people forced from their homes by two other West Kelowna wildfires were allowed to return.

Tim Neal, with the B.C. Forest Service, said Thursday's rain was welcome but fire crews could still use some more.

"We'd have to have ... about two inches (about 50 mm) of solid rain to actually make any difference," Neal said.

"The fires burned very deep into the soil, into the ground."

The fire on Terrace Mountain doubled in size overnight to 40 square kilometres.

In comparison, the Glenrosa fire that forced 10,000 people from their homes is three square kilometres and the Rose Valley blaze that led another 1,250 to flee is one square kilometre. Both fires are 100 per cent contained.

The same can't be said for the Terrace Mountain blaze.

"The Terrace Mountain fire is termed out of control," Neal said.

Two days after a B.C. Forest Service official said the rural Terrace Mountain blaze was the lowest priority of the three fires, because of its distance from homes and communities, Neal disputed any suggestion crews didn't do enough to attack the fire.

"The fires up at Terrace Mountain are inaccessible," he said.

"We could not put crews into that fire because we didn't have any escape routes or anchor points."

While Thursday's rain was welcome but it was preceded by dry lightning that started several small fires in the Okanagan.

Fintry resident Sean Corlett was among those worried about his home.

"My house is in Upper Fintry, near the very back," said Corlett, who is on day parole in Abbotsford but was given permission to return to his home.

"It's probably one of the first ones that will get hit if the fire comes down ... It's all I got."

Corlett said he packed up photos and other valuables upon hearing of the evacuation order.

Gerald Selin was visiting his daughter from Saskatoon when the family received the bad news. He said they were on the road within half an hour.

"My daughter's a little bit upset," Selin said. "You never know what's going to happen."

Forest service spokesman Jerry Wearing said the massive growth of the fire overnight could be explained by a couple of factors, including very dry fuel and very low humidity.

Bruce Smith, with the regional district's emergency operations centre, said Thursday's evacuation order was smoothly executed.

"Things have been going excellent," he said. "People have been very receptive. I think the advanced notice that they received yesterday of the alert assisted."

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk agreed, but said there were some hiccups along the way.

"We began encountering by land and by waterfront, people trying to re-enter the area," he said.

"That included members of the public and not necessarily outright residents that were found in the restricted area."

RCMP are investigating 10 complaints of break and enter that appear to have taken place while evacuation orders were in effect in West Kelowna.

Three houses and a mobile home have been destroyed by the three fires.

As for when evacuees might be able to return home, Smith said it's far too early to say.

"We assess that day to day," he said.

"Trying to put a timeline when they get back is like trying to pin jelly to the wall."

Also Thursday, B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell announced firefighters from Ontario and New Brunswick will be helping fight the forest fires.

"We're taking advantage of the resource-sharing agreement we have with other provinces and asking for additional crews," the minister said in a news release.

He said by noon Friday, fire bans will be in place across the province.

"We ask the public to remain vigilant at all times to reduce the number of human-caused fires, which divert our resources."

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


There are some severe forest fires in the area which have me slightly on edge right now. They are not in my actual community but in the near vicinity. The smoke is forming thick clouds over the whole city and ash is falling from the sky like snowflakes. If it weren't so hot and the air quality so poor, one might think it was a dusting of snow over everything. I heard on the news that the trees, dry as tinder, are "candling" or lighting fully ablaze and setting the next on fire, two thousand hectares burning up down the highway and three other fires further out. . It is very strange. I have never experienced this feeling of uncertainty before. While it is unlikely that my community will have to evacuate, (the fires are, thankfully, still far enough away as not to pose an immediate threat to us) I know that many thousands of people nearby are doing just that. The energy is tense, uncertain. We are told not to worry and is so unpredictable. I have faith that the firefighters will contain the fires and that soon life will go on as normal. I feel so incredibly grateful to be able to continue on with my daily activities, my job, fun activities and such, even as chaos erupts all around me. It does give one pause to think about what truly matters. What would I pack if we were put on alert, to leave at a moment's notice. What if we had to leave it all behind? What truly matters?

What would be in your suitcase? Feel free to comment.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Lovin'

Went to the beach TWICE today. First thing, my son and I baked a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies. The oven heated up the house a bit, but in this weather it honestly doesn't make a difference, might as well spend the day outside. Hubby had work, so I took the boy and we packed up a lunch of chicken salad sandwiches, nectarines, our HM cookies and a jug of juice. We lounged and played and ate our lunch on a blanket at the beach. It was bliss. It started to get really hot so I suggested we seek refuge in the downtown Sal-Mart. Up until today, I had yet to peruse this particular thrift store. I will definitely go again as they had many treasures that caught my eye at very reasonable prices. My son has been raised on thrifting and at five years old, already has a keen eye when it comes to sifting through the junk and finding the good stuff. He got a coat hook, which will come in handy this fall, a wooden toy plane and really cool sunglasses. I got him a warm vest and shorts for a dollar each, (they were part of the clearance "green tag" sale. I found myself a pair of yoga pants which looked new to me, or very gently used. Then wonder of wonders, would you guess what I found? A water bath canner! YAY!. The Okanagan is teeming with fruit right now. All I need are jars and a free afternoon. The free afternoon is the tough part right now, but I have faith. I may get to can this year after all. Baby steps!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good mail!

Any day that you get Nutella in the mail is a good day, I say. I just got home to find the delicious chocolatey hazel nut spread waiting for me. If you haven't tried this on crepes, you have not lived. I know what I am having for breakfast tomorrow, (if I can resist until morning!) Yes, I do already know what it tastes like, so technically I didn't need a free sample to convince me, but hey, I figure I have more than paid for the postage with my free advertising. No problem, I really do love Nutella.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Frugal a day

I have a new goal! This is OK because I am following my other goals fairly well. My new goal is to do something, anything, really, frugal at least once a day. I figure if I do a lot of little things, eventually they will grow into habits that will make big differences. We have started with a few little things already such as:

Changing all of our incandescents for energy efficient lightbulbs. We swear we have noticed a difference in our electric bill already! Maybe, who knows?

I now measure my soap, for the dishwasher and the washing machine. A little goes a long way. Who knew? I always wash in cold (uh, not the dishes) and I hang some stuff, but not much, we have no yard. The dishes look silly hanging around anyway, waiting to dry ;)
The dishwasher is always full when we run it!

I purged a bunch of stuff. This makes my good stuff seem even better and I am less likely to want new stuff to clutter up my place again. I can finally breathe! I think I am a minimalist at heart, except I am also a pack rat so the paradox is confusing. I like stuff, but I like even more to bag it all up and give it away. Just one of those little quirks, I guess. This also means less freecycling. I don't want more stuff right now, not even free stuff. Except for a nice book case, I'd take one of those.

I walk to work on Fridays. It just works out that my work location is around the corner. I would do it everyday if I could but I work in a few locations and Friday is the only day it works out to walk. I love Fridays :)

Today the fugal thing I did was stick to my menu plan. I didn't really feel like it and I was missing an ingredient for dinner, but I made do and it turned out good anyways. I used up stuff from the freezer and pantry and made it work. I did not run to the store. I did not pass go. I did not spend two hundred dollars.

Sticking to my little goals seems to be working. Frugal a day. Yeah, I like that ;)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Castles made of sand

Happy fifth birthday to my one and only son. It was a frugal affair, a picnic lunch at the beach, a few presents and ice cream cake. I was perfectly willing to break the bank for him, all budget bets were off for this grand occasion, but when asked what he wanted to do for his birthday, all he said was, "Make sand castles."
Your wish is our command, my dear.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Goodbye June, Hello Summer!

All of a sudden, it's very hot around here! I have been very busy and trying to adjust to the new schedule we all have for the summer. As I have just started working part time and my son has changed seasonal activities there has been a lot of juggling of routines. This has made the budget and menu planning particularly interesting because more responsibility has shifted to my husband in the cooking department, except the last week, which I was flying solo and subsisted off pantry fixin's and fresh veggies. The boys won't east couscous and chick peas, but I enjoyed simple cooking for a few days on my own.

For June, we set some goals for the month to see if we could be disciplined enough to really reign in our finances on our own. We have several long term goals but for now, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step, or five I should say.
The goals for June were:

1. Keep all receipt for 30 days, all purchases, no matter how small. Write down expenses that do not have receipts.

This was done far above and beyond my expectations, I was able to account for almost every purchase in the month of June.

2. Try to use cash instead of debit.

We have a way to go here, I noted many small purchases under &15 so I set that as a limit. Under $15, pay cash. Seems to work, though I'd rather it was higher limit, like at least $20, but compromise is key. As I said, small steps.

3. Keep using lists and menu plan. Avoid junk and fast food.

With the exception of a minor Bucket o' Rebellion on Father's day, we did very well here.

4. Batch errands to save fuel.

Hmm...we haven't done as much walking as I would like, however, with the lists, we are more organized when we do go out to shop.

5. Use information gathered to track expenses, find out our true income and budget for July.

I am still working on the budget, things have changed again, but we did do a menu plan and list and we seem to be off to a very good start for the month.

I plan to solidify the Plan for July tomorrow, this heat has been kicking my butt. Maybe I will bring my pencils and calculator to the beach.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day

I worked today but lucky for me, my clients spent most of the afternoon celebrating Canada Day in the park and me with them! Not bad for time and a half pay! I also got a free piece of cake and supper at work. The boys are still on vacay, so I have been luxuriating in not having to cook. My freezer and pantry are well stocked and all I had to do was BBQ some steaks that had been mistakenly thawed out before they left. The rest has been so simple. I won't say that I love the single life, (I am actually beginning to miss them, the rapscallions!) but sleeping in and not having to make dinner has been great! It really makes me appreciate the wonderful family that I have and also the beautiful country that I live in. I am so fortunate to live in Canada. I wouldn't trade it for the world!

I know I post a lot of beach photos and I'm sure it looks very sunny and warm all the time. Here in the Okanagan it is warm, even hot, especially in the spring and summer. Just for fun though, here is a photo of the lake where we got married two years ago (July 28). When I first settled on this beautiful location and went to scout it out, in February 2007, this is how it looked. It is, after all, Canada! The true North strong and free!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free samples!

I wish I had my camera right now but you will just have to believe me! Today I received three Powerbars in the mail for free! I signed up through the Free Samples for Canadians website . They post up to date samples and provide the links to various companies offering samples. If you search under food you will find the Powerbar link. I joined the Powerbar community, but hey, it was worth it! I use an email address specifically for this purpose but so far I have received a few things in the mail. This sample has been the best yet! (Oh wait, the Kashi granola bar coupon was pretty awesome, six bars for free! It works I will buy those again...) Three full size Powerbars; peanut butter caramel, chocolate and fruit smoothie flavours! How cool is that?
Just thought I would share, what a nice surprise in the mail on an otherwise routine Tuesday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gone Fishin'

The boys left me for a couple days. It was bound to happen sooner or later. A few sunny days into the summer and they get this shifty look in their eyes... That's when I know...they are Gone Fishin'.
It doesn't hurt that tomorrow is a little thing I like to call "Money Monday". My husband's timing is impeccable. When better to leave town?
I made up Money Monday a while ago as a designated day on the calendar that we discuss our finances, usually the last Monday of the month. You see, we both would prefer to say, pull our own teeth, rather than have this discussion, so to have an appointed day theory, anyways.
My husband likes to joke that he will "have his people call my people," on Money Monday, or that he will be "in a meeting" that day. This time he has, quite literally, Gone Fishin'.
Ok, well, just remember I know where you live, honey.
We started this in February when we did our taxes, it happened to be a Monday. It has helped us to set goals, start tracking expenses and most importantly of all, talk about money.
So, I guess I will crunch the numbers tomorrow, while they boys are off the "hook". They are crafty, I tell ya. Sort of like when there are dirty dishes in the sink, and everyone suddenly disappears...
On another note, we went to a garage sale on Saturday. We found a Lord of the Rings DVD trilogy for ten bucks, a game boy game and a Godzilla movie. Since we don't have any cable, finding cheap entertainment is great! It helps that we still have a VCR as well as a DVD player and my son has an older game boy so the used games and movies are cheap and ubiquitous. At this particular sale, the money went to raise funds for a girl with disabilities so I didn't haggle too much. I still thought we came away with a good deal.
This last week we have all opened up the purse strings more than I would like, but maybe, just maybe, I was expecting absolute frugality, all the time. We all rebelled in the last week of June. I know I made a few extraneous purchases as well, nothing too extravagant, but I did buy a few things for myself nonetheless. For instance, I bought myself a red bra. Did I really need it? Technically, no, but it was red and on clearance for five bucks! And it's cute!!
It is harder to resist temptation in the summer for some reason. I just want to lay on the beach, in my new red bra, buy an ice cream cone and not plan meals or anything! Oh, if I wasn't so cheap I would play the lottery and then wish for my millions. Nah, I guess I better get our budget under control instead.
To save on bought treats, I packed the boys a cooler lunch for their trip, chicken salad sandwiches, cut up veggies, pickles and a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which my son loved :)
I also won't grocery shop until they get home and just eat what we have around the house. That should help a little on the food budget, as well as my waistline!
I hope to do better in July and that we will set specific savings goals.
I think while the boys are gone, I will try to plan a whole month of summer meals....hmmm... Maybe I will do some sewing and crafts using my stash.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coffee Break

This whole month, I realize, I have been trying to make things happen all at once. There is no way I can make changes happen that quickly. I need to have balance and peace with my situation and realize that Rome was not built in a day. I went for a $5 mocha with a friend today and I think I will categorize that expenditure under "Recreation". Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! Tomorrow is Friday, thank goodness! I have had a busy week.
We are still recording our receipts and I set up a spreadsheet. I have a date circled on the calendar that I will begin to plug numbers. I am slightly anxious about it but I know it needs to be done. This way, I can see where our money is truly going (yikes) and where we want it to go instead (double yikes).
Here's to keeping on keeping on and fighting the good fight. Peace all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chocolate Syrup

My Mom used to make this and keep it on hand. It's a great all purpose chocolate fix for on ice cream, waffles, cut up bananas, you name it, it can have chocolate on it :) This is also good for cold chocolate milk or hot chocolate, or I have drizzled it on steamed milk for espresso too. I use a recycled glass jar to keep it in the fridge. It's nice to jazz up desserts with chocolatey yumminess.

Last night we had this on vanilla ice cream with a brownie. Yum!

Cheap chocolate syrup recipe:

1 cup cocoa powder (generic tastes just fine)

1 1/2 c sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 c water

Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring constantly for five minutes. It will thicken as it cools. Store in a jar in the fridge. Try not to eat directly from jar.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cherry Blossoms

After the Bucket o' Chicken incident I decided that perhaps I was going to a bit of extremes too quickly for my family to keep up. Yes, I want to save money, yes I want to budget and account for our spending. I like to make things from scratch but I can't expect my husband to do it all my way all the time. If he wants to buy tortillas instead of make them, for example, I will just be happy he is making supper at all. He really wanted a Bucket o' Chicken that day so what am I going to say about it? We already do not have cable, hardly buy new clothes or gadgets, have done well in trimming expenses, better than months past, how much can I expect all at once? I think the Bucket o' Chicken was symbolic. He wouldn't say much about it, but I have a feeling he got the idea that this was in violation of the frugal mindset. He is on board for the most part and enjoys being a part of the menu planning, I guess he just felt the need to assert his male independance and have Father's Day chicken, whether I approved or not. There are some things that I just can't have a say in, such as Transformer movies, leaving the toilet seat up and the occasional Bucket o' Chicken. They are his arteries, I guess...

So, progress, not perfection, that's all I can hope for!

I left the boys to their video games and left over chicken and I went to a film last night. It was a beautiful story about a married couple and their love for each other, even after death. She was an artistic dancer who served her family thanklessly all her life. He was a stuffy old workaholic who realizes what a schmuck he'd been, but, of course, only after she dies and he is left all alone to learn how to live without her. Luckily for him, he meets and finds help from a young Japanese street performer named Yu. It was appropriately satisfying to me with the mood I was in! It was a German film called Cherry Blossoms and was part of a series that our local film society was hosting. It was just six dollars, which I felt was very reasonable, so I treated myself to a night out. I also went for coffee in the coffee house across the street and it was just the sort of experience that I needed. I'm glad I took a night off to myself!
When I got home, the Man had made up the dinner I had planned for Sunday. He knows how I feel. I will think about replanning the meals for the rest of the week, we shall see...maybe I will just wing it this week. We have plenty of food in the house!

I will continue recording our expenses and tally up the best I can at the end of the month. The good thing about this is how much I am learning! Now that I have a printer, I will be able to print our bank statements as well, which will be easier.

I guess I have to put it all in perspective. I know we have a long way to go, but we are making progress. I will just have to be patient!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Stocking the pantry and Father's Day Sabotage

I finally got to my pantry shopping. This is significant because I have been writing my list since the beginning of the month as I let things dwindle down. I was out of everything! I like to freshen my ingredients every six months or so. This way I have no nasty surprises such as inactive baking powder or old yeast to foil my baking endeavors. I managed to hit the case lot sales as well and stocked up on some staples such as tomatoes, mushrooms, toilet paper and tuna. Then I hogged the whole bulk aisle for a good half hour as I carefully measured, calculated and poured manageable amounts of dry ingredients into those little baggies. I already have my "canisters" (recycled Folgers plastic coffee containers, they have a great handle and I have several now) at home . I managed to get all that plus some fresh things for the week, like milk, fruit and meat for $135. I am hoping there will be no more grocery spending this month. I thought this was very good and while there is still room to trim in the grocery budget, we are improving over months past, so that's all I can ask for, for now...

When I got home, I unpacked everything and finished fine tuning the menu plan. Then I precooked some chicken breasts and marinated some pork and threw some dry beans in a bowl with water to soak overnight. .
Then I made the pizzas on my new pans for dinner! I had already made the dough and threw it in the freezer earlier in the week, so it was a snap. I wish I'd had a photo, they were gorgeous, but we ate them too fast. I used half the ingredients, and threw the rest in the freezer. Next time I will just have a batch of dough to make. When I think about the money I save over take out and how much better my pizzas are with a little pre-planning, it is truly astounding to me how overpriced take out pizza truly is. I also cooked some potatoes in the microwave and used up some leftover onion and garlic bits for breakfast on Father's Day, Sunday. I made waffles, bacon, eggs and home fries and maple syrup. I don't usually do waffles. I am impatient for the waffle iron to cook, but since it was a special occasion AND I wanted to use my new-to-me mixer, the boys got a treat. As a bonus, the leftover half dozen will be frozen for toaster waffles. I used the rest of the bacon and a bit more maple syrup in my pre-soaked beans and put them Into the Crockpot.
I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Father's Day was a hit, I went slightly over budget on his gift, but still not bad. The menu was planned with that night's dinner marinating and ready to go. Then I went to work for the evening. The boys were off to the public pool, which is only three dollars on weekends.

I was almost smug... this should have been a warning sign.
Never let yourself feel like you are fantastically frugal because that's when disaster strikes...

When I got home late last night, I opened the frig and was horrified. Absolutely horrified. I backed away, slowly, with my hand over my mouth, gasping, "How could he?"

Now, I don't want to be unreasonable, because I am all about elbow room in the budget, but this was just too much for my sensibilities. I was at a loss!
It almost makes me want to give up the whole menu and budget. This is the second fast food splurge in as many weeks. He was "too tired" to cook...

The worst part? There were pre-cooked chicken breasts sitting beside this... this... intruder in my home.

I wish I had more uplifting, inspiring frugal things to say right now but the fact is, I am at a crossroads. I have got to figure out a way to be frugal, but not cheap.
Careful, but not controlling. Flexible, not rigid.
Apparently, having a menu plan is cause for rebellious behaviour!

Am I the Frugal Soup Nazi?
No soup for you!

How do you deal when "someone" in your home doesn't go along with the frugal ways? Please, just give it to me straight. I need to hear the truth. Leave your advice or comment below.