Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Received a book from PBS that I will save as a gift for Natalie. I am so bummed that PBS has decided to start charging for transactions, though. Not sure how much longer I'll stick with it.
*Earned a coupon for a free pizza buffet by reading 10 books--we redeemed this and one I earned last year to go out for lunch on Naomi's birthday. We also redeemed a coupon for a free mini pizza Natalie earned, and brought it home to use for school lunches.
*Made banana zucchini bread, strawberry rhubarb crisp, rolls, hummus x2, pita chips, birthday cupcakes, and pumpkin apple muffins
*Received some tea bag samples in the mail
*Scored free ibuprofen (rebate), a candy bar (Saving *) and deodorant (cpn)
*Picked up some groceries on clearance/markdown: a red pepper for 50 cents (!), some plastic heart-shaped bowls to use next year for V-day, cranberry sauce for 75 cents/can
*Made lotion bars following this recipe, though mine didn't turn out quite like that. I do like them, though they are a bit greasy.
*Downloaded an excellent e-book for free, thanks to my friend Kelly's recommendation
*Used a birthday coupon to take Naomi to a fun inflatable place for no cost!
*Cut hair--Eric's and Nathan's
*Cooked some chicken, and used some veggie scraps to flavor the water for broth. Used some to make chicken and rice soup, and will make a second kind of soup soon with the rest.
*Baked a couple packages of stale buns and processed them into bread crumbs.
*Sold some things on a local site, and purchased a toddler bed with bedding from a friend for a great price. Naomi loves it!
A non-frugal thing--I know this is NOT a big deal--but I strongly dislike overdue fees, and we had a DVD out from the library that was overdue by a couple days. It's less about the money, and more about dropping the ball. But it happens to all of us, right?!

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Princess and the Tea

I had several ideas for a theme for Naomi's birthday, but settled on a princess tea party. She loved it, and I was very pleased with how the details came together.

We invited three little girls and asked them to come dressed up, which they certainly did. So cute! We started out with refreshments, tea-party style. Then the girls each colored and decorated a placemat. We read a tea pot book and sang the song, then played a princess bingo game I'd printed.




It was a fun time, and I was pleased to have spent less than $15 on all the supplies. Here is the cost breakdown:

Tablecloth  $1 (will reuse for Natalie's upcoming party)
Fresh flowers  $4
Cupcake supplies  just over $1 (cake mix: 88 cents, leftover homemade frosting, decals: 19 cents on clearance (original price $3.49!), princess cupcake papers: on hand)
Favors  $5 (super cute soft princess dolls I'd gotten on clearance, stickers, fruit snacks, and a necklace)
Invites  less than 50 cents using supplies I already had
Other refreshments (cheese, crackers,  grapes, mini muffins, lemonade)  approximately $3
Activities (book, Bingo, coloring placemats)  Free
Tableware (dishes and napkins)  Free

We also did some fun things together as a family, going out for pizza and swimming. I can't believe my little girl is 3!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Eric took Nathan out for frozen yogurt, and used a rare coupon to get 50% off, and also had a gift card to pay for it.
*I scored free batteries (the company sent me a coupon after I called in about a defective product), free Coke (rewards), and baking soda (Saving *).
*Grocery markdowns: a bag of overripe bananas for 99 cents and a half-gallon of chocolate milk for 99 cents
*Made energy bites, hot cocoa mix, pancake mix, Valentine snack mix, banana bread and fajita seasoning
*Received $2.12 from WM's SC program
*Signed up for a free trial of movie streaming--great chance to get caught up on movies and documentaries not stocked at our library!
*Stopped by the thrift store when they had clothes B1G2 free, and books B1G1--I bought quite a few books (including some brand new educational workbooks for kids), two shirts (Boden and Old Navy!) and a pair of pants for Natalie, all for $5 total.
*Put together an inexpensive birthday gift for one of Nathan's friends--bought a game on sale, and put it with a package of microwave popcorn and a box of candy for a family game night.
*Took advantage of free childcare offered at our church for parents to go out for a Valentine's date Friday night! Eric and I used a discount certificate to pay for part of our meal, and we each brought home half of our meal to enjoy the next day. Woo-hoo!
*Stopped by a local discount store that is going out of business. Their regular prices were quite high, so even at 60-70% off, I didn't think the deals were amazing. I did snag a bag of flour, a big jar of jam for PBJ's, and a toiletry item.
*Attended an auction at the college--free entertainment, plus free popcorn and pop.

We did some fun and frugal valentine activities together as a family, too. I helped in Natalie's class party (I found her adorable conversation heart shirt at a bag sale, so it cost around 5 cents!):
We had a festive breakfast Saturday morning--heart-shaped muffins, strawberries, and juice (a special treat). Note my glittery jar in the middle--idea and picture request from Monica. My grandma made the fun placemats several years ago, and my mom sent the sparkly hearts. Love it! I filled the mailboxes ($1 each many years ago) with goodies bought on clearance last year--stickers, candy, etc., and a thrifted book for each kid. They were thrilled!
W had a "fancy" candle-lit supper in the evening, followed by some valentine games (heart scavenger hunt--free, heart Bingo--less than $2 on clearance, and heart tic-tac-toe--a gift--thanks to Monica!)

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Misc.

I just wanted to check in. Though there is still plenty going on, it doesn't feel as heavy as it did a few weeks ago, and I am grateful.

Here are a few links I wanted to share:

*This recent post resonated with me, and I have been trying to do a better job of actually burning the candles. And using the fancy lotion, etc.

*I found this site sometime last year when I needed cleaning inspiration, and I signed up for the daily emails. Though I don't often complete the daily tasks, this one was a good suggestion and boy, did our dishwasher need to be cleaned. Yuk!

*I rarely do crafts anymore, but thought these candles Monica made were so cute! When I checked my craft supplies, I found a bottle of silver glitter glue, which saved me time on an already quick and easy project. I love how mine turned out, and like that its silver color can be used for any occasion.

Have a wonderful weekend. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Pic above is from Eric taking Natalie to a gymnastics meet in a nearby city. It did not cost for her to attend, and they had a fabulous time.
*Made blueberry muffins, two pots of soup for lunches (lentil for me and beef stew for Eric), maple syrup and elderberry syrup
*Received several free samples in the mail: two kinds of markers, body wash, lotion x 3, spray deodorant
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Made my favorite coffee shop drink (a caramel steamer) at home, costing about a quarter--why have I never thought of it before?!
*Used a store discount on gas and paid $1.64/gallon!!
*Found a super-cute pair of denim capris on clearance at Old N@vy--they were only $3.97, nearly 90% off the original price! Also bought a cute and comfy dress there on a one-day sale for just $12, and had a gift card to pay for both items.
*Redeemed a coffee shop gift card I earned from a survey
*Used a 40% cpn to purchase a frame I've been wanting
*Took advantage of a restaurant's B1G1 meal on my birthday
*Eric bought two pairs of shoes off a local swap site (dress shoes and golf shoes, both pairs cost $15 total)
*Grocery deals: name-brand cheese for $1.50/pkg (reg. $2.99), combining sale and cpn
*Deals at T@rget: two boxes of tea for $1.36 each (markdown, cpn, Cartwheel), half-price tissues (store cpn, manufacturer cpn, Cartwheel)
*Eric brought home some super-ripe bananas that were going to be thrown out from the college snack bar
*Earned a $5 Am@zon card from SB
*Eric went to a movie with friends on the $5 night, and I had gotten an email from my birthday for a free popcorn and pop, so he had a pretty cheap movie outing!
*Made pumpkin apple muffins, snack mix, and tried a new recipe for pizza muffins that I hope the kids will like for school lunches (Natalie is much pickier than Nathan when it comes to lunches, and it's been more challenging than usual.)
*Redeemed a birthday coupon for a free dessert at a local fast food place
*Made orange vinegar for cleaning
*Attended a free class on essenti@l oils
*Scored two free mini pizzas with coupons the kids earn from the school reading program.
*Popped in a thrift store that was having a half-off clothing sale and found a nice shirt for Nathan for $1, and also found a bundle of activity books (our kids love all kinds of worksheets and puzzles) for $1
*Snagged some good deals on grocery items at a discount store that is going out of business. The sale started months ago, and food is just now 40% off and already quite picked over, but I did find some goodies. For 60 cents each: soy sauce, pure vanilla, green chile enchilada sauce. I also bought a large package of pepperoni that was $2 with the discount, and a canister of oats for $1.49.
*My favorite grocery store often has a bin of markdown items in the dairy section. The other day there were some small individual cups of yogurt (something on my list anyway), and they caught my eye because they had Els@ and Ol@f on them. =) They were marked 49 cents, which sounded quite high to me. Sure enough, when I checked the regular price of an 8-pack, it was $3.59, so the yogurt cups were actually marked higher than usual! I put all 6 in my cart and asked for a discount, explaining that they were priced higher than if I bought them with the proper packaging. While the price named wasn't as low as I was hoping for, I decided to get them for a special treat since they were cheaper than usual.
*Our SB party plans were canceled due to the weather, so I was suddenly scrambling to come up with some fun snacks for us to have here at home. I made these delicious soft pretzels and some cheese sauce to dip them in. I also made these amazing chocolate peanut butter bars.
*We recently replaced the battery in one of our smoke alarms, and learned that one of the batteries in the brand new two-pack was defective. I called the company, and they sent a coupon for a free product up to $10. So we will gain additional batteries out of the deal. Nice!

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

6th annual pantry challenge recap

Hooray! Hooray! I finished the month with less than a dollar left, but I did it.

As I was thinking about where to send the remaining half of our monthly grocery budget, I came across a ministry listing for an urgent need of food in crisis situations, such as drought and other disasters. It gave a dollar amount that would provide food for a family for one month. When I did the math, I realized that ONE-HALF of our normal monthly food budget would cover FIVE months of food to sustain another family during a difficult time. Yikes! That means that just 10% of what we normally spend on groceries in a month provides a family with food for the same period of time. Definitely eye-opening!

We did use up several odds and ends in January, but with a couple exceptions of new recipes I tried, we didn't eat that differently than we normally do. Now if we tried to do this for a second month in succession, we would definitely feel the impact more. (Hmm, perhaps a challenge to try sometime?!)

This continues to be a project that I enjoy and find meaningful. Thanks for reading along!


Friday, January 30, 2015

Relentless

January's theme has continued to be the cumulative effect. We kicked off my birthday celebration last weekend with . . . a trip the emergency room. After a delicious taco supper (thanks, R&A!), Naomi was playing around on the couch, and she fell over the back of it. She hit her head on the baseboard heater, and the one-inch gash bled profusely. Thankfully, she remained pretty calm, but it was still alarming and hard to know what to do. Going to the doctor seemed like the prudent thing to do, and I'm glad she was checked out, even though they decided not to do any staples/stitches. Now, a week, later, it looks amazingly better. But here is a photo of the wound from that night--after it was cleaned up. Poor thing!
As we are weary in body and spirit, I have taken much encouragement from this past week's readings in Jesus Calling. Here are some excerpts that will hopefully bless you as well:

1/22 "If you believe that I am sovereign over every aspect of your life, it is possible to trust me in all situations."

1/24 "Thank Me when things do not go your way, because spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials. Adverse circumstances are normal in a fallen world. Expect them each day. Rejoice in the face of hardship for I have overcome the world."

1/26 "It is possible to enjoy Me and glorify Me in the midst of adverse circumstances. In fact, My Life shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark. That kind of trust is supernatural: a production of My indwelling Spirit. When things seem all wrong, trust Me anyway. I am much less interested in right circumstances than in right responses to whatever comes your way."

January has been relentless, and we are hoping for a lighter February. I'll be wrapping up the pantry challenge this weekend, and will post about that early next week.