Tuesday, June 24, 2014

{Days 10 - 14} An Unexpected Budget Vacation

We were blessed by my parents and brother and sister-in-law sharing several nights of lodging with us in the mountains on the spur of the moment. We stayed at a nice condo and enjoyed the lovely parks in the area and the pool. The kids and I went without Daddy as he was busy with work and used the quiet evenings to get lots of school work done for his current classes. We kept expenses low by only eating out 2 meals, once on the way there and once on the way home, so the main cost was an extra tank of gas to get there and back. I brought food from our pantry and fridge and we ate okay while keeping meal prep relatively easy. This trip was not without stress (mine), but I hope the memories made will be good ones.

Frugal activity on the day we left was gluing a drawer our boys had broken.









15 years ago my husband and I stood on this bridge for a picture on our honeymoon.  Life sure has changed!


Expenses: 
Beau Jo's Pizza - $39.77 (meal, tax, tip, with AAA discount) We really like this pizza so we think it is a worthy splurge.
City Market - $20.59 - Needed groceries and vacation treats.  I let each of the kids choose a treat or two up to $1.50/child.  In a large family, we just don't do this, which made it all the more exciting this time.
IKEA cafeteria - $21.50
IKEA - $6.37 for 3 baskets from the As Is section

{Days 5 - 9} Aiming for Diligence and Celebrating Dad

These days I was just aiming to get three things listed per day on a local site for things to sell. Our son had the opportunity to go with his youth group to Elitch Gardens in Denver so we gave him the job of cleaning, sweeping and mopping the basement floor in exchange for the cost of that excursion.  Getting kids to work hard...not for the faint of heart.  In the end he did a pretty good job, but it didn't start out so cheerful or diligent.

I gave the boys haircuts.  Our kids have always had hair cuts by Mom at home and I figure this has easily saved us $1500 so far.
freshly sheered boys with post-haircut treats

We picked up our Bountiful Baskets and enjoyed the simple pleasure of having popcorn and apples on the front porch at the end of a long week.  I'm thankful for a few more seats there than we had last week.

On the weekend I spent an afternoon organizing a big mess of books and curriculum.  This area has needed attention for a long time, but it become much worse last month when we rearranged some furniture and unloaded one of our basement bookshelves to use in another place in our home following putting in new flooring.  It seems one thing always leads to another. And in this case, one area of order led to a different area full of chaos. I used bins we already had on hand to sort the curriculum by level or subject and used washi tape and sharpies to make labels.
really bad
a little order amidst the chaos
better - all curriculum fits on one higher shelf (not easily accessible to kids), sets are complete and labeled
better - non-curriculum books and games are neat and accessible
We celebrated Father's Day by grilling burgers after church and going swimming for a while in the afternoon.  The family pool membership was just $99 in April. The gifts we gave on Father's Day were purchased in previous months, gift cards bought with a deal and a great new tie on clearance. We wrapped up the day with a simple dinner at home of parmesan popcorn, apples and meat and cheese slices.

Sold: infant life jacket  & tent - $43

Expenses:
Costco - $100 - I lost the receipt, but I know we bought the following: 2.5 lbs. Tillamook sharp cheddar, triple pack of lunch meat, 2 bags of tortilla chips, one box of diapers, 1 dozen bagels, 2 bags Doritos, 1.5 lbs. salami, 2 loaves of bread, and a 6.75 lbs. boneless pork loin.
Safeway - $41.97 - I ran in for hamburger buns and ice cream on Father's Day and came out with a package of buns, plus a can of beans, 2 jars of pickles, a second carton of ice cream, cilantro, and loads of marked-down 1/2 price dairy (6 gallons milk, 2 yogurt 12-pks, 3 Greek yogurt 4-pks, 1 tub of Greek yogurt, 5 individual yogurts, and cottage cheese). 
Youth group outing - $30 for the ticket + $10 for food

{Days 3 & 4} Porch & Kitchen Island Updates

Day 3
We stayed home today and I cleaned up some chairs I'd found on the curb last fall to use for our front porch and ran the cushions through the washer and dryer.   I also sanded our existing bench and restained with some Flood stain we had safely stored in our garage from a project a few years ago. Between the two chairs I put a planter that is resting on part of an old stainless steel trash can (which no longer worked because the foot pedal was broken).  I'd love to put some flowers in there, but since I'm really trying to not spend money I just transplanted a tiny dianthus and hope it will fill until I can fill it up with fresh plants.

weathered bench - before
refreshed porch - after
Sold: small desk & pair of kid's sandals ($29)
No regular household expenses, but I did buy a plane ticket for a short trip I'll be taking in the fall to hang out with my university girlfriends. The dates had just been set and I went searching, more out of curiosity than thinking I would buy it today. The price was better than I've ever seen to this particular small city.  I could have waited until this no spend month was over, but have often seen fares 50 to 100% more than what I paid, so it seemed better to go ahead and buy the ticket now.

Day 4
I worked on putting our kitchen island back together (we moved it when I put a new floor in) and gave it 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of paint on three of its sides. The paint was left over from painting our kitchen 6 years ago. Because we don't have a finish nailer to put the trim back on I ended up using some contact cement adhesive because we had that on hand, probably from a project my father-in-law did sometime when he was visiting.  Liquid Nails may have been a better choice, but since we did not have that on hand, we'll just see how it holds up. I'm not entirely pleased with the result of the paint, but I'll live with it for a while. The island panels are that cheap faux wood so I didn't have much to lose.  I did not paint the side with the doors and drawers since I'm still trying to decide if I want to gel stain that side and the rest of our kitchen cabinets.  Progress, not perfection.
kitchen island - before
kitchen island - after
 For the record, unfortunately, our island is never really this clean. Just want to be honest here.

A much easier project was to make some more capacity for composting, so I just drilled several holes in an old bin we had on hand. I realize it is not something beautiful to behold, but I'm using what I have, not spending big bucks on a new compost system.
simple compost bin

We stayed home for most of the day then a couple of us had evening events and our smoke alarms started giving fits so we bought two multipack of batteries to replace all of them.
Sold: travel high chair & another small desk ($40)
Expenses: $34.20 for batteries

Monday, June 9, 2014

{Day 2} Rebates, Menu Planning and Bountiful Baskets

Today I'm feeling motivated to get my frugal on!   To begin I declared this a home day.  Staying home is usually a good frugal move.  It's cool and windy so we're fine just enjoying life at home.

I filled out and mailed forms for energy rebates from purchases of a dishwasher and fridge in recent months.  It will take a few weeks to get them, but that's $70 coming back to us, which just may be very good by the end of this month.

Three items were posted for sale on a local site.  One sold so far, so I'll count little bits of progress as a success.  A side benefit to this month will be that our home will be feeling lighter with less extra stuff sitting around. 

I also ordered Bountiful Baskets today, 2 conventional baskets, 7 dozen tortillas and 36 lbs. of gala apples.  We'll be able to pick this up on the weekend which will provide good motivation to eat from our fridge to make room for that bounty. 


Sales so far: $100 (fridge) + $5 (baby pool float)
Expenses so far: $70.50 (Bountiful Baskets)

Menu Plan

Monday
B - leftover pancakes with pineapple cream, yogurt
L - ham sandwiches on whole wheat bread or pretzel rolls, coleslaw
D - egg & hash brown casserole with red pepper and a bit of leftover sausage, fruit smoothie

Tuesday
B - oatmeal, yogurt
L - egg salad sandwiches, apple slices
D - soup (carrots, celery, squash, onion, meatballs, etc.) whole wheat cream cheese biscuits

Wednesday
B - steel cut oats, blackberries
L - potato salad, ham sandwiches
D -sundried tomato & squash soup, green salad

Thursday
B - cereal,  yogurt
L - pasta salad with meat, cheese & veggies
D - beans with cilantro lime rice, sour cream, cheese, peppers, shredded lettuce

Friday
B - oatmeal
L - leftovers
D - turkey meatballs with cream sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans

Saturday
B - cereal, fruit
L - broccoli cheese soup, toast or biscuits
D -homemade pizza, salad or veggie with dip

Sunday - Father's Day!
B - cinnamon rolls, fruit
L - burgers on homemade buns, ice cream (or make frozen Greek yogurt)
D - snack dinner: fruit, cheese, popcorn, etc.

No Spend June {Day 1} - Birthday Celebration

We celebrated our son's birthday at home with his meal of choice, decorated with our reusable birthday banner and Scrabble tiles and let the kids watch a couple episodes of Bear Grylls from a library DVD.  He also chose which church service we were going to that morning.  He seemed to enjoy making lots of the choices for the day and those things didn't cost us anything.  For his gift from us he had asked for a cape.  I made that for him from fabrics I had on hand and I made a personalized notebook that I modgepodged with cool paper and decorated with letter stickers for his name and washi tape.

In full disclosure, this no spend month (or at least 25 days worth) was prompted by an unfortunate amount of overspending. We had invited three of our son's friends to go mini golfing the day before his birthday, except that the weather did not cooperate at all.  We had made a simple plan B for them to go to play at McDonald's and get ice cream if it started raining while they were playing.  But by the time they picked up all the boys there was a downpour and lightning  so they weren't going to play mini golf at all.  So my husband had to decide on the fly what to do with the boys for a fun alternate activity and Itz seemed like the best available indoor option.  Difference between what we were expecting to spend on mini golf and this option:  $50.  Ouch!

Lesson learned: Make a solid plan B for parties planned outdoors. Live and learn.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Resetting the budget with a No Spend June

The pace of our life with school and some bigger home projects has taken its toll on our budget. We've let things slide and continued to just swipe that card without too much planning, thought or restraint.  While we haven't been doing anything luxurious, those little bits of convenience and ease have really added up. So for the rest of this month we're getting focused on frugal living again with the old slogan: Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.

Use it up: We'll eat groceries from our fridge, freezer and pantry with purchases of fresh produce and dairy as needed. I'll also be using supplies from my crafting stash to make some gifts.

Wear it out: We'll skip buying new clothes or shoes this month. We really have plenty and the few things we need for fall school uniforms can wait another month.

Make it do: I'll be finishing projects I've started and cleaning up and refreshing some spaces with things we already have on hand.  We'll use memberships we have to entertain ourselves and try to combine those outings with needed errands or fellowship time with friends.

Do without: To fund our necessary spending (any needed groceries, etc.) for this month, I'll be selling stuff we don't need or love any longer. Our bills will be paid from our regular income, but cash spending will only be done from what comes in through sale of stuff,  which could get interesting.

Friday, February 7, 2014

February Menu & Accidental Once-a-Month Shopping

Due to the January Pantry Challenge, our stock of lots and lots of things was depleted.  So on February 1st we picked up our produce co-op offerings and I made a huge grocery list for 3 stores and ended up spending 4 hours shopping and the bulk of our grocery budget for the month. The good news is that I think I've got a plan for all this food and purchased more than enough convenience things to hopefully keep me sane. I admit I am compromising on health in favor of more time.  I'll still need to buy milk, butter, eggs and a bit of produce throughout the month, but for everything else we are set.

Here's the plan:
February Meals
Goals: Eat at home. Eliminate meal prep stress. Keep an orderly kitchen.
Dinners:
Sandwiches (on the marathon grocery shopping day)
Baked spaghetti (x2)
Super Bowl: chips with homemade salsa & guac, veggie platter with dip, buffalo chicken, smoothies
Spaghetti and meat sauce (up to 4 times)
Runza casserole, fruit salad, asparagus (+1 for another family)
Chicken rice soup, whole wheat bread, fruit
Garlic brown sugar chicken, brown rice, peas
Homemade pizza with beef, pepperoni, ham and/or peppers (x2-3) birthday meal
Buffalo chicken salad (x2)
Cheesy broccoli chicken & rice
Vegetable beef soup, biscuits
Beef brisket, baked beans and vegetable
BBQ brisket sandwiches on homemade buns, coleslaw
Broccoli cheese soup, angel biscuits
Steak tacos
Beans & cilantro-lime rice, cheese, sour cream, etc. (x2)
Pasta/veg/bratwurst skillet
Valentine's Day: Chicken enchiladas with sour cream white sauce, cherry bars or chocolate fondue
Sanity saver options: chicken nuggets & fries, peas / frozen lasagna / frozen pizzas
Lunches:
leftovers
ham sandwiches
pizza soup
fried brown rice (make rice ahead, freeze, and add veggies & eggs at the time of the meal)
frozen pizza
Breakfasts:
cereal (1-2x/week)
apple oatmeal (1-2x/week)
steel cut oats with blueberries (1x/week)
sausage or ham/potato/egg casserole (1x/week)
soaked oats with blueberries (1x/week)
toast from homemade bread (1x/week)
egg sandwiches on english muffins
Extras:
bring snacks for homeschool group (30+ people) – caramel corn, veggies & dip, brownie bites, bananas
***Do you have any suggestions on how to economically feed a large group of children with hollow legs? ****
Chocolate chip cookies
Little boy birthday! Cupcakes, goldfish, capri sun 

The shopping:
Safeway - $93.22
6 cans beans
3 boxes Cheerios
1 mayo
6 packages cheese (=12 lbs.)
4 packages hash browns
1 gallon ice cream
3 Digiorno pizzas
2 10 ct. English muffins
2 loaves whole wheat bread
Dairy markdowns: 4 4-pks Activia yogurt, 2 single serve Greek yogurt
1 family size Oreos
2 6pk. soda bottles 
10 lbs. sugar
5 lbs. boneless ham (I took this from the meat department to the deli and they sliced it free for a HUGE savings over fresh or packaged deli meat.)
1 red onion
4 large avocados
1 coffee creamer

King Soopers - $94.04
Dairy markdowns: 27 individual Greek yogurts, 3 gallons chocolate milk, 4 cartons cottage cheese
2 bags chips
1 pkg. beef for pizza
1 pkg. pepperoni
10 ct. razors - markdown
1 chicken burrito - markdown
1 Hormel REV snack (free - I ate this for lunch while out shopping)
5 Tombstone pizzas
4 sour cream
1 deodorant
2 bottles All laundry detergent
4 12-pks of soda
5 cream cheese
5 lbs. pasta
2 pkgs. hygiene products
3 10 ct. Capri Sun
2 large lasagnas

Costco - $145.74
12 lbs. organic brown rice
4 lbs. butter
2 ct. plastic wrap (1500 sq. ft. total)
3 lbs. sausage
3 lbs. bananas
5 qts. oil
2 qts. Famous Dave's pickles
30 ct. foil pans
5 lbs. ground beef
18 ct. extra large eggs
8 lbs. brown sugar
2 2-box packs of cereal
1 organic tortilla chips
2 lbs. fresh parmesan and romano
1 #10 can tomato sauce, 1 #10 can crushed tomatoes
coupon offers: Golfish crackers, veggie straws, 5 lbs. chicken nuggets, 2 - 3 lbs. bags boneless buffalo chicken

Total to date for February: $333.00 
February 1st Mega Grocery Shopping

Have you tried once a month shopping?  What are the pros and cons you've experienced?