Friday, June 18, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

I remember when I was pregnant my dad shared with me what he considered to be the first universal truth of parenthood.  

"Once you have kids, you will never have money again."

What?  Oh, yeah, that is the type of advice and things my dad would give.  He loved to share, "Smile, it can always get worse" when you were down.  You had to know my dad.  He had an odd sense of humor *laugh*.

What my dad didn't tell me was that if you ended up being a special needs parent?  That truth about not having money is double as it seems you just end up spending any extra money on things that you hope will help with one of numerous problems.   Add in medical conditions, like for us it is battling allergies and horrible eczema...and yeah...what's money again?

Anyway, despite having an emergency visit to the local mattress store to get the son a new mattress as he killed his old one, having to buy things on my Amazon card to get safe snacks for the son to eat and things...despite it all I did have a few things that saved money the last little bit.  

One of the main things I'm doing right now is cleaning and organizing and figuring out what I need for food and things in the pantry and such.  I started on our hallway closet first which is where I really wanted to keep snacks and the son's main snack foods he lives on as well as drinks.  Drinks had gotten really bad and were spread all over the house as the hallway closet was a mess and I didn't have room to store drinks with everything else.  Turns out, when it came down to it, I had next to no food left in the hallway closet.  I didn't realize how bad it was until I gutted the closet completely and pulled out all the empty packages that no one in my family throws away but me it seems *grumble*.  Seriously, who has a snack closet just full of empty packages and doesn't tell the person who does the shopping?   Ugh.

I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out why my husband had developed a nasty vending machine habit at work and how to curb that bad habit as it was getting expensive.  Now, it all made sense.

So, I had ended up putting together a big order of quick foods from Amazon so we had snacks again.  I know that a lot of people probably don't do snack foods, and I don't blame you, but my son lives off of crunchy carbs for the most part (and he's picky about those foods as well)  and if I took those away he would quite literally starve, so I depend more on snack foods more than most people.  And my husband at his current job rushes through lunch every day and ends up having to snack a lot to keep his energy level up through the day just to get through the workday and then to get through the hour commute each way, so snack foods have become a necessary evil around here.

Anyway, I sat down and figured out what we were going to get in and drew up a plan for the closet so that the maximum amount of things would be organized and easy to get to (and obvious to me when they needed to be replaced).

I became somewhat obsessed with watching pantry reorganizing videos on YouTube for a bit to see if I could find good tips on how to do a reset on a minimal budget.  That was until I realized that there was a definite TREND to the videos.  They all went like this...

1.  Wait until your snack foods and things are down to next to nothing (check that one off on my part).

2.  Plan food order to restock (check on my part).

3.  Go to Ikea.

4.  Buy every single organizing container Ikea has.  In bulk.

5.  Put food away in pantry so it all looks pretty.

Okay, so after step 2, that formula fell apart for me.  For one thing, we don't have any Ikeas in Alaska.  At all.  The nearest Ikea to me is Washington state, so yeah...that was out.   For another thing, even if we did have an Ikea nearby, I didn't have hundreds of dollars to spend just on storage containers to put food in.  I'd rather spend those hundreds of dollars ON food if I had it.

So, I decided to get creative.  I did buy a few things from Amazon to help organize things.  I bought these bins (no associate link, just sharing) in beige, but I got them for 12.00 instead of 30.00 as they were cheaper when I bought them and they had a coupon for 60% off on the bins as well (I honestly would not buy them for 30.00 as no cloth cube thing is that mind blowing).  I used those bins to place individual bagged snacks like chips and things and since everything was lightweight I just stacked the bins on top of one another.  They worked well for that and I'm refilling them with different things as spaces develop, so they are functional.  The top shelf is for overstock and is definitely full now that the Goldfish crackers are in (I got two of these as getting Goldfish from Amazon is WAY cheaper than buying them for 13.00 per carton at the store...and both kids and husband love said crackers, so they will definitely get eaten).

I also bought these (once again just sharing) so I'd have some more big airtight storage containers to place granola and trail mix in.  I would use some of my Tupperware collection to house the trail mix and things in, but I found I'm actually using all of my complete Tupperware containers and I haven't been able to find Tupperware at the used stores in a long time.  I got my new storage containers in damaged packaging from the Amazon Warehouse for 16.00 and I used a 10.00 giftcard I got for doing a survey to help pay for them as well.  I was happy that the products seemed just fine.  The box was thrashed but the containers were "like new" just like they said.

I was really determined to have trail mix in our new snack stores.  I had always just bought Enjoy Life trail mix in the past, but decided that I wanted to get more bang for my buck, so I went searching for ingredients instead.  I actually ended up buying  a bulk order of six bags of Enjoy Life Mini chocolate chips as they are SO much cheaper buying them through Amazon (and they finally ship them up here!!!),  my son absolutely loves the things and he doesn't get them very often (7.00 a bag at the store tends to dissuade me from buying them for him).  I then got a bag of dried fruit that had a really nice variety in it (is cross contaminated with tree nuts, but not peanuts, so I'm happy), a big bag of sunflower seed kernels (once again, cross contaminated with tree nuts, but not peanuts), and a bag of pumpkin seed kernels (which on their own would be WAY too salty, but in the trail mix they worked, thank goodness).   All totaled between coupons and sales on the items, I spent 34.00 for everything, which is not too bad for allergy friendly items and the trail mix will last quite a while around here.  I love having a big container of trail mix all made up and ready to go.  Anytime someone is feeling peckish in between meals, I point at the trail mix and tell them to grab a scoop.  It works great and is really tasty if I do say so myself and I have enough dried fruit and chocolate chips to make another big batch of trail mix (and the sunflower seeds are cheap on Amazon, so that won't be too bad to buy :).

But, yeah, everything else I used to organize with was things I scabbed from around the house.  I rearranged my laundry room so that I could organize my cleaners better and put some of my little used appliances down there to free up room in the hallway closet (like my food processor and things).  When I reorganized the laundry room I managed to empty out a wooden caddy that I've had since the kids were little that we got a set of Melissa and Doug blocks in.  The box is wonderfully made and has been super useful over the years.  Now it is being used to hold individual snack packs of cookies, crackers and fruit snacks so that the son can get to everything easily and not destroy a package to get two cookies out of it.  I then stuck the container of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal that I put in a Tupperware container up front so he can grab it easily to snack on.  I also, once again, reused the wire stacking bins that I got at a used store ages ago and am using them to store extra Cheetos and Doritos for the son (as well as some packs of cookies and crackers) so I can pull down the top stock as needed to fill his snack drawer that sits below everything.  

I grabbed Tupperware containers I had around the house that were missing lids when I bought them (or the lids had broken, etc) and filled those up with individually wrapped snacks.  And I, once again, utilized the good old Sterlite shoeboxes that I bought for 1.00 a piece years and years ago and have used for tons of things ever since.  It is truly amazing how versatile those storage containers have been (you can see the Ramen is being stored in some in the picture), they stack easily when you aren't using them for things and they are just great workhorses.   I used the super long Pullman pan I had bought ages ago and don't use (the recipe the pan calls for uses a ton of butter and so I don't make it very much at all) and put our various flavors of Pocky sticks in it.  I have been a fan of mango Pocky for a while and ended up breaking down and ordering myself some as I have to get them online as the local stores don't carry them.  We also buy the chocolate and strawberry flavors from the store and keep them in with our snacks as that is one of my daughter's favorite treats.  

I went down in my den and grabbed a second set of grey plastic utility shelves that I had put boots and things on in the past, emptied them off and brought them upstairs to put in the closet.  The first set of shelves (actually it was originally one tall shelf that I bought at Wal-Mart years and years ago, but I, long ago, separated the unit into two different small shelves and lost the connecting plastic tubes long ago) has been in the hallway closet since we moved in, I think, and I use it to hold some of my appliances that I use somewhat often (currently my bulk mixer/back up mixer, the blender and the deep fryer) and I put a big drawer from another set of Rubbermaid drawers I had at some point that I realized would fit perfectly on the bottom shelf and act as a snack drawer for the son's most commonly eaten items (Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos if you can't tell).  The second shelf is being used to store drinks so that we can actually get TO the drinks and the space is being utilized better.  I then grabbed a small wooden stool we had in the bathroom for years for the daughter to boost herself up to wash her hands and things and I use that to reach the higher shelves in the closet if I need to get something down to restock them.  It fits perfectly in front of the son's snack drawer area and gives him enough room to access everything, but the stool is still nearby and useable.  

The granola and the trail mix ended up by the microwave on the sideboard so that I could get to them easily as I am eating granola on my yogurt every morning and I dip into the trail mix often (in case you were wondering where they ended up).  

So, yeah, is everything Pinterest pretty?  Oh Heck no.  Is it functional?  Yeah.  It is a bit clunky in places, but when you have weird spaces to deal with for things, you have to deal with what you have, especially when you have multiple things to juggle when it comes to food and such.

So, yeah, next time you need to organize a space, but you don't have money to do it?  Don't let it deter you and just work with what you have.  It might not look Instagram ready, but it'll be functional just the same :).  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably not have bought the beige bins for the chips and things as I realized after they shipped that I could have cut down some boxes, decorated them with fabric or paper and it would have done the same job.  Once they were here, I just decided to keep them because I didn't want to go through all the hassle to return them,  I blame lack of sleep for not thinking of the cardboard idea beforehand.

So, when it comes to money saving things, there are a few more things on my list the last bit.

1.  I started going through my pantry (more on that organizing later) and found that I've been doing a good job of rotating our food storage, so everything that was past it's expiration date was only out by a few months versus a few years or something.  And a bunch of stuff I was worried about actually was doing fine and the expiration dates on the items wasn't for a few more years.  So, I am proud of myself that I'm doing okay not buying a ton of extra stuff that we may, or may not, use.

2.  I mended some shirts.

3.  I was able to diagnose a problem my husband was having online instead of us having to spend money we didn't really have.

4.  I e-mailed my insurance agent about our home owner's insurance renewal for the year and this year was the first year ever that our home owners insurance actually applied our insurance score without the consent form they always insisted on in the past (and would then ignore until after my escrow paid their inflated bill which would lead to heartburn on my part trying to keep our escrow accurate so our mortgage didn't increase at the end of the year), so our escrow will be right for the first time ever without me having to jump through tons of hoops to get there.  Woot!!!!

5.  I worked on decorating a bit with things we already had around the house (mainly figuring out where to hang stuff up on the walls).  I'm happy with how it is turning out and has cost me nothing to do.

6.  I used gift cards I accumulated through Swagbucks to pay for my husband's Father's Day gift.

7.  My husband set up the air conditioner when we realized that the weather was going to start getting hotter via the weather report.  I think this was the first year where my husband got the air conditioner in when the weather wasn't horribly hot and he was comfortable on the deck putting the air conditioner in instead of baking while doing it.

8.  When the weather started getting hot, I utilized my grill a lot.  So far we're still on the same tank of propane we bought a few years ago, so I'd say we are doing pretty well for a less than 20.00 fill up of a propane tank :).  I really like my new grill as it is just the right size for the four of us and being smaller than my old grill, it takes up a lot less room and I'm able to clean it more efficiently (since it's smaller the grill can actually fit in my kitchen sink enough that I can clean it there).

And, yeah, I am sure there is more in my list, but I misplaced said list (you would think I'd just put memos into my phone to remember these things, but nah...what's the challenge in that?), so I'm going to call it good there, BUT, let's get down to the garden for this year.  Spoilers:  It looks different *laugh*...

So, when I realized that the temperatures at night were FINALLY going above 39 degrees F, I told my husband we had to go to the nursery to get seedlings to plant.  With the temps at night being unseasonably cold, it was kind of a "if I am going to plant things it has to be NOW or never" type of deal.   So, we started by going to my favorite nursery we had used for years, only to find that all but one of their greenhouses was closed and they were retiring, so there was next to no plants in the one greenhouse they had open.  I guess Covid just made up their minds for them and they decided it was a good time to call it quits.  Sad.  I'm going to miss them. 

Luckily there were other options.  My husband suggested going to Bushes and Bunches garden/greenhouses in Palmer, so that is where we ended up going.  So, so glad I went there as they had a nice variety of things and their prices were good :).

I had already made a deal with my daughter that she could choose and grow her own flowers this year, so all of the flowers are her choices.  I was hoping that they would have calendula (pot marigold) so I could get some for skin creams and such, but they didn't have those available.  So the shot above is of some of the plants before they got put into their permanent homes for the summer.  Here's a quick shot of after...

Yup, we went with a container garden this year.  We had originally hoped to maybe get a greenhouse in this year, but with the price on construction materials and such...there was no way that was going to happen.  So, we wanted something that would be safe from moose and hopefully slugs, so we decided to go for a deck garden.  Seeing as how the deck is two stories up, I'm hoping it won't run into too many pest problems to deal with.

Next up, after deciding that, was trying to figure out planters for things.  I had bought cabbages and chard to plant, so I knew those would need their own planters so they would have room for their roots and leaves to spread out, so I dug around until I found every single planter, pot and other things I could plant in from pretty much everywhere around here and I still had my husband pick up some cheap black plastic planters at Home Depot so I could get a decent variety of things planted.

So, here we go, let's break down what I have planted so far...

My mixed chard area with a lettuce planted up front too.  Next to them is the mini-Petunias that my daughter picked out.

The extra seedlings are in the little plastic pots still off to the left.  I'm not really sure if I'll plant most of them.  The lettuce and chard I can harvest small if I don't find planters to plant more of them in.  They came in mixed flats for 2.00 a piece, so I ended up with a bunch of extras on some plants.  Like the parsley was in a pack of 6, which I definitely do not need to plant six parsley plants.  Anyway, I planted a pot of mixed flowers in the back (we have extras of those too), and then I planted the petunias in a big clear Rubbermaid container I used to store potatoes in in the pantry.  

Next up is a cabbage I planted in a black pot and a mixed herb and lettuce garden I planted in a big Rubbermaid drawer from some unit we had at some point or the other.  I also planted a single pole bean in the back of the bed.  Will it grow there?  I have no idea.  But, it's worth a shot.  I planted parsley, sage, rosemary and summer savory (they didn't have any thyme, or yes, I would have finished up that song lyric *laugh*).  I planted a mixed lettuce/greens mix up front along with two buttercrunch lettuces.  I doubt they'll get very big in the planter, but small lettuce leaves still taste like lettuce and will work for me :).

A couple more cabbages that I planted in planters we had in the house and shed, and my biggest excitement of the year...

I'm so stupidly excited about this thing.  This is a Red Robin patio tomato plant.  It only grows to be be about a foot high, is supposed to produce prolific amounts of cherry tomatoes for such a small plant and it is meant to be grown in containers.  It actually doesn't do well in garden beds from what I was reading.  It is supposed to be put in a planter 7 to 9 inches in diameter and the pot it came in is 8", so I'm just going to leave it in it's current pot.  So far I am seeing a TON of tomatoes developing, so I'm hoping with the help of some fertilizer and some TLC this sucker will give me yummy cherry tomatoes here soon :).

Up last is a shot of the basil plant I have planted in an old flower pot that I've had for a long time and was sitting in my shed.  Next to it is my, very abused, catnip plant I bought that the cats did their best to kill.  It is now up higher so it can hopefully start to grow out and I can harvest some catnip to dry for my drug addicted felines *laugh*.

And there you go folks.  My garden for this year.  Other than my rhubarb plant in my yard this is all she wrote for plantings this year.  Hopefully everything grows well and I can put up a decent amount in my freezers between what I can get out of my garden and out of the CSA box that I bought for later in the summer.  Fingers crossed :).

I'm going to call it good there.  How about you all?  Been up to anything this month?


  1. I think your pantry makeover looks very nice and I hope it’s makes life easier for you.
    No Ikeas in Oklahoma either but I seem to manage just fine without one 😊

  2. Your pantry looks good so does your garden. I have a container garden this year now I only have a patio. Apart from some flowers I have chard, salad leaf and herbs. Now I don't have so much room my food store is in 2 drawers under the bed. All dried or canned stuff. The trail mix is a good idea.

  3. You probably already know this, but in case not: Pinch off the top of your basil and the sides will branch out. You will get A LOT more basil from the one plant.

    1. Thanks! I am so glad so many people suggested I do this. The top 1/2 of the plant is now in my freezer *laugh*. Hopefully it will branch out now :).

  4. I feel you on the snacks! My daughter (divorced) and our 2 grandchildren live with my husband and I. My grandson has some special needs and must have goldfish 7 days a week to go along with his peanut butter sandwich at lunch. My granddaughter also has sensory issues including food. She needs crunchy snacks and really likes mini saltines. I just eat unsalted regular saltines. My husband will only eat ritz crackers, my daughter buys only vegetable based chips and crackers for herself. That's just the crackers! My husbands sense if taste is way off now from his cancer (he is now cancer free), so he will only eat certain foods, needs lactose free ice cream, I only eat sugar free popsicles, grandchildren like regular ice cream. Never even mind the different regular foods! I am creative with storage like you.

  5. We do have one thing in common and that was a need to get the food stuffs organized. With threats of items not being available this past winter, I did a little extra shopping to try to be prepared. The problem with that is I have limited storage and had ordered some totes with lids to store some things which created it's own little problem, along with storing things in various other locations, most of which involved hanging upside town to root through to locate what you needed. (everything close to the ground) So, after discussing the expense (it wasn't cheap) I ordered an actual pantry. It's 30" w x 16" deep x 6' tall. My husband is trying to figure out how to put it together right now. Looks like lots of pieces. Anyhow, I look forward to getting organized and getting an accurate inventory. It will also open up some other areas to store things that are shoved in corners of closets etc. Like I said, it wasn't cheap, but we decided my sanity (and no expired dates) was worth it so I'm looking forward to finishing that project this week. Yours looks great and it's always a good feeling to be in control of something. Good luck with your planter garden. When it came to now or never here, it ended up with never. It's probably for the best because we are now fighting a drought situation here. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so am hopeful that happens because after 11 days at 90 degrees plus, and no rain, it is very dry. Fire hazard dry. Ranee (MN)

  6. Trim the top half off of the basil. It will start to branch off where you trimmed and become bushier. I have a recipe for pullman loaf that uses 3 T of butter. Would you like it? My husband makes it about once a month and we enjoy it. Lastly, I have seen fun tutorials for covering cardboard boxes (ie amazon) with fabric to make some pretty storage. I know that missouri star quilt company did a video tutorial on it.

    1. I would love the recipe! Is it for a 13" pan? That's what I ended up with as it was the only one available when I bought it. I didn't realize how huge it would be when I got it. I'll take a regular sized pullman loaf recipe, though, as Julia Childs had some great hacks on how to just make a regular loaf pan into a Pullman pan on her cooking show (I ran into it on YouTube :).

    2. Here it is. Keep an eye on the raise in the pan. Ask me how I know.🙄

  7. You've been productive! The organized snack closet looks great and your daughter picked out a gorgeous combination of colored flowers.

    One plug for more parsley - it is one of the most alkalizing foods that we can consume. Alkalizing = liver cleansing which makes weight loss easier and strengthens the immune system. I add fresh parsley to smoothies, salad, and sometimes make a parsley pesto.


    1. Thanks for the advice on the Parsley. If I can find some other things around here to plant in (and another place to dig dirt as my old garden beds are getting kind of holey *laugh*) I'll definitely try and plant some more.

  8. You and I have very different lives but you are a great inspiration to me. I always look forward to your updates and hope you never stop. And now I'm going to go see what I've got that I can repurpose to organize my own pantry. :0) (PS, I don't have a URL and can't remember my Google account number so I had to comment anonymously, but my name is Julie and I live in Colorado.)

  9. That is some good, creative re-use of things you already had! So much more satisfying to fix a problem without paying anything for the privilege. ;^)

    I would surely love to see that recipe for Pullman loaf, susanb


  11. You've inspired me to clean out and reorganize my pantry(s).