Saturday, May 27, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

 Geez, what a week.  I'm exhausted because the son isn't sleeping but two hours of sleep a night right now.  I'm panicking because we got our first official paycheck on the husband's new job and it is lower than we'd hoped after his first partial paycheck.  So, after doing the math, I figured out that I have about 150.00 a month for food and gas after the husband's minimum gas for his commute is taken out of what is left of the paycheck.  Can I hyperventilate now?  I keep trying to remain calm as he's getting a 7% pay increase when he switches from "training" hours to his regular shift, but man...this first year of this job is going to be REALLY hard to get through.  I honestly don't know if we'll make it at this point on his pay, but he loves the job so much I'm determined to at least give it my all, and by God my all isn't anything to sneeze at!

If we can tough it out for this first year he'll get a wage increase and the benefits are really good at this job, so I really WANT it to work.  I just don't know if I can make it work.  Once the kids start school, since my husband will be working the late shift, I might be able to at least get a day job and leave him home to man the phones if one of the kids needs to get picked up early from school or something, but for the summer...I am really determined to get my den mucked out (the nice sewing cabinet we set up down there?  Yeah, the main middle shelf collapsed and we found that the only thing holding up what should have been a microwave cabinet was little plastic tabs for adjustable I have sewing stuff ALL OVER the place down there) and get to work making some reusable shopping bags of different types and embroidering pretty things on them.  I think they'll sell decently well and they are at least useful.  I'll go from there on expanding product lines.

I also have some leads on different things that might make me some money at home, so we'll see how that pans out as I look into the different companies.  This kind of ties into some of the frugal things that happened this week, so let's get to that shall we?

1.  I called and paid my phone bill this week right after we got paid and the gal who was running the payment for me skimmed my account and told me that our internet was costing us too much.  I was like, "Huh?" and she said they'd just switched their plans on their internet and their basic plan now was 5.00 less per month than what we were paying now and the internet was actually FASTER and had more bandwidth available than we had now.  She asked if we'd like to switch and I nearly jumped through the phone and hugged her after saying "of course!"  So appointments are set with the phone company for them to come in and upgrade some cable and things on our end (free for us) next week.  So, yay for a utility company that cares!  Thanks Matanuska Telephone!

Double benefit is that if I find a job where I have to take calls over the internet and things for customer service positions and things the faster internet and better data will definitely help with that.

2.  I was blessed to receive gifts of food this week.  My friend contacted me and asked me if I'd like some bags of rice and things that were in her food storage that she wasn't using and I said, "Yes, please!"  She gave me a big bag of rice, oats and beans.   I am really grateful for the gift as it is all things we will definitely use.  Thank you, Davina!

My mother-in-law also met up with us today and gave me a box of food she bought for us knowing how tight it is for us right now.  All of it will be used and with a grateful heart.  Thanks, Stacey!

My friend also gave me her freebies for Fred Meyer for the free almond creamer and the free Ritz Crisps, so I picked those up along with my free creamer today as well (thanks, Stephanie!).

3.  Grocery shopping was as minimal as I could get it this week, which is why the food gifts were so appreciated.  I ended up winning 5.00 through the Monopoly game, so I stopped off at Carrs and got my 5.00 cash before I went shopping and used that toward my total.  At Carrs I got the bare essentials for the son to eat this week.  We still have Doritos and Cheetos (which I placed in some sandwich bags and put into a big bowl so I only get him small amounts at one time...hoping to cut down on him wasting so much food this way, as seen in the photo's working...kind of.  The son doesn't like the fact that the chips aren't in their normal "big bags" but I think he's getting used to it as he was used to seeing them that way at school).  At Carrs I got Goldfish crackers for him (1.50 per small bag this week), hot dog buns (.88 with in-ad coupon this week), Coke (1.49 per two liter bottle with in-ad coupon this week, limit of 4) and a few things I'm forgetting.  Total spent was 15.00 after the 5.00 cash was taken off.

At Fred Meyer I got cat food (as their normal price on canned cat food is only .57 compared to .80 at Carrs), cat litter (because we were completely out...I honestly contemplated digging up some dirt and just using that for the litter, but it would have wrecked what was left of the scoopable cat litter in the box and I just couldn't bring myself to do it), lettuce (1.87 for a large head of it), hamburger (3 lb tube for 5.97), the free creamers and free crackers, Pringles (as a "please stop hitting yourself" reinforcer for the son) and a few other things that my daughter and I are spacing (so much for two minds being better than one *laugh*).

Total cost for groceries this week was 35.00, which is honestly more than I WANTED to spend, but with cat litter on the list I knew it wasn't going to be super cheap as no one had cat litter on sale cheap this week.

I'm going to be really tweaking the grocery shopping here in the coming weeks to see how low I can go on the budget without my son flipping out from his favorite foods not being around when he wants them.  Here's hoping I can get it down LOW as I need it to get as low as possible right now.

4.  Amazon Associate fees came in (I usually get some about once every six months, so it was a pleasant surprise) and I quickly used them to buy a food storage kit of breakfast foods (way cheaper than buying individual #10 cans of the things I wanted to get).  I got things like cream of wheat cereal (a personal fave of the husband's), freeze dried scrambled eggs (not using those unless I have to as I remember well what powdered eggs tasted like as a kid...shudder), bacon bits, shredded potatoes (basically freeze dried hash browns), pancake mix and freeze dried strawberries.  I was especially happy to add the freeze dried strawberries to the pantry as the way things are going around here, buying fresh produce to can is going to be iffy this year with the way the budget is shaping up (an understatement, that).

5.   The lettuce died off in the aerogarden (no joke, it literally just like died and rotted at the base after it wilted and the pieces just fell off...I was expecting it to bolt...weirdest thing I'd ever seen) so I cleaned it up and planted herbs in it.  So far the dill and basil have popped up like they are supposed to, but the parsley is definitely not up yet.  I'm going to give it another couple of days and if it doesn't pop up, I'm going to plant some thyme seeds in the pod and see if try two works better than try one.

6.  I'm finally getting an egg a day again (knock on wood) with two hens being back to normal.  I think they are both laying every other day, but managing to rotate it so that I get one egg a day.  I'm still trying to break the last broody who is determined to sit on air, or ice cubes, or whatever, but at least she's gotten less evil so I can push her off the nest without getting pecked and she's at least eating and things, so she's not losing weight (broody hens can really tear themselves up refusing to move from the nest).  So, here's hoping she snaps out of it here sometime soon.  The eggs are definitely coming in handy with the amount of baking and things I've started doing around here.  I've been using up straw that I had left over from when I chicken sat the chickens last year to help pad out their bedding in the coop and nesting boxes and they seem happy with it, so I yay for saving money that way.

7.  I managed to pad out three pounds of hamburger into a lot of different meals.  I split the package in half and used one half to make taco meat, which we had tacos for dinner two nights, my husband had tacos for lunch at work one day and we had taco salad for lunches today to use up the rest of the taco meat.  The other half I made into hamburgers for dinner one night with a left over hamburger (which I made with the others and withheld from dinner) for my husband to bring for lunch the next day.  I still had about 1/4 of a lb of hamburger left, so I used that with some little odds and ends of left over beef roast to make beef stroganoff one night.  Using pasta to REALLY pad out the dish a lot we were able to get enough to all have a good sized portion for dinner and then my husband and I had the rest for lunches the next day.  Not bad for a 10.00 sale value pack of 80% lean hamburger I'd say.

8.  While I was sweating profusely worriedly shopping today, my husband took my son for a drive and stopped off at one of our local used stores where the owners are really nice and know that I collect vintage Tupperware.  My husband was juggling my son and stopped and talked to the owners for a little bit and explained why we hadn't been in in a long time, and they smiled and said they had a present for me.  They handed my husband a bag with a set of vintage picnic Tupperware salt and pepper shakers.  I couldn't believe they would give me something like that for free and was really touched they thought of me :).

9.  I used some organic yogurt I had in the fridge and a quart of discounted milk I bought (it was a dollar and some change) to make home made yogurt (photo seen up top).  I found years ago that yogurt can be used for a lot of different things.  One of my favorite uses is straining it and using it as a replacement for sour cream on baked potatoes and things.  We almost prefer it to sour cream and it has probiotic goodness that way :).
10.  What do you do when you find a sprouting onion in with your onions?  You stick it in your kitchen window and let it get good and healthy so you can split up the bulb later into different plants and plant them in the yard to get more onions in the fall.  Yup, that's how I get onion starts.  When you are broke you find interesting ways to get stuff done (please ignore the pollen on the screen and the nasty window behind it...I still need to get that window done on my Spring cleaning list).

And now for a quick garden update...

What do you do when you can't afford a green house, but the weather is being pure evil to anything you are wanting to grow?  I had that happen this week.  Our temps plummeted to below freezing at night, cold rain pelted down and I had lettuce seedlings that were already dying in their pots indoors just because they weren't happy being in pots anymore.  So, I planted the lettuce seedlings LITERALLY the day they put out the notice of the plummeting temps.  So, I quickly dug up mason jars to cover the lettuce seedlings, but after the first night where the temps went down to around 35 the cabbages were starting to show a lot of displeasure with the weather as well and I was worried about just losing the garden as a whole.  So, I scrambled to figure out what to do as the cabbage seedlings are too big for mason jars to fit over them and what about the seeds I planted and am trying to sprout?

So, I drafted my husband's help and we went and dug up some tarps from the garage to cover the garden, mason jars covering the lettuces and all, the first night.  Then I went looking around hoping I had some plastic from when we got new mattresses or something to cover the seedlings as much as I could so they could get light and things when covered up (think REALLY poor man's green house) and I found the plastic that I had saved from when I got my son's new mattress and used that and the old little kids chairs that I've used on the garden more and more over the years to make a quicky green house.  The lettuces are also protected under the tarps and things by a second layer of protection with the mason jars just to be safe from any cold air seeping through the plastic (since it's not exactly air tight or anything).  I think I might lose a couple of the lettuce seedlings that were kind of sick looking when I put them in a ground, but I have about six of them, at least, that are looking good so far and I THINK I have some seeds starting to pop up.  I am going to use the containers that I just emptied putting the seedlings in the ground to plant more lettuce seedlings and things in the garage.  Hopefully this system will keep everything safe and healthy (I take off the tarps during the day to get them air and light and water them and such) and growing and stop the cold from killing things off (this summer so far is looking pretty cold and miserable, so we'll see how it goes).  We are supposed to have nasty wind tomorrow on top of everything, so the garden is looking like more and more of a fight this year.  So far, at least, I'm holding my own against the weather.

I am hoping to be able to afford a nice big roll of thick plastic here and then if I can do that I'll tear apart some old box springs and things to get the wood I need to make some mini-greenhouse frames...actually I wish I had disposable income to spare since I finally found a greenhouse that will ship to Alaska from Amazon that is actually decently affordable, but if wishes were fishes we'd all eat for a lifetime :).

And yeah, so there you are folks.  Some of the frugal events of the past week with me.  How did you all do?


  1. Thats a really good idea on the plastic sheeting in the chairs. I need to remember that for my seedlings next year!!

    Ive been really busy working on my website, I would love one day to get enough income from it that it could pay for the yearly fees, then extra. So far, my weekly individual hits are around 175, which seeing as its not very old I think is great.

    We are suddenly having a terrible time with ticks. Yesterday they were on my laundry I hung out, so going to use the dryer again. They are all in my strawberries! After I nearly died from rockey mountain spotted fever after we just moved here, ticks make me nervous. We arsnt in a wooded area, have no dogs and treat it all, so not sure what going on!!

    Our frugal ways this week have been with food mostly, before we leave on our trip, I don't want to buy too much extra, so other than the cookout we are doing with my family tomorrow, trying to start thinning the fridge so stuff that got shoved in the back gets used. We have had a lot of medical this month, including some overpriced boswalla pills I got from the chiro, but I'll be darned, its the first time in years my shoulder hasnt hurt. I guess tumeric really does help!theres other stuff in there too, but that might be what I get a bottle of when this is gone if I need it.

    Hang in there with your job. Im glad youve had been helping you!

    1. Sarah, I wanted to go read your blog, but didn't get there by clicking on your name. Is there something I'm doing wrong? Or, with Erika's permission, could you just post a link here in the comments?

    2. She surely can post her blog address here. I don't mind :). She posted it up in an earlier post, but I can't get my ancient laptop to page down through comments very well.

    3. Thanks; I'll go look for it!

    4. Hi Amy, its:

      I am not used to posting it in yet, just always use when I'm logged in as! Thanks for looking!

      And thanks, Erika, for letting me put it!

  2. Great job with saving money this week Erika! I love how you were able to stretch the ground beef over so many meals. In fact, it sounds like your doing a great job making many cheap but tasty meals with what you have on hand lately. I know that's not always easy with family food preferences. Sounds like your husbands lunches are going well too! I've never made homemade yogurt before, but it does sound amazing.

    I hope your son doesn't give you too much grief over not having some of those foods. If he does, try getting only one "favourite" item each week (if you can afford it) that he's fussing over and rotate through. Sometimes even Autistic kids need to learn that their "needs" are wants you cannot afford all the time. I like the baggies of treats idea as well. You can even wash those baggies out and reuse them too.

    That was so nice of the thrift store owners to gift you with that set! I'm sure that made your day. I'm glad you are still finding some positives in you life, despite how tight the finances are right now. I really hope you are able to find a job to work at that works with your husband's schedule. A little extra income would definitely help your family! By the way, don't be afraid to sell some of your extra eggs, when the hens are laying well. It will help offset the cost of feeding and caring for them, which is not free!

    Great job using what you had on-hand to save your garden from shifting weather patterns. Our area has had so much rain, Lake Ontario's level is extremely high and people who live along the lake are flooding (even though they build well back from the shore). Your not alone with crazy weather. By the way, I would not call it the poor man's version of a greenhouse. I call it being resourceful and would have done the same thing!

  3. Erika, good job on the make-shift greenhouses. I have no doubt that you'll be able to stretch your family's income. And, you know, something might come up. It seems that every time we think we won't be able to make it work, God makes it work. Hang in there and let us all know of your progress. We're all pulling for you.
    I am going to try baking sourdough bread this summer. I am excited as I haven't ever done it, but I'm pretty good at regular yeast bread, though I do use my breadmaker for convenience.
    I got an end of year bonus at work, which was more than expected, so that really came in handy catching up on a few things and giving the budget a little wiggle room for a few fun summer day trips and restaurant meals, etc.
    My garden is doing ok. In Arkansas we've had a lot of rain, and actually cool weather for this time of year with some really warm days thrown in. I've harvested broccoli, lettuce, squash, onions, and one cauliflower. I was really proud of the cauliflower as I hadn't grown it before. It was really cute when it first started growing. I planted more than one plant, of course, but the deer ate down a lot of my broccoli and cauliflower. I think it was before the grass starred growing well, and the poor things were hungry. I also have trouble with birds getting my strawberries. Oddly, I really don't mind bc I planted one plant last year as an experiment, and it filled a whole bed, and actually overflowed into the walkways. (I'm transplanting those little starts.). So, I'm having fun even if I'm not harvesting a lot! I guess I'd have to put a net over the berries if I wanted them all to myself. I love birds, though, and with a pond and lake close to my house, they provide lots of entertainment for me. I suppose I look at it like I'm helping to feed them. 😃😃
    Keep up the good work. BTW - I accidentally found your other (old?) blog and have enjoyed reading it too. You put so many cute things about your kids on it. I feel as if I know you and them better.
    Do you make sourdough bread?

    1. I've made sourdough starter in the past, yes. The biggest thing with it is that if you don't use it every day it gets HUGE and then dies on you, so it's a continual process to keep it going if you don't want to start all over. We just couldn't eat the bread fast enough to get it to be worth having the starter sitting around *laugh*. It is tasty though and tastes, well better, than the sourdough you get at the store. Good luck with it :). Up here sourdough is a religion in some areas and some people are carrying around starters in their pockets that are supposedly over 100 years old.

  4. I have a teenage boy and girl, and a hubby who loves bread, so I think we'll eat it! We'll see. I read how it can be kept in the fridge and fed once a week if one won't be baking enough. Did you keep it in the fridge? That's funny- 100 yr old starter. I wonder if they put it in their wills. Haha. I did see a blog that said everyone names their starter bc it's so temperamental!

  5. Hang in there during this first year. It'll be worth it. I know it's not ideal but would you ever consider giving up your cats? Or maybe have someone take them just for the next year until you have more financial breathing room? It's just going to be so hard to account for food, litter, vet visits, etc on top of everything else. Also, in the spirit of being realistic re: your financial circumstances, do you think the $ you've spent on your garden is worth it? I know you REALLY want it to work but in the 3 years I've been reading you, it never seems to really produce despite your best efforts. I don't want be a downer, but your burden has just grown and I worry about you.

    1. Hello Lake' Livin'
      You are not a downer, but just a person seeking answers. Perhaps I can explain, from my perspective, the importance of a garden. I have gardened for years, had everything go wrong at one time or another, yet I persevered. Growing your own food is the first step toward self-sufficiency, the price of lettuce alone covers the price of the seeds (which you only buy once if you remember to save them), and it is so much more nutritional than anything purchased at a store. Every year it becomes easier because of the knowledge acquired. If the economy in the U.S. collapsed like it has in Venezuela, I could probably survive on the food I know how to grow. Knowledge is power and Erika is becoming extremely powerful. She is achieving the impossible.

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  7. Erika, I would LOVE to buy some embroidered shopping bags from you! I even have some fabric that I bought ages ago, with the intention of making a bag (yeah, that never quite happened lol). Maybe I could send it to you in a flat-rate envelope. I might like to get some for gifts too, you do such lovely work.

  8. Homemade shopping bags? I have been looking for them in the stores, but it seems the only shopping bags I can find are the ones that you have to wipe down to clean. I prefer to put them in the washer! Do you have a website where you sell them? I would be interested in finding out more about them!!

    1. I haven't made them yet, but will keep you all informed of my progress here :).

  9. Don't give up on the parsley too soon. It is one of the things that takes the longest to come up, but is pretty hardy once it does. I love how you covered your garden bed with the plastic. My husband made a pretty good greenhouse with lath (small stick boards) and plastic at my last house. It was supposed to be very temporary, and sit on the deck outside my bedroom door for 1 year only. When we moved last spring, it had been there for several years. He did work on it/upgrade it one time during those years. The roof was plastic and was damaged one time in a storm and once the cats clawed a hole in it so they could get in where it was warm to sleep.... I was able to start many plants in there using a heat pad under them at first, and a small space heater to heat it when necessary. The lights were simply fluorescent tube lights and we hung them right above the growing trays, then lifted them, using chains, as the plants grew. So, it was very inexpensive and lasted way longer then we supposed it would.

    I learned how to garden by trial and error, and by reading tons of books and trying what they said to see what worked for me. It took me several years to get good at it. I had helped with the garden as a child, but found that it wasn't the same to grow one all by myself:) I would keep trying with that and also, ask for advice from anyone who grows a successful one in your climate. I'm sure the weather is a trial for you, but perhaps a blessing during the long summer months??? I am already finding that my new garden is leaps and bounds ahead of where my old one would have been, due to the lower elevation that I live at now. The gentleman who lived here before put a lot of amendments on the garden last spring, and I am reaping the benefits now. I also have so many weeds coming up that the ground is turning reddish from all the little tiny reddish seedlings. I've been hoeing and hoeing, hoping to discourage some of them from getting bigger.

    I am sorry things are hard right now, but I'm sure you will find a way to continue to make it work. It is good that your husband has found a job, but, just like my husband's new job, the sad part is that it takes quite a while to work up to a better pay grade when you start over. (At least it's going to take quite a while for my husband's pay to get to a better level.) I am having to work more hours now than I've had to for a long time, and do a different job than I had before. It's great that you can think of ways to make money because it just seems to take a certain amount to keep a family going, at least around here. A flexible one is a great idea in your case, since your kids are sick a lot. Hang in there!

  10. FYI on you can print a $3 coupon for Tidy Cats litter. You're doing an awesome job with everything you have going on in your life. I don't think I could do it--you're a very strong woman and I greatly admire you.

  11. I love you makeshift cover for your garden...good thinking. We will just plant ours tomorrow. we have had rain and more rain. So here's hoping the sun will shine. I was wondering if you are close to a food pantry? Sometimes you just need help. Praying you situation gets better soon.

  12. Love your garden cover. Growing up that was always the way we did it when a surprise late frost or torrential thunderstorm came through. Works pretty well. I've also seen people make makeshift hoop houses with plastic that is the just thick kind new mattresses come in that it sounds like you have...even if it gets some holes, it works pretty well to keep the plants warmer than they'd be otherwise. The plastic just needs to be replaced more often (like every year).

    Have you approached any of your grocery stores or Bushes & Bunches to ask if you can get their produce that is too far gone to sell, for you to feed your chickens? Might be a good way to reduce the cost of keeping chickens and if you start selling their eggs (once they all are laying again), they might even be a money maker.

    Also, I don't know how sensitive your son's peanut allergy is...could your husband keep jars of PB & J at his work and make his own sandwiches there? Would save you work and sounds like it would be cheaper than the (I think awesome!) food he's been taking for lunch currently.