Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Trip to Our Alma Mater, Part 2: A Drive Up The Canyon

The reason we decided to leave in the fall was so that our children could see the changing leaves. Where we live, it doesn't get cold enough for a big color change; the leaves usually turn brown and fall in December. A drive into the mountains would show them the beautiful mountains and the changing leaves.

It was raining when we started our drive. I noted that the children weren't used to seeing rain while in the car; the lack of visibility on the freeway was something new to them.

Just a little way up Provo Canyon is Bridal Veil Falls. We showed the children their first waterfall.





We drove up and looked at a pretty park at the Vivian Park exit, but it was still raining, so we turned around and head back up the canyon, driving all the way to Heber.

The rain quit falling, and we turned around and drove south again, returning to the beautiful park that we had seen again.

It was a great decision.


We brought out the popcorn that we had popped before our drive, and enjoyed popcorn while enjoying the incredible view.



The children were able to explore a stream for the first time.



I know for most of you, a stream is not unusual, but living in the Mojave desert (a much drier desert than the desert of Northern Utah), my children have never seen a stream.



This felt like the ideal child's play.














We stayed at the park for several hours, and then went back to my niece and nephew's house for dinner and games.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments



I gleaned olives on Saturday. I'll be processing them this week.

I canned 4 quarts of giardeniera, using cucumbers from our garden.

I canned 24 quarts of pears.

This is just one side of my front walk; both sides have basil, plus there is more basil behind this. This pictures was taken after I made several batches of pesto. I still have several more batches to make! The basil is taller than my 8-year-old.

I cut lots and lots of basil from the garden and made several batches of pesto, which I froze. I borrowed a food processor from my mom to make the process go faster.

I cut roses from the garden to enjoy on my table.

I cut green onions and a pomegranate from the garden.

I mended two dresses and a towel.

My husband and I watched a show for free on Hulu.

Winter and Ezrom downloaded 2 free songs each from the library's website.

I attended a community garage sale with my mom on Saturday. I found several things for our family: pants for Cyrus, Wren, Liberty, and Elsa ($1.00 each), shirts for Cyrus ($0.25 to $1.00 each), a sweater for Winter ($1), books ($.50 to $1.00 each), new-in-the-box Christmas net lights ($2 a box), bicycle helmets ($2 each), a bulletin board ($1), push pins ($.25), three dresses for Winter ($3 each), and an acoustic guitar with a case for $30; Ezrom gave me a big hug and a kiss when he saw it!

I also bought several things that I will use as Christmas gifts for the children, including a brand-new 500 piece puzzle ($1), a used (like new) 24-piece puzzle, some jewelry ($0.25 each), a game ($1), knitting needles ($0.25 a pair), an MP3 player ($3) and a jacket ($0.50).

What did you do to save money last week?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Trip to Our Alma Mater, Part 1



After our last trip (to California), my husband and I started discussing the possibility of another trip. We know that going to see something would mean a long drive, since Las Vegas is so far from anything. One of the closest drives that we could see (in a different direction from Southern California) is to Utah.

We knew the main expense was a hotel, and that if we could eliminate that expense, or lower it significantly by camping, then we could make another trip. We were able to stay with a niece and nephew, and their children. We took a blow-up mattress with us that my husband had been given a few years ago from someone who no longer wanted it. We took sleeping bags and pillows, and they had some other blow-up mattresses and a futon for the children to sleep on (they took sleeping bags with them as well).

Food for the trip was the next concern. Bringing food last time, for two days, was simple enough, but we needed to bring food with us for a week. (We packed refillable water bottles and two large Gotts with water for drinks). Here is what we did:

I made four loaves of French bread the day before the trip, plus took another loaf and a half that I had baked a day earlier, and we sliced them for sandwiches.

I bought a turkey breast (the lunchmeat kind) at Sam's Club for slicing. We brought it home and sliced it for sandwiches.

I had a small roast in the freezer that I cooked and sliced for sandwiches.

We bought a 5 pound block of cheese at Sam's Club and sliced half of it on our slicer for sandwiches.

I packed mayonnaise and mustard that I already had.

I hard boiled 2 1/2 dozen eggs.

I cooked a double batch of lemon poppyseed muffins to take with us.

I made a double batch of granola. Along with that, I packed 2 1/2 quarts of homemade yogurt and 2 pints of homemade strawberry jam.

I made a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies for the trip.

We packed a large number of apples, 2 quarts of homemade grape juice, and several pints of home-canned dill pickles.

I made a batch of pasta e fagioli the day before, which we froze for the trip.

I packed 4 pounds of pasta, 2 #10 cans of tomato sauce, and the spices for a double batch of spaghetti.

We took popcorn, oil, salt, and our popcorn maker.

We measured out oatmeal and brown sugar for 2 meals

I took a whole frozen chicken as well.

Meals were sandwiches with apples, pickles, and cookies, pasta e fagioli (one night), oatmeal, yogurt with granola and jam, lemon poppyseed muffins with hard boiled eggs, and two meals of spaghetti.

We also shared a meal that my niece made (the chicken was what we brought for that), and shared spaghetti with them twice. My niece made us breakfast one morning as well.

I knew the homemade bread wouldn't last a week without going bad, so we bought 2 loaves of bread while we were on the trip. One afternoon I also purchased a large bag of pretzel sticks for a snack. In addition, I had planned for one trip for ice cream cones, which we did.

We had planned to have sandwiches one more meal as well, but that changed for us. I emailed my old boss' wife to see if we could come say hi to the two of them for a few minutes while we were there. They offered to take us to lunch at my favorite place, the museum cafe. That was our only meal out, and it was delicious! They also handed us some money and suggested that we go get ice cream cones, so we had ice cream twice.

For activities, we planned a myriad of free things, mostly at our alma mater. Both of us graduated from Brigham Young University (he in 1987, and I in 1999; you may be doing the math but we're actually 13 years apart in age). We knew there were plenty of things to see and do for free on campus, including several museums and free performances.



We spent most of our first day driving. We stopped in St. George at the temple for breakfast. We then walked around the grounds and went to the visitor's center there.



The desert just north of St. George.

We stopped at Cove Fort for lunch. The tree above our table had about 20 monarch butterflies all on one branch, which would occasionally flit around for a while and then return to the branch. We didn't tour the fort that day, but we enjoyed the picnic benches in the shade and refilled our water bottles there.

We arrived just in time to attend the planetarium outreach show our first night. The outreach show was $1 per person. My husband took the 5 oldest children to the  BYU Planetarium while I took the two youngest over to the children's section of the campus library.

Afterwards we all had a lot of fun looking around the Eyring Science Center, where they had several hands on activities and interesting displays (the planetarium is in that building).

We then had a late dinner of sandwiches at our niece and nephew's house nearby.

The next day, we went to the Museum of Art. This building was new to my husband, but was familiar to me.

We met up with my old boss and his wife. I worked for him until he retired from teaching at the age of 72. I knew that just left him more time to work on his projects, and 15 years later, he is still working on quite a few books! His wife and I had worked together as well; she is a historical clothing expert. I had modeled clothing for fashion shows for her when I was a student.

We had an amazing lunch at the museum cafe, and then we saw the exhibit of historical costumes from movies together. The museum was free.



From there we headed off to the BYU Creamery for ice cream cones, and then walked to the Monte L. Bean Life Science museum (also free).

Ezrom, Elsa, Liberty and Wren are enjoying the fountain in the courtyard of the Joseph F. Smith Building, which was razed and rebuilt after I graduated. The courtyard was so incredibly beautiful.
We walked from there down to see part of the alumni versus students swim match, where we cheered for random strangers.

We headed back up the hill (those of you who attended BYU know that very long set of stairs up from the Richards building!) and ate dinner from the back of our van.


After a decision for a change from our original plan (to see a student instrumental recital for free), we then drove back down the hill (since parking was available in student-only lots after 7) and went to attend the women's volleyball game. We weren't sure of the cost, and as my husband stepped up and saw the $5 per person cost, he started to back away. I saw what he missed: a $15 cost for family tickets to the game. As soon as I pointed it out, he promptly turned around and bought tickets! We enjoyed watching the women's volleyball team beat our biggest rival, and 15 years after graduation, I sang our fight song for the first time! (My husband attended many, many games as a student, while I attended several performances). Even Ivory learned some of the words to the song!

The next day we returned to campus. We ate our picnic lunch in the grass under the shade of several trees, and went back the the Museum of Art to see the rest of the exhibits.



We showed the children a bit more of campus, and walked down to the Wilkinson Student Center (in the background of the photo above). The football game was sold out that day, but my husband was able to watch on a television there with some of the children (Ivory took a nap with him). I walked around campus with the other children, and we bought a bag of pretzels for the family to share. (This was poor planning on my part; I forgot to bring our snacks with us that day). We also went to the campus bookstore, where we browsed the clearance section and found 3 books, including one for $2.99 that I had on Ezrom's Christmas list.

We gave the children some quarters to play a bit of skee ball in the student center while the game finished (Ezrom watched part of the game with me at the very end and asked, "Does BYU win all their games?" which made me laugh!) When they the game was over, they combined their tickets for some candy to share.

We then checked out the library addition that was finished the day I graduated. While I was a student, campus had a giant whole in the center while it was dug up (the poplars in the photo above were dug up and boxed for several years). An underground addition of the library was built north of the existing library (with skylights)  that goes two floors under the ground. We went to check it out, and it was beautiful. We enjoyed an exhibit in one of the rooms on World War I.

We returned to my neice and nephew's house for dinner with them. She had made a fantastic dinner in the crockpot (the chicken we brought went to this meal).

I took Winter and Ezrom back to campus to see a student's senior recital that evening. Everyone else was too tired to do any more that night. The recital was free and the children really enjoyed it.

From there we went to drop in on the Swing Kids Club dance. When I was a student, I went to that dance every Saturday night. Ezrom was so excited to go and he asked 6 women to dance! He told me he picked the shortest ones on purpose so that they could dance with him. He learned several things. Winter danced one dance and I danced a couple of times.

I have a ton of really beautiful photos to show you for the next part of our trip!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments



I cut flowers from the garden for the house.

I cut lots of basil and made a large batch of pesto. What we didn't use on sandwiches, I put in the freezer in several bags to use later. I armed the sandwiches on the panini press that I bought earlier this year at a garage sale (for $5). I've wanted to make these for years, and I finally have enough basil and a press to make them! I'm planning to make several batches of pesto with the rest of the basil and freeze it to make these again in the future.

I collected seeds from my basil plants to plant next year.

The weather was milder than it has been, so I only needed to run the air conditioner for a few hours on two days last week (saving me $65, according the the electric company's weekly report).

My husband mended one of my clothes drying racks this week. I have a gas dryer and dry most things in the dryer, but I also wear a lot of thin clothing (as we have 5-6 months of above 90ยบ temperatures) that cannot go in the dryer, so I use these to hang those to dry.

Winter downloaded two free songs from the library's website.

I dumped the compost into the garden. I'll be working it in this week, but dumping it out allowed Cyrus to start filling it, layering shredded paper and grass as he cut the grass.

I bought two pairs of jeans for Cyrus and four for Ezrom for $2 a pair from a Facebook garage sale post. The jeans were in like-new condition. On the way home from picking these up, I stopped at three actual garage sales. At one I bought three necklaces ($5 total), which I will give to three daughters for Christmas. At another, I bought two small carry-on size suitcases (that looked brand-new) for $2 each.



Thanks to the Facebook garage sales, I was made aware of a couple of neighborhood garage sales on Saturday. I took my list with me. I was not able to find a lot from my list, but I did find three t-shirts for the girls for .50 each, and a handful of other small items, including a blue and white Chinese vase ($2) that I filled with zinnias from the garden. I had been wanting something like this, and was delighted when I found this one.

I canned 12 quarts of pears.

My husband and I watched the pilot episode of a new show for free on Hulu. It's called Forever, and U.S. readers can watch it here. We liked the first episode enough that we will keep watching.

What did you do to save money last week?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

This Week's Goals



It's going to be a busy week here. As usual, I have more to do than I probably have time to do, but if I work efficiently, I should be able to accomplish these things. It it supposed to be in the 90's this week, so I will do most of my garden work in the evenings.

This is what I'm envisioning for my garden beds. I've never seen it look this lush, but it's what I would like to accomplish.

Garden:

1. Pull weeds and anything that's done for the year in the main bed (the one that gets the most light along the east wall).

2. Mix compost and manure into the bed.

3. Plant some fall seeds in this bed.

4. Pull zinnias in the white garden.

5. Prune hedges. Bring some of these into the house for arrangements (the clippings will last for 3 weeks in water).

6. Dig out the apple tree stump. I never got to this earlier this spring and it really needs to be pulled.

7. Plant apricot tree in the place of the apple.

8. Run drip lines in a small area where we removed them earlier.

9. Cut grape leaves that are infected with caterpillars.


Canning and Cooking:

1. Can pears.

2. Cut basil from the garden and make several batches of pesto to freeze.


Sewing:

1. Mend bath towels.

2, Make pillow for Ezrom's room (I still haven't done this one either).


Shopping:

1. Go to the nursery to purchase a few things for fall. I'm bringing some old pots to return for credit and a $10 off coupon.

2. Buy 16 dozen eggs and 20 pounds of potatoes at Albertson's (I decided to buy 4 more dozen eggs, since at breakfast we eat 18 if everyone has two eggs, and I'd like to have eggs a bit more often).

3. Buy pork roast at Smith's (Yes, I decided to take the plunge and buy some at $2.49 a pound, since it is our favorite).

4. Order two pictures for Ezrom's room (I keep forgetting to do this).

5. Go the community garage sale with my list in hand. I'm hoping to find several needed items for winter clothing for the children as well as some Christmas wants. I thought I had enough clothing, but some things have worn out, and it looks like I still need some shirts for Cyrus. I'm hoping to pay $0.50  to $1 for each item of clothing, though I'll go up to $2 an item if I need to.

Miscellaneous:

1. List 5 items for sale on Facebook garage sale pages this week

2. Print music flashcards for Wren. (I found these free printables, but if anyone knows of any better free music note flash cards (that include base clef, for example), let me know and I'll print those instead!) Update: I am going to print the ones a reader suggested that are here).

3. Go visiting teaching

4. Pay utility bills

Blogging:

1. Finish editing photos for part one of our trip and post. I have a lot of pictures (we were gone a week last month) and I'll be splitting it into multiple posts so that the pictures load faster. If I can get to part two, I'll post that one as well.





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Grocery Shopping Plans



This post contains an affiliate link.

I grocery shop with a monthly budget.

I start with the things that are low in our pantry. Those are my priorities. Once I have worked on filling those, I will make other purchases based on what is on sale.

A couple of notes about last month's shopping:

A reader alerted me to the fact that Winco has their own brand of Parmesan cheese, and it is lower priced per ounce than what I had been paying at Sam's Club. I bought 3 containers, which is equal in size to one container at Sam's Club (and a savings of $3). This is half the amount of cheese I had planned to buy, but now I will be able to add that in to Winco trips more often.

I didn't buy any pork roast. It was on sale, but at $2.49 a pound, I wasn't ready to commit. I realize I will have to either do without or up the price per pound I will pay for meat. If I up my price per pound for meat, we will have to up our grocery budget, or have even more meatless meals. (One of my readers just pointed out that it is on sale again this week--again, it's $2.49 a pound. I'm trying to decide if I will up my price per pound and buy two of these this month, as this is our favorite cut of meat).

That said, I actually did make the exception and paid $2.48 a pound for turkey breast (in the sandwich meat section) at Sam's Club, which we sliced for sandwiches and took on vacation. Normally I would not buy this, but we had eaten all of our hams and decided that this expense, along with a 5 pound block of cheddar cheese from Sam's Club (which we also sliced for sandwiches), would come from our trip expenses. We also also bought 2 loaves of bread, a bag of pretzel sticks, and treated the children to ice cream cones while on vacation (also vacation expenses).

While on vacation, I used a gift card to a store that I had from a few years back (we don't have that store here). I was able to get a bottle of face lotion, 3 dozen eggs, and some candy with that. If I can keep the candy hidden long enough, it will go in my husband's Christmas stocking. (He knows I have it, so that may not work!)

I never did see a good sale on sour cream, so we went without.

We did not go through our oil or our margarine last month (some months we go through more than others, depending on what we have) so while I will continue to buy oil, as our supplies are still low (I want to build it back up to a year's supply of oil), I will put off buying margarine unless we really need some.


I bought pears last month to can at .25 a pound. I bought 72 pounds of pears for $18. These are still green in the fridge. I'll bring them out to ripen and can this week.

This month, the supplies that I see low are the following:


Pantry:

Tomato Bullion

Oil

Salt

Parmesan cheese

Brown sugar


Non-Food Items:

Baby Wipes

Bleach


Fresh Food:

Potatoes

Apples

Carrots

Milk

Mozzarella Cheese

Eggs

Halloween candy (not really fresh food or a non-food item, but it won't be sitting around in the pantry!)


I'll be watching blogs for deals on Halloween candy. We don't have a large number of children come through our neighborhood, so three small bags of candy is usually enough for us at home. We will also have a church trunk or treat, so I'll need additional candy for that. There are certain to be sales and coupons for these. However, I may end up buying the least expensive bulk candy choices from Winco, which are all $1.58 a pound, and include things like smarties and butterscotch. I'll make my choice based on what ends up being the lowest cost.

For October, I'll buy 30 pounds of potatoes. Potatoes will be a better price in November, and I'll stock up then. We've had lots of rice and pasta in the summer, but when fall comes, we are very happy to have potatoes again. For those who are new readers, check out my potato page on my website for information on how we store and eat potatoes.

I will look for another deal on apples, since they are in season. We ate the 40 pounds I bought in September. I will buy another 40 pounds, unless I can find them for under .99 a pound, in which case, I may buy more.

For the bleach, I'll be looking for some coupons and sales at Target for their brand (Up and Up). I use this to wash rags, clean the kitchen sink and inside the toilets. I still have a $5 gift card left to use at Target that will cover this.

I'll buy two gallons of oil. We didn't go through two gallons last month, but that's okay; by buying a couple of gallons a month I can build up our supply.

I'll buy two containers of tomato bullion, as we are totally out. We love this on rice; it's simply one teaspoon of bullion to one cup of water. Last month we had black beans with this rice and salsa (plus some cucumbers from the garden on the side) for lunch three times, and the children loved it, so I am looking to put this simple meal into rotation more often. (To season the beans, I mixed them with a little onion powder, salt, and a little lime juice). This option is much less expensive than buying tortillas and having bean burritos, since tortillas are .10 each, and with 9 at each meal, it can quickly become too expensive. For those who cannot find this bullion, it's the Knorr tomato bullion, and I buy the 4.4 pound container at Walmart. It's in the Hispanic foods aisle (the chicken bullion is there too, for the reader who was looking for it, but I just found out that our store has an even larger container of Knorr chicken bullion in the bulk section for .02 less per ounce).

I buy brown sugar in 4 pound bags from Sam's Club. I'll buy 5 bags for a total of 20 pounds. This is the C&H brand, and I haven't had any trouble with it ever going hard (Store brands go hard within a month; I don't know if those are beet sugar as opposed to cane sugar, or if it's because they have thinner plastic packaging, but there is a difference there. As a bonus, the ones at Sam's Club are still less expensive than the store brands during holiday sales.) Once the sugar is open, I put it in a container with a lid and a soaked brown sugar bear, which helps keep it soft.

The baby wipes I will get from Costco. I really like their brand; they are large, soft, sturdy, and aren't perfumed. I don't have a card there, but my mom does, so when I need some, she picks them up for me. A box will last me 6 months.

Winco has carrots for .39 a pound in a 10 pound bag. I'll buy one bag of carrots, plus the apples there.

I'll buy 4 gallons of milk, one of which I will make into yogurt using some starter that I have in my freezer. I may buy 3 more gallons towards the end of the month.

I'll buy 8 pounds of salt (two boxes at $1.10 a box) from Sam's Club.

I'll buy 5 pounds of mozzarella cheese from the Sam's Club, to use on pizza and other meals.

Albertson's has eggs on sale for .99 when you buy 4 dozen (this week). I'll have my husband pick up 12 dozen for me. They also have potatoes on sale for .20 a pound ($1.99 for a 10 pound bag of russets).

I'd like to buy as little as possible this month, so that I can have extra to spend in November. October is an important month for eating from the freezer and pantry. My freezers are much more full than normal this time of year, so we'll be eating from then to make room for turkeys in November and hams in December, and frozen peas and broccoli that should go on sale during those months. I really don't see a need to buy any items besides these this month (unless I find a really great deal), which will give me much more going into next month.

Are you planning to buy less in October to save up for holiday sales? For my Canadian readers, are you buying more in October during holiday sales?