Frugal Happenings – Week of 02/23-03/01/14

Wow!  I can’t believe that we’ve already gone through 2 months of the new year!  And it’s almost spring!  Next week (March 9th) is Daylight Savings Time!  As much as I detest losing that hour of sleep, I always get excited because that means the official start of spring is right around the corner.  That means hanging laundry outside to try & gardening time!

Sunday:  Day of rest for us.  I did end up going to the grocery store that morning (we attend a home church on Saturday evenings), and I ended up picking up some fried chicken while I was out.  Not frugal, but I could feel the beginnings of a migraine coming on, so I knew that I probably would not feel like cooking (and, I’m so very glad that I did pick it up because I definitely did not feel like cooking).

Monday: An extremely busy day!  I did get up and we had a homemade breakfast of homemade pancakes, bacon, eggs, & fresh fruits!  I made a pretty good-sized lunch of creamy chicken & rice casserole, except I ended up using some precooked turkey from my freezer instead of chicken.  I also added some fresh baby bella mushrooms.  It was very good!  For supper, we had plenty of leftovers, so I didn’t cook another big meal.

Our box blade arrived while I was out running a few errands & taking Katie to math class, so now our driveway is in much better shape!  I’m hoping when I come home today, I won’t slip & slide around anymore!

Brian also started plowing the garden.  I’ll be so glad when this is done & I can start planting!  I need to get a few seeds going indoors now so that I can get a jump start on my growing season!

Our two roosters also got into a scuffle yesterday & the older one did not fair too well.  After cleaning out our smaller coop, he is now in isolation for a few days.  I’m praying he makes it.

We also went ahead and cleaned out from under the roost of the main coop.  All that we removed was taken to the garden area & spread out.  It will be plowed & tilled into the soil for some great fertilizer!  Most of it is old enough it won’t hurt anything, but what is still pretty fresh will help with killing grass/weeds!

Tuesday:  Not a whole lot of frugal happenings to report for Tuesday.

Wednesday:  Not really a whole lot today, either.  Wednesdays are pretty crazy with our homeschool & Awana schedule, so I don’t usually get a whole lot done.

Thursday:  Two of my kiddos are going to spend a couple of days with their grandparents, which means that Brian & I will had some time to ourselves. (We didn’t get a whole lot done around the house, but we did spend time together. )

Friday: Did get a little shopping done & spent some time with our oldest daughter before she went to work.

Saturday: We attended a memorial service for a sweet family that had just moved to the area that lost 2 little ones in a tragic accident.  Then we went out to eat with some of our dear friends.  Then, a movie date for Brian & I!

Last week was not particularly frugal, but Brian & I did get time together & were able to plan a bit for the garden & talk about some financial goals that we have for the year.  Now, onto a new week!

Here are a few of the goals that I have for this week:

*Can some quarts of beans:  pinto, black, & kidney.

*Make & can beef stock

*Reorganize 3 of the cabinets in the kitchen & begin working on reorganizing my pantry

*Continue planning bulk food order for this month

*All meals from home (Except for lunch on Friday when we will be out doing our big monthly shopping trip.)

*Keep heat down as much as possible (another cold snap is in store for this week)

*Keep all unnecessary lights & power strips turned off when not in use.

How much do you really save on school lunches vs. making your own?

I hear this conversation (aka argument) at the beginning of every school year. How can it be cheaper to send lunch with your kids every day than to buy school lunches, especially when sending fresh fruits & veggies? My answer? It’s easy! Buy on sale, make it your self, and portion control! Do NOT buy prepackaged items! Have you looked at the sodium and sugar levels (not to mention the preservatives) in most of the prepackaged “lunch” items? It’s outrageous! And, if you have a child with ADD like we do, we try to limit the amount of sugars and Red Dye #40 that we give our children. We really see a difference in her demeanor when we do this. She can focus better and get her work done better.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Instead of chips, send pretzels – a bag of pretzel sticks costs me $1.18 and lasts me for about 1-1/2 weeks.
  • Buy fresh fruits & veggies in season as much as possible and give them choices, just don’t give them too many or they will be overwhelmed.
  • Write up a menu and place it where they can see it easily. Let them choose what they would like to take the night before. This makes already rushed mornings easier to deal with because you already know what they want. Also, prep as much as you can the night before. Shaves off a few more minutes of your already crazy morning.
  • Make food fun! Make cut outs in the sandwiches if they’ll eat it better that way. Here’s a tip: Cut the bread before adding the “filling”. If taking things ham & cheese, cut those and then place on the sandwich. You can put the extras on your sandwich at lunch or on a salad. The extra bread can be cut up and made into croutons or turned into bread crumbs.
  • Make roll-ups using tortilla shells and their favorite sandwich ingredients. It’s a nice change from the usual. You can also add a thin layer of cream cheese if using meats and cheeses. It gives it nice flavor and keeps the filling where it belongs.
  • Make homemade cookies instead of buying them and, instead of baking all the dough, freeze half of it in the form of balls so that when you need more cookies, you just pull out the amount needed, place on a cookie sheet, and bake. It only adds an extra minute or two when baking.
  • Instead of baggies, use some small Gladware (or equivalent) containers and reuse them. This saves us about $6.00/month (1 husband and 3 kids) or $72/year. May not sound like much, but it does make a difference.
  • Send leftovers! Soups are really good for this! Get a good metal thermos for this. It’s worth the extra money needed up front, but pays for itself very quickly and it can be used over and over and over again. Here’s a tip. Fill the thermos with boiling water and place lid back on. In the mean time, heat food to extremely hot/boiling. About 5 minutes before they are ready to leave, pour out the water and fill with boiling food items into thermos and replace lid. The food will still be warm at lunch.
  • Instead of prepackaged juice pouches or sodas, invest in a stainless steel thermos and send 100% juice, water, tea, etc. It’s reusable and will quickly pay for itself. Plus, you’re not sending drinks full of artificial flavors and sweeteners.

Here’s a great list of items that you can send that usually go over very well with all ages:

  • cheese (buy blocks and cut it up yourself – it’s cheaper)
  • raw veggies with dip (if they like that)
  • small salad with romaine lettuce
  • fresh fruits (canned will work, just buy lite syrup)
  • air-popped popcorn – very nice change from chips
  • baked tortilla chips and salsa
  • homemade soups, especially chicken noodle during cold/flu season
  • nuts are a good side
  • applesauce
  • homemade pizza roll ups
  • homemade “Lunchable” using crackers, ham, & cheese, or drizzle thin french bread slices with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, season with oregano and toast and send with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni slices.
  • pita bread sandwiches/pizzas are a nice change
  • homemade trail mix
  • yogurt with fruit and granola

Last but not least, I thought I would give you an example of what my kids took this week and how much it cost/saved me. Our school lunches are $1.75 at the elementary and $2.00 at the middle and high school. Each day varies depending on their choices, but here’s what my kids took for lunch one day this week:

Melia:

  • 3 pizza roll ups – $0.36
  • fresh strawberries – $0.45
  • Banana – $0.20
  • Pretzels – $0.05
  • 2 choc. chip cookies – $0.34
  • water – $0

Total: $1.40 Savings: $0.60

Katie:

  • 3 ham & cheese roll ups – $0.29
  • pretzels – $0.05
  • carrot sticks – $0.05
  • 2 peanut butter cookies – $0.14
  • Sweet Tea $0.01

Total: $0.54 Savings: $1.46

Michael:

  • 3 ham & cheese roll ups – $0.29
  • pretzels – $0.05
  • banana – $0.20
  • 2 choc. chip cookies – $.34
  • Apple Juice – $.20

Total: – $1.08 Savings: $0.67

Grand Total: $3.02

Total Savings: $2.73 or 47%

That’s a savings of approximately $10.92/month or $109.20/school year – give or take depending on sales, appetites, and what it costs to make the items.

This doesn’t include what my husband took, but if he were to eat out every day, it would cost us around $30-$50/week depending on where he went. By taking his lunch, we save anywhere from $24-$44/week or $96-$176/month or $1152-$2112/year! That’s a lot of money!

So, in the end sending a sack lunch with your kids to school DOES save money! And it’s not as hard as you think it is! Just a little time and planning ahead are all you need!

For more great frugal tips, check out Frugal Friday.

~Steph’s Frugal Tips – 07/31/09~

I’m always talking about my love for frugality and finding ways to save money, so I thought I might start sharing a few random tips that I’ve learned through the years each week. Of course, I wouldn’t know half as much as I do without Frugal Families. I hope these tips will help someone else as much as they have me through the years.

Tip #1:

Double duty – if you can make something pull double duty, do it. Such as, if you make mashed potatoes for dinner but have some left over, make potato cakes.

When all of your coffee grounds are gone, reuse the container to store something else in such as cookies, pretzels, chocolate baking chips, corn meal, flour, etc. The new plastic containers work great in your pantry or in your freezer. You’ve already paid for the container so why not use it instead of sending it to the landfill.

Tip #2:

You know how when you get done with a jar or peanut butter there’s still quite a bit around the sides and bottom? Scrape it out! Take your scraper and get every last bit you can. There’s usually enough for at least 1, if not 2, more sandwiches in there. Same with mayo containers, jam/jelly, etc. Again, you’ve already paid for it so why not get your money’s worth.

Tip #3:

Think that tube of toothpaste is really empty, or there’s not much lotion left in the bottle that won’t pump any more? Think again. Cut open that tube of toothpaste and you’ll have a few more uses out of it- you’re only supposed to use a pea-size amount anyway. As for the lotion, cut open the bottle and scrape it out. I usually have at least about 1/4 of a bottle each time and do this. Put the lotion into a smaller container that you can dip your fingers into to get the desired amount. Lotions are not cheap – definitely use it all up when you can!

Tip #4:

Let’s talk laundry and dish detergent. Did you know that you can use half (or less) of the recommended amounts and still get the same results? The amounts recommended on the bottles can actually cause quite a bit of build up over time in our appliances which is where a lot of the repair bills come from.

Got really dingy clothes, don’t add extra detergent or OxyClean, add Borax (you can usually find it in your laundry isle at the grocery store). It works just as well (if not better), and costs a whole lot less!

Tip #5:

While we’re on the subject of laundry, make sure that you always wash a full load, and wash in cold water. You don’t need hot water. Even your whites can be washed in warm water. If you have super dingy clothes, you can put them on a soak cycle or let the washer fill up and agitate, but stop it before it gets to the rinse cycle and let it stand for about 15 to 20 minutes, then reset it to go back through the wash cycle again.

Also, make sure to check your articles of clothing for stains before putting them in the dryer. Your dryer will set stains in and make it very hard to get them out. (We’ll talk about dryer usage another day).

This post is linked to Frugal Friday. There’s lots more frugal tips there so go on over and check it out!

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

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This is not a food recipe, but I wanted to share it anyway. Hope you’re not too disappointed.
 
If you have not tried using homemade laundry detergent, you need to! Not only does it save you lots of money, but it smells good (without all the added perfumes) and it cleans well! I started using homemade detergent on January 1, 2009, and I’m not about to go back. It’s easy to make and even easier to use. Give it a try! I can pretty much guarantee you that you’ll never go back to buying store bought detergent again!
Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap
  • 1 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1 clean 5 gallon bucket
  1. Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
  2. Fill a five-gallon bucket half full of HOT tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
  3. Stir well (You can stir it best with a paint stirrer drill attachment. It does an excellent job of mixing everything up.) and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (It will gel.)

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Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per two gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil. (I have not tried this yet because I love the smell of the detergent itself.)

Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons. Top-load machine: 5/8 cup per load (approximately 180 loads). Front-load machine: ¼ cup per load (approx. 640 loads).
**If you cannot find Fels-Naptha bar soap, you could use Ivory, Sunlight, or Zote bars. Don’t use heavily perfumed soaps. I really prefer to use Fels-Naphta (did not like Ivory) and I bought mine (a full case) online here, but you can also buy it buy the bar here. Washing soda and Borax can normally be found in the laundry or cleaning aisle. Just remember that you want WASHING Soda not Baking Soda. I could not find washing soda locally but later found a place to buy it in the future, but I did order that online as well with free shipping!**
Recipe cost works out as follows (prices will vary):
  • 1 bar Fels-Naphtha = $1.37/bar
  • 1 cup washing soda = $6.49 or $0.93/ 1 cup needed per batch (about 7 = 1 cup portions/box)
  • 1/2 cup Borax = $3.66 or $0.19/half cup needed per batch (about 19 = 1/2 cup portions/box)

Total: $2.49/10 GALLONS of detergent (I’ve only used about 1/3 of my 5 gallon bucket in 6 months!!) .

That’s approx. 640 loads for front load (1/4 cup/load) or approx. 180 loads for top load (5/8 cup/load.

That equals out for $0.004/load for front load or $0.0138/load for top load.  I used to use Gain detergent and was paying about $15 for the largest container (cheapest I could find it). This would last me about 6 weeks. I do roughly 10 loads of laundry per week for my family of 5.

Gain Detergent/year: Approx. $135/year or $0.25/load

Homemade detergent/year: $2.49/year or $0.004/load

Savings: $132.51/year or $0.246/load

I have a front load, so this is a HUGE savings for me! Now, instead of adding Clorox 2 or Clorox to really our dirty clothes (anyone with kids knows that there can be quite a few of those) I’ll add about 1/4 extra Borax or Washing Soda directly to the load. This really helps get the really ground in dirt out of the clothes.

I pretreat clothes by pouring a tiny amount of the detergent on the stain itself, rubbing it in with my finger, and letting it set overnight. You can also treat stains by dampening them and rubbing them with Fels-Naptha soap.

If you have hard water, you can also vary the amounts of the Borax and Washing Soda by adding more to the batch of detergent. You can play with these amounts to suite your needs.

I hope you’ll give homemade detergent a try. It’s well worth it! Don’t forget to check out The Grocery Cart Challenge for more great recipes this week! And please remember to check out Life As Mom for more great frugal tips!