Wednesday, December 25, 2013

ObamaCare and my budget!

Just when I think I have my budget figured out.... life happens!

I received news this week that I must apply for Covered California (ObamaCare) before I can reapply for my current county insurance. Gulp! I decided to call so I could talk to a representative. Long story short is that I cannot stay with my current health care plan which had a very good plan. After a lot of prayer, investigating and talking with several insurance specialists I decided (with fear and trepidation) on a plan through Kaiser. It will cost $1 a month with a $5,000 deductible, 3 office visits a year at $60 a visit and no help with prescriptions. It's not a good plan but it's what I could afford now. Thankfully I don't have any medical issues and I'm not using prescriptions.

We had a good crop of broccoli!

No sence whining about it. It is what it is. Our family could not afford any kind of insurance when our children were growing up. God blessed us with good health during those years. While the insurance plan I've chosen is terrible in comparison to the one I had previously, it's 100% better than having nothing. I will choose to be thankful and work harder on keeping healthy.  God has always taken good care of us.


I finally conquered my Christmas preparations so I was able to get back to my frugal ways this week. *wink* 

1. We've had nearly 2 weeks of 30 degree weather. I decided to buy some Long John's to wear under our clothes and night clothes instead of turning up the heat. Okay, well we did turn up the heat once. :-) I'm finding that wearing several layers of clothes is a big key to keeping warm in an old house. 

2.  I saved the packages the Long John's came in. I cut them open and used the inside instead of Seran wrap to let the Mounds Balls dry. 

This is the first time I've grown swiss chard. I've used it in our eggs and soups. 

3.  I found some adorable Christmas ornaments I want to make for gifts next year. It's never too early to plan. Take a peek. Aren't they adorable? I hope to start in January.

Names of Christ Ornaments

4. I have an 8 year supply of discounted Christmas wrappings that has slowly been dwindling.  I hope to hit the dollar stores the day after Christmas when the wrappings, tissue paper and gift bags are half off @ .50! I did find some tissue paper for .50 each this week.

5.  What I didn't throw away this week:
  • Celery and carrot peels (homemade dog food)
  • Broth from baked chicken (homemade soup)
  • Envelope (to store vegetable seeds)
  • Bubble packaging (to use for future packaging)
  • Sandwich baggie (washed/dried to resuse)
  • Rubber bands (radishes)
  • Cake mix plastic bag (washed and used as a baggie)
  • Bread flour bag (I cut it open and will reuse it as packaging to ship small gifts)
  • Bacon grease (I put it in a small container to use instead of oil to scramble eggs). 
6. I cut back on sending Christmas cards this year. The pennies will only stretch so far. I also didn't do all my normal baking, either.  I can't believe how much baking ingredients have increased plus it's a big temptation to have sweets in the house. I know that staying away from sugar plays a big role in keeping healthy.

Butter lettuce, spinach, curled leaf and several other lettuces to be harvested in February. 

7.  Ham's are on sale this month so I've bought a couple to freeze because it's cheap meat at .99 a pound. The butcher told me that the shank does not have as much meat as the butt so I paid $1.29 a pound for one of them. Still a great deal!

8. I've been keeping a pot of soup in the fridge for lunches but hubby occasionally wants a sandwich so I made a couple loaves of wheat bread.

9.  I've been saving meat scraps, bones and vegetable scraps for a month to make dog food. It really helps to stretch the dog food and it doesn't cost me a thing because I make it from food that would normally be thrown away.

10. This is a trick that saves time more than money. I use Seran wrap (or a recycle bag) to line a measuring cup when using Crisco. Once I measure it I can throw away the Seran wrap and the cup is still clean.

I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas this year! We have so much to be thankful for because  of the greatest gift ever given.... Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world, that he GAVE his only Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in him should not perish BUT have eternal life.   John 3:16 ESV

Blessed by His grace,


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That You May Believe


 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. —John 20: 30– 31

 I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed— that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power. You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and so spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God. How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to his glory and his story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”

 The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read (John 18: 37). O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you.

 I pray for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God. One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ. These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.

John Piper. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent (Kindle Locations 606-613). Desiring God.

(Picture: Permission granted from

Friday, December 13, 2013

Perfectionism and frugality!

We're on the countdown to Christmas! Are you ready? I'm using every spare moment to finish the last of my homemade gifts. We had a family member fall and break his hip this week so our focus shifted.. as well it should!  I continue to set perfectionism (pride?) aside as I look at my dusty furniture and smudgy floors. I'm keeping up with the meals, dishes and laundry. The rest will wait for me. *smile* 

Oftentimes at this time of year we forget who is the true giver of gifts! Yes, our husbands work to bring home a paycheck. But, do we thank God for providing the health needed to earn that money? Or who blesses the company they work for so there is money to pay their salary? I stopped today and thanked God that even though my husband is disabled and is no longer able to work -- still the Lord has provided gifts through the many years he tirelessly worked for his family. God  is my provider. 

Two of the nicest guys I know! (My son in love and my son (on the right)

 I'm still doing my normal frugal duties but there is just not enough time to add any extras to share with you this week.  I decided to share a story I wrote several years ago on my neglected Xanga blog. I hope this story encourages you as much as it encouraged me! 

92 Bananas (I mean SOCKS!)

I was sharing this story with my girls today.

I really wanted to purchase a few pairs of socks this summer to wear with my tennis shoes. I had two pairs that didn’t make it to wash day so I’d end up wearing my thick socks which were hot.  No big deal!  I  was tempted many times to pick up a package but kept putting it off thinking that I’d just make do with what I had. And I did.

I shared this ‘want’ with no one.

A few weeks ago my sister handed me a bag. As I opened the bag I was overwhelmed. Can you guess what I found?  You guessed it!   A bag full of socks! Not just a few but probably close to 20 pairs. All colors and kinds. My dresser drawer is now crammed packed with socks!

My heart was overwhelmed.. again.. with the knowledge of God’s tender care for me!  “Thank you, Lord, for noticing even my smallest ‘wants’!”

Immediately I was reminded of a story I read several years ago called, Evidence Not Seen. It was the story of Darlene Diebler Rose who was a missionary to Papua New Guinea. She was taken captive during World War 11 by the Japenese.

Darlene was in solitary confinement at one point of her captivity. She was only fed white rice oftentimes with rocks in it. She was malnourished and her body was suffering from dysentery and malaria. One day she wished for some fresh air so she managed to pull herself up to the top of the cell where there was a small opening. As she looked outside she saw a prisoner sneak over to the fence where someone handed her a bunch of bananas. Darlene’s mouth began to water. Oh, how she wished for just one banana. Just one! As she lowered herself down from the window she knelt down and prayed for just one banana. Just one, Lord! Just one! She started imaging how the Lord would answer this prayer but since the guards were the only one’s allowed to open her cell door she soon concluded that her chances for just one banana were slim.

Within a short period of time the door opened and there stood a commander from another prison camp where she had stayed. Plans were being made for her execution. He asked her what message she would want to send back to the prisoners at camp who were asking about her.

She told him to tell them that she was alright because she was still trusting in Jesus.

Tears came to the commander’s eyes. He then turned to the two guards and began speaking to them in a low voice. She was sure that he was telling them the salvation story which she had shared with him after she was informed of her husband’s death.

Soon they left.  Darlene suddenly realized that she had forgotten to bow to the guards. Oh, she was so frightened! Why hadn’t she remembered? Why hadn’t the Lord reminded her?  She would surely now be beaten again! She couldn’t bare another beating. Suddenly, she heard footsteps and braced herself. The door opened and a guard entered. And guess what he brought with him? Not ONE but 92 bananas! 92!!

Many of us are experiencing leaner times than we’re used to (we’re still so abundantly blessed) but we continue to serve a God who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we ask or even IMAGINE!

Jehovah Jireh.. our Provider!

Ephesians 3:20 “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that works in us..”

Georgene Girouard
September 25, 2009
Isn't God good?! 

I've made and continue to make such lovely acquaintances and friends through this blog. Thank you for your friendship. I look forward to reading what you are doing in your home each week as I know others have said they do, too! If you have time we'd love to hear how God is providing for you this Christmas!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

One Income Living in a Two Income World

Well, I have to say it! I'm dazzled and amazed  that we are living on so little money! I never would have imagined we could live such a full and contented life on so little--but we are! And we are doing just fine!

We are learning to live mainly within my husband's budget since I left my part time job. I have a few odd projects with family and friends that equal a little over $100 a month. The jobs are temporary so I don't include the amount in our monthly budget. I don't want to depend on this income but I am certainly thankful for it!

There are still places we could cutback if we had to. So far the Lord is getting us through one day at a time. I am so thankful to Him for each day that we keep our heads above water.

Some of the grands making gingerbread houses. 
Winter has finally hit our neck of the woods. The nightly temperature dropped to the 20's. Some of the vegetables were covered with sheets and freeze cloth but the swiss chard and broccoli leaves got hit pretty hard. The sweet peas, celery and onions are fine. We're thinking about how we can protect our small little backyard garden next winter. We really depend on our vegetables to stretch our grocery money. I haven't bought many vegetables in the past few weeks. We've been eating what we grow.

Christmas is just a few weeks away. I'm so thankful that I have a Christmas Savings Fund. The bank takes $25 out of our paycheck each month throughout the year.  It didn't cover all of my Christmas expense this year but the majority.  I can't give a lot to my children and all my grandies but I do love to give them a little something. There is such joy in giving.
Homemade snow globes in process!

I found a couple of cute ideas on Pinterest to make for gifts next year. I hope to work on one project a month so that I'll have gifts ready ahead of time. Pinterest is a wonderful resource! I'd be so happy if you share any nice gift ideas you're making.

But, over all it's God who provides for us day by day.  He meets all our true needs. He even meets some of our wants. He amazingly multiplies our small little fishies by giving above and beyond our wages in small unexpected ways. Friends will call with extra fruit and vegetables or clothes.  Sometimes I'll spot a terrific sale at the store. He is taking little and making it  much.  We are just as content as can be!


Here are a few things I've been doing in my home this week:

1.  I try to make it a rule to stay out of the stores. All of this went by the wayside with Christmas and BOY did I feel the tug of the 'wants' surface! I realized afresh the temptation to overspend when I spend too much time looking at store ads or meandering through a store. I did a LOT of praying with quick pleads of HELP!

2.  I'm trying to stretch my skin care moisturizers and cleanser . So far the cleanser has lasted 2 years because I use a very small dab and always apply it on a wet face. I do the same with my moisturizer.

Finished snow globe
3. I use a Sh-Mop! I love it! I have hardwood floors throughout my entire little house. A Sh-Mop has a larger than normal mop pad which helps the job go faster. I use both sides of the cloth cover to save on my laundry loads. When one side is dirty I flip it over to the other side. I do this with rugs,too. I use this same principal for the cat beds. I put a light blanket or sheet over their beds. When one side is dirty I will flip it over to the other side before I wash it. I can't do this in the summer time because of fleas but it works fine in the winter.

4. I had a small handful of hamburger leftover from low carb tacos. I used it to make soup the next day. We are eating homemade soup nearly every day. I love a hot bowl of soup on a cold day! It seems to heat ya to the bone!

5. I received a $10 free coupon from Kohl's in the mail. I also had a 15% off coupon. I bought a gift for a birthday in January and ended up spending just a few dollars.

6.  I kick myself when I let food get pushed to the back of the fridge and don't use it before it spoils. I threw out several bowls of food this week because I wasn't diligent. I might as well take money and just burn it. I used to write down the leftovers on a pad I kept on the outside door of the fridge. I need to go back to that practice.

7.  I'm trying hard to spend less on my groceries this month so that I can buy a large container of coconut oil from Costco. I keep reading of the benefits to help your brain.. but I can't remember what they are! *Wink*
A gingerbread house artist!

8. I was able to stretch my dishwashing detergent by filling the empty bottle with water. I got 3 more washes by doing so.  I did this with my empty toothpaste tube, also. I cut it open and then scraped out enough for roughly 5 more applications.

9.  What I didn't throw away this week:
  • toilet paper tube (threw it in the compost pile)
  • rubber bands from green onions
  • comic papers (children's gift wrapping paper)
  • grocery ads (composting, lines the garbage can)
  • all my vegetable and fruit peelings (threw it in the compost pile)
  • saved tea bags to reuse
  • oil used for frying (one of these days I'm going to try making soap from used oil) 
10. I've been doing a lot of office work lately. We do not have Central Heat and Air. My office is FREEZING! I do believe my feet went numb at one point. :-) I have a small heater but I don't want to increase our electric bill. I thought and thought and finally came up with an idea. I took a neck warmer (the kind with rice in it) and heated it in the microwave and then laid it on my lap. It worked like a charm. My cat even took advantage of it and curled up on my lap while I was typing.  *Smile*

So how are you gals doing on your Christmas budget and the pull of all the ads to BUY, BUY, BUY? Are you staying on budget?

Blessed to be home,


Friday, November 29, 2013

Winter Work in the Home!

Now that the cold weather is officially here I am spending time on indoor projects. The summer garden kept me hopping between weed pulling and preserving our harvest. There is a fall crop in but it won't entail preserving for quite a few months. So, now is the time to work on projects inside my house.

I first have to complete a few sewing projects for Christmas. Once those are finished I hope to finish two quilt tops. I have everything I need except possibly some batting for one. I've been dragging these tops around for quite a few years. My home is small and they are taking up space not to mention the fact that they are hanging over my head! I need these monkey's off my back! :-)

I also hope to go through several drawers full of pants that need to be taken in. They need to be tried on and then tailored to fit. If I don't get them altered this winter then they will be given away. I have a new potholder pattern I've also been wanting to try for several years. If I happen to finish these projects (one can always hope) then I'd LOVE to go through my closets and throw out what I haven't used this past year.

I've never lived in a home this small before except when my husband became disabled and we lived in a studio cottage as caregivers and a studio barn. Both were less than 300 sq. ft. We kept most of our belongings in storage. Our little cottage is 745 sq. ft. and everything I own is stored within it's walls and the garage. There is no room for excess.

I find clutter bothers me the older I get. I really enjoy tidiness but I rarely reach the goal that my heart hungers for! Yet, I keep trying! It's almost like the clutter is a living entity that would love to take over my house if it's not tamed!

It was kind of a slow week here on the frugal home front. Lots of  life going on and as a result there is not always time for my part time job of saving money.  Here are a few things I did write down:

1.  We had our family Thanksgiving on Sunday since my children and their families were going out of town. I saved the turkey carcass bones. The next morning I threw them in a huge stock pot and simmered them for 4 hours.  I took out the bones and then added thyme, salt and pepper along with celery, onion, and very few potatoes since we're low carbing. I normally would have added some chicken bouillon cubes but the flavor was just right.

2. Hubby made a comment about being tired of chicken and hamburger.  So, I've been keeping my eyes out for some good deals. I found pork loin roast on sale for $1.69 a pound. I checked the marked down section of the meat department and this time I hit the jackpot. They had New York steaks marked down. I bought 2 small steak for $3 each. This is over my meat budget for each meal with is $2 or less. But, I like to make my husband happy so it was worth it. I'll cut back somewhere else.

3. A dear friend brought me some sweet Pink Lady apples. I hope to peel and slice them for a low carb apple pie (if I don't eat them first!). Thanks Pam! :-)

4. My husband loves bacon but BOY is it expensive! So, what I do is cut the package into 1/4's  and use just a small portion per breakfast. I put the remainder in the freezer. This way we can have a little treat of bacon once a week. I do the same thing with maple sausage that I find at the dollar store except I divide it in half. Sometimes I'll crumble it and use it in an omelet.

5.  The same friend who brought me apples also brought me a bag of clothes she no longer wanted. I found quite a few blouses for next summer and passed the rest onto someone else in need.

6.  I tried a new salad dressing (Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette) to use with the swiss chard in my garden. I also picked a few strawberries to add! (can you believe I still have strawberries growing?). I don't want to break a copyright for the recipe I used but if you do a search you'll find a large selection of this recipe. Store bought dressings are so expensive. I always have oil and vinegar in my pantry to make homemade dressings.

Enjoying some time with my grandson!

7. I have quite a few food allergies that cause joint pain. Dairy is one of them. I heard that some people can tolerate Ghee even if they can't tolerate butter. It's very expensive to buy. I tried making some  this week and it turned out so yummy! I put 4 stick of butter in a crockpot on low until it formed a crust on the top. I scraped off the crust and the yumminess below was saved in a small 1/2 pint jar. Hopefully it won't cause joint pain. I saved the butter crust  for my husband to use.

8.  I started my winter soup container again. I let this practice go during the summer but now I'm trying to keep a pot of soup in the fridge for winter lunches. I'm placing bits of leftover veggies and meat in the container to use for leftover soup.

9.  What I didn't throw away this week:
  • Bread wrapper (re-use as a baggie)
  • Bread roll wrapper from Thanksgiving dinner (re-use as a baggie)
  • Aluminum cans from green beans (recycle for money)
  • Rinse water from washing machine (Holding it in the garbage can to use later on flowers when the ground dries out.)
  • Appointment reminder that was blank on the back side. Cut in 1/4's and used for scrap paper. 
  • Rubber bands from radishes
10.  I'm paying closer attention to serving sizes on recipes and packages. This practice helps stretch my grocery budget and not my pants. :-) I also bought radishes and celery  for snacking in between meals. They fill me up and are inexpensive.

What is going on in your home this week? I've learned so much from you ladies!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Giving on a Tight Income!

For those of us living on less there is a temptation to hold onto our money and not give to those in need. We know the daily struggle to stay within a tight budget. We work hard to stretch our  income to meet all of the expenses. What if we won't have enough to meet our own needs?

I am confronted with this question when I see a homeless person sitting on the curb with a sign for help. Or when I hear of a need at church or in my neighborhood.

Missing my 2 grandbabies who moved many miles away. 

The scriptures have a lot to say about giving to those who are poor. You may be saying, 'But I AM POOR !' Yes, compared to some we may be. But, we are rich in comparison to the homeless or our Christian brothers and sisters living in other countries or maybe even the widow living on Social Security.  Sometimes we may not have any extra to give. God understands. But, how often do we have just a little more than we need and hoard it for ourselves out of fear?

I often think of this scripture and marvel at their faith:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saintsand this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 2 Cor. 8:1-5

They gave out of their EXTREME POVERTY! They gave BEYOND THEIR MEANS!  They BEGGED for the FAVOR to relieve the saints.  Maybe because they gave themselves FIRST TO THE LORD?!

I know things are tight for many of us.  But, it is possible to give even on a small budget. God knows what is best for us! He knows that we not only bless others when we give but we are blessed, too!

Here are a few  ideas:

  • Pick up 1 snack item(peanuts, crackers) at the dollar store along with a 6 pack of water to carry in the car along. Include a gospel tract. That way you have something to hand to the poor as you drive by.
  • Watch for needs in your neighborhood. Do you know an elderly person living on a tight budget? Maybe you could make an extra loaf of bread next time your're baking. Or take a plate of cookies? Or invite them to dinner?
  • Do you know a young family that is struggling to make ends meet? Maybe you have extras in your food pantry that your family won't eat. Maybe you could make a pot of vegetable soup to share. 
  • Do you have a garden? You could share your surplus. 
  • Do you give yourself an allowance? Possibly set aside $5 to pick up sale items to share with someone whose husband is out of work. 
  • Watch FREECYCLE giveaways for items to give to others in need. 
There are so many creative ways to give without putting a dangerous strain on your own family. Of course we must always take our husbands wishes into account.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17 ESV


1. Payday has arrived! YAY! This last pay period was 5 weeks! Boy was it tight the last 2 weeks but we made it! I spent too much at the beginning which left me with $70 for 3 weeks. I divided it by 3 and only spent that amount each week buying just what was needed. I'm trying to slow down my spending this month. It's a challenge because I'm out of so much by the end of the pay period.

2. I keep the lights off during the day. At first it seemed so dark in the house but we've adjusted now. At night I keep nightlights on in the bedrooms and the bathroom so we don't have to turn on the lights except for the living room where we spend the evening.

3.  I'm ALWAYS thinking about how to lower my grocery bill. This month I'm focusing on snacks. I decided to buy more veggies for snacking instead of low carb muffins and sunflower seeds. The sunflower seed and coconut flour in the muffins are not cheap. I purchased a huge bag of organic celery at Costco for around $3, a bag of carrots and 2 bunches of radishes. They are cut and easily to find in my fridge. They are filling and less calories, too.

4.  I shopped 7 stores in one day to save money on my groceries. I made a full circle so that I didn't spend extra on gas. I hit the discount grocery stores first, the dollar store and then the main grocery store and finally Walmart. I made a list and prayed for help to stick with it.  Normally I look for deals as I'm shopping but this time I tried to stay focused on only buying what was on my list. I did find 2 great deals that just popped out at me.

5.  It rained for 3 days this week. YAY! Winter may finally be here! I did laundry while it was raining so I didn't run the rinse water from the washing machine to the flower beds. Instead, I turned off the faucet on the garbage can that holds the rinse water and let the rinse water fill up the garbage can. I now have a large garbage can full of water to use once it stops raining. I hope to buy another garbage can after Christmas to save more water.

6.  What I saved this week:
  • rubber band that bound the radishes
  • veggie peelings and egg shells for compost file
  • TP end roll for compost. 
  • Leaves for compost pile
7. I keep looking for new recipes to use the veggies in our garden. I'm focusing on the swiss chard right now. I plan on trying an Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing for a swiss chard salad.

8. My girls bought most of the food for Thanksgiving in exchange for me doing the cooking and baking. They are so busy! I don't mind! I love to cook and bake for my family! I start prepping for the meal a few days in advance. This makes it less stressful on the day of the dinner. I already cut my onions and celery for the stuffing and tore the bread in small pieces. I made the pie crusts a few weeks ago and hid them in the freezer. I also did the major cleaning on Monday. The more I can do ahead of time the more I enjoy our time together.

9. I was pricing sunflower seeds and comparing ounces to the price when I noticed that some of the bags had coupons. When I looked closer I realized the final price would be .18  for a 4.5 ounce bag. I bought 10 bags for $1.80. Husband was happy, happy, happy!

10.  I've wear a CPAP mask at night for sleep apnea. A friend gave me 2 new masks that are different than the kind I normally wear. I don't like the way they fit at all and they hurt my face but I'm 'practicing' each night. I'm hoping I can adjust to them. It would save me $25. My old one is wearing out. I've learned over the years that you can adjust to many things you thought you couldn't if you just practice patience! I need patience! 

I hope you all have a wonderful, and THANKS FILLED Thanksgiving! We are so abundantly blessed that Jesus Christ came to die the death we deserved for our sins and by faith in Him we can have peace with God!

...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:4

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV

Monday, November 18, 2013

2 WEEK Monday Menu

I'm posting a 2 week menu since my daughter in love will be visiting next week. I hope to be a bit distracted with visiting and squishing grandones!

 Happy days!

Breakfast: Low carb pancakes (made with coconut flour)
Lunch: Kale and sausage soup
Dinner:  Chile Rellenos, (I'll fill in with soup)

Breakfast: Omelet (Turkey bacon, swiss chard, red onions)
Lunch: Kale and sausage soup
Dinner: Spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash (Freeze leftovers)

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, LC muffin
Lunch: Hot link sandwich (husband), sausage and kraut (me)
Dinner: Roasted chicken, pea salad, Spicy green beans

Breakfast: Chorizo and egg LC burrito
Lunch: LC Chicken Tortilla Soup (minus the tortillas)
Dinner: LC chicken burrito, Swiss chard salad

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, green pepper, red onion, Swiss chard, hot sauce
Lunch: LC Chicken Fajita (1 piece of chicken and peppers in freezer)
Dinner: Fish Patties, pea salad, deviled eggs

Breakfast: LC biscuits and gravy
Lunch: LC Chicken Tortilla soup (leftovers)
Dinner: LC Banquet Entree and veggies (Easy meal since I'll be cooking all day for Sunday)

Breakfast: LC biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich (Husband), egg salad wrap in Swiss Chard (me)
Dinner: Thanksgiving  Dinner

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch:  Hamburger soup
Dinner: LC Tacos

Breakfast: scrambled egg, potato and sausage
Lunch: Hamburger soup
Dinner: Fried Chicken, potatoes, salad

Breakfast: LC Waffles
Lunch: Chicken vegetable soup
Dinner: Barbecued chicken, potato, green salad

Breakfast: Chorizo and egg in LC tortilla
Lunch: Chicken vegetable soup
Dinner: Barbecued chicken, pumpkin and chorizo, green beans

Breakfast: Omelet (Swiss chard, red onion, sausage)
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich (Husband), egg salad wrapped in swiss chard (me)
Dinner: Meatloaf, Baked potato, Coleslaw

Breakfast: LC biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Kale and sausage soup
Dinner: Mackerel or tuna patties, yams and coleslaw

Breakfast: LC biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Kale and sausage soup
Dinner: Meatloaf, baked potato, coleslaw

Snacks: LC muffins, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, celery with peanut butter, deviled eggs, hard boiled eggs

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What I learned from LAINE'S LETTERS

A day rarely goes by that I don't practice a frugal duty that I learned from Laine over at Laine's Letters. I've been reading her letters for over 8 years. I have learned more about saving money from her example than any other resource! I thank God for Laine!

We still have raspberries!
Here are just a few things I learned from Laine:
  • Put God first. Laine gets up an hour early before the household to spend time in God's Word and prayer. She knows how much she needs God's wisdom!
  • Only spend what you can afford on a gift!  I was shocked the first time I read that Laine only had $3 to spend on a gift! I didn't even know that was possible. Wouldn't the other person think you were cheap or that you didn't like them? Laine helped me to see the importance of living within your budget.. even if it meant spending less on a gift. She also taught me that God will provide the right gift.. even if you only have $3 to spend. 
  • Pray that God will give you 'eyes to see' as you enter a store.  Laine prays for help as she shops.  I also pray that God will help me stick within my budget and to not want things I can't afford or that I don't need. 
  • Make do!  This meant that if money was tight and there were holes in her linoleum then she'd put a throw rug over the hole. The money was used for more important needs. 
  • Stay within your budget no matter what! She unplugged her regular size refrigerator and used a small apartment fridge when the utility rates increased so she could stay within her budget. 
  • Keep different versions of the same recipe.  I wrote about this last week when I needed to make a Lemon Cake but I didn't have any jello. I found another recipe that used lemon pudding instead and it turned out just as good. I use 2 sites when searching for a recipe. Allrecipes and Food. I use recipes that have the highest ratings and I read the reviews for suggestions. This principle saves unnecessary trips to the store. 
  • Cook from scratch to save big money. Laine's Letters has lots of recipes to make from scratch. I used her Uncle Raymond's bread recipe for years and still bake it for my mom. Laine encouraged me to look at my shopping list and evaluate what I could make from scratch. Look at each item you buy in a can or a box and ask yourself if you can make it from scratch. 
  •  Make an item last until it dies! She didn't run out and buy a new computer when her keyboard keys stuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! This practice takes PATIENCE and we Americans are not a patient nation. If something doesn't work perfectly then we replace it. Actually, we replace our items when they still work just to buy an updated product. 
  • Buy backup products when you find them cheap! If you find a vacuum at a garage sale for pennies then buy it for a backup. I've taken her advice and now have 3 breadmakers. Two of them were given to me and I bought one for $10 at a garage sale. It was a very expensive brand. I also have an extra washing machine as a back up sitting in my garage. 
  • You don't need all the bells and whistles! Can you think of one person you know who doesn't own a cell phone? Or pay for cable tv or satellite? I learned from Laine that you can live without these items and be content. We do pay for both of these items but I could let go of them very easily because of Laine's example. It's fine to own  electronics if we can afford them but they are not a necessity. 
  • You can save money on a low income! I thought it was impossible to save money on less than $22,000 a year but I learned you can! Thanks Laine!
Laine taught me that a family CAN life on one salary. My heart has always wanted to be home. Laine's example has shown me that it's possible to live on only one income.  Laine's family of 6 lived on less than $30,000 a year and paid their home off 15 years early.

There it is! 

These are just a few of the wonderful things I learned from Laine. If I had to just pick one lesson I would say it's her dependency on God to teach her how to stretch her husband's income. That has been invaluable.

Thank you Laine! You've been a wonderful teacher and friend!

Now, here are a few things I did this week to stretch our pennies:

1.  I had a partial pack of hot dogs in the freezer. I did a search for a hot dog soup at All Recipes and made this one with the ingredients I had on hand. It was very good. Of course, my husband threw in a habanero to kick it up a notch ! :-)

2. A dear friend gave a truck load of 8 x 16 concrete blocks to make a raised garden bed. I keep looking for new spots in my yard to add another vegetable plot. These bricks will be used to make a cold frame for winter vegetables.

3. I'm learning how to use swiss chard. It's a new vegetable for me! It tastes pretty close to lettuce so it will be good in salads. This morning I cut a leaf to saute in our scrambled eggs along with onions and garlic. Last night I tried a new recipe called, Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard. It's was okay.. nothing earth shattering but okay. I'll keep trying new recipes until I find a few keepers!

4. I raked a LOT of leaves this week and put them in a large garbage can to use for compost. I put my 'wet' ingredients for compost into my buckets and then add three times as many leaves. I need to find some time to put down some old paperwork from the office and straw on top. I did that last winter and it composted easily into the ground. It's also a great way to safely get rid of your outdated paperwork. :-)

Swiss chard

5.  I made 2 batches of pie crusts to put in the freezer for the holidays. That means a total of 8 single pie crusts. The recipe I have will last 1 week in the fridge or a month in the freezer. It's the best recipe I've tried. I often keep this pie crust in the freezer to have on hand in case someone needs a meal. Having pie crusts in the freezer will take the stress off of baking for the holiday meals.

6.  I like to save the extra packets of condiments from fast food places. I put them in a small baggie in the fridge.  This week I used small packets of Parmesan cheese and taco sauce.

7.  I used my large toaster oven (in the garage) a LOT this summer. It helped to avoid heating the house up from the kitchen oven. But, I tend to use the kitchen oven more in the winter so it WILL heat up the house. *smile*   I still use the toaster oven on warmer days to save money.

8.  Store bought soup is expensive compared to homemade. My goal has been to keep a batch of soup in the fridge at all times. I put leftovers in the freezer to defrost on busy days. It really makes a frugal lunch. The challenge has been to find time to make it regularly. This week I tried making soup while working on dinner.  That worked great. Sometimes it takes a few tries to establish a new habit.

Family dinners in a small home

9.  I have one week left until payday. I'm still within my grocery budget. I have less than $20 left. I've only  bought what I need these past 3 weeks.  I'm so happy to know I CAN stick to my $300 a month grocery budget.  I could cut back to $275 if I had to. I made some extra cash this week from odd jobs so I could have spent more on groceries. But, it's important that I practice sticking to my budget. Prices continue to climb and I need to strengthen my budget keeping muscles. *smile*

10. My utility bill was low this month. Often I will take the money I have saved and put it in an envelope to use for the summer utility bills that tend to be higher due to watering the yard and garden.

What a full week! What did you do this week? Did you have a good week?

Blessed to be a homemaker!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heating an Old Home

We've lived in our little 745 sq. ft. cottage for over a year so I'm still learning the quirks of this house. It's heated by a small wall furnace in the living room. The heat does not keep the other rooms warm.  Last year I tried to keep the heat in the living room so I would shut all the doors and put up curtain partitions for the other rooms.  I did the same thing at night in the bedroom.  The temperature dropped so low that it caused condensation on the windows and we started to get mold. NOT a good thing!

So, this year I'm trying something new. I keep the gas wall furnace set at 60 degrees at night. I leave the office door cracked (so that the cats can't get out) just enough so that the heat can flow into that room. I leave the bathroom door cracked, too. I keep a small electrical heater with a thermostat set at 64 degrees in our bedroom. Sometimes I'll shut our bedroom door later at night if I hear the heater clicking on too many times. I no longer see the condensation on the windows.

I tried not using a small heater in our bedroom but it got too cold and was affecting my husband's health condition. His health and comfort are more important than a low utility bill. I'll find another place to cut back if I need to. We still sleep with gloves and multiple layers of clothes and I sleep with a stocking hat.  I remember the old movie pictures where people wore stocking caps to bed. Now I know why!  I think we'd scare off any burglars by the way we look! (*smile*)

We keep sweaters handy during the day. If we get cold we can just throw a sweater on instead of raising the heat. I crocheted a small throw blanket that I keep in the living room. If my husband gets chilled he can throw it over his legs while watching TV. I also crocheted a round throw rug to put next to my husband's bed so his feet will stay warm.

I LOVE to make soup in the winter time. It's economical, yummy and also heats up the house. I like making it after breakfast so the heat will warm up the kitchen.

I have written how I keep my curtains closed on the east side of the house in the summertime until it's close to noon. It helped to keep the house cooler. This time of year I open the curtains first thing in the morning so the heat will COME IN and warm the rooms. 

We signed up for HEAP (Home energy assistance program) quite a few months ago. We were approved which means that our utility bill will be granted $190.  What a huge blessing!

And of course, there are my little furry friends who are my babies. I can't stand to see anything cold and suffering so they have warm little beds to sleep in, too. I use flannel sheets and small blankets I've collected at thrift stores and garage sales. They sleep indoors at night. I always feel so bad for animals who sleep outside and have no covering or warm bed. Poor babies!

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
 Php. 4:19 ESV


Here are a few things I did to stretch our pennies this week:

1. I made another batch of dog food. I've been saving chicken bones,skin and gristle along with carrot peelings for a month or longer. I added noodles and chicken broth, too. I'm almost out of canned dog food so this will help to stretch it.

2. I cut my husband's hair this week. I learned how to cut hair years ago when my oldest son was a toddler. I found a book at the library that was very helpful. Now you can find tutorials on You Tube. Cutting my families hair has saved thousands of dollars over the years.
Cabbage and sweet peas

3. I found a nice pair of pants at the thrift store. They were having a 25% off sale. I ended up paying a little over $3 for the pants.

4. There is an air vent directly above my stove. I can feel the cold air rushing from the attic through the vent. I found an 8 x 11 magnetic sheet and a roll of magnetic tape which holds it to the vent. I keep a step stool between the oven and the fridge so I can easily place the magnetic sheet on the vent after I'm finished cooking.

5. I haven't had full loads of wash each week so I'm delaying my wash cycles until I can fill the tub. The only thing I run short on is my whites so I wash those more often. I hope to buy more socks and underwear to solve that problem. 

6. I've started soaking my clothes overnight if they are real dirty. I don't use the full wash cycle. I turn the knob to the rinse cycle, fill the tub with water and then turn off the machine.  I let the clothes soak in the water overnight. The soaking helps to loosen any of the dirt. The next morning I finish the short wash cycle and then start a new cycle using the shortest wash cycle. My whites look whiter.
Broccoli, swiss chard, garlic and celery

7. I wanted to make a birthday cake for a friend. I didn't have all the ingredients on hand so I found a similar recipe that had a few different ingredients which I did have on hand. I saved myself a trip to the store and the cake turned out very good
8. I had some old greeting cards that were not in good shape. I cut them in half and used the blank sides for scrap paper. I keep a small container of scrap paper next to the phone.

9.   What I saved this week:
  • Dog food can (fertilizer)
  • Green bean can (recycle for money)
  • Chicken bones and skin (for dog food)
  • Cake mix wrapper (washed and used as instead of a sandwich baggie).
  • Erythritol bag 
10.  I read years ago that if you wet a dirty counter and let it soak for 5 minutes then it's easier to clean. I've tried this with many things like washing my hair. I suds my hair and let it sit while I'm showering and then wash it out at the end. I only have to wash my hair with shampoo once by doing this.

How are you and what did you do this week?

Blessed beyond measure!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Menu

I have two and half more weeks until payday with $45 dollars left in my grocery account. I definitely need a new plan! Next month I'm going to TRY and divide my grocery money between 3 weeks while spending 2 weeks worth in the beginning of the pay period.  Meanwhile, I keep praying and looking for ways to stretch the money I have left. My plan will be no stocking up on sales but only using the money I have left for necessities like meat and vegetables.

So here is the menu I pulled together from what I have on hand.  

Breakfast: Low carb pancakes
Lunch: Beef stew and half bologna sandwich (husband), no bread for me
Dinner: Low carb chili and coleslaw

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and bacon
Lunch: Beef soup and half turkey breast sandwich (husband), no bread for me
Dinner: Barbecued chicken, sweet potatoes, green beans in garlic

Breakfast: Low carb bluberry muffins and smoothie
Lunch: Sauteed hot dogs with onion and celery in butter
Dinner: Low carb chili

Breakfast: Low carb pancakes
Lunch: Beef stew and half egg salad sandwich, no bread for me
Dinner: Barbecued chicken, red potatoes and green beans in garlic

Breakfast: Eggs, small bits of potato, onion, garlic and kale (cheese added for husband's part)
Lunch: Vegetable soup and half turkey breast sandwich, (no bread for me)
Dinner: Spaghetti squash and homemade spaghetti sauce

Breakfast: Omelet
Lunch: Mexican soup and half bologna sandwich, (no bread for me)
Dinner: Fried fish, fried okra and sweet potatoes

Breakfast: Low carb orange pecan muffins with low carb smoothie
Lunch: Mexican soup and half turkey breast sandwich, (no bread for me)
Dinner: Spaghetti squash and homemade spaghetti sauce

Snacks: boiled eggs, Low carb fruit tarts, sunflower seeds, almonds (for husband),

Friday, November 1, 2013

Giving Gifts

I've known gift giving to be a blessing and a burden. There have been times in my adult years when I have wanted to give a nice gift but haven't had the money. That has been a burden. Yet, there have been other times when I have had money and gift giving was a blessing. Still other times when I have had very little money .. yet God answered my prayers and I was able to give a special gift within my budget. That was the best blessing of all.

My mother taught my sister and I to give gifts. We were encouraged to make Christmas gifts for our relatives throughout our childhood years. I learned to crochet, sew and craft through the means of gift giving. I believe my mother did the right thing by developing the habit of giving into the lives of others. Unfortunately, I twisted  it into a pressure it was never meant to be.

Our 'grandones' love to sit in our front yard tree.
Recently my curiosity has piqued over recycled projects. The internet is full of ideas. I've pinned a lot of those ideas on my Pinterest page under Re-use it.  One idea is a jean quilt from old jeans. I have quite a few squares already cut. I had two old pairs of jeans given to me recently that were not worth passing on so those will be cut up, too.  I'm also saving yarn to crochet a rug. Now this one will sound strange but I'm saving 1/2 gallon milk cartons to make a child's gift. I'll explain that one later in another post. :-)

I remember a Christmas many years ago when my oldest son was 5.  There was very little money for Christmas gifts. So the idea came up to make a race track for his Matchbox cars. Plaster was used along with molding clay to make road and ponds and then they were painted. It was his favorite gift and I image he may still remember it to this today.

The older I get the more I've come to realize that it's not always the amount of money spent on a gift but the thought that goes in to it. I've received lovely handmade gifts that cost very little and I've enjoyed them so much. I've also been on the receiving end of hand me down gifts that I've also enjoyed.


Here are a few ways ways I stretched our money this week...

1. I finally roasted the sunflower seeds and also roasted pumpkin seeds from the free pumpkins. I have one pumpkin left and plan on cutting it open for more sunflower seeds.. but I probably won't be canning the pumpkin. I'm up to my eyeballs in pumpkin. :-) Well, maybe I will can the pumpkin. I can't stand to see things go to waste. But, the seeds came out great except I think the sunflower seeds needed to dry out a bit more.

2. The wind kicked up this past weekend and there were leaves EVERYWHERE in my backyard. I swept and put them in a large garbage can to use in my composting buckets.  The leaves really tired me out last year but this year I see the leaves as a blessing since I learned that you need more 'brown' (leaves) in your compost than 'green' (food scraps).

3. I'm out of pumpkin pie spice and believe me.. I have a LOT of pumpkin in my pantry so I will be needing it soon.  I was able to find a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Spice at ALLRECIPES. I had all the ingredients on hand. Here is the link.

4.  The nights are starting to get cold. Our house was built in 1917 so there is no insulation in the walls... none.. zippo... zilch! I keep looking for ways to make our home comfortable. I have throw rugs in our bedroom since we don't have wall to wall carpeting. The throw rugs help our feet to stay warm when we get out of bed in the middle of the night. I turn the furnace down to 60 degrees when we go to bed and then turn it up to 68 around 5 am so the house will be warm when we get up.  My husband and I keep gloves and a stocking cap on our nightstands in case it gets too cold at night. I also found thick (REALLY thick) socks at Bass Pro in their hunting department that we wear to bed, too. We're snug as two bugs in a rug. Rarely does a night go by that I don't thank God for my warm and comfortable bed. I know there are so many in this world that do not have a bed to call their own.

5. We are starting to experience a few overcast and rainy days. I have started hanging my clothes in the garage when I see the clouds overhead. I have 2 lines strung in the laundry room, 2 drying racks plus 4 Amish Hangers that I use.  My clothes are dry by the next day. I just avoid hanging towels in the garage because they don't dry fast enough. I rarely use my dryer, even in the winter.

6. I started watching for sales on baking items that I'll use for Christmas. I don't bake nearly like I used to before we changed our diet to low carb but my  husband still insists on one batch of Mounds Balls. Last year I baked homemade bread (instead of candy) for extended family and neighbors. It was the perfect replacement for candy because I couldn't 'taste test'. :-) This year I plan to make Cranberry Scones to give as gifts. I'll probably bake homemade bread, too. Both are inexpensive gifts and enjoyed. I already found a large bag of dried cranberries and chocolate chips on sale at Costco. It's too expensive to wait and purchase all the baking items in December so I'll buy a few items each month.

7.  Things I didn't throw away this week:
  • Powdered sugar plastic bag (washed/reuse).
  • Brown sugar bag (washed/reuse)
  • Erythritol bag (washed/ reuse)
  • 1/2 gallon milk carton (washed/ to make a gift)
  • Dog food can (To bury and use as fertilizer for acid loving plants)
  • Plastic bags from vegetable department (reuse)
  • Coleslaw bag (washed/reuse)
  • Used canning lids (Washed and then turned upside down and put back with canning ring onto the jar to keep the jar clean)

8.  Do you know about Freecycle? It's a wonderful resource. I've met some great people through this group, too.  This past week a young lady posted that she had extra groceries to give away. I was blessed with lunch meat and canned goods. I had a lot in common with this young mother and we hope to meet for coffee soon. 

9. My mother is known for her homemade applesauce. The grandchildren love it and her home always smells so good when it's on the stove. I made a batch for our early Thanksgiving dinner which we are celebrating a few weeks early.  It's a wonderful addition to holiday meals and it's so easy to make. 

Grandma's Homemade Applesauce
6-8 Fuji apples
1 cup sugar
Pinch of cinnamon, less of nutmeg and even less of cloves

Peel apples and chop in chunks.  Put in a large sauce pan with
a small amount of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil and then turn 
down to a simmer. Watch and stir so it doesn't burn. Cook until the
apples are soft and then add the sugar and seasonings.  
Simmer for a few more minutes.

That's about all for this week!

So, I'm curious! Do you make any gifts from recycled items? :-)

I hope you have a joyful weekend!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monday Menus

I took my friends advice and made a list of everything in my pantry, fridge and freezer. I then made up a 3 week menu plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had $70 left before next payday. I was able to come close to nearly 3 weeks of meals. Whew! That is a relief! If I'm very cautious and only spend $23.00 or less a week then I should be fine. So here is this week's menu.

Breakfast-  scrambled eggs and turkey bacon
Lunch- Bologna sandwich (husband), egg salad and celery (me)
Dinner- LC Tacos

Breakfast- LC pancakes
Lunch- Tomato soup and 1/2 turkey sandwich (husband) and turkey salad/ celery (me)
Dinner- Spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash and carrots

Breakfast- LC biscuits and gravy
Lunch- hot link sandwich (husband), hot link and red cabbage slaw (me)
Dinner- Salmon Patties, pea salad, Italian green beans

Breakfast- scrambled eggs
Lunch- vegetable soup and 1/2 turkey sandwich (husband), turkey salad (me), pea salad
dinner- Clam chowder, sauteed kale with onion, garlic and bacon

Breakfast- LC biscuits and gravy
Lunch- fried egg sandwich (husband), fried egg and pea salad (me)
Dinner- Ham, green beans, coleslaw, deviled eggs

Breakfast- LC muffins and LC Smoothie
Lunch- hot dogs sauteed with onion and celery in butter (childhood favorite)
Dinner- Leftover ham, green beans, coleslaw, deviled eggs

Breakfast- scrambled eggs, mushrooms, kale, onion
Lunch- Freezer soup
Dinner- Leftovers

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Savings on $22,000 a year?

Something interesting happened this past month! I was able to put more in savings since I STOPPED working than when I WAS working outside the home. I wrote a few posts back about our income dropping $400 a month and all the cutbacks we were needing to make. I realized this morning that I was able to save more this past month than I did when I was working.

I think one reason may be that we are being very careful about what we purchase. We can't fall back on the 'extra' money I was making. Our old thinking was that if we wanted something extra for the house then just buy it BECAUSE there would be more money in a few weeks.  Since I stopped working we have pulled in the reins and are watching every penny we spend. I've had a few sporadic paid jobs this month. I didn't make a lot but I was able to sock that money away in savings.

Secondly, we are working hard to live BELOW our means. We've cut our bills so that we have money left over for savings.  Big expenses are bound to come up in the future and a savings will help keep us out of debt.

I'm encouraged and in awe of God's ability to take little and make it much! We really have so much!


Here are a few things I did to stretch our income this week!

1. I saved an empty Kleenex box and put cloth handkerchiefs in it. It's all set to go as needed.  I went to J.C. Penny a few years ago when our income started to decline and purchased quite a few men's handkerchiefs to use instead of the disposable Kleenex. They can be easily thrown in the washing machine with other whites. I'm always ahead if I can avoid buying disposable items.

2. A friend gave me a bag of gift tissue paper. It was crumbled up so I spent a few minutes ironing it this week on a low setting. This was an old trick my mama used to do. Saving tissue and gift wrapping has been a habit I was taught as a young child.  The older women in my family would gasp if they saw one of us children tearing the wrapping. We were taught to carefully open up the package while saving the wrapping and the tissue inside. Gift bags are popular now and so I save those, too.

3. I tried a new soup this week and it was a hit.

Hot and Sour Soup
6 c. vegetable broth (I used a combo of chicken and beef broth)
2 c. mushrooms (I used fresh)
1 small can bamboo shoots
1 small can water chestnuts
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 tbsp. vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c. green onions or scallions, sliced
2 tbsp. chili oil (I used chili paste)
Bring broth to boil and add all ingredients except
 green onions and chili oil. Simmer at least 
20 minutes. Add onions and simmer 5 more minutes. 
Then stir in chili oil. 
(I can't remember where I found this recipe.
 If you recognize it please let me know so I can give
proper credit.)

4.  Things I didn't throw away this week: 
  • Bill envelopes. I pay through my bank so I saved them for seeds.
  • Plastic grocery bags used for trash cans.
  • Mail ads to put under litter pan for cat. 
  • Paper grocery bags used to dry herbs and seeds.
  • Leaves. I was taking them out of my flower beds and put them in the compost when it dawned on me to leave them where they are to compost. 
5.  I pressure canned 3 pumpkins. I ended up with  7 quarts and  24 pints. I'll use the pumpkin for LC pies and muffins, soup and to use as a dinner side dish with butter, salt and pepper. 

6.  I'm  a week and a few days into the pay period and I only have $70 left of my grocery money. I was out of a lot of items. A friend suggested I make up a 3 week menu to see if I can get by with what I already have. I realized I had 3 weeks of dinner meals. I think I'll be able to stretch the money left if I'm very careful. 

7.   I made Chicken Tortilla soup (minus the tortillas) this week and used a combo of 3 different recipes pulling from items I had on hand in my food pantry. A friend told me once that she keeps different versions of the same recipe for just this reason. You may be out of an item or two in one recipe  but the same recipe may have different ingredients you may have on hand. 

8. I'm watching for nice (but inexpensive) gifts for Christmas. I have been doing this for a few months so I already have quite a few gifts. I put aside a little extra money this month to add to my Christmas savings. I'm still doing some crocheted gifts, too. A friend said she had  been picking up items at the thrift store for Christmas. I wish I could find some good deals at a thrift store but I rarely do.

I wondered how you keep your costs down on gifts? Do you ever buy used items to give as gifts?

*Pictures from ALLPOSTERS.COM 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tightwad Thursday

I mentioned in an earlier post how I enjoy reading through The Tightwad Gazette on a yearly basis. Well, honestly I never read through the entire book but I always seem to glean a few new ideas.

So, here is an idea that I read this past week that I already put into practice and wondered if you knew about it.


You can't always find boxed cards in large department stores. The last time I found one was at Walgreen's. Unfortunately, many of the cards are not attractive. But, occasionally I've found some nice ones.

Our dollar store sells all occasion cards for .50 a card. I'm buying nearly all my cards from the dollar store these days unless it's a very special occasion.  I will buy a box if I can find 10 cards for $4 or less which is less than the dollar store sells. Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to find inexpensive cards, too.

Cards are going up in price with some as high as $6 a card. You can almost buy a gift for that amount. My small budget cannot afford an expensive card and a gift. Most people end up throwing away their cards anyway. I do enjoy the sentiments written in a card so I try to write a scripture or express how I feel about that person on the inside of the card.

I keep a small file box of greeting cards along with a book of stamps. I especially like to keep 'Get Well' and 'Thinking of You' cards on hand in case the Lord brings someone to mind that needs encouragement. 

A card given at a time of need blesses my heart because I know that person has been thinking of me and cared enough to let me know.

Do you keep cards on hand? Where do you find the best deals?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Menus

My recent goal has been to 'shop' from my pantry. So when I make up my menus I think of what I have on hand. The summer garden is winding down and I sure do miss those extra veggies. Our fall garden won't be ready to harvest for a few months. I still have quite a few spaghetti squash left, tomatoes, green beans, raspberries, strawberries, sweet potatoes and a variety of peppers. I love my garden and my budget likes it, too!

Breakfast:  Scrambled eggs, mushrooms, red onion
Lunch: Veggie burrito in LC tortilla
Dinner: Tacos in LC tortilla

Breakfast: LC pancakes with SF syrup
Lunch: Chicken taco soup
Dinner: Teriyaki LC chicken, 1/2 potato, steamed garlic green beans (FG)

Breakfast:  Scrambled egg, 1/2 potato, 1/2 hot link
Lunch: Hot link sandwich (Husband), Veggie salad w/ hard boiled egg (me)
Dinner: Spaghetti squash (FG) with spaghetti sauce (FG)

Breakfast:  LC smoothies (fruit FG)
Lunch: Chicken taco soup
Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan with homemade marinara sauce (eggplant and tomatoes FG)

Breakfast:  LC biscuits and gravy (Husband), LC biscuits only for me
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich (husband), egg salad with veggies (me)
Dinner: Spaghetti squash leftovers

Breakfast: poached egg with LC bowl muffin
Lunch: bologna sandwich (husband), bologna in veggie salad (me)
Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan with homemade marinara sauce (eggplant and tomatoes FG)

Breakfast: LC muffins and LC smoothie (fruit FG)
Lunch: hot link sandwich (husband), hot link and veggie salad (me)
Dinner: Fridge Free 4 All

FG= From our garden

What's on your menu this week?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

BIG expenses on SMALL budgets

Good news! My final grocery total ended at $278.38 for last month. My goal was $300. I'm so thankful! Now I know it's possible to stay within budget  if I keep close track of what I am spending! This month I'm going to try and spend even less.

Living on a small budget reminds me of a juggling act.  If you let the ball drop on a large bill and don't prepare then it can have a toppling effect on the rest of your budget.

The 'envelope method' has worked especially well for our big expenses that come around yearly. I also have expenses that are due every 3 months like the car's oil change and my hair cut and color. After I figure out our monthly and yearly needs I divided it by the number of months.  I withdraw the amounts each month from the bank and divide the money into each 'envelope' compartment in a plastic file I found at the dollar store.  The biggest challenge is to not 'dip' into the categories.

Here is my personal list:

Long term:
- DMV yearly fees ($10 a month)
- Accounting fees (year end taxes)( $15 a month)
- Christmas gifts  ($25 automatically taken out each month and goes directly into a savings account)

Short term:
- Hair cut and color ($25 a mo./ use on 3rd month)
- Allowance ($25 each a month)
- Oil change ($15 a month/use on 3rd month)
- Savings ($50 a month)
- Birthday gifts ($25 a month)
- Pet savings (emergency fund/ goal $100)
- Dentist/Medical ($10.00 a month for co-pays)

I find it much easier to come up with $25 a month than $300 all at once. So, this is how I prepare for big expenses and it works very well for us!


Here are a few things I did to stretch our budget this week along with my typical frugal day:

1. Free pumpkins! A friend blessed me with 5 beautiful pumpkins! I plan on canning them to use for pies and holiday breads to give away. I may even try a Martha Stewart idea I saw where you drill holes throughout the entire pumpkin and then place white Christmas lights in each hole.  It was exquisite and I've wanted to make one for years!

2. The fall garden is still in progress. Nearly 100 Stockton Red and 70 Walla Walla onions have been planted. Also 75 sweet peas and 2 kinds of garlic are popping up from the ground. There is also 15 celery and 12 swiss chard plants, 27 broccoli, 9 cauliflower, 25 green cabbages, 6 red cabbage and 2 varieties of beets. A row of carrots have been planted, too.  Hopefully I'll be able to plant some collard seeds this next week. I hope the Lord blesses my cabbage crop so I can try my hand at making homemade sauerkraut.

3. I had 5 buckets of finished compost. It was used to mix in the ground before the vegetables were planted. Store bought bags of mulch or compost are so expensive. Making my own compost is free and minimal work.

4.  My son and his family were moving last weekend.  My daughter in love offered me some half used bottles of hand soap. I was happy to take them and add to my own bottles.

5.  The vegetable garden did so well this summer that I'm looking for places to add more beds. There
was a large piece of dirt between the square foot garden and the berries which is now serving as a bed for the celery and the swiss chard. I keep looking for more and more spots to use for vegetables instead of flowers. I want to learn more about 'vertical gardening', too. I really think that our little city lot could eventually keep us supplied in fresh veggies and berries year round!

6.  I'm still preparing the home for winter. I think I'm almost done. The window air conditioners were covered on the outside with heavy plastic and duct tape. Small rags or insulating foam have been pressed into the space between both windows to keep more air out. Last year I happened to be walking by one of the air conditioners and felt an obvious draft. I investigated and discovered air rushing in at the bottom of the unit. I might as well been piping the hot air from the furnace directly to the outside.

7.  I continue to look for low carb meals that are meat free to stretch our grocery budget. (Oh, and I posted a few more low carb recipes over at our Family Recipe website.) Meat has gotten so expensive.  I made a veggie burrito this week for lunch. It's a recipe I used to make years ago. You saute chopped red onions in a little barbecue sauce (or you can buy SF ketchup or make your own). Smear it on a warmed whole wheat LC tortilla along with mashed avocado, a slice of dill pickle, shredded red cabbage, mushrooms, shredded carrots and alfalfa sprouts. You can also add lightly steamed broccoli or any veggie you like. It was very good and husband said it's a 'keeper'.

Well, that's about it for this week. Most of my extra time was spent in the garden.  I wonder if you use a different approach for dealing with big expenses?

Blessed to be a homemaker,