I confess to being compelled to frugal home-keeping action whenever I visit my blog friend Terri's blog. It's long been my go-to site on those lazy days when I don't feel like getting much accomplished. Terri's down-to-earth writing and ability to get the necessary tasks done seem to push my own 'get moving' button! For several years now I've been motivated to action when reading her classic, tried-and-true frugal tricks and tips as she menu plans, money manages and enjoys the luxuries of a simple life with her family. In fact, it was Terri's long-standing "Frugal Fridays", "Thrifty Thursday" and "Frugal Week" posts that have inspired me to create my own ongoing accountability list by way of this and future posts celebrating the Art of Frugality. (Of course, barring any more broken bones and mandatory computer sharing.)
And then there is Manuela , who never fails to spark my creative money-saving muse by way of her new "Home Sweet Frugal Home" series. Speaking of creativity and like-minded souls who inspire; I mustn't neglect to mention kindred spirit muses such as my old friends Brenda, Mary Ellen and Clarice... as well as a multitude of talented others! Isn't that the beauty of the internet? What a rich resource... a wonderland of generosity and an abundance of gathering places for the like-minded... but I do digress.
Here are some of the ways I've recently exercised the art of frugality...plugging the small leaks in my ship.
- I spent an early morning (before day-break, to avoid turning the oven on during the heat of the day) stocking my freezer with home-baked coconut muffins (gluten and sugar free). These are surprisingly easy to put together and are much less expensive than the store bought varieties--I will share the recipe in a future post. Update: You will find the recipe HERE.
- I began my Christmas list in earnest (I give it thought all year round, as you may already know) using this form printed out from my second book (Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons). With the holidays only a few months away I don't want to get caught short on time, money or gifts.
Note: Please feel free to enlarge and print out this form for your personal use if you'd like.
- While Christmas was on my mind I decided to "work ahead of need". I've made a habit of saving the coffee canisters that house my favorite Italian roast coffee from Trader Joe's. They are made of a nice, heavy cardboard, with a silver-foil lining on the inside. I re-purpose them by painting the outsides white using ordinary acrylic wall paint and a brush. (I paint them all white to create a more uniform look.) The paint is usually left over from home projects or from cans of mistake-paint bought from the hardware store for a dollar or two (or less). For this particular project I used a water based primer as the first coat because I wanted to use it up (it works well because it's white). Note: Oil based primer and paint do NOT work well on cardboard as they don't dry well. This project is super easy and, once they're dry, these canisters offer a multitude of storage and organizing solutions. I use them a lot in the food and craft pantries for storing supplies. That being said, this batch is earmarked for packaging holiday gifts. At the moment I'm thinking of using them as gift packaging for tidy stacks of holiday cookies or a delicious batch of homemade Poppycock...or??? This picture shows them with only one coat of paint as, due to the bright colors on the canisters, they take two quick coats. As is my habit, I usually put on a movie while working. Oh, while I had the paint out, I also painted some of my dad's cardboard cigar boxes to store craft supplies and use as gift boxes (you can see them in the background).
- We are still fighting those pesky spider mites in the garden. I used an inexpensive mix of hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dish soap and water (mixed in a repurposed Windex bottle) to spray them. This is the third week I've sprayed and it looks as if they're almost gone. I read about this remedy after searching for a frugal, environmentally friendly solution online. Unfortunately I found it after the tomato plants were destroyed.
- After discovering several tiny volunteer tomato plants, I moved them to where I wanted them in the garden. Hopefully it's not too late in the season. My goal is for them to, eventually, replace the ones destroyed by the spider mites. I'm not sure how they'll do but will keep an eye out for any more pests and, if needed, catch them early! Also, I would love to get a crop of greens and more herbs in our little garden area but the house is in the process of being repaired and painted this week and I think it's probably wise to wait until the painters are done before planting anything else.
- Mike and I saved $100 by heavily trimming the climbing rose bush and Morning Glories growing on our Pergola. It's getting a new coat of paint along with the house. The painters offered to reduce $100 off the price if we did the trimming work ourselves. It only took about an hour with both of us working.
- Shopped my pantry and freezer when creating this weeks' menu. The only purchases needed were fresh milk and produce. The milk is never inexpensive, sadly, but we are blessed with an abundance of very well priced produce from the family farm stands near my dad's house. We tend to visit him once a week and stock-up while we're down there, rarely spending more than ten dollars for bags of seasonal goodies. Last week I bought three HUGE zucchini for $1 and stocked-up on fresh tomatoes (5 for $1), full size salad cucumbers (3 for $1), large Mexican round squash (3 for $1) plus limes, lemons and oranges for juicing (all for a song). My plan is to make low carb pizza using saucer-sized slices of the huge zucchini as a crust, and use the Mexican round squash (they look like pumpkin shaped watermelon) in frittatas and diced up in a taco soup (they are neutral in taste and look like diced potatoes when used in soups and other recipes but... are low carb!). I think I may roast the rest of the veggies/squash, if the weather stays cool, and use them as a side dish. This time of year I always overbuy on the bargain tomatoes and quick freeze them whole, using them for cooking throughout the winter. I've been doing this for years now and never have to buy canned tomatoes. You can learn how easy it is HERE!
- Mike took his lunch to work every day this week. To be honest, this has long been our habit as it saves so much money and is much healthier than restaurant food, in my opinion. I included filtered water from home using the empty bottles I'd saved from a case of bottled water we bought on sale a few weeks ago.
- Rosie and I didn't go to Starbucks this week on our usual morning. (We have a little ritual of "Mommy/Rosie Time"... a fun thing we've done since the kids were little.) Instead I made us a creamy cafe' au lait at home and served it to her in her favorite white ceramic Starbucks cup as we sat on the sofa and talked.
- Decanted a finished batch of Kumbucha this week and filled up six more bottles. I'm trying my hand at a second fermentation which (hopefully) will make it taste more like the store bought variety that I love. I also took an extra SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast--this ferments the kumbucha tea) to my dad's house and started a batch there so I will have it to enjoy when I visit. I wish I could get him to drink it as it's said to be so good for health. However, he won't even try it, he says it smells too vinegar-y which surprises me as he loves vinegar and sour things. I have a hunch the real problem is that the SCOBY (floaty thing inside) creeps him out a bit. I suspect this because he never even wants to look at it. I told him it was alive (it is) and to be nice to it so it'll give us (me) tastier kumbucha. ;-)
- Started a new batch of kumbucha to replace the one I decanted. It should be ready to drink in a few weeks.
- I went through our bank statement and found an item that was double charged...made a phone call and got the credit.
- Reduced our Netflix bill to watch online only. For years we subscribed to the three DVD rental as well as the online watching (primarily for Rosie). However, between working and school, she no longer has as much time for watching movies (sometimes they weren't being watched at all).
- Helped Rosie sell some things on ebay that were cluttering up the house.
- I didn't have mayonnaise for the Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches I made for dinner one night so I used coconut oil instead. No one even noticed! In the interest of full disclosure, however, our family is a bit odd in the BLT department. Everyone (except me) eats them with peanut butter on one side and mayonnaise on the other. This may be why the mayonnaise wasn't missed.
- Mike and I went to Goodwill and found a new keyboard for his old Dell computer for a mere $3! His old keyboard broke months ago and he hasn't been able to use the computer at all (unable to move around in it or type commands etc.). We were excited to find a replacement as it allows us to get a little more use out of the old dinosaur (it's verrry old and slow!). He claims it works for him as he only uses it to read news articles, check sports scores and email. But I can tell that even he is getting tired of the slow speed and constant glitches. Eventually, we will need to invest in a new computer. We are thinking about an iPad for him as they are quite reasonable now and, obviously, portable. Walmart had them online for as low as $339. It would serve his needs and is much less expensive than a fairly basic Dell desktop, but we're still researching our options.