Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saving *is* earning for April

floral centerpiece for kitchen table, using wisteria, salal, big root geranium and ivy
A penny saved is a penny earned.

This spring, it feels like we're hemorrhaging "green". Every time I turn around, there's another repair, or, medical/dental need, or, replacement which has to be paid for. And, oh yeah, we've been spending some money on fun stuff, too (like the trip to SF, and some new French doors and work on our living room). So, to keep me motivated and stay on track with my frugal vigilance, I began a list of all the ways that I was saving money for the month of April.

Even if it has been an expensive season for us, at least it wasn't made worse by neglecting many of my frugal endeavors.

I know that some of you, also, make these lists or keep track of savings for the month, as a way to maintain your frugal motivation. I think they're fun to read. So I thought I'd post mine. Feel free to share yours in the comments.

Here's the bulk of my "saving is earning" for April.

Groceries
  • kept spending below budget amount for the month
  • went to WinCo again this month and saved several dollars over shopping at other stores for same items
  • drank more tap water and less coffee/tea
  • rationed out the one small can of decaf coffee to get through entire month (decaf is more expensive than regular). Once per week, I scooped 1/4 of the can into the decaf jar, and made this small can last the whole month.
  • shopped at the ethnic store for produce, and found a second ethnic store close to us
  • made vanilla sugar with spent vanilla beans, for use in coffee and tea
  • made rosemary-garlic infused olive oil for dipping bread
  • baked one birthday cake and one birthday pie, both scratch-made, instead of buying a bakery item or using mixes 
  • ate more bean-based meals to conserve the supply of meat in the freezers
  • was able to skip buying whipping cream to add to daughter's milk (woo-hoo! This is great for several reasons!)
  • used up the last 6 pounds of very wrinkled potatoes, as mashed potatoes, enough for 2 dinners and a couple of servings at lunch
  • cooked simple meals from scratch
  • baked all breads, muffins, flour tortillas, and desserts from scratch (including this past Friday, when I didn't want to make tortillas, and knew I could pick up a package for a dollar, but I did make them, anyway, as I knew it would help the bottom line)
  • used my crockpot to make overnight steel cut oats and regular oatmeal for quick breakfasts in the mornings a couple of times per week, used crockpot to have soup ready after church on Sundays, used crockpot to cook beans from dried for easy vegetarian meals
  • made another batch of pie pastry for the freezer (enough for 5 crusts)
  • I was bored with my homemade whole wheat and homemade French bread, so I asked a friend for ideas, and branched out a bit. I made wheat and oat bread a week ago. I picked up rye flour at WinCo earlier this month, and now have also made some rye bread to spice things up in the bread box. I had been seriously tempted to buy some bread at the store. Making some different types of bread, myself, saved a couple of dollars per loaf.
Restaurant dining
  • skipped restaurants for 2 birthdays this month and made dinners at home, using what we had on hand (plus 1 purchased basket of strawberries for my cake)
  • resisted the urge to pick up quick meals or Starbucks for myself when out running errands, and came home to prepare yummy and quick meals, and brewed my own coffee
  • daughter and I split her 1 free bagel at Panera while out running errands together. They split and toasted that bagel for us, plus gave us free butter to spread on it, and free water to drink. We sat by the fire to eat our free snack. We saved my free bagel to take home, wrap in plastic wrap and give to husband as part of his birthday freebies bag
  • enjoyed my free ice cream cone and free dish of frozen yogurt, as birthday freebies, for my lunch on two occasions
  • ate every meal of the month at home or packed from home (with exception to the freebies for the month)
Gasoline
  • bought a few gift cards at Fred Meyer during 2-week 4X fuel rewards promotion. I saved 90 cents a gallon as a result, netting over $9 in savings on gas from those gift card purchases alone
  • kept track of survey opportunities to earn bonus fuel points, 3 times this month (150 points total), saving an extra 15 cents per gallon
Clothing/grooming/health/personal
  • didn't buy any new clothing/shoes/accessories this month
  • made 1 apron out of an old dress I had
  • cut my own hair for free
  • colored my hair from a box, bought in a 3-pack online, at a discount
  • bought some face and neck cream from Marshall's at a discount
  • made fragranced bath oil with vegetable oil and essential oils, used an old essential oil vial to dispense
  • used $5 off coupon (came in mail as a result of signing up for savings program) to buy vitamin supplement that I would have bought anyway. The sale on this supplement plus the $5 off coupon, rendered it cheaper than the cheapest online source by a couple of dollars
  • bought myself the cheapest, bare-bones prepaid cell phone, for $4.99; I won't activate the phone until I need it, maybe in early June
Freebies
  • make-up freebies from Sephora (birthday)
  • 4 free bagels, for me, from Panera (April promotion, one daughter had to take her computer into Apple -- under warranty, phew -- a couple of times this month; a couple of those times I picked her up afterwards, with Panera in the same complex, so no extra gas spent to get those bagels)
  • 6 or 7 free bagels from Panera for my daughter -- I lost track of how many she tried there this month
  • scoop of ice cream from Baskin & Robbins (birthday)
  • cup of frozen yogurt from Menchie's (birthday)
  • 2 travel-size containers of shower gel to use in daughters's stockings at Christmas (coupons from Bath & Body Works in mail, no purchase necessary)
  • Friday Freebies at Fred Meyer -- small bag of snack mix, individual bottle flavored water, container of chip dip, gummy worms
  • 2 free chocolates from See's when we went to buy 4 chocolates for a birthday gift
last year's geraniums, overwintered indoors until last week

Home/garden
  • bought 2 gift cards to Home Depot, at Fred Meyer, to take advantage of 4X fuel rewards, then used that HD gift card for purchases for yard work, as needed
  • used some of the surplus electricity budget $$ to buy more LEDs for the house
  • bought primroses on clearance, to plant in garden, will come back year after year
  • moved my geraniums and mums, which I overwintered indoors, out to deck, all survived
  • replanted 2 rosemary bushes, which I dug up in fall, and overwintered indoors
  • moved my lavender cuttings which have rooted (cuttings taken at end of last summer), out to the deck
  • made a bottle of lavender linen spray from lavender oil, rubbing alcohol and water
  • made a bottle of spray starch for ironing, from liquid starch and water in a recycled fine-mist bottle, used this spray starch to refresh my "new" apron
  • found bar soap on clearance at Fred Meyer and made several batches of laundry soap
  • bought year's supply (two 33-lb buckets) of laundry detergent when on sale at Cash & Carry, at almost half-price of buying Dollar Tree's laundry powder
  • I made my own potting soil mix for the planters on the deck and to top-dress the cranberry bed, using composted manure, bagged topsoil and some packaged veggie-tomato fertilizer (about 1 to 2 parts manure to 3 parts bagged top soil, and just a sprinkling of fertilizer). This works for me in large pots and planters on the deck, but is not good for starting seeds. I buy seed-starting soil that is used only in flats of seedlings. My homemade potting soil mix is about half-price the cost of buying potting soil.
  • composted all food and garden waste, moved finished compost to area of the flower garden
  • started seeds for annual flowers for the garden, instead of buying seedlings, saved about $4, "rescued" pansy and viola babies that free-seeded in pots on deck, and moved to new spots to fill other pots
  • started seeds for 2 kinds of thyme for pots, using seeds I had at home
  • made bouquets for the kitchen table, from garden blooms and greenery, once a week
  • transplanted spinach, cabbage, kale, parsley to garden, started from seeds indoors; direct-seeded carrots, radish, beets, chard, peas, spinach, dill, cilantro. When I thinned the radishes and beets, I did so with a screwdriver, to gently remove extra seedlings, and replant in bare places.
Utilities
  • around the 20th of April, turned the thermostat low enough that it effectively turned the furnace off until fall. On chilly days, we wear fleece and a couple of layers. The house has been around 64-65 degrees F on cool days, and up to about 75 on the warm ones.(had to be turned back on, on April 26th right around 60 degrees F inside, too cold -- oh well)
  • installed 4 new LED bulbs, to replace 2 CFLs and 2 incandescent bulbs
  • used gray water, from rinsing vegetables, to water pots on the deck
  • used rain barrel water for watering the garden
Finances
  • kept track of 2 sizable checks due in the mail, and deposited immediately into interest-bearing account
  • finalized all of the paperwork on my end for charitable donation of stock shares to our church, saving us on next year's taxes
  • had 1-hour meeting with financial consultant at our brokerage/investment firm (for free) to educate me on some investment strategies
  • got all of our tax paperwork for husband and self, plus 2 of our kids, done, submitted and on-time, long-hand (skipped the paid, tax software)
  • paid all bills electronically or over the phone, with exception to water bill (uses a service for e-payments, which charges a fee), saving a stamp for the utility bills
  • paid bills in full, saving on auto-insurance and tuition by paying the full amount and skipping monthly payments
Gifts/holiday
  • bought a gift card for step-mom for Mother's Day a few weeks early, to take advantage of 4X fuel rewards
  • bought a bunch of greeting/birthday/wedding cards on clearance at Jo Ann Fabrics, 90% off, then 15% off total purchase with coupon - yielding about 92% off each card
  • bought next year's Easter candy, double-bagged and stored in a trunk in a cool closet in house
  • bought Easter-themed cupcake liners at 70% off, plus a 15% off coupon (after sale and coupon applied, works out to 25% of original price)
  • with an expensive package to mail to a friend, I've been weighing the components to keep below the max weight limit for the lowest possible postal fee. I went online at USPS to find the information on mailing costs, package size and weight limits for each tier of the fees. My goal is to get the most into that package as possible, without having to pay for the next weight limit up, because I went over by a couple of ounces.
  • reused gift wrap and tissue paper, ironing on low setting to smooth out wrinkles before wrapping. Saved ribbons/bows and wrapping still in good condition.
Fun stuff
  • went to beach on a sunny day, parked up the hill in old town, free street parking, instead of paid parking lot at the beach
  • set up the fire ring on patio and enjoyed a fire and roasting marshmallows one warm April evening
  • downloaded lots of free music to my computer via Freegal (through library, 3 free songs per week), then onto my ipod
  • enjoyed walks through neighborhood on pleasant days, bringing my camera to help me really see the beauty around me
  • watched informational and fun videos on youtube
  • read excerpts from books on Amazon, enough to glean some valuable information (this works better with non-fiction than fiction, obviously)
  • writing this list -- yes, I had fun doing this!
Birthday freebies snack bag for husband's birthday present (all packed in a reused Happy Birthday gift bag)
  • Tostitos Dipitizers Spinach and Artichoke dip -- 10 oz (I added 1 sleeve of Ritz-style crackers from Dollar Tree to go with this dip)
  • Black Forest organic gummy worms -- 4 oz
  • Doritos Snack Mix -- 3 oz
  • Tum-E Yummies enhanced water -- 10 oz
  • Panera chocolate chip bagel

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers-- another birthday in the week

rhubarb-blackberry gelatin (chilling in the shallow baker shortens it's set-time)
Wednesday, I woke up with the beginnings of a migraine. It only increased as the day wore on. Ugh. As a result, I got very little done that day and the next. No blogging for me. My apologies. But check back over the weekend, if you're online. I may have an extra post for you (that just wasn't ready to hit publish on Thursday morning). I hope you had a great week!

Here's our Cheap & Cheerful menu for this past week:

Friday (my husband's birthday with a family celebration at home)

Cod cakes (remember when I asked for ideas to use some frozen cod?)
Homemade sweet potato shoestring fries
Celery sticks
Lemon Meringue pie

Saturday

Homemade olive and mushroom pizza
Apple wedges
Carrot and celery sticks
Leftover pie

Sunday

Minestrone soup
Yorkshire pudding

Monday

Scratch macaroni and cheese
Leftover minestrone soup
Rhubarb-blackberry jello

Tuesday

Corn souffle (using this recipe) (with the last of the ham cracklings as the add-in)
Leftover rhubarb-blackberry jello
Frozen spinach-garlic-canned tomato-celery top gratin


Wednesday

Corn bread waffles
Turkey bacon
Spinach frittata topped with cheddar
Pumpkin souffle

Thursday

Tortilla chips (made from corn tortillas)
Guacamole (using those 59-cent avocados from the ethnic market)
Homemade salsa
Refried beans, brown rice and cheese
Apple wedges
Tossed green salad (yep! from the garden!)

My husband's birthday was one week ago. He does like fish. And I hardly ever cook fish, as I really don't relish eating it. But for his birthday and Father's Day, I do make fish as a special favor to him. (aren't I swell?!)

For the fishcakes, I found a recipe online that used potatoes with the flaked fish. I had a hunch I would enjoy those more than cakes that use bread crumbs. So, that's the recipe that I worked from. My fishcakes also had eggs, onion powder, minced chives, mustard, salt and pepper mixed in with poached cod fillets and mashed potatoes.

I didn't feel like it was a very imaginative week for meals. A lot of celery sticks and apple wedges for fruit/veggies. But it all worked out. Everyone had plenty to eat, and somewhat balanced meals. Bonus -- eating simply kept my grocery spending under budget, once again. I'll post my spending recap for April, on Monday. (The month's not over yet. I could go hog-wild and spend, spend, spend tomorrow!)

Did you make anything that wasn't something you regularly like to eat, this week? Is it ever difficult balancing some family members's favorite foods with your own dislike for them?

Have a great weekend!