Sunday, September 2, 2018

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 1 1/2)

It's been a long week and a half and it's been kind of a roller coaster of stuff going on, so be prepared (for instance, the above picture will be explained in more detail).  This post is probably going to be super long.

First and foremost I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart that chimed in with words of empathy, encouragement and advice after my last post.  I needed every last bit of positive vibes that I could get. 

One person chimed in with advice on getting the carbonation out of the champagne by putting it into another container (in this case I used a my 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup) and stirring the Heck out of it.  It worked!  I finally have flat champagne to cook with.  By the way I made baked fish with it this week and it was really, really delicious!  My husband and I were impressed and made jokes about aging some more champagne *laugh*.

I had people chime in with advice on storing canning jars with lids on and off, which I appreciated as I do not claim to be a canning expert and am always open to learning.

I had a LOT of people tell me horror stories of mouse and other vermin invasions, which on one hand made me sad and horrified for them, but at the same time made me feel so much less alone in my struggles.

So, thank you.  I really do think those two words sum up the best what I am feeling at the moment.  Thank you!

A lot of people gave advice on how to keep mice out of the pantry (speaking of advice people gave) by using metal since mice can't (or don't like to) bite through it and I definitely ran with that advice.  I used a combo of aluminum foil on the interior walls (which I should have taken a picture of as it looks pretty space-agey) and then steel wool jammed into the crevices on the outside walls as seen above.  I let the cats have full reign of the pantry for a good week before I would put anything back into the pantry and then finally the larder beetles started coming back (okay, so I got two adult larder beetles showing themselves in the span of three days and I freaked a bit) to the point that I knew I had to get the house cleaned and so I carefully put the pantry back together so it'd be functional, but hopefully safe from vermin potentially returning.

I did end up spending some of our disposable income (which I was blessed with enough money to have some disposable income, which I was very grateful for) to go and buy peaches at Three Bears this week.  I would normally wait, but I had  a good reason for rushing out and doing that.  When I told my daughter that the 20 pints of peaches I had in the pantry were gone, she burst into tears as she LOVES home canned peaches the most, but peaches in general are her favorite side with dinner.  We go through at least two jars or cans a week (I was rationing out the home canned jars of peaches to make them last longer), so I knew that what little we had in the way of canned peaches weren't going to last us.  Three Bears, oddly enough, didn't have any flats of canned peaches at all (I've heard it was a bad peach year, so that might be part of it) but I did find that they had regular jarred peaches (the Kirkland brand ones from Costco) that came in a three pack.  So, I bought a couple of the multi-packs of jarred peaches to help band-aid the loss of the home canned peaches for Armina.  I'll work on buying a bunch more canned peaches as sales pop or something.  I'm still working on the fine details on the how and where.  I'm still trying to figure out the whole replacing of the stuff we lost, thing and am just doing it a little bit at a time. 

I threw out everything that needed to be thrown away after the mice got to it, cried a bunch of tears, got through that.  I managed to get the pantry cleaned with a lot of crawling around with a hand broom, a bucket of bleach water to sterilize the floor (the son is very allergic to rodents, so I was trying to be super careful when I was doing that), a roll of free aluminum foil (to bunch up and stuff into the gap at the bottom of the drywall around the bottom of the interior walls) and a bag of steel wool out of the garage (which I told my husband I have an IOU to get him another thing of steel wool as soon as possible).  Then I went through, took inventory of what I had left, washed and sterilized all the canning lid bands (and washed down the outside of every jar with a sanitizing solution just to be safe) and dried them out.  I put the bands on all of the jars, stored what was left of the bands in my pressure canner, put the jars that I had left by type into containers to help make stacking them and things easier and got to work.

So, let's take a quick tour of the post-mice pantry.

Right, so here is the entrance to the pantry.  You'll notice that a lot less 5 gallon buckets sit along the walls at the moment.  I wanted to keep the pantry as cluttered as little as possible so the cats could have access to as much as they could, so those buckets are located elsewhere.  The five gallon buckets under the shelves are rice (closest to the door), sugar, all purpose flour and bread flour.  In the Rubbermaid tote on the other side of the door is just some miscellaneous things that I wanted to keep protected like manicotti noodles and things.  On top of the tote I put pans that I wanted to keep off the floor, my manual grain mill and my french fry cutter and a few odds and ends.

The baskets that previously housed crackers and things now house some dried cherries that survived the onslaught (in jars) and the freeze dried strawberries that I had sealed with the food saver mason jar attachment and had managed to survive the ordeal.  In the bottom basket are just some empty plastic containers, so nothing there to attract anything.

Also by the door I put jars of jam that I figured we should use up first since they are getting a bit old.  It's working quite well doing it that way, so I figure that is what I'm going to do from this point forward to make sure the first in first out rule is applied to the jam and jelly inventory.

Next up is the first metal shelf.  On the bottom I stored all of the commercially canned/tinned fruits and vegetables (well except the peas, I put those in another spot, which you'll see in a few here) and put the overflow on the top shelf.  Then I put the applesauce, sauerkraut, jarred cherries and cherry pie filling (as well as a few jars of jams and jellies) on the top shelf as those things are used the most often out of what was left.  I put some of the old shelves from the put together DIY shelves I had and used those as side guards for the top shelf so that I don't lose any jars to an ill timed earthquake.  I kept the shelf out from the wall enough that the cats can fit completely behind said shelf and watch for any mouse invaders (and I can shine a light back there to make sure the steel wool is still nice and secure to the wall).

I then took the other metal shelf and put it facing the other way.  This was done with good reasons in mind, mainly so I could fit myself into the gap between the shelves to watch the outside wall for any potential rodent problems.  This one is pulled away from the outside wall enough that the cats can watch the outside wall.  The shelf is pushed against the inside wall, but under the shelf is completely bare so I can shine a light under and make sure the steel wool is, once again, secure.

I stored the #10 cans of emergency food storage on this shelf, mainly to keep it off the floor to provide less mouse hiding places.  On top of the cans I stored whatever flat boxes I could find to store the jams and jellies to keep them up and safe.  On the one side of the shelf I did stack up the flats of evaporated milk I have, the canned peas (we don't go through many of those around here) and the sweetened condensed milk cans.

And here's the shot of the home made shelves stacked up with odd and end cans, condiments and anything that was on the floor of the pantry.  The bottom shelf that is on the floor is completely empty to give the cats free reign in this area and the entire back of the pantry is empty.  The cats love it as they can run around in there like maniacs all night long.  Hopefully it will do what I want it to do and can keep the food stored and safe from vermin.

So, there you go folks.  The new pantry.  May it do well keeping food stored, safely, from this point forward.

After much inhaled dust (should have worn a dust mask), lots of back pain, knee pain, hip pain, everything pain, etc, it's done.  At least I have my house back again and can get the cleaning caught back up (made decent progress today).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I actually gained something this week!  A new mattress, box spring and pillows!!!  Sears is...well...not doing well business-wise (they went below 2.00 per share this last week from what I was reading) and so they are having some awesome sales to pump up their sale numbers.  And I took advantage of one this week. 

I got an e-mail advertising 60% off mattresses for their labor day event with free delivery and if you spend 50.00 you get 50.00 back in Shop Your Way points (which is basically cash back).  I kind of went on the site for a laugh, figuring there was no way I was going to be able to afford anything, but looking anyway.  And I stumbled across a deal that we couldn't turn down.  They had a mattress on sale for less than 200.00 (down from nearly 500.00), a box spring on sale for 130.00 and with my Shop Your Way points and deals I had from various e-mails I was able to get a mattress and box spring for 260.00 delivered!!!  We used our Sears card to pay for it (the only credit card we really have left) to get the free delivery and things and we got the bed delivered yesterday.  Then the next day I went online and found that the 50.00 cash back points we got would come in 2 installments of 25.00 each (or 26.00 and some change for what we bought) over two months and you only had 30 days to use each installment of points (which of course there's always a catch).  I used the first installment of points to order new pillows for our bed for free as my husband's and my pillows were FLAT and I mean FLAT.  While picking up the free pillows in store we went and got my daughter a white shirt for her orchestra concerts for 40% off, so it ended up costing us 10.00 and some change, which was definitely worth it.

The next big thing that happened this week is that my husband decided we needed to get away from everything (understatement of the year, really) that had been going on around here, so we filled up the truck and headed off on a road trip to Whittier and Portage.  It was a full, but fun day.  We went through the longest tunnel in the country to get into Whittier (fun fact for those who don't know) and went touring the town.  I hadn't been there in about 17 years or so, so it was kind of neat seeing how the town had changed in that time. 

We walked the docks (obviously from the above picture).  I was rather proud of that shot as it came out looking really good, especially for being taken with my Tracfone.

For once the weather was nice in Whittier.  Usually it's raining.  So, it was a really good day to walk around.  We parked in the free parking lot with a free two hour parking maximum and walked around the town, but before that we drove out to the outlaying roads and found one that was closed for construction that had a really nice view, so we walked along that road for quite a while taking in the sights from above.

Long shot of the docks from above.  I was hoping for a bit more detail in the distance, but it still came out looking pretty good.

After we left Whittier we stopped off at the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center in Portage and walked the beach (well rock bed) for a while after we took a quick tour of the visitor center itself.  We got to watch some tourists taking video from above with their drone, which was cool and ran into a couple who were picnicking on the rocks.  The kids had a blast throwing rocks into the water and my husband and I had a good time trying to teach the daughter how to skip stones.

I took a couple of shots of the surrounding glaciers from the shore.  Once again, I am impressed with how good of quality the photos were for being taken with a phone.  It amazes me how far phones have come  when it comes to things like this.
And shot two...
Okay, so both Portage shots look about the same, but they are still pretty, so I wanted to share.

My husband scoped out a few other places he'd like to take us to visit in the area from all of the free tourist maps we picked up, so that'll be fun to go back and revisit at some point.

After the visit to Whittier I've spent the last few days just trying to get caught up on housework as I was already behind with all of the masses of stuff stacked everywhere due to the mouse problem.  Yesterday the bed got delivered, so at least the downstairs looks good (after getting it all nice and clean for the delivery guys to walk through the house and also to make sure the new bed looked nice and was in a clean room *laugh*).

So, yeah, let's get down to the money saving things that happened this week that are more normal day to day stuff.

1.  My mother-in-law invited me over to pick raspberries when I asked if there were any ready, so when my son was in therapy one day I went over and picked raspberries.  My mother-in-law helped me find the ones that were worth picking as a ton of them were just plain rotten on the bushes due to the sheer amount of rain we've had this year.  The berries we picked were so water logged that my daughter and I gave up trying to eat them fresh as they didn't taste like much.  I sprinkled some sugar over them and let them sit in the fridge overnight and then tried them and they were better...more flavor, but watery.  I froze them to help break down the berries further and I'll pull them out later and boil them down into raspberry syrup to top waffles with one night. 

The weather is finally sunny and nice out (for like the first time in forever) for the next week (so sayeth the weather report), so I'm hoping the raspberries will rebound a bit, get nice and flavorful and I'll be able to pick some more to use fresh.  Here's hoping.

2.  Armina is interested in the arts and has been working to improve her drawing and painting skills, but doesn't really want to listen to me tying to teach her about perspective and things, so when she couldn't sleep last night I introduced her to Bob Ross via YouTube.  She was very impressed and really sat up to pay attention to what he was doing.  And, of course, she loved his personality.  I need to find her some of the episodes where he shows off his baby squirrel friends.  She'd get a real kick out of that :).

3.  To help celebrate the coming of fall (which has always been my favorite season), I took the last box of condensed mince meat I had in the cupboard, reconstituted it via the directions and made some mince meat tarts with it.  I got kind of fancy with the upper crusts on most of them (out of necessity as the half recipe of pie dough I made would only make it if I did lattice work for the tops *laugh*) and tried to do a quicky "Pinterest-like" autumn shot with the end result.  It didn't work as well as I'd hoped it would, but the tarts were yummy, so I was okay with that ;).

4.  I worked on decluttering more and while cleaning off the china cabinet looking for larder beetle larvae (better safe than sorry), I found some coasters my son made for me in Kindergarten.  I put them aside to use them more as I think he'll get a kick out of that and really I can always use more coasters.

5.  I found the hole the mice were getting into the house in, I think.  I found a hole under the front porch that followed the ground wire for the well pump.  It made sense since the hole went right through the foundation, into the wall where the mice were and such.  I stuffed the hole with aluminum foil (and later steel wool as I didn't want the copper wire for the well pump degrading the aluminum foil) and then placed a brick I had purchased a long time ago to use for pressing sandwiches (now a days I use all of my various cast iron pans to do that) on top of the hole.  My husband is going to use some duct seal (a plastic-like material used in ducting and things that makes things water tight) he has around the garage somewhere to seal up the hole later, which will hopefully stop the blighters from getting into the house that way.

It's amazing what weird things you can have on hand sometimes.  I mean, doesn't everyone just have a random brick lying around they can use to close up a hole nice and flat?  Of COURSE they do *laugh*.

6.  I harvested some of my monster rhubarb plant, sliced it up and put it into the freezer to make things with later on.  I got two big freezer bags full of sliced rhubarb and I didn't even dent the plant this year!  I'm impressed with how huge that plant has grown the last few years!  It's actually spreading down the hill. 

7.  My husband had a pot luck dinner at work.  I told him to sign up for a side dish and I baked a couple of loaves of bread.  I figure bread goes with pretty much any themed meal and for the most part people are usually happy getting home made bread.

And, yeah, I know there is more that happened, but I've been typing this post for a good three hours.  Alvah managed to come down with a cold over the weekend (we're definitely back to school now *sigh*) and isn't feeling well and is very demandy and the daughter is in and out on the not feeling great scale.  So, I'm going to call it quits and go and take care of them. 

How about you?  How did your week and a half go?  Well, I hope?


  1. The good thing about an awful week is that there is no where to go but up! This week was way better for you, and I'm glad:)

    I'm so happy for you that you got to get away. The boats are so pretty in the sunshine against the blue sky, and the gorge/hills are so lovely. We slipped away for a few days and went camping down at the beach. We had just the opposite--fog, clouds, and even mist. It felt wonderful to us after an unusually hot (for us) summer. When it's in the 90's for days on end, we wilt here in this part of Oregon. We are used to a bit cooler climate. And, I'll admit, we are wimps when it comes to warm weather. Those who read this that are from actually hot places--don't laugh too loud:)

    While we were down at the coast, we purchased albacore tuna off the docks, something we have done for the past few years. The first thing we did when we arrived home was can it that same day, and now I have some tuna in the canning cupboard. I'm trying very hard to get things like tomatoes, fruit cocktail, and other end-of-the summer items canned. Because we use our canned food so much, I like to have a year's supply and a few extras on hand of each item, so that means a lot of canning for us. (I keep a notebook with records in it so I know how many jars to can of each item). Because I can get almost all fruits and vegetables for free by growing them in the garden, or scrounging them from my sister, it is worth doing that. Of course, we pay the price for some things, like the tuna, but it is do-able because of the other things I get for free or very low prices. Thankfully, my husband helps when he can, even it means sitting there next to the pressure canner for an hour and 40 minutes--( tuna takes 100 minutes to can.) This year was the first time I canned chicken, and we did some we got for a very good sale price. I made broth from the bones, and canned the chicken breast.

    When I hear of how hard it is to grow things where you live, and how hard it is to obtain them in the stores if you wanted to buy them, I am reminded of how blessed I am to live in an area that abounds in so much produce and other things that can be canned. Sometimes, I feel I take it for granted since I've lived here my entire life and am just doing what my mother did while I grew up. So, thanks for the reminder that I should not take it for granted, but instead, remember what a blessing it is! I remember the time as a kid when my mother explained to me that raspberries didn't grow everywhere and how I should appreciate them. I must have listened, because I still remember thinking "how can that be?"

  2. Um yep...we've got random bricks too, lol! I am so happy about your new bed! I hope it makes a big difference for you! Your day trip looked like fun, what a beautiful place! Is it cold there yet?

    We also have had a lot of rain, too much! We are double our annual average for moisture, and it just turned September!

    My just turned 6 year old gave us a scare, and not may have food allergies, nuts. It was a nightmare getting epipens, and we ended up having to buy generic ones out of pocket. I am stressed to the max, cant get his skin test for 3 more weeks. Seems like nuts are everywhere, and he is such a choosy eater, but for the first time I am glad. He doesn't understand this, and doesn't have the experience or vocabulary to explain what's going on, and that makes me ex transgender stressed.

    Anyway...I can't wait for your next post, and I pray you find lots of peaches...super cheap.

    1. If you end up needing help navigating nut allergies e-mail me. I’m an old hat at that and can point you in good directions to start.

      You are lucky on the epi-pen front. Even generics here have been on back order for a good six months. Luckily, expired pens have been shown to still be good for at least five years, but MAN it’s still nerve wracking not having current ones.

    2. Thank you! I probably will be emailing you! While the Internet is helpful, it's also scary and overwhelming.

  3. Phew, what a week and a half! You've been on my mind this week, so I'm glad to hear from you. I truly, truly hope that all your efforts will have sent those mice running for the hills. My cats aren't the greatest mousers (one ignores them; the other brings me live ones), but I'm hoping that my giant basement/laundry room clean up will have deterred them, as there's no longer a ton of hiding places down there. We'll cross our fingers together, right? :)

    Your pictures from your day trip are absolutely stunning! I'm so glad you got to get away for the day. Sometimes you just need to leave it all behind. May this week be extra relaxing for you! :)

  4. Glad things are looking up a bit. Just looking at that beautiful scenery would make me feel better though the snowy mountain caps wouldn't.

  5. Glad you got to go out for the day. You needed it. My garden is doing really well here. I have been canning sauce, pickles and jam. Hubby fixed my washing machine too. My full list is here:

  6. Things are definitely changing for the better. The pantry looks wonderful! great job.
    Oh your trip sounds great and the pictures are beautiful.
    Glad life is starting to be favorable again. Blessings sweet girl.

  7. Hey, Erika--I'm so glad you made it through your week, got so much done and taken care of, and fit in a fun day with the family. You've been in my thoughts and prayers all week. Here in Montana, we have to deal with mice and pantries, too. I have one additional suggestion for you that might help. . . now that you have stuffed that crack along the base of your sheet rock with all the steel wool, have you considered going to the Restore (Habitat for Humanies, extra building materials) or even one of the big home stores or a local lumber yard, and buying a piece of builder-grade baseboard to put on the wall against that crack? It would cost just a few dollars, you can cut it with a hand saw, and nail it with tiny (really small, ask at the store) finish nails (a little glue never hurts either). That would fill that crack permanently and the little buggers wouldn't get through. I had to do something similar along the ceiling of my garage storeroom (I called that summer "Mouse-ageddon," LOL), it only cost a few few dollars, and it really worked--gave me a ton of peace of mind. Just a thought. Wishing you the very, very best--you have more friends out here rooting for you than you will ever know :-)


  8. P.S. Even if you don't have the baseboard (which is only an inch and a half or so high) but if you have any strips of wood lying around (like a 1x2 or something) you could use that, too. Any piece of wood tacked over that crack would work fine.

    1. The “plan” is to hopefully, once the mice are confirmed gone, to go and get some commercial plastic-like base board and adhere it into place with a bunch of liquid nail (I figure go hard or go home ;). Hopefully between everything the mice will be gone for good.

  9. I love how when things get all funky, you will grumble and grieve for a bit, then you roll up your sleeves and get going to make it better. I completely understand the first (face it, we all do it), and I greatly admire the second (you are a lady filled with determination). I'm about to tackle my own pantry clean, inventory and reorganization project (we have the little buggers here in Texas too). I got a lot of inspiration from your photos. Just keep on keepin' on girlfriend!

  10. You have certainly had a busy week - but you have accomplished so much - amazing job! So glad you were able to get the new bed at such a great deal. SEARS went out of business here in Canada and left a lot of their pensioners and employees out in the cold so they don't seem to be doing well anywhere at the moment.
    Your pantry looks so clean and organized and hopefully all the changes you have made will keep the mice at bay!
    What beautiful photos - that must have been a lovely day out. And you certainly deserved the break.
    I did a stocktake of my small freezer compartment and pantry a couple of days ago - just the protein options - and was astonished to discover that I had nearly 200 portions on hand. I have slashed the grocery budget for this month and next and will concentrate on using up a lot of what I already have!
    I hope this week is even better than last and that you get to relax at least a little bit!

  11. So glad you had a better week, Erika! I kept my fingers crossed and prayed a lot for you all!

    Congratulations on the new bed - I remember you saying you really needed one. And how nice you can get pillows too! I am sure that will help the back and shoulder issues. Enjoy!

    Your day trip looks so lovely - the blue sky and water are just amazing. Thanks so much for sharing your photos with us!

    Enjoy your week,

  12. Not only is it the longest tunnel, it is the longest 20 minutes of sheer darkness I have ever seen. I remember people turning on their car lights cause it was so scary. Have not been to Whittier in years. Glad you had such a good day.

    Cate in Kasilof <><

  13. What a difference a week can make: pantry organized and mouse-proofed; restocking of some canned goods, berries and rhubarb; new bed and pillows; and a nice day-trip for rejuvenation! Wonderful to hear things are looking up!!

    Pat, Cda

  14. Wow -- You literally got a TON of things done - and how nice just to take a day and go out with your family. Thanks for sharing the pictures -- I live on the other side of the country from you and I think that Alaska is a beautiful state. I hope using the foil, steel wool and finding that hole and closing it up ends the mouse problems for good. I hope you get to really enjoy your new mattress set and take a very much deserved nap!!

  15. Your reorganizing looks great! Did you leave the seed pods on your rhubarb on purpose? The Cooperative Extension course I took here in Fairbanks recommends snapping them off as soon as you see them so that you get a bigger harvest. I just spent two days processing 46 pounds of rhubarb! Rhubarb liqueur, rhubarb jelly, rhubarb syrup, and rhubarb sauce that I freeze and then when I make or open a can of applesauce I add the rhubarb sauce to stretch the applesauce (since the rhubarb is free but the applesauce is not). Tomorrow I am making rhubarb apple chutney and rhubarb fruit leather...I wish my tomatoes did as well as my rhubarb!!

    1. Wow! Awesome use of all that rhubarb! My rhubarb is a weird variety. It goes to seed twice a year versus once and if I snip off the seed pods in Spring it gets sick looking, so that is those dead seed pods. It’ll go to seed again soon and I’ll snip those off and the rhubarb will be fine. I asked the cooperative extension service about it and the person I talked to just kind of grinned, shrugged and said we have like 40+ types of rhubarb up here and they have different quirks.

      How do you make rhubarb sauce? That sounds like a great idea to help extend the applesauce!

  16. Erika, thanks so much for the update! Your pantry looks great, and it sounds like you've taken some good steps to prevent further incursions.

    I'm glad you got a chance to take a break from all your hard work, and to enjoy a bit of your beautiful state. What a gorgeous place!

    Congratulations on the wonderful deal at Sears! Our nearest Sears is closing soon, and supposedly had some great deals. Yet when I went to check out their "marked down" appliances ("as is" floor models, no warrantee) since our stove is on the way out (oven died), the prices were still higher than Home Depot and Lowe's. I got a much better deal from Home Depot on my new stove--plus it's brand new, with a full warrantee.

    Replacing the stove is the latest in a string of replacing dead or broken appliances this summer; not terribly frugal, though I've managed to get good deals on my new phone, iron, microwave, coffee maker, and stove (our very old dvd/CD player has apparently given up the ghost recently as well, but we had a very basic one upstairs that works well enough for the moment). It's got to the point that if I hear something making a weird noise, I expect it will be next on the DOA list! Strange timing, but sometimes that's how it goes.