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Frugal Accomplishments and Garage Sale Finds For the Second Week of April

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I harvested parsley, rosemary, a bay leaf,  garlic chives, spinach, Meyer lemons, and lettuce from the garden.

I gave two daughters each a haircut.

I unsubscribed from several promotional email lists. I don't have any plans to buy anything from these companies any time soon, and deleting the constant emails (one sent three a week!) takes time that I could be using to do something productive.

I studied French using free online sources.

Peppa Pig Cupcake Cake The Prudent Homemaker

We had a simple and frugal Peppa Pig birthday party for my youngest daughter at home. I made a cupcake cake for her.

Saturday was the day for the semi-annual community garage sale for several communities in my area. I went with my list, looking for items we need and want. There were fewer sales than usual this year, but I still managed to find a few items on my list, including a dress for me ($3), some white onesies for the new baby ($0.25 each), some shorts and pants for my youngest son (7 for $5, plus she threw in a brand-new undershirt and some random diapers and pull-ups in his size), a basket that I'll use for organizing in a closet ($2), two shirts and two pairs of jeans for a daughter ($0.50 each), a lade for my eldest's college box ($0.50), a hand-chopper for the kitchen ($1), 6 ice-cube trays ($1), a skirt for my eldest ($2; I'm saving it to give her as a birthday gift), and some wooden cooking toys ($2) that I used as a gift for my daughter's birthday). 

I also found this vintage loveliness for $6.50; The lacquered tray was $0.50, and the other items were $1 each:

Vintage jewelry The Prudent Homemaker

The weather was extremely windy last week, but the strong winds brought some cooler temperatures. We had the windows open as often as possible to keep the house cool.

Our neighbor must have been cleaning out her freezer; she brought over several random items from her freezer and gave them to us, which we will definitely enjoy.

I watched an episode of "Call the Midwife" for free on Pbs.org.

My husband and I had a date night at home playing a game of Sequence I purchased at a garage sale last year for $2 (we had worn our old one out).


What did you do to save money last week?



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  • Stacey April 16, 2018

    Salad spinners are awesome!

    Brandy, I love your vintage finds. Is that magazine from the 1940s? Beautiful illustrations.

    So, I just want to say I really look forward to everyone's comments each week. My family has been riding the edge financially for awhile and at times it is just exhausting. We did well for a long time, but then a few big medical bills come along and your eleven year old van dies, and suddenly things are difficult. I feel like we've been limping along and now suddenly I have to choose which bills to pay each month. My husband is the eternal optimist, which I appreciate, but I don't always share his confidence that everything will work out. Your posts and comments help me to stay positive and proactive. I am learning that there is always more to do, and that frugality and creativity are powerful tools.

    This week we cooked meals at home. I'm hoping to teach all my kids to cook from scratch because it's a good skill to have. Right now we are working on breakfasts that can be prepared ahead so that no one has to panic in the morning because we've run out of milk or bread. Not a good way to start the day.

    We are using the library a lot more for all of our reading and entertainment, and loving the online reservation system.

    We are trying to start some tomatoes from seed this year, but I am not sure how that is going. Even with a grow mat and lights, they look a bit spindly. We took a seed starting class through the local park district this past February and learned a lot, but it's all so new and hard to process. My seed potatoes came, and I am expecting rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries this week. So fingers crossed and here's hoping the crazy weather settles down soon.

  • Medical bills and a dead car--how frustrating!

    If your bills are hospital bills, call to see if your hospital has any kind of financial assistance. Some do, some don't. Those that do will have you show proof of income and if you qualify, they can reduce your bill dramatically and then make payment arrangements with you. Doctors will sometimes also offer a lower rate once the hospital has approved the reduction. We did this a couple of years ago. Other hospitals we have dealt with only offered 10% off if the amount was paid in full in 30 days, but when my daughter broke her arm two years ago yesterday, the hospital explained their policy to me and it was a huge help in reducing the amount owed.

    I hope you have some powdered milk in your storage so that you can use it for cooking. Muffins are a good item to cook ahead. Waffles and pancakes work that way, too. If you don't have milk and it isn't in the budget right now, you can still make them all with water in place of milk for the liquid.

    Could you use some more garden seeds for this year?

  • Stacey April 17, 2018

    Powdered milk is an excellent idea. I stopped buying it a few years ago because it got so expensive in my area. I've never tried replacing milk with water, but most of the flavor comes from the other ingredients, so that makes sense.

    I wish these things were more apparent to me. My mother worked and I think it was more efficient for her to prepare things herself instead of taking the time to teach me. She also didn't care much for cooking or homemaking although she was a diligent and expert cleaner. Consequently I have been learning as I go, and often miss things that are obvious to others. I had never even heard of meal planning until a few years ago. That would have made such a huge difference to me when my kids were small.

    Also, in the moment, when things are stressful, I think my brain just shuts down sometimes. So thanks everyone, for all of your kind thoughts and useful suggestions. I learn so much here and appreciate hearing everyone's stories and advice each week.

    Brandy, I live in zone 5. Your garden is so amazing to me. It is beautiful and so productive. My lot is mostly wooded and likes to flood. I have been reading about permaculture and trying to figure out how to apply that to my yard. We are renting a 10 x 20 plot in a local organic community garden this year, and at home I will be doing some raised beds and container planting. Have you already done some series on gardening? Your ability to produce so much food is really inspiring.

  • Rhonda A. April 18, 2018

    Stacey, I think I was raised by your mother's clone. My mom worked full time my entire childhood. She wasn't particularly interested in cooking or baking, sewed only if she had to and she never, never did crafts, despite her mother being an excellent knitter. Subsequently, her idea of a meal plan was repeating the same meals over and over every single week, and they were usually "quick meals" or store bought convenience meals like pasta, chicken fingers, fish & fries, etc. However, she did teach me how to make a really good beef stew from scratch, and she tried to teach me how to make meringue for lemon meringue pie (not sure if I could repeat it or not...I really need to perfect that while I still have her tutelage). We sometimes had roast beef for Sunday dinner and she did cook & bake a bit for holidays. I mostly taught myself baking, cooking and canning by just following recipes. I learned how to do crafts/sewing through what I learned in school, some lessons from others and mostly trial & error. Regardless, I am proof that it is possible to learn these skills, if you have a desire to try.

    As for cleaning, well she was really good at keeping house. In fact she was so particular, we never did chores when we were kids as she preferred to just do it herself. I remember once my brother and I requesting to do chores to earn an allowance. She reluctantly agreed, gave us some chores to do, then criticized what we had done and refused to give us the whole amount of our allowance because the job was done poorly. Never did chores again until I was living on my own. I still step back and let my mom do the cleaning around the house. She often complains I don't help, but there is good reason for that. Instead, I prefer to do the cooking and grocery shopping for the family. It just works better that way.

    In regards to powdered milk, I started buying it for my pantry a few years ago. Not sure what the cost difference is compared to regular milk (I pay $24 for a 2.5kg [5.5lb] bag, but have never calculated how much reconstituted milk it makes to compare prices), but I don't really care. If we had an emergency and lost hydro for an extended period of time, regular milk would be impossible to get and we couldn't keep it from spoiling anyways. Powdered milk, however, can be made up and used as needed for cooking with during a power outage. That was my main reason for why I originally bought it. Since then, I have realized how convenient it is to have it in the pantry. I use it ALL THE TIME to cook and bake with, and reserve the regular milk for drinking or use in cereal only. That way I don't have to buy so much milk each week (we're big milk drinkers, too). I'm so in practice with using powdered milk now, if we couldn't afford to buy regular milk suddenly, we would not suffer from lack of calcium in our diet...as long as the powdered milk holds out. So, in my humble opinion, it is definitely worth revisiting the idea of keeping powdered milk in your pantry.

  • Stacey April 24, 2018


    That is too funny. What you shared about your mom sounded so familiar. My mom made 3-4 meals, the same meals, every week. Spaghetti, pot roast, chicken and rice soup, and steak. It was all good, but that was it. She bought a lot of convenience foods and lunch meat. The other nights we either went out to eat, or if my dad was traveling we might have popcorn or scrambled eggs for dinner. My dad hated leftovers so everything extra went down the disposal. Oh my gosh, the memories.

    She did do holidays, but she was often very put out about it. Very dramatic, everyone banned from the kitchen, slamming of doors and banging of pots, colorful language, the whole deal. One year our oven died and she hacked apart the turkey and cooked it in sections in the microwave. Total disaster in front of her mother-in-law. Tragic.

    So I too am always learning by trial and error. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rhonda A. April 16, 2018

    Stacey, I'm sorry you are having such a harsh struggle financially right now. It sounds like you are making some very wise decisions, though. Teaching your children to cook is a great way to connect as a family, can be used as a frugal entertainment for them, and they will learn some very valuable life skills doing it! Also, very wise investments with rhubarb, asparagus and strawberry plants. Those garden additions just keep on giving every single year. I hope you are able to get them well established so your family can benefit from years of healthy, homegrown produce that are quite expensive to buy. Gardening doesn't come easily to me either. I just keep trying the best I can each year. At least it's only a small investment for the seeds.

    This community is a wonderful wealth of knowledge and support. If you ever have a question or just need some support with a particular issue, don't be afraid to post it. There are plenty of us here that would be happy to help in any way we can. Hugs and best wishes from Canada!

  • Cindi April 16, 2018

    I so sympathize with the medical bills and car failure. It sounds like you are doing all you can. I offer hope to you as someone who has come out the other side. Last year was really tough for us -- lots of medical bills. When I did our taxes I was kind of astonished that we made it through on so little income. But we did, and thing are better now, so I hope the same for you!

  • Heidi Louise April 16, 2018

    Stacey: I understand how you can get down, and I am glad you have a husband who helps you be positive! Wish you all the best!
    For the spindly tomatoes, I think tomato plants are supposed to be planted deep, with most of the stem underground as well as the roots and just a few inches at the top showing. So once they get in the ground, they should be fine. Someone else would know more than me if they should be pinched back once when planted as well.

  • Dara April 16, 2018

    You might also try moving the plants much closer to the grow light (mine almost touch my plants). That keeps the plants from having to strain so hard to reach the sunlight - leading to spindly plants!

  • Samantha April 16, 2018

    Stacey, it sounds like you are doing everything you can- and handling it all exceptionally well! I think there are lots of different kinds of optimists, some are maybe just more practical than others! ;)

    For breakfasts, we have done a number of very low cost meals that can be made ahead and frozen then tossed in a microwave or toaster oven (I try and toss in the fridge the night before for an even faster bake): egg muffins with leftover veggies or meats- I really water down the egg to stretch it, oatmeal bakes (budget bytes has these recipes), quiche slices, breakfast scramble with odds and ends, homemade english muffins with butter/jam/fruit/peanut butter, breakfast burritos with potatoes (with or without eggs), homemade yogurt and granola, bagels, etc. I find that if I take the time on Saturday to make two or three large breakfast batches and freeze them, then we are in much better shape for the week if it gets hectic.

    I hope things look up very soon, but you should be so proud of yourself for being so proactive and hardworking! It's easy to get bogged down by it all, but you can do it!

  • Juls Owings April 17, 2018

    Stacey April 16, 2018
    lights should be within a couple inches of plants(I made this mistake).I also repotted them when they got about 6 inches tall, took the bottom leaves off and planted them in pots so only the top leaves were showing. That helped a lot. This is the first year I am growing tomato seeds from my own heirloom tomato plants. Talk to all that provided medical services. I understand the 11 yr of van dying... our 2001 ford is only got a couple months if that before it goes completely down, only drive it if necessary as it's not real safe. The 1998 truck has needed replaced for a couple years, our mechanic has limped it for us while we were in a bankruptcy.

  • Marybeth April 17, 2018

    Waffles, pancakes and muffins can be made without milk or eggs. Look up vegan recipes. They use applesauce instead. I always make double batches and have the kids put them in the toaster for easy breakfasts on school days. Let people know that you are willing to take leftovers. I have gotten free food from so many different organizations, GS, BS, schools, church. They are always happy to give the food away instead of throwing it out.
    If your tomato plants are very thin try putting them into a bigger pot. Put some crushed egg shells in the soil for extra calcium. Lettuce and herbs are very easy to grow and worth it. Lots of bang for your buck. String beans are easy to and produce a lot. I have gotten seeds at Dollar Tree, 4 packs for a dollar. They have all grown fine for me.
    Good luck.

  • Cindy in the South April 17, 2018

    Hi Stacy: I totally understand about huge medical bills and old vehicles. I slice up potatoes and bake them in the oven some mornings for homemade breakfast hash browns. Brandy's soup recipes are good, as are any simple beans and rice soup recipes. Red beans and rice is a typical cajun meal ( I am showing my roots here), but you can use any beans you like. I just add typical cajun spices, or if you do not have that, cayenne pepper by itself kicks up the heat. I have found rice, oatmeal, beans, and cheap vegetables likes potatoes, carrots, onions, go a long way, especially in a water based soup. Hugs.

  • Darcy April 16, 2018

    I always love garage sale season and enjoyed all the bargains you were able to get!
    Frugal Accomplishments at our house:

    My husband refinished a small bookcase that was given to us by a neighbor many years ago. It came out so well it hardly looks like the same piece of furniture.

    My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Instead of going out we bought two nice steaks and put them on the grill. We also had a baked potato, roasted zucchini, rolls, and homemade blackberry cheesecake. Total cost for the meal was $20.00 with leftovers. We couldn't have bought one meal at a restaurant for that amount of money and we were sure to really like the cooking. Instead of wasting the charcoal and wood chips after the steaks were done, we put a whole chicken on the grill that we got for 77 cents per pound. We now have several meals for the week.

    I made tomato soup from some frozen tomatoes that we bought last summer. It was delicious.

    I used two exercise videos that my daughter gave to me.

    We took our lunch to work everyday except one. My company provided lunch one day for the whole office.

    I made laundry soap.

  • Elizabeth M. April 16, 2018

    Your anniversary meal sounds wonderful. What a good idea to keep on grilling while you had charcoal and wood chips going!

  • Jenifer April 16, 2018

    Happy anniversary! That was really smart to make the bird after. High fives!

  • Marybeth April 17, 2018

    Happy Anniversary!

  • Athanasia April 17, 2018

    Darcy, Happy 35th Anniversary! The dinner sounded delicious and much better than eating out.

  • Darcy April 18, 2018

    Thank you all! We enjoyed our meal and the quiet of being alone rather in a noisy restaurant :)

  • Elizabeth April 16, 2018

    1. Found great deals on mushrooms, cheese! and cereal. I also discovered they were clearancing out my favorite coffee creamer for 25% off..so I bought 4 to tide me over until I find them in another store.
    2. Discovered two free homeschooling sites Khan academy and The Good and the beautiful
    3. Gave away almost 100 children's books at our homeschool co-op. They were series books that my daughter had outgrown but did not love enough to keep. This saves me shelf space and brings joy to other children, which is priceless:)
    4. Bought only groceries this week
    5. Paid my car and home insurance annual/semi-annual premiums in one lump payment, which will save me almost $80 this year

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