Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)

First, thank you to all of the concerned e-mails the past few days asking if we are okay and such because I hadn't posted the last few weeks.  I had planned on blogging a bunch this month, but it has been so insanely busy around here that I just plain couldn't seem to find the time to get it done.  Luckily, home school is almost done for the year (I still plan on teaching the son a couple of days a week all summer long just to make sure he doesn't lose skills, but it is going to be a lot less hectic), so I'm looking forward to having a bit more time to do things I WANT to do versus things I have to do soon.

Right, so what have we been up to the last couple of weeks?  Lots is the best answer.  Let's get to it!

1.  When meat packing plants started going down due to the virus, I knew that our already sporadic supply lines were going to suffer even worse and was getting worried about food security (panicky would actually be more accurate).  I also looked in our freezer and realized that the weeks and weeks of not shopping much had really eaten down our freezers to a point where I really did need to start figuring out ways to restock them.  Our stimulus payments came in and first I paid off what I could for bills and then I started to look into getting meat.  I looked to local sources, figuring that those would still be available, and I was right.  Now it was a matter of figuring out what to get and where to store it.

I really wanted to just invest in a half of a cow (which the remainder of the stimulus payment would nearly cover), but also knew that I wouldn't have the freezer room to do it unless I had an additional freezer.  I looked at our old small block freezer out on the deck and wondered if we could fix it somehow, but also decided to look into potentially getting just a new freezer if we could get it (contingency plan and all)...and I found out some depressing news.  Turns out that a major component in microwaves and freezers comes out of China and the stores were completely out of freezers and were wondering if and when they would get freezers back into stock.  So, that was a dead end.  I went out and cleaned up the small block freezer on the deck after talking to my husband about trouble shooting what might be wrong with it.  My husband looked at the freezer and wondered if the cord was to blame for our problems and the freezer's failure as he couldn't find anything glaringly wrong with it, so I pulled the freezer into the kitchen (our outside plug in/receptacle doesn't work, it turns out when I plugged it in out there) and plugged it in after bending the prongs a bit so it would plug in decently tight.  Sure enough it worked. 

So, my husband changed out the plug on the freezer with a replacement he had on hand (which is a LOT better and way more stable), stuck an amp monitor on it and we waited to see what would happen with it.  When it worked great for three days straight, I called up our local butcher shop and ordered a half of a cow beef pack.  It took a week (lots of meat and them being slammed with orders combined to create a bit of a wait), but we picked up the meat on Thursday and filled up the small block freezer with beef.  I had a plan when I ordered the meat so it would all sit pretty much flat and would stack well in the freezer  (ordered lots of steaks and only ordered roasts that I knew would cut pretty flat) and how I would stack up the huge amount of hamburger we would end up with from the cow and it all worked perfectly (I love it when a plan comes together).  Once the beef was completely frozen through and we were sure the freezer wasn't going to fail, I ordered some chicken and some pork and it is currently on order with the butcher shop.  I'm looking forward to getting the call to go and pick that up sometime soon.  Once we pick that up we should be pretty set on meat for a while, which will be a huge load off of my mind with how things are going lately.

2.  I also took some of the stimulus payment and purchased a CSA through one of our local farms.  For 12 weeks starting at the end of June I'll be getting a box of fresh produce every week.  So, even if the garden doesn't do well this year, I'll have a contingency plan (and really extra produce is not something I am going to complain about right now) and we'll have some fresh vegetables around here.

3.  I started actively searching through the freezer and pantry to use up ANYTHING that is a bit out of date and needing to be used up as we are not wasting anything if we can absolutely help it.  I used up some home canned cherry pie filling and made a cherry pie one night for dessert (I have frozen pie crusts to use up as well), made beans and rice with some moose hot dogs that a friend of ours had given us years ago and were sitting vacuum sealed in the freezer (the daughter liked it), used up some older vegetables that I had and threw them in with a pork roast when I pressure cooked it and other things.

I also made fondue with little bits of dried out cheese we had shoved in the back recesses of the fridge.  The fondue, due to the lack of moisture in the cheese, came out a bit grainy, but it still tasted good and we enjoyed it with free bagels (frozen from the Safeway Monopoly game) and vegetables dipped in it.

4.  Speaking of using things up, I ran across an older package of bacon buried in the freezer when I emptied off one of the shelves (like I said...we definitely have eaten down our freezers the last bit) and when I ran across a package of split peas in the pantry I knew what I would do with them.

I made one of my husband's favorite "survival" types of foods.  Erbswurst.  Overseas people can buy Knorr Erbswurst already prepared so you can take it hiking or whatever, but over here it is impossible to get unless you are willing to pay a pretty good amount of money to buy it and ship it to Alaska through a German online market or something. 

I made Erbswurst...geez...years ago for the husband to try and he loved making pea soup with it, especially when he was sick, but eventually the parchment paper coating on it went moldy and we ended up throwing a bit of it away.  This time I made it the right way.  For fat I used lard that I had in the freezer and I followed the recipe exactly.  For the casing I used some fibrous casings I had bought at our local sportsman's store a long time ago.  I had originally bought it to make summer sausage with, but had run out of frozen ground turkey that I needed to use up, so I ended up only using like one casing before putting the rest into storage for later use.  So, I used up some of the casings and made some Erbswurst and now my husband has ready made pea soup for when he needs a protein boost (that's the very green sausage seen in the photo above).

5.  I baked a lot the last few weeks to help stretch meals (and supplies really).  I made honey bran muffins (from a mix I had in the pantry), biscuits (to avoid making rice as I'm trying to make that stretch as far as I can), bread (for toast and sandwiches), cookies (for snacks) and lemon bars.  The biscuits lasted several meals as the daughter and I found we liked to eat them at breakfast with some jam or butter on them (I actually enjoyed mine with some ginger curd I had in the pantry :).

6.    I had a pile of Monopoly coupons that I hadn't put in the online codes for.  I pretty much gave up on the game when the virus hit as the idea of searching through the store to find this or that free item was not going to happen as I have been trying to avoid shopping and in the event I DO go shopping I am trying to get in and out as quickly as I can to avoid exposure to people and things people have touched.  But, I had the coupons, so I went online and entered my codes.  I then redeemed them all for gas rewards to use them up, which worked out great as with the cheaper price on gas as well as the fuel rewards I was able to fill up my truck for just over 20.00 (and I was running on empty).  I have to say that the oil industry tanking is rough because I know it is killing my state, but on a micro level I really am enjoying the lower fuel prices to fill up my vehicles.

7.  I sewed masks the last few weeks.  I made a couple for my husband for work (so far...I still need to make about three more) and I made a few for the kids and I.  I am hoping to sew more in the next couple of days. 

For anyone looking for a simple tutorial for masks I definitely suggest this tutorial by "Billette's  and Baubles" on YouTube.  I searched through many tutorials before I found hers and I hers was definitely the best, and easiest, one I found.  I ended up making my husband's masks with some bias tape ties instead of elastic (he has a big head the elastic wasn't going to work for him) but for the kids and I the masks work just fine.  I used materials I had on hand to make the masks, which definitely made them cost effective.

8.  The second round of Aerogarden lettuce is doing well and I harvested it a couple of times this last week.  I am happy that we have fresh lettuce to harvest already even though the threat of frost isn't past yet, so I can't really plant a garden quite yet :).  And, so far, the new spot on top of the microwave has kept the lettuce safe from the son, so yay for that!

9.  I had fun re-watching parts of both the "Wartime Farm" and "Edwardian Farm" series.  I'm actually finding that both have lessons that can be learned and applied to our current world situation.

10.  I found a few English muffins in the freezer that needed to be used up as well as a small baggie of tomato sauce.  Combined both of those with some frozen mozzarella cheese and voila!  I got to introduce my family to English muffin pizzas (a staple of my childhood).  The daughter really fell in love with them, which was nice as those are at least something she can make on her own to start on her cooking adventures.

11.  I made a menu plan for a few weeks when I had a free moment and managed to stick to it pretty religiously the last few weeks.

12.  My daughter's current (and probably last for the year) science unit called for us to find a microscope to study cells with.  Normally our home school would have those available to borrow, but with the schools closed that wasn't going to be an option.  Luckily, my husband and I have picked up educational tools over the years and my husband dug up a microscope we had.  The daughter LOVED using it and the unit as a whole and had a lot of fun.  One of the great benefits I've found from home schooling is being able to enjoy when the kids really actively love to learn something :).

13.  I gave the husband another haircut this week.  I ordered this (no associate link or anything, just sharing) with my husband's credit card rewards to help me gauge the length of hair as I cut (I'm terrified of ending up giving my husband a bowl cut looking haircut or something) and I went and studied some tutorials online on how to give haircuts on top of it.  We are going to cut the hair a bit shorter in a couple of weeks to slowly get the haircut to where my husband likes it, but so far he's happy with it, so I am thrilled that I didn't mess up his hair too badly *laugh*. 

My husband is really hoping I can get good at cutting his hair so that he can get haircuts more often.  With his work schedule and things it has always been kind of hard for him to find time to go and get his hair cut, so if I can keep his hair trimmed it'll save him a lot of grief, save us money in the long run and make us more self sufficient.  All good things.

14.  Spring/Break up hit, finally, and then the last few days it has actually been rather warm (nearly 60 F, which for us is summer like weather :). I've been able to open the windows and doors (and really upstairs it is necessary as it gets rather warm with the sun upstairs by the late afternoon) to let in fresh air and more importantly we've been able to turn off the electric heat during the day, which has definitely been a relief as turning those heaters off lets me see an immediate reduction in our electric bill.

15.  The husband was able to clean off a bunch of the broken things from our deck the last few weeks.  Not only were we able to fix the freezer (I say "we" but I mean "he"), but he was also able to haul off the old broken oven and such.  As a result the deck has so much more room now and I will have room to put a container garden out there now, which is good as the moose and rabbits can't get to plants out there :).

16.  Since summer break, for us, is imminent, I sat down and figured out a painting schedule for the other rooms in the house.  I am looking forward to doing the home improvements as the paint is already bought and all it will take is time and effort to get it done.

17.  My husband was also able to clean the garage more, which he was happy with as he's been trying to get that done for months and it seemed like he could never get time to do it.   He was able to get a new receptacle put in (one of the benefits of being married to an electrician) to work on a dryer he was trouble shooting and he'll be able to use later (he wants to get into appliance repair work, so he was happy to have the test receptacle for electric dryers and things installed :).

18.  I added water to a shampoo bottle that was "empty" and was able to extend the life of the shampoo by quite a bit.

And there you go folks.  Some of what we have been up to the last couple of weeks.  How about you?  I hope everyone is hanging in there!


  1. Glad to hear you are doing well and that you have accomplished so much.

    It has actually been an expensive few weeks even though I have been in lockdown since March 17th - it is extended until May 12 and no school before May 31st (no one really expects the schools to reopen until Sept.) and we don't really expect any type of easing up before June and even then it will be very gradual. I think we have all resigned ourselves to this and the vast majority support it - especially as the Canadian Govt. has done a good job of looking after the majority of us financially - and making every effort to fill in the gaps when they become apparent. And since we have a nationalized healthcare system at least there are no worries there.

    I had a good pantry in place before lockdown so I've only been to the shops 3 times - but have to admit I have done some "panic" buying - although the only thing that has been consistently difficult to find is flour - especially bread flour, yeast and of course Lysol wipes! The meat section has looked a bit more scarce since some of our meat processing plants are also closed - but - people seem to be adapting.
    I have also spent quite a bit of money buying disposable masks and gloves. Figured I'd get ahead of the curve as it is becoming fairly obvious that they will be required more and more, especially as things open up a bit. Next week I will order an N95 mask as I'd like to have that as the subway starts to get busier - although I have plenty of time so even if its on back-order it's not an issue. I've now added a ziplock bag with extra masks & gloves to my purse and a ziplock with Lysol wipes to my tote bag.

    I have been doing some work from home and we are being paid full salary so I am very thankful for that. I went into the office for he first time for a few hours last Friday and will go in again next week just to do some work that can't be done from home. It is very, very quiet on the subway and downtown and even though its odd, it's nice to have a change of scene. I only work PT anyway so it has not been terribly onerous. I had been meaning to do some research and now I have the time to go through the materials I've accumulated so might be able to get a bit ahead with writing some articles that will be used later.
    Otherwise I've been reorganizing, cleaning (finished the last closet today) and cooking. I plan on working on personal paperwork in May, plus I'll switch over the Winter and Summer clothes (I'm just hoping that the Summer ones fit with all the extra cooking and eating)!

    Have a wonderful week.

  2. My daughter has taken over the Monopoly game this time. She's enjoying it. We haven't shopped very much lately--2 weeks ago was the last time I was in Safeway, but my husband went there today. People have given my daughter so many tickets they don't want to deal with. She's loved the whole game, and it's helped us all. She entered all the points over the past few weeks, and had received the gift cards that are available. Today, she used every single remaining point for food items, and I will have her and her dad get them tomorrow, along with the one ad item we were waiting for tomorrow. I've let her choose the pasta, get the items, get donuts, etc. during the game so she feels like it was worth her while. I was shocked that they still had the $10 off $50 coupon, but I downloaded it right away!

    I'm glad you've got meat. We still have some of the 1/4 beef we purchased last fall, and will get another 1/4 this fall, I assume, since we always do. Local is a good way to go. It's hard to break a supply chain this short! We have some frozen chicken, but may buy more. I have some home-canned tuna and chicken. Hopefully, this summer, we can get more tuna from the docks. But, none of this is cheap, so I'm glad you got the check (and us, too!)

  3. I would suggest that as a precaution you open and check your freezer daily just to ensure it is working and your meat is frozen. Better safe than sorry is my motto when it comes to freezers. I had a friend whose freezer went out unexpectedly and she didn't realize it til everything had defrosted. She had a horrible, smelly mess to deal with plus the loss of all the food. In Georgia we are still dealing with flour shortages especially bread flour. Toilet paper and paper towels are still wonderful finds here and limited to 1 package of each--if you can find them. There is a lot of limit 1 or 2 on items- the latest at some stores is meat, eggs and bread. I lucked up and was at a Dollar Tree and the employees were unboxing hand sanitizer and alcohol-- limit 4 each. It is a new way of life but I have noticed on my few trips to stores that everybody seems calmer and friendlier so there are pluses to be found. Enjoy your blog so much.

  4. Buying local is a good thing as the small businesses are definitely hurting. Doing haircuts at home is definitely a great money saver. My husband has been the family barber and stylist for years. I take a seat, get caped and have him trim my long hair every couple months and he gives my teen boys their haircuts every three weeks. He is very meticulous in doing them and I get asked where I take them as he does such nice work. So I am definitely happy with him doing them.
    We have venison in the freezer from the hunting season and we get eggs from our chickens. The manure from the chicken we use in compost for fertilizer for our garden. We can and freeze fruits and vegetables. They taste great and being our garden is organic, I know that there is no pesticides in the food.

  5. Your biscuits are BEAUTIFUL!!! I wish I could make mine looks so light and airy. They look like they melt in your mouth. YUM!

  6. Thank you for linking up hair clippers. Ordered immediately! Who knows when we can get a professional haircut again. Plus look at the savings! I think you are amazing! All the things you accomplish! Wish I had been able to do all you do when I was a young housewife. Kudos to you!