Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer stuff

This summer has flown by! Here is a recap of some of our summer:

We were so blessed to have Monica, her kids, and my mom visit for a few days in mid-June. They drove many extra miles to make it happen, and we are so grateful for the time together.

The kids were involved in baseball and gymnastics, which kept us busy most nights the month of June.

At the end of June, we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Reggie. He would've turned 15 next month, and it's been quite an adjustment without him around, especially for Eric.

We spent a little over two weeks in Michigan. En route, I got to stay overnight with my dear friend, Mandi, in Chicago.
It was great to see family and the kids always have fun at the lake. There were 20 of us staying at the cottage for one of the weeks, but I don't have any of those photos on my camera, so maybe I can share more later.

A few days after getting back to Iowa, we had to say some very hard goodbyes--Eric's brother, Ryan, and his wife, Alyssum, moved last week to Minnesota. Though they'll only be a few hours away, we will deeply miss their presence here.
As you can see, we've had a lot going on. I did want to check in before getting even more behind. Blessings!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

We continue to have a very full summer. I've been keeping my frugal list, and will share that here, but hope to share other updates and photos soon.

From the past two weeks:

*Eric goes out in our yard on rainy nights and digs for nightcrawlers for fishing. He said they sell for $4/dozen, so this is a nice expense to avoid since we have a good supply.
*We happened on to a free meal at the park recently, where they served hot dogs, chips and ice cream.
*We picked strawberries at a local patch, and I made a double batch of jam, a pie, and a berry-rhubarb crisp. We enjoyed the rest fresh.
*The kids earned really nice $15 water bottles from a healthy living program they're participating in.
*Made popsicles and syrup.
*Attended a free event at a local dairy farm--we got a free tour, plus supper and lots of activities.
*We continue to harvest spinach from our garden, and have gotten a few peas as well.
*Nathan has a great eye for spotting pop bottle lids at parks, so we've earned quite a few rewards points by entering the codes.
*Ordered some free photos
*Scored some deals in the clearance cart at the dollar store--3 packages of tortillas, some cereal bars for our trip (two per pkg), and a padded envelope--all for a quarter each
*Eric's brother brought over some grocery items they don't want to take when they move. (Insert sad face about the move part.)

Will check in again in July, but I'd love to hear from you in the meantime!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Cooked a pot of black beans
*Made scones, "animal" crackers, blueberry muffins, brownies, granola, banana bread
*Had an outstanding trip to the grocery store, combining sales and coupons--best deal by far was paying less than $6 total for 2 gallons of milk and 4 boxes of cereal!
*Took advantage of several free nature programs offered by a local state park--a couple of these included lunch and prizes!
*Used two coupons for free mini pizzas the kids had earned from school
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Picked our first garden treat: spinach!
*Went with a friend to S@m's, and brought my calculator to be sure I was only by things at both a good price and a quantity we can actually use. (I've made that mistake before, buying an enormous container of baking powder.)
*Scored hot fudge sundaes for $1 each, and redeemed a coupon for a free pint of ice cream earned from donating blood
*Eric was invited to participate in a golf excursion through the college (at no cost to him)--he got to play 9 holes of golf, have a pizza buffet lunch, and he even won a prize (a nice stadium seat) for one of his shots.
*Redeemed a coupon for a free Italian soda, and one for a free tub of whipped cream
*Purchased heavy cream marked down half-price for making homemade ice cream
*Had a family outing to the pool on B1G1 night
*Made something I've been wanting to make for years--homemade laundry soap! I'm only one week in to using it, but have no complaints so far.

I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*My mom graciously agreed to re-cover our couch pillows, which were in quite yukky condition. I was shocked at the high cost of brand new pillows, and these were still fine in form, so I am thrilled she was able to re-cover them. Thanks, Mom!
*Made rolls, scones, syrup, strawberry frozen yogurt, soft pretzels with cheese sauce, chocolate peanut butter bars, granola, pumpkin bread
*Eric used a rebate check to purchase something at a hardware store. He also used a discount card to get a small percentage off on some paint we needed.
*Scored some grocery deals: crackers for $1/box, cheese for $1/pkg., 5 ears of corn for 80 cents total (combining sale and Saving*), hummus for $1.50 (sale and cpn, reg. price $2.99)
*Took advantage of some great thrifting deals--one store was 50% off everything for a couple days; the other store was having a $2 bag sale (a couple of the items that fit in my bag were a nice pair of shorts for Eric and this game, which Nathan had enjoyed the day before at a friend's house)
*Stopped by a dollar store that was having 50% off all clearance prices, and got some great deals, including granola bars for 72 cents/box and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce for 47 cents.
*Attended a couple of free essential oil classes, one locally and one on-line. I have been doing a lot of research on natural health lately. The local class I attended even had a free make-and-take: we each got to make one small spray (I chose bug) and one small roller (I choose sleepytime) to bring home. Fun!
*Received an awesome box of free samples in the mail: several lotions, a small container of shredded parm, shampoo and sunscreen
*And the best freebie of all: a FREE 15-minute flight for Nathan, as part of a young pilots program. We'd gotten an advertisement about it, and there are no strings attached. He had a fun time, and I was grateful his motion sickness did not come into play!

On the flipside, I admit I went quite a bit over on our grocery budget this month. We also had an unusually high number of recreation/entertainment purchases, so it's good we can balance out higher months with lower ones.
I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stitch Fix, take 3

I'm sure most of you have heard of Stitch Fix. I tried it out a couple years ago for the first time, and recently received my 3rd box. I really updated my profile this time, and specifically requested a dress and tops. Thankfully, my stylist listened to that, as I received a dress and 4 shirts.

It's always fascinating what someone else picks out for you, I think. And the two pieces I ended up liking best surprised me, as I wasn't thrilled at first glance.

Here are the pieces I received:

1. Though I didn't love this dress at first, it was a very flattering style for me. I really debated about keeping this. My main hang-ups were the price, the length (a little short), and it was a little tight in the shoulders. I hope to find a similar style soon, and don't know that I would've looked for that without trying this one on.
 2. This shirt surprised me. It's not a real stand-out pattern, in my opinion, but it looked really cute on. I almost kept it, but there's kind of a weird seam/pleat that goes down the middle that hangs a little funny. Will look for a similar style of this, though, too.
 3. Not a fan of this shirt. The sleeves are angled strangely in both front and back, and I didn't love the floral print on the back.
 4. I could use a cute white shirt, but this one is too plain in the middle, and it wrinkles easily.
 5. I really like chambray, but this shirt had a weird fit--didn't even consider keeping it.
I had $25 of credit via a referral (thank you!), so I didn't spend anything this time around. (The stylist fee is $20, which you can apply to any pieces you keep.) Was still fun to give it another whirl, even if I didn't purchase anything. It did give me a couple ideas of things to look for.

Would you like to give SF a try? Click on this referral link to get started!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Whew, it has been a very busy few weeks. Blogging has been on my to-do list for awhile, but it's never bumped to the top until now. I totally skipped over my 8-year anniversary of blogging in early May--can't believe it's been that long! I have several other updates to share, but will start with this post of my frugal accomplishments from the past three weeks.

*Made scones, rhubarb muffins x2, sugar cookies, chocolate and vanilla ice cream (using heavily discounted whipping cream), strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb crisp, lentil soup
*Stopped by a dozen garage sales, and scored some great deals and freebies. These items were from a free table on campus--the drink mix is unopened, as is the DVD!
*Attended an event at the library that provided a buffet of international snacks, free books, crafts and activities. And Naomi even won a door prize: a $5 card to use towards library fines. I thought that was a creative prize!
*Stocked up on cereal and produce deals
*Had our final college cafeteria supper with Ryan and Alyssum, which they covered with their remaining meal credit
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Scored all kinds of goodies left behind by college students
*Eric took advantage of a free dog food rebate
*Received a check from Ebates--so great if you ever shop on-line!
*We've been doing a lot of free or very inexpensive activities--bike rides, parks, fishing
*We participated in lots of events at our town's annual festival, and spent very little money. We ate all our meals at home, and just bought a couple snacks over the three days. The kids earned coupons for free festival treats from school, and we gave them each some cash to budget over the three days for refreshments or activities. It was interesting to see what they chose!
*Received an awesome box of free samples in the mail:
I'd love to hear about some of your recent frugal accomplishments!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past four weeks:

*Scored several freebies: candy bar (Saving *), baby wipes, mousse, quinoa/rice mix (coupons)
*Eric purchased a couple short-sleeved work shirts for $3 each at the thrift store
*Made granola, pumpkin bread, lentil soup, "better than Pam," banana bread
*Cut boys' hair
*Attended a free local egg hunt and carnival; filled eggs with treats I had on hand
*Took advantage of after-Easter clearance, snagging a couple gifts and some holiday items for next year at 50-70% off
*Used a gift card to buy lunch at CFA for Naomi and me
*FINALLY accrued enough diaper rewards points to order a large box of "free" diapers--I have been hoping for months that I keep buying the last box, but Naomi has not been very interested in potty training!
*A friend I made some lip balm--something I'd been wanting to try for a long time. We split the ingredients and the finished product, and I have plenty to give as little gifts. Fun!
*Grocery deals: spinach for 24 cents (sale and cpn), avocado for 23 cents (sale and C51), 1/2 gallons of milk for 99 cents (super-sale!), whipping cream for 99 cents (awesome markdown price!), 2 loaves of French bread for 60 cents each, free eggs with purchase, stocked up on tortilla chips at $1.25/bag
*Attended a free fairy tale workshop and program at the library--it was both fun and educational, and they provided snacks and several different craft stations. We love our library! According to a new feature at the bottom of our receipt, I've already checked out $2000+ worth of materials in 2015!
*With somewhat warmer weather, we've been trying to walk/bike more places. All-around win.
*Made pasta salad, granola bars, corn dog muffins, syrup, venison burgers, black bean burgers, brownie pudding pie
*As I've mentioned before, I try very hard to only buy on-sale produce. Here is an example of some of the deals I got the other day (Keep in mind that these are prices from 4 different stores--price matching is awesome!): celery $1, red pepper $1, onion 69 cents/lb. +Saving*, mango 77 cents, strawberries $4.98 for 4 lbs., grapes $2.19/lb., bananas 48 cents/lb. Buying on-sale produce makes a big difference in the budget!
*Attended a swap meet in my sister-in-law's dorm, and brought home an unopened container of organic almonds (random!), a car first aid kit with most (packaged) items still included, and a dress (which, humorously and unknown to me, had belonged to my SIL!)
*Bought a pair of shoes for Nathan for $2 at a garage sale
*Took Naomi out to lunch, and had coupons for a free kids' meal plus a free brownie.
*Made hummus, peanut butter cups (very yummy!), banana blueberry bread (new recipe--not yummy), granola bites, strawberry pie, vanilla ice cream, granola
*A friend gave us a pair of girls' tennis shoes that her daughter had outgrown
*Attended a delightful play at the college at no cost (staff and spouses receive free admission--a wonderful perk!)
*Visited a consignment shop when some of their clothes were 50% off, and scored some great deals, especially with having store credit to apply as well.

And though this wasn't a frugal outing, here's a pic from my recent mother-son date with Nathan--a delayed part of his Christmas present! I'm glad to save in some areas so that we can splurge in others sometimes. I had no coupons for any of our activities--bowling, pizza, ice cream shop--but we had fun (Mostly--Nathan doesn't like to lose, and his mama beat him twice in bowling!) and spent some rare 1-1 time together.

I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!