Monday, November 27, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Late again.  Ugh.  In this case it was just a really busy weekend, so I didn't have a lot of time to blog.

The plumbing is KIND OF fixed.  My husband changed out a mixer valve that had failed, that luckily was easily accessible from the hot water heater over the weekend, but the week was REALLY touch and go trying to make the hot (or should I say warm) water work well enough to actually clean things.  I ended up boiling water to add to the sink and doing the dishes that way a few times just to try and keep on top of the housework a bit.  Replacing the mixer valve gives us hot water, but it's still going warm quicker than it should, so we ended up turning up the hot water heater by degrees until it is hot enough to stay hot for a while.  So, we're down to another mixer valve being in the wall that has failed and screwed up the system, which is definitely in the scope of probability, and the other is that the hot water heater needs to be replaced.  One, we don't have time to do (ripping walls apart) or the money to repair the damage we might have to do and the other we definitely don't have the cash to shell out to replace (the hot water heater), soooo we're just dealing with the hand we've been dealt.  At least I can do laundry and dishes now.  Maybe not the in the same day I want to give the kids a bath (we shall see as we turned up the hot water heater to high today), but it's to the point we can adapt anyway.

For the time being the laundry room is put back together, we only had to spend about 100.00 on more plumbing supplies (better than having to spend money on a plumber too) and that area is at least calming down.

Thanksgiving/Friday went pretty well and the turkey turned out better than it ever had before, so for the first time the turkey is almost gone.  We have one turkey leg left and that's all she wrote :).

Saturday, while my husband was tearing the plumbing further apart, I put up the Christmas tree with the kids and we got the majority of decorations set up. While pulling the decorations out of storage on Wednesday (since it was the last day I'd be able to do it before the kids were home), I found that a bunch of stuff in our storage van had collapsed.  Due to the 80 mile per hour gusts of wind we were getting earlier in the week (in Alaskan terms those conditions are known as "breezy") or due to some earlier unnamed earthquake, I don't know, but we have at least one bookcase that collapsed forward and broke in half that I got to break off and get out of the way to get the Christmas decorations out and into the house.  So, this Spring (or at some point when we have a freak heat wave or something) the husband and I will have a mess to clean up.  At least the Christmas decorations came through everything alright.

So, yeah, past that it was a relatively quiet weekend, so let's get to the frugal adventures of last week shall we?

1.  I did end up going Black Friday weekend shopping at JoAnn Fabrics.  I was there for some of their really deeply discounted Doorbusters.  I looked at the wreaths they had marked down to 2.99, but wasn't impressed at all, so I ended up getting some .59 gift tags and a big roll of wrapping paper for 1.49, since I am finally running low on wrapping paper.  I was happy that at least they did have that stuff in stock, which at least justified the trip. 

2.  I went shopping today.  Due to the plumbing bill hitting, we were getting really low in the checking account, so I wanted to get the bare essentials to get the son through till payday.  I did, however, hit Fred Meyer while in town in the hopes of getting the free Frozen Yogurt bars from their 25 Days of Merry that was today's download and the Sierra Mist Twist freebie from Friday.  The Sierra Mist was completely sold out and the cashier I used said they don't give rain checks on freebies, so I walked away empty handed on that one, but I did find the frozen yogurt bars, which I was happy about as I knew those were going to sell out QUICK.

I then ran to Carrs and got milk and "boy food" to see us through till payday and while there got a freebie they gave me which was a free chai latte or free cold brew coffee latte.  They didn't have anything but the chai lattes in stock, so I got the vanilla chai latte flavor.  That will be a welcome change of pace to drink on errand running day (shot of freebies seen up top).

I then got home and realized that our check for our escrow over payment was in and I found out that we had a small paycheck waiting that my husband had gotten for a couple of hours of side work he'd done, so I ran and got that paycheck and put it into the bank along with the refund check.  It didn't equal out to a tremendous amount of money, but it definitely helped to pad out the checking account a bit more to my comfort until we get paid (which should HOPEFULLY be tomorrow).

3.  I fixed a lost button on a shirt (and have another one to do for my husband that I forgot about until this moment...oops).

4.  We dropped off yet another big bag of donations at the used store last week and stopped in at the used store while we were there.  My husband mentioned that he needed some new t-shirts (to wear to work) and could I look at the jeans for him while we were there (he was fielding the son).  The store had a certain color tag on sale buy one get one free, but I could only find one shirt in my husband's size that was in decent shape in that color tag, so I told the cashier that when I checked out and she instead gave me the shirt for half price!  Definitely worked for me!

5.  When the son got cranky over the weekend, we took a drive around and looked at all the Christmas lights that were up in town already.  We aren't getting much sunlight this time of year (the sun was starting to go down at 2:30 this afternoon for instance), so it is kind of nice when you can go and look at Christmas lights as it helps to break up the dark a bit.  The kids really enjoyed the drive and it didn't cost us much gas as it was close by.

6.  I conglomerated numerous errands into one day of running today, which meant I wasn't home all day, but it also will conserve gas in the long run and it will help to conserve my time later in the week.

7.  I started planning and cutting out Christmas gifts from materials I had on hand this last week.

8.  I ran out of #2 coffee filters this last week, which was so depressing to see the last of the clearance filters I bought so long ago run out.  I went to the store and my jaw dropped at how much #2 filters were costing.  Taking a chance that I could fold the bigger filters if need be, I grabbed a box of #4 filters for WAY less and came with way more in the box.  When I got home and compared the #2 filter that I had left to the number 4 filter, I found the bottom dimensions were the exact same, the #4 filter was just taller and and wider on top where it was taller.  So, it ends up sticking out of my coffee mug cone, but works perfectly well.  So, score on that discovery :).

9.  The kids (read: son) started insisting on pulling out Christmas shows to watch as soon as the decorations were up.  I am making sure to do ONE Christmas show per day so that we don't get burned out watching the same DVD over and over and over again (although both kids have been binge watching "The Christmas Toy" in their rooms, which fine by me so long as I don't have to watch it 18 times in a day!).

10.  I walked away from a few deals that were tempting this week, but I knew it would strangle the bank account more than I wanted it to be, so I let them pass by.

And yeah, there's some of my frugal adventures for the week.  If you have e-mailed me the last week and I haven't replied, sorry about that.  I've been busy!  I'll try to reply to you soon :).

So, how did your week go? 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Yup, late again.  I can say this time it couldn't be helped, really.

A pic of what we have been battling around here the last couple of days is seen up top there.

Man, the plumbing in this house!

This started yesterday about the time my husband was set to get ready to go to work.  I went into the laundry room to switch the laundry when I heard the sound no one wants to hear.  This unmistakable hiss of water spraying from a pipe somewhere.  Luckily my husband was right behind me as I called for his help because, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out where in the heck the water was coming from, but there WAS water, saturating the shelf over the dryer especially.  I was looking toward the ceiling trying to figure it out when my husband quickly hunted the problem down.  The hose that you see coming out of the hot water heater top on the left there?  It had developed a hole in it and was spraying water everywhere.

Which my job quickly became trying to save anything that could be saved from the shelf that the water had been spraying onto.  I'm still scared to turn my Food Saver on as it, and everything in the box it was in, was pretty much sopped hardcore.  I have things stacked on the stairs, on the landing (seen above), in the name it.  It's a mess.

The situation quickly led to my husband having to call in late or sick to work (he told them the situation and basically told them that he would try to make it in after it was fixed...he never made it to work last night) as spraying water was kind of important and him getting into a four hour long battle with the hot water heater.  Turns out that whoever had installed the hot water heater had used iron fittings to do it, which had led to the iron fittings corroding over the years and making a huge mess.  By the time my husband had to replace the hose and everything the iron fitting going into the hot water heater had essentially fused with the hot water heater.  He tried to break the fitting loose with a pipe wrench and some added levers onto the wrench and finally, on the advice of my brother-in-law (who he called for assistance), cut it off and just started chiselling the fitting free of the hot water heater.  My brother-in-law came over to help and the two of them managed to get the tools they needed from my father-in-law's place to drill out and re-thread the pipe entry to the hot water heater and get all of the fittings and everything installed (and we owe my brother-in-law lunch or something to be sure!).

The only problem they found was that our plumbing is all kinds of screwball.  We have a mixer valve mixing our hot and cold water, somewhere, in the walls and my husband can't figure out how the plumbing ever worked in the house right with the way it seems to be plumbed.  Since they installed the new fittings and things we're still having issues.  The water is coming out of the pipes warm, not hot, and just isn't mixing properly and things.  The hot water heater seems to be doing its job (calls for flame when needed, hot water hose going out of the hot water heater is hot, etc), so we're trying to figure out what in the Heck is going on with our water right now.  There's a leak on the hot water side of the water heater that was leaking REALLY good this morning, but hasn't leaked all day and then just started leaking again tonight that I found, so we're going to try and replace that hose in the morning again, get a tight seal on the system, and pray.  Pray hard.  And hopefully that'll fix things so the hot water works again.  If not, bathing, laundry and dishes are going to be an awful lot of fun to get done, especially bathing.  Sigh.

In a nutshell, the last part of our weekend sucked.

So, yeah, other than yet another plumbing problem developing around here, let's get onto the money saving things that happened this week.

1.  Grocery shopping went minimal last week, and it's kind of showing this week.  I need to get to the store, probably Wednesday, and get "boy food" for over the long weekend, or I'm seeing Alvah freaking out at some point over the weekend, but overall I think we did pretty good.  I have all the stuff I need for Thanksgiving and even got some of the food types of things I'll need for Christmas out of the way as well.  The biggest highlight food-wise for my week was a friend of mine offered me a turkey that she wasn't going to use for Thanksgiving and there was NO WAY I was going to turn down an offer like that (thanks, Davina)!  I'm actually looking forward to having an extra turkey in the freezer as that will definitely give us a different option for some dinners later on :).

2.  The husband brought home some caps from 20 oz Coke bottles (he takes one to work with him every night to avoid buying fountain sodas too much, so he drinks that with his lunch instead) and said that we go through so many of them we might as well use the codes.  I told him that I had quit doing it as even getting a free 20 oz Coke with the codes took a lot more than it used to, the codes were a pain to type in (they seriously give me eyestrain after a while trying to read them), and I just didn't see the point in messing with it.

No joke, ten minutes later, the pile of Coke lids still on the coffee table in front of me, I perused the Money Saving Mom recap e-mail I get every day and saw that My Coke Rewards was running some promotions where if you put in 5 codes from the bottles you could get a free 5.00 Amazon gift card.  Now THAT was worth my time and eyestrain to input the codes!  And there were two different links you could get texts from, so you could get 10.00 in Amazon gift cards!  I quickly dug around the house and found the additional lids we'd need and now, 8 to 10 weeks after the promotions end (which is I have NO IDEA when) we'll get gift cards e-mailed to us.  Since the 6 packs of Coke are always purchased when they are on sale for 2.50 each, overall, I'd say that more than doubling our money with the Amazon gift card promotion was definitely a good return on investment!

3.  I continued to weed, ruthlessly this week, and we hauled a bunch to the used store. It felt good reclaiming house space from clutter and it didn't cost me anything but time to do.

4.  I rearranged the den and master bedroom this week (I'll try to take pictures here in the next couple of days to share later).  My husband was actually really happy with the arrangement when I got it all done and I was happy because now that my bed isn't in front of our bedroom window my cats aren't wrecking my headboard to get into the window.  And, double bonus, both my husband and I actually have access to receptacles (outlets for those not married to an electrician) to plug phones and things into at night instead of the awkward arrangement we had before.

5.  My husband got his labs back from his physical and basically his cholesterol was high (it runs in both sides of his family) and the doctor wanted him to make some dietary changes and come back in six months from now to get his labs redone and see how he's doing.  My husband and I sat down and talked about it and figured out small steps to take to start reworking our diet to fit with what the doctor wanted him to do.  We both agreed that other than baby steps (low fat milk versus whole, etc), things were going to start after the holidays because it just isn't going to happen before then.

Overall, I'm kind of looking forward to the challenge ahead and making this more healthy, but tasting good and to the family tastes.  I am looking forward to incorporating more fiber and things into our's hoping I can do it without the daughter going into full scale rebellion (she hates high fiber things like oatmeal, whole grain breads, etc...she drives me crazy sometimes).  Wish me luck!

6.  I got the first approval letter for my son's insurance renewal.  Now we just need to get through the I-Cap and I might potentially have another packet of paperwork to fill out here in the next couple of months (if they send it to me) where I'll have to break down the level of care my son needs so they can see he's still disabled.  Every year is a nerve wracking experience trying to get renewed for his insurance, but in the end it's always worth it because it's the only way we could afford speech therapy for him.

7.  I've been throwing money at our escrow account on our mortgage to try and make sure that our mortgage payment didn't go up by the home owners insurance company messing around earlier in the year and over-charging our escrow 350.00 (which they refunded back to me and we had needed the money at the time, so I hadn't put it right back into escrow like I would normally have done).  By throwing any money I could spare into the escrow, even though the home owners insurance had "gone up" (due to them not processing the insurance score until after they were paid and cutting me a refund check later) and the property taxes had gone up, our mortgage payment is only going to increase by 4.00 next year and we got a refund check from our escrow account for actually overpaying.  So, woot there!

8.  I re-watched Victorian Farm on YouTube this last week.  I really do find it relaxing to watch things like the Farm series first thing in the morning or when I'm waiting for the kids to go to bed.  It keeps me off of social media and getting pulled into unnecessary drama and things and helps me to just start the day on a better foot.

9.  I've been going through one room at a time and moving all the furniture and deep cleaning under everything, cleaning vents, dusting, etc.  This really is seeming to help the husband's allergy problems.  I'm hoping to get the daughter's room done in the next couple of days (IF she'll cooperate) and hopefully will have the son's room done by the end of the weekend.  I'm hoping a good side effect from doing all of this, too, is hopefully maybe it'll help the son's eczema too.

And yeah, I'm going to call it good there.  How about you all?  I hope your week went well and ended better than mine did!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Boy I'm tired!  But, bright side, the cleaning and organizing is slowly getting there!  Yay for that!

This week has been long, but in some ways good.  I didn't sleep well last weekend, at all, and as a result come Monday morning I accidentally gave the son his higher nighttime dose of Risperidone instead of his half dose in the morning.  I was worried he was going to walk around like a zombie all day Monday, but instead he had a REALLY good day!  He had a good day at school and a great day at speech therapy.  I ended up calling his psychologist and asking if it would be okay if we just gave him a full dose twice a day for a while and see how he did.  She agreed.  As a result Alvah actually had a pretty good week at school and at home.  Tonight he's kind of grumpy, but I think a lot of that is that I think he woke up today just not feeling good...he's been acting like he's got a head ache today on and off and yeah...I think both he and I are looking forward to bedtime tonight as I think he's pretty tired and didn't sleep good last night.

The daughter still isn't feeling good either, but I had the nurse check down her throat Friday and she saw 100% nothing wrong, not even any irritation, so I'm kind of hoping the daughter is just dealing with allergies.  I'm praying both kids are up to going to school tomorrow as my grand plan is to come home and immediately start deep cleaning both of their rooms, moving furniture and shampooing the heck of the carpet to get all of the allergens from summer and fall up and out of their bedrooms.  I'm hoping it helps both of them.

But anyway back to the week.  Tuesday I ended up running into town to see if I could pick up the new higher dose of Risperidone and while there asked if my son's one med that had been called in for a refill request through the allergist was there yet.  Nope, it wasn't.  Which led me to stalking the allergist office for the next three days just trying to get a refill.  It worked out in the end as they gave me five refills on the medication, but geeeeez!!!

Then there was last Sunday.  The husband went for the monthly dump run, which in itself wasn't a bad thing by any means.  It had snowed the night before, but not horribly bad.  The roads were a bit slippery but not terrible.  And yet his truck was sliding around turns sideways.  With how much weight he had in the back of the truck and how slow he was going...well that wasn't good that it was doing that.  Since than we've been down to a one car family as there is no way that we were going to trust my husband commuting into Anchorage every day in that truck in winter weather.  Which led to the depressing conversation we'd been putting off for the last three years or so, which was, "Now what?"  We could put new winter tires on his truck, but that would cost about 1000.00 for winter tires and the truck is 20 years old now and wasn't meant for winter driving anyway (it's a small two wheel drive truck) and while we bought it with decently low miles on it, it's still got over 100,000 miles on it now.  So, do we put new rubber on the truck (somehow) and pray it does okay on the roads then or do we look at getting a newer vehicle since my car isn't exactly new.  Which led us going to the dealerships just to look.  Bright side the salesman didn't laugh at me when I told him the max of what we MIGHT be able to make a month on a  truck payment (and then how I'd make an insurance payment on said vehicle I have NO idea) and he pointed us toward a used vehicle instead of new (which both the husband and I agreed with when we heard the low end of what new was going for).  After it was all said and done we both just ended up depressed, not knowing what to do, and just generally wishing we were in better financial straights all the way around.  Sigh.  For now, we're just going to stick with driving my car and go from there.

Anyway, onto the money saving things we did this week (well except for not buying a new vehicle I guess *laugh*)...

1.  I ran to town more than I wanted to this week, so at one of the trips to pick up milk and one medication for the son I stopped off at Fred Meyer and got the free seasoned rice from the last Freebie Friday (the same trip I found that they didn't have the Au Gratin potatoes I was hoping to get).  That's part of the pic up top there.  I picked the Spanish Rice flavor.  My deliberation as I was looking at the flavors cracked an older guy up that was standing behind me.  I guess I was muttering, "No, I can make that one easy.  No, that one is cheap to make..." and so on and I finally settled on the Spanish rice because I wasn't overly talented at making that flavor.  He was chuckling when I turned around with the rice and he thanked me saying I had reminded me of his late wife the way I was muttering about the rice flavors.  I felt kind of embarrassed, but at the same time I felt good that I was able to bring back a good memory of his wife.

2.  I found that JoAnn fabrics was running a flash sale and you could print off a 20% off your entire purchase coupon and you could combine it with sale items and things.  I had a 60% off one item coupon that was still good too, so I ran to JoAnn Fabrics to see if I could get some mini spring-form pans cheap.  I know, it's an odd thing to get, it seems, but I fell in love with the idea of having some as soon as I realized they were a thing as the idea of making tiny cheesecakes for dessert or other single portion meals (quiche, lasagna, etc) seemed like a really great idea (and cute).  I didn't want to spend much on some of them though as really I didn't NEED them.  The cashier stacked my coupons (I love it when the coupons will do that) and I was able to get a three pack of mini spring-form pans for around 4.00.  I even paid for them with a gift card, so it was a pretty awesome score (I'm going to stick these under the tree for myself :).  While there I also picked up a few colors of embroidery thread I needed to get, so all totaled I spent around 5.00 that day.

3.  I managed to fix our furnace.  One night the furnace just kept making this horrible sounds like a plastic bag was stuck somewhere or something and it became really loud.  My husband didn't really have time to deal with it, so I started chasing the problem down.  I removed the cold air duct to see if something was stuck down it (the way our furnace is in the house there's one cold air duct and basically one heating duct going through the kitchen in both cases, so it's pretty easy to look for problems on those things) and managed to get things cleaned out there.  I then went and changed the filter on the furnace and it did, indeed have plastic stuck to it (the son shreds anything plastic to watch it's been his favorite stim for about a year), but that didn't fix the problem either.  I, for a change, sat and stared at how the furnace was constructed and figured out that the set up was pretty simple that I could see and by logically figuring out how the air would flow I quickly found the blower fan.  I made sure to find a flashlight so I didn't inadvertently zap myself on the transformer end of the fan and then by doing a small amount of exploration I found the plastic bag that had somehow made it through the filter and gotten sucked into the blower fan, cleaned it up well and put everything back together.  I think after all is said and done the furnace definitely got a good cleaning all the way through it and it sounds fine now.  I felt proud for figuring it all out and getting maintenance done on the furnace at the same time :).

We also had a spare furnace filter that I remembered where my husband had stored from last year when we replaced the filter, so I saved myself some money from having to buy a new filter.
4.  My husband had a pot luck dinner at work.  Instead of immediately just signing up for a certain category (entree, etc) he came home and talked to me first and asked if I would be okay making oatmeal cookies for the event.  I was happy he thought of those as I do have plenty of oatmeal around here so I said, "Sure, we can do that".  We came up with a few back up plans in case the dessert category was filled up when he went in the next day, but it wasn't, so he signed us up for the cookies.

Well fast forward to Monday and I'm terribly busy with...well everything...and I realize that there is NO WAY I have time to make the three dozen cookies the recipe for oatmeal cookies made.  So, I just made cookie bars instead.  I did manage to cut up the finished bars into nearly three dozen pieces, so I figured it would work *laugh*.  Everyone at work seemed to enjoy them and they ended up being pretty easy to make.  A pic of the finished bars, pre-cutting is seen above.

5.  When cleaning out the den, master bedroom closet and other areas, I found things I forgot I had, including some Christmas themed paper and things, so I gave some things to my daughter to use for crafts.  She's had a blast the past few days using the small remnant of lace fabric I gave her (that I bought at the used store a long while ago) to make doll dresses out of and using the Christmas paper to make Christmas scenery so her dolls could put on Christmas plays and things.  I listen in and smile.  I know that there's not that much more time before all she will care about is hanging out with friends, teenage drama moments and getting a cell phone, so I smile and shed a few tears that my baby girl is growing up too fast and try to enjoy the time of play while it lasts.

6.  I had some kitchen towels that weren't absorbing liquid anymore, so I threw them through a few hot water cycles in the washer with a heavy dose of vinegar in the water.  I then washed them like normal.  So far this seems to have stripped the towels and made them nice and absorbent again.

7.  I cleaned out all of the sink drains this week.  Not a glamorous job, actually a rather disgusting one, but definitely one that will save money on a plumber later.  I then poured boiling lemon water down the drains as well just to help strip the drains a bit further.  They are all running much better now, so job done for now, I hope :).

8.  When frying chicken earlier in the week, I fried so much at one time (in batches, but I fried about five different batches of chicken) that by the end the oil was definitely done for and the house kind of stank as a result.  Instead of spraying Lysol everywhere, I just took some water, added a bit of imitation vanilla extract, a few allspice berries, a few cloves and some powdered cinnamon to a pan and boiled it for a while.  The home made air freshener worked wonders and made the entire house smell like Christmas (proclaimed the daughter, anyway :).  And really, it didn't cost much at all to do it and it got some humidity into the air.  All benefits.

9.  The fix I made to my crew socks with elastic thread didn't work very well.  The thread just wasn't secured in the socks enough and just came lose in the washing machine.  I'm still working on it.  I figure if I can find a way for a repair like that to work, I could extend the life of socks for a long time for me as I'm pretty light on the soles of the's always the elastic part that goes first for me.

10.  I fixed a hole in my one of my pairs of jeans this week.

So, there's some of my frugal adventures this week.  How did you do?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Goals for the Month: November 2017

 This has been a REALLY hard post to put together this month.  Mainly because I have a ton to do, little time to do it in, and I wasn't sure where to start on the goal's list.  I finally decided to just sit down and do it, so here it is.

Also side note:  Frugal weekly recap is coming.  I've just been busy and haven't had much time to sit down the last few days.

As I was saying, November is going to be a busy month for me.  For one, I do still plan to do the "Gift a Day" posts this year.  There is just going to be fewer gifts going on, but I will post up the things I make.  Mainly because I do enjoy it and other people seem to enjoy it to.  So, watch out for those starting (and hopefully ending, although that might require a miracle in step two *laugh*) up this month.

Then there is trying to get the house super duper cleaned in preparation of putting up Christmas decorations at the end of the month.  We'll be putting up the tree the weekend of Thanksgiving, like normal around here.  I would honestly wait to put the decorations up until later but the kids love them so much, especially my son, that I always cave and let them have their way. 

So, the biggest thing I've been doing the last couple of days has been working on cleaning and organizing my den as it has become a catch all mess with me organizing the master bedroom closet and the pantry and everything.  I mean a MESS!!!  I've brought loads of things to the used store this week and we took another load today, consisting mainly of old clothes that don't fit the kids anymore.

Then there is the food drive at school.  Every year they send home a list of things the school will need to make up Thanksgiving baskets for families who can't afford a good meal and this year the need is greater than ever.  So, I put together a bag of things for the food drive that we can drop off at school Monday.  My daughter helped me to go through the pantry and pick out some things. Freebie Friday snack items that aren't safe for us to have here (peanut cross contamination/contain peanuts, etc), free cans of vegetables I got from the Monopoly game at Carrs over the summer and a few other things that I felt we could part with to make some families lives a little better this Thanksgiving got placed into a shopping bag and put by the door.  Having been on the receiving end of kindness more than once this year, I feel like paying it forward is even more important.  I might not be able to do much, but by golly I'll do what I can!  So, that was on my list to do this month and will be checked off and done when we drop the donations off at school on Monday :).

So, yeah, it's so busy around here it's like a blur, although the last few days have been slower for the poor daughter who is battling either a cold or seasonal allergies and is kind of miserable with a sore throat and a bit of a cough.  I actually made her home made chicken noodle soup last night especially for her and she's requested some of the leftovers for dinner tonight.  Hopefully she starts to feel better soon.

So, anyway, onto the goals for this month!

Sewing Goals:
  • Work on Christmas gifts 
  • Hem jeans for husband (we bought a new pair that was too long for him the last time we bought him brand new jeans as the jeans were basically on sale buy 2 get 1 free IF you bought three pairs and they only had two pairs in his actual size.  I've been meaning to hem them, but couldn't figure out where I had stuck them and finally found them today.  NOW if I could find where in the Heck I put my crochet hooks I'd be thrilled *grumble*.
Organizing Goals:
  • Work on organizing den some more.
  • Move desk into den (this is part of a possible master plan for my master'd think I'd stop with "master plans" the way they seem to work out, but nope, not me.  Never learn *laugh*).
  • Rearrange sewing table and dresser in den.
  • Put up Christmas tree and decorations in den (at end of the month) 
  • Go through toys in son's closet and weed out anything that needs to go (it's been YEARS since I went through his things and's time).
  • Rearrange kitchen cabinets to work better with the baking dishes (I'm in a constant fight to get a couple of cabinet doors closed as things slide forward and things and it's driving me a bit loopy).
  • Continue to weed through things and figure out what can go and what should stay.

And I'm going to call it good there as that's already a ton to do.  So, how about you?  Anything on your list this month?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Shopping Goals: November, 2017

This time of year, shopping goals become "goals" in the relative sense as "goals" are more like, "Hey, you need to get this!"  With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I decided to give my new "system" a run for it's money.

Basically my new menu and shopping "system" was supposed to work like this.  At the end of the previous month I would sit down and plan out a basic menu for the month ahead.  Nothing TOO specific (as with me a really specific menu is destined to fail and fail big), but just a general sense of what we would be eating that next month.  The few areas where I wanted to plan kind of more in detail was when it came to desserts and things like breakfast dinners.  This way I could sit down, figure out how much eggs, flour, milk and other staples I would need down to the cup (or egg as the case would be) and then I could just plan on going through that much staple types of foods at a minimum, so could figure out when I needed to replenish them before I was "running out" of them.  For instance a 5 lb bag of flour usually gives me about 11 to 12 cups of flour (I think...I wrote it down, but I'm not getting up to go and find my paper), I could figure out a dozen eggs as needed, etc.  Any milk I would need for baking on top of what we normally drink per week (with a milk loving son and a milk loving husband...we go through 3 to 5 gallons a week) would be factored in and I was HOPING to pick up enough groceries to last us through two weeks without much effort by figuring it all out.  Even things like eggs I could pick up a month's worth at a time, or close to, I figured, thus saving me having to potentially purchase something at a higher price if I found a sale on something cheap before the new "month of system" kicked in.

It was a system destined for failure.

What I failed to factor in was that while it all worked FABULOUSLY on paper, there were a couple key points I was missing.  One was time.  With speech therapy twice a week, psychology appointments, a husband having to have dinner on the table at 4:30 every day so he still had time to get ready for work before taking off for the night on top of me having time to get his lunch packed for the day and growing children who would decide that while they loved a food one minute and then decide they could not care less about it the next while going and consuming copious amounts of other foods...well things were already not going well and I hadn't even really started yet.  Already the "system" was getting thrown off and I had to go and make an additional trip to the store for more, or different, foods depending on what was going on.  Or quickly had to just throw something different than I had even come close to having planned on to get my husband out the door on time for work (which happened more than I care to admit the last couple of months).  Then, due to lack of time during the day (with other appointments on top of speech therapy or if I needed to do an errand or something), dessert schedules quickly started getting screwed up if I had all my other ducks in a row on something for dinner and so I ended up with more eggs than I needed and things as I didn't have time to bake or prepare a dessert when I had planned.

So, was a nice thought and my brain keeps seething with a way to make it all work right.  I have tried the once a month menu thing and found that I just can't stick with it no matter how hard I try as I like to cook too much.  Preparing a menu for a month ahead just seemed like it took all the creativity out of cooking for me and that just made me unmotivated to follow the menu very quickly. 

Now, I have found that the figuring out roughly how many eggs I would need is KIND of working out ("kind of" is an operative term *laugh*), as if I have extra eggs I find that I just use them to make egg salad, french toast, or custard or something, so they don't go to waste (having chickens did do me a favor in that department as I have more experience using up eggs now).

So, anyway, if I can ever get the "system of menu planning to grocery shopping flow chart" figured out so it works well, I'll let you know.  For now it's just "Get this, it's on sale.  Redo menu as needed.  Wing it." with an overall budget worked out for groceries.  At least that "system" (if it can be called that) is working, so until improvements are made to the grey matter running the show, it'll have to stand.

So, back to this month.  This month's shopping goals are going to focus a lot around Thanksgiving and getting ready for it as here in the US our Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November.  Since my husband's place of work is open 24/7 he's working on Thanksgiving this year.  My daughter, bless her heart, sat there looking sad when she heard me tell her that as I was trying to figure out the logistics of getting dinner on the table early, but not too early (so the husband had time to get plenty of sleep, but also having time to eat a big meal and actually have time to enjoy it and time with the family as well) on Thanksgiving and she made a comment that it didn't seem fair that dad would have to leave right after the meal.  She then looked up and smiled asking, "Mom, could we have it another day when dad can be home instead of on Thanksgiving Day?  So he can enjoy it to?"  I sat there a minute and said, sure we could, as my husband has Friday that week off.  My husband was happy and touched that my daughter thought of him when I asked him if he'd be okay with it (I knew he would be).  So, we'll be having Thanksgiving a day late this year :).

Other goals are just things I need and have been waiting for a great sale for.  Like butter.  It will go on sale for 2.50 per lb once in a while right now, but it seems like lately there's always a limit of 2 on it when that happens, so I'm KIND of hoping that they have a decent sale on butter coming up so I can stock up again as the prices at the bulk store on butter...well it's kind of getting ridiculous and is almost as expensive as picking up butter at the regular prices at the store.

So, anyway, let's get to the goals for this month!

Regular Stores:
  • Cranberries, two bags (one for cranberry relish for Thanksgiving and one to make into cranberry sauce later on).    
Done!  I got these at Carrs this week as they are on sale and cranberries tend to start selling out up here as Thanksgiving approaches.
  • Vegetable stock, 1 gallon. 
Done.  I had a few quarts of home made in the freezer from cooking down vegetable scraps, but I got a few quarts for a cheap personalized price at Carrs this week as well...this is another item that just disappears from the shelves as Thanksgiving approaches.
  • Butter (if a good sale comes up with the normally does go on sale, so here's hoping) 
  • Boiling Potatoes (for home made rustic Au Gratin potatoes for Thanksgiving)...This one might get done with russets if we are tight on money come Thanksgiving or a good sale fails to come about...we'll see how it goes.
  • Russet Potatoes (just because they go on sale super cheap this time of year and the Alaska Grown ones will actually last for quite a while).
  • Navel oranges, 2 (done.  Got those with the cranberries)
  • Fresh herbs (for turkey and for potato dish at Thanksgiving)....if I can't afford fresh herbs we'll make do with dried.
  • Vegetable oil (I'd like to get a couple more bottles as I have been going through it more now that I'm baking a lot more).
  • Heavy Cream ( a good personalized price on it, so I grabbed it when I went shopping...this is another item that sells out as Thanksgiving approaches at the stores).
  • Buttermilk (for biscuits for Post-Thanksgiving meals).
  • Stuffing mix (it is the season for watching for sales on it and I really like to have it around for casseroles and things throughout the year)
  • Au Gratin potatoes.  Once again, tis the season for sales.  Fred Meyer had these on sale this week for .99 a box...once again, true to form with Fred Meyer, by the time I went on Tuesday they were sold out of them and I couldn't find a cashier who had rain checks at their register to write me one, so I gave up.  I picked up a few boxes at Carrs yesterday when I had to run in for medication for the son (more on that later) on sale for 1.66 per box (or 3 for 5.00), but hoping to pick up a few more to be stocked up for a while.
Bright side is that I am stocked up DECENTLY well on things like Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken soups, so I can save money not having to buy those this year and I'm good on canned veggies and fruit, so yay for that.

Normally I'd be all gung ho to go and get a turkey when they are on sale for cheap when you spend a certain amount (or free if you spend like 100.00 or something in a shopping trip), but I am kind of torn about it.  On one hand, it is cheap meat if I spend 50.00 on other things as you can get the turkey for .50 lb about, but on the other hand...I already have a turkey in the freezer, turkeys SHOULD be on sale through Christmas pretty much and well...we'll see how money goes.  Right now it's tight and spending money on a turkey I don't need RIGHT NOW just doesn't seem overly practical.

So there you are folks.  My shopping goals for this month.  How about you?  Got anything you need, or want, to get this month?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

I know I'm late when it comes to posting up the monthly shopping goals and just general goals for the month.  I'll try to post them up in the next couple of days.  It's been kind of hard to triage things when it comes to the list.  Shopping goals aren't too bad, other than splitting things I want to get over the next couple of months so that I don't put too much pressure on myself to get it all this month or something.  Now the monthly goals...that's more of a challenge.  There's just so darned much to do and all of it needs to be done in the next month to next month and a half that it's kind of overwhelming.  I've spent the last week running around like a chicken with it's head cut off and I don't see that changing in the near future.  Right now I'm just trying to break things that need to be done into bite sized chunks so I'm not losing what's left of my sanity.  But, yeah, we'll get to that list in the next couple of days.

When it comes to the menu lately...there hasn't been one.  I've been trying to keep dinner interesting and so far I haven't had any complaints, so I guess I'm doing an alright job, but I'm really hoping to get back into a more organized frame of mind.

I've been bookmarking recipes left and right for the new Crock Pot Express I got (I am just bookmarking Instant Pot recipes as I've found that everything translates very well to the Crock Pot Express settings) and am hoping to get my feet wet cooking with it here sometime soon.  I've been so busy lately all I've done is end up throwing something into the crock pot or making as quick and filling of a meal as I could to get to doing something else.  Getting into using the pressure cooker would DEFINITELY help get filling, nutritious meals on the table in a small portion of the time, so I really want to get into the habit of using it.

I actually made a full meal yesterday (seen up top) and my other big accomplishment was making the big value pack of chicken drumsticks I got cheap last week and I fried the entire thing into fried chicken one night.  This gave my husband plenty of leftovers for lunches for work and gave us lunch at home when needed as well (honestly I picked off the breading more than once and made a chicken salad for lunch or something and it was still really tasty).  To go with it I cracked open the first can of canned coleslaw from the garden salvage operations this summer.  Even my husband said it was really tasty (I drained it and then added mayonnaise to it), but the texture...well it came out really chewy due to being made from the outer leaves of cabbage, but still...tasty and nothing from the cabbages went to waste :).

But, yeah, let's get onto the menu!
Wednesday:  Chicken fingers and tater tots (I wasn't feeling good today, so I punted with something easy).

Thursday:  Left over beef stew, leftover home made rolls (seen up top there was our menu for  Tuesday, so we're having leftovers tomorrow). 

I made an orange cake (also seen up top), using some mandarin oranges I'd bought at the store that I was the only one eating to make the juice and things for the cake.  Instead of the orange frosting called for I used chocolate frosting instead so it tastes like a mild tasting chocolate orange.  Yeahhhh!

Friday:  Chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice (mix from pantry), salad, coconut pudding.

Saturday:  French toast, sausage links, peaches

Sunday:   Roasted pork roast, corn on the cob, salt water potatoes (pressure cooker)

Monday:  Pork fried rice (use leftover pork roast)

Tuesday:  Boeuf Bourguignon (I've found that you only have to really flavor the dish with the beef and can pad out about 99% of it with pasta and it's still really tasty :).

Desserts:  Orange cake, ice box cookies (to make), coconut pudding (Friday).

And yeah, I'd go into snacks and breakfasts but the son is trying to rip my arm out of its socket because he needs me for something, so I'm going to finish this up here. 

How about you?  Eating anything good lately?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Wow!  Has it been busy this week!  The husband had Monday and Tuesday off (he took a furlough day one day and took a paid leave day for the other) and the kids had Monday and Tuesday off because of parent teacher conferences, so the beginning of the week was kind of full, but in a good way.  We went to an open house at the fire station on Halloween (I forgot to take pictures as we were pretty busy) and then I took the daughter trick or treating in a new neighborhood we discovered in the area, which was well lit, nice subdivision and it was basically one long street.  Since it was cold, wet and foggy, my daughter was doubly thrilled that her costume would go over a coat well.  Overall, we had a lot of fun, didn't get too much peanut containing candy (which I'm going to pull out of her sack and send in her lunch at school as small treats...I still need to do that...busy week) and my daughter got to hang out with another little girl about her age who was trick or treating on the same route we were.  And the son got french fries (McDonalds) and a long car ride, so he was happy too.  The kids got McDonalds.  The husband and I waited and ate left overs at home, which we were both okay with. We got home earlier than usual for Halloween (my daughter the last three years, insisted on dragging me through these meandering neighborhoods that required a lot of walking, a lot of wind in your face and not much candy overall), watched some Halloween cartoons and my husband and I got about 1/4 of the way through "The Changeling" (a Halloween tradition around here) before the husband totally crashed on me and had to go to bed.

But, yeah, after the kids were back in school and the husband was back at work, it was time for me to start trying to catch up on work around here. 

So, let's get to the rest of the week shall we?

1.  I made home made "Crunch" bars, cut them up, wrapped them in wax paper, put them in a freezer bag and stuck them into the freezer to eat as treats later (probably for Christmas since we were so busy doing other things Halloween, we didn't actually eat them).  A pic of the final product, before final freezer-bagging is seen up top.  Overall I got a ton of candy bars, so I was happy.  And the best part is that they are completely safe for the son's peanut allergy!
2.  Fred Meyer gave me free Oreo cookies for being one of their "Best Customers".  Since I've been spending about 100.00 per quarter at the store, I sure hope they have customers better than me *laugh*, but was thrilled with the freebie none the less as the son LOVES Oreos.

My husband and I went into town to see if we could fill a new script for him and while in town we stopped by Fred Meyer to get the cookies and just generally look around.  The store opened up it's new location last year and I've always been so busy that I've just kind of rushed through the food section and not really looked at the rest of the store.  It was kind of fun spending time with the husband looking around and I found a cool find!  My son LOVES blankets and throws (he wraps up in them, makes tents over his head with them...he has fun) and we've been trying to find one that was at least close to his favorite baby blankie that he's been attached to since he was born.  We actually found a clearance throw that felt close to the texture we were going for and I thought that it might work as a Christmas gift for him.  But when I looked at the clearance price it said 15.97.  I had just gotten done lamenting to my husband that I really didn't want to spend 16.00 on a blanket for Christmas the son might or might not want, when my eyes fell on the clearance sign and I realized that home clearance items were an additional 50% off!  8.00...that I could do!  So, we got the blanket and the free cookies and made our way (cookies seen, blanket not as that's currently hidden from seeking children *laugh*).

3.  Shopping went well this week.  The biggest find this week was definitely getting a big value pack thing of chicken drumsticks.  They are on sale for .97 lb this week at Carrs and they were 50% off on top of it!  So, I got a big value pack of drumsticks for 2.50.  I also got a whole chicken for 2.83 after 50% off discount and a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for 2.72 after discount.  Yay for cheap meat!  I even got eggs for .97 a dozen with a personalized price.

Overall I spent 54.00 on groceries this week, but a portion of that went toward getting some things out of the way for Thanksgiving that I knew would sell out pretty fast in the next week or so (like heavy cream), so I did plan for more in the budget to accommodate the extras.  I'll go more into that on the shopping goals post for the month later on.

4. I have been without a wall calendar all year, and honestly I've felt the pinch more than once as I LIKE having a wall calendar, but I didn't want to spend the money on one or waste the printer ink printing one off.  So, instead, I've been making my own...with some gaps in between when I got too busy and just forgot about it and relied on my phone instead.  This month I asked my daughter to do a quick drawing for Thanksgiving for the top of the calendar.  I thought it was cute, so I thought I'd share a pic of the calendar.  I told her it looked like the turkey god was going to either bless the meal or strike us down at the table.  She said it was because she loved turkey.  That works too *laugh*.

5.  I mended my husband's jacket that he's been using as a rain coat.  It was a real pain to repair as the outer fabric was a thin, lightweight nylon-like material, so it kept slipping as I was repairing it, but I got it done.  So, one raincoat repaired!

6.  I worked some new elastic thread through some of my old socks that are in good shape, but the elastic around the legs is going and so they keep slipping down while I'm wearing them and driving me crazy.  This is the first time I've ever attempted this type of repair, but I had plenty of elastic thread in my stores, so I figured "why not"?  We'll see how the repair does.

7.  I finally got my canning for the year completed (I hope).  Today I canned apple pear sauce (I wanted to try pear sauce, but also was worried it would be too strong tasting for the daughter's milder palette, so I combined it with apple sauce.  It worked great and it's pretty tasty! 
 I took the cores and peelings and some older apples, boiled them all together and made apple pear juice.  For a big pot of scraps, essentially, I got three quarts and one 10 oz jar of juice (or whatever size the smaller jar is).  None too shabby!  It tastes good enough to just drink it, but I am thinking of mulling it when I open it, like I like to do with apple cider and serving it as a hot drink this winter.  Either way, it's good!

8.  I gutted the master bedroom closet (see I told you I would *laugh*) and have been going through everything in the den so I can do it when my husband is sleeping.  I took a huge amount of donations to the used store with my husband (he carried the huge boxes *laugh*), which felt good.  I still have a bunch of stuff to go through (I'm trying to figure out how to adjust a full sized sheet into a twin sheet at the moment as I have some full fitted sheets I'd like to shrink down to fit the kid's beds) and I'll take donations to the used store as needed.  The winter gear I put aside that doesn't fit the kids anymore so I can donate those to the school nurse for needy families in the area.

9.   Got more insurance renewal paperwork done for the son, which I'm praying is enough to get us renewed for the coming year). 

Speaking of insurance, I got a reminder card for the son saying he was late for his dental cleaning.  I was confused as I was pretty sure the kids had been into the dentist later than last January (which is when the card said was his last appointment), so I called and checked.  Turns out that they had been in in June (I knew it!), which led to me talking to the receptionist about the kids upcoming appointment date in December.  I was worried about my daughter as I thought our insurance would only cover one dental cleaning a year, but it turns out that our insurance covers two cleanings a year, but only one set of X-rays (which we only get one of those done a year anyway).  So I was definitely happy to hear that!  I'm going to call the insurance company and confirm, just to be safe, but if it does cover that, yay!

10.  I took down the Halloween decorations and put up the Thanksgiving decorations yesterday.  We normally don't have many Thanksgiving decorations as the kids just haven't brought many home from school, but last year my son actually brought home a bunch, so between that and having my daughter do a few drawings, we're good on Thanksgiving decorations for the year :).

So, there you are folks.  Some of my frugal adventures for the week.  How did you do?