Friday, January 30, 2009

Baby Shower

This time last week I was running around trying to get everything finished for my cousin's baby shower. This is her first baby and the first in our family in 17 years. My cousin has always been like a little sister to me so I wanted everything to be special. Here are a few of the photos from the shower.

I borrowed some baby clothes from the mother-to-be to decorate with. The teddy bears were a last minute addition and I used them throughout the church social hall.

A diaper castle was the centerpiece for the gift table. I was not thrilled with how it turned out, but I think it looks cute and fit the baby theme.

I did a large sheet cake iced (pepto) pink and then topped with white chocolate baby shoes. Everyone was amazed with the chocolate shoes. I guess molding candy is not really in around here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grocery Shopping

I talked dh into going shopping with me today. I had only intended to buy the items that had coupons which were expiring Saturday. Since I had him with me and had half of my February shopping money and my shopping list made out, I did the February shopping too. I bought some cheese, bananas, and Worcestershire sauce earlier in the week for $4 so I had $11 left plus my $200 February money. Here is what I ended up with today.

First stop was a regional grocery store where I bought two boxes of Ritz crackers and two bottles of Worcestershire sauce for $2.09. That was the last of my Worcestershire sauce coupons.

Next was Dollar General to use up the last two of my Pounce coupons that were expiring Saturday. I was happy to hear that Pounce was continuing their perks program so the codes from these will help get my closer to a nice reward. The total was 64 cents, which I just took out of grocery rather than pet.

Next stop was Rite Aid where I picked up the Fructis shampoo that is FAR this week. I used a coupon on this. I paid $2.20 but will get back $2.99! We also stopped by CVS. Most of the monthly free items were gone, but we picked up three of the nutra-trim and one nasogel. Total was $1.51 and $18.50 in EB. I got back $19.96 in EB to use later so am really only out 5 cents.
Last stop was Wal-Mart. I got dental floss, rice cakes, avocados, nectarines, salsa, flour, canned veggies, coffee creamers, pasta, canned chicken, dried beans, rice, seasonings ice cream, yogurt, cheese tortillas, frozen stir fry mix, frozen corn, reduced sub rolls and pita bread, moonpies, toaster strudel, soap, rice mixes, and a few other odds and ends for $66 oop. Not everything is pictures as the frozen and refrigerated items were put away. Oh, the flowers were leftover from a shower so they are not included.

We did stop for lunch from a fast food dollar menu since we were both hungry and dh was leaving as soon as we got home. That was $6.10.

Even adding that in I have $134 left in my February budget. The best thing is that I have everything needed for the February meals except for some fresh items. It would be great to have money leftover at the end of the month!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pay It Forward

I am going to be the recipient of a pay it forward from Tammy at Play for a Moment. To pay it forward I will make a handmade gift for each of the first three people who post a comment to this post. You must be willing to post on your blog and pay it forward to three more people.

The rules state I have 365 to make and send the gifts. I assure you I will not wait that long.

Join in! Let me send a surprise your way and let's keep this pay it forward moving!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shopping Trip

I went shopping today with $16 in my budget. I had $1 left from last week and $15 this week. I was able to get much more since I had a bunch of extra bucks to use up at CVS today. I discovered late last night that they were about to expire.

At CVS I bought 4-12 packs of Pepsi, 3 bags of chips, SoyJoy bars, four movie theater boxes of candy (for movie nights at home), and 3 greeting cards. After the extra bucks I paid a penny! I received $21 in extra bucks and will send in for the Pepsi coupon rebate.

At Walgreens I bought 3 packages of gum and 2 bags chocolate covered macadamia nuts for $2.17 OOP. I am stocking up on gum for DH and the macadamia nuts were a cheap splurge.

Walmart - squeeze bottles (for use with candy molds), 3 EZ grip Johnson's soaps (free after coupon), Bird's Eye Steamfresh meal for two (free after coupon), 1lb elbow macaroni, cheddar cheese soup, coffee creamer (forgot coupon at home - ugh!), and Dixie coffee cups with lids for taking coffee from home to work for a total of $10.86 OOP.

The last stop was a local grocery store for Worcestershire sauce. Cost after coupon $0.04 - tax only!

My total for today was $13.08. I am not going back into town so there will be no more shopping for this week, which means I am under budget!! Unfortunately dh put everything away before I could get any pictures. He was being really helpful so who am I to complain.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I did not use a couple of my meal ideas from last week so I am throwing those back into rotation for this week. Here are my planned meals:

Pancakes and bacon
Crockpot chicken tortilla soup
Sloppy joes
Stew beef rolls
Turkey, stuffing, green beans
Chili and cornbread
Herb crusted salmon, salad, rolls
Steak Dijon, asparagus, and macaroni and cheese
French dip sandwiches
C.O.R.N - with all this cooking we will need a clean out refrigerator night!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stretching Leftovers

I try to save all the leftovers I can. Most end up in small containers in my refrigerator freezer compartment. Every couple of weeks I dig around in there and see what I have to work with for a meal or two. A few weeks ago I cooked tacos and had leftover taco meat. I also cooked 2 pounds of black beans and froze in 2 cup portions. I did the same with a pound bag of brown rice. I figure it takes just as much gas and time to cook the entire bag as it does one serving.

Earlier this week I pulled out all three items. I mixed the rice and leftover taco seasoned meat together, added the black beans, and some thawed frozen corn with lettuce, tomatoes, and ranch dressing for the taco salads. I did not use all of the rice/meat mixture or the black beans.

So the next day I put both together along with the salsa from an almost empty jar, some taco sauce, and a bit of spicier green salsa plus some shredded cheddar cheese. This was wrapped in whole wheat tortillas and baked in the toaster oven until crispy. I think the mixture was better the second time around.

On their own none of these items would have been enough for more than one serving. Mixed together with some other ingredients on hand I ended up with two extra meals. Be creative with those leftovers. If you only have a single serving of a meal left, pop that in the freezer. You have a homemade frozen dinner for another day.

I apologize for the lack of pictures. We were too busy eating to drag out the camera.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recent Shopping

My dear husband organized the pantry today while I was at work so I thought it was a good time to post a couple more pictures. We are well stocked after our recent shopping trips.

We went out of town to Sam's Club last week. We bought organic spring mix, organic carrots, grapes, celery hearts, four pounds of yeast, 25lbs bread flour, trash bags, charcoal for grilling, bread, 5lbs mozzarella cheese, 5lbs cheddar cheese, and a few other things. I have stuck the receipt somewhere and I cannot find it right now. My total spending was $180. (I have a bit of OCD so rounding up is better.) I had $40 left from that week, which left me with $35/week for the next four weeks toward this bill. That gives me $15/week left to spend. I am going with average spending since some weeks I will buy more than others.

I got a $10 rebate check in the mail which gave me $25 to spend this week. I spent $20 - rounding up - which will give me $20 to spend next week if needed. Here is what I got:

Worcestershire sauce - 3
sour cream
tomatoes - 3
mint M&Ms
candy canes
oatmeal - 2
equal sweetener - 2
gum - 6
cake mixes - 2
breakfast bars
syrup - 2
bakers joy
soap - 3
Ben & Jerry's ice cream - 2
salad dressing
air fresheners - 3
candles - 3

I think that was pretty good for $20. Part of it was for the pantry simply because the cost was too good to pass up. Other items I had coupons for that were expiring. The air fresheners and candles cost tax only. The ice cream was a splurge, but I had coupons. I am tired of shopping and really hope next week is a slow one sale wise. I know I have a few things to pick up but should be able to stay well within my budget.

Late Menu Monday

I started back to work part-time this week and am all out of sorts. Here is my menu plan for this week. I do have a bunch of meals simply because we eat at home twice most days aside from breakfast. Breakfast is cereal, oatmeal, muffins, or whatever.

Peanut butter & jelly or fluff sandwiches
Ramen noodles (not healthy but good every now and then)
Taco rice salad
Baked chimichangas
Homemade pocket sandwiches and salad
pancakes and turkey bacon
Beef (really venison) pot pie
Brunswick stew and grilled cheese
Hot ham sandwiches on homemade rolls (church soup and sandwich dinner)
Crockpot chicken tortilla soup

We usually have other items like vegetables and fruit. I just toss those in as I go along during the week. It depends on what needs to be used up first. One of my goals this year is to serve more balanced meals. Hopefully my menus will become more detailed as the year progresses.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Family Member

I have mentioned to a few of my online friends about my new pet. Here he is!

This is Alvin a one year old formerly homeless guinea pig. One of dh's former co-workers had one too many pets and needed to find a good home for Alvin. The co-worker thought of my dh, who has a soft heart for any homeless animal. Alvin and the cats get along quite well. Paris and Lucy are much more afraid of him than he of them. We have actually wanted a guinea pig but did not want to buy one. We like to "rescue" animals.

Alvin came with a small cage (a new home is under construction), food, and bedding. We did go to Petsmart while out of town yesterday. He now has a little hiding hut, chew toys, and mineral licks. The cats got gifts too. Somehow we ended up with two more Betas as well. Daniella and Cameron are getting along very well with Selena. I cannot say that it was a completely frugal trip to Petsmart. I still maintain that pets are cheaper than children. We do spend money to keep the critters happy though.

The rest of the trip was frugal-ish, but that will hold until another day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Annual Tradition

Every January I break out my copy of The Tightwad Gazette. I like getting a little inspiration and motivation from reading all of the thrifty living ideas. The funny thing is when the books first came out I watched an afternoon talk show with Amy Dacyczyn. The only part I remembered was her saying she never bought ice cream but used the leftover juice from canned fruit to make frozen treats. I was a teenager, and I was horrified! No ice cream?? If that was frugal living then I wanted no part of it. Oh how times have changed. I have not gotten to the point of not buying ice cream yet. I suppose I could, but I still like an ice cream treat every now and then.

Now I do flip through it looking for tips or hints to try. Yesterday I tried the homemade cocoa mix. It was good but I am going to try doubling the cocoa and sugar. I do not care for the packages anyway . I also marked a granola recipe to try. I have a big container of oatmeal left from holiday baking. I do not know what possessed me to buy such a large box, but I am not going to let it go to waste.

Some of the ideas are a bit out of date, but the majority of the information is relevant. I think I have to decide how far I want to take it. I have cut out disposable items such as paper plates and paper napkins. I even put real silverware in dh's lunchbox. I think over the next few weeks I will be examining what I spend money on to see if there is anything I can do without. As I said in an earlier post, I do not want to be a miserable miser. I am sure there are things I could not buy though. I just have to decide what those are.

{Blogger will not cooperate with me uploading a picture today.}

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

After Christmas Shopping

I have faithfully avoided the Christmas clearance sales. That is until yesterday. I needed Christmas cards. The ones I did not send out I sent overseas for my soldiers to send to their families. I found eight packages for a quarter each. While I was there, I decided to look for blue and silver ornaments for our planned themed Christmas tree. After some searching I found four boxes of those at $1 each. With no other needs/wants in mind, I browsed. Sigh! Can everyone see where this is going?

Actually I did not do too bad. I spent $18 on 18 other things. BUT!!! I will be selling 13 of those items for a profit hopefully. I need to make at least $18 back to add into my savings money. My thought is that if I can buy something cheap and resell it for more I can easily end up with more money toward a new home.

One of the things I am keeping is this Wilton stackable cookie cutter set. As you have seen from previous posts, I am giving cake decorating a try. I thought for $1 I could give cookie decorating a try as well. It looks interesting and I may bake some holiday cookies long before the holidays.

I feel like this post is a bit jumbled since I have several saving things to mention aside from the post holiday buys. I will save all of that for tomorrow and focus more on the saving portion of my thoughts then.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Is It Spring Yet?

I know many other gardeners have been getting the seed catalogs in the mail. When I open one, I see the promise of fresh vegetables and warm weather. I also start craving the feel of dirt. These seed catalogs in addition to the new greenhouse my dh put up have me itching to start planting even though winter has just begun. The frugal side of me that wants to save more this year thought of last year's seeds sitting in bags in the refrigerator. I decided to do a test run to see if any of them would sprout. Below are pictures I will title Sweet Success!

First up are the Roma Tomatoes which have grown like little weeds. I had four in one container but transplanted them today.

Next is the lettuce. I started the seeds in a small container and am trying out two different containers with the transplanted plants. We love the leaf lettuces so I am hoping to be able to grow it successfully in the greenhouse during the winter months.

This is an assortment of the seeds I planted. I have some herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. A few have been slow to sprout. I do have at least one of everything either up or sprouting.

Last is my pride and joy -- Celebrity Tomato plants. These are special since they are grown from seed I saved from one of last year's tomatoes. I planted three seeds and have been rewarded with three plants.

My dad had a magazine that detailed how to save seed, and I gave it a try. I am thrilled that it worked. Celebrities grow best in the area that I live in. However, no stores carry the seeds or the plants so I always have to order them. Now as long as I make at least one tomato each year I will have seeds. I will be saving seeds from everything I can from now on. While growing a garden can be cheaper than purchasing vegetables from the grocery store, the price of seed often makes the process pricey. I am thrilled at the idea of not having to buy seeds for tomatoes or peppers. The different varieties of both make up a large portion of my garden every year. I will be detailing how to harvest and save seeds later this year as it is quite simple.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Goal

Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to focus on savings this new year for a specific goal. My goal is a NEW home in the country. Dh and I are blessed to have a paid for home to live in, but it is an old home - 100+ years. It is also not one of those grand old homes. Among its high points I list "we will never die of carbon monoxide poisoning" as the house has too many holes or air vents if I want it to sound better.

Our goal of a new home is to build it without a mortgage. Yes, we want to build it as we have the money. Our first goal is to get the basic structure build or to dry it in. We will be doing the inside work ourselves. In June 2007 we did Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. In less than a year we paid off all our debts and started saving. We are one-fourth of the way toward our first money goal amount. Yes, I know we can get a mortgage, but we do not want one. I look at the housing mess of 2008, and I want no part of it. Another reason is pure stubbornness. We have had several people tell us it is impossible in this ecomony to save enough money to build a house. I want to prove them wrong and do it while I am primarily a housewife!

I am going to be focusing much more on saving. I should point out that I will be having some fun money. I think many people associate saving and budgeting with being miserable. I do not want to be miserable. This is aside from the amount that we already save from dh's paycheck. I have no specific amounts in mind. I simply want to give myself an open challenge to save as much as I can.