Saturday, January 31, 2015

What I'm Reading in 2015, January: Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

I've never been the type of person to set much store in New Year's resolutions.  I know it sounds cynical, but I always feel like if you make New Year's resolutions, you are setting yourself up to fail.  Because people always make "those" resolutions.  You know, "I'm going to lose 20 pounds this year", "I'm going to run 20 marathons", things like that.  Goals like that, to me, aren't really realistic and by about, oh March, the majority of people who buy those expensive gym memberships in January are then staring at the gym card stuck to the fridge while digging into a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

To me, a big reason that these goals fail is because they are BIG goals.  I mean losing 20 pounds, heck even 10, isn't as easy as those gym commercials make it out to be and people get discouraged quickly when they realize that reaching the goals they set just isn't going to happen quickly.

So, when this New Year rolled around I made the following resolutions:
1.  Instead of dreading the entire year, I would only dread one day at a time (thank you, Charlie Brown, for that bit of wisdom).

2.  I would read more good old fashioned BOOKS.
See, I'm kind of a research nerd, but I do so primarily online.  I'm not sure why I do that, but I just do.  And I've noticed that while reading and being able to find stuff online is great there are two major problems with it.  One, if I read on an electronic device too close to bed (which is the only time I really find time to read), it effects my sleep patterns.  And two, if I read it online it doesn't absorb into my brain the way reading from a good, old fashioned, page turning book.  I think a portion of that is because I'm a slow reader, but I absorb what I read and with books I can page back a few pages and start a part over again if I didn't get it all absorbed into my head the first time.  And bookmarks are wonderful things (so says the masses of bookmarks sticking out of every book I own *laugh*).

So, during this year, and hopefully ones in the future, I figured I'd share what book I read this month (one book a month is my goal), just because it's fun and might turn you onto something you might not think of reading otherwise.

And so we come to the book for January, which is...

 Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping: Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice, by Miriam Lukken .

When times starting getting scary tight for us last year, I discovered a few new obsessions.  One was the social history of how those on the home front during WWI and WWII survived during hard times of rationing and also I became obsessed with the science of Home Economics.

See, the last Home Ec course I took was back in junior high that was worth anything and my Home Economics teacher was awesome and taught us a lot, but she never went over things like housekeeping and the best way to keep things clean that had been clean the day before (with an autistic son, my home always looks like a tornado hit it no matter how much I clean it seems, so I really wanted to get my housekeeping skills more organized).

And this was a book that taught some home economics in a fun way.  The book is "written" by Mrs. Dunwoody, a Southern widow who starts writing the book in 1866 for her children and she dishes out wisdom with Southern style. 

I found the book charming and for a book that is 220 pages of reading length long (the ending pages have pages to start your own notes to make your own book of knowledge and such) I actually read the book in about a day, which is impressive for me.  It covers pretty much everything from how to do a house cleaning schedule, to how to entertain for a large crowd of people, different recipes...even how to treat snake bite and how to white wash your walls come spring (course, the author points out when outdated techniques are probably NOT a good idea to use and what modern equivalents to put in instead).

I run an allergy friendly food blog in some of my spare time, so I got the book as soon as I saw recipes would be involved.  Oddly enough, the recipes didn't even come close to blowing my socks off, but I still greatly enjoyed the book.  The book is thorough and by the time you get done reading it, you'll be inspired to at least clean and organize SOMETHING in your home.  Doesn't that make it worth getting just for that?  I was inspired to rearrange my hallway pantry (used to be a hallway closet) to fit things better and redid my china cabinet so it was attractive looking and I was finally happy with how it was organized.  For the first time in three years (my "china cabinet" doubles as a medicine cabinet because my son can't open it and just holds a bunch of sundry items and such that I've collected. Oh and some herbs that I use for making skin creams.  And other stuff.  So yeah, getting all that to co-mingle was impressive).

I bought the print version of this book as one of my Christmas gifts to me (har), but you can buy it on Kindle if you prefer your books in e-format.  But, I definitely recommend making it part of your homekeeping library (if you have one...I'm just starting mine, but am proudly including this one).

Friday, January 30, 2015

Rebuilding a Pantry for 25.00 a week

25.00 a week to rebuild a pantry.  I know, seems a bit high doesn't it?  How did I come up with 25.00 as my goal for refilling a (very) empty pantry?  Easy.

1.  25.00 will buy a decent amount of things on sale OR can be used to buy bulk items like flour or sugar without breaking the bank.

2.  I had 25.00 to spare per week because that was 1/2 of the money I was spending on diapers for my son now that he's pretty much potty trained (he's six and autistic, so I was thrilled when this step entered our lives :).

If you don't have 25.00 to spend on rebuilding your pantry, my suggestion would be to figure out what you CAN eek out of your meager budget and make it work.  Could you skip a week without having to buy meat to use that money for something else?  Instead of buying the kids potato chips for their lunches could you get away with something different but cheaper?  Even if it's only 10.00, 10.00 will buy you ten cans of fruit or vegetables on sale (or if you have a bulk store near by like I do, you could get 12 cans on sale for 7.99 if you buy a flat, etc), or 8 bags of frozen veggies to restock your freezer.  Get what I mean?

So, anyway, this is what I bought this week with my 25.00.  What I ended up doing was that I haven't had to buy diapers the last month because of the son potty training, but I kept my grocery budget (currently sitting at 150.00 a week for my family of four) the same and deducted the 25.00 per week from that.

The past four weeks I bought different things to rebuild my pantry and freezer (both of which were sitting pretty much completely empty when I started)...
Week 1:  Bought two flats of green beans, 12 cans each, for 7.99 a piece on sale at Three Bears (our local bulk store that doesn't require membership fees).  Saved the rest for the next week.  So, I spent 14.98 and had 10.02 left for the next week.

Week 2:  Got 12 boxes of rice pasta from Amazon for 27.15 on sale (it's more expensive now sadly).  So, I used part of the 10.00 from the previous week to make up the difference.  Although I still had 7.87 left from the previous week after I made up the overage.

Week 3:  Bought one flat of fruit cocktail from Three Bears for 11.00 and some change.  And also bought 30 lbs of sugar for 5.00 per bag at Carrs with Just 4 U savings (it's an E-Coupon program that I love.  I get "individualized prices" based on my shopping history with them and they are good deals!).  Total 26.00 for that week.  Overage left from previous weeks 6.87.

Week 4:  Bought five value packs of chicken, as heavy as I could possibly find, at Carrs during 5.00 Friday.  Spent a total of 25.00 on chicken and filled one shelf of my freezer with chicken thighs and drumsticks.  It was a good day! 
And so here we are on week five.  What I got in all it's miscellaneous glory is above.  I shopped at a combination of Carrs (5.00 Fridays rock) and Three Bears (where I tend to go to find cheap cleaners and such).

So a quick breakdown of what I got?
  • 1 container cat litter:  5.00 on sale because of 5.00 Fridays.  This is actually a stock up price for me.  I had some in my laundry room already, but I'm determined not to run out of cat litter and have to buy it at regular prices again.  Man it's expensive regular price and you literally throw that money away!
  • 1 two lb. bag of brown sugar.  2.26 (Just 4 U personalized price) at Carrs.
  • 1 Welch's Farmer's Market Grape Juice (all natural not from concentrate, yada yada):  2.50 on sale at Carrs (I've been trying as part of my normal grocery budget to pick up at least one container of juice per week to try and get my daughter to drink more of that and less other things that aren't so good for her, like soda)
  • 1 container of Kleenex (we all have colds right now):  1.25 (Just 4 U personalized price)
  • 2 containers of vegetable oil:  On sale 2 for 5.00 at Carrs (daughter requested fried chicken and I was also out, so I got two.  Great price, too!)
  • 1 can refried beans .99 (Just 4 U personalized price)
  • 1 package Guittard Baking Chips 3.50 on sale (son is deadly allergic to peanuts and these are one of the few types of chocolate chips that are peanut free).
  • 1 container of generic Lysol 1.50 (at Three Bears)
  • 1 container generic Windex 2.50 (at Three Bears on sale)
  • 1 Scotchbrite sponge .69 (regular price Three Bears)
  • 2 pack Latex gloves (planning on doing more in depth cleaning with things like Borax around here) 2.49 (Three Bears)
Total spent all together:  27.68  So once I took the overage from what I'd had left over from previous weeks I end up with 4.19 left as my "overage cushion" as I like to call it.

Welcome to the "Make Do" Homemaker!

The best place to start, so I'm told, is at the beginning.  So, please, allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Erika, and through most of my adult life I've made my living being broke.  No, seriously, I have.  Even when my husband and I could scrape and save money together for different life events, things like unemployment would rear up, kick us down and make the savings we'd fought so hard to get go away like balloons floating into space.

But, along the road of life and it's various pot holes, I've learned things (at least I'd hope I have).  Once again, we're forced this year to start from zero and rebuild our financial lives again after a period of too long unemployment last year (my husband is a's one of the joys of the construction trade).  So, this blog is here to catalog how I'm doing that, how it's going, sharing tips and tricks that I've learned from living broke, but not poor.  And past the rebuilding (if I ever get there), I hope to just have this blog be a great place to share the inspirations and trials that come with homemaking.  Because, honestly, just because you're broke, you can still have a decent quality of life and if you work at it, I think you can find that you can still save and rebuild.

As my grandfather would always say, "Rock bottom is a great solid place to build up from."  And you know what?  He's right.

I'm glad to have you here.  Stick around and visit a while won't you?