Friday, April 22, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Thank goodness, as money saving weeks go this one went better than last week.  No eating out, grocery shopping went well and overall it went alright.

Ways I saved money this week?

1.  I turned up the garden this week to help to condition the soil for planting and I discovered a neat find I wasn't expecting.  Three garlic plants that survived me harvesting the garlic last year (the above is actually one plant, but has three offshoots...I'm going to be interested in how that plays out)!  I discovered them, unfortunately, when I dug up the garden thinking they were grass, but I immediately transplanted the ones I found and hoped they would survive.  So far two out of the three are doing pretty well (hard to tell how the other one is doing so far as it was still just coming out of the ground when I accidentally pulled it up), so here's hoping they stay that way.  If not, I didn't lose anything so I won't be too upset either way.  But if they survive, yay unexpected garlic!

2.  Speaking of the garden...I had a plan which has kind of gotten derailed the last bit when I found out how much dental bills were going to cost, so I'm having to rethink my strategy.  Normally I plan on about 50.00 between soil and seedlings, but I'm going to be looking at less than that this year to save money (we'll see how it goes).  So, I'm going to be starting some seeds this week inside (as it's still frosting outside at night) in...some type of planter as I don't have seed starting kits or anything, so I am going to get creative and see how it goes.  I'm going to use the old soil from some of my planters to start the seeds, so that will save me a bit of money at the start as well.  The only plants I'm figuring on getting right now are a few cabbage plants and that's an "iffy" type of deal and maybe a few herb plants.  Otherwise I'm going to be gambling on seeds, which I pray grow well and are plentiful.  I'm going to attempt to dig up things that will work as planters around here where I can and otherwise it'll be a matter of hitting the home improvement stores trying to find good deals on planters and soil.  I have faith that I can do this cheap and actually expand my garden beyond what it has been in past years as I really do want to put up as much as I can for winter and enjoy as many fresh vegetables and things as we can this summer.
3.  I got strawberries cheap this week and had planned to make strawberry jam out of them, but couldn't find the one box of pectin that I was sure I had somewhere, so instead I decided to make strawberry preserves out of the strawberries instead.  Strawberry preserves are like jam, except a bit more chunky and you make them the old fashioned way...with strawberries and sugar and that is it with lots of cooking down until the mixture reaches the gel stage.  I was kind of worried about doing this as in the past I've always either overcooked jam into a kind of solid brick by double guessing myself on the gel test or I'd end up with strawberry sauce because I didn't do it long enough.  I studied my Ball book to get a better idea of how the sheeting from a spoon test should look and by following the directions to the letter I was able to, for the first time, achieve a good gel on my preserves! I was proud I'll admit it.

4.  I shopped sales and used coupons to get the most out of my money.

5.  I requested some free samples this week, which if I get half of them I'll be happy as there are things like free cat food, free magazine subscriptions and other things I could use or would enjoy (thanks for the tip offs on some of those, Stephanie!!!).

6.  Instead of running out and buying wide mouth mason jar lids when I was running low, I quickly hit my kitchen and pantry cabinets and found any jar that was getting empty and had a wide mouthed lid that was still good (never sealed before) and I used up the contents or switched them to Tupperware and grabbed the jar lids to use for canning.  I managed to dig up an additional 12 lids this way, which will definitely come in handy.  And it saved me 4.00 or more by not having to buy them at the store, so yay!!!

7.  I darned some socks this week. 

8.  I sat down while my husband was in the dentist chair and not only showed a younger woman how to darn socks (she was fascinated at what I was doing, so I showed her how to do it), but I also sat down with some cookbooks and bookmarked things that looked interesting for upcoming menus.  I find this really saves me money in the long run, as when I do it I also mark on a pad of paper what recipes I liked and what book and page of said book they were on.  This allows me to quickly peruse my list for upcoming menus so that things don't get too boring (at least I hope).

9.  I was reading on Blue House Journal where Terri used empty bread bags to store meat in when she froze it instead of using freezer bags.  I really liked the idea, since with my son I end up with a lot of hot dog bun  bags, so I've started using bread bags in the same way.  Although since I tend to store like types of meat together in a freezer bag (I'll put them into one freezer bag and then put those freezer bags into an outer freezer bag to keep them a bit more organized),  I wrap the meat in the bread bag and then put those into a freezer bag marked with the type of meat they are.  It's been working really well and I plan on keeping up with this habit!

10.  I won a contest this week on the Ball Facebook page.  I was one of fifty winners to get some dissolvable labels from the contest.  It was a small thing to win, but I was still really thrilled as I don't win things, so it was neat to finally win something :).  And it'll help make my jars just a little prettier, so hey I'm happy about it!

11.  We ended up eating a lot of leftovers for lunch this week to not only save money, but also to make sure things don't go to waste.

And there you go folks.  Some of my frugal adventures for the week.  How did you do?

Oh and hey, speaking of potentially frugal things you can do, have you entered the Invisible Glass Giveaway yet?


  1. I don't Ike pectin in jams, I am always make them without. My grandma who lives in Europe made the best jams and she never used anything else but sugar and fruit. I am happy you try it and it turned out good.
    As for starting the seeds indoors, I usuals poke holes in the bottoms of yogurt, sour cream or other plastic containers and start the seed on those. It works good wor me. And also I use the soil I have in the back yard so besides seeds I don't spend money on my garden.
    I really think it's just a marketing think to make people think they need to buy special soil, but in the end those plants end up in the soil you have in the yard.

    1. I have really good top soil around here, but I usually like to buy a couple of bags of Miracle Grow soil because it has the nitrate release pellets in it. It really does help for me to keep up with the fertilizing as I found we really do need it with our soil. Mind you, that's in the garden where I grow things every year...with planters I'm not sure if I need to buy soil or not. I need to talk to my husband and see if he can dig up some soil for me (we have THICK sod and undergrowth around here so I stand on a spade and an hour later I'm still standing on that spade *laugh*). I'm hoping he can as that'll save me even more money when it comes to the garden this year.

      That is an GREAT idea for planters, too! Thanks so much for the suggestion! I actually have a couple of sour cream containers in the fridge that I know are either nearly empty or can be condensed into one container and I have an empty yogurt container sitting on my counter right now. Thanks for the wonderful idea!

    2. I'd also suggest cutting empty, used milk cartons (cut the top half off), poking holes, and using the bottoms for starting seeds. If you want to get fancy with them, there are lots of ideas on the internet.

    3. Oh, one other thing: some people like to plant seeds in egg shell halves (filled with soil, and then either wrapped in newspaper, or stuck in more soil)'s supposed to add nutrients, but I don't recall for which type of seeds it actually helps them...

  2. When I read that your garlic was coming up, I made a point to check on mine in the garden. I have never grown garlic before, but decided to try it last fall (for a spring harvest). I think they may be just sprouting! I'm rather surprised that yours are so much further along than mine, considering you are so much more north than me. Go figure!

    I started tomato and pepper plants last month in those little peat pucks and recently transferred them to little plastic pots that I bought last year from the dollar store but I could have just as easily started them directly in the pots. I invested in buying the pots (4 or 6/pack for $1) last year as I can reuse them each year...a good dollar store investment. I recommend reusing the strawberry containers or another large clear plastic clam shell container as a mini greenhouse to start the potted seeds in. They will most likely outgrow the "green house" quickly, but it does help to hold the warmth to get them started and provides some protection to the tender new shoots from cats (and maybe the kids)when they first come up. A deep, clear glass casserole dish might also work as a mini greenhouse, but make sure the lid is slightly lifted to allow some air flow. If you ever buy the rotisserie chickens from the grocery store, those domed containers also work well. Seeds are cheap at the dollar store, if you need to buy some. They're not great, but the price is good when you have a strict budget. I've used the bags of potting soil from the dollar store in the past as well with good success, if you do find you need to buy some.

    I'm glad you were able to can some more preserves and that you were able to get it to set properly for the first time. The strawberry preserves look really delicious!!! They are going to taste so good next winter!

    1. Well, my garden does have one advantage over some in that about 1/2 (the back half) is under the eaves for the roof, so it's pretty protected from the weather back there. I've also noticed around here when the sun starts coming back for the summer (by June we have 24 hours of daylight here) it really starts to warm up the soil, at least on the surface, so I'm assuming that's PROBABLY why the garlic is so far along. Either that or it was the decently mild winter we had snow-wise. Unfortunately, not having a deep snow pack, but cold weather, doesn't bode well for my raspberry plants. I went and checked on them and between the moose loving to chew on them during the winter months and the lack of snow to protect them from said moose, some of them are eaten down to the ground this year...and they were already decimated and didn't grow well last year. I'm not seeing much hope for them this year. I'm seriously thinking of just cutting them back completely, reclaiming some more of the yard and attempting to split my rhubarb plant and plant that up there instead as my rhubarb plant is just in too dense of soil to do really well right now.

      Thanks for the tips with the strawberry containers. I have a couple in the fridge right now with a few strawberries in them, so I'll be sure to save them and use that as I know the poor things will need protection from my felines for sure.

      I actually do have seeds, thank goodness. I bought some last year at the end of the season as I'd been looking for them IN season and couldn't find those types (chard and quick growing beets were the biggies) and the rest I bought on buy one get one sales or just generally perusing the stores this year.

      Unfortunately we don't have dollar stores up here. I miss them terribly as they were great a great source for some things. I think it's probably because once the mark up occurs on dollar items in Alaska you end up spending at least 1.25 or more on an item due to shipping expenses. We have a couple of stores that are KIND of like the dollar store, but don't carry near the inventory or anything and it's usually a "1.25 or up store" so you never really know what you're going to be paying until you look at the shelf tag, so I'll go there for say gift bags, but that's about it.

      For soil I found a 2.00/1 Miracle Grow coupon online that I managed to print off, so I'm hoping to find the bags of that cheap. If I can't I'll run to Wal-Mart and buy their cheap enriched soil with the manure and stuff in it. I normally hate to buy it as it has things like wood shards in it that I always end up getting at least 17 splinters from, but it'll do in a pinch.

  3. I saw recently that you can plant seeds in toilet paper rolls (halved) and it works well, or newspaper. Then you dont have to pull out of the container sine its biodegradable. I saw it on pintrest I think, but I already had my jiffy pellets leftover from last year so didnt look too hard.

    1. I got some peat pellets at the hydroponics store for cheap today, so at least potting soil is done. I might give the toilet paper tube thing a try, though. Thanks!

  4. I reuse my compost soil to start my seeds and it does better than any dirt I have ever bought. First I put it in an old pan and bake it in a toaster oven at 450 for about 25 minutes. The oven is outside on the front porch because the dirt will really stink. After the seeds sprout, I transfer them to cups I have made from old newspapers. You make the cups by wrapping the paper around a glass and smashing the bottom flat. Then I put them in cardboard boxes lined with a plastic trash bag so they can grow and establish their roots. They are lined up all over my front porch but what I save on buying seedlings more than makes up for the inconvenience in stepping around them. The cardboard boxes then goes down in the walkways of my garden or in the compost and the garbage bags are wiped off and reused.

    This money saving idea will shock people but it works. Ball canning jar lids are reusable and I have done it for years with no problems. You must be very careful not to bend them when you remove them from the jars. I have used them on everything but only had a problem when pickling. The lids seemed to rust. I would mark the used lids with a marker so I could make sure to just use them once. I know it was a risk but I am so very careful with my canning and always check my jars when opening. Buying so many lids got to be expensive and the money was just so tight. Now I have invested in the Tattler reusable lids and am very pleased with them. Expensive, but worth it. My brother decided he wanted to know how many times he could reuse a single lid when making jelly. He has used one lid 13 times so far. I do think that is a bit much. Yes, I do realize you can die from spoiled food which is why I hesitate to share; however, I was very careful and never had a problem.

    If you haven't had a heart attack, here is another shocking idea. You can use store bought glass jars with the "button" top and can in them. I have my friends save all of their pizza sauce and jelly jars and whatever has the pop-up button top to give to me to use. They really work better than the canning lids since they are made from heavy metal. When they are cooling down, they don't "ping" but really pop loud. We can hear them all over the house. I use these jars as gifts so that I don't lose my good canning jars. I also use them and make soups to send to my sons at college. They get home cooked meals and then throw the jars away. They know to not shake or bang the jars and to check to make sure the top has not popped when they open them. These seal so hard sometimes you can hardly get them open.

    1. Update: The reason I bake my dirt is to kill all weed seeds and bug eggs. I am careful to pick out any worms and throw them out in the yard.

    2. I've heard the trick with the newspaper cups. Do you think other paper might work to make them instead of newspaper? I don't get the newspaper, so I'm trying to think of something else I can use.

      You know it might seem shocking to some, but I've heard from a lot of experienced canners that they will reuse lids. I'm too much of a sissy...botulism scares the holy beejeebiz out of me, even though I know that if you can everything in the correct conditions you should be fine.

      I've got some Tattler lids (got them free from different blog review things they did in the past on previous blogs I had :), but I only use them when I have to as I've had more lid failures with the Tattler lids than the Ball lids (my fault not theirs of that I'm sure). I do use them when I run out of my other lids though and end up using them all by the end of canning for the year *laugh*.

      I don't have a compost heap around here as we have grizzlies in the area from time to time and I fear that it'll act as bear bait. I got some seed starting peat pellets from our local hydroponics outfit today for cheap, so I'm going to use those instead of potting soil (as that's gold plated...geez). I am going to start working in some things like coffee grounds and egg shells into the garden throughout the summer now that the dirt is finally defrosted enough, though :).

    3. I end up running out of newspapers about half way through and start using old seed catalogs. Avoid the slick paper. It has certain chemicals that are not good for the soil. The reason I use cups to start everything is that we have so many bugs. Seeds in the soil just seem to disappear after they sprout.
      As for the Tatter lids, it took me quite a while to figure them out. It seems I have to tighten the ring on the lid real tight (but not so tight as to cause the jar to explode) and then heat the pot up slowly. After I finally got it right, I have only had an occasional failure.
      Grizzlies and moose...I so envy you being out in the country. Although I do have a turkey who is taking a dirt bath every morning in my freshly plowed garden. I bite my tongue and don't run her off. She is eating ticks and bugs to I will just sigh and replant.

    4. Erika, I am impressed with the strawberry preserves. I always end up with I too store my like chicken parts in a freezer bag once I have them wrapped up in the bread sacks. It's just so much more convenient when I want to find breasts of thighs. I do put labels on the bread sacks though just in case I accidentally dump a bag. I have a nice stash of bread sacks saved up for my next bulk purchase of whole chickens.

    5. Oh good idea on the labeling the bread sacks! Thanks for that. I never considered accidentally dumping a bag! Glad you suggested that before I did that and had a mess *laugh*.

  5. Terri @ Blue house has been my internet friend for more than a decade. She does have great ideas.

    Congrats on the Facebook win. Dissolvable labels sound brilliant! Our city does glass recycling but they require all labels be removed. And some labels are almost impossible to remove. So, I don't recycle as much as I could.

    1. Terri is great! I love reading her blog. The way she writes I could read her going over the contents of her cereal in the morning *laugh*.

      Yeah, I used to label everything when I first started canning. I grew to regret that want as the darned labels wouldn't come off no matter how many times I put them through the dishwasher or washed them by hand. I finally found recanning in them about three times boiled the labels clean off, so they are gone now, thank goodness. Thus why I started just putting contents on the lid and calling it good *laugh*.

  6. I think your idea to buy some cabbage plants (and whatever else you can squeeze in) is wise. When I bought my "6" pack at Fred Meyers, there were actually about 15-18 little plants in there. If we end up with even 6 good cabbages they will be around 50 cents each. However, I'm expecting far more, so if we got 12, it would be 25 cents each, and so on. Growing from seed is even less per cabbage but there is the time factor. If it's time to plant, better to get them in so you get a crop. It sounds like you are off to a good start. Any money put into a garden ends up saving so much more in the end, when you don't have to buy something at the store for dinner, especially when you can preserve some of it. I'll bet you can get lettuce all summer, if it doesn't bolt from all the extra light--I love experimenting and can't wait to see how you do.

    I'm glad your husband's tooth could be saved.