Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Frugal Five And An Expensive Repair!

It was a pretty frugal week, quiet and uneventful, until Saturday. We lost water and come to find out, the connector on our pump (well) had broken. No water in house + water bubbling in the front yard = a problem. We were planning to wait for a repair until Monday as weekend plumbing jobs are usually twice the price! We were fortunate to find a company who doesn't charge more for weekends so they sent a technician out and the repair was complete within a few hours. Not cheap by any stretch but certainly money well spent--we have water again! While this was major, it could've been a whole lot worse and even more expensive.

As far as frugal things go:
  1. Stayed home most of the week--no go, no spend!
  2. We didn't eat out this week; we have a separate cash envelope for eating out and we've used most of it already this month, so we ate at home!
  3. Harvested more lettuce from the garden; planted some onions. I'm so slow in gardening this year; hope to get it in soon!
  4. Used this frugal cardboard method for my rose bed; we'll see how it does. It was a quick and easy project-- Toddler Girl said it looked nice once I finished!:-)  Hoping to use cardboard as a weed barrier in between the rows in the garden too.
  5. Made homemade laundry soap!
And a bonus: Discovered that the freezer door hadn't been closed properly (my fault) before anything had a chance to thaw much. Thanking God for that!

What frugal things have you been up to?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pinned It, Made It: Polka Dot Notebook Cover

I use a plain notebook to record my insights as I read God's Word each day. I've been wanting something a bit more cute and from time to time I've purchased cuter notebooks.

But since I use one page per day, you can imagine how quickly I go through notebooks! So a reusable cute cover fits the bill perfectly!

I had pinned this cute and easy notebook cover from Blissfully Content. One evening when the house was quiet, I got out my fabric and ribbon and went to work.

I chose this happy red polka dot fabric from IKEA. I smile just to look at it! If you hang around here long enough, you'll notice how much I like red!

Red is my happy color.

Anyways, this project was pretty fast--completed in under an hour minus the flower. I had a little trouble getting it the right fit for the notebook but with a little seam ripping and resewing, it fit very well!:)

I preferred this flower to the one in the notebook cover tutorial, so that's what I used. Mine doesn't look quite the same since I glanced over the instructions and then started creating and "winging it" as I went.

My sister had given me some red and white polka dot scraps which I used for the flower! I made the flower into a pin so I could remove it if I wanted to and use it somewhere else! It turned out a bit lopsided but thankfully, scissors are very handy for trimming!

I'm very happy with how it turned out and the polka dots make me smile each morning when I reach for my Bible and notebook!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday hosted by Country Girl At Home. **

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Freezing Milk

 Jars of Milk: The jar on the right has already been frozen.

We don't drink milk often and sometimes don't use it that quickly. Often, I'm concerned that it will go bad before we can use it all!

So, instead of pouring it all down the drain, I freeze it to use later!

Milk freezes very well--just be sure to leave room at the top of the container for expansion!

Mason jars are my go-to canning and storage jars and I've had good success freezing milk and homemade broth in them. In several years of freezing in glass, I've only had one breakage so far.

Of course, any plastic container or even the milk jug can be used. I like to use quart size or smaller containers since there are just two of us and milk doesn't get used as quickly!

Because frozen foods can often end up looking similar I try to always label the containers! I'd prefer not to have chicken broth in my pancakes, thank you! 

I don't have a lot of experience using milk that's been frozen for plain drinking, although I've read that some families freeze jugs of milk to stretch out grocery trips. I've used the milk for baking, cooking,  pancakes, homemade yogurt and now, for making kefir. It works great and minimizes waste!

To thaw, I remove the jar of milk from the freezer and let set in a bowl filled with cold water. If I'm planning ahead really well, I'll set it in the fridge and it'll be ready to use in a day or two.

Freezing soon-to-expire milk is one way I save money by not wasting food!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Flowers For Mom

Since this is our first spring in our new house, it's been fun to see what is blooming around the yard!

My mom asked to see some pictures of the flowers so these are for her...and for you! Enjoy!

**These were taken a few weeks ago; there have been a  few changes since then--more irises, more colors of tulips, more azaleas. Also, I've done very little work in the flowerbeds yet this spring so focus on the flowers and not the state of the beds themselves! :-) **

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Frugal Five

It's been a few weeks since I did a Frugal Five post! Days have been busy and there is just not the time to do everything I want or need to do! So sometimes, blogging gets pushed back for a time.

I've been participating in Money Saving Mom's 30 Day Housecleaning Challenge. While I haven't been able to accomplish every single challenge, I've been able to do a lot--more than if I hadn't joined in at all! Each day, I try to do one extra thing in the focus room like cleaning baseboards, light fixtures, ceiling fans, etc.  I have learned that for the most part, I don't usually have time to do the cleaning and blog about it. So I've been choosing to do the cleaning...:-)

Anyways, on to Frugal Five!
  1. Harvested lettuce from the garden--lots of lettuce! I planted these plants last December and they never really took off--until a month or so ago. And I was getting ready to pull them out! Glad I didn't! We've been eating fresh lettuce almost every day and it's time to cut some more!
  2. Stayed in my grocery budget for the month. I did most of my shopping at the beginning of the month and kept a small portion of the cash for fresh produce and odds and ends for the last two weeks. This seems to have worked well!
  3. My sister's family is preparing to for a move halfway across the country. She gave me some frozen fish and a meaty ham bone that she had frozen and probably won't be able to use before they go. I was glad to accept!
  4. Found some nice dress shoes(Sketchers)  for my husband-- $3 at the thrift store!
  5. Some bananas, milk and celery were getting close to their expiration dates. I took a  few minutes and chopped the celery and bananas to freeze(not together!!) and poured the milk into jars and froze them too. No waste! 
How have you saved money or lived frugally recently? 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pinned It, Made It: Andes Mint Cookies

I've been trying some new cookie and bar recipes for an occasion coming up and these Andes Mint Cookies looked delicious! I pinned the recipe to my "Yummy, not necessarily healthy" board.

They only have 4 ingredients!

Yes, really!

Similar to the Cake Mix Cookie Bars, only cookies with yummy mint!

If you like chocolate and mint, you should try these cookies. If you are a fan of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies, make these cookies!

Very good and easy!

Get the full recipe and instructions here.

My notes:
  • Use an ungreased cookie sheet. 
  • Don't overbake although I would probably bake them a tad longer next time. 
  • Let them cool almost completely on cookie sheet before removing them; they are fragile when hot out of the oven.
  • I used my cookie scoop and one batch made 2 dozen cookies. 
  • They are good right away but I thought they were even better the next day. 
  • I think I'll try these in a mini muffin pan next time for little cookie bites!
**This post is part of Pinned It, Made Monday hosted by Country Girl At Home. **

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Etsy News

I've had a good amount of business through my Etsy shop lately. Yeah!

My goal has been to have at least 50 items for sale in my shop. I keep getting close but then I'll have a sale or two, bringing the number of items for sale back down. Oh well, that's a good problem to have! :-)

This burlap pillow cover was a recent custom order. Thanks Christina!

I just love the color combination she chose!

The hanging kitchen towels were getting low so I just added another batch to the shop. These have sold very well!  I had more but some friends saw them at my house and bought a few right then and there! So I'll be making more in the near future.

Thanks for looking!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Magic Eraser Substitute


These mysterious orange spots appeared on my kitchen cabinets about 6 weeks ago. In several places.

Shoes? A toy? We have no idea.

I scrubbed and scrubbed with soapy water. Which did not help at all.

Meanwhile, I decided I would need to buy a Magic Eraser to see if that would help.

A few weeks went by and I still hadn't purchased that eraser. The marks were still there too.

This morning I was reading some of the comments on Money Saving Mom's house cleaning challenge. One commenter said that instead of a Magic Eraser, she used a paste of baking soda and water.

I couldn't wait to try it!

I'm happy to report that it worked!

No more mystery spots!

Here's how to do it:

  • Make a paste of baking soda and water in a small bowl. 
  • Apply paste to a damp rag.
  • Scrub spot you wish to remove. 
  • Wipe with a clean damp rag to remove baking soda residue. 
  • That's it! 
There are other scuffs and spots on our cabinets that I haven't been able to remove by regular washing too. I bet this will work!

Baking soda and water are a cheap solution--I'm good with that!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Cleaning Bookshelves

Earlier this year, I signed up with Spring Clean 365: a task a day to keep our homes clean and in order.

I haven't been able to keep up as much as I'd like but I still try to do what I can when I can. Basically, I've been trying to do the daily tasks that I need to do and have time for.

This is difficult for me. I'm an "all or nothing" sort of person. But I'm learning. Slowly.

Anyways, recently one of the daily tasks was to take all the books off the bookshelf and dust well, then replace them.

Before: (Picture taken when we moved in so not all shelves were filled yet!)

This was something that definitely needed to be done! The books also needed to be organized by genre--we just threw them on the shelves any old way to get them out of boxes when we moved in last June and I still hadn't found time or energy to change them.

One afternoon last week when naptime lasted longer than 1 hour, (Yeah!) I started in. I began with the intent of only working on one bookcase but since I was reorganizing the books, I soon started on the other shelves too. I took all the books off, dusted the shelves well and left the books in 3 piles: Keep, Get Rid Of, Maybe.

The biggest pile was Keep.

Once I was done with all 3 bookcases, my husband came in and looked through the Maybe and Get Rid Of piles and put a few of those books on the Keep pile.

I love to read and enjoy books but maybe not as much as I used to. My husband isn't much of a book reader. There are some books that I definitely want to keep but I don't have a problem with getting rid of the ones I don't read and probably won't read again. I can get most of them at the library anyways.

I know some of you are gasping right now that I would so easily part with books! I'm sorry.:-)

One of our bookcases is rather unsteady and the back keeps falling off so I had the thought that perhaps all the books would now fit on the 2 bookcases and I could move the wobbly one out. We could use the extra space too!


We packed up one box of books to part with and the rest fit perfectly on the two bookcases, including one shelf of cookbooks. That made me happy!

I'm also happy to have this cleaning task done for a while!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

30 Day House Cleaning Challenge Day 2

 Day 2's project was to clean the bathrooms!
  • Set the timer for 20 minutes and put toilet cleaner in each of the toilet bowls and let it soak.
  • Remove any items that don’t belong in the bathroom, put away items that need to be put away in the bathroom, empty the trash.
  • Spray and wipe down the sink and tub.
  • Finish swishing and cleaning the toilet.
  • Shake the rugs outside (or throw them in the laundry) and mop or vacuum the floors.
  • Wipe down the outside of the cupboards and clean the mirror.
  • You’re done!

I had just cleaned the bathrooms last Thursday so they weren't that dirty.  A little clutter in the master bath (which is hard to see because it's difficult to get photos at a good angle in such a tiny room!)but not anything too horrible.

I did the regular cleaning she suggested and wiped down the the fronts of the cabinets as well as the doors and part of the walls in the master bath--they were dusty!

Notice the unmade bed in the picture! Well, you can't always get to everything--hahaha!
As you can see, my bathrooms need some decorating help. Or at least nice shower curtains! :-)

Even though we've done mostly regular cleaning so far, I'm enjoying the challenge and it's motivating me to do more little cleaning and organizing tasks around the house. I'm looking forward to getting some of the deep cleaning done and seeing my sparkling house at the end of April!
**For more cleaning inspiration, visit Money Saving Mom!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

These roasted sweet potatoes are similar to sweet potato fries but are a bit quicker for me to prepare.

I'm all about quick and easy food prep these days!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • One medium sized sweet potato per person
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel sweet potatoes. Chop into smallish chunks. Place in a bowl or ziploc bag and drizzle some olive oil over the top, mixing to make sure all potato chunks are covered.

Place potatoes in a  single layer on a  cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast sweet potatoes for 30-45 minutes,stirring occasionally until potatoes are soft on the inside and brown and a little crispy on the outside.

Yum! We love these!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

30 Day House Cleaning Challenge: Day 1

Today's project was:
  • Set the timer for 15 minutes and pick up and put away everything that’s out of place. Bonus project: Find 7 things to get rid of.
  • Next, wash the dishes in the kitchen (if there are any), wipe down the countertops and surfaces in the kitchen.
  • Finally, vacuum the living room.
Due to spring break this week, my work schedule is a bit lighter so I'm taking advantage of the longer nap times to get as much cleaning done as I can!

**I neglected to take any before pictures today! Just afters.*

What I accomplished:

Living room: I had just cleaned in here late last week so not a lot needed to be done. I went ahead and dusted everything well and vacuumed.

Kitchen: This room needs to be cleaned every few days because it sees so much use! I had just cleared the counters so not much to do there today. Thankfully, because I tend to be a piler! Empty counter space? Let me put a pile of papers or something there! I cleaned the countertops with homemade granite cleaner, wiped off the stovetop, and cleaned the sink. Then I swept the floor. I wouldn't have done it today had it not been for the challenge but it seems to always need to be swept! Once Baby Boy is mobile, I'll need to get back to sweeping the floors every day again! It looks so nice all swept and clean on a Monday night.:-)

Extra: We had the windows open today--a lovely day here in South Carolina!  I wiped up the space between the window and the screen--it was nasty! Since I was cleaning anyways, it was easy to just get that done too!

Decluttering: I found 7 items to part with plus a few recyclables.

I'm happy with what was accomplished today and look forward to tomorrow's project!

To join in, visit Money Saving Mom!

Frugal Five and Five Splurges

Today for Frugal Five, I'll not only list 5 frugal things from my week but also 5 things we splurge on.

When reading frugal blogs, sometimes it may seem as though we never buy anything or do anything truly fun that costs money.

Well, here's the thing. Frugality isn't so much about not spending as it is about being mindful and deliberate in where and how we do choose to spend.

So yes, we have some splurges at our house. While we do look for good deals on these items and try to spend wisely, for the most part we feel these things are worth the extra cost. Provided we have the wiggle room in our budget, of course.

So, should we do frugal first today? Or splurges?

I vote splurges.

Five Things We Splurge On: 

  1. Grass-fed and pastured meats. They are so much better for us and we've gotten used to the flavor too. Yes, it costs more than what I paid before. At this time, we probably get about 75% grass-fed/pastured meat and about 25% conventional meat to even out the budget. We buy from a  local farm; they started with grass-fed beef and have more recently added pastured pork and chicken as well. I get some meats at Trader Joe's too--not all grass-fed and pastured but a step up from grocery store "pink slime".
  2. Iphones. Yes, I have an iphone!  Is it a necessity? No. Is it fun to have? Yes. They are really helpful for our businesses but if finances were really tight, we would rethink this. Once my husband got his and added the data plan, mine was only 99 cents with no change to our bill. 
  3. Taxes. We pay someone else to do our taxes. This isn't really cheap but it is worth it to us for both our sanity and the health of our marriage. Because we are self-employed and have so many little cottage industries, Turbo Tax would throw up all over itself and probably go offline! We trust the man who does our taxes and know he does a good job. He is a Christian man and approaches personal finances much in the same way we do.
  4. Better haircuts. We used to get our hair cut at a very cheap place. After trying another, little bit higher-priced salon, my husband decided it was worth the extra money for a nicer haircut. I have a clippers and want to learn to cut his hair myself, but in the meantime, we've found a place he likes. I only get 1 or 2 cuts a year for myself and am currently growing my hair out but when it's time,  I think a better stylist would help my head of "unruly hair" too.
  5. Parmesan cheese. Call us food snobs, but we really like the chunks of Parmesan you shred yourself instead of the green can! We don't eat a lot of it but it's a treat to buy a small chunk of good Parmesan cheese occasionally.  Trader Joe's has specialty cheeses at reasonable prices.
This Week's Frugal Five: 
  1.  I had the day off on Good Friday. Instead of spending money, we stayed home and worked around the house. Got a few small projects done that either didn't cost money or we had already bought the supplies for!
  2. For a movie night, we watched a movie we had, instead of renting. One that had been given to us a long time ago and we hadn't ever opened!
  3. This is the time of year when I start using up more of our home canned and frozen items. We've been adding frozen peaches to our almost-daily smoothies and eating home canned peaches and applesauce. I have some beets and pumpkin I need to start using as well. 
  4. Last week was the end of the month-- I cleaned out our cash envelopes and added the loose change and some $1 bills to our 10th anniversary fund. I counted $15 to add this month. Woohoo! I write more about saving our change here.
  5. We've had a few warmer days again! We've been opening windows instead of turning on the A/C!
What frugal business have you been up to this week? What do you splurge on? Tell us in the comments!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Natural Lemon Air Freshener

 This morning I put several sliced lemons and water in my little crockpot. I placed it in our hall bathroom and turned it to low since that room needed freshening first. :-). It smells incredible! I will be moving it to different rooms in the next couple of days. I've read that adding a sprig or two of rosemary is wonderful with the lemons--I'll have to buy some when I grocery shop this week!

**As always, take necessary safety precautions when using anything hot , especially around children. Make sure to keep water in the pot and turn it off when leaving the house! **

April: The Month To Clean

There's just something about spring that makes me want to fling open the windows and get things cleaned. This is a big deal for someone like me who really doesn't care for cleaning all that much!

I'd rather declutter!

This month, I'm joining in with Crystal's 30 Day House Cleaning Challenge. Her challenges are always so much fun and easy to follow, perhaps because every assignment is a bite-sized piece. I don't know about you--but I simply cannot spend hours spring cleaning each day during this season of my life. Minutes, however, are doable if I plan for them!

I'll be sharing several times weekly how I'm doing with the cleaning challenge. Maybe you could consider joining in too and we can all clean together!

I'm looking forward to getting my house cleaned, organized and freshened  this month!

Can I stick it out for 30 days? We'll see!