Monday, October 25, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times...uhh...some)

I have to say as time lapses have been on the blog, this one was actually one of the busiest.  It has been truly crazy around here.  So, let's get down to what has been going on around the homestead!

Well, first there was sickness that hit.  I got the kids their flu vaccine and immediately we all came down with colds (not flu, thank goodness, but a cold my husband probably brought home from work).  We came out better than my poor mother and father-in-law who both got taken out at the knees with Covid.  My mother-in-law is feeling better, thank goodness, but like a lot of older people I think full recovery is a ways off for both of them.

Then there was physical therapy, which I've been working hard at.  The stretches and exercises they have been giving me to do at home have been really helping my back and strengthening muscles I've not been able to strengthen in years (two C-Sections make it hard for me to get abdominal muscles to do much).  Despite medical bills giving me hives, the physical therapy really has been worth the money and I am glad that I gave it a shot (thank you to all the folks who encouraged me to go.  I appreciate it!).

I then spent a HUGE amount of time working on rearranging the pantry (still buttoning that up, but I'll share pictures when I'm finished), using up old items that needed to get used up and taking an inventory of things I needed to fill in what remained of the holes in our household supplies.  The way inflation is going it really is wise to stock up now if you can.  I've gotten somewhat addicted to researching the logistics sector of the economy (global and local) and everything going on in the world and I'm just not seeing much relief from our current economic woes anytime soon.

While going through my long term food storage, I did find a bunch of items that need to be used up within the next five years.  Since these are big cans I'm going to have to use up, I'm going to start trying to tackle these items gradually and probably trying to seal and store the left overs to gradually use them up over time.  

PFDs came in and pretty much immediately went out again.  I used some of the money to buy some groceries to add to what we had (which met with limited success as the stores were out of a bunch of stuff I'd put into my order and I ended up having to order some stuff through Amazon anyway...frugal fail) and the rest just immediately went to paying down bills.  Since 2500 dollars (at least) is going right back on the credit cards as soon as medical bills come in...I'm glad I was able to pay down bills and save myself some additional interest doing it that way, at any rate.

I also had to get the paperwork done for Alvah's TEFRA renewal, which is always a bunch of work.  Got that done (I hope) and submitted and hopefully we are good to go until the other 1/2 of the paperwork needs to be completed later on.  

I also at right about the same time as having to do that, I had to get the kids work samples into the home school for the first quarter of the school year.  That's another bunch of work to get done, so I am glad to have that submitted and off of my "to do" list.

So, let's get onto other things I've been up to!

1.  One night my Armina came running out of her room and told me I HAD to look at the sky as the Northern Lights were out and were truly spectacular!  I went and looked out the window and was absolutely blown away by the light show.  I even got my nearly asleep husband out of bed to check the lights out.  I was even able to stand out on my deck and watch the lights in a t-shirt as it was actually rather warm that night, which in itself was miraculous as normally the Northern Lights come out when it is clear in the winter, which usually translates to super cold temps.  I have never seen the lights that bright and dancing before.  It was amazing!  

I then learned that the reason for the lights was because the Earth got hit with a solar storm and it effected the magnetosphere.  If you weren't able to see the lights you can see some pictures and read more about it online in articles like this one.

2.  When I got my "Pick Up and Go" order from the store after dividends came in, I ended up getting a free sample of "Coke with Coffee" in with the order.  I decided to try it and I have to say that I really like Coke and do enjoy drinking it from time to time and I drink coffee every day, but this stuff I did NOT like.  I thought Coke with coffee added was going to be basically Coke hyped up with extra caffeine from green coffee bean extract or something, but no.  It was fizzy, which threw me first as I was expecting more of a flat beverage.  I also could not taste coffee in the drink and I sure could not taste Coke in the drink.  What I DID taste was fake caramel flavor.  Fizzy fake caramel flavor.  I took a few sips to give it a fair shake and ended up throwing it away.  It just was not my thing.

3.  I have found a few new YouTube channels that I thought you guys might want to check out.  First, I have become a bit obsessed by a YouTube channel based in Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world.  I find it so funny that the town is much like an Alaskan town in the way it is set up and the way they do things up there.  Now mind you we obviously have trees down here where they are above the tree line (like Barrow and some other Northern Alaskan towns), but yeah it is a neat place.   The vlogger I follow is Cecilia Blomdahl and her vlog can be found here.  

Another vlog that is a great one to check out if you guys want to see a bit more of a more Northern town from here (they are near Fairbanks) is Somers in Alaska.  They are located in North Pole and try and run a very happy vlog, which in the current conditions of everything, I've really grown to appreciate.  If you are curious about Alaska pricing on things, as well, as they do Costco runs and things and show you what things are going for in their area, so if you are curious what Alaska pricing is like they are a good one to follow :).

4.  A while ago I bought some Red Robin seasoning salt on Amazon to go on French fries for the son to try and cut down on the amounts of times we'd have to eat out (he's going through puberty and as a result has some really bad mood days and things of late, probably because he's aching or hurting, but with him it is hard to say as he can't tell me what is wrong yet).  It worked out well, but I was running out of seasoning salt and the prices online shot through the roof and our local restaurant was out.  So, I decided to try my had at some copycat recipes and see if I could come close.  I ended up using this one and honestly?  It didn't turn out at ALL.  I was worried when I got done shaking it up as it was white from the onion and garlic powder in it and sure enough it TASTED like garlic powder and that was it.  I ended up adding a ton of McCormick seasoning salt to it and some more sugar until I got something that was at least palatable.  So far the son isn't impressed with the mixture, so I'm going to see if I can work with it to the point he'll tolerate it until the restaurant gets more salt in.  

Oh as a side note, thank you to the people who bought and sent me spices and things after the earthquake.  I have been using the containers as I empty them and I just refill them with herbs and spices I get in bulk or I'll buy them in envelope types of packages and refill the bottles that way (if you like good quality spices that ship up to Alaska with free shipping might I suggest The Spice House as they have "Flat Packs" that ship free, even up here, and it is a nice way to get fresh spices and herbs (the amounts are pretty decent too for a good spice outfit as well...not an affiliate or anything...I just like the product) that you can just dump into a container (or you could keep them in their flatpack envelopes I suppose).

5.  It took an old, holey sock of my husband's and repurposed it to use as a dusting mitt.  It worked out really well and I was able to clean out some hard to reach spaces with it.

6.  We took a small portion of dividends to buy the rum, brandy (we don't do the cognac, but just use very special brandy instead as it is a lot cheaper...sorry Alton Brown) and bourbon to make aged eggnog so it would be ready around the holidays (you are supposed to age it for a while to get the flavors to mellow and blend together and make it really good :).  Christmastime is the only time of the year my husband and I drink and this is what we drink, so we make a point to make it so we can enjoy our little 1/4 cup portions of eggnog through the holidays *laugh*.   

We ended up with a HUGE bottle of rum as my husband found it to be the best deal (he bought it from our local bulk store).  I looked at the bottle and knew that it would last us probably for the rest of our natural lives (I mean it is huge) and thought for a moment on what I could use rum to make.  I quickly came to the decision that I would have to use a portion of it to make rum raisin ice cream as I haven't even SEEN that flavor of ice cream since moving to Alaska and I used to like it.  I'm not sure if it is a East Coast flavor that just doesn't make it to the West Coast or it is something that just doesn't really sell well up here or what, but it just doesn't seem to be a thing up here.  I've never made it from scratch before, so it might be a fun thing to try out this winter.

7.  I made an appointment for later this week to get a yearly physical done.  Since it is covered by my insurance and such I knew I didn't have a good excuse to skip it.  And I found a good OB-GYN that is local and covered by my network, so hopefully it goes well.

8.  Instead of going out to eat, I told the family I would make fish and chips at home.  This has become a bit of a treat for the family and I really don't mind doing it as instead of 60.00 for us all to eat out, I can make fish and chips for less than 20.00 for the entire family by just buying some cod and making it myself.  

By the way, I was asked by a blog reader if I had a good recommendation for a deep fryer.  I bought this one  (no affiliate link or anything, just sharing) a while back (it is, of course, more expensive than when I bought it.  I got mine for about 50.00) and I absolutely LOVE it.  It is different from other fryers I've had in that it has a hidden cleaning tube that you can pull out to drain the oil from the fryer to strain or throw away.  After draining the oil and scraping out any big chunky things with some paper towels, I just put the plug back in the tube, fill the fryer with hot soapy water on the side of the sink and then wash it with some paper towels while it sits there and then drain out the soapy water through the drain tube, take my sink hose and rinse out the fryer one more time to get the soap out, plug the tube and put it away and then dry the sucker with some dry paper towels (I always use paper towels to avoid getting any residual oil onto my good towels and things).  Put the fryer basket into the dish washer and done.  Now, I always fry with the lid open, which some people complain of the oil leaking down the back of the device if you leave the lid shut.  I can't testify if that happens because I don't close the lid, but yeah I really like it.  I love that I can actually clean it without trying to rewrite the laws of physics to get the old oil out of it and things *laugh*.

9.  The weather here has been all over the place.  We went from pretty cold temps, to warmer temps, to snow and then back to like summer transitioning to fall weather.  It is just one of those falls.  I, at first, didn't get to cleaning the old plants off the deck in time for them to avoid freezing the old soil in the pots, but I waited until warmer weather strikes and then I'll take a few planters at a time and go and empty them down in the old garden bed.  

I'm down to just the big planter that is too heavy for me to do on my own (I might just empty the soil into a bucket a bit at a time to make my life easier and do it that way).  I stuffed the old planters into some of the old cinder blocks from the chimney (we use them to store the air conditioner on top of when it is not summertime) so they are protected from the wind and weather, put the remaining planters I have to clean out under the eave of the house and got the grill all nice and clean (and then I end up using the grill again as the weather it too nice not to grill, but I try *laugh*) and moved back over.  And voila!  Clean deck!

10.  I mended an old Carhart jacket of my husband's that had ripped out from the pockets upward (pretty typical as Carhart is a heavy canvas material).  I mended the rips as well as I could and knotted and sewed a bunch of points above where the material had torn.  I'm hoping it will act as a "rip stop" kind of like when you replace a zipper and have to sew a zipper stop into the zipper when you put it in the right spot.  Hopefully it works and the jacket can have some additional life put into it.

And yeah, I'm going to call it good there as I'm working on about 3 hours of sleep a night at the moment (the son isn't sleeping well) and I'm barely awake today.  Hope you all are well and I WILL try to get back to blogging regularly again here as things start to settle down a bit.


  1. I always enjoy reading your blog. Have you asked the physical therapy place if you can do a payment plan? They have to know how expensive it is for those of us with high deductibles. I commend you for making your own fish and chips. It took me years to get up enough courage to bake and grill fish...I doubt I could ever fry them. Do you have a good recipe?

    1. The physical therapy place has been really good to deal with when it comes to payment stuff. I have been keeping them updated on my deductible because I knew the MRI was going to take out a good portion of the deductible for the year, and I was right. Unfortunately, now I have 1700.00 just for the MRI I have to cough up and that isn't eligible for a payment plan (my insurance did cover 50% of the MRI, though, so I really shouldn't complain as 1700.00 is a heck of a lot better than 3400.00). The physical therapy place will probably work with me to figure out a payment plan for the other like 650.00 I'll owe them by next week (I have a doctor visit that cut into the deductible too, so cuts down on the bulk amount I'll owe PT before the deductible is met and my cost per visit goes down). But, yeah, I'm not sure how it is going to work out overall. I'll have to see how it all shakes out.

      With fish and chips recipes, I usually go for Alton Brown's recipe here

      But I switch out just club soda or sparkling water for the beer (we don't normally have beer around the house) and it comes out good. Of late, I have been just going the easy route and buying big boxes of Krusteaz Tempura Mix from Amazon and just figured out the ratios to make 1 cup of the dry mix into tempura batter at a time instead of going for a full box method like the instructions on the box give you. I really like the Krusteaz mix as it is easy (you only need cold/ice water to make it) and the seasoning ends up being pretty much perfect without you having to do anything :).

  2. I use rum to make homemade vanilla extract. Recipes say to use vodka but I find that using rum or burbon gives it a more mellow flavor. All I do is buy the vanilla seeds, but them open lengthwise to allow the vanilla to get at all the goodness, and put them in a jar of rum. The longer you steep, the better it tastes. I have some taht steeped for over a year. I have also given it away as gifts, in a fancy container. Vanilla is so expensive these days that this saves money and I never run out.

  3. I've read about the Northern Lights all my life but I've never been far enough north at the right time of year! I did hear about the solar storm and watched some of the display on Youtube - one of these days!
    I have watched the Somers in Alaska blog and boy - prices are crazy! Even though we complain down south - and prices are going up and up - you guys have it much tougher!

    I like my coffee - not a coke drinker - the combination of both sounds awful!

    You could always use some of the rum to make your own vanilla essence if you can get beans. About two years ago I made a batch using rum and another using vodka and I use one or the other for certain baking. I haven't seen Rum & Raisin ice cream in years! When I was a teenager one of my first jobs was scooping ice cream during the Summer and it was the year that Rum & Raisin first came out and was really, really popular! It took me months to get the smell out of my brain!!

    Hope your in-laws feel better soon. I had my flu shot last week and when the pharmacist checked my records she asked me if I felt like a pin cushion yet - in the past year I've had 2 Covid shots - 2 pneumonia shots and now 2 flu shots! Cover booster should be coming up in January! Oh well - I'm grateful that these things are available and down here - all free.

    Hope you have a good week.

  4. Oh make vanilla extract with that rum.
    You sure keep busy. I love reading about your life.
    I would love to see the Northern lights once in my life.
    Hope everyone gets back to 100% well!