Monday, February 27, 2017

This Week's Dinner Plans

As we near the end of February, Husband let me know that he's gotten very close to $100 in Ibotta rebates.  Since our grocery budget this month was $180, this has a pretty significant impact on our ability to stretch our food dollars.  With Ibotta deals, he has stocked up on several kinds of yogurt, some cereals, a new product called Truvia Nectar, various teas (the sachets you put in hot water, not pre-made bottles of tea), some Ghiradelli cookie mix, along with rebates on produce, chicken nuggets, and lots of other items.

He's also been getting a lot of good sale and coupon matchups, and he picked up some bread at the outlet store, which was free because we had completed our punch-card.

The produce sales for this week were not stellar, but we had some items in our crisper drawers, so we're set for the week.  Husband picked up a head of romaine for 1.29, a zucchini at .99/lb. and a tomato and bananas that were free with Ibotta rebate.  We still have cucumber, carrots, onions, apples and oranges, and a bit of red pepper.  Here is this week's plan:

M:  Asian lettuce cups (beef, carrot, celery, onion, pepper, cucumber, peanuts, Sriracha, sauce), sliced oranges
T:  smoked pulled pork sandwiches, Waldorf salad
W:  canned soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, sliced apples
R:  super nachos w/lettuce, tomato, sour cream, etc., sliced oranges
F:  salmon with herbed compound butter, steamed rice, cooked crispy onions
S:  spaghetti w/tomato sauce, green salad w/dressing, garlic bread, fruit salad
S:  grilled chicken, mixed vegetable stir-fry, sliced apples

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments for the Week

Husband is still rocking the grocery deals.  We've spent very little at Safeway, but by combining sales and coupons with Ibotta deals, we've gotten more of the Monopoly game cards (and more yogurt, and canned goods, etc.).  We've gotten more coupons from that, along with instant wins for a couple of donuts or bagels (our choice), a french bread loaf, and a pound of bananas.  He's also gotten a couple of $5 credits for Fandango and a free online cooking class.  He also had a couple of gas discounts as a side effect, and used those to save 20 cents a gallon on gasoline.

Husband and I are watching an HBO series we borrowed from the library.  We've also checked out books and other materials, and I downloaded my five free songs for the week from Freegal.  I'm building up my Dan Fogelberg collection, five songs at a time!

We've gotten some seedlings planted for our garden.  There are a lot of flowers, a few herbs, some tomatoes and Malabar spinach.  Everything else we plant will go directly into the ground when it's time to plant.

I met a friend for lunch.  We had been going out to local restaurants (Wendy's, Culvers, etc. with a coupon), but this time (and hopefully, moving forward), we had a BYO picnic at a local park.  I took a peanut butter sandwich, carrots and celery, a can of soda (which I ended up not drinking, and saving for the next day), water, and chocolate chip cookies to share with my friend.  On another day, Husband and I had a lunch date at home.  It's only 2 1/2 miles for me to go home, and we shared a nice lunch and watched an episode of the HBO series I mentioned above.

Husband let me borrow his backup ear buds for listening to music on my phone.  I have had a terrible time findind ear buds that don't just fall out of my ears, but these have two sizes of silicone covers.  The smaller ones work quite well.  I will likely, eventually, order a pair of these ear buds from Amazon, where we have a fair amount of gift card credit on our account.

I've been working on a jigsaw puzzle in the evenings.  We purchased it at Goodwill, and after I've completed it, we'll likely send it to my in-laws in a care package.

We did some pet sitting for our neighbor.  When we need someone to feed our critters, they will return the favor.

I cleaned the light fixture in the kitchen.  It is an open-at-the-top bowl, so it gets pretty dusty.  When I replaced the cover, it was a little brighter in the kitchen.  I've read tip sheets before that suggest making sure all your light bulbs are clean/dusted, because they will give brighter, better light for your money.

Vegetable and dinner scraps went into our 'chicken bucket' and were given to the chickens as a supplemental treat.

I've attended a committee meeting, a training session and helped with interviews at a different location from my primary workplace this month.  I will turn in my mileage form for mileage reimbursement.  The reimbursement for mileage is higher than the cost of fuel for these trips (it also covers wear and tear on the vehicle) and will help supplement our fuel costs for the coming month.  If your company reimburses for work related mileage, I would definitely document mileage and turn it in - it can make a big difference!

We hung our laundry to dry, as we usually do, and used our wood stove to help heat our home.

How did you save this week?  What did you do to use what you have on hand?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Italian Chili Recipe

Since it was requested, I thought I'd share this recipe here.  It's adapted from a Rachael Ray magazine, and it's pretty tasty.  According to the recipe, it serves four.  We think it's more than that - we get two suppers for three people, plus some leftovers.  In the summer, I add a shredded zucchini squash to the whole thing too!  Like most recipes, it's a starting point, and adjustments can be made to suit your preferences.


1T. oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chili powder
1T. Italian seasoning
1 lb. Italian sweet pork sausage, casings removed, or you can use the 1lb. tube of italian sausage from the supermarket that's in the case next to the breakfast sausage
1 28 oz can (or 2 15 oz. cans) plum tomatoes OR diced tomatoes with liquid
2 c. chicken stock
2 15 oz. cans white canellini beans OR dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2T. chopped parsley


Heat the oil in a large pot, add pepper, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and stir occasionally until vegetables start to soften, about 3 minutes.  Stir in chili powder and Italian seasoning, cook until fragrant., about 1 minute.  Add crumbled sausage, and continue to break it up while cooking - cooking about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (if they are whole, break them up), the stock and the rinsed, drained beans, bring to simmer.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the flavors blend - about one hour (or put in crock pot).  Top bowls of chili with a sprinkle of parmesan and parsley.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Grocery Deals and Dinner Menu

There were some good produce sales this cycle, including fresh strawberries for 1.50/lb and several apple varieties for .88/lb.  Grapes were also .88/lb, as were fresh green beans and beefsteak tomatoes.  Cucumbers were .50/each, so we picked up two of them.

We have found that the Lenten season is by far the best time of year to stock up on canned tuna.  The sales seem to have started a bit early this year, but we're not complaining.  This past weekend, Safeway had Starkist tuna 3 cans for $1 (limit of three per person per visit).  The three of us went while we were out and about, stopped at one Safeway and a couple of Walmart stores, and with some that Husband picked up the day before, and then a batch we picked up the next day, we purchased a total of 45 cans.  We still had some cans at home, too, so now we have enough for the year.

Husband continues to enjoy the Ibotta process.  It is stretching our $200/month (which is $180/month right now, because we used a chunk a couple months ago to stock ground beef) considerably, and he has been able to combine Ibotta offers with coupons on several occasions, making some of his purchases very low cost, free, or even slightly profitable.  The sense I am getting from him is that some of the deals are only feasible when there is a sale, an Ibotta offer and a coupon, but he enjoys the 'game' of it, so that's good!  He has gotten everything from bread and taco shells to yogurt and fresh produce, and he has even gotten a new Truvia Nectar product for very low cost.

With about a week left in the budget and next week's supplies already purchased, we have just over $35 remaining in our grocery budget.  Husband has earned $60 in Ibotta rebates in February, which we add back in.  He's doing a great job!

We have cereal and milk, granola and yogurt, fresh strawberries, eggs, toast, and oatmeal that can all be made for breakfasts.  I may make some muffins or pancakes one day as well, depending on my available time.  For lunches, we often have leftovers from supper, and Husband and I have been having lunch together one day a week.  This week we're planning on buffalo chicken bites, cucumbers & celery w/ranch, tots and some fruit.  Daughter won't mind missing that meal - she doesn't like spicy foods.  She takes her lunch to school - soup in a thermos sometimes, sandwiches, a 'snacky' lunch of cheese, nuts, crackers, fruit and vegetables, and always a couple of snacks to get her through her busy school day.

Our supper menu this week is a fairly simple one.  Here is the plan:

M:  battered fish portions, tartar sauce, steamed rice, glazed carrots, fresh cucumber slices, sliced oranges
T:  sheet pan bbq chicken w/warm dijon potato salad, roasted fresh green beans, sliced apples
W:  Italian chili over macaroni, sliced apples
R:  shoyu turkey (similar to teriyaki), steamed rice, fresh cucumber slices w/furikake, sliced oranges
F:  tacos w/ lettuce, tomato & cheese, refried beans, green salad, sliced apples
S:  biscuits w/sausage gravy, home-canned green beans, sliced oranges
S:  pizza, carrots/celery/cucumbers w/ranch, sliced apples

Do you plan a menu?  If you do, what's the plan for this week?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our Frugal Accomplishments for This Week

I hope your week was a good one!  We were busy with a few things, but it was a nice week, overall.  Here are some frugal accomplishments we managed along the way:

We hung sheets out on the clothesline on a cold but sunny day, and they dried just fine.  We hung the heavier items indoors, on drying racks (they also dried just fine).

The mattress pad on our bed has been in need of replacement...for a while.  I've been looking for one at Goodwill, but I haven't seen any that were the right size.  This week, an acquaintance of mine posted one for sale on a local Facebook sale page - queen size for $5.  It's like brand new, and nicer than any I've ever seen - the top is terrycloth, instead of that typical heat-quilted fiber that we have had in the past.

Toward the end of this week we had some warm weather.  I raked back another section of mulch and spread rabbit droppings on our garden.  I still have to dig them into the soil, but we're a little closer to being ready to garden in the spring.  I had some lovely helpers!

The portion to the right has been dug-in, on the left, I still need to dig.

Two of our silkie hens (Marigold and Finch), looking for sprouts beneath the picnic table.

Prince - our lavender silkie rooster.

Some of our hens in the garden, helping with "pre-raking".

It makes me laugh that we let them out, and they go into a fenced enclosure.

Last Sunday, we spent a little time packaging up snacks, carrots and celery, etc. for school and work lunches.  It makes it really easy to grab and go when we have some items prepped ahead of time, and that makes it that much easier to *not* make excuses and go out for lunch.

Husband has been paying the Monopoly game at Safeway.  So far, he's won a bottle of aspirin, a container of salt, quite a few coupons, and we are, like many people, just one ticket away from all sorts of big prizes.  Meanwhile, yay for salt and aspirin!

When I re-filled the suet feeder (those cubes of bird seed) at work, I kept the throwaway tray.  I use them as molds to make our own suet cakes for the feeder at our home.

I made an owl pop for Daughter for Valentine's Day.  I got the candy mold, sticks, baggies...and even the melts for free - they were going to be thrown away.  I used some white chocolate chips to make the area around the eyes stand out a little.  This was a very easy mini project!

I made some quick/easy valentines for Daughter to give at school.  We could have just picked up a pack at Dollar Tree, but this gave me a creative outlet, and used some supplies we had on hand at home.  I was given a bag of stickers a couple months ago, many of them were perfect for this project.

The weather was cold enough early in the week - it is February, after all - that we used our wood stove to keep the house warm.  We get our wood free for the taking/cutting/stacking, it really saves us a lot!

We keep damaged pallets (untreated) out of the landfill, and...

...they help us keep our house warm.

We keep a lidded enamel pot on our kitchen counter for peels, scraps, etc., which we then feed to our chickens as treats.  It cuts down on waste and they really enjoy the variety.  They were especially happy for canteloupe seeds and peels this week - chickens really like melons!

I mended two sweaters and a stuffed animal chicken that needed minor repairs, and I mended a seam on my most favorite pair of shoes.

On our town errand day, we picked up our free Friday download from King Sooper (a Chobani 'flip' yogurt).  Since we were near Harbor Freight, we stopped in and got some freebie flashlights and a power strip that we had coupons for, and we converted a Starbucks card I won at Christmas and a paper Starbucks card that Husband got from Kelloggs points program into two $10 all-season Starbucks cards.  We're not really coffee people, but these make nice thank-you gifts for teachers.  When we got home from town, these two magazines were in the mailbox for me.  I get magazine subscriptions free through Mercury Magazines.  There were some great grocery deals this week - I'll share those on Monday's menu plan post.

How was your week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Getting Warm on a Cold Day

Reposted with minor adaptation, from (my) previous blog, November, 2009...

I like warm. Warm is good. Warm is...warm. But if we're not careful about how we achieve warm, it can get pricey, and I'd much rather use my money for other stuff like paying down the mortgage, retirement savings, and discounted Valentine's Day chocolate. So, rather than give you a comprehensive list of strategies that you've heard or read a thousand times before, I'm going for a few eclectic choices. 

Our wood stove is a great source of heat...and dust...and ash.

They all boil down to this one concept: Instead of turning up the thermostat and heating up the whole house because you are cold, just heat up you. Odds are that you'll feel just as good (warm), but it won't cost near as much money or fossil fuel.

The next time you're tempted to turn up the heat try one of these:

1. Wash Dishes. This really works, unless you use the dishwasher. Run a sink full of hot sudsy water and actually wash the dishes old school. The hot water warms your hands, and before you know it you're warm all over. Plus, your dishes are done! I don't care how high you adjust your thermostat, you furnace will never wash your dishes.

2. Take a Shower. If you are cold, take a quick warmish-hot shower, then put on warm clothes. You were probably going to take a shower pretty soon anyway, so you can warm up and get clean at the same time. If you are really, really cold, go for a bath, so the water can warm you longer. This also works in the heat of summer - just take a cool shower, and leave the a/c turned off.

3. Use the Dryer. We are a clothesline family for the most part. I hang the laundry in good weather, and I use those cute little indoor racks in the winter. I do have a dryer, but mostly it's used to knock the wrinkles out of work shirts (I do not iron) or to heat the wrinkles out of a vinyl tablecloth (Now there's a tip! Just watch it closely, lest you melt it!) Anyway, if you're cold and you want to be warm, put a pair of sweats or a heavy blanket into the dryer for about 3-5 minutes. It will heat up nice and warm. If you heated clothing, put it on. If you heated a blanket, get under it. At bedtime on a really cold night, we pull all the covers off the bed and heat the blanket that is closest to us in the stack. When it's warm, we put it on the bed, put all the other blankets on top of that one, and climb in. Heaven....pure, blissful heaven. 

4. Free Bonus Tip! Drink some hot tea, or coffee, or cocoa. It'll warm you right up!

Stay warm, save money, and come back soon!

In fact, before you go, please share a tip for staying warm in cold weather. I heart comments!

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Week's Meal Plan

We are getting our meats for this week's menu from our freezer.  When there is a good sale, we buy extra, then wrap/freeze in portions that make sense for our family.  This week, the meat sales were...okay, but not great, so we'll use what we have already purchased, and supplement with pantry staples and some fresh produce.  This set of strategies makes it possible for us to keep a budget of $200/month for three people - breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks.  We also have a dining out budget of $30 per month.  I mention that to make it clear that we're not eating out for a lot of our meals.

Our produce finds this week were celery for 50 cents per bunch (we bought...four), 5lb. of organic carrots for 2.98, cantaloupe for .98/each.  We still have cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, apples, red peppers, onions, cilantro, and parsley from previous weeks, all fresh and good.  One of the stores had 'cutie' oranges out as the sample, and we each took one.  We had just eaten lunch, so we brought them home and they'll be used here as snacks or put in lunch boxes.

The meat we bought this week was wild caught salmon for $5 per pound - we picked up two pounds - and some battered fish portions that Husband got on sale with a special offer from Safeway and an Ibotta rebate (10 portions, $3). We had already come up with this week's menu, so the fish is in the freezer for future weeks.  We also picked up one pound of breakfast sausage for 1.99.

Safeway also gave us some special offers for butter (.75/pound limit of two), and free Dannon whole milk yogurt.  The yogurt one was interesting, because it was for 2 free cartons of the yogurt.  We also had coupons loaded to the card that were 'buy two, get one free', and we ended up getting all three, not only free, but it registered a .20 credit on the purchase.  That made our gallon of milk a little less costly.

Finally, at King Sooper, we picked up our free Friday download (a Hershey's candy bar), whole wheat saltines that were on sale for $1/box, and sour cream on sale $1.25 for a 16 oz. container.

Anything else you see in this menu is coming from the freezer or pantry.  With the exception of the egg rolls, which we got for .25/each with an Ibotta rebate and sale, the other items are all homemade.  Here is the plan for this week:

M - Seville chicken, sausage, potato & onion roast, home-canned green beans, cantaloupe wedges

T - eggrolls, rice, Asian slaw, home-canned plums

W - cheese enchiladas, black bean-corn-tomato 'relish', green salad, sliced oranges

R - marinated, grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, cantaloupe wedges

F - hamburgers on the grill, oven fries, carrots and celery, pickles, sliced oranges

S - chicken-pepperoni pasta bowl (this is a copycat of something from Zio's restaurant, and it is really yummy!), garden salad, sliced apples

S - Italian turkey sandwiches, potato chips, carrot and celery sticks, sliced oranges

We've got plenty of yogurt, granola and frozen blueberries on hand for breakfasts and/or snacks, and we'll likely make some steel-cut oats.  I made some hard-boiled eggs for breakfasts and snacks too.  With 4 bunches of celery in the fridge, I can almost guarantee that Daughter and I will take ants on a log for lunch this week - we both love them for lunch!  Otherwise, lunches are generally leftovers from supper or something simple - a can of soup and a sandwich, salad and crackers/cheese, or maybe a frozen pizza (if we're being fancy! hee hee).

I have two questions for you.  If I were to share recipes on the All Recipes site, would that help?  I could link to them from here.  I think you have to sign up for All Recipes, I think, but it is free.  I've tried a couple of ways to share recipes here, and they are not printer friendly.  Would that work for you?

Question two....What's cookin' at your house this week?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments for the Past Week

It was a fairly warm week here, so it was feasible to hang laundry outside to dry.  On the windy days, we used the drying racks.

In an effort to learn more about the various offerings at my library, I signed up for Freegal.  I am able to download five free songs per week, and I can keep those downloads forever.  I'm already making a list for future weeks!  I also found a free website called Song BPM, where I can get the beats-per-minute for songs.  I'm making playlists for walking, so this helps me put the songs in order so that the fastest songs are in the middle, with slower warm-up/cool-down songs at either end of my playlist.  This is how I'm using my new phone that I mentioned last week.

In addition to the songs I downloaded, we borrowed books and media from the library.  I am signed up for the adult reading program, and have earned the first prize (a snack-size bag of gourmet popcorn and a mini chocolate bar).  Four more books and I will earn my coffee mug!  Patrons can win additional grand prizes as well - I cannot because I work there, but it's still rewarding.

I made starter pots for garden seedlings from newspaper.  I have 35 total, which is probably enough for this year's garden.  Husband found the potting soil out in the shed, and I have a tray for the pots.  We are ready to go on this front - I may start some seeds next week!

We shopped the grocery store sales this week and stocked up on a few items.  We planned the dinner menu to make the best use of the produce sales, combined with items we have in our freezer, fridge and pantry.

When we were at the supermarket, Husband found these toiletries in the markdown basket.  He had coupons for all of them.  The coupons gave us a negative balance, and since the cashier could not 'pay' us to take the items, we grabbed the candy bars, all of which were also free.  In the end, it wouldn't let her close out the transaction until she gave us the last little bit of change, so we got everything pictured here, along with three cents.  I would have preferred to leave the candy and buy produce or something, but we were not expecting the overage and there were people in line behind us.

Our Costco membership will end this month, so we are stocking up on some things that we like to get there.  We stopped in for extra virgin olive oil today and sampled some really tasty coconut cookies that were 7.99 for a 1 lb. bag.  When we got home, I made a chocolate chip cookie recipe with virgin coconut oil instead of butter, and added chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, pecans and some flaked coconut.  (I had a little of this, a little of that, so the total amount of add-ins was not really a lot.)  At the same price per ounce, the cookies I made at home would have cost just over $10.75 at Costco .  Some of the ingredients were things I brought home from an at-work cabinet clean-out (virgin coconut oil, white chocolate chips), and the flour, semi-sweet chocolate chips, coconut, etc. were all purchased on sale/with coupons.  The egg came from our hens and the pecans were a Christmas gift from my parents, so the batch of cookies cost far less than $10.75 to make, and they are really good.  Husband said he likes them better than the ones we sampled at Costco.  Woohoo!

We learned that the Whole Foods near us is closing, so we purchased extra virgin olive oil to use up a gift card balance we had there.  We have a year's supply of olive oil now, between our purchases at Whole Foods and Costco.

I went in for a much-needed hair cut. The salon I went to last time charges $15.50 for a haircut.  They sent me a $4 off coupon, which I used to bring the price down...and then, I did a $4 tip.  I *think* getting a haircut with the tip for $15.50 is least, around here.  I will likely grow my hair longer from this point to cut this cost from our budget, but we'll see what I think in 6-8 weeks when I look like a scruffy puppy.

Husband scored a free $5 Target gift card through a credit card rewards page he belongs to.  They will mail it to us in a few weeks.  This week, we received the $5 Chick-Fil-A card that he scored a few weeks ago.  It will be enough for him to get lunch on a town day for little or no cost.

I filled my 90-day prescriptions this week, and saved $95 by using Good RX.  There is a posting with more information here, if you would like to know more.  Good RX is free to use, and saved me just over 86% on the cost of my prescriptions.

Did you have a frugal week?  What did you do to spend less, save more, or make do?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Saving on Prescription Medication

We have health insurance through my employer.  We do not, however, have a copay for prescription medications.  This is somewhat new for us, and caused a fair amount of sticker-shock when it first happened.  I want to share a few things you might try if you have prescription medications you need to pay for out-of-pocket.

One thing I learned was that calling around can make a big, big difference in the price of a medication.  I called several pharmacies to find the best price available.  I also learned that Costco pharmacies are availabe to everyone, regardless of membership status.  If there is a Costco near you, give them a call, for pricing.  Even if you don't have membership there, you can still get prescriptions filled at the Costco pharmacy, and their prices were really competetive.

If a generic option is available, that makes a big difference too.  If you are able to take a generic instead of the formulary, that cuts price significantly.  The other consideration to ask about is capsules vs. tablets for medicines in pill form.  I priced one medication where there was a price difference of $80 on a 90-day supply if it was in tablet form instead of capsule form.  My prescription was written for capsules, so I called and requested that change.

Finally, though, what really saved me a lot of the cost of my prescriptions was going through Good RX.  Good RX is a website that compares prices and offers you coupons to help you save on the medicines you have prescriptions for.  My cost went down significantly when I went to the site and entered my prescriptions and printed coupons.  As an example, I had a 90 day supply of a medication that, after calling around, my lowest price was $98.00.  (ouch!)  When I entered the information into Good RX, It came up as $38 at a local pharmacy (who had quoted me the $110.00 before).  I called and verified that they did indeed take Good RX coupons, so I had my prescription filled there.  In fact, when I was there, one of the technicians also searched for additional coupons & discounts and brought the price down to $25.00 for a 90-day supply.

I am not certain that it will work for everyone in every situation, but I had considerable savings using Good RX.  It is free to use, there is no 'membership' of any sort, and so for me, it was definitely worth a try.  I am sharing this with you in hopes it will help you too.  I am not in any way affiliated with Good RX - I get no benefit from telling you about them, but I hope it is helpful for you!

Monday, February 6, 2017

This Week's Dinner Menu

With the Superbowl happening this past Sunday, this week was a great week to stock up the things we like to pretend like we don't really eat...except, uh, yeah, we eat those things.  Husband used an Ibotta deal, combined with price matching and a coupon to pick up some DiGiorno pizzas for $2.00 each, and another Ibotta deal got us 4-packs of egg rolls for $1, since they were also on sale. Potato chips were on sale as well, with a free container of dip thrown in, Mission tortilla chips were .50 (sale/coupon), and 2 liter sodas at Safeway were .50 each.  We decided to save our $10 credit at Pizza Hut that we were going to use on Superbowl Sunday and eat some of the stuff Husband got such great deals on.

In other shopping, we purchased celery for .98/bunch, leaf lettuce for .99/head and grapes for .98/lb.  Tomatoes were also .69/lb, red bell peppers 3/$1 cauliflower .88/lb, and green onions and cilantro were both .34/bunch.  There was a sale/coupon combo where he picked up Honey Bunches of Oats for 1.50 per box too.  We are very, very well stocked right now.

This week is going to be different for us.  Daughter has an overnight field trip for school, and Husband is going along too.  I am working both days that they are gone, so I'll be home to take care of the dogs and chickens, etc.  Here is our plan for this week's dinner menu:

M - teriyaki beef, rice, carrot-raisin salad, sliced oranges
T - tuna salad sandwiches, carrots and celery, sliced apples
W - chicken noodle soup, crackers, grapes
R - leftovers
F - macaroni and cheese, seasoned butter beans, garden salad, apple slices
S - homemade sesame chicken (trying a new recipe), steamed rice, cabbage-carrot stir fry, sliced oranges
S - nachos w/lettuce, tomato, salsa, beans, cheese, olives, sour cream

What are your plans for this week?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments - January Into February

January turned to February this week.  This year is moving quickly for me.  Here are some of the things we did this week to keep our budget on track.

One of the eggs from the henhouse was cracked, so I made a batch of bran muffins.  This recipe is pretty good as written, though I will suggest reducing the sugar to 1/2 cup and adding a spoonful of cinnamon.  Also...that ten minutes to soak the bran?  If you don't give it the full time, the batter will be runny, so get the bran soaking while you gather all your ingredients, prep the muffin tin, etc.

To prepare for the work week and make meals easier to put together, we made breakfast burritos (also good for cleaning up odds and ends in the fridge!), flatbreads, a batch of garbanzo beans, marinated three bean salad, steel-cut oats, and garlic-parmesan popcorn.

I played with my dog, Taffy.  She's a good girl. She tends to look really serious any time you take her photo, bless her heart!  We romped around the yard a while, and wrestled and growled, hee hee.

We went bird-watching.  It was a free, fun activity.  I did a post earlier this week about bird watching as a form of can find it here.

I gave husband a haircut, and got out some hair gel from the cabinet that I can use to try and keep my hair in check while it grows out some.  I received a $4 off coupon from the salon where I had it cut a couple months ago, but I am debating about what to do next.  For now, I think I'll stick with hair gel.

I made falafel from scratch.  I just made a half recipe, because it's best fresh.  There are no photos because we ate it up.  It was delicious!!

We bathed/groomed the dogs at home.  I don't think folks are going to hire us to trim their dogs - when he looks up, Reggie's ears make him look a bit like a bat - but they are clean, they smell nice, and they look reasonably presentable. na na na na na na na Bat Dog!!
Husband took advantage of some nice weather by setting up the grill and smoking a pork shoulder roast, two turkey legs and two turkey wings.  We had some of the pork for supper one night and some of the turkey another night in alfredo sauce with vegetables.  Very tasty!  He used trimmings from our apple and cherry trees for smoking, and he makes his own dry rubs for the meat.  He is very, very good at this!

We read books from the library.  Husband and I are watching a series we borrowed from the library on DVD.

I got my first smart phone!  I'm only about a decade behind the times...pretty advanced for me, hee hee.  I want it for the MP3 player, mostly, so I can go for walks on my lunch break and listen to music and/or podcasts.  It came from Freedompop, and they have a free option that will allow me to do a little bit with it as a phone, but mostly I'll use the available wifi at work and home (I hardly go anywhere else) to download free music from Freegal for my walking playlist.  The phone is pretty least I think it is...and including the phone, activation, and the case I ordered separately to protect it've spent $36 of my allowance savings.  The case hasn't arrived yet, but once it does, I plan to make a cross-body bag to hold the phone and some earbuds.  (I'm waiting to measure the size of the phone when it's in the case.)

It's not exactly a frugal accomplishment, but we are fruit-tree shopping for spring.  The electric co-op came out to do some sort of maintenance thing to the transformer, and he ran over an existing fruit tree.  It was not tiny...we're not sure how he missed seeing it, but they agreed that they'll replace it with a similarly sized tree.  The frugal part of having fruit trees is, of course, getting fruit from them, which we do most years.  I've made applesauce, apple butter, fruit leathers, frozen and canned fruits, plus jams and jellies from the fruit trees we have growing here at home.

I gathered the materials I need for starting some seeds.  I have this cute little wooden gadget for making starter pots.  I got it years ago at Goodwill for 59 cents, but before that, I just used a soup can.  You wind newspaper around it, and then insert it in the small wood 'dish', which crimps the base.  When you plant seedlings, you plant them paper pot and all, and the pot disintegrates in the soil.  The 'trays' are kitty litter boxes (that were never used for kitty litter), and I just store them in the barn year-to-year.  This year I am just doing one tray of starts, because our garden is not very big.

We had a 20% off customer appreciation coupon from Goodwill.  I picked up a jacket that is good for indoors on cold days, and can be my outdoor jacket in nicer weather.  It's similar to one I've had for nearly 20 years (that I love, Love, LOVE!!), but a different color.  It matches well with my wardrobe, and with the discount it was under $5.  We also picked up some jigsaw puzzles to send to the in-laws.  I am a bit in love with this cat-in-the-sewing-room one, so I will put it together first, then take it apart to send to them.

Daughter wants to personalize a t-shirt.  I took her to Walmart (I had some other things to pick up there as well) and she picked out a plain yellow one that was on sale for $3.  I also checked in the clearance area and found a camel-colored sweater (which I have been looking for since October) for $5.  I'll wear it some this year, but also for years to come, I am sure.  Our clothing budget for the three of us is about $20 per month, but we often go several months without purchasing any clothing, so it ends up that we have plenty in that fund for when we find a bargain.

Husband earned just over $10 in Ibotta rebates this week.  There were not as many offers that we were interested in.  I'll share more of our grocery bargains in the menu plan post, scheduled for Monday.

Did you have a good week?  What did you do to spend less, save more, or make do?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cents-Able Recreation - Bird Watching

It's important to do things for enjoyment, and for fun!  We have found all sorts of things we enjoy doing, and many of them are low-cost or free.

Mountain Bluebird

One activity we really enjoy is bird-watching.  Daughter took an interest in birds and ornithology a few years ago, and it has turned into a family activity.

Western Bluebird, Juvenile

There are some supplies associated with bird watching.  We found field guides at the library, the Friends of the Library sale, and used book stores.  Binoculars add a lot to bird watching.  We had a pair that my parents gave us years ago, as well as a pair we'd purchased a few years before this was an interest of Daughter's.

Cornell University has an amazing website for bird lovers.  It features photos, recorded calls, and lots of information for identifying species.  Our local Audubon Society welcomes visitors, and we have attended a few of the programs that fit with our schedule.

The orange was going to get tossed at work - it was kind of shriveled.  The birds are loving it!
Female House Finch

Mixed Flock - Starlings and Red-Winged Blackbirds

Having bird feeding stations set up means that we attract some birds to us.  We started out with a family Christmas present - a feeder and pole and some bird feed.  We added a suet cage and some homemade items, such as a platform feeder and a space where we put out water (in a glass pie plate) in warm weather.  We have picked up a couple of second-hand feeders as well, and made a few from recycled materials.

Mourning Doves

Mostly, bird watching is about getting out and watching birds.  A friend mentioned a lake near our home where there are many opportunities to bird watch, and we've been going there every now and then to observe and photograph the birds.  There is a park in our little town that has a marshy area, and we usually find birds there as well.  We've also discovered a Great Horned Owl's favored tree, and we look for her any time we are near.  When we go to the mountains to hike, when we go to the nature center, or even when we're just out for a walk, we look for birds, try to identify them, and observe their behavior.

We call her Noctura.  :)

Noctura is a Great Horned Owl

We recently learned about Cornell University's Citizen Science Programs, and we think they would be a great way to become further involved in the birding community.  There are membership fees associated with these programs, so they may not work for everyone, but it appears the fees are per household, and not per person, so it could be quite affordable, too.

American Kestrel

Red-Tail Hawk (we think!)

It might sound a bit dry to some, but we have really come to enjoy bird watching.  It's helped us learn more aobut habitats in our area, as well as how various species are interconnected.  It can be free or low cost, and we really find it rewarding.  If you are looking for something to do that's both interesting and affordable, you might give bird watching a try!