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.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Treasure Hunting

I've been busy the last few days! I have been on the hunt for treasures. My kitchen appliances were in a very sorry state. I have been using the same blender since I moved out of my mother's house. I think my sister gave it to me more than a decade ago. Recently I lost the lid and was using a plastic bowl that fit inside nicely. I would have kept going this way, happily, until my husband said, "This is driving me crazy! We need a new blender!" I thought the same thing as I was hand whisking some cake batter, "We used to have a mixer, what happened to it?" So, I made a list. I also want a food processor, canning supplies and, to top it all off, our printer died. Why do all these things happen at once? I decided this was a lot of items so I posted this message on freecycle:
Wanted: misc items. food processor, blender, working printer, canning supplies. Will pick up. Thanks, Sandy.
I went about my merry way and then, later, I received an email. A nice woman told me she had a printer as her husband had upgraded to a four in one. They had just been using it so she thought it still worked, she could even deliver (!) as she would be in my neighbourhood the next day. Would I like it? Uh, yes please! Thanks Doreen, the printer (and fax machine) work great!!
Next, I went to my trusty thrift store with my list. I found a nice blender, a better brand than the one I was using with a glass, (not plastic) jar for $5. Then I saw a cordless mixer which you plug the unit in and the mixer is charged when you are ready to use it. My husband mounted it in the kitchen for me. There it is, all ready to mix my waffle batter! I also found three matching pizza pans, in new condition and a decorative letter organizer. My son got a yo-yo and two skipping ropes. These last items were not exactly on the list, but I was feeling generous. I was more than thrilled with my thirty dollar investment in kitchen convenience. When I got home I received another email. This time from a former co-worker. It said:
Sandy, saw your ad on freecycle. I have a food processor for you, call me on Sunday.
Wow, not only do I get my whole list covered for a lot less than I could have imagined, I might even get a coffee date with a friend out of the deal. Priceless.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yeah, that's me...

I guess it's time I showed my face. Don't you love the photo I chose? I thought it was appropriately silly and redneck and shows my sarcastic side off nicely! This is me last year at a family camp out party. I was about 15lbs thinner, but still a die-hard smoker. I quit four months ago today! I am super proud of this fact. Even though my skinny jeans are now going to have to go on Freecycle (*sniff*) I still think it's worth it. According to my "gadget" over at the Quitnet, I have saved $705.60. Of course, I had marvelous intentions of direct depositing that money into my savings account when I quit, but did it happen? Nooooooo. All I can say is, live and learn!
Oh, and if you were at all on the fence, let me tell you now that the benefits far outweigh the risks when it comes to quitting. I now have: whiter, healthier teeth, full lung capacity, I don't get winded going up a flight of stairs, I am more accepted in social situations, my skin and hair looks amazing, I no longer feel guilty....I could go on and on... There is no substitute for this feeling of freedom. (Except, apparently, my return sense of taste buds for sweets) I do have faith that I will get the weight off when my metabolism figures out what's what and I am more diligent with the healthy eating. Smart menu planning should help with that :)
Not to mention the cash I'm saving!! Oh wait... I did mention that already, but that alone will help me Keep the Quit! I'm cheap like that...
Seven hundred bucks, people!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Make yer own!

Probably the best way I have found to be frugal is to make your own supplies. I have in the last few months began making yogurt, frozen juice pops, smoothies, chocolate syrup, milkshakes, bread, muffins, breadcrumbs, pizza (dough and sauce)... Cooking as much as I can from scratch. This not only saves money, it is healthier as well. Today we wanted snacks, while out at the park and I hadn't packed any fruit or anything. It was a spur of the moment type of trip. Instead of dropping $25 on fast food, (like we did last weekend, oops *slaps wrist*) we bought our groceries that we needed for the menu plan. We had an awesome frugal lunch and used up some bits and pieces of veggies and and such. I try to make the menu plan interesting so it is not a boring chore. It's actually fun if you know ahead of time that you are going to make, say, homemade pizza, to make the dough have it all ready and then decorate the pizzas to eat. Not only is it a fraction of the cost of takeout, it's good family time too. I find the Kid eats more if he helps make it. Yes, it's true, Racheal Ray!
Now that I am working part time I have to be more creative. Yesterday I worked an afternoon shift so I took a few minutes before work to make yogurt and put it into the cooler to incubate while I was away. When I got home eight hours later, the yogurt had set. There is enough for a week at least. Making things from scratch and using my freezer are lifesavers for the budget and delegation of summer time cooking tasks to the Man. A family can not live off of BBQ alone ;)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Feeling refreshed and New goals

I took my weekend to just live and it was great. Saturday was busy with friends and food and Sunday we went out for breakfast and spent the afternoon at the beach. I confessed our fast food indulgence on My Year Without Spending and realized afterward that she does the compact, so what the heck am I worried about? I can spend what ever I want. I have made no official commitment to non consumerism, have I? That got me thinking. If I have no official commitment to keeping my budget, I probably won't. We are halfway through June and so far it looks better than the last half of May, but we still have some bad habits such as; poor planning, inconsistency and just plain laziness. These habits are breaking the bank! I'd love to just blame my husband as being the spendthrift, but the fact is, it's the spontaneity that drew me to him. I go along with his exciting ideas even though they cost more money than I'd like. I don't have complete and utter control of the kitchen resources and financial expenditures and honestly, I wouldn't want that responsibility to uphold alone. Otherwise, I might as well be single. I'm the type to go to the extreme of self denial and lucky for us, he is there to declare that we haven't been out to eat for a while, so what the heck? So, I need to budget for that, I think. It's not that we can't afford it, I just need to more clearly define the goals. This budget and frugality as a choice is definitely a learning curve.
Ah, Mondays.
Today I will:
Record the last week's receipts
Plan my menu and shop
Go to the dentist.
Buy jars.
Here is to the start of another busy week! Enjoy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

See ya on Monday

I'm off to work today and it is supposed to be sunny, so I think I will take a break from this thing and get outside this weekend for some free fresh air. I plan to stay frugal, even though weekends are harder. Maybe I'll have time to plan my menu and make something yummy for the freezer.
Take it easy and enjoy the weather!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tips and Tricks for home organization. Got any?

This is my new solution for organizing my potatoes, onions and garlic. I used to have them just in my cupboard in a cardboard box, then I had a small basket for a while. They kept falling out and then all of a sudden there would be this stench like something died, when really it was just a wizened potato or a mushy onion waaay back in the back there somewhere, behind the papery skins. They were sometimes not getting taken out of the plastic bag, just thrown in the cupboard after shopping (I have no idea who the culprit was there, it couldn't have been me...) so finally I had a eureka moment. This dish rack, purchased from the thrift store, (which I had just sitting in the cupboard and never used for dishes) organizes them nicely and keeps the air circulating so, hopefully I won't have as much waste. Look how the onions have their own little row. It fits just perfectly in my storage area as well. Love that. The other thing I did was to attach an ounce measure to my laundry soap. Now, if we want to economize there, we can.
We don't HAVE to measure the soap, just if we want to, the cup is there. I'm not the laundry soap police.
If you want to pour the laundry soap into the washing machine with wreckless abandon, go ahead.
Just please, not while I'm looking ;)
I'd love to hear your little tricks and creative solutions for organization and saving money. Whenever people talk about frugality I get strangely excited. Why, I don't know. So, please, regale me with your pearls of wisdom in the comments section. Then I can steal your ideas and use them in my own home!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Random Good Bits

This morning I made crepes as I was inspired by Cents to get Debt Free's breakfast menu. As we all wolfed them down with chopped nectarines and yogurt, my son alliterated, "Please pass the frugal fruit."
That made me laugh so much and was a great way to start the day and the week. I went to the thrift store while out running errands with the family. We had to wait an hour to pick up an item so I said, "Drop me off!"when we cruised by the store. I was originally on the look out for a water bath canner. No such luck. I did respond to an ad on Freecycle for 60 quart jars with rings, I am so crossing my fingers for that one. Free jars would be most excellent. We shall see. Will I even have time to can this summer? Or is it just a pipe dream?
I came out instead with a popcorn maker, 2 cake pans and a bundt pan. (Oh, and a big bag of zippers. Two bucks. All different lengths. I know, I know. Why zippers?? Ask my Grandmother, or better yet, my Mother. She might know why I would be compelled to buy a big bag of zippers. I got this hoarding tendency from her, I think. The zippers are MINE! I need them! Back away from the zippers...) I have some frozen bananas in mind for that bundt pan. I tried out the popcorn maker when we got home and a 1/4 cup of my bulk popcorn made enough for a great afternoon snack, and the kid was excited to see it pop. Cheap entertainment. 5 year olds are fun and easy to please :)
I then received my first free sample in the mail! Guess what it was?
Personal lubricant!! Is that not a most excellent first free sample? My hubs is really getting on board with the whole frugality thing now!
Personal lubricant? For free? Well Goll-y!
I also made beef and bean burritos for the freezer and then went to the dentist. My tortilla dough waited for me to get home and roll it out. I made the beef and bean filling and let it cool while I was gone.
No, I did not take photos; (my teeth are too personal), but you can have my tortilla recipe:
Homemade Tortillas (so easy)
4 c flour
8tsp baking powder
1/2 c shortening
Cut this together to a course meal consistency. I used my little hand chopper. A food processer would probably do it in a second or two.
Dissolve 1 1/2 tsp salt into 1 cup lukewarm water, you may need a bit more. I needed almost 1/4 cup more, but it is a very dry climate where I live. I also threw in some random spices into my flour mix, just because. You do whatever you want. I don't really mind.
Mix a soft dough, knead it until fairly smooth and elastic. Let rest, covered 20 minutes or more. I left mine for 30 mins. then divided into equal size balls. I got 14, I think, medium size. Then I went to the dentist. I recommend just rolling out your dough and carrying on from here. It's way easier to roll out warm dough. My dough was cold and difficult to roll out thinly, so I called the Man to help. He wasn't doing anything but waiting to show me his muscles and his tortilla rolling expertise anyhow. I cooked them in the pan while he rolled. I must say, he is getting good at these :)
I used a cast iron frying pan heated to medium low. No need to grease, there is plenty of shortening. It shouldn't stick at all. Cook 1-2 minutes per side.
I rolled up 10 burritos and put them in the freezer. My mouth was still frozen from the dentist so I ate yogurt and leftover crepes for dinner and the boys finished the tortillas. I still have a ton of beef and bean filling left. Maybe it will be good on noodles or rice as well.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Menu Plan and the Husband seal of approval

I planned another menu for the upcoming week and THEN made a grocery list. I write my menu on a wipeboard, so I can and do change it depending on sales, work schedules and the "ugh, no I'm not having meatloaf tonight" factor. So far, though, it has only been a matter of switching nights and shuffling a bit, mostly due to the Man. I struggled with trying to get him on board without being a nasty harpy. In theory, he agrees with me 100% that we need to get on a proper budget and save and pay down debt, but he also thinks I take this frugality thing a little too far sometimes. (He saw my post on HM pads and shook his head, I was just proving that I COULD do it if I wanted to or had to! Sheesh!!) He could be right, I do like to do things to the extreme and that is why it is good to talk about these things and come to a compromise. Also, what's good for me isn't always what is right for him. All I can do is try to persuade him of MY way, hehe... For example, if we don't get cable, we can buy more DVDs and CDs. This soothes him, a little. It can be very difficult. I don't want to be known as the Budget Police, so I am very concious not to nag about what he buys, whether or not he idles the van in the parking lot (grr) or other things that perhaps I wouldn't do the same way. If I do, he will just rebel and and then where we all be? We'd be with a brand new 42 inch plasma TV on the credit card, that's where. We both realize we have made some financial blunders in the past and are going to try and diligently get ourselves back on track. We are beginning to talk about our goals and what we want to save for and why we should track our expenses. He still giving me his receipts and writing down everything he buys, (even candy, ha ha). I am lucky to have a guy who happily does his share of the cooking and cleaning and child rearing. Otherwise I would not be able to juggle everything on my own, or at least it would be a lot more difficult, not to mention more expensive!

I'm writing that down so everyone who might read this (even though they pretend not to) knows I appreciate my husband very much.
I love you sweetheart.

Here is what we are eating this week:

Sunday: Seafood pasta and salad, (his specialty)

Monday: Roast or Turkey or ham dinner (whatever is the best price)

Tuesday: Chicken and rice and carrots

Wednesday: Macaroni Salad and Cold deli plate (I'm working)

Thursday: Pate Chinois (ground beef, gravy, corn and mashed potato casserole)

Friday: BBQ steak and potatoes and salad

Saturday: use up Leftovers, free for all

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Summer Festivals

Well summer is here and so are fun family festivals. There are tons in our region all summer long and luckily, most are free to get in. It's the once you are in part that is difficult when it comes to keeping the budget. This morning I made a plan to take my five year old to the big craft festival going on this weekend. I think the planning is key, especially when you have a small child with you. First we talked about where we were going, what kinds of things we might see and do and what we might like to buy. I had my son determine how much of his allowance he was going to bring to spend. He decided on ten dollars. I decided on twenty for me. So we were set, but wait...I also packed a backpack, sunscreen, water, hats, two apples and our wallets. When we got there we were both very excited to see and do everything! There were food stalls, and three (!) buildings full of tables of every different kind of vendor you can think of. There was jewellery, clothing, candy, fudge, toys, organic pet food, hand crafted soap, you name it they had it. The event is aptly named Creative Chaos. It was chaos, too, with all the people milling about... First we got the lay of the land, listening to the old time swing music in the courtyard and deciding what we wanted to do while we ate our apples and drank some water. The admission was free but they suggested a donation to the food bank, so we decided our first stop should be to drop off our cans off at the front. That's when we spied the handcrafted wooden toys by a little company called Diamond Island Treasures. This mom and pop couple had a booth set up right by the entrance of the rec centre. I like simple toys for kids, they promote the use of a little thing called imagination. Well, there were a lot of choices, cars, trucks, trains, flying whizzers and a spinning top, just to name a few. We were lucky enough to have gone early in the day so the vendors had time to demonstrate a few of the toys for us. My son was delighted; of course, I knew then, we would have to buy something. I made a choice in my mind that I wanted either a car of a top for him. The whizzer thing would be lost in about three minutes, it flew thirty feet in the air, the guy said. As apartment dwellers, this option was not for us. I cleared away the other options, too many choices for a young child anyway, and said, "Do you want the car or the spinning top?" Since he would be spending some of his money on it, I felt he was making an informed choice. He chose the top. It was more expensive than the car, but also a more interesting toy, which will present a challenge for some time to come, so I was pleased as well. He wanted to spend his other five dollars on face painting, but he also wanted a hot dog and an old fashioned lemonade. Note to self: Duh, lemonade. So frugal to make at home! I bought lunch and after we ate, we talked about how face paint, while fun and lovely, would be washed off in about an hour at the most, especially if he was going to eat anything else. He decided he might like to buy another toy instead, or save his money for another day. It started to get really hot, and after listening to music for a while, we decided to walk home. I did make a wide circle around the face painting booth, hoping to bypass it altogether, I will admit :) All in all, we had a great time and we both came home with a few dollars left in our pockets. I hope that my son might grow up to be wise with money. At least he is starting to understand that spending money is more fun when you can bring something home with you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grocery Shopping and Pantry Keeping

I am noticing this is a big expense area which we could trim with some effort. There are only three of us, so you'd think we would be laughing all the way down the aisles of the grocery store, but not so. I am definitely noticing that this area tends to balloon up and down especially nearer and further from payday. We are getting better, with the menu planning, cutting down on packaged foods, cooking more for ourselves and from scratch. The healthier you eat, the more the bill goes down as well. Meat is a biggie here, vegetarians can eat mostly grains and beans, but I just can't get away with that in my house, not exclusively, anyways. Of course, who wants to scrimp on food? No one, and it gives me a good feeling to know I have certain supplies on hand. Along with the fresh stuff, I like to keep some essentials around so I can bake and cook things from scratch. This is where keeping a good stock of pantry items comes in. I did an Internet search when I first got started building my pantry. You get to know what you'll need to make things and what is just nice to have. Chocolate chips are nice to have, for example. Once you have it stocked, you can add items as you run out. If you are single or a small family I think it's OK to start small and replenish as you run out. This way, your yeast or baking powder doesn't go stale or inactive while you keep pushing it back to the pantry after having bought five years supply at the warehouse store....(How would I know this I wonder??) In the last few years I have been stocking up in the winter on pantry items when they go on sale for the holidays. Same with the canned goods during the fall case lot sales. Then I add here and there through the year as I use things up. By the next winter, I start fresh again, and I know that most of the things I bought last year, if not gone, are probably expired, so that inspires me to use everything up so I can get a fresh batch. By this time of the year, I usually have to do a top up. I am getting ready to get my list ready for a new pantry stocking, though not as extensive as the one I do in the winter. I do less baking in the summer, more fresh fruit and such for desserts and snacks. I hope to can some fruit this this year...peaches come to mind, as do cherries...

Today I had twenty dollars for the grocery store. I needed some fruit and veggies and bread for lunches. I called the Good Food Box and got some information, it sounds wonderful and I can't wait to try it out. But that box isn't coming for another three weeks and I need stuff now! I brought the twenty and promised myself I would not use debit no matter what. This is the kind of discipline I am going to need to keep to my budget. Here's what I squeezed outta my twenty...

5lbs spartan apples 3.99
4 bananas 1.65
2 cups bulk brown rice .90
green pepper .80
lemon .59
2 cups bulk popcorn 1.57
green leaf lettuce 1.79
two tomatoes .82
English cucumber .99
2 cups bulk white sugar .82
and two loaves of bread for 5.99
Total 19.85
I think we'll make it after all :)
I just noticed that the cashier charged me for romaine instead of green leaf lettuce. .20 cents more! Watch that till!! It's hard work being cheap..or frugal, shall we say. You've got to be on the ball!
She was a bit snotty when I took off the bulk peanuts too. They put me over budget..that normally would have me using debit to save face, but hey, whatever. Do what you gotta do when you gotta do it.
I think, one day, she might understand what it is like to feed a family when you only have twenty bucks in your purse until payday. One can only hope anyway... Maybe her rich knight in shining armor will ride into the Cooper's and whisk her off into the sunset and she will never have to worry about being over charged for lettuce again. I'll keep my fingers crossed for her and hold my breath to see if it happens.
There, now.
I've had my revenge.
The pen is mightier than the sword after all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Clearing it out, starting fresh

It's gone! I wrote a bit yesterday about organizing my donation to the charity which picked up early this morning. YAY! I had this much packed up when the man got home from work. He was inspired to go through my son's room and clear out and organize the toys. We weren't totally ruthless because we have cleared out quite a bit in the last year but we stilled filled another bag that is not shown in this photo. It's great to talk about how others who need items will get benefit from once loved clothing and toys with my son. He was even willing to give up a big teddy bear he has because he thought another child might love him more than he does. I ended up keeping the bear because I wasn't quite ready to let him go yet. (Sniff.) Children are the best teachers.
Note to self : Next time, just leave the room if the boys take it upon themselves to organize. I only get in the way :)
I also fixed a broken drawer on my dresser in the closet. I wanted to get rid of this dresser, I just don't like it, especially once the drawer broke, but I am trying to wait until I find a good replacement before I give it or throw it away. I have already repainted it, and now glued the drawer back together. I think I have been resourceful enough with it! I am stalking Freecycle for another one, when the right thing comes up, I will pounce. For now, though, it is holding the clothes so I will just deal with it a little longer. The reason I didn't donate my things on Freecycle is because I have found that it is easier to post a few items at a time, specific to what people want. Most of the items I donated this time are out of season which is OK for this organization, since they will store the items until needed and then get the benefit of selling it for their charity. Usually I prefer to give away though, where I know the items won't be sold. I gave away the last of my baby furniture this way, (my highchair, baby gate and change table) and it felt good knowing that couples with new babies got my gently used things for free. I know how tight things were when I first went on mat. leave and my husband was still in school, and I was fortunate enough to receive a lot of help then with free items and gifts. What goes around comes around.
I got up this morning and put a frozen roast Into the Crockpot. I have heard that this is OK to do if you give it enough time. I'll let you know... I took out pork as a back up and it is on for tomorrow anyhow. We are a day off on the menu plan because the man went and bought hot dogs one night while I was at work instead of cooking the chicken that I had planned. Hmmm. He gave me the receipt, though, so I suppose that is progress... In general I am really enjoying the menu plan, and tracking expenses. What a weirdo huh?
As long as I don't go overboard on the obsession of it all (who me? obsessive?) it should all go well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Give it away now

I was all freaked out this morning about it being the first and the budget and all that so what did I do? I packed up the kid and the van and we went to the beach. That's a free outing don't cha know...I'm very grateful to live in such a beautiful place. It relaxed me enough so that I could come home and organize my donation to the charity that will be coming tomorrow to pick up my gently used goods. Feels great to clean out the closets and organize a bit. I also paid the bills and started the new expense sheet for the month. Breathe. It's all good.