Sunday, May 31, 2009

Featured Blog of the Week

This week my featured blog is Hearts and Hands For Him.
This blog is written by several authors and has the following mission statement:

"Hearts and Hands For Him is about being good stewards for our Lord. It is about being frugal and using wisely, all the blessings and talents the Lord bestows on us, to the best of our ability."

And they state:

"Our goal is to have easy access to frugal ideas all gathered in one central, easy to find location. As we develop the site we will have various topic headings for your easy reference. "

I hope you enjoy this blog!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Hobo Pocketbook


I am really back into my sewing mode again!

Last night I designed a new pattern for a hobo style pocketbook. This bag was just a practice bag. I made the pattern and completed the bag after work last night. It definitely needs some work! The bag isn't deep enough to hold any of my stuff and I think the bottom is too wide. I will be working on getting this pattern right this weekend!

What do you think of the fabric? I wasn't too sure about it at first, but think its kind of cute after the bag was finished. It was fabric that was in my stash which I found at the thrift store a couple of years ago. I really need to use the fabric that I already have, but when I look at it, its just not what I want to make pocketbooks out of! I suppose I should look at the fabric and then decide what to make from it that's suitable for that particular piece of fabric, instead of picking a project first.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Version of a Price Book

For more frugal posts, go to the Life as Mom blog!



I have been working on a price book this week. This is a tried and true way of being sure you are getting the best deal on everything you buy for your family. I first heard of a price book when reading the Tightwad Gazettes back in the nineties. I have also seen this written about on many frugal blogs recently.

It drives me crazy when I see a sale going on and the store says its "a hot deal" and I wonder if its really that good of a price. So I'm trying to come up with my own version of a price book so that I can take advantage of sales when they are really a "sale" and not just the store's version of a hot deal! LOL

I decided to base my list on the layout of my coupon organizer. I've made a page for each category, such as "Paper Products". A more organized person, with more time than I have, would dedicate a page to each item. I figure that if I am going to use a coupon for an item on sale, this would be helpful.

I am also going to insert an index card into the pocket for each category with the best price I have found for basic items, such as toilet paper, soap, etc. So, if I'm in a store and see a sale I can pull out my coupon organizer and check to see if its REALLY a sale and if I have a coupon to go with it.

It helps to write these prices in pencil because you know its bound to change the way prices go up and down in our economy.

This price book will be a work in progress that I am doing in baby steps. To start with I am using recent grocery sales papers and recent receipts from my own purchases to jot down the best prices I see.

Do any of you have a price book? Or do you have a better memory than me and can remember what's a good price? LOL

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Whatcha Working On Wednesday

Its Wednesday already? Thank goodness for a short work week!

Today is Whatcha Working on Wednesday at Leslie's blog, My Country Home.

I turned on my sewing machine last night for the first time in three weeks! I wanted to finish something before going to bed and so I made a clothespin bag.



This bag is in my Etsy Shop.

If you have been reading my blog lately, you will know that I have been spending lots of time outdoors. I have really been enjoying working in the yard and garden this spring. Part of the fun is to produce food, flowers or other plants for free or at a very low cost. Gardening is a great way to be frugal.



These are Mums. On the far right is a tiny Nandina bush that had come up under its mother. I spent Monday cleaning out a flower bed that I had been neglecting and found that there were too many mums scattered throughout. So I carefully dug some up and put them in these recycled pots. I plan to fertilize them and keep them pinched back until about the middle of July. My hope is to have beautiful blooming potted mums this fall. We'll see how they turn out! :o)

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Featured Blog or Site of the Week

I have been doing really well with stocking up my pantry and freezer lately and so this week's featured blog is another great one for giving incentive to "stock up".

The name of the blog is Stocking The Larder written by Meredith. Meredith lives in Canada. Even though some of her posts would only apply to someone living in Canada, she offers so much other great information that I'm sure you would enjoy it very much.

So check out Meredith's blog!

Late Spring

Good morning everyone!

With Memorial Day behind us, I guess Summer's "unofficially" here. My calendar says Summer doesn't start until June 21st..... hmmmm. We can wear our white shoes now. Do any of you still go by that rule?

I had a great three day weekend and REALLY don't want to go to work this morning. Oh well, I am so thankful to have a job and I really don't dislike my job, I just LIKE being home better. :o)

Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

Grandma's little helper!



These are "ditch bank" daylillies. I like the way they peek around this corner every year. The place they are planted in is partly shady so they stretch their necks around the corner of the house to see the sun. I call them ditch bank daylillies because that's where I got them. They grow up and down the highways in rural areas. When the highway workers clean ditches or mow the roadside, they drag the flowers along and spread them everywhere.



The plants in the raised bed are growing by leaps and bounds. In the back is a new project my husband is undertaking called "straw Bale Farming". You soak the straw bales with water for a period of time before planting and that's the stage he is working on right now. I will post more about this later. This is a good project for those who don't have a lot of garden space.



The radishes have grown so fast that we can't eat them all! Good thing we didn't plant too many. Aren't these beautiful? I wish I liked them.... :o)



Well, I'm off to get ready for work! Have a great Monday!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Mason Jar Project

About a month ago I posted about rooting roses using a mason jar. I find it interesting that the website I used for information on this project was called "Grandma's Mason Jar", since I was rooting my grandmother's rosebush. :o) You can read about "Grandma's Mason Jar HERE.

I'm happy to say the rose cuttings are alive and growing!

From this:



To this:



Those are Zinnia plants I planted from seeds growing in the soil around the rose cuttings.

The reason I am very happy about the success of the mason jar project is the fact that these cuttings originated from my grandmother's beloved rosebush. The one I previously had in this spot died due to a fire ant hill being built in the roots and also I think because the bush was very old. The house my grandmother lived in doesn't even exist any more, but luckily my mother still had a rosebush she rooted from Grandma's bush and I took these cuttings from that one. I plan to root even more cuttings to insure that our family always has a specimen of Grandma's rosebush.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blog Award and Featured Blog of the Week



Thanks to Ms. Boo-Bah for this sweet award! I really appreciate it! I think Boo-Bah's blog is lovely too!


Also, I would like to feature a different blog or website each week that I feel has great ideas for homemaking. This week it is THE PRUDENT HOMEMAKER. I love looking through all the information on this site, and I think you will too. It inspires me to get serious about and to keep working at stocking my pantry and freezer.

Each week I will showcase another blog or website that has had an impact on me on the right sidebar, so be on the look out for a new one every week.

Simple Breakfast to Go

I wanted my son to have something hot to eat for breakfast, even though he is leaving early and always in a hurry. So, his breakfast has to be easy and fast to make and easy for him to grab and eat on the way.

So this is what I came up with. A scrambled egg burrito. It only takes a couple of minutes to make and the clean up is minimal.

I use a small non-stick frying pan with just a little oil and two eggs.



I lay a flour tortilla on top of a square of aluminum foil. Then I put the scrambled egg on the tortilla and sprinkle on some cheese.



Fold the tortilla and hold it with a toothpick.



Finish by folding the aluminum foil around the burrito.



Add a cup of orange juice or milk and you've got a decent breakfast for a guy in a hurry! Much better than starting a 12 hour work day on an empty stomach.

I could add things like salsa, onions, peppers, etc., but that would defeat the purpose of making something simple and fast. The non-stick frying pan makes clean up easy and fast too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Some Frugal Gardening Tips

Our first garden produce from the raised bed!



These radishes are a little small, but this is my way of thinning them. I very gently pulled these out leaving the other radishes some room to grow. My hubby loves radishes, so he made a quick snack of these. Radishes grow and mature so quickly, which makes them a great vegetable to grow, for children or adults. They give you "almost" instant gratification.

I have some frugal gardening tips for you today:

1. Save your seeds in the refrigerator. I always save any partially used or unopened packages of seeds in a large ziplock type bag in the refrigerator. They will last for years this way. It is important not to let them lay around outside in the garden in the sun too much, before you get them into storage.

2. Buy plants on clearance. As a small perk of my job, I get to leave 15 or 20 minutes before everybody else to take the mail to the post office. Our post office is located in the same shopping center as Lowes. In fact, I drive right by the garden center. So its easy for me to see what plants are on clearance on a daily basis, if I choose. In this store, the clearance plants are located toward the back of the garden center. Sometimes when I check there are no plants. Sometimes there are some plants, but they look dead. Other times I have bought plants that had seen their better days, but with a little TLC have become some of my best plants. Last week I found perfectly healthy plants marked down to unbelievable prices. 6 packs of bedding annuals were 20 cents!

You can find clearance sections for plants at Walmart, also.

3. When buying plants look for pots that have more than one plant in the pot. Yesterday I bought a small Hosta for $3.00. BUT, there are at least 5 small plants in the pot, which I will divide before planting. Of course, if you are looking to have large plants to start with, you wouldn't want to divide them. I don't mind having small plants, since I realize it takes a while to have large established perennial plants.

I did this with a few pots of variegated money grass (Lirope) many years ago. I bought about 6 plants and divided them before planting. Now I have many healthy, good sized plants and can keep dividing them for more plants.

Happy gardening!

This post is a part of the From Seeds to Harvest series found HERE. and Frugal Fridays at LIFE AS MOM.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Frugal Recipe

Each week I plan to post a frugal recipe or meal that I have made recently.


This week its Jambalaya. I didn't plan to make Jambalaya, it just kind of evolved from a combination of items that I found on sale.




This Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage was marked down at Food Lion to $1.49 and has a sell by date of June 13th. The Tomatoes with Chipotle were on close out and I had a coupon. And I always have rice on hand. My favorite is the Walmart brand, BUT it has to be the long grain, converted one that comes in a 2 pound bag. Its every bit as good as Uncle Ben's Converted rice.





Here's the recipe I used.

JAMBALAYA

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 package of smoked sausage cut into bite size pieces
1/2 a large green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 can of diced tomatoes with chipotle

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the bag or box in a medium to large size sauce pan. While the rice is cooking, saute the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the vegetable oil in a frying pan, until slightly soft. Add the smoked sausage and cook until slightly browned and heated through. Add the tomatoes and heat just until everything is hot. After the rice is finished cooking, add the contents of the frying pan to the rice, as well as the paprika, thyme and the can of tomatoes.

You can adjust all these ingredients to suit your own taste. You could use more or less of all the ingredients. I would love to make this same recipe using chicken or shrimp or best of all, all three meats ... smoked sausage, shrimp and chicken!

This recipe makes a large pot of food and my family loved it. We had plenty for a meal and left overs for a couple of days.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Glimpses of Home

Oh, the joys of staying home all day long on a Saturday! Yesterday, I decided to work in the yard during the morning and save housework for the afternoon. The day flew by and I was still outside at 7:00 P.M.! I only went inside to move laundry from the washer to the dryer and to hang out one load of clothes. I had to run to the clothesline to get the clothes in when a brief rain shower started.

At one point of the day I was greeted at the door by this puppy. I put him in our old dog/goat crate for fear she would get run over. She was so sweet, but thank goodness we found out that she belonged to a neighbor down the road and took her home ASAP!




I spent time in some of these areas of our yard.

The shade garden:



Vinca Vines, Pansies and a wall pot:



Some tomatoes Hubby has growing in pots:



The progress in the raised bed:



Some new plantings:



A new garden flag beside one of my favorite plants, a yellow Sedum:



Two clematis vines growing amazingly fast:



Geraniums, all in a row:



Around the bottom of the mailbox:



Next week is a three day weekend and I have plans for one more area of the yard that needs attention. Hopefully the work week will go by quickly!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Frugal Friday - Amazing On-Line Deals on Prescription Glasses

My new glasses:



I wear contacts 95% of the time, but desperately needed a pair of "back up" glasses. I had an old pair that would do, but accidentally stepped on them last summer. It was crazy not to have a back up pair of glasses since without them I wouldn't be able to drive. What if I lost a contact while at work, or worse, got an eye infection?!!!

I first read about buying glasses online in a Reader's Digest article. My friend brings me her parents' magazines after they finish with them. This article gives the names of several websites that are reputable. Since I had already ordered contacts on line at CoastalContacts. Com, that was the first place I checked. They had a couple pair of glasses on sale for only $6.95, lenses included!!! The shipping was $6.95 so for about $14.00 I could get a pair of glasses. I need bifocals, but my main concern for this was to be able to drive, etc. So I figured I could take a chance on ordering glasses for distance only, online, if I was only spending $14.00.

I also checked on bifocals and progressive lenses at 39dollarglasses.com. The bifocals are $79.00 and the progressives are $89.00.

I decided to order the $6.95 pair from Coastal Contacts for distance only. These I will use for watching tv at night after taking my contacts out and/or for driving if I can't wear my contacts. I also decided to order a $79.00 bifocal pair from 39dollarglasses.com for multipurpose uses.

They both came in about a week and I am very pleased! So pleased in fact that I ordered another pair of $6.95 glasses from Coastal Contacts while they still have this sale going on. I will leave one pair in the glove compartment of the car, one on the bedside table and one for everything else.

This is a huge a savings over buying glasses at an optometrist's office. For example, my friend's husband bought a pair of progressive lenses two weeks ago which cost him about $300.00.

These are my suggestions if you want to try ordering glasses online:

1. If you are hard to fit or have a hard prescription to fill, you might need to use a brick and mortar optometrist. The glasses purchased on line are guaranteed, but it might not be worth the trouble if you wear glasses 100% of the time and need to make sure your glasses are right or need to have them adjusted often.

Buying glasses on line is perfect for me since I don't wear the glasses that much. It makes more sense for me not to spend $300.00 for something I will hardly ever wear.

2. Remember to get your prescription from the eye doctor when you go for a check up. If possible get them to put your PD, aka pupillary distance, on there. This is the measurement between the center of your pupils, measured in millimeters. This is the only thing that wasn't on my prescription. But, never fear! You can measure your own PD. Just use a ruler that has MMs on it and have someone measure yours. My hubby measured mine at 65.

Its not hard to read the prescription and if you have any questions, the websites explain it for you. You could also call and talk to someone who will help you. You could even fax or email the prescription to them

3. It helps if you already have an idea of what style glasses you like or that look good on you. The websites give you different face shapes and suggestions for which style looks best on which face shape. At 39dollarglasses.com, you can pick a face shape and see how each pair of glasses would look on that face. So you need to decide which face shape you have. You could also go to the dollar store and try on different shapes and styles of glasses to see which one you like the best on you, before going to the site to order.

4. Check around before ordering. I think I could have gotten my bifocal pair at an even better price than I did, but was so excited to order them I didn't wait.

5. Don't forget to go through the Ebates.Com site, if you have an account, to save even more! I received a few dollars in my Ebates account by ordering the glasses at 39dollarglasses.com.

Here are the websites recommended in the Reader's Digest article: 39dollarglasses.com, eyebuydirect.com, goggles4u.com and zennioptical.com.

I got the best deal, unbelievable in fact, on distance only glasses at coastalcontacts.com. Also Coastal Contacts includes a few freebies in every package. When I ordered contacts I received a nice pair of sunglasses that I use every day. When I ordered glasses, there was a key chain with a tightening tool (tiny screwdriver) attached, and a nice cleaning cloth.

Both pair of my glasses came in a nice hard eyeglass case.

For more frugal friday posts go to Life as Mom!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some Frugal Ideas for Groceries


As a friend recently reminded me, when we start trying to be frugal, we seem to put a lot of emphasis on food! I think this is because grocery spending is one area we can cut back on easily.

I want to share a few frugal things I have been doing lately to cut our grocery bill.

1. The Discount Bread Store. You might think it wouldn't be worth it to go to the discount bread store, but its all in how convenient it is, what the prices are, and how much bread you buy. There is a very nice Sunbeam Discount Bread Store that I pass on my way to work. It opens at 8:00 A.M. and I pass right by it at 8:15 or so. It takes me 5 minutes at the most to stop in. The good brand whole wheat bread is $1.29 a loaf, compared to almost $3.00 at Food Lion. They also have wonderful hoagie buns, the large sandwich buns and more for 85 cents, compared to almost $3.00 a pack at Food Lion. I check the "sell by" dates very closely and always buy bread with several fresh days left.

2. Sale priced and marked down meats. I never buy meat that isn't on sale and/or marked down. When I find a good deal I stock up and immediately put it in the freezer. One secret I have learned is that finding marked down meat with several days left on the "sell by" date is timing. I buy most of my meat at Food Lion. Food Lion's sales run from Wednesday through Tuesday. So, Tuesday afternoon is a great time to find good deals on meat. The meat department people want to get rid of the meat that was on sale so they can get ready for the next week's sale. Also, Tuesday is a slow day at the grocery store, so more of the meat is unsold at the end of the day. I have found great cuts of meat on sale and then marked down twice. I am accumulating a nice stash of meat in my freezer this way. Its so nice to be able to come up with a good meal at any time because you know there is always plenty of meat in the freezer.

3. When I have plenty of meats in the freezer and my pantry is well stocked, I can stay on a weekly grocery budget easier. Right now I am trying to spend $50.00 a week for a family of 4. If I stock up on meat on Tuesdays, I typically spend about $30.00. That leaves $20.00 for milk, bread (see no. 1!) and for stocking up on other good sale items. I don't do a big stock up on meat every week, so some weeks I can put more of the $50.00 on pantry staples that are on sale, bought with coupons, which helps keep the pantry well stocked. Of course, I could go without going to the grocery store at all a couple of weeks if I need to, since I am keeping the freezer and pantry stocked with items bought on sale and with coupons.

I realize that I can't keep the grocery budget at $50.00 every week, but many times I can, using frugal skills.

Please check back tomorrow for Frugal Friday. I want to share one of the biggest money saving ideas I have come across lately. Oh, and its not related to food!

Have a great Thursday! Its a beautiful sunny morning here in North Carolina and I'm off to attend a work related seminar. I will moderate any comments tonight. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Saturday Chore - Cleaning the Kitchen Floor

After a week of rain, my kitchen floor was in need of being mopped. So, Saturday it was included on the chore list.

But, after I went over it once, it just didn't seem clean. I decided to try one of my favorite store brands that I posted about on Frugal Friday, Great Value Brand All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach.



If you look closely you will see that my kitchen floor has little grooves or texture like lines in it that dirt accumulates in. It builds up slowly over time and after a while, if you aren't careful, you will think the dirt is a part of the color of the floor.

Before:



So I tested the cleaner on one square of the floor. I sprayed a good amount of the cleaner on the square and let it sit for about 30 seconds.



I recently bought a new mop that has a stiff brush on the top. I just flipped the mop over and gave the square a little scrub.



Then I flipped the mop back over and mopped up the dirty water. I was so amazed that the floor had been so dirty without my even realizing it.

After:



The motto of this post is: If you get down on your floor and look really closely you may be surprised at what you will find. Simply looking at it while standing 5 feet away won't tell you if the floor is truly clean.

The great thing about cleaning the floor with my new mop and cleaner is that it was so easy! It didn't even take that much exertion. In times past I have been known to get down on the floor and scrub every inch of it by hand. I don't think my knees would take too kindly that that punishment now!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Glimpses of Home Monday

I hope you had a nice weekend.

This is the table my Hubby set for Sunday dinner. He prepared the watermelon and strawberries and cut the roses.



The miniature rose bush and some Geraniums that sit on the front porch steps.



A pink geranium tucked into a border. This one was on the clearance rack at Lowes for $1.00.



I planted these several years ago and thought they were Lamb's Ears, which is an annual. Now all these years later I finally figured out they are a perennial called Rose Campion.



I watched this Mama cat bring these kittens, one by one, all the way across the yard to the back porch and then proceeded to give them their lunch.



Do you have any glimpses of your home to share today? I'd love to either hear about them or see pictures.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Frugal Friday - More Great Store Brands

I almost always try the store brand of favorite products to see how they stack up to the real thing and here are two really good ones.

Walmart's Great Value brand of ALL PURPOSE CLEANER WITH BLEACH. This bottle costs $1.28. My intent was to pick up the store brand spray cleaner and when I got home I realized this one also had bleach. It is now one of the permanent items on my cleaning product list. That says a lot, since my cleaning product list is very short and contains just a few items that really work for me. You do need to be careful not to let any stray sprays or drops get onto colored fabric, but it works great on everything else.



One of my favorite lotions is Vaseline Intensive Care in any scent, and this Dollar General version with Aloe Vera is just as good. It only cost $1.00 a bottle. They also have other versions of the Vaseline Intensive Care brand.



You can read many other Frugal Friday Posts at Life AS Mom

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Propagating African Violets

These are my African Violets, which sit on this plant stand in front of a door in the kitchen. There are so many trees in the yard that I don't have as much sun coming in the windows as I would like, but they do well here.



This is how I root them for new plants.

The easy way:

Just break off a leaf and stick into some dirt in a pot. Use a pen or pencil to make the hole. Just keep it moist and place it where it gets some indirect sun. I've done this many times over the years with good results. Little baby plants will come up in the pot.



The more detailed way:

Dip the stem of the leaf in rooting hormone, place it the hole in the dirt in the pot and put a plastic bag over it. I've never gone to this much trouble, but would probably give you faster results.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday Morning in our Yard

We had a nice rain last night and everything looks so refreshed:

The square foot garden: String beans, okra, carrots, radishes, sunflowers, zinnias...



An experiment to see how cucumbers will do in a hanging basket.....



Waiting for breakfast.....



One of several inventions to keep the above cats from sleeping on top of my impatiens!



Happy Tuesday to everyone!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake

Fresh strawberries are plentiful right now in our area so I made a pound cake Saturday. You can buy those little angel food cakes sold at the grocery store, but if you want the ultimate strawberry shortcake, you can't beat a homemade pound cake.

I used this recipe from Cherry Hill Cottage, although I substituted some ingredients to keep my grocery bill down. :o) I know the cake would have been even better with the "real" ingredients, but I used imitation vanilla flavoring, store brand salt and store brand all purpose flour which I sifted to a fine texture.

It turned out really good:




Here you can see the characteristic brown cracked crust of an old fashioned pound cake. I made it in my grandmother's tube pan.



My original plan was to make two smaller cakes in loaf pans and then eat one and freeze one. But, I went ahead and made the larger one. We have eaten some and given away slices and still have half the cake. I probably should freeze the remaining half for later, but I'm not sure if that will happen! :o)

Practice first.... Sew once!

I worked on the monogrammed bags I am making for Christmas gifts over the weekend.  I had already been successful with one bag.  The monogra...