July 31, 2010

$150 Challenge Final Tally

$150.00 Challenge

The $150.00 Challenge for the month of July officially ended for me today when I went to the grocery store for a 12 hour sale.  I did quite well this month.  In fact, having a challenge helped me stay on track for the entire month, especially while on vacation. 

To review, the $150.00 challenge I gave myself was to reduce my miscellaneous and grocery spending by a total of $150.00 for the month of July.  We reduced our spending in these two categories by $151.51 and here is the best part - it was entirely painless.  I did not feel deprived at all. 

Here is why I was successful.  I was diligent about keeping track of every cent spent with a free app. on my cell phone.  As I shopped, I entered my totals on that app. so I could see the tally of what I was spending.  I immediately took those receipts when I got home and entered them on my spreadsheet on the computer into the different categories.  I used to wait until the weekend to do this but now I do it as soon as I get home.  Also I started to keep three lists on my fridge.  One was an ongoing grocery list and the second was an ongoing "Walmart" type list.  I tried very, very hard to shop for the items on the Walmart list once a week.  Also, before I left the house, I looked at that list to make sure that we really needed the things on the list.  I found myself crossing a few items off the list over the course of the month. 

The third list was a wish list of grocery items that I was waiting for a great deal so we could stock up.  On my list this month was 85% lean ground beef, chicken hindquarters (I cut them up into drumsticks and thighs) and ham.  This helped me to stay focused when I was shopping and not purchase something that I already had a large amount in the freezer.  Sure enough 85% lean ground beef was on sale and so was ham.  Hopefully in August chicken hindquarters will go on sale as I only have about 2 left in the freezer.

What have I learned?  To be aware of where our money is going.  I was doing a lot of unconcious spending.  I found that having more money at the end of the month can be a bigger high than buying something.   Not buying stuff makes me happier.  Thinking about how long it takes my DH to earn the money to pay for something makes me think more about how important it is to stretch our income and not spend so much.

So the challenge was a great success.  My DH and I are talking about our finances every week when we do a quick review of expenses and income to track where we are at.  I know that I can knock off another $100.00 a month from our spending after what I have been through this month.  From having this success it makes me want to move on and do even more.

For August I plan to reduce spending by another $100.00 and contribute to my Charity Challenge.  August has it's challenges as we will be paying for our son's Senior Pictures and will have some back to school expenses.

Again, it's living life conciously and making those tiny conscious decisions that will add up to dollars saved down the road. 

July 30, 2010

I broke my glasses -Those Unexpected Expenses

Yeah - we all have them, unexpected expenses.  One cannot ignor that unexpected things do happen and not to plan for them is reckless. 

While on vacation this year I broke my glasses.  Fortunately I always bring my old pair with me on vacation. That is a throw back to about 12 years ago when we were in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry.  A screw came out of my glasses and one of the lenses fell out. I went to a service desk and asked if they had a paper clip.  No one had a paper clip or piece of wire at the Museum of Science and Industry.  I had to wear my prescription sun glasses throughout the museum and at one point I was tempted to take a piece of wire off of a display.  Ever since then I always bring an old pair of glasses on vacation. 

On the last day of vacation this year I woke up, put on my glasses and the bow fell off.  I looked closely and saw that the place where the bow attaches to the frame was broke.  There was no quick fix to this problem.  I pulled out my old glasses and was again glad that I had brought them. The only problem was that they were my old prescription, which only changed slightly so I knew my only problem would be with reading.  Nevertheless, my DH didn't want me driving.  No problem, I read my Kindle ( I had to hold it closer to my eyes) while he drove us home.

As soon as we got back from vacation I went to my optometrist to see if the glasses could be repaired.  They could not.  I trust him as I have gone to him for 22 years. I know that if he could fix them, he would.  So then it was off to try on frames.  I liked several, but I kept myself at a $150 budget for the frames and I wouldn't budge.  Yeah, they have wire frame glasses that are so lightweight and comfortable, but not for $300.  I narrowed my choice to two frames and the assistant told me that she could order those two frames in about 3 different colors for me to look at.  So she did.

I like trendy styles when it comes to glasses.  I really, really liked the pair that had broke and I didn't want to give up style because we are on a budget.  I picked out black glasses with a purple and black design on the bows.  I would have selected them even without looking at the price.  I know they sound weird, but they look great on me.  I found a similar pair online here.

Since I had an eye exam in December 2009, I didn't need a new exam.  Back in December when my DH was at his old job, he had eyeglass insurance.  It didn't cover everything, but it at least covered the exam and a portion of the glasses.  I didn't get new frames back then as I loved my frames and didn't feel the need to replace them.  My DH and DS went ahead and got new frames and lenses.  I should have.

Today I selected my new frames - $136.00 and then when they added in bi-focals and glare resistant coating and so on it came to $379.00.  Remember, this didn't include an eye exam since I had one in December.  Then they gave me a $70.00 discount as it was my second pair of "lenses" within a 12 month period.  The net is $309.00. 

If I added in the cost of the examination ($100.00) to the total cost of the glasses without the discount, we are talking some serious cash - $479.00.  Over lunch my DH and I were discussing this expense.  We have been building our emergency fund so we have the money to pay for the glasses, but the discussion went in a different direction.  Maybe we should go somewhere else for glasses.  What are our options for purchasing our glasses at a lower cost?  Sooner or later someone else in our family is going to need glasses and perhaps we should shop around.

We have never had this discussion before.  When I was working I just bought what I felt we needed and it would never have entered my mind to go elsewhere to get glasses.  Now we are having those discussions.  Perhaps 22 years of purchasing glasses at the same place needs to change and we should try someplace else.  It is worth the try.  I have a friend who buys her glasses on line but I like to try on the frames in the store. 

So the next time I will have my optometrist do the examination and if my prescription changes, I will go to Lens Crafters for the glasses. The only problem is that I would have to drive about 60 miles to the nearest location, but if I got a good deal and was satisfied, it would be well worth the trip.

July 28, 2010

$150 Challenge - Final Tally Coming Soon

$150 Challenge

I have been tallying up my receipts and have only a few days left in this month and my $150 Challenge.  I've been doing well and will share the final tally in a few days.

A Grocery Store Drop In

Normally I do not buy groceries at our local Wal-mart Super Center.  In our area it is the most expensive place to purchase your groceries. The only grocery items I buy at Wal-mart are honey, their version of Splenda and discounted italian bread.  Other than that, it has to be a really good sale for me to buy much of anything else.  Fareway and Hy-Vee grocery stores do a great job of keeping their prices below Wal-mart.  I know that this is not the case for every town.

Even though I don't shop Wal-mart for groceries, I do look at a few items when I am in there to see if perhaps they have lowered their prices.  Two weeks ago I was in Wal-mart and noticed that whole seedless watermelons were on sale for $3.25.  That is a great deal in our area so I put one in my cart.  Then I decided to take a walk around the produce department to see what else was on sale.  When produce is in season, the prices are obviously cheaper than any other time of the year.  Well, I got a big surprise that day.  Several items were on sale at a very low price and the quality of the produce was very, very good.  So for the last few weeks anytime I need fresh fruit or vegetables, I check Wal-mart first. 

Here is what I purchased at Wal-mart today for only $12.05. 

Seedless watermelon - $3.25
Oranges - 4 oranges @ 50 cents each
Nectarines - 1.87 lbs. @.49 lb.
Peaches - 7.16 lbs. @  .49 lb.
Plums - 1.24 lbs. @.49 lb.
Red Seedless grapes - 1.92 lbs. @ .94 lb. 

I bought a lot of peaches as this is the time of year I like to make and preserve peach-pineapple conserve.  The oranges are used in that recipe also, otherwise I rarely buy an orange unless it is a clementine. 

The point of this post is this.  Every one of us has a store that we have deemed "too expensive" for groceries.  However some times it pays to drop in and check to see if there is an in store sale going on.  You might be surprised by what you find. 

July 27, 2010

Too hot to cook, well almost

Last night I heard the weather forecast for today.  The heat index was projected at 100 degrees and it hit the mark.  I'm a little tired of grilled meat, so I pulled out the crockpot and an old stand by recipe.

On the menu for tonight's supper was Crockpot BBQ Beef, Broccoli Raisin Salad, chips and ice cream with homemade fudge sauce.  I should have taken a picture of everything but we were in a hurry to eat dinner as my DS's, DH and DIL were all playing in a church softball league game right after supper. 

I have had this recipe for Crockpot BBQ Beef for over 20 years and I always have the ingredients on hand.  The original recipe is as follows:

3 lbs. stewing beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard

Combine all of the ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours in a crockpot.  Mix with wire whisk to shred meat and serve on buns.

My tweak from this original recipe is that I use a rump roast instead of the stewing beef.  I can get a rump roast on sale for $1.99 a lb. When they are on sale, I buy a couple.  Yes, a rump roast is a very tough cut of meat but if you do what I do, you end up with a pretty tender piece of beef.  I take the rump roast and cut it up into 3 inch chunks, dredge them in a flour, salt and pepper mixture and then brown the chunks in oil on all sides. Then I place these in the crockpot.  I stir together the rest of the ingredients, except I don't add quite as much sugar or salt, and pour over the meat.  Cook this on low for about 6 hours, remove the beef chunks to cut up or shred and then put back in the crockpot.   The sauce will be thick, which I like as when you serve it on buns, the sauce doesn't drip out all over.

Also, I use a rump roast to make beef and noodles or vegetable beef soup.  I use the same technique as above by cutting into chunks and browning before making it into soup or whatever.

Broccoli Raisin Salad

I don't really have a recipe for this one.  I cut up fresh broccoli flowerets, chop some onion and carrots.  I take about 8 slices of bacon and fry it up and then crumble.  Then I mix together some Miracle Whip, add some sugar to taste, thin it with a little milk and add a little vinegar.  Mix the broccoli, onion, carrots and bacon with the salad dressing mixture and add some raisins and that is it.  Sometimes I add cauliflower and grapes in place of the carrots to this salad.  Just depends on what is on sale and what I have on hand at the time. 

I posted my recipe for Hot Fudge Sauce the other day.  Next time I am going to use mint chocolate chips instead of the semi sweet chocolate chips for a change.   I think that will be delicious.

I did a lot of laundry today and hung the clothes out on the line to dry.  It was nice to know that while I was doing the laundry, my dinner was all set.

July 25, 2010

Charity Challenge

Tonight I watched "America Now:  Friends and Neighbors" on Dateline.  This episode was about how those living in poverty have been affected by the Recession.  Families were profiled from the southeastern area of Ohio.  It was a tear jerker.  Please go to the Dateline website here.  Look through the slideshow and click on the videos.  No matter what you feel about those living in poverty or how they got there, no one should go to bed hungry.  The people profiled want jobs, they want to provide for their children and they want hope. 

I needed to see this, not just to be thankful for what I have, but to see that I should be doing more to help others.  Honestly no one living in America should be going to bed hungry and I mean no one.  My father grew up in poverty and he went to bed hungry all the time.  That was back in 1917.  This is 2010.  We should be able to feed everyone in this country.  No matter what the economy, not one person should have to worry about where their next meal comes from as there are people such as myself that have more than enough to share.  The bottom line is this,  those living in poverty are the first to be affected by the Recession and the last to recover from it.

There have been a lot of challenges being made on several blogs that I follow and I want to throw out this challenge for the month of August.  My challenge for the month of August for myself and for anyone else is to donate 10% of what money you spend on groceries to a food pantry or a charity that directly helps the poor.  For many of us that amount would range from $25 to $40. 

Let's make a difference and be diligent about giving to feed the hungry here in America.

July 24, 2010

Planning Day

Back last fall I decided that I really needed to sit down once a quarter and plan out home projects and "me" projects.  "Me" projects would be sewing, crafting and such.  I should have had a planning day back in April, but never did get around to it.  Now it is the end of July and I am finding our household becoming disorganized.  Time for a planning day. 

Yesterday I was going to sit down in the afternoon and get out a big calendar and start working on a plan, but the dust bunnies were making so much noise I found it hard to sit and make a strategy for the rest of the summer.  A nice vacuuming, washing of the throw rugs and tidying up the kitchen made me feel better, but then it was time for dinner.  So planning went out the door yesterday.

This summer the weather here in Iowa has been typical Iowa.  If you don't like it, wait and it will change.  We have experienced a lot of rain and a lot of heat.  When the heat index is at 100 degrees I don't feel like I want to go outside and paint the house.  You can't paint the exterior of a house when it is raining all the time either.  So, painting the house is being moved to early fall. 

Today and tomorrow I am spending time at the diningroom table planning out all of my projects over the next year.  My youngest son graduates from high school next year and I have a lot of home projects that I want completed by then.  The bulk of those projects are being done by me.  I purchased a large desk calendar (17 x 20 inches) that I plan to write on in pencil and plan out monthly projects over the next year.  This will be posted on the side of the fridge.  The frugal side of me stood at Wal-mart and contemplated if this 18 month calendar was worth $4.00.  I liked the size and since I can't print anything that big, I bought it. 

In March I made a list of all of the home projects I wanted to accomplish.  Albeit, a lot of these will be done over the next 10 years.  I made a list of interior and exterior jobs and then I broke them down into categories of hiring out (such as a new roof) and DIY ones.  Then I marked off the DIY projects that I wanted to accomplish by the summer of 2011.  I looked that list over one more time and made a note of those that were the basic projects that had to be done by next summer. 

There are a lot of DIY projects and some of those types of projects I have never done before which means I need to allot some research time.  Research time is beneficial for many reasons such as:  it lets you know if you really can do the project or if you really need to hire it out; budget for the supplies you will need to plan to purchase and you get your questions answered before you take a sledge hammer to a project.

None of this planning will be written in stone.  Stuff happens and things get delayed, but having a plan and seeing the big picture helps me stay on track and get more things done as opposed to not having any plan at all.  Also putting things on paper helps to relieve the frustration of trying to remember everything that needs to be done. For example, many times I have thought that when I have a free hour I should work on something but by the time I get supplies together and such, the time is gone.  Having a list of projects that have a time frame on them such as 1/2 day project, 1 hour project and such will help me be able to work on those projects when I have the extra time. 

This weekend I will also be planning my day to day household chores.  I need to have a better schedule for getting things done.  My plan is to sit down every Sunday evening and look over what is scheduled for the upcoming week, make a menu for the week and look at what housekeeping chores need to be done each day to maintain our house.  Then I will review what house projects need to be scheduled in for the week.  My goal is that while I am working on painting the house, as an example, I want to make sure our household is running somewhat smoothly with meals being prepared, laundry being done and the house being relatively clean and organized.  Nothing is more frustrating to me than to be outside working and to come inside to a messy and disorganized house and nothing ready for supper.  It doesn't work for me.  It creates chaos and I don't like chaos. 

Except for a couple loads of laundry and a few meals to be prepared this weekend, I will being doing a lot of planning.  I have been looking forward to this all week as I know that in the end it will help alleviate my frustration and leave me with a plan for getting things done.

July 22, 2010

This and That and a recipe too

I love when produce is in season.  Today I went to the grocery store and purchased ripe cantaloupe, plums, blueberries, tomatoes and lettuce.  For lunch we dined on BLT's and cut up cantaloupes with blueberries.  Nothing beats the taste of fruits and vegetables in season.  I purchased some of the heat and eat bacon which was on sale.  In fact when I bought two packages on sale I was given $1.00 off produce.  You don't get a lot of bacon by weight, but it was enough for four sandwiches.  Also 4 slices of bacon was only 70 calories.

But the biggest deal I received was on Finish Gel Tabs for the dishwasher.  Ever since the $2.50 coupon came out in a Sunday paper a few weeks ago, I had been waiting for a sale.  Well it never went on sale and with the coupon expiring on July 25th I started pricing it whenever I went into a store to find the best deal.  Today I went to the Hy-Vee grocery store to pick up a few things and I couldn't believe it.  They had an instore special for Finish 32 count Gel Tabs for $3.69.  I had two coupons so I was able to get each box of 32 count gel tabs for $1.19 each.

Now for my favorite Hot Fudge Sauce recipe.  I started out with the merits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables but it is summer time and to me summer means ice cream with hot fudge sauce, in moderation of course.  I saw a few years ago at a gourmet food store they had what they called "spoonable fudge."  In my opinion, you could do the same thing with this.  Make some and stick it in the fridge and have a spoonful every now and then.  This sauce does not get hard in the fridge.

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan, combine the chocolate chips and butter.  Cook and stir over low heat until melted.  Gradually mix in the sugar and milk.  Increase heat to a boil.  Cook, stirring constantly for 4 minutes.  During this time the sauce will thicken.  Remove from heat and then stir in vanilla and salt. Serve warm.  Store in fridge.

July 21, 2010

Our vacation

I spent this weekend "getting my bearings" after being gone for a week on vacation.  We were all pretty tired by the time we got home on Friday evening. 

On our first day of vacation we got up early and we were on the road by 6:15 a.m.  We drove 780 miles from our home in Iowa to my hometown in Western New York.  I packed ham and turkey sandwiches made on freshly baked buns.  We also had plenty of snacks such as chips, crackers, cookies, apples, Twizzlers and Tootsie Roll pops.  We also had bottles of water.  We did stop for breakfast that first day and then from there on out until reaching our destination in New York we ate as we were hungry and stopped only for gas or bathroom breaks. 

After a couple of days in New York we spent three days in Ohio visiting the Football Hall of Fame, McKinley Presidential Museum and tomb, First Ladies Museum, President Hayes Presidential Museum and tomb and President Harding's home.  Yes, we love history and of course my DH and DS love sports.  So, we mix the two up on vacations.

We stayed in hotels our entire vacation - 6 nights  - and for the first time, we received AARP discounts.  We stayed at Comfort Inns and spent a few nights at a Hampton Inn.  The Hampton Inn gave us such a great deal as it ended up being the cheapest hotel for us to stay at in my hometown.  Okay, I'm only 51 and my DH is only 52 but if they are going to allow us to be members of AARP at our ages, I will take the benefits.  All the hotels offered free breakfast.  When booking hotels we look at the price and then we double check to see if breakfast is included.  For breakfast we had quite a variety of foods to choose from each day - eggs, omelets, french toast sticks, waffles, donuts, bagels, muffins, fresh cut up fruit, sausage and gravey with biscuits and more. 

We ate in restaurants except for one meal that my mom cooked for us.  I noticed some major differences from prior vacations.  1.  Each hotel that we stayed at was not full, not even close.  Because of this they offered quite a few discounts from their normal fees.  2.  The restaurants that we ate at all had specials more than ever before. 

The economy has hit the hotel and restaurant industry pretty hard and we were the benefits of quite a few discounts.  The bottom line is that it still cost money.  We were careful how we spent the money that we had set aside for our vacation. 

All in all we had a great time, stayed within our budget and I only spent $8.00 on myself for the entire trip, which is unheard of.  I bought an Ohio State spoon - okay, it's kind of kitchy but I do collect them.  I also bought a book for $2.00 that had pictures of the President McKinley museum.  I mainly bought it because they had quite a few displays on Victorian living and I want to duplicate some things in my own home.

We came back with a lot of memories including laughing and teasing each other a lot during our travelling.  I do not remember one moment that we got upset with each other.  We had a great time.

This was the first vacation that I didn't have to come home to a job outside of the home.  Usually as we are driving home I start to think about all the work that is on my desk that I will be facing the following Monday.  Not so, this time, it was only a lot of laundry.

July 19, 2010

$150 Challenge Update

I will give my total results at the end of this month, but so far we are doing great on this challenge.  Putting it in writing on this blog has helped me to stay on track.  One example is that while on vacation I only spent $8 on myself.  My DH didn't spend anything on himself.  We normally would pick up books at museums and such to read later, but both of us just browsed and walked on.  We were having a lot of fun with our DS and I think we just didn't feel the need to spend money on stuff. 

I read the book "The Simple Dollar" while on vacation.  I downloaded it on my Kindle and the main thing I learned from that book was the value of relationships over stuff.  I would much rather spend time with my family creating memories than buying books.  I am surprised at how I have reduced my spending and more surprised at how I don't feel the urge to go and buy stuff. 

Also my DH and I have had several discussions this month about ways to save on expenses.  We plan to drop our land line.  It has been discussed in the past but we always felt that since it only cost us an additional $10 a month on our cable and internet package, it just wasn't worth giving up.  When we got back from vacation there wasn't one message on our land line as everyone called us on our cell phones and left messages.  Dropping the land line will be easier than we thought.

Interest rates have been low so we checked into refinancing our house but the monthly payment would only be reduced by $15 so it is not worth the expense of refinancing.  But we did talk about it and check into it.

The challenge has caused us to be more conscious about spending and about ways to save money.  In the end it was a lesson well learned. 

July 18, 2010

Not Playing by Life's Rules

In my life I feel that I have always been in the wrong age category.  I have either been too old or too young. 

My youngest son was born when I was 34 years old.  I was the oldest mother in his kindergarten class and frankly I suspect I continue to be the oldest mother in his grade.  When he was young I attended a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting and I definitely was the oldest mom there and I was the age of one of the mom mentors. 

Now I am home full time when most of the women my age are off to work.  The women that are at home right now are not my age, they are about 15 to 20 years younger than me.  We have little in common I have come to find out. 

This has probably been the hardest part of my change of being a professional career woman to being a stay at home wife/mother.  I don't have a friend my age that is home, with a child the age of my son.  When I decided to be home full time I was meant with a lot of weird looks from other women.  Some looked at me as if I had frogs coming out of my ears.  Nothing new to me - after all I have never lived my life playing by the rules. 

I graduated from a junior college when I was 20 and my parents fully expected me to move back to my home town in New York (I was attending college in Kansas at the time) and get a job and never move away.  That was the summer of 1979 and I made a decision that changed my life.  I decided to follow my boyfriend back to Kansas and find a job while he attended college.  I would work, he would go to college and we would get married some day.  So without my parents blessing I moved back to Kansas in August of 1979.  One week later my boyfriend and I broke up.

I had very little money and I wasn't going to call my parents for help.  I was determined to make it on my own.  Perhaps it is just being 20 years old and having a feeling that I could make it work that made me push on.  My former boyfriend moved to a different town and I was left alone in Ottawa, Kansas.  But, the story continues.  Ottawa is the home to a private liberal arts college named "Ottawa University."  I walked on the campus and into the admissions office one day before school started and enrolled.  I explained my situation. They called my Junior college to verify my g.p.a.  I was given a Presidential scholarship, obtained two part time work study jobs and was given a room on campus. 

I had a rough financial road ahead of me.  My work study jobs covered the expense of books and some of my tuition.  I had about 5 dollars left per week for any of my personal expenses.  I remember trying to wash all of my clothes in 1 load and hanging them to dry.  I also grew my hair out as I couldn't afford a haircut. 

The following spring I met a guy who was getting ready to graduate from Ottawa.  Two weeks after our first date he proposed.  We have now been married almost 30 years.

So, yes,  I have not played by the rules but I am so glad that I never did the safe thing and stayed in my home town and lived there for the rest of my life.  I am also very happy to be home full time at my age even if it goes against the rules.

July 17, 2010

Back from Vacation

We have been on vacation for a week and it was great to get home last night.  We drove to New York to visit my mother and then we spent some time in Ohio going to the Football Hall of Fame.  I do not like football at all, but when you have boys you tend to put up with sports. After we left the Football Hall of Fame I told my DS and DH that I felt that if there was a craft museum somewhere they should spend an afternoon going through it with me. 

We love history and it seems that we tend to put sports and history together.  While in Ohio we went to  President McKinley's museum and library, President Hayes' museum and library and then to President Harding's home.  We really enjoyed it and learned a lot about some presidents that don't get a lot of pages in the history books.  We also went to the First Ladies Museum.

I'll post more later but am glad to get home and cook our own food after eating out for a week.  Yes, eating out does got old after a while.

July 13, 2010

Pantry Principle and Stockpiling - Part 3

This is my last in a three part series on stockpiling and having and maintaining a large pantry. Today I will talk about where to put your pantry items and a system for tracking those items.

I live in a house that was built in the late 1800’s. My large pantry is in my basement and I take precautions to make sure everything is stored safely. All of my canned goods are stored on shelves, my flour and sugar are stored in Rubbermaid bins, boxes of crackers, cereals and snack items are also stored in plastic bins. Basically if it isn’t in a can or plastic container, I store it in a bin.

Bins of flour, sugar, pastas, cereals, some snacks

My freezer is located in the basement and I also store my paper products and toiletries on shelves in the basement also.

Paper towels, napkins - using them sparingly as I switch to rags and cloth napkins
Toilet paper purchased for $5.00 or less for 12 double rolls
Laundry soaps purchased for $1.50 or less

I have lived in small apartments and in houses and if I wanted to stockpile, I would have been able to do it in any place we lived. More than once I wish we would have bought a small chest freezer years ago when we were apartment dwellers as we could have saved a bundle on meat. Also, even in a tiny one bedroom apartment that we lived in, we could have stored items under the couch and under the bed. If I would have been in the mindset we could have found places in that apartment to “hide” pantry items. Why didn’t we? I have no idea. Perhaps it was feeling like I was newly married and we were both working “professionals” so we should be able to go to the grocery store and buy anything we wanted and not worry about watching the sales.

Freebie chinet cups and plates - sales matched with coupons

If I wanted to go to a level of hoarding or even to becoming a survivalist, I could store 20 times more pantry supplies in our present home, but I choose not to. When I started stockpiling, my goal was to have a 4 month supply of food on hand and I have reached that goal. For some items such as canned fruits and vegetables, soups, coffee and baking supplies, I have a year’s supply. What I am trying to say is that on hand at this moment I can supply us with 4 months of meals and will only have to add milk and some perishable items each week to what I have on hand. In addition I also have plenty of soap, toiletries and paper products on hand that go beyond a 4 month’s supply.

This brings me to a hoarding. I have stopped buying several items for my pantry as I am totally stocked up on canned vegetables and soups, for example. Even if they go on sale at a rock bottom price, I won’t buy them as I have plenty. I saw on t.v. recently a woman that stockpiled and then couldn’t stop and became a hoarder. She had gotten in the mindset of getting a thrill at getting great deals and she couldn’t stop. Perhaps some people will look at the pictures I have posted over the past few days and think that I am hoarding, but I am not. I have passed up deals because I have enough of an item.

The entire idea of stockpiling is reaping the benefits of buying at rock bottom prices and building your “inventory.” As time goes by and as you have built up your supply, you can cut back and direct that money into other areas of the budget.

It’s okay to stop buying. You have done your work by building up your pantry and the good news is, since you know when things go on sale you will be able to buy more when you need it.

Now that I have reached my goal of a 4 month supply of food, it is easy for me to keep that 4 month supply maintained each week by using up items and continuing to stockpile when those prices are low and add to what I have used up OR I can take a break from grocery buying and use the money for other purposes OR in case of a financial emergency, we are set with 4 months of food.

Stockpiling can completely go down the tubes if you don’t use the items you purchased prior to expiration dates. Here is the system that I use.

Before putting anything in my pantry, I take a marker and write the expiration date on the package so I can easily see when the item will expire. Then I write each item I have purchased on my pantry list. This list consists of the following headings: Item, Number of Items, Expiration Date OR Purchase date. 

As you buy items on different weeks you may end up having a few lines for one item to accomodate the different expiration dates.  For example you would write diced tomatoes - 5 cans - expiring 10/11 and underneath I would write - diced tomatoes - 3 cans - expiring 12/11.

I have a similar list posted on the outside of my freezer. When I take anything out of the pantry or the freezer I simply cross it off. Each month I update these lists in Excel. At that time I take note of any items that are going to expire within the next two months. If I don’t believe I will be using an item before it expires, I donate it. I am donating these items 2 months before they are due to expire which I feel is reasonable. I would never, never donate an item that is past expiration.

I keep track of all of my “inventory” this way. This is my system and it works for me.  It doesn’t take very long for me to empty the groceries from the bags, mark them, add them to a list and then put them on the shelf or in the freezer.

It is easy each week to menu plan or to shop from the information on these lists. I can identify what is going to expire and work those items into my menus. I see at a glance how much spaghetti sauce I have on hand, for example, and if I have plenty on hand, I skip the stockpile sale.

This is not for everyone and I realize it. For me this is a system that works and makes me feel like I am getting the most for my money for my family’s groceries, am prepared for an emergency, am able to make a bigger impact on giving to the local Food Pantry, and I have the ease of always being able to supply meals to someone who is sick or just got out of the hospital.

July 11, 2010

Pantry Principle and Stockpiling - Part 2

In continuing my story of how I got into stockpiling and why I do it, today I want to talk about how to know when a sale is a good deal – good enough to stock up.

Spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, ketchup, beans
The coffee containers hold a variety of chocolate chips and other baking extras.

I started with the Grocery Game and this site helped me in the beginning to see when items were on sale at a stock up price. I keep track of the prices of everything I purchase in a spreadsheet program. Each week I enter my receipts into this spreadsheet and thereby I have a month by month accounting.

Try as I did I couldn’t important a pdf file into this post. Perhaps someone out there can help me. So, I will try to describe what this spreadsheet looks like.  I have these captions at the top of several columns:

1.  Item Description
2.  Store
3.  Date Purchased
4.  Item Price
5.  # of Items purchased
6.  Gross Amount
7.  Sale?
8.  Less Coupon savings
9.  Net Purchase Amount

I enter the Item Description such as frozen orange juice, then I enter the store name, the date purchased, the item price, the number of items I purchased and due to the magic of a spreadsheet it calculates the gross amount. I always enter whether it was a sale or not, enter any coupons I used and then voila, it gives me the net amount spent. After entering each item line by line, it is very easy to have the spreadsheet add up the total net amount along with any tax that I have added in. Then as the month goes along I can easily see my running tally of how much I have spent. Every month I start a new spreadsheet and keep each subsequent months stored in my computer.

This system works for me as I can easily see what I have spent so I can stay on track with my budget, it acts as a price book as I have a listing of all items I have purchased and what they cost.

Canisters of coffee, soups, broths, canned vegetables
home canned jams

With this spreadsheet, I can also track cycles of sales. For example, boneless chicken breasts go on sale every 6 weeks and so does string cheese. Shredded mozzarella goes on sale at 99 cents for an 8 oz. package about every 6 months. I buy what I need to get by to the next sale, which may be an annual event in some cases. In general I buy all my baking supplies at the holiday time and I have enough chocolate chips, nuts, sugar and flour for the year. I buy a year’s supply of canned cream soups and canned broth at holiday time when they are at their cheapest. In the summer time I stock up on canned pork n beans when they go on sale for as low as 20 cents a can.

When stocking up on any canned item, or for that matter any item, I always check the expiration dates. Depending on the product, most canned items do not expire for a year. Canned vegetables and fruits can have expiration dates that are longer than a year – closer to two years most of the time. Again, always check the expiration dates and with some careful planning you will end up with pantry items that are shelf stable for more than a year.

As to food for your freezer, you can find on the internet information for how long you can store meats, vegetables and fruits and other foods in the freezer. I follow those guideslines and keep that in mind when I am adding food to my freezer.

Again, don’t buy so much food at a great sale price and then let it expire or spoil. That isn’t saving you any money at all.

Meats, vegetables, fruit, bread, ice cream and more. 
(Yes those are a lot of hot dogs, but I got the majority for free or 25 cents and
I wasn't going to pass it up.  Hot dogs on the grill once a week is a summertime treat.)

Next post: A place to put your pantry items.

July 09, 2010

Pantry Principle and Stockpiling - Part 1

Today's post will be part 1 of 3 in which I discuss how I stockpile and keep a pantry.  I will also discuss how I got started.  There will be pictures of my pantry interspersed throughout these posts

In my prior post of July 2nd, I posted that my grocery spending averaged $353.00 a month. In our household there are 3 people:  myself, my husband and our 17 year old son. For some people $353.00 a month for grocery spending even with using coupons or stockpiling may seem high, and perhaps it is. Part of my grocery budget and planning involves taking meals to people who are sick and cookies or desserts to people as part of my ministry of hospitality. Also, I give food to our local Food Pantry to help those that need additional help in providing food to their families.

There are many reasons that I stockpile but I have narrowed it down to three.

1. Stockpiling and keeping a full pantry and freezer has helped me in my providing food to others and to my own family. It feels good to know that when I get a call from my pastor asking if I could provide a meal to someone, I can go to my pantry and freezer and provide a complete meal, along with disposable containers to put the meal in. (Yes disposable containers. I regularly get ziploc containers and bags for 25 cents each on sale and with a coupon.)  In essence I shop in my pantry and freezer for everything I need. I always have plenty of ingredients on hand to cook meals for others and my family. For me, this is the ultimate in convenience.

Here are the toiletries, canning supplies, ziploc bags.

Next to the board games are the 25 cent boxes of ziploc containers

2. By taking advantage of buying food at the best price and stocking up, you truly are getting the most for your money. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you know that you are buying food for your family, and others, at the best possible deal on the market at that time.

I never make up a menu plan ahead of time. My menus come from what is on sale and what I have in my pantry and freezer.

3. Lastly, in case of any financial emergency, you can divert any money budgeted to groceries to that financial emergency and still feed your family. If the worst happened, I could get by with $15 a week for perishable grocery items and the rest would be made up with what I have on hand. I have plenty of baking supplies, meat, canned vegetables, canned fruits, cereals, soups, peanut butter, frozen meats, frozen vegetables, frozen fruits and more.

I would say that 90% of the groceries I purchase are purchased at rock bottom prices and most with coupons. I do buy things that are on sale with coupons that my family won’t eat. Why? If I can get a box of Hamburger Helper for 25 cents, I buy it for the Food Pantry. If I can get Colgate toothpaste at 50 cents or less, I buy it for the Food Pantry (my family prefers Crest). Often I am able to get deodorant for 25 cents and again, it is donated. I am always on the hunt for bargains that can translate into donations to those in need.

Click on the coupon label on my blog and you will see my posts on how I coupon and organize my coupons.

When I was growing up, my mom had a substantial pantry. She would always keep replenishing her pantry as she used things up. A month’s supply of bread was purchased at a day old bread outlet and stored in the freezer. My dad loved to garden and he grew all our vegetables. We went to farms to pick our own strawberries, blueberries, cherries and apples for mom to can or freeze for later use. My mom also made all of our jams and preserves.

My cousin was a farmer and we were able to purchase a pig and side of beef from him each year.

Why did my parents do this? My dad was a union factory worker. Many times in my childhood he would get laid off or the union would vote to strike. It was the pantry and freezer that kept us fed during those lean weeks/months. One time he was on strike for 9 months and there was no income. They never fell behind in the mortgage and we always had food to eat.

They were prepared. I equate it to the story of Joseph in the Bible. My parents stored up in the times of plenty to be prepared for the times of famine. They knew that hard times could happen at any time.

When I was working full time, I never thought about stocking up on sale items. I was too busy to think about it and frankly I felt it was easier to go to the store without a list and buy what I felt we needed.

In the months prior to becoming unemployed, I decided that I needed to put the pantry principle into action. At that time (February of 2009) I signed up for a membership in the Grocery Game. This site takes your local grocery store sales flyer and lets you know when the sale shows a rock bottom price and it also will show any coupon from the newspaper that you should use with that sale price. I easily recouped the $1.25 per week for the cost of the membership. I recently cancelled my membership as I no longer need this service. I now know when a sale price is the best price.

Canned fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, condiments and more

I had a freezer with some meat in it when I started out. I also had some canned goods (about 1 shelf) and some baking and cereal products. Because I knew I had about two weeks of groceries on hand already, I started out by buying only the deals that were on sale that week and worth stocking up. My grocery budget each week was $80 and I continued to use that amount of money to buy stockpiled items and whatever else I needed. Some weeks I spent less and when I did spend less, I saved the money for when I knew I would need more money – the holiday time. During the holidays there are some of the greatest sales of the year going on and I definitely wanted the extra money for stocking up at that time.

Many people that are starting out in stockpiling take some extra money and divert it to the grocery budget so that they can get a good start. My personal opinion is that you can start small – with an extra $10 a week and begin your stockpiling journey. You don’t have to take stockpiling to the level that I have taken it. Do what is comfortable and what you can manage.

In upcoming posts I will tackle the following:  Knowing when a sale is really a great stock up sale, a place to put your items and a system to keep track of your pantry and freezer items.

July 07, 2010

The Search for a Denim Skirt

For two years I have been trying to find a decent knee length denim skirt.  Either they were too tight in the hips and too big in the waist or there was a slit cut up the side, back or front that was way too high.  I gave up. 

Then, last week I was going through my closet pulling out clothes that I needed to give away when I came across this skirt. 

Excuse the photo - I would have put it on but there was no one home to take a picture of me wearing it.

At one time this was my favorite denim skirt.  I bought it 9 years ago and as you can tell it is quite faded.  The reason it was my favorite was that it had a side zipper, was A lined and there was no waist band.  No matter what I wore with it, it was comfortable and looked good on me.  I had not worn it in a year but instead of putting it in the give away pile, I decided to shorten it. 

So I cut off a good amount of fabric.

Then I hemmed it on the sewing machine and here it is. 

My son took these pictures of me and I asked him to get a little more of the bottom of the skirt so here is the result.  (Be careful what you ask for.)

I probably should have changed the shirt as that is what I was wearing at the time,  but I think the skirt looks great.  The best part was when I went to machine hem it, the correct thread color was on the machine already to go.

July 05, 2010

A Book Review - The Simple Dollar

"The Simple Dollar -How one man wiped out his debts and achieved the life of his dreams" by Trent Hamm was published last month.  I follow Trent on his site The Simple Dollar.  He is from the Des Moines area and I am drawn to his story about being head over heels in debt and how he got out of it and changed his view on money and living life. His book was just published in early June.

My favorite part of the book is at the beginning when he realized that he didn't have enough money to pay his bills. He and his wife had a baby boy at the time and he walked into the nursery and sat in a chair and started to cry. Trent was at rock bottom and he found the strength to do whatever it took to get out of debt. He even went as far as selling many possessions on e-bay to pay down debt.

I highly recommend this book as it not only tells his story it gives great advice and I'm not necessarily talking about how to stretch a dollar, but how to view money and your life. It is a well written book. Reading it over the past few days when I was facing my own budget issues, has made me feel so much better about myself and also about how I feel about money and my goals in life.

We all make mistakes and we have the opportunity to learn from them. Go to the library and get Trent's book or at the very least go online and look at his website.  If you haven't heard about him, I know you will be encouraged after you read his story and see how much he has accomplished in just a few years.

I have a Kindle!!

Back in April my DH received a Kindle for his birthday.  He loves it. Recently my MIL called to tell me that she and my FIL wanted to buy me a Kindle.  I was so surprised.  They insisted.  I now own a Kindle. 

In my quest to reduce my spending, a Kindle could really get me sidetracked if I'm not careful.  My MIL told me not to worry as there are many free books you can download and there are books for only 99 cents. 

I have had on my wish list all of Jane Austen's books for a very long time.  Now I have them all on my Kindle and they were free.  I am in heaven.  When we go on vacation I will have a lot to read and if I want more, I can wirelessly download a book from anywhere.

The average price of Kindle books is $9.99 and fortunately with the Kindle you are allowed to preview these books. A lot of the previews are almost one chapter in length which gives me plenty to read in order to make a decision as to whether I want the book or not.  Many books that I thought I would want to read, I have taken off my list after reading the previews. 

But wait there is more.... My MIL told me to order the Kindle and a cover for it and then she would reimburse me.  I ordered the Kindle prior to the price reduction, but when the price was reduced a few weeks after I purchased the Kindle I was given a refund of the difference - $70.00!  I called my MIL to tell her that I would be sending her a check for the refund and she told me to keep it.  I took the $70.00 and applied it to a bill.  That wouldn't have happened before. 

I'm enjoying my gift and I am so lucky to have a MIL and a FIL that love me so much that they wanted to surprise me and give me such an extravagant gift.

July 04, 2010

Miscellaneous Spending Update - Oops

I have written this post, rewritten it and previewed it several times today.  I didn't want to post this as it shows that I have failed miserably over the past few months.  I feel like a fake.  I feel as if I have been living a lie by making by own laundry soap and then ordering something online.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  My family depends on me to be more prudent and I have let them down.  I can't go back in time and change things. The only thing I can do is to move on and get past this failure.   Yesterday is gone, tomorrow hasn't happened, all I have is today.   So - here is today's post.  - Martha

As part of reducing our spending by $150 a month, I went through the grocery and miscellaneous spending that I had been tracking.  I take all my receipts from the grocery stores and Wal-mart or other store and enter them in Excel.  My DH also takes these receipts and enters them into Quicken.  He pays all our bills.  So while I track my spending, he tracks both of our spending. 

My grocery spending is within our budget.  That is good news for me. 

When reporting the average of $143.00 a month spent on miscellaneous spending, I neglected to add into my miscellaneous spending my monthly credit card payment and my DH's miscellaneous spending.  Yes, old habits do die hard, and I charge some items each month on my credit card.  Most of these are on-line purchases and yes, they are not necessary.  Each month the credit card payment is paid in full and it averages $50 to $100 a month in my spending.  My DH has never called me to accountability on these expenditures, because truth be told, he has a credit card that he uses for online purchases, but not at the level that I do. 

Miscellaneous spending in our household does not include household repairs, clothing, car repairs, pet expenses or school lunches as examples.  It is just that, miscellaneous.  It is what I call our life category and lately I think I have been experiencing a little too much life such as books, fabric, dvd's and online subscriptions, dishes, place mats, cell phone gadgets, and  music downloads, to name a few. 

After talking with my DH today he estimated that our miscellaneous spending in the past 3 months has been more around $300 a month.  Yikes!!!   And the worse part is that my credit card spending added into my cash spending was a big part of the overspending in the miscellaneous category.   Part of me wanted him to print out what was spent on miscellaneous so I could review it but the other part of me told me that I needed to move on and start anew.  I'm not going to beat myself up over this.  The money has been spent and I can't change that as that is in the past.  The only thing I can do is to take action today so that I don't continue to overspend in the future. 

Being accountable in this blog is important to me and admitting to overspending is kind of hard.  I am more than embarrassed, I am ashamed.  That is a lot of money spent on life. 

In looking over the past 6 months I think I settled into my homemaker life and as time went on I started spending a little bit more and it snowballed.  A lot of those expenditures I justified as being expenses for the home.  The best way to describe my life is to use a phrase from Oprah Winfrey and her Debt Diet Show - I began to live my life "unconsciously."  It's embarrassing to say in a blog entitled "The Path to Frugality" that I began to spend money recklessly and without thinking about what I was doing.  I really don't think that I am alone.  Like on a food diet, I fell off the money diet wagon, got a wake up call and now am back on the wagon. 

So last week I made some conscious changes. I think before I buy.  I know, it is pretty simple.  Maybe I should change the title of this blog to "Just Think."

July 03, 2010

Planning ahead to do Laundry

Now that I am consciously being careful with energy usage and saving money, I find that I have to plan when to do laundry according to the weather.  I have been using my dryer for years and did laundry whenever, no matter what the weather.  No more.

In Iowa we are supposed to get a lot of rain tomorrow and Monday.  We have been watching the news as many areas of our state are facing flooding and the last thing we need is a lot of heavy storms.  People are watching levees and they are getting nervous. 

My DH was mowing the lawn this morning and I was weeding, when it dawned on me that I do laundry on Monday and with what they are reporting there is no way I will be able to hang out clothes on my normal wash day.  Today was hot, sunny and a breeze was blowing, so I put in a load of laundry, and then another and another and kept on going.  I hung all the clothes on the line, including dress shirts and my son's casual cargo pants. Everything came out soft, wonderful smelling and the dress clothes looked like they had come out of a dryer.  I am so sold on hanging clothes on the line that I will find it hard to stop when winter comes.

I always wash towels and bedding on a separate day so if the weather is nice on Tuesday I will wash the bedding and towels.  For the first time I am going to hang towels on the line and just when they are about dry I will throw them in the dryer to fluff them up and soften them.

I really believe that on my old wash days my dryer would run for at least 4 hours in order to get all the clothes dry. 

My DH has kept track of our utility usage going back to 2003 so I plan to look at next month's utility bill and compare it to the previous Julys to see where we are coming in on our electrical usage.  It will be interesting to see how much electricity was wasted on using a dryer.  If it is a lot, I may just have him hang a line in the basement to dry some of the clothes this winter. 

July 02, 2010

Grocery Shopping - July 1st and the $150 Challenge

$150.00 Challenge

No pictures of the groceries, sorry.  It was too hot yesterday to set all the groceries out on a table to take a picture. Here is what I purchased at Fareway and Hy-Vee and Wal-mart yesterday.

6 pints of blueberries @ 93 cents a pint  - $5.58 - Sale
1 small cantaloupe - .94 cents - Sale
2 lbs. of bananas @ .49 - total 98 cents - Regular price
2 loaves of half price French bread @ .57 - $1.14 - Sale
2 Bags of potato chips @ 88 cents - $1.76 - Sale
2 bags of bagels @ $1.19 a bag - $2.38 - Regular price
2 loaves of Sara Lee Whole Wheat Bread @ 99 cents - $1.98 - Sale
12 lbs. 85% lean hamburger @ $1.79 lb. - purchased 12 lbs. -$21.61 - Sale
Iowa Top Sirloin Steak - $2.99 lb. - purchased about 3 lbs. - total $7.30 - Sale
1 gallon 1% milk - $2.79 - Regular price
Brown Sugar Deli Ham - $2.99 lb. - purchased about 2 lbs. - total $6.28 - Sale
Smoked Deli Turkey - $2.49 lb. - purchased about 2 lbs. - $5.30 - Sale
4 lb. bag of granulated sugar - $1.38 - Sale
3 pkgs. of Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns @ .59 - total of $1.77 - Sale
PB Granola Bars - $2.10 - Sale
1/2 gallon Ice Cream - $1.48 - Sale

Total cost of groceries:  $64.77

As you can see the majority of the items I purchased were on sale.  They were not only on sale, they were a good sale.  The advantage of keeping track of prices is knowing when a sale is a real sale.

Now by way of explanation:  I purchased a total of 4 lbs. of deli meats as they were very good quality, on sale and I would need some sandwich meat for vacation the week of July 10th.  I froze 3 lbs. of the meat for now. 

The ground beef was an excellent deal.  One store had set the sale and Wal-mart and the other grocery store matched it.  There was a limit of 4 lbs. per store. 

The blueberries were in season and on sale at a very low price.  I washed them and spread them in layers on two cookie sheets and stuck them in the freezer for about an hour.  They were then frozen as individual berries.  I packaged them in 1 cup packages ready to use in pies, muffins and coffeecakes this winter.  Out of the 6 pints I was able to get 14 cups of berries frozen.

I don't buy a lot of steak and when I do, it must be a good sale.  This steak is normally priced at $5.99 a lb. so I bought enough for the 4th of July when our son and daughter in law will be over for dinner.

My stock up items were the blueberries, ground beef and the deli meats. 

In my $150 challenge of spending less this month, I want to eat out of my pantry and cupboard and take advantage of that savings.  However I will be flexible with meat sales and produce.  I love having frozen blueberries on hand.  Before purchasing those fresh blueberries I priced a bag of already frozen blueberries.  They were $2.99 for a 12 oz. bag.  So, buying 6 pints now to freeze and use later is a great savings.

As I grocery shop this month, I have made a list of the items that I will stock up on if there is a sale.  They are chicken hindquarters (I cut them into drumsticks and thigh portions), orange juice, ground turkey and chuck roasts. 

How did I do compared to what I had been spending?   Here are my records for January through June of this year of my net grocery spending.  I have put the amount I saved in coupons in parentheses:

January -   $165.00      (coupons - $52.00)
February - $343.00      (coupons - $118.00)
March -     $348.00      (coupons - $98.00)
April -        $281.00      (coupons - $53.00)
May -        $533.00       (coupons - $66.00)
June -       $449.00       (coupons - $76.00)

My average net spending per month for groceries was $353.00.  My average coupon savings per month was $77.00.

Okay, this is not bad.  But it was the miscellaneous spending over the past 6 months that did me in. 

January -   $  93.00
February - $  86.00
March -     $166.00
April -        $107.00
May -         $166.00
June -        $242.00

I averaged $143.00 in miscellaneous.  This is fabric, books, razor blades, pet food, flowers for the garden, pillows, sewing patterns and more.  A lot of these purchases were necessary but many were not.  For example, I bought a lot of fabric and have yet had the time to sew.  I could have waited for a clearance sale.  Many of these purchases could have been delayed until a sale or not purchased at all. 

Bottom line, I need to rein in spending and spend more time being concious about what I am spending our money on.

So there it is.  Simple and with no pictures of the groceries and no pdf files (I couldn't figure out how to post a pdf file anyway).  Just the facts that I need to do a better job with the money God has given us and be more accountable to myself and my family as to the choices I make with the money that is earned.

Frugal Tip #3 - Using less paper products

Each week I have tried to incorporate a few frugal tips that I have learned along the way.  Today's post is about the benefits of using less paper products.  This is one area I didn't change until last week. 

I went to buy a package of Handiwipes at the Dollar Tree and they weren't selling them anymore.  I have always liked Handiwipes to use in my kitchen as they dry quickly.  When they start to smell I can wash them once and use them again and then throw them away.  This isn't very economical in the long run.

So I stood there looking at my choices and I picked up 3 - 2 packs of dish cloths.  I now have 6 dish cloths to use in the kitchen.  The reason for using the Handiwipes was due to how a dish cloth can smell after a while.  (Yes, I have a dishwasher but I still have to handwash pots and pans and such.)  Now I use them for a day. Sunday's and Saturday's dish cloth can cover both days.  Then each evening I toss the dish cloth into my laundry sort pile.  No more smelly dish cloths and no more buying Handiwipes.

I took all of my old dish towels and put them in a container under my sink.  These are for my DS's use.  He likes to use a dish towel as a napkin.  It was a losing battle as day in and day out he took the dish towel that I had hanging up to use as his personal napkin.  Now he has his own stash and I don't have to worry about if a dish towel I am using to dry dishes was used as a napkin.

While at the Dollar Tree I picked up a few packages of terry cloth bar towels.  These are being used for all of those paper towel clean ups.  In fact, I prefer using a towel to wipe up a spill as compared to paper towels.

Next up - cloth napkins.  I need to buy or make cloth napkins for our table.  Actually I am starting to think that my DS may be on to something in using terry cloth dish towels as a napkin.  Think about it, they are absorbent and thick and they wash up great.  So I may be heading back to the Dollar Tree to get some dish towels for our every day use.  When it comes to company, I have plenty of paper napkins on hand.

Micro Fiber cloths - I bought a stash and keep them with my cleaning supplies.  I also have some in my bathrooms to use for daily clean up.  I love micro fiber cloths.  They do a much better job on cleaning mirrors, sinks and faucets.

Dust cloths and lambs wool - I have quit buying swiffer dust cloths. I don't think they were really that great in the first place.  In their place I purchased some dust cloths and I invested in two lamb's wool cleaning tools.  These are like sticks that have lambs wool wrapped around them.  One is long so I can reach and get all those high spots and the other is smaller for getting in and around places to dust.

I have quite a supply of paper towels on hand as I purchased these at some great sales with coupons.  I am using these for cleaning up pet mishaps.  Lately it would appear that my cat loves to chew on grass and then comes in the house and gets sick.  Paper towels are great for that purpose.

Kleenex - sorry, I will continue to buy these on sale as I don't think I could start to use a hankerchief like grandma.  All of grandma's hankerchief's were beautiful embroidered works of art, so I don't think she ever used them anyway.

Toilet Paper - no way am I going to use pieces of cloth. I draw the line.  Toilet paper is bought on sale with a coupon and always will be.

Of all of the frugal tips this one was a little harder for me to start.  It just seemed more convenient and "clean" to reach for a paper towel or a napkin when I needed it.  Now it is just as easy as I have plastic bins of these items under my sink right next to where I keep a small roll of paper towels. 

July 01, 2010

Flag Shopping

Today was grocery shopping/miscellaneous shopping day.  Tomorrow I will post about the deals I got from the grocery stores.

I seem to be spending more time making decisions on how to spend our money with the $150 challenge.  Taking a little more time deciding if I really need something, is a good thing.

I am very patriotic.  You don't grow up in the household of a disabled American veteran without having a love for country and for the flag.  My dad always had a flag on the flagpole, properly displayed, at all times.  We would sit outside and he would look at the flag and say, "That is the most beautiful flag in the world."  My dad experienced the horrors of war that left him disabled, but those disabilities never swayed his love for the country and the American flag.

Our flag had become tattered so we gave it to a veteran's group and they properly disposed of it.   With the 4th of July this weekend it was important to me to buy another flag and hang it proudly from my front porch.  Today while shopping for groceries and other needed items, I priced flags.  I fly the banner flag as it seems to last longer but the price was double - $19.00.  I called around and visited a few other stores, but the flag at Wal-mart was the cheapest. 

I left Wal-mart and went home to think about it.  In late afternoon I went back to Wal-mart and bought the flag.  Why did I have to think about it?  For practice.  Delaying purchasing something does not come naturally to me and $19.00 was quite a sum of money.  In the end, patriotism prevailed and the flag is displayed on our front porch. 

Everytime I look out the window, I think of my father.  He would be proud that I have continued the tradition of flying the American Flag on my porch.