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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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Roses in Enamel Buckets The Prudent Homemaker

It's been a very busy week here, and on top of everything we've had our foreign exchange student here. I wasn't sure ahead of time how much English he spoke, and so while we help him to learn new words in English, we've also needed to converse quite a bit in French. I've had a lot of French study this week! I especially used Word Reference to look up words for both of us, and I've pinned a good number of French language pins on my Pinterest board. My French comprehension skills have really increased this week; there were only a couple of times I didn't understand, and that was usually because something was said too fast or too quietly.

I enjoyed a couple of video chats with friends in France. It continues to amaze me every time that video calling exists, and I love that it is free!

I cut peonies and roses from the garden.

I harvested lettuce, spinach, snow peas and Swiss chard from the garden.

Several of my children (and our houseguest) enjoyed climbing and rappeling on my nephew's climbing wall. It's pretty amazing that he has a climbing wall in his backyard, and it was great fun for everyone.

I downloaded a free Photoshop app to my phone to use to edit pictures on my phone.

My husband cut his own hair and a son's hair this week.

I turned a pair of torn jeans into jean shorts by cutting them off and hemming them.

I had a number of teens over for dinner. I made a large pot of minestrone soup and some French bread for a frugal meal.

 

What did you do to save money last week?

 

Note: I misplaced my camera battery charger recently, which is why there was no post last week and no additional posts this past week. Now that I can use my camera again and we've worked out a "new normal" with an additional teen in the house, I should (hopefully!) be able to get back to projects and more posting this week! If you want to see more photos, check out my Instagram account, where I have been sharing photos from my phone during the week.

 

 

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Improve Your French For Free

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French The Prudent Homemaker

One of my current goals is to improve my French every day by learning new words and phrases, improving my grammar, and improving my listening comprehension.

This year marks 20 years since I left for France and Switzerland as a missionary. It's been 19 years since I had the opportunity to speak French every day. Consequently, when I got back in touch with some friends from France on Facebook a couple of years ago, I found that I had forgotten a lot of French. I also had a very hard time understanding everything my French friends were saying during video calls.

I started studying French again in earnest two years ago, and I've seen a great leap in what I can understand and what I can say.

There's still so much more for me to learn. For the last month, I've really intensified my French study and made it a priority every day. Sometimes I just get a few minutes here and there, and sometimes I get the chance to spend 15 minutes, but every day I am doing something to improve my language skills.

Here's what I'm currently using to improve my French:

 

Websites:

 

Duolingo

A great free learning site that you can access on your computer and your phone. You can take a test at the beginning to help you start at the right level for you. I love that this site tests you on your spelling (including the correct use of accents), vocabulary, listening comprehension, and speaking ability. I have to admit that I prefer using this on the computer; the phone ap is not quite the same. This is more of a beginning level, but if you're forgotten a lot of a language it will help refresh your memory.

French Crazy

A French learning blog

Talk In French

Another French learning blog

 

YouTube Channels:

New vocabulary and lots of listening to native French speakers makes YouTube fantastic for improving both your spoken French and your comprehension.

 

Comme Une Française

This channel is in English by a native French speaker who shares lots of great expressions and vocabulary that you never learned in French class as well as cultural information. She has a blog as well that links to her videos, but since her information is in video format, I've found it fastest to subscribe directly to her channel. 

 

Learn French With Alexa

These are really basic beginning lessons, perfect if you're just getting started or if you need a refresher. I've been playing these for my children, but I tend to listen to them while they are playing, and they are great reminders.

 

Cyprien

Cyprien is the top YouTuber in France (because he's hilarious!) and has a worldwide following. If you don't understand the words the first time, try watching it again with French subtitles. I've found that helps me catch the words that flew by me.

 

Français Avec Pierre

Pierre's lessons are all in French. He speaks clearly and slowly. I just found his channel recently and I like that he doesn't speak too fast. His channel feels like personal tutoring from someone super nice and patient. His videos clear up grammar errors that are easy to make. His Facebook page has some great tips too!

 

Pinterest:

I've started a French language learning board that you can follow here. I love having new French words come up in my feed all the time.

 

The Library:

Our library doesn't have a lot of French books  (I did not see any literature) but they did have some of the McGraw HillMcGraw Hill series of workbooks that I've enjoyed. Check your local library to see what they offer! Some public library systems even offer the use of Rosetta Stone (an expensive language learning program) for free on their site; check to see if your library has this option.

 

Online Dictionary:

 

Word Reference

This is my go-to online free dictionary. Though I own two French-English dictionaries, I use this site much more often, as I'm often in need of a word when I'm typing a message to friends on Facebook. I have also used it many times when I know the word but don't know whether or not it is masculine or feminine. They have a phone app as well.

 

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I've found that actively striving to improve my language skills every day has been fun and exciting for me. It was never this fun when I studied French in high school (and less difficult than the French literature class I took in college!) Now that I am learning for my own personal enrichment, rather than a grade, I find that I am an enjoying it much more. And of course, the more I learn, the more smoothly those future video calls will go! I imagine I'll have a few more of those this month, for, at this very moment, a friend of mine's son from France is in an airplane on his way to our house to stay for the next month!

I imagine I'll have a few more of those this month, for, at this very moment, a friend of mine's son from France is in an airplane on his way to our house to stay for the next month! I don't think this opportunity would have come about if I had not been striving to improve my French so that I could communicate better with his parents.

 

If you're working on improving your foreign language skills, what sites are a help to you?

 

Tagged in: Lovelies
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Fig Tarts The Prudent Homemaker

Most weeks I save by making do at home and not shopping. This week involved a lot of saving on items I needed and wanted while shopping:

I love the symphony. Starting from the time I was 13, I used to save all of my babysitting money (and most people paid me $2 an hour) to be able to buy season tickets for myself and a parent to purchase season tickets to the symphony every year. I did this for years as a teenager and I loved going. 

My husband and I went to the symphony once--on our first date. It's been over 17 years since I've been. The Las Vegas Philharmonic has been sending out coupons in the local ValPak for individual performances for several months. I looked online, saw what pieces they would be performing, and decided that the one I really wanted to see the most was their last performance for the season in May. I waited until the coupon deal came: 25% off tickets--and I bought two of the least expensive seats they have. I am very excited to get to see the symphony again!

I even have a dress to wear! The week before last, I decided to check out the Dillard's clearance center after three people told me about it. I found a formal dress there (and dresses were on additional markdown that week) and paid $54.06 with tax (the original price was $238!) I'll be able to wear it on other occasions as well--and hopefully to the symphony again next season! (Apparently, the sales were even better at the clearance center this week: on top of the clearance prices, dresses were buy 1 get 2 free! For Las Vegas readers, it's the Dillard's in the Meadows Mall that has been turned into a clearance center. It's one floor only, and they are open Tuesday through Sunday, 12-7 Monday-Saturday and 12-6 on Sunday, and you can get their app to see what additional markdowns they have each week.)

My husband dropped off our clothing donations while out running an errand in the same part of town. We always try to combine errands (even close ones) and by so doing are able to use under 10,000 miles a year (and often under 6,000 a year) on our vehicle.

I started another group of bags to take to thrift store to donate. As the children are outgrowing clothing and I now need a smaller size, I continue to make up bags of clothing and other items to donate. 

I planted three tomato plants that I started from cuttings from another tomato plant. I had broken off the lower branches to plant the plant deeply. I've had them in a cup of water on the kitchen counter for a few weeks and they have rooted. Hopefully they will all take.

I planted seeds in the garden for Armenian cucumbers, red noodle beans, and Hubbard squash.

I cut Swiss chard, lemon verbena, lettuce, green onions, and arugula from the garden. I also pulled radishes and picked snow peas from the garden.

I accepted some free Dutch iris bulbs from someone who was dividing them. I shared Swiss chard and nasturtium seeds with her.

I am making a diligent effort to use up food from the freezer to make room for this year's harvest and some great sales that I can find. As part of this, I made some fig tarts using frozen figs. I've never used the figs this way before and almost everyone in the family liked them this way. I have a number of frozen figs to use up, so I'll try measuring the next few times I make these so I can share a recipe.

I took in a dress that was too big to make it fit me. 

I redeemed Swagbucks for a $25 Sam's Club gift card, that I will use towards our groceries this month.

My boys continued to sell camp cards for Boy Scouts. This is the first year our troop has opted to have boys sell camp cards to earn money for camp. As Boy Scout camp is fairly pricey (around $400 per boy, depending on the camp), it can take a lot of odd jobs to earn the money for camp. (This was a great deal for the buyers: the cards cost $5 and the buyer gets a $5 off coupon for a grocery store, plus many other discounts at other businesses (including a free oil change--user just pays tax and the disposal fee).  Half of the money from each card goes to the boys to pay for their camp. If boys sell a certain number of cards, they can even earn a free week of camp at a local camp and a free day at a water slide park!)

Swinging The Prudent Homemaker

I went garage sale shopping with my parents at the semi-annual community garage sales in my area (there were at least 6 community, i.e. neighborhood, sales in my area and we went to 5 of them). I found several items on my list, including jeans, pants, and shirts for several family members for $1 each. I found a tie for my husband for $0.50. I bought a dress for a daughter for $2. I bought several history and science books for the children for $0.25 and $0.50 each. 

My dad always find it amazing that my mom and I make a garage sale list and actually find items on our list! Eventually, I usually do find items on the list, and this time I found a few items that had been on my list for a while: some wooden children's hangers (several for $1) and some 5-pound hand weights ($1). I found a small glass bowl that matches another I found at a garage sale a couple of years ago ($1).

I bought a couple of mirrors; one was $3, and the other, a long, beveled mirror, was $20. I found a small bulletin board with a fancy frame for $3 and a large picture in a nice frame for $7. As much I liked the framed bulletin board as-is, it was just about the right size for a picture that I needed framed, so my dad took the bulletin board out and added a piece of glass and a mat that he had (one of his scraps, as they closed down their framing business last year) and framed the picture in it for me. 

One of the sales we went to was an estate sale (where we bought several items). The family had 3 large #10 cans of tomato puree out with the other items in the house. We asked if they were selling them and they said we could have the canned tomatoes if we could use them. As these were items on my grocery shopping list this month, I was delighted! They also gave use some other pantry food items that were in the house, including two containers of juice, a box of cake mix, a container of icing, two boxes of pudding mix, 4 bags of pasta/rice mixes, and a bottle of tabasco sauce.

What did you do this past week to save money?

 

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Personalized Bath Towels

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Bath Towels The Prudent Homemaker

Several years ago, it became rather obvious that the standard two-towel towel racks were not going to be enough for our family's needs. We switched the towel racks out to some hooks that my husband found on eBay. We added a piece of molding to the wall first, painted it, and then added the hooks.

I then had a place for each child to hang his or her bath towel.

Of course, it was very easy for each child to say that a towel left on the floor in the bathroom or in their room wasn't their towel, so I decided that personalizing the towels would be the simplest way to remedy that situation.

I replaced the towels several years ago with embroidered cotton names that also serve as hooks for the towels, making it easier to keep the towels on the hooks (and off the floor!). Those towels have since worn out and it's time for new ones.

This time, I chose darker towels from Sam's Club. They have limited color choices there (about 5 options) but the prices are low, which is great!

Bath Towel Labels 1 The Prudent Homemaker

I bought new cotton webbing from Hobby Lobby (using a 40% of coupons) and cut eight pieces. 

I zigzagged the edges of the cotton webbing to keep it from unraveling.

Bath Towel Labels 2 The Prudent Homemaker

I wrote each name on the webbing with a blue marking pen (this washes out with water). I can see it clearly while I'm embroidering.

I embroidered each name by hand using a stem stitch with two strands of embroidery floss using the stem stitch (outline stitch) and chose a different color for each name, to make it even easier for the children to identify their personal towel when they step out of the shower.

I then sewed them to the towels along the center side of each towel, going over the seam a couple of times to make it strong.

Bath Towels 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 

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April's Grocery Shopping Plans

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Strawberries and artichokes The Prudent Homemakerjpg

This month we'll be adding one more teenaged boy to our home, as a dear friend's son from France will be coming to stay. That means I will have 11 to feed, with one being a baby and three being teenagers. My budget this month for food, cleaning supplies, and toiletries is $250.

From the garden, we'll harvest loads of Swiss chard, which will be steamed and served with lemon juice (from our lemons), sauteed with garlic, and put in soups. We'll have salads with lettuce and radishes from the garden, and I'll cut rosemary, parsley, garlic chives, green onions, thyme, and other herbs. I'll harvest turnips, snow peas, artichokes, and lemons.

Strawberry Jam The Prudent Homemaker

Strawberries go on sale this time of year, and I will buy them at $0.99 a pound to make strawberry shortcakes, to go on cheesecakes, to go on crepes, to can strawberry vanilla jam, and to freeze for smoothies and future strawberry shortcakes. I'll look for sales on these wherever they can be found throughout the month.

We have three birthdays to celebrate this month, so I'll make sure to pick up some ice cream too.

I'm also planning to make cheesecake, so I'll look for sales on cream cheese at $1 for an 8 ounce container.

 

Sam's Club:

Tomato sauce (in the #10 can)

Canned tomatoes (in a #10 can)

Mozzarella cheese

Whipping cream

Eggs

Aveeno baby lotion

 

Winco:

Milk

Sour cream

White chocolate chips

Potatoes

Gold N Soft Margarine (in a 3-pound tub)

Cream cheese (I'll look for it at $1  pound  an  8-ounce block or under for the holiday)

 

Vons:

Whole chicken and Leg Quarters ($0.67 a pound)

Colgate toothpaste ($1)

Strawberries ($0.99; limit of 2)

 

Smith's:

Ice cream

Mandarin oranges (on sale as part of the case-lot sale)

Strawberries (no limit)

Milk

 

What are you stocking up on this month?

 

Tagged in: Grocery Shopping
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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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Meyer Lemons and Blossoms The Prudent Homemaker

I picked more lemons from the garden.

I gave the baby a haircut. 

I used Recyclebank points to get a free two-year magazine subscription to Better Homes and Gardens.

Our bank decided to start charging $5 per paper statement. We changed to get online statements, for which they do not charge.

I have been trying on a few different items of clothing each day to see what will fit and what will not. Most everything no longer fits, and so I have been putting it aside to donate. I am keeping some things that are too large to either try taking in or to just keep wearing until I can find something to replace them. Some things still fit, but fit better. Those will stay.

I studied French using free online sources.

I made a decision to not purchase two things that appeared to be needs. I realized I could make do with what I have and save myself a few dollars.

From the garden, I harvested lettuce, arugula, and radishes, which we used in a couple of salads.

My Swiss chard plants are huge and starting to bolt. I offered Swiss chard to several people. I was able to give huge amounts away to a couple of friends, who told me they like to saute it with garlic and also use it in homemade ravioli. I plan on trying cooking some both ways!

I harvested Swiss chard for us and used it in two frittatas, steamed it as a side dish, and in a stir fry. 

I cooked a large batch of black beans in the crockpot and made taco soup one day and bean burritos another day. 

Snow Peas The Prudent Homemaker

I made museum pasta salad using green onions and snow peas from the garden. 

I mended a hole in a sweater. I mended a dress.

Eagle Scout Project The Prudent Homemaker

My son was able to get almost all of the supplies (save for $4 worth) donated for his Eagle Scout project, which happened this past week.

My mom went to a few garage sales and came back with 4 large boxes of books for $15! They are for grades K through 2 from a retired teacher. My girls have been enjoying having several new books to read.

My mom bought a skirt for me at a garage sale for $0.50. The skirt isn't quite my style, but it has shell buttons. These buttons would cost more than that, so I will keep the buttons and use them on a blouse.

My parents were given a large lot of men's shirts, several of which were my husband's size. He chose the ones he liked and we will donate the rest. They are long-sleeved shirts, and I will turn most of them into short-sleeved shirts, as that is what he needs for most of the year in our climate.

After 17 years of not having a cell phone (I had a work one paid for by work company 17 years ago) I switched our home phone for a cell phone. Our home phone had gone up and I wanted to change it before the next month's billing. I went with Metro PCS, which is who my husband uses for his work cell. Their lowest plan is $30 a month for unlimited everything (that includes taxes) and there is no contract (you pay each month and can leave at any time). Since we combined our plans together, they have a discount of $5 per line, so my husband's bill went down $5 to $25 and I now have a cell phone for $25--just under what my home phone had gone up to--plus I have the ability to call long distance (which was becoming needful as many people I need to call for church have moved in and kept their out-of-state cell numbers). They had a phone deal where you can get a free phone (though you still have to pay sales tax on the price of the phone).  

I downloaded several free apps, and I'm on Instagram now; you can find me under "theprudenthomemaker".

 

What did you do to save money this past week?

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