Monday, April 21, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

I made birthday presents for Ivory using felt, embroidery thread, and stuffing that I had on hand. We enjoyed an alfresco meal outside. Winter made brownies and my parents brought ice cream (The number 2 candle is one we've used for each of our children as they have turned 2).

I cut Swiss chard, snow peas, green onions, lettuce, and tarragon from the garden. I pulled a few radishes.

I purchased 14 dozen eggs at .99 a dozen. I was also gifted 5 dozen eggs from a friend of my mom's (an older woman who buys little things for my mom all the time, including food, because she just likes to do nice things; she has joined us for holidays in the past). That probably seems like a lot to some of you, but we eat 18-20 eggs in a meal if everyone has 2 eggs (20 if my husband and I each have 3), so only 12 2/3 breakfasts if we were to just have fried or scrambled eggs for breakfast (yes, we could go through 20 plus dozen a month, easily!) We dyed 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs for Easter. We dyed them using dye that I purchased on clearance several years ago. In the last 13 years, I have bought Easter egg dye twice. I buy several all at once when they go 75% off to use for several years

I picked mulberries from a neighbor's tree. I will be picking more this week and making jam with them. The neighbor told me that she never planted the tree--birds must have done it for her. (She told me that I could pick them and that they had just gone to waste last year). I shared lettuce with her twice last week.

I made pancakes, French bread, soup, and  balsamic orange vinaigrette. We had a myriad of salads from the garden.

I cut both boys' hair. My husband cut my hair.

I received a $10 off $10 coupon from Kohl's in the mail. I only receive these a few times a year, and the only time I go there is when I get these. I usually keep my purchase as close to $10 as possible to keep my out of pocket cost under $1. This time I spent more, however, spending $10 out of pocket to purchase some summer pajamas for myself (I had this item on my garage sale list but had not found anything). It wasn't the $1 I was hoping to spend at a garage sale, but my 50 cent garage sale pajamas that I bought a few years were wearing out and it was time for a replacement.

My parents took my husband and I out on Saturday for my birthday (my birthday was Easter Sunday) while Winter babysat. I had a very nice meal. My mom also gave me two bottles of Olive Garden salad dressing as part of my gift.

My husband found the rest of the items he asked me to look for at the community garage sale in one Craig's List ad. For $60, he got an engine stand, an engine hoist, a creeper, and 5 jack stands.

I received a free copy of Martha Stewart Living magazine in the mail, thanks to a free subscription that I have from Recycle Bank points.

I printed several free printable worksheets for schoolwork.

Elsa wearing the shirt I purchased for her at the community garage sale for $1.

What did you do to save money last week?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

Star of Bethlehem flower in my garden
May you have a wonderful, peaceful Easter!

I am so thankful for Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice, and that because of His resurrection, we can live again.

He is risen!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Every day last week I harvested something from the garden. I cut snow peas, Swiss chard, parsley, asparagus and green onions, and picked lettuce, radishes, spinach, a couple of strawberries, and beet greens. I cut flowers from the garden for our table.

We ate outside every night as the weather was beautiful each evening.

The children played outside. They blew bubbles, jumped on the trampoline, played on the swings, drew with chalk, and read outside.

I stocked up on food last week, including strawberries at the new low price of $1.28 a pound (last year's -in-season-once-a-year-low-price was $.99 a pound). I buy strawberries once a year when they are in season here and the prices get as low as they are going to be. I purchased 32 pounds. My family found that if each person eats 2 strawberries, we had eaten an entire pound, and of course, everyone wants more than 2! I made strawberry shortcake, chocolate covered strawberries, and lots of jam: 7 twelve-ounce jars and  13 1/2 pints, or the equivalent of 48 half-pints (but using a lot fewer lids and a lot less cooking time). I made low-sugar jam with low-sugar pectin and sugar I already had on hand.

I purchased frozen sausage for $1.33 a pound. This is a huge treat for us, as sausage is usually much more expensive. The store who had this (Smith's-a Kroger affiliate) said that this was a new brand for them. We ate one package (12 ounces) this week and it was delicious. I now have sausage in the freezer for future meals. I also stocked up on sour cream for $1 a pound, shredded Tillamook cheddar cheese in a 5 pound bag for $10.99, and cream cheese for $2 a pound.

I made biscuits, gravy, shortcake, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry popsicles, museum pasta salad, rice and beans, and balsamic vinaigrette (for our homegrown salads). We ate several salads from garden lettuce last week.

Saturday I went with both of my parents (they drove) to a very close-by semi-annual community garage sale. My patience paid off, as I found several items that I have been looking for for several years. I found wood drawer organizers for my kitchen drawers for a total of $6. I am so excited to have these! After a good wash and dry I put them in my drawers. I smile each time I see them.

I found a bicycle that Winter, Cyrus, and I can all ride (I don't know who will ride it most often). The previous owner rode it once, crashed it, and didn't ride it again, according to her husband, who was selling it. It has a few dents in the fenders but is usable and comfortable. I have been looking for a bicycle for several years but the garage sale prices were always hundreds of dollars. I paid $60.

I found a linen/cotton dress for Ivory for 50 cents. It needed a couple of ribbon roses stitched on more tightly, which only took a minute for me to fix.. At the same sale, I bought three hardcover children's books in like-new condition for 10 cents each. I gave the dress and two of the books to Ivory for her birthday.

I purchased a 3-ton car jack (this was a request from my husband) for $30. I didn't expect to find this, but the price was good and he was happy to have it.

One of the sales we went to was listed as an estate sale. The kitchen drawers were open for going through, and the woman holding the sale said that kitchen drawer items were $1 a handful. For my dollar, I purchased 2 new packages of cheesecloth, a staple remover, 2 basting brushes, an offset metal spatula with a metal handle, a new-in the package thermometer that went down to 0º (I plan on using it as a soil thermometer), and a tea ball.

One sale we went to had antiques. That is a rare thing in a city that was built in the last 20-30 years (and this neighborhood was built in the last 15 years). We loved many of the beautiful things that she had for sale. I took home a tatted linen handkerchief for 50 cents and a copper saucepan with a brass handle for $3. I'm sure this pan will be making its way into future photos on my website.

I also purchased 4 hardcover books (50 cents each), some oil pastels, acrylics, and watercolors, 3 plastic drawer organizers (50 cents for all 3; one of these ended up in each of the bathroom drawers), 3 picture frames ($2 for 2 of them and 50 cents for the small matching one), a pair of winter pajamas for Liberty ($2) that look brand-new (I am keeping these for a birthday present as they are in the next size up and it's now time for summer pajamas), a shirt and pants for Elsa ($1 each), a summer hat that any of the girls can wear in the garden for 25 cents, and a brand-new package of hand-embroidery needles for 25 cents.

We went to about 50 sales in 5 hours and drove about 3 miles total.

I received a free magazine in the mail.

I received a package that I ordered from One Kings' Lane that had free shipping and was paid for with referral credit.

I used the water from rinsing strawberries and the water from my canning pot to water potted trees in the garden.

What did you do to save money last week?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Writing a Garage Sale List

Twice a year, a master-planned community near my house has a neighborhood garage sale.

I like being able to go to several sales in a short period of time.

I make it a plan to take a list with me. I go to this semi-annual sale with my mom, so I take 3 copies of my list: one for me, one for her, and one to hand to the person having the sale. I don't always use the third one, but if someone asks if I'm looking for something in particular and they have several things for sale, I'll hand them that copy of the list. This has helped me several times. Once, a woman said, "Oh, I had one of those out at my last garage sale and forgot to put it out this time! I'll go get it!" which resulted in this:

A beautiful metal embroidery hoop, with a date on it of 1917. This is definitely my oldest embroidery hoop. I paid $1.50, and it was in a bag with several other vintage items for that price. It's my favorite hoop now (it's actually much smaller than you see here; I love the small size as it prevents my hand my cramping).

Another time a woman noticed I was looking for sidewalk chalk. She had a large coffee can full of it, which I most likely would not have seen has I not given her the list. When I asked how much, she said I could have it for free!

My list does a lot more for me than that, however. I use my list to specifically shop for clothes and gifts for my family.

I write down each person's name in the family, along with what clothing items they need, and the number of items that they need. For the children, I write down anything they need next year and the following year (the next two sizes up). If they still need anything for this year I will include that as well, but in general, I am shopping ahead for them. By shopping for the next two sizes, I am better prepared for sudden growth spurts. It also is important because sometimes it is difficult to find anything in the sizes I need; having two years to find something helps a lot.

For example, one person on my list might look like this:

Cyrus (age 10 1/2)

4 short-sleeved shirts size 14
6 long-sleeved shirts size 14
3 pairs shorts size 14
1 pair dress pants size 14
2 pairs jeans size 14
3 pairs long pants/corduroys size 14
1 tie

7 short-sleeved shirts size 16
6 long-sleeved shirts size 16

Etc., Etc.

By having a specific number of items, I can be certain not to overbuy. I purchase enough for a week's worth of clothing (including church clothes) for both hot weather and cold weather.

I aim to pay 50 cents to a dollar for clothing items. I will occasionally pay more ($4 for a coat, for example), or $2 for a new items with tags on it, but in general, most items I buy are in the $0.50 to $1 range. This means that, in the example above, for a year's worth of clothing in one size, I am out the same price as one brand-new shirt at Target.

(This does not not count socks, underwear, pajamas, or shoes--just other items of clothing. I purchase socks and underwear on back to school sales. I make pajamas, usually repurposing sheets for these. I look for sales on shoes).

Most of my boys' clothing is used, from garage sales as well as hand-me-downs from friends. I like preppy, vintage clothes, and for the boys, it is usually quite possible to find button-down shirts and polo shirts in like-new condition, as these items are worn less often than t-shirts.  I find it harder to buy my girls clothing that I like, but I do find things for them on occasion (especially cardigans and jeans). I love vintage-style dresses, so I tend to make those, but I have found several jumpers and occasionally a few dresses.

Besides clothing, I have other items on the list.

I have listed both types of books as well as certain books that we are wanting. I have often found specific books that we wanted. I use these for the whole family or for individual children. If I plan on keeping it for a birthday gift or a Christmas gift, I put it up until that time. I pay .25 to $1 for most books. (I did buy a few last year for $2 each, that were hardcover books in like-new condition--and they were books on my list).  I will also pick up books in like-new condition for us to give as gifts to friends; these are often books that we already own and my children love, so I know their friends will like them as well. I put those in my gift box.

My list includes items that I know the children would like for birthdays and Christmas. Sometimes I find those items and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I find items that I know they will love that aren't on my list; that's okay, too, of course! (A couple of weeks ago a neighbor on my street was having a garage sale that included several like-new games, all marked $1 each. One was Harry Potter Uno. I've seen that on Amazon--for $53! I bought it and put it aside for Cyrus' 11th birthday later this year).

This vintage Ball jar was a garage sale purchase.

If there is anything I need in the kitchen, I'll put that on my list. Right now, for example, I'm looking for a metal pie server. I have one, but I would like another one for when we have several kinds of pie at once. I have an idea of the style I would like. I'm not in a hurry, but it's an item I would like to have, so I'll look for it.

Any other needs I have are also on there. This year, I am looking for a few bicycle helmets.

I have a few items on my list that I would like for sewing; I am looking for some specific shades of velvet and wool. Often these two items can be repurposed clothing items, so I look for pieces in good enough shape to cut up for those projects (a velvet skirt can offer plenty of fabric to make a girl's dress bodice). I aim to pay $1 for these. Garage sales are also a great place to look for sheets (to use for sewing) and blankets (to use as-is).

The white quilt on my bed was a garage sale find for $15. I have purchased blankets for the children at garage sales, too.

I usually take $35 to $45 with me. Most times, this is money that I've made from my own garage sale. I plan to go to this neighborhood sale in April and October; I might go to one other sale a year (this year I went to three already, as two were on my street and one was two streets over).

My list has also served another purpose for me for the past several years. A friend of my mother's (a woman whose children are long-grown) goes to Oregon and Washington each summer. She loves garage sale shopping while she is there, and she offered to look for things for me before if I would give her a list. She brings back several bags of clothing (usually including a few costumes), along with a list of what she paid for each item. She looks for items in the same price range as I do (most items she picks up for 50 cents each). I email my list to her.

I'll be going garage sale shopping at the community garage sale this Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!

Have you ever written a garage sale list? Do you use garage sales to buy the bulk of your family's clothing?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This Week's Goals

Last week's strong winds kept me out of the garden most of the week. I'm hoping to get lots done this week. It should be 91º tomorrow!


1. Spread straw under strawberries

2. Run water lines and plant aster and butternut squash seeds

3. Plant more leek seeds

4. Photograph the garden (in better light this time, hopefully, than the last two times)

5. Plant zinnias (this is earlier than most years, but it is warm out)

6. Plant more basil seeds

7. Work on editing the garden circle (pulling out the extra larkspur seedlings that self-seeded)

8. Plant foxglove seed in the shady areas

9. Plant sunflower seeds

10. Plant cucumber seeds


1. Make puppets for Ivory

2. Make pencil case for Ivory

3. Make dress for Ivory

4. Finish hemming the last pairs of jeans shorts

5. Mend 2 items of clothing

6. Sew one or two other gifts for Ivory


1. Edit and post garden pictures

2. Write and photograph Frugal Accomplishments post

3. Write one or two other posts


1. Finalize garage sale list with sizes and needed items

2. Attend community garage sale

3. Purchase strawberries, cheese, sour cream, sausage ($1.33 a pound), corn tortillas, rice, and spreadable margarine.

4. Purchase pot for cherry tree and pot for bay laurel tree (pictured above). I will be growing the bay laurel as a small topiary. After it has had some time in the pot, I will be cutting the branch on the left (and using the leaves, of course). I intend to give dried bay leaves as Christmas gifts in future years. Sam's Club has some inexpensive pots this time of year, so I will go there. Also purchase two pots for 2 tiny hazelnut trees that I ordered.


1. Can strawberry jam

I hope to blog a bit more often in the evenings. Facebook is showing my posts to only 700 to 1800 (those are the higher views) of my 9000 Facebook fans. If you want to be updated on a regular basis, you can do the following:

1. Like or comment more on my Facebook posts to keep them in your feed

2. Check my Facebook page regularly (not just your feed) to see what I've been posting. I post on Facebook several times a week.

3. Subscribe by email (on the right) to get email updates

4. If you have a Blogger account, follow me that way to have me show up in your feed

5. Add me to your list of blog feeds in any other readers that you use

6. Check back on the blog itself on a regular basis

Also, you can find me on Pinterest, pinning lots of garden and frugal gift ideas.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Winter made a lot of friendship bracelets this week--and taught Liberty to make one, too!

I cut flowers from the garden for my table.

I cut asparagus from the garden (we're getting about 2 pounds a week now, one pound at a time, so I planted some seeds that I collected from my heirloom Mary Washington asparagus last year and planted some more in the garden to have more 4 years from now).

I cut chives, Swiss chard, and lettuce from the garden.

I cut five pairs of children's jeans that were torn at the knee and turned 3 pairs into shorts using a heavy-duty needle and some jeans thread on my sewing machine. (I still have 2 pairs left to do).

Our water bill came this week. I noticed that they have reduced the amounts for the tiers, to make it so that people hit the second tier faster (our water bill can go up to four tiers; I hit the third tier in the winter). I was expecting a higher bill this month than last,  as I had adjusted the outside water to water more often in March, as our weather was in the 70's and 80's.

I was very diligent to make sure that I didn't water more minutes than necessary. I spent more time out in the garden than I have in the past, as we had very nice weather. Spring came a month early here, but I found that my garden was plenty wet, and so I adjusted the water down. In addition, I continued to use water from the shower to water plants, and gather water from rinsing vegetables to water plants.

My water usage was less than half of what I used last year at this time, and even less than what I used in Feburary! Since the tiers are smaller and we had the first of 5 increases in rates this year (that will happen in the next 3 years) I was very happy to see that my water conservation efforts are paying off.

I taught the boys to use a bucket for their showers as well this week (while waiting for the water to warm), and instructed them to pour the water on the potted fruit trees in the garden each day. Between the two boys I should save several more gallons each week. Though it doesn't seem like a lot compared to our overall water usage, it also means I don't have to use more water to water the potted plants.

I used the water from rinsing beans (before cooking them) to water a potted fruit tree. I also saved the water from rinsing vegetables from the garden for this.

My husband and I cut his hair.

My husband had his birthday this week. His father invited him and his brothers to lunch. My husband asked if I would like to come as well. He had a 2 for 1 coupon to the buffet where his father had invited him, which made my lunch free. When we went, one of his brothers had two 2 for 1 coupons as well, which cut the cost in half for my father-in-law. (I married into a frugal family!) My oldest is now old enough to babysit for a short time, which made it possible for us to go.

Normally, April is the one month a year where we eat out (usually my parents give us a little something to celebrate both of our birthdays and they offer to watch the children while we are at dinner--so we get one night out a year). This time my parents decided to take us out to dinner while my oldest babysat. My husband signed up for the restaurant's program ahead of time, which made his dinner free for my parents. The servers also brought him ice cream for free since it was his birthday.

I planted more Swiss chard in the garden under the fig tree, since Swiss chard will grow in shade and grows year-round here. That is the last of my seeds, but some of my older plants are beginning to bolt. I plan on collecting seeds this year to plant more chard this year and next year.

My husband and I watched two shows for free on Hulu.

I made a new hem on the top of a sheet that tore almost all the way across (just under the top hem). The easiest solution was a new top hem, which should give me at least another year of use from that sheet.

I scrubbed baseboards, the walls, and cabinets with a simple mix of a teaspoon of dishsoap and a gallon of hot water, and used a rag to wash them (I used 2 gallons total). They look so much better and I didn't have to buy a more expensive cleaner.

What did you do to save money last week?