Saturday, April 11, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)

It has been a rough few weeks around here.  I've been TRYING not to be obsessive about reading the local news as I know it isn't going to be good news.  Unfortunately, our legislature didn't disappoint and local folks up here are getting the federal relief and that is IT (and only the stimulus payments right now...a lot of bulk "relief" money the state is just plain pocketing and not passing on to those who need it the most).  Which with our cost of living...the federal stimulus payment doesn't go very far.  For some folks it won't even pay their rent so they are going to try and negotiate something out with their landlords so that they don't lose the roof over their heads.  It is BAD.  We are looking at a horrible depression up here when the smoke clears just from the virus, let alone the fact that our state government has cared nothing about expanding business interests up here beyond oil and now the oil industry is crashing on top of it.  The future is bleak, let's just put it that way.

Bright point for us is that my husband is an essential service, so he at least still has a job.  I worry about him going to work and such, especially since the virus is going crazy in Anchorage, but at least we still have a paycheck coming in and he is being as super careful as he can (as are the other people he works with).  I am also truly grateful that my half sister back East was able to fight off the virus *knock on wood* after one relapse and seems to be doing okay now. 

We lost a part of our barn roof during some high winds we were having and I've found we are losing more and more tar paper covering with every breeze we get, but at least my husband found the piece of roof that had blown off and it didn't hit anything other than the ground, so that was a relief.

I am reading all kinds of blogs where people are growing food already and I have to say I'm a bit envious.  I have tried to start cats killed them with extreme prejudice.  Even though the starter pods were TEENY TINY the cats see dirt and that's that.  I need to see if maybe my husband can help me figure out a spot to start seeds that cats and kids can't get to, but in the meantime I am living vicariously through others.  I can't start seeds outside anytime soon.  Normally we are at least looking break up in the face this time of year, but the air still has a bite of snow to it and we have gotten snow a couple of times the last couple of weeks.  I actually let the kids stay out for a long time sledding the last week as the snow finally compacted down where sleds would go over it really well.  The daughter had a blast.  The snow that is left on the ground is melting very very slowly, so if this trend continues I'm thinking June is probably my best bet for getting seeds in the ground.

So, with everything going on with local politics and everything, I kind of panicked and I knew it was time to go full on self sufficient as much as I can.  Survival, even if it is survival until the economy recovers elsewhere and we move, is on my mind big time right now (and with the huge resurgence of people showing interest in Victory Gardens and things, I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here).  So the last few weeks I...

1.  Ordered seeds. 

Right, so a LOT of seed companies are completely out of seeds right now or are not taking orders, which threw me when I went to just order seeds for a big garden (and hopefully some type of greenhouse) this year, but for those in Alaska we have another option and that is Denali Seed Company.  Denali Seed Company sell seeds tailored to our short growing season and they offer a range of seeds to grow in the ground, in greenhouses, in container gardens, etc.  So, I put in a big order with them and got my seeds in within a week.

2.  I ordered a wheat grinder. 

I have an emergency cast iron wheat grinder that I bought years and years ago, but it basically just has built in uneven metal on it, no burrs or anything that you can replace and my coffee grinder works to make a super coarse grain flour, but I can't get it beyond that.  So I went online to look for a wheat grinder.  Turns out everyone is sold out of those too, including the Mormon Church (they are out of food storage that you could order online brain kind of melted when I saw that).  I found a commercial outfit that was still taking orders online, so I ordered a grinder.  I hope.  The website works funky and while I got a confirmation order via e-mail, I haven't heard anything since.  Since they are a commercial outfit, this doesn't really surprise me much, but we'll see if and when I get said wheat grinder.  I hope it all works okay as I have a ton of wheat that I can grind and with the way flour is completely sold out everywhere and such...well...fresh ground flour is healthy and with tons of wheat around, it is free, so I'm figuring that it definitely a good thing.

3.  Still debating on....

  • Getting meat rabbits going
  • Getting a few backyard chickens again (at least I feel more confident in my ability to take care of chickens now that my husband has worked at his job for a while and gotten into a more stable payment schedule).
  • Saving up to get another freezer and buying like a half of a cow.
  • Buying a CSA (to support local agriculture to help it survive and also to make sure I still have fresh food in case of things like moose wiping out my garden again).
  • Getting a wood stove so we have an additional source of heat and another way to cook food (I have NO idea what our utilities are going to look like when this is all said and done, but I can say it probably isn't going to be pretty...going off the grid as much as possible seems like more and more of a viable idea).
This is what I am using our government stimulus money for.  I've actually gotten chewed out by a few people I know that were like, "but you are supposed to go and buy stuff at box stores to boost up the economy" and I am trying to get across to them that the bigger picture is something I am focusing on hard right now and that picture is one where being self sufficient is not only a good idea, but might very well be a downright necessary one and keeping money local is really important too.  Especially up here.  And I am lucky in that the stimulus money, for us, can be used to help these efforts, where a lot of people are trying to figure out how to stay in their apartment even after that check comes in.

So, yeah, anyway, other than putting myself into debt to put myself into a better position to be as efficient of a homemaker as I can for my family, what else happened the last few weeks? 

Well, for one thing I got a bill from our doctor's office that charged for doctor's visits for my husband back to July of last year (they have had terrible problems with their billing outfit back East for a few years and finally just started doing in house billing this last year), so I had to put nearly 600.00 onto my Care Credit to get that bill paid off.   I'll pay it off either with the stimulus money when (if) it comes in or pay it off over the next six months.  We'll see how it goes.  At least this bill had the visit with the EKG and things on it, so I don't have to worry about that bill coming up later and biting me in the rear.

Right, let's move on to brighter things.  Onto money SAVING things that happened this last week.

1.  Our home school will pay for things like Raddish, Kiwi Crate and things if you want to supplement your lessons with them through your allotment money, although this year is done for purchasing and things since school ends next month for the summer.  I have been really intrigued with a few of the box subscription services for Alvah  the last bit (thinking interactive kits that are just HIS when they come in might really make him feel special and help to engage him more), but didn't want to just commit next school year for an entire year or something and waste the money out of the home school allotment if it wasn't at all great or Alvah didn't show an interest in it.  So, I went online and checked out a few outfits to see what I could find.  I found that Raddish will sell old kits that are discontinued on a one time basis, so I went through and found one I figured would be fun to try.  I used a 5.00/1 code for your first order and got the box for 19.00 shipped.  I also went to eat2explore and checked out their boxes as well.  I really liked that their boxes came with some ingredients, like sauces and seasonings, but am a bit concerned as they said that their stuff could be processed with peanuts in their packaging facility.  So, I used a one time 20% off code and got a one time box to see what it entails and what kinds of allergens we are dealing with (you can order a country as a one time purchase whenever you want through them, which was nice, but they also charge shipping on the boxes so it is a give and take there).  I figure if it isn't safe for Alvah to do the eat2explore box I'll work on it with the daughter, which will still be fun.

If nothing else it'll give us a new activity to do while we are staying at home.

2.  I started watching a channel called "Party Kitchen" on YouTube.  Some of the episodes are subtitled in English and some aren't, but I love watching the Japanese cooking videos and things that are subtitled.  The videos are so calming and she makes truly yummy looking food :).

3.  I started watching "The 1940's House" on YouTube again.  It is something that I find relatable to our current set of circumstances with the shortages and not knowing what is going to happen next.

I find that I really enjoy watching YouTube or Prime Video at night when I am waiting for kids to go to sleep and I have to keep the house pretty quiet. 

I have also not missed one video that Townsends has put out during this entire course of events.  He's making some really great content and is really trying to help people keep things in perspective, keep their spirits up and helping people learn history at the same time.  I love that channel :).

4.  I took advantage of some quarantine freebies for the kids.  Our Sea Life center down in Seward has been doing virtual animal tours and things during the week and while we are usually in the middle of home schooling when the things air they are available to watch later, so we have had fun looking at the animals.  We have also taken some virtual museum tours, which the daughter has gotten a big kick out of.

5.  I paid my bills online and switched a few things that I had missed over to paperless statements and things.  It helps to keep more paper out of my mailbox, saves some trees, and saves me having to throw more things away later on. 

6.  I went shopping last night to pick up some prescriptions for the son and to get what I could for groceries that we have eaten down the last month.  I was surprised how much the store had changed with the six foot markers and such and was also rewarded to find that they had milk.  Also found that I wasn't the only one who had avoided shopping as milk was marked down to 1.66 per gallon, so I got two gallons when I was only planning on getting one.  I also found some meat on reduced as well, so I was able to get a pack of chicken drumsticks, a package of thin cut steaks, a huge things on hamburger (2.49 lb!)  and some boneless chicken thighs decently cheap.  I was grateful to find those things in stock as the meat has been pretty much empty the few times I've been to the store since quarantine had started.

The store had a bottle of cleaner/sterilizer at the front of the store with paper towels for you to wipe down your cart, which I did and then I got a few clean towels and saturated them with cleaner and as I went about my business I sterilized items as I put them into my cart as well as wiping handles on coolers and things as I grabbed items.  I got a few thanks yous from older people that I was doing that and I noticed a bunch more people doing it by the time I left the store.  Hopefully if more people pick up that habit we can help flatten the curve just a little bit more.

7.  The son has been on a destructive tangent of late (which has not helped my stress levels), which helped to add to the "rough" that I was speaking of earlier.  I was so happy with how my Aerogarden lettuce was coming along and had even harvested from it a few times this last week.  I walked into the kitchen one night to find that the son had found the lettuce, thought it was a toy and had out and out killed it...uprooted it, the whole nine yards.  I was so upset for a little bit, but then took a deep breath and calmed down, harvested what lettuce I could that was left, moved the Aerogarden to the top of the microwave (outside of Alvah's normal play zone on the counter top) and started over with my last three Romaine pods.  They are just sprouting up this morning, so hopefully they'll grow as fast as the last batch did and I'll have fresh lettuce in a week or so.  Thank goodness I had taken pictures of the nice, huge healthy lettuce earlier that day to send in for work samples to the home school later as I had incorporated hydroponics versus traditional seeding methods into his learning plan (since we are studying the plant life cycle and farming methods).

But, yeah, the new Aerogarden spot is seen up top.  May it live this time.

8.  I made sure to use up EVERYTHING that I could and went through my rationing books and things to try and find more ways to not waste food.  I'm working on making sure things like potato peels and things don't go to waste.

9.  I baked bread and tried to make sure I ONLY made enough food to last for dinner and maybe a few days worth of left overs (making sure on leftovers days that the husband and/or the daughter would eat the left over food for lunches later on) .  I made some thin cut chicken breasts one night that came out kind of dry (I baked them on the fly as time got away from me, which probably helped that to happen), so I used the left over chicken in salad along with some wobbly celery.  We ate the salad for dinner one night and then I ate it for lunch for a few days as well.  It worked out and nothing was wasted :).

10.  I mended, yet another, tear in a comforter.

11.  I shopped from the pantry as much as possible, which I have to say when you aren't going to physical stores much at all, it is a really good feeling to have a well stocked pantry.

12.  Took advantage of Rifftrax offering a free rental of a new movie that has come out from the director of "Time Chasers".  No Rifftrax involved in it, but if it is anything like the guy's previous movies it sets the stage to be a hilarious entertaining film in its own right.

13.  I went online and printed off some free coloring pages and fact sheets about Vermont to supplement the son's new geography unit.

14.  I redeemed credit card rewards that were available on my credit card.  I used said card  to pay off some of my medical bills back in January and then paid the card off so I could get the rewards.  Since it was used to pay for medical bills I got extra bonus points for using the card to pay them off.  I redeemed the rewards for a 10.00 Amazon gift card and a 25.00 Red Robin gift card.   Right now with how crazy everything is and how normal schedules are all screwy, the son can find it hard to cope, so going to get take out from Red Robin is one of those things that makes him so happy that I was thrilled to get the gift card to help make a trip there for food affordable.

15.  My rice cooker completely died, finally.  The built in silicone sealing ring started to disintegrate from age and use and steam started leaking EVERYWHERE resulting in crunchy, unevenly cooked rice.  The son eats a LOT of rice, so I could not be without a rice cooker.  Luckily, though, I had my spare Zojirushi rice cooker that I had picked up at the used store a while back for cheap. 

I was worried about ratios of rice to water as it seems that every rice cooker can be a little bit different.  I had done a trial run with the rice cooker a while back and it worked okay, so I wanted to make sure that I added the right amount of rice to water and things to make sure the rice cooker would hopefully live a good long time (and give me good rice as trying to find rice right now is like trying to dig up gold in your back yard.  You MIGHT find it, but probability is against you).   So, I went online and downloaded the manual for the rice cooker and found, much to my delight, that my old rice measuring cup from my other rice cooker would work just fine, so that'll make my life easier.

And there you are folks.  Some of the things that have been happening around here.  Hope you all are well and hanging in there!  Keep the faith!


  1. Many here are starting gardening - but it is still too early. Next week below freezing temps many nights here in Indiana. Just staying home and using what I have, Work outside when weather permits and doing many small projects inside the house.
    Sorry about the barn roof. We had a horrible storm this week and a tornado touched down a few miles away. It was sure scary.
    Continue doing such a good job - you are very creative.

  2. I live in Vermont, I hope you enjoy learning about our state. WE have moose too.Black bears, a tiny baby bear was found this week, 4 months old and only weighted 2 lbs. Maple syrup is a big Spring project here. We are on lockdown here. Just at home using up pantry food.

  3. Hi Erika, look at these 2 websites for some meal ideas with food on hand. A Girl called Jack and the 1940's experiment. You need to put a knot in the thread of the rope you are hanging on to! It is very scary out there. No doubt about it. You are one of the more resilient homemakers I read online. Take care of your health and your family's.
    Barb in PA...Clorox is the new Perfume in my house LOL.

  4. You are doing a great job taking care of your family, and in Alaska you are given a tougher set of circumstances. It truly is a challenging life up there, but a beautiful place to be. A greenhouse sounds like a good way to go if you are able. I have been starting seeds indoors, and getting our garden space ready, plus most of our flower pots will now be used for growing additional vegetables and herbs. Definitely a year to garden, and hope the critters don't get to it before we can. I've always been impressed by your resilience. A follower of yours, Cheryl in WA (who lived in AK for a short time)

  5. It has been really hot here. Sat this evening on the patio in shorts but will be cold again next week and could still have frosts before May so holding off sowing things for a while. You are doing amazing. I love reading your blog. If you are interested Thrifty Lesley has a food blog with menu plans on really low budgets.

  6. Hi Erika, We bought a woodcook stove 3 years ago after reading this blog review. We love it and rarely need to run our gas heat unless it is below 10 for a few days running. We bought from a different supplier than she did, but it is the same Amish . made stove she reviews here.

  7. I've been to the Sea Life Center in Seward! It was amazing!

  8. You've been busy, Erika!

    I, too, am grateful for our jobs - I'm working from home - but I'm worried about John going in to work each week. He only goes three days but, still! He goes right into the laundry room, strips and puts everything into the washer and then into the shower. Strange times for sure.

    Groceries are expensive and odd here in the Midwest too. We were able to get several things but there are others that have been out for weeks and no end in sight. I bought a turkey breast this week since it was on sale - not something I had planned on. It's about two weeks too early to plant here but I'm starting a few things inside - cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. I grow those things anyway, but usually buy starts. My typical place to buy is not selling this year (no workers) and my CSA closed after last season. So, lots to grow this year! I'd like to can enough pasta sauce and pickles for the entire year this year. We can do this!

    Best wishes and Easter blessings!

  9. I do not have a rice cooker, but have excellent luck cooking it in my Instant Pot. I don't know if you have one of those or not, but I love cooking rice in there.

    I'm glad you got to get some groceries. I live in Oregon. We went through a time at the beginning of the shut-downs where the stores were extremely empty, especially in the baking, freezing, dairy, etc. departments--oh yes, t.p. and cleaning supplies, too. Now, I'm noticing that a lot of things are back in the stores, except the t.p. and anything with disinfectant like wipes. You can get them occasionally, though. Today, my aunt went to Costco by herself, at 8 am, since she's over 60, and got almost all of what she went for. So, we'll see how it turns out, but things seem to be leveling out a little bit around here. The prices are still up, though, and if we see it, we buy it, regardless, because it may not be there when we finally get back to the store.

    We "collected" groceries last week, and this week we aren't grocery shopping. I say that because it's rare to be able to fill our entire list at one store, which is unfortunate in these times.

    Last week, my daughter and nephew unwrapped a lot of Safeway Monopoly tickets, most of which were given to them by people who didn't want to mess with the game. We won several grocery items. My daughter has taken over the entire game and has entered the codes on her phone (my account, since you have to be over 18). She won us a $25 Safeway give card a few weeks ago and now I need to figure out what to do with the remaining tokens on that account as I believe the game is almost over. Keeps the kids busy, that's for sure. (We work with my autistic niece and special needs nephew through DD services, and thankfully are considered necessary--so we go over there, or they come here--only 2 houses either of us go to). I'm very glad your husband has been able to keep his job.

    I've read your blog for years, but only recently figured out why my computer wouldn't let me comment--for like the last year--hopefully fixed for sure.