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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

August Foliage The Prudent Homemaker

The few tiny flowers to be had in the garden right now: Siam Basil flowers, Peppermint flowers, and Honeysuckle


This post contains affiliate links.

We sent three of our children to public school this past week for the first time, which was not at all frugal. Besides the hundreds in school supplies that are required (different from what we normally use and already had on hand, including classroom supplies of things like tissues and dry erase markers), I had to pay for their elective classes ($25 each), buy a backpack and three lunch boxes, buy new watches, buy earbuds with a microphone, and purchase shoes (they are not allowed to wear sandals at school).  There are yearbook fees($45 each), a health class fee ($15), media fees ($20 each), and field trips to pay for as well.

This certainly changes my financial needs and my schedule, and will definitely require some changes in planning lunch ahead of time.

As this was a totally last-minute decision, I wasn't prepared for lunches, and I was so busy with extra school stuff that there wasn't time to go to the store. I still managed to put together lunches using what I had on hand.

I cut a large Armenian cucumber from the garden and picked some cherry tomatoes from the garden as well. To go with them,  I made some ranch dressing dip with plain Greek yogurt, onion powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley. This was enough for several days for those going to school as well as those of us who stay home (these cucumbers are huge). I sent almonds, dried fruit, and leftovers in lunches. I made cookies and macaroni and cheese for lunches as well. To make it easier, I made a large amount of homemade macaroni and cheese for part of our lunch at home one day, making enough for leftovers for lunches for everyone (including those at school) the next day.

When it gets colder, I'll send soups, chili, and rice and beans, and leftovers, which are our normal lunches. I purchased two of these Thermos containers with folding spoons for that time; I already had some but this will make enough for those leaving along with my husband and oldest daughter, who already take leftovers in them for lunch. (My eldest daughter takes college classes online but goes with my husband to his office to work on them most days).

I also bought some of these reusable ice packs to keep lunches cold. Since I didn't have any this week, we just sent ice in bags with the cold items.

I am researching bento boxes that will fit in their lunch boxes, which will mean we won't need to use any plastic bags.

I picked pears from the garden. They ripen off the tree, so I'll be able to use these in lunches next week.

My daughter had shared a bite of homemade bread at lunch one day at school and the girl she shared it with asked her if her mom owned a bakery! She brought another piece the next day to share with the girl. I thought this was a bit funny because it was a loaf that didn't rise properly, as I pulled it from the oven a bit too soon on the first morning they went to school.

We made arrangements for the children to take the bus. It took a few days (and was tricky with children at two different schools starting at the same time) before they were approved to ride the bus. Having them take the bus will make it so that we can continue to be a one-car family, reduce wear and tear on the car, and not add to our gas needs.

I read three Hamish Macbeth e-books from the library.

My husband cut my hair.

One of my daughters is taking a beginning orchestra class. My mom had a violin that she had purchased for a framing example in her old store. My daughter is using that violin, so we don't have to pay to rent one. 

I was able to purchase the backpack and lunch boxes on sale.

I took advantage of a spend $50 on household goods get $15 off sale to purchase the required tissues and paper towels for school, combining that with some borax and bleach for the house to reach the required $50 total (We will use some of the paper towels as well to drain fried potatoes).

The watches we purchased were inexpensive ones from Walmart ($7.99 and $15.99).

I collected leek seeds from the garden.

Hamish Three Months The Prudent Homemaker

What did you do to save money this past week?

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  • Ellie's friend from Canada August 20, 2018

    Hi Margie,

    Your reorganization sounds really excellent! I am impressed!

    When a friend (the guilty party who left boxes in the middle of the hall) dropped off with some fresh veggies, I decided to use the last meat I had in my freezer. It is a small portion of brisket of beef. I decided to use the new little gadget (fortunately not thrown away) to julienne the zucchini and some carrots and to make twice boiled beef. I had this dish 40 years ago in Salzburg (Tafelspitz) and loved it. So I saved an onion, browned the meat, and
    put water into the Dutch oven. I used to have 3 Dutch ovens but after the rampage of my kitchen (aka the friends who spread chaos in my life) I now only have 1 Dutch oven. I just had to laugh because I went to put the lid on the beef when I discovered that the remaining lid doesn't fit. In other words, the person who gave my pots away gave the wrong lids away. I then went to find my potato peelers (I had 2, down to zero).

    In the meantime, I am watering like crazy. I am sure everything is desperate for water. I am really happy because I finally figured out what fitting I was missing for the back tap so am watering like crazy in the backyard, too. We had drought last summer and the spruce trees were really stressed. I will probably end up spending $200 on water but it is worth it to save the 60 year old trees. While in the backyard, I picked a couple of the gorgeous-looking apple crabs. They are soft in the middle (not crisp) but are beautifully red. It is a bumper crop so I will try to pick the ones on the lower branches tomorrow and invite my window washer over for the higher up apples on Wednesday when we are not supposed to have smoke.

    The smoke is still moderate today but it's a big improvement. I still have asthma when I go outside but get back inside quickly.
    I am happy to get the hose going again as the grass is dying. My cyclamen (outside, perennials) are blooming, about a month early.

  • Shirley August 20, 2018

    What a wonderful newsy post complete with that adorable picture of Hamish!
    I'm another one wondering about the seemingly sudden decision to send some of the children to public school, especially since you got two of them all the way through. You have such complete curriculum listed that I wonder how public school will compare. Bet you'll still have to continue with any handwriting exercises.
    Two of my grandchildren were homeschooled and switched over at seventh grade and freshman. They loved it because of all the friends they made and the younger one was nearly crying when the first summer vacation rolled around. I just happened to be taking care of them when the younger one needed to learn advanced multiplication. I still remember the thrill I got from his reaction when I opened the door to such a magical trick.
    Hope everything goes smoothly for you all with this big change.

  • Emma August 20, 2018

    I saw this bento box just yesterday https://fishfordeals.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/rubbermaid-lunchblox-sandwich-kit/
    for $5.xx it includes 4 containers and a reusable ice pack!

  • Becky August 20, 2018

    I, also, am going to give my two pennies worth about the school system.
    Sending all of the items asked for is often hard financially when you have more than one child in school, BUT if you don't send the items it falls to the teacher to buy (in our school) or for your child to "borrow" a pencil, paper, whatever he/she needs from another child.
    My grandson sharpens his pencils down to tiny stubs and some children still ask to borrow a pencil from him. He lends gladly because he knows some of these children come to school with nothing they need.
    I am all about being prudent, but let us remember to help those poor children that have little to nothing at school. It isn't their fault they don't have the basics.
    School is not inexpensive.
    Our school system is broken. The teachers and administrators do the best they can (I think) with what they have. More parents and grandparents (like me) should step up and help when they can.
    I have no saving stories this week as my second grandchild started school today.
    Gaby started school last week.
    Zayne started this morning.
    It feels like it is going to be a long school year. *laughing*
    Brandy, bless your heart, sending your babies to school is chaos...pure and simple.
    That little one of yours looks like the rest of your babies and is just gorgeous.
    Thank you for all you do.

  • The first grade class requires the items for the class, not the student, so pencils and crayons are given out for the class. I don't want suplies to come from the teacher's pocket, so I sent things, but it is weird to not have them be responsible for their own pencils every day.

  • Becky Pratt August 20, 2018

    Some of our items are for the class also, but we send about 50 pencils for each child because we know the classroom needs them. My daughter did have problems one year because she bought high-end plastic folders for Zayne and the teacher put them in the pile for the classroom.
    I think teaching is not for the faint of heart. Like you, I don't want the teachers to use their own money to buy for the kids.
    I do wish that classrooms were more about learning responsibility for our own things. *sad chuckle* That seems to have fallen by the wayside.
    There are so many people that can't afford (through hard times or bad decisions) proper things for their children at school. What the answer it...I don't know.
    Wishing you a wonderful week.
    It must seem strange not having those babies in your house.

  • Isabella August 20, 2018

    It's amazing how inexpensively school supplies can be if one looks ahead and keeps an eye on the sales. Places like Staples, Office Supply and Walgreens have fantastic sales of things for pennies on the dollar if you watch the ads, beginning about mid July. They will run rock bottom sale prices on 4-6 items each week. (crayons, glue sticks, spiral notebooks etc.) My granddaughter attends a private school, and I like to gift her teachers with a big bag of things I find in the summer. Seriously, the prices are amazing. Brandy, look for these sales again after Christmas and before school begins for the second semester.

  • I usually buy items at the back to school sales, but I don't buy tissues, cleaning wipes, etc. I didn't need more scissors for home but had to have some for the classroom (I am surprised that those need to be bought every year and they are not reused each year). Same with a specific pencil box; she can't just take the one she uses at home. I had some things, like Crayola crayons, bought on a previous back to school sale, and glue sticks (but the school wanted 20!) I didn't have binders or filler paper as my children do all of their work at home in composition books, as they prefer them. I bought enough filler paper for the year, I think, as most of their work is done on the Chromebooks that the school provides.

  • Susan August 22, 2018

    I always had a problem keeping scissors in my classroom. I would begin each year with plenty; add a few more at Christmas break and still have only a few at the end of school.

  • Susan August 25, 2018

    Another tip — for next year. Office supply stores like Staples will often waive their item limits for teachers (limit 5 or whatever). Since you are still a homeschool teacher, you count and can get that discount for far more items. For example they might have a limit of 5 folders at .10 for regular people but 30 for teachers. Grab the extra and save them or spread the love!

  • Teacher discounts are only given with a teacher id, so it is near impossible to get them as a homeschool teacher.

  • Ellie August 26, 2018

    Hi Brandy,

    I worked at a Joanne Store for a decade. The company policy at the time was to give homeschool teachers the teacher discount. You may want to ask the manager and have a copy what your file with the state with you. If they still offer the teacher discount, you may get it too.

  • Isabella August 20, 2018

    I liked it much better as an elementary teacher when my students were required to be responsible for their own personal supplies. (I am now retired.) Each student (my own four children also) had a small plastic or cardboard supply box that held their pencils, crayons, protractor, eraser etc. I think this teaches children to keep track of their items and take care of them. I imagine if the supplies are gathered to use for the whole class, there must be parents who do not do their share and bring what is requested! And yes, today I would not like to see the teachers reach in their own pockets to make up the difference.

  • LynnDinKY August 22, 2018

    I remember doing this when I was in school. It was such a thrill to have my own box with my own supplies in them. I was wishing the other day for those type of cardboard boxes instead of plastic. And the smell... I still love that smell.

  • Megan B August 21, 2018

    I think the theory is that if everyone has the same item (pencils for example), then no one will be singled out for no being able to afford them at all, not having fancy ones, etc. I worked at our local K-2nd school for the last three years and it is so sad what these little ones come with. We have a very high percentage of low-income families in our district, and the teachers do a ton out of pocket as well. I was there as an aide and was constantly bringing in things that I purchased to help the classroom. Thank you for being one of the families to help provide supplies even when it is a financial hardship. The real problem here lies with the system’s failure to help our schools, staff and students.

    I’m in shock that they require electives and also charge for them. I had never heard of that and it’s quite an eye opener! I hope your kiddos love their public school experience!

  • Laura August 20, 2018

    Have you tried applying for free or reduced school lunch? With your income and family size
    you would probably qualify.

  • The elementary school gives free breakfast and lunch to every student, but the breakfast is only 2 hours before lunch. We are choosing to eat breakfast at home as a family and send lunches; the child in elementary doesn't like to eat much, and this way I can be sure that she eats something healthy. It is good to see her choosing some healthy things and talking to me about how much she will eat so that I don't send too much. She is a picky eater, but by sending her lunch, seeing what she likes, and encouraging her to make good choices, she wil get the nutrients she needs.

    I just read the nutrition guides for the meals at the schools today. They are about 1500 calories for lunch for the junior high and 1000 for elementary! The salt and fat content is also very high. I am okay with them getting lunch at school sometimes, but I am happy to keep sending them with lunch. They'll get the same things they are used to having at home. My only difference is spending is he intial lunch boxes, cold packs, a couple of extra Thermos containers, and whatever bento boxes I choose. After that, things will be the same.

  • Robert August 21, 2018

    Apply for free lunch even if the children never eat it. Later if they have a need for a reduced price for a supply or a field trip the first thing the district does is look if the child is on free or reduced lunch.

  • Athanasia August 21, 2018

    All my children preferred to bring lunches also when they were in the high school. I think it is much healthier even though we were eligible for reduced prices on the lunch with 5 children.

  • Sheila August 20, 2018

    Praying for you guys as you make this transition. All change (both good and bad) is stressful - no matter what the reason and no matter how confident you feel about your decision. So I am praying for your peace and that everyone has a good school year.

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