Saturday, May 22, 2010

When is busy bad if you're being/doing good?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

I have been looking for ways to cut down on my obligations and I've decided that I'm doomed. The doomed feeling came today when someone approached me (in the middle of the Bountiful Baskets delivery which I run) about being the precinct leader for our area of town. I laughed at her! I really had no right to laugh at her but I did it anyway. I've also recently been approached about being on the Planning and Zoning Commission for our town. And on the board of directors for our local library.

I have come to the conclusion that when you are semi-capable and don't pass the buck people remember that. And then when they see something that needs doing they call you.

As I've tried to come up with ways to cut down a bit I keep having this sneaking feeling that no matter what I do there will always be some worthy cause that presents itself in front of me. And it's nearly impossible to say no when I see that it REALLY needs doing.

But I have come up with one thing that will make a difference. That thing is to be super organized in my shopping trips to the grocery stores. Lately I've been spending more time than necessary doing this so this past week I challenged myself. My goal is to be in and out of a store in 15 minutes. I live in a very friendly place where you see lots of people you know at the store. That equals lots of time exercising the gift of the gab and not being home with my children. So to get around this I have decided to apply the "early bird gets the worm" theory. If I hit the stores early and only get what's on the list I can usually be in and out in the 15 minute time window.

Another thing I can do to slow my life down is to actually do something while I spend time with my husband and children in the evening. I know that sounds like it makes no sense. I like to crochet, knit, sew and embroider and rarely take the time to do those things. I have lots of supplies to work with just waiting for me to enjoy them but I seem to convince myself that I don't have time. Well, I decided to apply an idea I read about in a wonderful home management book titled, "Managers of Their Homes" by Teri Maxwell. She suggests that you actually schedule time for your productive hobbies. I've looked at my life at every possible angle and I've learned that there isn't really a time slot that I can reliably schedule this in during the day but I do have time at night that my hands are free. I'm not saying that I'm going to have the "go-go-go!" attitude regarding my hobbies but I've purposely put a project or two next to where I sit so that I actually remember to do something I really enjoy. These projects are very relaxing to me and productive at the same time. And they are a very frugal form of entertainment! Win-Win!

So, I've come to the conclusion that busy is not bad if you're being/doing good.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Change the World" with your spare change

I just found something that I couldn't keep quiet about.

I have been donating some of my free stuff from my Walgreens trips to the local food bank here and there.

Now I am really going to strive to do this weekly.

I found a wonderful little idea at a site called

Did you know that the average home generates about $5.00 in change each week? The ladies over at Saving Addiction have a plan for you to use that spare change to help others. You set aside that money specifically to purchase items to donate. They encourage you to make this a weekly practice and see the difference that you can make with your own eyes. They donate monthly but I like to do it weekly.

I have been very encouraged by what I've been able to give lately. It's a wonderful thing and it's a very tangible way to give a little more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dust off that dehydrator and dry those bananas

I recently had a huge amount of quickly ripening bananas and as I went to toss them in the freezer for fruit shakes I noticed that I probably couldn't fit one more banana in there if I tried.

As I closed the freezer door I stopped for a moment and the thought to just throw them out actually crossed my mind. Shame on me!

Then I remembered my dehydrator!

Phew! I almost did a major unfrugal thing! The dehydrator had been gathering dust and so I went and rescued it from it's sorry state. A quick rinse and it was ready to go.

Have you ever eaten dried bananas? The so called "banana chips" you find in the store are simply terrible. YUCK! But bananas dried at home are simply DIVINE! Give it a try and you will be pleasantly surprised at the night and day difference.

It's super simple. Here's how :

Cut your very ripe bananas in half and then cut each half lengthwise. Lay each piece on your tray and then dehydrate at a low temperature (I do mine at 95 degrees). Mine usually take about 30 hours. When they are finished they will not be rock hard but should not be the least bit squishy. If you eat one it will be delightfully chewy and super sweet. The true banana flavor isn't lost when you dehydrate them this way. In fact the flavor will be intensified. And, dare I say it, they are such a treat you might be willing to skip the cookie someone offers you.

I have a friend who runs her dehydrator most days and she has managed to build up a good supply of all kinds of things. Her reasoning is that there is no sense in paying premium prices for dehydrated fruits and veggies when with about 15 minutes of work she can have 12 trays going. I also like another part of her logic. Her dehydrated food takes up a fraction of the space to store. And she's not waiting for the world to fall apart to use what she's dried. She uses dehydrated foods at least 5 days a week. Veggies rehydrate beautifully in soups and stews. The fruit is a quick and healthy snack for her children and all their friends. The list goes on.

So get out that dehydrator and reduce the amount of food that might be wasted.

Happy dehydrating!

Go check out Jamie Cooks It Up!

Every once in a while I come across a site and immediately grab their button and post it over here.

Jamie Cooks It Up is one of those spots.

All of you who know me know that I LOVE FOOD. And when I come across a site that has great ideas that I immediately want to try I just have to do a little shouting about it. I clicked through to her site from some where else and was so totally inspired by the picture of the cake she made for her daughter's birthday/baptism that I'm thinking of pulling out my decorating tips this very minute! It was simply beautiful! And when I saw the tutorial on how she did it I almost couldn't believe it.

So go check out her site and start producing beautiful birthday cakes for you and yours at a fraction of the cost of buying them.

I love frugal fun things!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Keeping up with your coupons

I took a little break from couponing and I've now returned to it. And while I was taking a break I was careful to at least file my inserts by date. If I have the time to collate and staple the inserts on Sunday afternoon it helps with cutting later as I need them.

So...your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to get a box with a few hanging file folders. Put in a stapler, some large paper clips, a pair of scissors, and a fat tip black marker. When you receive your coupons in the Sunday paper (preferably multiple copies) take two seconds and write the insert initials SS (for Smart Source) or RP (for Red Plum) on the front of the insert and the month and date (for example 3/28). If you don't have time for the next step then file at this point. Use the large paper clips to hold it all neatly together. If you have about 5-10 minutes more lay out the inserts and collate each page. As you collate look at the pages and staple what you think you MIGHT use. Put it all back together and file it. You then only have to cut once instead of multiple times for each "like" coupon. If you don't want to cut at this point then simple file the inserts. Use a coupon site like to see what the deals are for each week. Then you simply pull your inserts and cut only what you will use that week.

It's a simple start that will save hundreds of dollars each month and several thousand dollars each year.

How can I make this kind of promise?

I do it each and every week!

And you can too!

And it's REALLY fun to save that kind of money!

A cheap haircut is NOT worth it!

OH MY!!!

I recently went to a new stylist for a haircut. My dh routinely has his hair cut by this woman but WOW she did a bad job on me! UUUGGGHHHHHH!!!

Lesson #1: Always trust your gut instinct regarding your hair.
Lesson #2 Always remember Lesson #1.

I don't believe that a good haircut has to be costly but if you have fine hair like me NEVER go to a quick cut for a cheap price place. They simply aren't willing to spend the time with fine hair. Fine hair shows everything. Good, bad and everything in between.

Enough said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The blessing of The Pantry Challenge

I have been meaning to post this for a while but haven't had time.

In January I loosely followed The Pantry Challenge that was listed over at and I didn't find out about it until after it started but I am pleased with the results. The challenge reminded me to use up the leftovers and to rotate some of my storage.

My grand total for groceries/household needs for January was $208.42. I was $8.42 over my goal. I didn't try all that hard and I still cut my grocery budget in half. Not bad for a few minutes of extra planning.

A REALLY Fun Thing!

This morning I checked the site and was reminded about the Free Grand Slam offer.

I learned about this a little more than a week ago and had put it on the calendar. Today from 6am to 2 pm Denny's is offering a FREE Grand Slam to everyone who walks through their doors. That's a fabulous deal if you ask me! When dh got up I reminded him and we decided to take the kids and have fun with it. One of our children LOVES Denny's. We made a point to not say too much until we were ready to walk out the door. I love surprising her like this. She's the type of kid that gets very excited over stuff like this.

When we got there we found a full parking lot and a little bit of a wait but it was reasonable. The staff was working super quick and it was pretty impressive. Plus we came away with full tummies and pretty decent coupons for the future. A home run in my book!

This has been a good week for free things. Yesterday I received a fun surprise. I had signed up for a free package coupon for the Oreo Golden Double Stuf cookies. I knew the coupon was coming and I was expecting one coupon. They sent me 2! So I used one and gave one to a friend.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Blessing of Hand-Me-Downs

I love it when someone calls me and says, "Hey, I was wondering. I'm cleaning out the closets and we've outgrown a bunch of clothes. What size is your child?" I have been the recipient of some pretty great stuff! One of my children has very narrow heels. Finding shoes that fit is an all day search. We go from store to store and often go home empty handed. A few years ago we got connected with a family that has a child about a year older with the same challenge. Voila! Prayers answered! We still shop for shoes but quite often after all we can do we'll get that magic phone call that some shoes have been outgrown. What has been soooooo surprising to me is that quite often the shoes still have tags on them! The family that passes the shoes on has some doting grandparents and this particular child is in no short supply. So much so that some things never even get worn before they are passed on.

I have never felt that clothing my children had to cost a lot of money. Each of my children gets a few brand new things each year. Mostly from grandparents. But I have never felt that my children were not well dressed when they are wearing the, "pass-a-longs". When we receive something it is usually in really good shape. I have gotten in to the habit of going over each item carefully. I'm pretty picky. There are a few guidelines that have helped keep the standard of quality high. The first thing I ask when I look at something is, "How is the color? Does it look tired?" The second thing I ask is, "Are there obvious stains?" Then follow the questions about buttons and zippers and holes. By following these guidelines my children are clean, neat, and relatively in style.

When it's time to pass things on to someone else I look over each item and ask the same questions. I want to be sure I am giving someone a quality item. If I wouldn't want to see my child dressed in it then I don't pass it on. Over the last few days I have been purging out the too small clothing. And I was truly amazed at something. My child was passed a cute little coat that has worn so well that now we're passing it along again. It was made by London Fog and the person who originally purchased the coat paid a pretty penny for it. It has gone through 2 kids that I know of and I'm sure at least 1 that I don't know (the original wearer). The color is still bright. The trim is in good shape. The fabric shows almost no sign of wear. I didn't know a child that needed that particular size so I passed it on to our local thrift store. I'm sure that little coat will be a great find for a cash strapped parent. And maybe they will feel a bit of encouragement that they were able to find a good quality item for a fabulous frugal price.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Pantry Challenge

For a good part of January I have been following The Pantry Challenge over at the site. She's been doing a cross site challenge with Crystal over at The challenge had some pretty broad guidelines and allowed you to tailor it to your family. I had a great time coming up with some great pantry meals. My grocery bill was cut drastically. I was able to rotate some things that needed to be eaten and my family was pretty much none the wiser;-)!

Next month they are doing a Freezer Meals Challenge and I'm excited to start putting some pre-made things away for the busy days that are my life. I'm going to be posting a few of my tried and true freezer recipes. I have a wonderful recipe for biscuits from my Amish cookbook. I love having these ready in the freezer because they're way better than Pillsbury and have no preservatives. They cook from pre-cut and frozen to perfect and delicious in just 15 minutes. I also have a fabulous recipe for Red Enchilada Sauce that is simply wonderful.

If there is one thing I love to's COOK!

Hurray for February!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Debt Busting

Over the years we have accumulated some debt. I think most people fall in to the debt trap with out even realizing it. It's taken some time to start seeing this clearly and I am now turning the page.

I see it and now I am taking the necessary steps to eliminate it. Our income fluctuates and is now evening out a little. I just recently finished reading Dave Ramsey's book, "The Total Money Makeover". I thumbed through it a few years back but didn't get serious with it. Why? Because our income was not predictable. I figured that in order to make it work we would need a regular income. If I had examined it more closely I would have learned that he had a proven way to deal with our situation of unpredictability. Oh well. Live and learn.

Over the last few years I have learned some great ways to be frugal and happy. Now I'm going to apply those things while doing a Total Money Makeover. This is exciting! The thought of (as Dave says) "living like nobody else so that later you can live like nobody else" is encouraging to me. We don't have credit card debt but we have some lingering medical bills that need attention. Before thoroughly reading Dave's book I felt that these debts would have to wait. Now I see that I can really work on them right now. Well, after Baby Step #1 is completed. Right now I am looking for ways to build an emergency fund. I see the wisdom in it. Many people live with a steady salaried type paycheck and it's a different thing altogether to deal in the realm that we do.

I was reminded of Dave Ramsey's book over at the moneysavingmom site. She told the story of how they have saved 100% down for a house. I was really inspired by what she said. She talked about how she had been taught when she was young to work carefully with money. At the beginning of 2009 they had 33% of their goal. At the end of 2009 they had reached their goal of 100%! I was blown away to say the least! Hurray for them!

So, as I embark on this Total Money Makeover journey I will post about my progress.

The thought of being debt free seems far away but after reading Dave's book and seeing that other real people have gotten rid of their debt it gives me courage that I can do this.

I paid off a small debt a few days ago and it felt great!

Onward and upward!

Cultivating the permanent ability of being useful and generous

Several years ago I came across a wonderful quote and for a long time it was posted on my fridge. It talked about how when an individual practices frugality and self restraint,they make themselves permanently able to be useful and generous. It was by Mrs. Child. When I find it I will post the exact quote.

I was moved on a deep level by this quote. It started working within me. It came to me at time when we had very little income. I began thinking how I could improve my family's well being by putting this idea in to action. I started thinking about how I could help those around me. I used to pay attention to the price of things but this quote changed my perspective on the amount of money I had available. I was struggling with what I call "poverty thinking". I was spending a little too much time around people who were very focused on what they didn't have. I began spending time around people who had a better focus. Then I started actively searching for ways to reduce the amount of money I spent but increase the amount that I brought home. And the next step was to then build up a storage of things my family needed but for less. After that came the opportunity to help a family I knew. It was a very private transaction. They needed help and I could help. Not with money but with food. I still didn't have money but I had food. It was a wonderful experience to help a friend in that way. And since that time I have been able "to be useful and generous" more than a few times.

The choice to be frugal can be viewed in two ways. Some people think that being frugal is a drudgery that must simply be endured because income is low. They believe that it must be acknowledged in every conversation lest the person they are talking to might forget that they are lacking in money. I choose to believe that being frugal is a great way for me to exercise creativity in the running of my home. My husband is a very creative individual. His creative abilities provide the income for our home. He's paid the price to get to where he is today. He's honed the talent God gave him. He has worked for many years to be at the level he is today.

Frugality can be honed in the same way. With each passing day I am honing my abilities to use well the income that my husband provides. And I've learned something along the way. THIS IS FUN!!! AND I'M GETTING GOOD AT IT!

I hope those who read my blog will find encouragement in their frugal journey. I HOPE YOU WILL FIND THE FUN!!!