Monday, October 16, 2017

Frugal Friday (Okay, Monday): Money Saving Weekly Recap

First, thank you to those who e-mailed me the last couple of days making sure I was still alive.  I'm okay (obviously), but the reason I didn't blog last week...well...look above.  That was our high for today (please ignore the dirty dash board...the son likes to spit into the sunlight as a hobby so yeah...the car feels it).

Winter came early in a big way.  Darn its cold heart!

It wasn't cool of winter to do that to me.  I was really hoping that it would hold off till the end of October.  See, the weather had been nice the last few years and actually given us a fall and I thought, maybe, MAYBE after the rainy kind of crappy summer we had that we might get a nice autumn.  I should have known better.  I mean it's Alaska.  We have two seasons.  Winter and summer.  You live through nine months of one to enjoy three of the other.  Anyway, instead of a nice autumn that I was delusional in dreaming about, suddenly last week I pull up the weather report at the beginning of the week and see that we were going from highs in the 50's to highs in the 30's.  THE 30's!!!  Ugh!!!  With chances of snow!   And the temps don't seem to want to go back up again.

I mean I knew winter was coming, but I was kind of expecting some advanced warning first, most notably the highs going down into the 40's for a while before hitting the dreaded freezing mark.  Sigh.

And other Alaskans please note...yes I know I'm nuts, yes I should have been better prepared for winter coming this early and yes at times I've felt rather dumb for wishing that we could have had a decent autumn again this year (this time of year I get REALLY homesick for New England autumns and I haven't lived there since I was in junior high...that tells you how those things ingrain themselves in your make up *laugh*).

So anyway, this started a mad dash, and I do mean mad, to TRY and get winter preparations that I was hoping to do all of the this month done in like a week.

So I'm just going to number them as part of my frugal accomplishments, because I'll tell you what...this was a lot of work but being more organized and things will definitely save us money later.

1.  I ran out to the garden as soon as I read the weather report as the temperatures were supposed to start tanking and I wanted to salvage anything that I could from the garden.  I found, much to my surprise, that I had a few straggler green beans (which I just threw in with some green beans with dinner one night), some lettuce that we ate as salad (seen above) and even a few small Chinese vegetables (which we ate with the lettuce as salad).  Not bad for just going and throwing out a bunch of seeds to see what would grow in a fall garden this year.

I was going to put up a row cover and attempt a winter garden, but after talking to experienced gardeners up here I found that unless you have raised beds in a green house with a heater there is no way a winter garden will live up here as our ground just freezes way too solid.  I planted parsnip and salsify seeds this fall...whether they will come up in the Spring will be up to the Good Lord at this point, but I'm curious to see what will happen.

The ground is now quite frozen solid as of today, so yeah...I'm glad I harvested when I did.

Garden materials got put into the shed.  I then had to climb through the cluttered disaster that is our shed looking for coolers to use so I could defrost the freezer (I did NOT want to go crawling through the shed when temps were below freezing...I'm a wuss).  I found our big red cooler (I used a Styrofoam cooler from the garage when I couldn't find our other big cooler) and managed to struggle over the lawn mower (the only conceivable way out of the shed right now) with it in tow and got it into the house (I felt like Indiana Jones in the "Raiders of the Lost Arch" going through that shed, I'll tell you what...especially with the sheer amount of spider webs in there), got it cleaned up and was ready to rock.

2.  I jammed frozen food items into both the fridge freezer and the little block freezer anywhere they would go and then managed to barely get the last of everything into the coolers.  But I did it!  I finally got the freezer defrosted and the huge chunk of ice that was the bottom shelf taken out and thrown into the ditch (since it came out in one big chunk).  That was HEAVY!

Once defrosted I decided to organize things a bit better.  The big freezer (the one seen above there) is being used for meat and a few odds and ends, but mainly meat.  The shelves are organized by type.  Poultry on top, beef next, pork next and then misc/bulky items (currently a ham and the Thanksgiving turkey).

One shelf in the fridge freezer upstairs is now home to garden produce for this year and what's left from last year's garden and anything that really needs to be used up along with things I use in the kitchen that I might need (yeast, nuts, poppy seeds, one lowly pound of butter, some frozen raspberries, etc).  And the little block freezer is home to school lunch items for the kids, desserts (which part of my new "menu system" I'm working on comes into play there as I'm planning on preparing desserts ahead of time in a lot of cases and just freezing them to eat later in the month), processed foods (like say hot dogs and bacon)  and stuff like that.

I didn't find any real surprises when cleaning out the freezers, which was nice.  I think it was the first time ever where I emptied freezers and didn't have to throw some freezer burned item that once resembled food away. 

But yay for a nice defrosted, and much better running, freezer (and yes, I got the coils cleaned while I was at it)!

3.  Then onto the pantry gut and redo.

Then, after I got the freezers done, I gutted the pantry and redid it because it needed to be done so I knew what I had and could use it more effectively.

Before I could do that, however, I had to make a potato basket as that was part of my "pantry master plan".  The basket on the right there now houses 30 lbs of potatoes (at present).  I used to store fabric scraps in it, but decided that turning it into a basket to store potatoes would work pretty well if I could line it to help keep out the light better.  So, I cut down the couch cushion cover that I had made of unbleached muslin a long while back (before I reupholstered it with the red cushions) and used that as a "potato bag" inside of the basket.  So far it's working fabulously to house the potatoes as it gives me good vision to see what I have for potatoes and what I might have to use up quicker and the bag has helped to keep the light at bay and will hopefully stop them from sprouting as the pantry is an unheated room and keeps decently cool in the winter time.  I put some of the storage onions I bought this week (more on that in a minute here) up on top of the potato basket in their own basket so they wouldn't be stored together.  I have about 1/2 of the onions I have, at present, in the basket.  The other half are sitting in a basket on my kitchen counter to turn into french onion soup for the freezer this week.

Anyway back to the pantry.

Between my sister-in-law and a friend of mine moving, I now have a good supply of cookie mixes, a few muffin mixes and some different cake mixes (which hey a few more of those never hurt).  Buying things like that hasn't been in the budget in a long time (with the exception of cake mixes since the son will actually eat that with us IF I put Pillsbury chocolate frosting on top), so it will be a huge treat to make new to us things this winter.  I got a ton of canned veggies from my sister-in-law, which was great because I needed those as we were down to the ever present green beans and frozen garden produce and that was about it for vegetables.  With fruit, I found that we used so many home canned fruits this last year that I barely touched the commercially canned fruits I had, so I'm good on those for winter too.  That was a really nice thing to find for sure as all of that stuff has gone up in price in a big way when I checked on the prices this last week at the bulk store.  Especially with the way things are shaping up here right now with the state...we might be living on what we have a LOT more this next year as I struggle to keep every penny I can to move, so every bit of things I found in the pantry was a relief.

The really awesome cheap price I got on manicotti noodles on Amazon (I got 12 boxes for 6.00 last year!) and the cheap tortellini will definitely help to pad out the pasta monotony this coming year, especially since I'm a bit shy of the 52 boxes of angel hair pasta (or thin spaghetti or just plain spaghetti if I need to use it) that I normally like to have on hand for a year's supply (angel hair is the only shape my son likes to eat, really, and it's one of the few that comes in a full pound box still, so I try to get that).

Speaking of pasta, I cancelled my order on Amazon for the 12 boxes of Annies Mac and Cheese.  I started thinking about it and really we don't eat it at all often and even though it was less than a dollar a box...well...I decided to just pick up a few boxes as they were on sale at Carrs for 1.25 a piece this week and just call it good as I had a few boxes I had gotten for free on Fred Meyer's Freebie Friday deals and gotten a few boxes of Kraft from my sister-in-law.  Bonus to just picking up a few boxes  was that I was able to pick up a couple of different types so we won't be eating the same type over and over again.  And the rice a roni I bought...what...last year still going strong (see, I told you it would last us at least a year *laugh*).

I am, however, down to my last box of #2 coffee filters.  It's been so nice living off of the clearance ones I bought ages ago...I will miss them when they are gone!

And a nice shot of the can shelf I made of fruits and vegetables with the nice pantry pack thingies that they come in at the bulk store.  I had to rebuild a few of them with packaging tape to make it work, but I did it.  This will save me from having to crawl around on concrete so much and trust knees are really starting to appreciate it when I save them from doing that too much.  Doing this pantry knees and back are going to be protesting for a few months, I think.  The second shelf up there is just kind of the "miscellaneous stuff" shelf as I need to try and find a nice spot on the canning shelves for the molasses I just bought (I am actually nearly out of molasses and while I could get a gallon of molasses on Amazon for 16.00...I just didn't want to shell out anymore money than I had to right now as dividends are gone and money is getting tight again after bills got paid, groceries got bought and basic needs were met...blah!!!)

Wondering where all of the junk food is (okay, so cake mixes and things aren't health food unless you count "healthy for your soul" type of food, but still...) and stuff?  Well, I ended up gutting the hallway closet upstairs and turning that into the "boy food" cupboard, since everything he eats packages pretty much.  So the Cheetos, Doritos, pretzels, soda and all of that has it's own spot, so I'm not opening up the pantry all the time to get stuff out and having a bunch of things falling on me with the chip bags and things.  This will also help me to stay out of the pantry more, which will keep it darker in there, which will then help keep the produce fresher and stuff.

The buckets on the floor, by the way, house rice, flour, bread flour, sugar, oats and wheat and things.  I'm not done refilling and dragging buckets into the pantry (since I FINALLY found the bread flour and all purpose flour I bought last year!), but I'm getting there.  I still have some things to move back into the pantry as of tonight, but I wanted to show you what I've been up to.
Here's a shot of under the stairs now.  This is my "reserve once the pantry packs run out by the door" type of area where I just have other cans of vegetables and fruit on stand by along with some other stuff.  The shelf housing the Hershey syrup (once of the few "none essential" purchases I made with dividend money for the husband as he loves chocolate milk) is where I rebuilt the shelves that were in the den and are now home to the condiments (with the exception of the black olives that I bought this week as there were so many of them) and a few food storage things that I see myself using (heavy cream powder and sour cream powder being the most notable to my mind) in the next year.  I'm hoping to get the top shelf of my hallway closet cleaned off and then I will put my freeze dried food storage up there where it's out of the way but accessible should I need to use it.

The UFO looking thing in front of the Hershey syrup, by the way, is a push button LED portable light.  One of my sister-in-laws turned me onto them when I told her that this area of my pantry is completely unlit and really hard to see in a long time ago.  Between it and a motion detecting, portable LED light...I get by :).  Amazing how well lit it looks in the photo between the flash on the camera and messing around with the light levels in a photo program though, huh?

So, yeah, and then I did the hallway closet (still working on that too).  And yet, there's more!

4.  I deep cleaned the bathrooms this week as well.  The shower curtain liners desperately needed to be replaced, it seemed, but I decided to try and wash them instead of just tossing them.  And low and behold it worked!  I hung them back up in the showers to dry and now they look brand new (with the exception of missing a few magnets out of the bottom of them that came loose in the washer).  This will save me from having to replace the shower curtain liners for quite a while, I think.  I do have some replacement ones I got cheap, in the event I need to replace one, but the longer I don't have to pull them out and use them?  The happier I'll be.

5.  I replaced the batteries in our smoke detectors and our carbon monoxide detectors this week.  Always good to do that at least once a's definitely frugal to replace the batteries as protecting my family in any way I can is priceless to me.

6.  When it came to grocery shopping this week, I spent more than I wanted to, but got things we needed and I did get the items at decent prices.  I just didn't want to do another "big" shopping trip this week on top of spending so much at the store last week.

The highlights of the shopping this week were...

Getting maple syrup for 3.00 a bottle.  I picked up two as the son will only eat real maple syrup on his pancakes, so we save that for him now a days.  We were running low on maple syrup, so it was great finding it so cheap!

I got a big bottle of Ibuprofen for 50% off as well.  I was standing there staring at the shelf while holding two bottles of Ibuprofen, the price of both wasn't really what I wanted to pay, but I had been everywhere I could think of and comp shopped and the prices were comparable as other places.  So I sat and stared at the shelf tags for the bottles and broke down price per tablet (yes, I do get that ridiculous from time to time) and was trying to figure out if I wanted to go with the bigger bottle for a bit less per tablet, but a higher price tag, or go with the lower pill count and the higher cost per pill, but at a lower price.

Suddenly a woman seemed to appear out of nowhere (I must have been concentrating harder than I thought) and interrupted my contemplation of my place in the universe and what the best way to fight a headache in said place in the universe would be and asked, "Finding everything alright?"  I just smiled awkwardly after jumping a foot and responded with the usual small talk of, "Yes, I think so.  Thanks."

At which point she saw what I was holding and got a big smile on her face, "Hey!  I have that in my reduced section!  You have to buy a bigger bottle, but it should come out to about the same price as the higher pill count you are holding there.  Follow me!"  At that point she could have led me through rings of fire and I probably would have gone and she headed over to the reduced food section that I had already hit that day.  I was disappointed for a minute as I figured the Ibuprofen had to be gone, but then she stopped and reached up, so high I wondered if I could have actually reached the bottle without her as she was about three inches taller than me (Note:  This isn't that hard to accomplish, unfortunately) and she handed me a bottle of 500 tablets, which worked out to be, indeed the same price as the bottle of 200 in my hand after the discount.

I  was thrilled at the happenstance of her finding me that day as it actually saved me a ton of money (I had a 1.00 off coupon for that certain bottle size loaded on my card AND it was on sale so I got a bottle of 500 tablets for 5.00!!!) and we have enough Ibuprofen to last us quite a while :).  Honestly I never would have looked up that high to see if there was anything on reduced up above eye level like that.  Until now.  Now nothing is safe!  Bwahahahaha!

I got green peppers for .89 each on a personalized price at Carrs.  I picked up five to cut up and freeze (and I forgot about them till now, so I pray they are still good so I can cut them up and freeze them as soon as I'm done with this post!).

Getting baking powder on reduced for 50% off (it worked out to be less than a dollar after the discount).  My baking powder was past the "use by" date and I don't push baking powder very far past the use by date anymore as I've had some pretty spectacular baking failures with bad baking powder.  So, I was happy to find some so cheap.  I picked up a couple as they need to be used by next summer and then I picked up one new as it's good for almost three years from now.  That should keep me set for baking powder for quite a while.

I got a personalized price of 1.12 on frozen Michaelina's dinners at Carrs this week, so for once, I used it.  I grabbed 12 of the frozen dinners and they will be used as options for my husband for work lunches should he not want to take leftovers to work (now he has no excuse to eat out at airport prices.  Bwahahaha!).  They will come in handy, I think.

I picked up the minimum amount of Halloween candy at Fred Meyer.  Per usual, when it comes to Halloween candy, I found going to the regular candy section and just getting some bags on normal sale was cheaper than buying the Halloween candy from the Halloween isle.  I managed to spend 5.00 and now we're set on Halloween candy.

Getting strawberries for 1.77 per container at Carrs on regular sale this week.  I cleaned them and macerated them in sugar last night and will freeze 1/2 in the juices made by doing that tonight to go on strawberry shortcake later.  Tomorrow night we'll have the other 1/2 with home made strawberry shortcake for dessert :).

I also got Alaska grown potatoes for 1.66 per 5 lb bag at Carrs on Friday as part of 5.00 Friday (3 for 5.00 in this case).  I got 30 lbs and put them into the potato basket in the pantry.  They also had 3 lb bags of storage onions for 1.66 (3 for 5.00 again) and I grabbed 12 lbs.  Six pounds is destined to become freezer french onion soup and the other six pounds are in the pantry ready to use at a later date.  I also got four pounds of Alaska grown carrots (not on sale, but I did need them) and am going to blanch and freeze some of them to help pad out the sad amount of carrots I got from the garden.

I also picked up a big container of hamburger as it was on sale for 2.88 lb this week and I just couldn't pass it up.  I turned three pounds of it into about three meals (I'll cover that more in the menu post for this week as I tried a new recipe out) and the other half I put into the freezer for use later.

The BIG "woot" for sales, though, was the black olives.  On sale for 5 for 4.00 this week!  I picked up 15 cans of black olives as we eat tacos a LOT,  so I was absolutely thrilled to get them so cheap!

I spent around 90.00 on groceries this week (I also had to get chewable Benadryl and other medicine items, which always puts your bill up around lunar orbit), which was about twice as much as I wanted to, but I picked up things we needed and loss leaders, so well...I can't feel awful about it (well until I look at the checking account).

We'll see how things go with the Amazon order I placed.  The only thing I added to it was baked beans as they were a LOT cheaper than buying them at the store just getting a flat of 12.  Amazon shipped EVERYTHING I ordered, including a few Christmas gifts for my son (the daughter is easier to shop for so I picked up a few things here and there at the thrift store and I found my son some super cute Snoopy themed things on Amazon, so I ordered him a few things as Snoopy is one of his likes that has stuck from birth onward pretty much), the flats of cans, the granola basically one box with a few side boxes that contain a few little items in each (eek!!!).  I'm praying everything comes in one piece and that my husband can help me at the postal annex to carry the boxes to the car as they are all sited to come in tomorrow.  I'm a bit nervous at the packaging department right now, let's just put it that way.

7.  I managed to actually find time, believe it or not, to darn a few socks this week.  Staying up till midnight to clean bathrooms and get other stuff done does pay off from time to time.  Although MAN I'm tired and can't wait for Thursday when I have no appointments, can come home and just sleep all day if I want to.  Sounds heavenly right about now.

8.  I went through the winter gear this weekend for the kids (it was time) and pulled out everything that was too small for them and put it into a pile.  Instead of donating those items to the used store, I will instead donate them to our school as they have a "Give Some Warmth" program where they put all the winter gear items people donate into a room in an unobtrusive location so parents who are hard up can go in and see if they can get their kids winter gear for free.  I'd much rather the old winter gear is used to help someone out in my immediate community that needs the help and they can get the gear for free instead of having to pay for it at the used store (mind you, since the used store I love is run by a Church and they are big on charity I have no problem donating to THEM either, but you get what I mean here :).

And yeah...I think I'll stop there as my getting bleary eyed, still have a load of laundry to switch over and I have to get peppers prepped for the freezer (which I pray are still good *fingers crossed*).  So, there was my week in a nutshell.  How about you?   Got anything to report this week?


  1. Hi Erika - I just started following your blog a couple of weeks ago and am enjoying reading your past posts. I have a question regarding Amazon subscribe and save orders. If you buy something at a certain price using this service, does the price remain the same every time it comes to you monthly? Or does it change each month and it is necessary to check and see if each month's price is a great deal? Thanks!!

    1. No the price is locked in for your first month only. What I do to avoid getting price gouged is that as soon as I receive my current month's orders I go in and cancel my subscriptions. To be safe I always pick "Every Six Months" as my subscription option just to make sure I have time to cancel if I forget for a month or something. Cancelling is easy. You just go to "Manage Subscribe and Save Subscriptions" on your drop down menu under your name (or close to that wording) and then just click and cancel each subscription. I do this EVEN if I plan on ordering the item every month just to be safe as prices fluctuate on Amazon super crazy.

    2. Thanks for the info! I am going to start checking Amazon for great deals.

  2. Wow! You did accomplish much. I bet it's a relief to get it done. Great job. Pat

  3. I am really intrigued on your freezer french onion soup and heavy cream and sour cream powder. I'll be doing some Googling but I hope you elaborate

    1. The French onion soup I am going to make is here...

      As for the sour cream and heavy cream powder, I found them on Amazon for cheap (they both cost me like 5.00 when the prices on the items went down) and I added them to food storage to give me a few more options on the menu when money got tight :). I got mine from the outfit Hoosier Farms I think it is called.

    2. Thanks!! Ill be looking that up!

  4. Erica, you just joined the ranks of the “3 bloggers whose energy level most awe me” — the other two being Brandy of Prudent Homemaker and Chef Juls Owings, a frequent commenter on PH as well as having her own blog. It absolutely *stuns* me how much you can acccomplish, especially knowing that you are doing it on a shoestring and while meeting the needs of two children, including one with special needs. You are an absolutely awesome homemaker — don’t ever think otherwise! You give the rest of us something something to aspire to...

    Pauline in Upstate NY

  5. I love seeing how your pantry is coming along for winter! It looks like you are well-stocked in the meat department, as well.

    I have only bought groceries from Amazon once, and we got a Prime Pantry box. I guess I should look into the Subscribe and Save option, as well, but haven't gotten the time for that, yet. I was pleased with the box I got.

    I have been doing some extra cooking and baking because my mom's doctor told her to go gluten-free, then dairy-free, so she has been feeling a bit overwhelmed. Since I've been gluten-free for years, I've been making a few items for her to try and giving her some recipes to try. I have a lot of gluten-free flours on hand, and it gives her the chance to try some things without a big outlay of money, as those things are expensive.

    My canning shelf is full now, as are my freezers and my pantry. I'm just buying groceries to replace things as we use them, so the stockpile doesn't dwindle down, when I get a good sale. I'm also trying to use things up if they are getting older, or if they need to be rotated. I'm still on a search for inexpensive butter--I got some at Costco for $11 for 4 lbs, which is the best price I've found lately. I'm still holding out hope for a better price....but at least I've got 4 to work with now.

  6. Erica,you have been BUSY! And hooray for the clearance aisle! How awesome of that employee to tell you about it. I ditto Pauline's comment. I find when I actually write down what I've done in a given day, I'm amazed!