February 28, 2011

Reading Assignment

I have posted in my sidebar, where you see the Tightwad Gazette Button, the pages everyone will need to read for tomorrow.  I will do my best to update the reading assignment for each day so we are all on task with reading and re-discovering the first Tightwad Gazette book.

Dinner Tonight - February 28, 2011 and My Day

Tonight we are having chili for supper along with grilled cheese sandwiches.  I use half ground turkey and half ground beef or half ground turkey and half ground pork in my chili recipe.  For a salad, I will put some carrot sticks on the table.  All of the ingredients for my chili have been purchased on sale and this meal will be a cheap meal. 

When I serve chili, I usually have enough for two meals easily.  So, I have the option of leftovers the next night or I freeze the chili for later use in another dish.  How about chili on tortilla chips with greated cheese for chili nachos, or poured over cooked macaroni in a casserole and topped with cheddar cheese and baked til browned for chili mac.  You can do the same with rice.  Or there is always my favorite which is chili on a hot dog.  I love chili dogs and sometimes I will take my bowl of chili, top with chopped onion and a little mustard just like on a chili dog.  Of course, make sure you are staying home for the evening or you will knock everybody out with onion breath.  But it is oh so worth it.

As with all food prices, fresh produce is going sky high.  My DH will eat salad and I always have a salad for lunch but my DS doesn't like tossed salad.  However, my DS will eat carrot or celery sticks.  So, for salad tonight it will be the carrot sticks.

Today I must select the paint colors for my livingroom.  I set aside my first and second choice last Friday and have deliberately not looked at the paint samples for a few days.  Today I will look at them again and immediately pick what looks the best with no second guessing.

Also, I have been working out at Curves for 5 weeks now.  I have lost 3.25 inches and haven't lost any weight.  My goal was not to lose weight, but to tone up.  Well, it is working.  My jeans are loose and they haven't been that way for a long, long time.  It's a good feeling.  Best of all I enjoy the workouts and working out with friends is always a big plus.

Our Curves is located in a mall and when I walked into the mall entrance near Curves last Friday, there were about 50 girlscouts and their leaders standing around with boxes and boxes of girlscout cookies.  It was delivery day and the girls were picking up their cookie orders.  It was a little odd to me that they had set all of this up in front of Curves.  While working out a lot of us were joking about how we wondered if we could buy a box of Thin Mints on the way out. 

Today is also laundry day and in the meantime I need to do a lot of picking up around our downstairs.  Some of the livingroom furniture is in the den, and some of the furniture in the livingroom has been moved around to accommodate my ladder.  The result: all of us have become lazy about being neat and picking up.

It is always a challenge to keep a household organized when you are doing some work in a major room of the house.   My priorities during a time such as this is to make sure the laundry is done and we have meals prepared.  Then the rest I can deal with.

Tightwad Gazette Refresher - Update

Some of you have commented that you don't own the Tightwad Gazette books.  If you can't borrow the first book from the library or can't borrow a book from someone, I recommend that you follow the posts for the month of March without worrying about reading the book.

The Tightwad Gazette books were published between 1992 and 1996.  There is a lot of great tips in these books but the majority of them came prior to the highspread use of the internet.  Some of the tips may be a little outdated such as saving on the price of postage for mailing a letter.  However, the majority of the tips are still great.

All three Tightwad Gazette books have been consolidated into one large volume but it is my understanding from other reviews that it doesn't have all of the information from all three books in it. 

If you can find these books used and really cheap, then I would purchase them.  At Amazon you can get all three books, used, and at reasonable prices plus shipping.  Make sure wherever you order the first Tightwad Gazette book that you check to make sure you are getting the first volume.  The first volume has the copyright date of 1992 with ISBN 0-679-74388-X.

If you are uncertain about purchasing these books, then don't.  Wait until you have reviewed the posts and comments for several weeks to see if you will really be interested in owning these books. 

February 27, 2011

Time to Dust off those Tightwad Gazette Books

As I work around my house or as I am cooking a meal, my mind tends to wander. This can be a problem if I am baking cookies and can’t remember if I put in the baking soda. As a side note, I think someone should invent colored baking soda that loses its color when baked. Then you can see if you added it to your cookie dough or not.
I’m a dreamer, a thinker, and maybe I think too much on certain things to my own detriment.

But high prices are on my mind and have been for several weeks. How do you effectively fight higher prices? Shopping sales, using coupons, driving less are some great examples, but what else?

I surf the web and I am constantly on the lookout for any new money saving ideas. I haven’t found any in a very long time. I do have all three Tightwad Gazette books that I refer to sometimes.

After a lot of thought I feel that the key to fighting higher prices is with “time”. The more time I have, the more time I can spend on saving money. Here are some examples: I can save money on gasoline by walking or riding my bike, which take more time. I can save money on groceries by spending time on the internet scouring for great coupons, clipping coupons and organizing them. I can save money on good whole wheat bread by making my own. I can save money on clothes by hanging them up to dry so that they last longer, by making repairs to our clothes on my own and by shopping at thrift stores. I can save money on groceries by making more and more items from scratch. I can save money on gifts, by making them. I can save money on haircuts by cutting my DH’s hair. Doing our own home repairs saves money. What about gardening and preserving your own food?

All of these examples take time in order to save money. I don’t have a job outside the home so I do have the time to do all of the above. And because I am home, I feel obligated to do as much as I can in order to save money in order to combat high prices.

I mentioned the Tightwad Gazette earlier. If you have ever read these books, you will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that there are definitely a few categories of saving. Many of the tips in these books involve different levels of frugality depending on, in my opinion, how much time you have on hand and what your financial situation is like. I have followed many of the tips in these books but some I never used due to time. Not anymore.

I am making it a point during the month of March to begin to go through these books and really look at every tip. I need to re-read these books in the light of today’s economy. So, not only will March be Random Acts of Kindness month for me, but it will also be Amy Dacyczyn month. Yep, I am going to go through her first Tightwad Gazette book and hopefully each day I will post a frugal idea from the book and see if I can save some money. I will also discover how much time each idea or tip involves and see if it is something that will work for me.

In April I will continue with the second book and then in May I will finish with her third Tightwad Gazette book. March 1st begins on Tuesday. The book starts on page 3 and ends on page 295. There are 31 days in March so we I will need to read and review 9 to 10 pages each day. So, are you with me? Do you want to read along with me and look at these books from a new perspective?

It’s time to get serious. I feel as if I am at war with this economy and with high prices. So, ladies (or any gentlemen that read my blog), dust off those Tightwad Gazettes and let’s start going through the first book together.

February 26, 2011

No Spend Month - Final Results

We have two more days in February, but I don't need anything and I don't have any money to spend, so I am giving my results today.

I didn’t meet my goal of saving $200 this month. I did save $100 by not spending in many areas of the budget. While I didn’t meet my goal, I did save a lot of money by coming across some great grocery in store specials that I just couldn’t pass up. One was hamburger for only 80 cents a lb.

I will continue to make those same cutbacks to save $100 each month as we will need to put that $100 towards gasoline. Gas is going up all over the world and while I am going to be doing some cost cutting measures of my own, in the end we will still be paying more for gasoline. I’m also concerned about heating oil and that it will also be going up.

It has been a great month for conscious spending and saving.

Random Acts of Kindness Challenge Clarification

I wanted to clarify the Random Acts of Kindness Challenge that I have put forth.  As to giving away $25 in five dollar bills, the idea was to give money to anyone that you came across that you think would need it.  For example, at the grocery store you could pay for your groceries and give the checker a $5.00 bill to help pay for the groceries for the person behind you. 

I know of a special need in a family where the teenager doesn't get any spending money because her dad is unemployed.  I plan to put $5.00 in an envelope to give her - probably will just put it in their mailbox. 

I wasn't necessarily saying that you were to give money to people begging on the street, although that would be fine.  In my mind some Random Acts of Kindness are on the impulse - they aren't planned ahead of time.  You are simply presented with a need. 

I would love to hear what any of you are planning to do, be it giving out money or doing some sort of kindness for someone else.  I think this will be fun and uplifting.

February 25, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

 Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

During the month of March I am challenging everyone to keep five - $5.00 bills in their purses.  Why?  During March when you encounter a person with a need, hand them a $5.00 bill.  Now it's not a lot of money, but right now you can buy a 1/2 gallon of milk, 1 dozen eggs and 1 loaf of white bread with that money.  In other areas of the country or world that might not cover the price of all three, but it will cover the cost of at least two of those items. 

$5.00 is enough to help someone out, perhaps brighten their day and lighten their load and for the majority of us, it won't break our budgets.

For those that are on austerity budgets and to part with $25.00 will place a hardship on them, I would like to challenge you to find 5 people and do a random act of kindness for those 5 people.  Perhaps you could shovel someone's walk or even sweep their sidewalk for them, send a note, buy a carnation or daisy and give it to them, make some popcorn or cookies and deliver them. 

With everything that is going on in the world, we need to focus on helping others.  The majority of us have everything we need as compared to those living in other areas of the world.  

So, get ready to bless other people in March and just perhaps, you will receive a blessing in return.

February 24, 2011

Gasoline Prices - I'm going to do something about it - finally

I have told my husband that for my birthday in a few weeks, I want some kind of cart to hook onto my bike.  I want to use it for when I go grocery shopping or when I want to haul something somewhere without taking my car.  He laughed.  Perhaps he was laughing because it had been snowing today and we are still in the middle of a storm warning.  Obviously, I wouldn't be riding a bike today.   I told him I was serious. 

I started looking at Amazon today and saw a cart that is kind of like what I would get,  but I am going to do some research on this. 

I need to look further on line at the reviews and such before I would purchase a cart.

It is the in town driving that kills me on gasoline as that is the majority of the driving that I do.  You don't get great mileage with all the stops and starts.  So it's time to make a lifestyle change and really think about using the bike more for shopping trips. 

So, I'm curious, do any of you have a cart to pull behind your bike?  Any suggestions???

February 23, 2011

Bad Week in the News - Good Week for Me

I have been working so hard on finishing the entryway and to have it finally done feels good.  I can cross something off my to do list.  While I have been painting I have been listening to the news.  So much is happening all around the world and I find myself drawn to the latest news.  There is more and more to pray about. 

Yesterday I stopped by the grocery store where I purchased the $1.99 a lb. butter last week.  Yesterday it was knocked down to 99 cents since it was now 2 days away from the sell by date.  They had quite a bit left.  I bought another 15 lbs. for my freezer.  I have plenty of butter.

Tonight it was just my husband and me for supper so I fixed salmon, whole grain rice mixture, broccoli and a tossed salad.  I baked a salmon fillet with a little bit of oil brushed on it, sprinkled it with a Mrs. Dash mixture and baked it for 14 minutes.  It was moist and flaky and delicious.  I also poured a little bit of low fat italian dressing on the salmon for a little more flavor.  My husband loves fish and so do I.  Our son does not like fish at all so when he is gone for supper, it is fish night. 

Tomorrow I will take a look at the receipts to see where I am on the No Spend Month.  I have done pretty good this week.  Also I need to catch up on my blog reading and I will spend some time trying to get the gold paint off of my finger nails!!!

Entryway is Finished - Time for the Happy Dance

Shows the two colors of yellow ragged on the walls

I am going to wait until the weather gets warmer to paint the radiator.  Then I will paint it the light yellow.

The total cost of this project was about $60.00.  Now I need to find a new rug to put in the entryway.  That will take some time as I am a little picky in finding just the right colors.  I have until May.

I am taking the rest of the week off from painting and will start on the livingroom next week. 

February 22, 2011

"Spent" - An Online Game

Please go online and play this game.  It is sponsored by Urban Ministries of Durham.  The game is set up so that you have to pick a job available, apply for it and if you get it you have to live on that minimum amount of money each month.  The problem is that real life situations come up and you must make decisions on what to do with the little money that you have.

I saw this game advertised on CNN this morning and I played it.  It is a real eye opener.  Go to this link to play Spent.

I would recommend that parents let their pre-teens and teenagers play this game.  It is a real eye opener.

February 21, 2011

Saving for the Future - Depending on Ourselves

Lately I have been pondering what we would do if my husband were to lose his job in 5 years. He would be 58 years old at that time. I know two people who lost their jobs over a year ago, they are in their late 50’s and they can’t find a job and are struggling.

When you see everything that is going on in the world – prices going up, economies struggling, crops failing, political unrest, it makes you realize that we have to be proactive about preparing for our future.

But in the midst of all of this, I’m not worried. Really, I’m not. After all what is going on is out of my control. What I can do is make a plan for our future and take advantage of opportunities to grow our savings and retirement.

I think differently about our future than I did a few years ago. I’ll feel so much better when our debt is paid off and when we will be able to save more. There is nothing like money in the bank to make you happy and secure.

We received confirmation last week that our son will only have to pay $5,000 tuition per year at the local college. This is due to his good grades and the tuition break they give to local residents. Tuition alone at this college is around $21,000 per year. He will be living at home so there will be a greater savings. We have $10,000 saved for his college education so far.

I’m not sure where I am going with this post other than to say that I have finally got the message about saving for the future and that we are responsible for our own future and we shouldn’t rely on public programs that have been around for years. Everything is changing and we must become independent.

February 20, 2011

My Entryway - Golden Walls, a Recipe and a Tip

Yesterday I put on the second coat of yellow paint on the entryway walls and tomorrow I start the faux finish on the walls.  Notice the radiator.  I will be painting it a light, pale yellow when I am done with the walls. 

With everything that is going on in the world, it is nice to play with paint and relax. 

Now for the recipe.  I buy hot dogs.  I buy them on sale, with coupons and I buy the ones that are lean and without the nitrates in them.  Here is a casserole that my family loves.  It is one of those Saturday night dinner kind of recipes. 

Corn Dog Casserole - this is my simple version

1 lb. hot dogs
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 - 8.5 oz. pkgs Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Slice the hot dogs linkwise and brown in a little butter or oil.  In the meantime mix the eggs, milk and the corn muffin mixes.  Pour this mixture into a greased (I spray with Pam) baking dish - 3 quart size works great.  Then top with the browned hot dogs and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

This tastes just like a corn dog and without the deep fried mess.

The original recipe calls for sliced celery and onions that you brown with the hot dogs and it also calls for sage.  My son doesn't like the celery and the onions.  I don't use sage as I didn't notice that it did much for the flavor and it turned the corn muffin mixture green.  Not very appetizing.  Also, the original recipe called for 2 cups of grated cheese on top.  I leave it off as we like it without the cheese.  This is a very frugal main dish.

I like to serve this with baked beans and it tastes really, really good.

Ground Beef Cooking Tip

Here is a great way to cook 5 lbs. of ground beef all at once. 

Remove the ground beef from the package and loosely crumble into your crockpot. 

Turn the crockpot to low.  You can stir the meat during cooking if you want to.  7 hours later (depending on your crockpot), drain the meat.  You can rinse the burger crumbles and crumble them smaller after they've been drained.  Let the meat cool and then package into ziplocks for the freezer.

February 19, 2011

Butter - On sale

I prefer to use butter in my baking and also on bread and toast.  The reason being, I know what is in butter.  I don't over indulge and lather butter on my bread and toast.  I use a modest amount.  So, when I find a great sale on butter I am almost giddy. 

I have a question for each of you.  The butter that I have bought recently was on sale for $1.99 for a 1 lb. package.  But it is not the butter that comes in 4 quarter sticks, but is a 1 lb. solid chunk of butter. 

Now for the question, would you buy this butter even if it meant that you would have to let it sit on the counter til it is almost soft and cut it into 1/4 lb. sticks yourself?   What about if it's expiration date was February 24th - less than 1 week away? 

I am freezing this butter and when I plan to use it, I will take it out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter.  Then I will cut it into 4 sticks myself. 

I am willing to do this to save money.  I was in that store today and I was surprised to see a great deal of this butter still left in the cooler at the store.  I watched people pick it up and then realizing it was a 1 lb. solid and not quarter sticks, they put it back and reached for the 1 lb. package that comes in 4 sticks.  They were willing to pay $1.50 more for the butter being cut into 4 sticks.

I never thought I would look at sticks of butter as a convenience food, but I guess to many people it is. 

No Spend Month - A Successful Failure

I love the movie Apollo 13. Perhaps it is because I remember when this actually happened. I was 15 at the time and I remember all the news reports and updates. Apollo 13 was called a "Successful failure." This mission was considered a failure because they failed to complete their mission and a success because the astronauts were able to return to earth and didn't lose their lives.
I am having a Successful Failure No Spend Month.

When I started this month I wondered what I would do if I came across some good deals at the grocery store. In January of 2010 I participated in an “Eating from the Pantry Month” and I stuck to it and only spent $160.00. There were many sales that month but I passed on them as I knew those same sales would come around in another 6 weeks.

I can't say the same this time around. Prices are going up and by the end of the year they are predicting that food prices will be sky high. It’s not just food prices. It’s everything. So this month when I encountered a sale I decided that I just couldn't pass on any sales. Many things came to mind such as this product is on sale at this price right now and I may never get it again at this price.

I wanted to save $200 extra this month and next month for a total of $400 by April 1st. We're not experiencing an emergency, but I wanted to see if I could save some extra money to replenish the amount of money we took out of our savings account to pay the $500 deductible on our car insurance. We put money into our savings account every pay day but I wanted to surprise my husband and cut back and make an extra deposit to our savings account.

Okay – now that I have stated my case, made my excuses and validated it, you know what is coming next so I might as well get to what I spent money on this week.

I need some new running shoes. I buy running shoes for walking and for working out. My old shoes were showing some wear and also they were not giving my feet as much support as they used to. I knew I could probably put off purchasing new shoes to next month that is until I came across a great deal this week at a local store. I was able to get the New Balance shoes that I like on sale for $39.98. They are regularly priced $60.00. I couldn’t pass this sale up. I always ask myself these questions: Is this a need? Yes. Is this a good sale? Yes. Can I afford this at this moment or in other words, do I have the cash for this purchase? Yes. Will there be another sale or a better sale prior to when I had planned to purchase this item? I don’t know. What I did know was that prices are going up on everything and this was a $20.00 savings. I decided to buy the shoes.

I stopped by a grocery store for some milk and I asked a store employee about food prices. He said that obviously prices had gone up but he told me that I should expect prices to go up a lot more. He warned me that by the end of the year we will be paying quite a bit more on food. I learned that due to bad weather in various areas of the country, lettuce and tomatoes will be going sky high. I will probably find a place in my yard this summer to grow leaf lettuce and tomatoes.

There aren’t as many animals going to market so the supplies are low while the need is high. Droughts in Russia and bad crops in China along with the floods in Australia and the flooding in the Midwest last summer have affected the crops and thus our food supplies.  Already I have seen many of the normal staples I buy at the grocery store go up anywhere between 15% and 18%.  Gasoline this week has gone up 13 cents a gallon.

That was Thursday.

So, I decided that while putting more money in savings is a great idea, so is saving money on the front end on groceries.

Here were the sales in the grocery store this week. To begin with, they had bone in chicken breasts for 88 cents a lb. I have only ever, and I mean ever, seen these for 99 cents a lb. about three times a year. These are two large chicken breasts with the bone. Each weighs about 2 lbs. and will feed the 3 of us for one meal, with some leftovers. Even though these are bone in, there is a lot of meat on these pieces. I bought 20 lbs. This sale was a sale that was definitely intended to get customers into the store. I got to that store when it opened at 8:00 a.m. and the parking lot was filling up.

At the same store they had all their Kellogg’s cereals on sale at 50% off. While other stores may mark up the price so that the 50% off isn’t such a good deal, this store does not do that. I had coupons for these cereals. Normally I would pay around $1.00 a box or less on a sale and with coupons. Prices have indeed gone up so if I can get these cereals for $1.50 or less, than it is a great deal. I was able to buy plain Shredded Wheat – a large 24 oz. box for only $1.50. I also bought Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini Wheats and Special K along with some more sugary options such as Corn Pops and Cocoa Pebbles.

Another store had soy sauce on sale for $1.00. This bottle is normally around $1.75. I love soy sauce. I pour it over a pork roast and add some bay leaves and garlic for a tasty meal. They also had 100% whole wheat bread (1 lb. loaf) on sale for 99 cents, 1 doz. large eggs was 99 cents. I was able to get a few more lbs. of butter for $1.99, fresh red peppers were $1.29 each, 4 lb. bags of granulated sugar were $2.39 and my favorite Salmon fillets were $3.99 a lb. I also was able to get 8 cans of organic tomato paste for only 49 cents.

All of the above were good deals and I had coupons. The question I put to myself is this. With food prices going up, will I ever see these items again at these sales prices? Would I regret not purchasing these sales items? I decided that I will probably not see these sales prices again and I would definitely regret not taking advantage of these sales.

We are not in an emergency situation in our household as to this challenge. In other words, my hubby is not unemployed and we are not facing a tremendous financial crisis at the moment.

Also, I got good news when I called the doctor’s office yesterday and found out that the medical bill I received in the mail had not had the insurance applied to it. Instead of $285.00 we owed only $12.95.

That was Friday.

So as things stand right now, I will not meet my goal of $200 extra to go to savings this month. Instead I will end up with half that amount by the end of the month. I tallied up what I have spent so far on groceries for the month and it is coming out to my normal budgeted amount for groceries.

It is good to have a challenge. After all I have cut back in some areas and I was able to save a little more to put in our savings account so far along with what we would normally put in savings each month. Also, this challenge has been good for me as I have really thought about the items I am purchasing. I’ve asked myself questions along the way.

Yes, I would definitely describe this challenge for me as being a Successful Failure and a very good learning experience.

February 17, 2011

Unexpected Medical Expense

We received an unexpected medical expense in the mail recently.  It was for $285.00.  I looked it over and it would appear that this is from my visit to the doctor at the end of December and I immediately thought that insurance hadn't been applied.  Then I looked and our insurance had paid it's portion.  Yikes! 

So, my husband looked it over and said he would take care of it.  We have a flex plan at his job where pre-tax dollars are taken out of his paychecks for any medical expenses that may occur during the year.  But we have to decide on the amount to be taken out from his paycheck each Autumn for the coming year.  We pay the medical bill and then get reimbursed from the Flex Plan. 

We never expected that I would have the medical problems that I have been experiencing so we didn't set a lot of money aside in the Flex Plan this year.  At this rate we will use up the money in the Flex Plan in a couple of months. 

I have been keeping track of my spending and how much I have been saving.  I was going to go to the bank to take out the amount I had saved in cash to keep in a jar here at home.  This was part of my plan to take all the cash I had saved to give to my husband as a surprise in early April. 

Anytime I take out cash, I tell him since he keeps track of the bank reconciliation and the checkbook.  He said a slow "okay."  I could tell from the sound of his voice that it was not okay.  I asked him if he would prefer that I would not take out cash right now and he said yes.  He had been putting the extra money in savings but he told me he could transfer it back if I needed it.  Now he was planning on taking it to pay on the medical expense.  Hmm. 

I decided to tell my hubby about the No Spend Month and my goal.  After all he was doing what I was planning to do.  It was still a surprise. 

An Entertainment Treat

We are fortunate in our small community of 10,000 to have a beautiful community auditorium.  The auditorium was built in the mid 1990's and it is beautiful.

Tonight Simon Estes, the famous baritone singer, sang in concert at the auditorium.  Our high school orchestra and choir also performed a couple of songs.   It was an outstanding concert.  Simon is a native of Iowa and resides here.  He has performed with major opera companies around the world. 

The above video I found on You Tube and after you listen to a little of it you may understand my excitement at going to his concert.

The cost was $25 per ticket and I told my husband that we were going and he could count it as an early birthday present for me. This is an incredible bargain.  Our son plays viola in the orchestra and although they performed only two songs, one with Simon singing with them, I would have paid twice that amount to hear Simon sing.

So, No Spend Month or not, this was one of those great opportunities that I was not going to pass up. 

February 15, 2011

Painting Update

Here is the ceiling ready to be painted.

Here is the ceiling yesterday after I painted it a second coat of medium blue and I painted the medallion at the base of the light fixture yellow.

I finished it today.  I first sponged a dark blue on it and then I softened it by sponging on a light blue.  Yes, I got some blue paint on the medallion.  But the medallion needs a second coat of yellow so the blue will not be noticeable after I apply the second coat.

See the large crack in the before picture?  Can you see it in the following picture? 

You can't see the crack?  Good.  Then the faux painting job did it's purpose. 

Fried Macaroni - A Memory from My Childhood

My father worked in a factory for 33 years.  He retired in 1981.  He packed radiators and was a member of the UAW.  Many times he did not really like being a member of a union as the union would vote to strike and my father never wanted to strike.  My dad knew that when you went on strike, it meant lost wages that you would never get back.  One strike lasted 9 months and during that time he took on odd jobs at farms picking apples, cherries and even grapes.  He was allowed to bring home some of the fruit that was not deemed worthy for sale and my mother canned everything he brought home.  My mom went to work cleaning houses and during that 9 months they never missed a mortgage or utility payment. 

My sister and I knew not to ask for anything, but I also remember that my parents, though worried about their financial situation, did their best to give us a happy home life.   We would come home from church on winter Sunday evenings and my home would make homemade hot cocoa and cinnamon toast.  Yummy.  We played board games on the weekends.

The strike that lasted 9 months brought my parents to the point of stretching and coming close to all but depleting all of their resources.  Normally we would purchase half a hog and a side of beef from a local farmer for our meat for a year or so.  My parents didn't have the money the year of the big strike to purchase a large supply of meat at one time.  There was meat left from the previous year so we made it last.  My mom was able to get some meat each week at the grocery store as sales would allow.  Also, we qualified for some food assistance. We would go to the government food surplus store each month and we would get institutional sized supplies.  I remember we would get one large block of processed cheese, rice, macaroni and peanut butter.

My father's favorite hobby was gardening.  We lived in a small city in western New York.  We had a big yard but my parents didn't want to put a big garden in our backyard as we kids loved playing in our backyard and my mother always hung the clothes out in the yard to dry.  My father was able to rent a small plot of land from a widow who lived just outside the city limits.  As I recall it was a minimal sum of money as my father would also do some chores for this elderly lady. 

The garden was big and he raised potatoes, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, corn, peas, green beans, pumpkins, squash and melons.  That year we lived off of our garden produce, the food from the surplus store, sales items from the grocery store, the meat in the freezer we had left from the previous year and extra produce from farmers where my dad worked off and on.

My dad was born in 1917 and my mom was born in 1930.  So, my dad  was born in the middle of World War I to a very, very, very poor family and my mom was born in the midst of the Great Depression to a poor family.  It was from their years of growing up poor that they gleaned the skills necessary to keep our family fed and the bills paid during those 9 months.

Up until that 9 month strike, the longest strike my dad experienced was 3 months.  So when the strike went into the 4th and 5th month, my parents really started to get nervous.  My mom started to look at our food supply and even though she was serving frugal meals, she started to serve some extremely frugal meals at different times during the week.

One night my mom served us Fried Macaroni.  She cooked up some macaroni.  While it was cooking she browned some diced onion in some oil in a frying pan.  She added a little garlic.  Then when the macaroni was done cooking she drained it thoroughly and added it to the frying pan.  Instantly the macaroni started to crackle and fry.  She was careful to cook it on medium heat and let the macaroni brown and get crispy before turning it over.  The result was a crispy fried "pasta."  Okay - I'm trying to give it a "rich" label here.  The key here is she took very minimal ingredients, cheap ingredients and made a tasty filling meal for us. 

When my sister and I tried it, we gobbled it down.  It was delicious and filling.  The fried macaroni actually had a pop corn like taste.  We loved the crispy, chewy texture and flavor.  The onions and garlic also gave it more flavor.  Even after the strike ended and things got back to normal, we would beg my mom on a Saturday night to make Fried Macaroni. 

Okay, I'm not going into the healthiness of this meal. If you were faced with feeding your family on very little, you would find something that would fill their tummies. She not only filled our tummies, but she filled our tummies with something that was very tasty.
One night I made this for my kids.  They loved it.  If I were to make it today (and I think I will this weekend), I would make it with whole wheat macaroni and use olive oil along with the onion and garlic.  I would also serve some marinara sauce on the side.  Actually, think about it, fried ravioli is on appetizer menus everywhere now.  My mom was ahead of her time.

What can you learn from this?  Necessity definitely is the mother of invention.

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I'm sitting in the comfy chair in our livingroom with my feet propped up on the ottoman.  As I look around the room, I see furniture pushed away from the walls, a ladder up and there are a few drop cloths on the floor.  I spent time today working out and also putting a second coat on the entryway ceiling.  I'm in the comfy chair because I am in pain - lower back pain.  It happens, especially when I am doing too much.  But in my opinion the pain is worth it since I am getting a lot of work done on my house. 

Tonight for dinner instead of steak we ate pork stir fry.  Guess why?  Okay, I'll just tell you.  It is going to be in the 60's by the end of the week and we voted to save the steaks for the grill.  Yahoo.  The weather here is warm and in the 40's and the snow is melting.  But I'm not fooled, I know a spring snow storm could hit anytime. 

One more thing about meal time, we eat dinner at the diningroom table as a family about 6 days out of 7 each week.  Our son is 18 and we enjoy eating together and teasing each other, enjoying the food and laughing.  We have a good time. 

For dessert I made cut out butter cookies in different heart shapes iced with almond icing and pink and red sprinkles. 

I don't need flowers, cards or candy.  What I do need and want is to be with the family I love on Valentine's Day.

February 13, 2011

My Painting Saga - the Entryway

I want to tell you something about myself.  I am not confident about home decorating.  It takes time for me to make a decision about color and what to do in a room. It doesn't come quickly or easily. 

In the 1980's I never got into the country decorating theme of country blue and a country mauve with it's geese and "Welcome to my Country Home" theme.  I think it was because my grandmother lived in the country and none of that typified her country home.  I always struggled until 14 years ago when I was given a Mary Engelbreit magazine.  The issue showed a country home that was quite eclectic and very, very colorful.  I remember a door to the kitchen painted in colors streaked or dry painted on the door.  I fell in love with it and the colors.  This was the style that I liked.

So, we bought an old house and I have struggled to find the time to make my dream a reality.  Now the dream is taking shape. 

Last week I chose three shades of a sage green for the entryway but the day I was going to buy the paint it suddenly dawned on me that the front screen door is a hunter green and when we keep the interior door open in the warm weather, the two colors would clash.  So I went to my next selection - gold.  There is gold in the stain glass window so I knew it would look just as nice. 

So, how did I save money on paint for the entryway?  Last summer I went to buy some paint from Sherwin Williams for my fence and the outside of my house.  They accidentally mixed up interior paint and I bought it for only $5.00 a gallon.  Here is my post that tells about this.   There are two colors of yellow - a medium and light shade. 

I painted the medium shade on the wall, then I sponged on the light shade.  I purchased a  quart of mustard gold color and a quart of a very light shade of yellow. I then ragged on the mustard gold, then on top of that I softened it with ragging on the very light shade of yellow and finished with a little more of the mustard gold ragged back on for depth.

This is my trial and error.
I like it. 

A look at our entryway from the other side of the livingroom.

Now for the ceiling color.  If you look at the above picture you will see some blue squares leaning against the wall.  When I am trying out several different types of paint or faux finishes I try it out on poster board first.  Then I put my selections in the room and look at throughout the day to see how it looks during the day and into the evening.

Yep, I am going to paint the ceiling blue like the sky.  We have a Victorian House and the Entryway was one of the most important rooms in a Victorian home.  Many times the entryway ceiling or the porch ceiling were painted a pretty aqua or blue to simulate the coolness of the sky.  So I am going to try it.  Best of all, if I don't like it, I can paint over it. 

I plan to try the version in the top right and see how I like it.
It is a combination of sponging and ragging. 

The ceiling before.

The ceiling halfway done.

I painted the ceiling with a medium coat of paint this afternoon and I also painted the medallion around the light fixture with the medium yellow.  It looks odd right now, but will look better after I finish the shades of blue on the ceiling.  Also I am contemplating taking some metallic gold paint and rubbing it over the decorative impressions in the medallion.  Again, if it doesn't look good I can simply cover it up with the paint.

So, there you have it.  The beginning of a bright, colorful entryway, that hasn't cost me as much as it could have because I used the "mistake" paint I got last summer.  I knew I would be able to use it somewhere in my house and when this project is done,  I will have enough to paint my kitchen a sunny yellow. 

February 12, 2011

Week 2 - No Spend Month - Update

Well, I had a budget of $40 per week for groceries and that went out the door.  My No Spend Month actually began for me January 31st when my hubby got paid and I bought some groceries that day.  I included those groceries in on the No Spend Month since those groceries were for February. 

But I encountered some great deals last week and this week so I went ahead and stocked up.  I have spent the grocery budget for the month and then some - $163.00.  Where did it go?  That great deal on hamburger last week at 80 cents a lb.  This week it was deli ham for $1.25 lb. for my hubby's lunches.  I bought 12 lbs.  Then I encountered an unadvertised sale of ground pork for only $1.50 a lb.  I stocked up.  Butter was $1.99 lb. so I stocked up and stashed some in the freezer.  Pure grapefruit juice was on sale for 99 cents for 64 oz. 

Yes, I buy a lot of meat and I keep it in my freezer.  With the prices of meat going up, when I encounter a great deal, I buy what I can fit in my freezer at that time.  I triple wrap the meat and I have never had any meat get freezer burn.    Right now I know that I have a year's supply of meat and I also have plenty of meat for meals to fix for church family that are sick and for other meals to give away.

What did I do to accommodate this and still meet my goal? I cut back on other variable spending areas in our budget to bare bones.  I will have to be extra careful with gasoline in my vehicle.  I have half a tank and I should be able to make it last to the end of the month, if I am careful.  It costs $36 to fill it up so I will save $36.00 by stretching the 1/2 tank of gas. 

I had planned for us to eat out on Valentine's day using a restaurant coupon but instead our Valentine's day dinner will be spent on a meal that I will fix for my family.  I have some nice steaks in the freezer and as for a special treat, I am going to make my own homemade "Mounds" candy.  The recipe uses powdered sugar, mashed potatoes and coconut mixed together and then refrigerated and dipped in chocolate.  I have the ingredients on hand and I also will bake some butter cookies cut in the shapes of hearts.  So, I should save about $20.00 there. 

I saved $40.00 on paint for my entryway.  I will post about that tomorrow.  Just need to add that on the day I overspent on groceries, I found a way to cut back on the amount I budgeted for paint.  It involved a change in color scheme, that I like even better than what I originally picked out.

There are other things I will do as the opportunity arises.  But I have tweaked things enough to increase my savings another $50.00 for a total of $75.00 saved so far.  My goal is $200.00.

I have to say that I didn't want to post this as it would look like a fail as to February being a No Spend Month for me.  After all by the time the month is over, I will have overspent my grocery budget by $80.00.  However, I am making it work.  I am finding ways to cut back in other areas to make up for it. 

That's what we do.  We don't give up, we go to plan B and we make things work. 

February 10, 2011

Getting Ready to Paint

Yes, the patching the holes and cracks in our old plaster walls is nearing an end.  Actually it has been kind of fun, especially when I see the results.

I have one more hole and a large crack to fix in the livingroom, but the entry way is ready to be painted.  So, the hard part begins - picking paint colors.  I have thought about it for a long time and my head hurts from thinking about it.  The one thing I do know, that when painting major rooms you need to think about how the color flows from room to room.  Also, I wanted to make sure that the colors compliment what is in my entryway and livingroom. 

I have always liked yellow.  Yellow can be golden and sunny.  So, I will eventually have a sunny yellow golden kitchen someday and I want to carry that to the diningroom.  The only thing that separates the kitchen from the diningroom is a half wall and ledge. 

From the kitchen you can look through the livingroom into the diningroom and into the entryway.  So, everything needs to complement each other.

The entryway has this beautiful stained glass window.

The "rays" in the window alternate yellow and light (lime) green.  So I am going with several shades of green that I will sponge on the walls.  The ceiling will be sponged in complimentary soft yellows.  The green I picked out matches the olive green scheme in our livingroom carpet.

That's our dog's foot in the picture.

The livingroom will be rag painted in different shades of a gold or amber colors that match what is in the rug.  Those colors will compliment the brown furniture and rust curtains.  Also note that the livingroom rug has blue designs in it that matches the blue in the stained glass window. 

The furniture has been moved to the center of the room while I am working on it.

So, we'll see how it all works out.  After all, it is just paint and if I don't get a shade quite right, I can always paint over it. 

February 09, 2011

My Day

Today was a day of this and that activities.  I finished the laundry, worked on the walls in the livingroom and picked up some fresh produce at one store and birdfood and squirrel corn at the other store.

The best part of my day was when I helped at our church with the elementary kids Wednesday program.  I was in charge of the games for these kids.  First we get together in the choir room and sing crazy kids songs, hear a Bible lesson and do a simple craft.  Then came game time.  We did the limbo and another game that consisted of keeping a balloon in the air with one hand.  Simple games and simple activities. The best part is listening to the conversations that take place during the craft time - the giggles of the girls.  One girl is always smiling and giggling - I love her.  Also I love during game time how the kids help each other out. 

Then it was a quick trip to Wal-mart for paint samples and more patching plaster and then back to church for the Senior High Youth group.  I helped with dinner, cleaned up and got home at 8:30 this evening.  Again, with the Senior Highs it is the conversation while they are eating and the laughter, teasing and fun. 

I'm exhausted in one way and refreshed in another way.  Ahhh - being around youth can really lift your spirits.  But for now I'm going to bed.

February 08, 2011

A Really Really, Simple and Good Hot Sandwich Recipe

This recipe was in the newspaper and my mom gave it a try and our family loved it.  That was 40 years ago. 

Here is the original recipe:

1/2 lb. chopped or diced ham
1/2 lb. cubed velveeta cheese
1/3 cup minced onion
3 tablespoons Miracle Whip salad dressing
1 tablespoon Chili Sauce
Hamburger Buns

Put the ham, cheese and onion in a bowl.  Add the Miracle Whip and chili sauce and stir.  Spoon mixture onto hamburger buns and then individually wrap in foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Here are my variations:

Instead of chili sauce I have used catsup or a little (not so spicey) barbecue sauce and stirred it into the Miracle Whip.  I have also reduced the amount of Velveeta to a 2 parts ham and 1 part cheese as my husband prefers it not being so cheesey.  I have also substituted american cheese slices for the Velveeta.  I have substituted cubed turkey for the ham and it has been equally good.

This is one of those recipes in which you can use up leftovers from the holidays along with trying to use up a couple of cheese slices along with some almost stale hamburger buns. 

When these are baked and the ham is hot and the cheese has melted, the flavors of the sauce with both of these is incredibly good.  This is perfect for a hot Saturday lunch with the family.  Any leftovers I put in the fridge and reheat in the microwave.

Guess what is part of my entertainment budget?????

Yes, that's right.  Feeding the squirrels is a form of entertainment to me.  I sit in our den, at my desk and I look out a window and I can watch the squirrels eat.  They are quite entertaining.  I have 2 squirrel feeders around the yard.  Our dog doesn't bother them in the least but when our son's dog, Brody, comes over he chases and tries to catch them.  Unfortunately this winter Brody did catch 2.  One died and one escaped.  I did a lot of screaming and learned to feed the squirrels after Brody goes home.

And let's not forget about the birds.  I have three feeders set up around my yard.  One is also outside the Den window.  I have my desk set up right next to the window so all I have to do is look to my right and I can see the birds feeding.  There is something about seeing a beautiful red cardinal against the white snowy background.

I also have a squirrel feeder and a suet feeder in a tree outside of my kitchen window.  I have watched squirrel "acobatics" while I am doing the dishes.  And then there are the birds who love to eat the suet especially in the wintertime.  They need the extra fat since they spend so much time trying to stay warm.

 It is therapy for me to watch these birds and squirrels feed at the feeders I have set up around our yard.  I enjoy nature and I am constantly on the lookout for new birds. 

Since I account for everything in our budget, I put squirrel and birdfood in the entertainment category.  Of course, my hubby disagrees with me on this one, but he has his own forms of entertainment that are in the budget. 

It costs me about $7.00 for a 30 lb. bag of squirrel corn and I go through that bag about every 10 weeks.  I use about 25 lbs. of birdfood each month which costs me about $20.00 (if there aren't any sales going on).  If I had to I would find other areas to cut back on before I would take this out of the budget.

And last, this is the feeder I set up outside our diningroom window.  This is made from an old lawn ornament.  It is a pitch fork stuck in the ground.  On top of it used to sit a decorative birdhouse that broke and came off.  I took an old pie tin and nailed it to the top to put bird food in.  

February 07, 2011

No Spend Month - First Week & Frugal Ideas

I spent $55.93 on groceries last week while I only had a budget for $40.00.  This is due to my big find on hamburger at only 80 cents a lb.  It was worth it to go over budget even if it was a No Spend Month and I am trying to reduce expenses. 

Today I went to the grocery store to buy several items that were on sale and that I had coupons for.  Here is what I spent today:  After coupons I spent $8.58 for a 25 lb. bag of Tidy Cat Litter for $1.99, 3 boxes of Kleenex for only 38 cents each, 3 bags of New York Brand Texas Toast Croutons for 49 cents each, 3 pkgs. of Farmland Sausage links for 70 cents each and a ½ gallon of 1% Milk for $1.49. 

I spent a total of $64.51 on groceries in the first 7 days of the challenge.  Which means I have $95.41 for the rest of the month on groceries.  I know I can do it and if I hadn't taken advantage of the hamburger sale, I would be right on track.  Even so I have 21 more days in this month and $95.41 is a lot of money for produce and dairy.

BUT I saved about $25 in other areas.  So I am at least $25 towards my goal of saving $200.  I can do it - I know I can.

It all comes down to being focused on the goal.  I spent yesterday pondering my spending and how I am able to stay on track more often than getting off track. 

Number One.  Staying on track and spending less pleases my husband.  Okay perhaps that shouldn't be the Number one reason, but honestly, it is.  He sees how hard I work at staying on a budget and he knows I am working towards the same financial goals as he is.  We are a team.  He earns the money and he loves the way that I respect how long it takes him to earn it and how I am careful not to overspend. 

Number Two.  Staying on track and spending less means more money in savings and more money to debt repayment.  It is very gratifying to see one debt paid off after another.

Number Three.  Staying on track and spending less means that I am learning a skill.  I am learning to live with what I already have and saving up for what I would like to have. 

For two years I have wanted two new kitchen chairs.  The 1940's (original) dinette that I own was purchased at an antique store for $40 about 8 years ago.  One of the chairs broke 18 months ago and I keep trying to save up for new chairs, but that purchase keeps being put on the back burner.  I have learned that having to use a folding chair in place of the broken chair is okay for now.  I will be able to buy new chairs by the end of this year.  BTW - here is a picture of my dinette and here is a picture of the chairs I want to buy. 

Over the past several months I have been able to get name brand laundry soap on sale and with coupon at $1.50 for a 32 load size and $1.99 for a 48 load size jug.  I have continued to make my homemade laundry soap and I have been measuring 1 tablespoon of the name brand soap into the 1/3 measuring cup I use to measure out the homemade laundry soap.  Then I fill it with my homemade version.  I've been doing this for a while to give even more cleaning power to the homemade version while adding a slight fragrance.

Also I have noticed a big difference in how much warmer our house feels in the winter due to putting plastic on the windows.  We use budget billing each month for our electricity and natural gas and while these are going up, our bill hasn't gone up since we took the precautions and put the plastic up.

I'm trying to think of other ways to save money.  Sometimes it's hard to come up with something new.  Last week I purchased 15 lbs. of potatoes for $3.50.  I quit buying tater tots and french fries since I can get more "potato product" out of the raw potatoes.  For a tater tot casserole I don't use a cream soup but prefer to brown the hamburger, drain the fat and rinse the hamburger.  Then I take a pkg. of onion soup mix and add about 2 cups water to the hamburger.  Bring this to a boil and thicken as for gravy.  I put this in the bottom of the casserole and top it with frozen California Mix vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots) and then I would top it with the tater tots.  Not anymore.  Now when I make homemade mashed potatoes I make extra and freeze them.  Yep, I freeze mashed potatoes.  Then when I am making "Tater Tot Casserole" I thaw the potatoes and spread the mashed potatoes on top of the vegetable layer, dot with a little butter and bake in the oven til bubbly and browned.  Yeah, it ends up being more like a Shepherd's Pie, but my family loves it. 

Instead of fries I take the potatoes and dice them, toss with a little olive oil and then sprinkle Italian salad dressing mix or any other mixture of spices such as italian seasoning or chili powder with garlic powder and onion powder, and well, you get the picture.  I bake these or roast these in the oven at about 350 degrees, stirring about every 15 minutes until they are golden, crispy and browned.  

So does anyone else have any other frugal tips?  I'm open to any ideas.

February 06, 2011

No Spend Month Goals

First of all, I am participating in this No Spend Month and will continue this into next month in order to surprise my husband with extra cash by April 1st. Why? We had to pay a $500 deductible in order to get our son’s (actually the car is in me and my husband’s name) repaired after an accident. That amount kind of dwindled our savings and I want to surprise my hubby with extra cash. So, yes, I am keeping a secret from my husband. Again, it is only bad if I am keeping debt a secret from him. I don’t think cutting back on the budget to surprise him with extra cash is a bad.

In our household, my husband pays the bills. Over the years we have traded back and forth and now it is his turn. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know what our finances look like and what bills we have to pay.

Each month we have money budgeted in the categories of household repairs, clothing, entertainment, food, car repairs and etc. If we don’t use what is in those categories, the amount leftover is carried over to the next month. For example, we have not spent any money in the clothing category for months but we keep adding to that category so that when we need to buy a big ticket item such as a suit or coat, the money will be there. It is all put in the same savings account, but it is accounted for separately on an excel spreadsheet.

Most of the spending that I do is in the realm of variable spending such as: food, gasoline, entertainment, eating out, clothing and miscellaneous spending. Miscellaneous spending consists of pet food and supplies and other items needed for our home.

Since variable spending categories is where you can cut back in a budget and save the most, those are the areas that I will work on to save the money for the No Spend Month.

Here are the areas that I expect to get my savings.

Food: My budget will be $30 to $40 per week.

Gasoline: We have been spending $150 to $200 per month depending on what is going on in our schedules. For example, if we have to drive out of town to see my in laws, it will take a tank of gas versus many months when we stay in town. With gasoline going up in price, I will be cutting back in order to keep the amounts the same or at least to the lower end of our budget being $150.

Entertainment and Eating Out: Our entertainment budget includes cablevision, internet and Netflix. Beyond that we budget for a movie (matinee) if there is one we want to see in town. We won’t be doing anything special for entertainment this month as cablevision, internet and Netflix seem to meet our entertainment needs. As for eating out, we won’t this month. We usually eat out once or twice a month.

Miscellaneous Spending: This includes pet food and supplies and anything else such as copy paper and ink for our printer.

Clothing: To my knowledge we do not need anything.  If we do, we have money in savings so I shouldn't have to spend anything extra.  I will of course check out the sales and the consignment or thrift stores first.
Our fixed expenses are mortgage payment, car payments, insurance payments, utilities, debt payments, savings, charity giving, property taxes, phone, cable/internet/Netflix, college fund and 401K. I hope I haven’t left anything out.

The one extra expense that we will have this month is paint. I will be painting our living room and entryway. These are large rooms, but the money is already saved for this household expense.

In looking over this budget I should be able to save $200 for the month of February from our variable spending categories.

February 05, 2011

I'm Back

Just a quick post to let you know that my FIL is doing great.  They did the heart catherization and found he had a 99% blockage in a vessel so they put in a stent.  He is feeling better and is at home now. 

It's amazing that in 45 minutes they did the catherization and put in the stent.  I'm home now and will post later today my goals and budget for the No Spend challenge.

Thanks for your prayers. 

February 03, 2011

No Spend Month and Bargain Shopping

Okay, I am officially (oooohh - now I am an official) changing my $400 challenge to calling it my No Spend Month for February and a $200 challenge for March.  I'll label it somehow.

I am getting ready to leave for Iowa City in about an hour but I knew a lot of you would love what happened to me early this morning.  Our local Hy-Vee grocery store is having a 1 day sale.  They have a 5 lb. package of 80% lean ground beef on sale for $8.95 or $1.80 a lb.  There was a limit of one package.  Also they had Tony's pizza on sale for $1.67 and since I won't be home to cook supper tonight (and school is closed again today), I picked up a pizza for my son to have for supper.  This is a real treat as I don't buy frozen pizzas anymore. 

My son went with me to the store at 7:00 this morning.  We went to the meat counter to pick up the meat when I saw a sign - 5 lb. pkgs. of 73% lean ground beef for $3.99.  Oh my goodness!!!  That's 80 cents a lb.  Granted this is a higher fat content of ground beef that I don't normally buy, but 80 cents a lb. is an absolute steal.  This ground beef is best cooked and browned into crumbles, drained of the fat and then I rinse it in hot water.  I will use it in chili, spaghetti, sloppy joes and any casseroles. 

How much did I buy?  30 lbs.  It had a sell by date of today.  I opened one of the packages when I got home and it is a beautiful red and smells fresh.  So, I will ask my DIL or our son, to measure it out into 1 lb. packages and freeze it for me today.

Now I need to get in the shower and get ready to leave town.  It is a beautiful sun shiny day, but the temp is below zero and the wind chills are minus 20 degrees.  Hence no school - also the country roads are still drifted over and the school buses can't get down the roads.

So, when I return I will post my budget for my No Spend Month - although I blew $24 on meat this morning and I was only planning on spending $9.00 - I feel pumped.  I'm ready to save as much as I can. 

God Bless all of you and have a great day.

February 02, 2011

Blizzard Pictures

Here are some pictures of snowpiles around our townsquare today.  When they plow the snow downtown, they push the snow into the intersections and you have to drive around them - like a roundabout.  This is the highest they have ever been.

The band stand in our townsquare

Just Not Into Spending Money

I should have joined the No Spend Challenge for February as I am really not into spending money right now.  Maybe it's the Paxil that has made me so much more focused and therefore helps me to stay on track.  Don't misunderstand me as I am not advocating taking Paxil to help you with your financial goals. 

In my quest to save $400 in February and March, I have made up a list of entrees of items I have on hand.  I did this in one sitting and I know that there are more that I can come up with over the next week.  Here they are:

1. Chili
2. Chili Mac - leftover chili with macaroni and topped with cheese
3. Sloppy Joes
4. Meatloaf
5. Stir fry with pork or chicken
6. Pigs in a Blanket
7. Hamburger Gravey
8. Chicken or Turkey Casserole
9. Chicken Pasta casserole topped with breadcrumbs
10. Pulled Pork sandwiches
11. Pork slices with teriyaki sauce on rice
12. Honey Orange Chicken
13. Pizza
14. Pasta with meat sauce
15. Apricot Chicken
16. Waffles with sausage
17. Fried Chicken
18. Quiche Lorraine
19. Calico beans with some hamburger and cornbread
20. Tacos
21. Ham with scalloped potatoes
22. Tater Tot Casserole
23. Chicken Dumpling Soup
24. Hamburgers
25. Roast Beef
26. Ham and Bean Soup
27. Beef n Noodles
28. Vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
29. Oven BBQ chicken
30. Fried Rice with chicken
31.  Sesame Chicken

These are simple easy meals to serve with a vegetable and salad.  Best of all since I have the ingredients on hand, I will be saving money on groceries to put towards my goal of saving.

Away from Blogging for a couple Days

Tomorrow I will be travelling to Iowa City where my FIL is undergoing heart catheterization.  With the results obtained from that test, he will probably have angioplasty or stents put in that same day.   I will be with my MIL while he is hospitalized and probably won't be able to post anything on my blog.

If I am able, I may be able to share on my blog via my smart phone.  The only problem is the phone is smarter than I am.  I should be home on Saturday.

To My Blogger Friends

I have over the past few weeks posted and asked for your prayers for Elizabeth at Trenches of Mommyhood and for her son who is being treated for Cancer.  Now I also ask your prayers for the people of Australia - particularly Queensland who are experiencing a vicious Category Five Cyclone - Yasi.  Read more about it from Maureen at Towards Retirement with Debt

February 01, 2011

Hunkering Down for a Blizzard

Well here in our household we are ones of thousands or should I say millions of people who are in the middle of a blizzard right now.  Everytime we go through extreme weather I always wonder about those pioneers of 150 years ago who lived in this area of the country.  I can't imagine first of all travelling in a covered wagon for weeks or months to get somewhere.  Then to have to live in a sod house, or if you're lucky a cabin, and have the wind blow through the walls and deal with the cold or the heat.  Well, I would have never made it.

As I sit and write this post I can hear the wind blowing outside - eerily, cold wind.  The snow is deep and drifting.  Our son took our 11 year old black lab for a walk around the block so the poor dog could get some exercise.  They were both covered in snow when they got back.

For supper tonight it was chili that had simmered on the stove for an hour along with grilled cheese sandwiches.  Perfect meal for an evening such as this. 

Our wind chills are to go to minus 30 degrees on Thursday.  When it gets that cold I am constantly checking the water pipes to make sure they don't freeze.  It has happened twice before and I always get out my hair dryer and turn it on high and point it towards the pipes.  After a few minutes you can hear the ice melting in the pipes and then the water flows freely.

I also do a couple of loads of laundry on those days as in the winter time we have the dryer vent the heat directly into the basement.  By drying a few loads of laundry it helps to warm the basement which also keeps the pipes from freezing.

I keep my laptop and cell phone plugged in just in case the power goes out.  And I have oil lanterns and plenty of batteries for the flash lights.  We don't have a fireplace but I have a plan in case the power does go out and it starts to get cold.  We close the pocket doors so that the diningroom and the kitchen are entirely closed off from the rest of the house.  Then I turn on the gas stove (we can light ours with a match when the electricity goes off), and I start baking and cooking.  The heat from the oven will warm up those two rooms without a problem.  Also the aroma of fresh baked bread makes everyone feel a lot better too.  I never just turn the burners on and let them burn.  I will put a pot of water on to boil or cook something. 

As to the contents of the freezer and the fridge, if anything would start to thaw, we can stick them in plastic bins on the back porch.

School was cancelled today and it has been cancelled for tomorrow.  Many businesses closed early today and many are not going to open until at least noon tomorrow. 

So, it is a hot chocolate and pop corn kind of winter night here in Iowa.  Tomorrow we will start to dig out from what mother nature has left us.