Saturday, July 2, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

This is a week that really hammered home the importance of putting up every little bit of everything I can glean from the garden and other areas this year.

Our governor, despite the will of the people and the legislature that was trying to do things right decided he was going to push his agenda through via executive order.  So, dividends are officially capped, the budget is cut in areas he deems worthy and there are taxes in the works so that he can use all of the money from the PFD to fund a gas pipeline we can't afford, will fail miserably doing it on our own, and will spell ruin for the state.

It was an upper to get that news to say the least.

All I can really do about it on a personal level is continue to e-mail the legislature and just try and deal with the consequences of our governor's actions.  The most notable one that is definitely going to effect us this year is the dividend being capped (and of course whatever taxes go through, which is still up in the air).

IF we get the full capped amount that the dividend is at, the dividends this year are already gone, spent to pay toward dental bills and the rest will be used toward winter tires for my vehicle.  This is depressing as that means no chunk of money toward bulk food purchases for winter and no money toward Christmas gifts for the kids.  So, basically, my job as a food preservationist has just become that much more important and my job as a home economist has become even more crucial.  I'm currently stressing over trying to figure out WHERE I can cut anything, to save money, to spend toward things right now (reread it about ten times and it'll make sense.  Promise.  Drinking some alcoholic beverage might help ;).  I know I'll figure it out, but oy!

Bright side, my husband started a new part time job this week on top of working for his father, so hopefully we'll see our economic situation improve.  I'll be happy if that happens for sure.

 There were some good things that happened this week, though, so let's get to those shall we?

1.  We are REALLLLLLYYYYY tight on money this week, like to the point of choking tight, so I really shopped sales super careful to get the most for my money (I didn't post up a pic yesterday because there just plain wasn't a whole lot that was exciting.  Except for the coupon I redeemed for free feminine care products, which I'm thinking a lot of people don't really want to see ;).  I managed to stay within my grocery budget and still managed to get  a few extra items due to coupons and things cutting down the prices.  Like the free feminine care products, cheap ginger ale, cheap hotdog and hamburger buns, cheap bratwurst (2.00 a package after coupons and sales.  I was able to get two at that price), cheap apples and oranges (personalized prices on those) and cheap breakfast bars for my husband.  I was most excited about the bratwurst, I won't lie as it's a bit more meat in the freezer.

2.  Speaking of being good stewards of money, last weekend we wanted to take the kids somewhere special, but at the same time we didn't have money to take them to like the zoo (which really depresses me sometimes).  We did, however, have some giftcards to Cabella's (a sportsman and hunting type of store).  One we got for Christmas and one my husband won in a raffle at one of the local electrical supply companies.  I did something I normally don't do when we have any type of substantial monies available in gift cards or something.  I asked if I could use the giftcards exclusively.   He was okay with that, which was great.

I desperately hoped, even though I knew the chances were slim, to find underwear there as I REALLY needed some, but unfortunately unless I wanted 100% wool underwear which would have cost 30.00 per pair that was out (and being sensitive to wool that didn't sound like a good idea to me anyway).  I did find socks, though, and they were on sale cheap too (6.88 per six pack of socks), so I grabbed those.

All totaled we had 50.00 to spend.  I was able to get 2 flats of pint mason jars (1 flat regular mouth and the other wide mouth), socks, long lighters which will not only work on our grill but also on our furnace, some candy for my husband (his one purchase while we were there) and some batteries and I ended up spending 3.00 out of pocket after the giftcards were applied.  Nothing really frivolous exciting, but all things I needed, so I was happy with what I got.  Especially the mason jars.  Those will (hopefully) come in handy in the coming months.

The best part, though, was the kids.  They had a blast.  Cabella's has a waterfall/fountain in the middle of the store and tanks with real fish in them, which once my son saw the fountain that's all he wanted to do for a while.  They have big cushy chairs in front of a giant fireplace at the front of the store, which both of the kids loved.  My daughter pretended she was a princess sitting on a throne while she was up there, which was super cute.  They also have taxidermy everywhere which led to a lot of conversations with my daughter about various animals, where they live and what type of animal they are (carnivore, herbivore or omnivore).   We had a lot of fun.

I did end up going to Target the next day and getting some underwear.  I needed it for sure.  Luckily I was able to find some on clearance along with some that were in a bonus package (8 pairs vs. six), so I was able to get off decently cheap.

Checked out the summer toy clearance while I was there and, once again, was thoroughly disappointed in what the store had to offer.  I miss the days when Target first opened up here and we could get some awesome toys on clearance super cheap.  I really, really do.

3.  I had money that I put aside specifically to get my son a new mattress out of the money I made from rebuilding a website.  Man did he ever need one...the mattress jingled when we moved it and had a permanent bow in the middle of it.

We went back to the same outfit we'd bought his last mattress from as his old mattress had survived tons of abuse from my son jumping on it and things over the years and still lasted five years.  We went armed with the model name of the mattress in the off chance that they had the same mattress, and sure enough they had the "newer" version of the same mattress (the company changed the name of the mattress, but it's the same mattress).  I know that the mattress is probably NOT going to last five years this time as my son weighs more, but we'll see.  We took his old mattress and put it on the floor for right now, which is working out well as my son is jumping on that instead of his new bed for the most part. Win, win there.

The best part about it, though, is that the local outfit we bought the mattress from sells mattresses for like 1/2 the price of other outfits, so for little over 100.00 we were able to get a good quality mattress.  Always a nice feeling.

4.  We spent minimum amounts of money this week, spending only what we really needed to spend (with the exception of going to Cabella's), which saved money.

5.  I mended some shirts this week and still have more to go.  Oddly, it seems that all of our t-shirts (my husband's, mine and my daughter's) are all getting holes in the same armpit on the same seam.  These shirts are all different ages and makes.  Just kind of cracks me up that it worked out like that.

6.  I took my daughter to the dentist earlier in the week and got her filling replaced.  The dentist didn't even need to numb her out (yay) and it took like a total of eight minutes.  My daughter got a prize for being so good and she chose a slap bracelet (which totally brought back memories for me).  Unfortunately, my son decided to chew it into oblivion within a few hours.  I feel terrible about it, as my daughter really liked the bracelet a lot.  So, making my daughter a new bracelet is on the agenda for this week.  I'm hoping to figure out something she can wear, but my son won't chew and wreck (which is why jeweler's wire is out), but I know I can figure something out for her and I have plenty of materials around the house I can use.

7.  I used a #10 (big coffee can size) can of tomato sauce to not only make home made pizza last night, but am turning it into BBQ sauce (it's reducing now :) for the pantry.  The tomato sauce only cost me 2.00 and some change when I bought it, so no matter how much BBQ sauce I get out of it at this point, having made pizza with it too, it'll have paid for itself.  And, bonus, I won't have to buy BBQ sauce for the pantry for a while.
8.  I was able to can my first can of rat tail radish pickles this week =D.  I'm so happy that no matter what I at LEAST got one jar of pickles out of the plant (I'm sure I'll get more but I'm paranoid).  I canned them like dilly beans so hopefully they'll come out tasting more like zesty dill pickles when eaten.  Here's hoping!

9.  I had an empty can of sugar from my food storage (a big coffee can type of can) and finally decided I was tired of the utensil system I had set up by my stove.  I had a crock thing I got for like 6.00 from Pottery Barn online a while back, but the thing was just too small and I ended up having two other mason jars set up nearby with my whisks and spring loaded tongs in them (small kitchen, lack of drawer space and things make it so I end up having to store things like that on my counter as it's the only place they'll fit).  So, I placed the coil of garbage bags in the crock and placed it over by my bookcase in the kitchen and then just moved my utensils into the empty can instead.  It's now big enough to accommodate everything, was free and since it was a can that held food before the label even kind of goes with a kitchen theme (so I left it on).  The system works a LOT better this way and nothing was wasted :).

And now onto the garden update (with a bit of frugality in gardening thrown in)...

The garden, due to me using the hose to water it now and also some heavy (and I mean HEAVY) downpours, the bugs seem to be less on the plants, however slugs and aphids are still sticking around.

A shot of the garden is above there.  The peas are insane!  I've never had peas grow this tall in Alaska the entire time I've been here and I've grown them more than a few times.  I had to go and scrounge around my husband's scrap pile and grab some conduit he'd demolished from some jobs to use as poles to trellis up the peas some more and they are ALREADY over the tops of the 6 foot poles.  I'm trying to figure out how to bend them over and tie them to the trellis in the hopes they'll grow sideways in their vining little ways instead of up higher.  I mean even if I could even find trellis to go higher right now, I wouldn't be able to harvest the peas at any higher height, so I've definitely got to make them fall in line here.  Bright side, I have blooms on the peas everywhere, so hopefully I'll get a decent amount of them this year :).

The chairs in the picture, by the way, were some freebies I got years ago at one of the used stores.  They didn't want them because they were dirty (seriously) and so I grabbed them for the kids.  We have used them on and off for the kids to sit on, but now the kids are older they are a bit big for them.  So, I keep them to put planters on, or in this case, grab and turn into some shade for the garden plants when the heat starts climbing and with all the sun we get toward the summer equinox.   Sometimes it helps to stop the plants from bolting so quickly.  Sometimes.

I harvested ginormous amounts of lettuce from the garden this week.  I'm praying that the weather starts to cool down a bit here or I am not sure how great my swiss chard is going to do this year.  I have a couple of stalks that haven't gotten big at all and are already bolting (seriously???).  I figure I'm going to thin those out and make them for dinner at some point this week and hopefully the other plants continue to grow and do okay without bolting on me.

The red lettuce is already starting to shorten to bolt as well, so when that occurs I'll rip it out, sow the soil with some compost, and start planting more cold weather hardy seeds in preparation for a fall/winter garden.  I'm thinking I'll plant turnips, but I want to check my companion planting guide to make sure everything jives right.  I made the mistake last year of planting a potato plant next to a tomato plant.  Turns out tomatoes put out such a deep root system that they just choke off a potato plant's ability to produce many potatoes.  So I ended up with very few potatoes last year.  This year I was more careful, so I'm PRAYING the potatoes produce a good bumper crop and my other root vegetables do well in the coming months.  I really need them to do well *fingers crossed*.

I was able to harvest a BUNCH of sage and thyme this week as well.  The herbs are seeming to love the wetter summer we are having this year.  I've never seen rosemary this happy before.  I'm hoping to maybe rip the plants out and put them in little planters to keep them going inside through at least part of the winter (with how little light we get it can get kind of hard to keep plants alive during the winter) as they seem really healthy this year and just might survive the transplanting without issues.  

A shot of the front bed.  I love the huge chive plant that has developed :).  I never thought I'd have chives in my garden (not good at growing them at all), so yay for volunteer chives!  The chocolate mint is JUST starting to come in, so I'm wondering how great of a year my mint is going to have (although with mint it can just really start growing while you watch, so we shall see).  I'm hoping to make it into tea for gifts and for drinking this winter, but we'll see how it goes.  The wave petunias were not deterred by the tree's root system, so I'm thinking I finally found a good choice for plants for the front bed that will actually grow!  Always nice :).  And looking at pretty flowers (with some food mixed in, of course) cheers me up every time I go by the bed.

So there you are folks.  Some of my frugal adventures this week (more on my goals post tomorrow).  How did you do?


  1. Cabella's sounds very fun and I'm so glad the filling is done. The flowers are very pretty.

    My frugals for the week: my company paid for all my meals this week, since I had to travel. I'd rather be home paying for my own food, but it's a condition I agreed to when I took the job that I would travel to the office once every quarter.

    After many hours and much research, I finally got our cell phones replaced for no out of pocket and for the same if not slightly less monthly fee. It was a bit of a crisis, because my husband's phone just completely died and he is required to carry one for work. We have limited options where we live, because we don't get good coverage from most carriers, so I was pleased that I got this worked out.

    I shopped at Walmart early last week and saw baskets of something marked $1. They were full of socks! The women's socks were only Marvel socks, but I got my daughter 2 sets of 3. But two baskets had men's socks, and the were mostly three packs of gold toe socks. I dug and dug and got my husband several and my daughter's boyfriend a bunch also. On another day, we stopped by Walmart to return something and my husband found that they are already clearancing all the stuff on the patio (not sure why), so my husband got several plants (mainly shrubs) really cheap and was able to complete our front flower bed.

    I got my annual bonus this week, and while it was smaller than last year's (company performance dictates, my own performance percentage was still 100%), I was able to put the money I had borrowed from a savings account for property taxes back in the account. So nothing fun, but I was relieved to have that back where it needs to be.

    And what may be the best for last :), the monsoon started this week! Glorious rain!!! (We are in AZ, at a higher elevation, so not so hot, but still AZ!) No A/C needed at all this week, and we should need it very little for the rest of the summer AND the rain is a blessing always. It was also such good timing for the marked down shrubs my husband planted last weekend.

    1. It's always a good feeling putting money back in savings isn't it? I look forward to when I can do that again :).

      Nice find on the socks and that you were able to get so many! That's great!

      And rain is wonderful isn't it? The only reason I got any canning done at all this week was because we had rain and cooler weather move in the last few days so I didn't feel bad having the kitchen heated up. I am also enjoying the fact that wildfire season isn't terrible (which it has been AWFUL the last couple of years). Yup, I'm appreciating the rain this year for sure!

  2. Hi Erika,
    I don't know how big your community is or how you feel about shopping at Goodwill. My Mom lives in a large, metro area, and a Good Will store near her home always has new underwear for 50 cents a pair. They are donated by stores that can't sell packages that have been torn open. I wait till I visit Mom to hunt for new undies for my family. It is hit or miss, though. I hope this tip works in your area. :)
    You are doing SO well keeping your family going! Keep up the great job.

    1. With Goodwill, we have Salvation Army up here and that's about it. I like to call the Wasilla Salvation Army "Target Overstock" because they get all of Target's clearance things that they don't sell in a reasonable amount of time. It gets kind of ridiculous because the prices that they charge are actually MORE than the clearance prices that Target was charging. I stopped going there a while ago because of that.

      I haven't found anything else that would work at the used stores around here or at yard sales and I had looked (well except for the last bit as I was avoiding spending unnecessary money) for the last few years. Ah well, though, the stuff I bought will last me a good long time if the wear on my old stuff was any indication :).

  3. Considering the tight budget, you've done very well this week at buying some necessary items not normally on the list (socks, underwear, new mattress). Just shows how great you are at budgeting, Erika!

    The visit to Cabella's sound like it was just as fun as going to the zoo. Sometimes you just have to get creative for cheap family outings. You know, I think I've been to one of those stores before (or one similar), and they are pretty cool!

    Erika, I was wondering if your veggie plants that you planted are heirloom varieties? If they are, then let them bolt and save the seeds for next year! Same with the peas, since they are growing so well for your area. Make sure to leave the developing seeds on the plant and allow to dry naturally, then collect the seeds for next year. It will save you a bundle on gardening, and allow you to plant larger crops if you save enough. In fact, I just collected some dried chive heads from the garden at my work to expand my garden options next year!

    By the way, I just found a post on how to make homemade mint extract on Pinterest recently. It does require buying alcohol, but I think alcohol is much cheaper in the U.S. than Canada (and if you happen to have some in the house already...bonus!). If you're interested, I'd be happy to share the link! This would also make a great gift item or could be used to make some tasty gift items.

    1. Some of the plants are heirloom varieties and I do hope to save the seeds to plant for next year :).

      As for the mint extract, I've actually made it before as well as vanilla extract and almond extract (due to my daughter's corn allergy). Thanks for the suggestion though. I'm not sure if I have vodka around here still or not, but I'll have to look around :).

  4. When I was looking at my pile of mending this week, I was thinking of you. See, I can't sew a button on to save my life and have to hire someone. Could you do mending in your home to make money? I know what you mean with the finances. We are also watching every single penny and buckling down our finances. My husband and I made a goal to have his truck paid off in 5 months or sooner.

    1. I doubt I could make a go out of mending things around here for money. I can't even keep on top of my mending *laugh*. I don't know though, if I can get better organized it might be an option in the future.

      Good luck with the truck! I hope that goal is attainable for you guys :).

  5. I really hope your husband's part time job works out, and brings you some much needed financil relief. Im really glad he found one. Its horrible the budget crisis your state is going to be in because of that idiot....geez. I'm so sorry!

    This week has been up and down for us, but much to my delight the garden is finally producing! Im still not sure on the peas, its my first time growing them and ive been picking often but dont even hve a side dishes worth!!!

    We got our car insurance renewal in and to my shock its $6 less. It had gone up about $25 a month last year because of an accident I had on the ice and had been told it would be 3 years before we got a decrease. Im happy, but still wondering if its legit.

    Im with you on the target toy clearance so far...nothing too great yet. My fingers are crossed for you though so you can find some gems for your kids.

    1. During WWII the British Ministry of Food recommended not growing peas as they didn't justify the space it took to grow them. They told people to grow runner beans instead.

      I like to grow peas, not so much for the amount of produce they make, but because they do wonderful things for the soil they are planted in. They actually feed the soil, so it's a great crop to rotate in your garden to help the soil stay healthy.

      I've usually grown one pea plant in the past and would usually get enough at one time to get enough to throw into a salad for something new. But, yeah, they never went insane and just gave me tons of peas or anything. That's why I planted so many this year in the hopes that it would not only help give something back to the soil, but also would help to give me a decent amount of peas. Here's hoping :).

      Next year I think I might actually try runner beans instead of peas as I'd love to be able to get enough beans to can for winter (as we go through a lot of green beans around here). I'll have to wait and see what the next year brings.

    2. Thank you for that info! I always rotate the crop but how exciting that the peas actually feed the soil! I might have to do just one or two in a bed each year...!

  6. I love reading your posts Erika. I think you are inspirational. You work so hard to feed and care for your family and to maintain a positive attitude despite very difficult circumstances. When blog posts appear amongst my emails I always save you posts until last to read - best 'til last. Hang in there!

    1. Aw thanks! I love your avatar by the way. "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is one of my favorite book series of all time (I liked the newer movie too, though :).

  7. Hi Erika,
    Looks like you had a lot of successful frugal adventures and family fun while doing it.

    It's mind boggling what your Governor is doing against the will of the people who put him in office. Down here we were informed that the cost of our health insurance will be going up by $200 per month.

    I hadn't been to the grocery store in 2 weeks, so this week was a shop week and I was able to bring it in a little under budget. Went through the far reaches of the freezer and found strawberries from last year so I canned 6 half pints of strawberry jam. Peaches at the grocery store were 99 cents a pound. I got 2 1/2 pounds and they produced 3 pints of canned peaches. I worked in the garden which is just now beginning to produce. Cut off some of the young tender beet greens to chop up and use in salads to extend the lettuce, made my own broccoli slaw from the broccoli stems left over from the florettes that I used for a dinner side dish a previous night, today I'm going to harvest basil and make pesto base to put in the freezer,
    cooked all our meals at home except one where we used a gift card so free dining out,scoured pinterest and came up with a few gift ideas that will cost nothing to make because I have everything on hand. Went to the library and took out a couple of Margurite Patten's books from the British Ministry and also a new book that I found called "The Organic Canner". Some very interesting recipes in it for canning.
    Happy 4th of July to everyone. Stay safe. Dorothy

    1. Yeah, I just got the news today that our property taxes might be going up because of the Governor's cuts to education causing a deficit that the Borough has to make up (5 million dollars worth). I'm scared for my son's special education programs and things right now, let alone what money is going to be like in the coming months. No one is happy with the Governor right now.

      Nice work on everything else. Pinterest has been a Godsend for me the last little bit figuring out cheap Christmas gifts (or at least patterns that even I can figure out to make some :).

      "The Organic Canner" huh? I'll have to check and see if our local library has that one the next time we go. Sounds neat!

    2. Dorothy, we went to London for our honeymoon 30 (Yikes!) years ago and happened to be in the British War Museum when they had Margurite Patton come and make an entire meal out of British WW II recipes. I don't know if you have read this, but she started her career teaching rich women whose cooks had left for better jobs in munitions factories of WW II. She would go to Harrods, a pretty fancy store especially back then, and give demonstrations. I was thrilled to be able to see her in person; she was so elderly by the time I saw her that she had other people fetch the ingredients she needed from the coolers she had brought with her, but she was the one who cooked and talked the entire two hours as she cooked. She died not that long ago and to the end was writing articles on thrifty cooking and using up leftover and making substitutions instead of running out and buying new ingredients for recipes one might not like and never make again (so the leftover spices would just go to waste).

    3. Oh wow, Mable that's awesome! Margurite Patton is one of my heroes and I have a few of her rationing cookbooks (I want to invest in more of her books though). I loved her appearance in "The 1940's House" and started hunting up things on her after that. It's so cool that you were able to see her in person :). I'll have to really check out her later books as I love those types of books (using up what you have and making do type of cookbooks).

  8. I think you did really well, especially on that mattress deal! I hope your son will continue to use the old one to jump on so you can extend the life of your new one. My parents gifted us a very nice mattress, box spring and bedding set, including a handmade quilt about 2 months ago. Our old mattress set is still in pretty good shape, but was not the right firmness for my hubby and I who both have back problems. Yesterday we ran into one of my DIL's aunt and uncle who were looking for a queen sized bed to furnish their guest house. We offered our old bed to them for free. They were delighted to take it! I love when we can help family out. :)

  9. Erika
    Your garden looks great. I love the petunias in the flowerbed, too.

    I just keep planting a few lettuce seeds every couple of weeks--a mixed leaf lettuce pack. I seem to have several partial packs from years past, plus some that was free from the fair last year. I'm hoping to have lettuce all summer, but probably will end up with a gap of time where I don't have any nice lettuce, especially if it gets super hot and causes it to bolt or get bitter. It's kind of hard to get it to come up when it is hot, but I noticed my latest batch has sprouted at least in part of the row. All that to say--if you have a few more seeds, or could get some--you can still get more lettuce this year. It takes 8 weeks for bush green beans to make beans--I'm not sure how much of a growing season you have left up there, but I've had success planting a fall crop in early July here in my part of Oregon. I usually harvest in September. They will also fix nitrogen into the soil like peas do.

    1. Huh. Good to know on the beans. I don't have seeds for those, but will definitely look into getting some next year :).

      As for the lettuce. I staggered out my plantings enough that I think I'll get lettuce till about the end of July, which works as that is when I really need to start thinking of just planting winter hardy varieties of plants big time so they have time to grow (I'm probably going to start planting said plants here soon, though, just to be safe) as we can get snow as early as September (although, on average we usually get snow about the middle of October).

      Hopefully the garden produces well with the root vegetables. I always get so nervous about it as you can't see what is going on with them :).