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!



  1. I do lots of frugal things all the time.
    I have antenna tv not cable.The antenna cost was a 1 time fee of $20. I get lots of stations including Ion. I haven't had cable for 3 years, and even then it was a basic package for $15/month. They don't have a cable package like that here.
    I don't have internet except on my phone. I use it at work on my break, at the libraries and once in a while McD's. But mostly on my phone.
    I use a month to month cell phone. I pay 48$ month for unlimited text/internet and a preset amount of calling. I bought my phone for $45 last Black Friday.
    I'm on a weekly allowance for extras.
    I buy my clothes (except underwear and socks) at the Salvation Army at dollar sales. I even bought my winter wool coats that way!
    I sleep under lots of quilts in the winter so I can turn the heat down.
    I crochet, knit or sew gifts. I have perfected the one skein scarf. Another good present is a quilted notebook cover. I buy composition books at back to school sales for a dollar each then make a cover with fabric scraps. I use batting scraps too. I also make little quiltd zipper bags in all different sizes for make-up, pencils, etc. Quilted throw pillows are welcome gifts too. Garage sales are another good place to find gifts. I often get new candle sets, lotion etc.
    I am moving to a 674sf house plus basement and one car garage. My houses keep getting smaller.
    I regularly peruse the free section on craigslist. Freecycle was good in my previous city but not here. I trash pick on the side of the road. I have gotten a dresser, stool, table, and easy chair in the last year.
    I always check CL when I need something or the Salvation Army or garage sales before I buy new. My daughter always tells me what she's looking for and at least half the time I find it!
    I eat eggs most every day. (My cholesterol is perfect.) I also make scratch pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches. I have tons of egg recipes but mostly just make omelets.
    I gratefully accept hand me downs and cast offs. I share with my grown kids.
    I often buy clothes at the dollar sales for the fabric and buttons.
    I fix everything I can.
    I bargain when I can.
    I make cheap items for carry ins at work. I always get requests for my deviled eggs and never have a muffin or cookie left to take home.
    I drink tea, and ask for it as Christmas gifts.
    I bought 30 yards of cotton quilting fabric for 50c a yard through CL. That makes a lot of quilts.
    I buy batting only on sale. I buy new sheets at garage sales for quilt backs. If they're white I tie dye them with one box of rit dye. I have bought rit dye at garage sales also.
    These are some of my saving strategies.
    I love your blog. Thanks.

    1. Hi Debra!
      There are so many great ideas here! I never thought of looking on CL for quilting fabric! Great idea! I've also used sheets for the backs of my quilts. I used to buy the huge rolls of batting for 50% off. I like to take deviled eggs also. I get 6 flats of eggs for $10. I didn't understand what you meant by you 'buy clothes at the dollar sales for the fabric and buttons'? We eat eggs every day, too. Your new house will be larger than mine! :-) i really enjoyed reading your suggestions! You have a lot to share!

    2. Thanks Georgene! I oftern buy shirts at the dollar sale at the Salvation army, to cut up for the fabric and the buttons. There is a whole book about making quilts from shirts, scraps and shirttails I think. I bought a dress at the dollar sale and remade it into a peasant style top, and cut off the buttons for later use. In the Tightwad Gazette, Amy talks about how much fabric you can get from a shirt when she makes her first quilt. I also by denim jumpers for the fabric, because denim is expensive and I use it for slip covers.
      I love all your gardening posts and your list of your menus. I can't wait til the spring so I can plant a garden at my new house.
      Thanks for the reply!

  2. I love Laines Letters too. I really enjoyed reading your post. Very inspiring. :) Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love Laines Letters.I have read her for years and years. She is amazing. Do you know if she has updated anything on herself?

    1. Hi Becky,
      No, not as far as I know. I miss her writings, too!

  4. Just love this! Anyhow I am trying to get projects done this week. I've made a pretty picture wall. I had a bunch of 1.99 craft frames I've been hauling around-so I painted them a purply black--looks black but the extra color makes it look prettier. I rubbed them with paste wax. I am going to print out pix to put in them. I used newspaper to 'map' what I wanted on the wall. I purchased 2 items new- a fancy frame to put our wedding pic in--if I can blow it up that big--we shall see; also a sign from hobby lobby same colors that has a verse we used in our wedding the one about 'faith, hope and love.. and the greatest of these is love. I plan to put our family members in small frames around us. So I almost have the frames all up--just need 4 more little toothed metal gizmos so I can get the last ones hung--then I will start finding pix to print. ;)

    Another project I'm doing is painting my kitchen cupboards with home made chalk paint--it is looking really nice. I wanted to get a good amount done before hubby came home from Germany tonight and I do have enough for him to see what I'm doing. :)

    I'm spray painting an old metal 3 shelf cart on wheels--one of those utility kitchen carts from back in the early 60s (or maybe 50s) Ive had it in basements where we've moved go it at some rummage or estate sale years go. It was bright yellow but very dinged and messy. I'm cleaning it up and making it bright aqua turquoise. Got one shelf done its very nice.

    found out my old cart which I think I paid $3 for is worth about 80. :) Also have a cast iron cart I just made two new shelfs for that I got for $7 at value village years ago--it is now worth about $250--I use it for plants--a 'little' tempted to sell it--but I really want to use it.

    Got other things going on --but that' will do.

    Georgene-- can you give a little more detail on your leaf compost? do you mow them first? I heard you had to do that and I really would rather have a little easier way to compost them.

    1. Hi Mary!
      So good to hear from you! I'm still stuck on the fact that your husband is coming home from GERMANY! That is fantastic! I'd LOVE to go to Europe and here you say it so casually! :-)

      It sounds like you are busy sprucing up your nest! :-) You're always a busy lady!

      Leaf composting? I have one garbage bin for the mowing clippings which has leaves in it and one garbage can with just leaves. I've never read anywhere that you have to mix them. But, then again, this is all fairly new and I'm learning as I go. So, if you find out that is the absolute truth then please let me know. I have about 5 buckets going right now with compost in them. I turn them upside down once a week. We used a lot of compost this summer. Next year the comfrey should be established enough to use and make a fertilizer tea.

  5. I laughed when I saw hot dog soup! My dad made soup with hot dogs last weekend. He also had these in the freezer and wanted to use them. He also buys old Mr. Coffees at yard sales and thrift shops and keeps them on hand. He says that todays coffee makers are just not as good.

    We have had to cut back a lot. Our son just moved out at the first of the month. So we will see our power bill and water go down I'm sure, not to mention groceries. But I have to wait and see if he comes back home before getting too excited. He already moved out once and came back.

    Next week I am starting a part time job doing medical insurance billing for the group my sister works for. It is only a few hours each month. I will initially go to the home of the therapist who owns the practice to learn the job, and will either do billing from there or my own home. She does not live far away, and I don't need a professional wardrobe, so it all works out.

    We replaced eating out on Wednesday nights before church by taking a crock pot of soup to our daughters house. My husband and I, and the four of them eat for what I imagine is a $5 or less pot of soup. Due to time constraints to get everyone where they needed to go we find this will work best.

    Not buying anything that is not an absolute need. Have to get to work on that Christmas list and figure out what to spend. Love that Laine will spend only $3 on a gift! I often wonder why people go in debt to buy video game systems, jewelry, cell phones, etc.. Just not worth it!

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Your new job sounds perfect! I hope it works out just as you have hoped!

      I love your idea for church night and making crock pot soup. What a perfect solution and you know it has to cost you a fraction of what it costs to eat out.

      How funny your dad made hot dog soup this week, too! Mine turned out pretty good!

  6. I love Laines Letters too! She has such a great way of writing that after I read them, I always feel like I've just had a cup of tea with her at my kitchen table!
    Have a great weekend and thank you for sharing,
    Jennifer in Iowa

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Yes, I feel the same way about Laine's writings. She definitely has blessed many people by her gift! Hope you have a great weekend, too!

  7. Georgene,
    I have never commented before, but I couldn't resist after seeing the topic is Laine's Letters. I, too, have been reading Laine's Letters for about 8 years. I eventually signed up for her email list and got a lot of letters that weren't on the website. Unfortunately, she hasn't written any letters for about 2 years that I know of. I have even printed them all and put them into a huge binder just in case her website ever gets deleted.
    11 years ago, my husband, my four kids, and I moved from Arizona to Anchorage, Alaska. Things have been very hard for us because the cost of living is so high here (especially groceries because they have to be shipped in) and my husband makes less money than he did before. I was so excited to find Laine's Letters that I read all of them over and over again. I have learned so much from her, and still re-read her letters at least once a year. I had prayed that the Lord bring me a Titus 2 mentor, and though he didn't send me one physically, I did have a mentor in Laine. Because of her advice, I have been able to be a stay-at- home, homeschooling mom and live on a budget (something we didn't do before).
    I have also gotten much encouragement from you, Georgene. I love your Xanga site and have read it from beginning to end. Your writing inspires and encourages me to trust in the Lord and be a good steward of what he has given me. Thank you for passing along what you are learning.

    1. Hi Kana,
      I'm so glad to hear from you! I've heard that Alaska is expensive! Is it overcast and dark most of the year? I know Laine would be blessed to hear that she has helped you (by God's grace) to stay home and also to homeschool your children. What a blessing! I did the same thing with Laine's Letters and put my favorites in a binder. I didn't realize that there were letters on the email list that were not on the website. I'll have to go back in my inbox files to see if I still have some old letters. I hope we hear from you again!

    2. It's pretty dark here now with about 6 hours of daylight, but the sun stays out almost all night long during the summer, making it very hard to sleep when the sun is shining in your bedroom at midnight! Have you ever seen Laine's blog that she started a while back when she got Lucy from China? She only did a few posts, but it was nice to see the pictures. Here's the link in case you haven't seen it- .

    3. Hi Kana,

      I wonder if anyone ever adjusts to the quirkiness of Alaska. :-) It would be a challenge but then every place has it's quirks that need adjusting to. We have bad fog in the winter.

      Yes, I did see the blog. I imagine she is very busy these days with her Lucy! :-)

      Thanks for writing.

  8. Hi Georgene,

    Thank you for such a wonderful post and sharing your love for Laine's Letters. I have really not read them but will definitely check them out soon. My wake up call to being frugal was with Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette. I first read an article about her in a Sunday newspaper magazine and was in awe with how they bought their home paying cash and on a $30,000 per year income as well. Then I subscribed to her newsletters and anxiously waited for them to show up in my mail box. Then of course I went on to her books. I guess the rest is history.

    Every year I try something new in my garden and about 6 years ago we tried chard. We love spinach and so we cook the chard up and freeze in quart bags to be used throughout the winter. By far our favorite recipe is substituting it in Spinach Souffle, which if that interests you I'd be happy to share. It's a super simple recipe that I got off of a box of frozen spinach years ago. The other thing I like to do is use it cooked in an omelet or in lasagna. We don't eat it fresh, only cooked. A couple of years ago I added Tomatillos to our list to grow and now make Green Chile Salsa to can and this year we tried Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes) which we love cooked. It's definitely fun trying new things especially when you discover something you wonder how you ever lived without!

    God Bless, Sally

    1. Hi Sally!
      I have a copy of The Tightwad Gazette with all 3 volumes. There is an affiliate link on my home page. :=)
      I've never made a Souffle. It always sounded intimidating. If it's dairy free then I would love the recipe!

      You'll love Laine's Letters!

    2. So sorry, I forgot about the dairy issues. I have never made it with any other type of milk or substitute so I don't know if it would change the flavor or not. You have to make a white sauce and I use milk. :-(

      God Bless,


  9. I do love to read how other people save money. I'm saving money regularily so it has become second nature though I can always do much more when I have more time and energy.

    This week I've had to buy a lot for the pantry and household items. These are things I don't need to buy so often and when they are on sale I stock up. So two trips to the pharmacy for things and I made $20. ($10 on each trip) for spending what I had to spend. One of the coupons I've used to reduce the cost of things I had to buy for my mom (oral gel and soaps). The other $10 I have on hand and will use to buy dairy milk and canned milk when the latter goes on sale in a few days.

    I also had to stock up on some wool to replenish some of my wool as I've used a lot on a Christmas present I'm making. I got much of my wool at 50% off or more and than I had a coupon for another 25% off.

    Other than that I've saved money by not splurging on entertainment like movies and eating out. I've been reading books from the library, crocheting and blogging. I'll be busy trying to finish making my Christmas presents this month so that should save me from any desire to get out and spend. I don't even like to go into the thrift stores because then I will want to spend money. Even if it is only a few dollars on books, I do not need more books and I do not need to add anything more to my "stuff" unless I need it and will actually use it soon.

    I always enjoy reading your blog to see how you save money. I haven't heard of Laine's Letters so thanks for sharing. I will definitely go and have a peek.

    1. Can you share what you are making with wool? :-) I know what you mean by staying out of the stores.. even the THRIFT stores. I won't allow myself to even look at the sale flyers when I'm low on grocery money because I don't want to be tempted to stock up on a good sale! :-) I love using the library for books. I have one on hold right now that I wanted to buy. I'm #15 in line but that's okay. :-) I know you will love Laine!

    2. Oh yes! I am making a crocheted quilt for a double bed. I am also making some dish cloths. All for gifts.

      Before you know it your turn as #15 will come up at the library. In the meantime you will be busy doing your daily things to make money and also prepare for Christmas.

      I've already started looking at Laine's site. It's very different. I'll need much more time to have a good look.

      Blessings and have a great week.

  10. This is such a positive, upbeat post! It's exciting to hear you managed the food budget this month. You are such a good example to your readers.

  11. I started reading laines letters how it blesses my soul. Thank for doing such a great job on the grocery budget . It encourages me. You even have special foods you have to buy
    and still make it work. One lady was saying she found LC stuff
    at the bread outlet in her town not sure if you have one in your town. Did you know dollar tree takes coupons. They some rules like only 2 computer coupons and no buy one get 1 free coupons I just did a dollar tree coupon match on
    Google and the blogger explains all the rules. She was even getting free stuff like when the stores used to do double and triple coupons. Enjoy your daughter in love and your grands. Happy thanks giving. Patti

    1. Hi Patti,
      We do not have a bread outlet in our town. I'm personally trying to stay away from wheat as much as possible but my husband still partakes occasionally. It would be nice to have LC bread for him. I was buying High Fiber bread through Costco but have started making it instead since he doesn't eat that much. Yes, I had heard about Double Tree taking coupons. What kind of items do you buy with your coupons? Have a Merry Christmas Patti!

  12. I know this is an older post, BUT I love Swiss Chard! It is a family favorite :) We eat it steamed, or steamed mixed with beet greens, and always with lots of butter and apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper!

    1. I never thought of using butter. What does the vinegar do for the taste? Does it give it a tang? Thanks for sharing!

  13. Have not been able to get to the Laine's letters. Do you know of another way to get to them. It keeps coming back saying it 404 can't find. I sure would like to read some.

  14. Last I heard her website was hacked and can't be accessed. I'm so thankful I printed out my favorite articles.

  15. Dear Georgene, I just wanted to let you know Laine is starting a new website and reposting her letters. AND hopefully writing more! I wrote about it on my blog today and as you have been a place I came to read about Laine I thought you would love to know! We obviously share the same love of her wonderful letters. Love Annabel.xx

    1. Hi Annabel,
      I spoke with Laine not long before you sent me this note and she had shared her news. I was as happy as you are! I still have so much to learn and I don't imagine it will stop this side of heaven. God has used Laine (and many other women) to help teach me how to run a home and budget. I'm thankful for each one of them. It was so sweet of you to let me know. Thank you so much!


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