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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


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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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  • Laura August 20, 2018

    Me too. I have nothing but admiration for you Brandy! Here in Australia, we do not have all this carry-on about school supplies. Yes there are lists, but they are not nearly so extensive or prescriptive. You ladies should all lead a revolt against it :)

  • Amy August 20, 2018

    Brandy, I totally agree with the above comments. You have all my admiration. You are an amazing person, mother, and wife. I myself find August/September so stressful, financially and otherwise, for our family. I am in awe of how you find solutions for the most challenging situations. I just love your blog; it inspires me weekly. For the record, I am a liberal Catholic working mother of two who lives in the Northeast; I am perhaps very different from you in some ways, but I share your unwavering commitment to family and to making life beautiful on a budget. I think you rock!!! And I’ll be thinking extra hard about you and your family as you make this transition, wishing you all the best.

  • Patricia Koernig August 21, 2018

    Agree Amy, on all counts. And yes, Thank you Brandi.

  • Marisa Stone August 29, 2018

    Amy, I completely agree and love your comment.

  • Laurie in AZ August 20, 2018

    Your baby is beautiful, Brandy! And I hope the kids adjust well to being in public school.

    My accomplishments this week:

    • Used free tea and toiletries, washed ziplocks and used ½ dryer sheets and ran only full loads in the washer and dishwasher during off peak times.
    • Ate dinner in 5 times. Had roasted chicken with roasted potatoes; homemade turkey noodle soup; beef stir fry with some leftover roast beef I had frozen; pork chops with mushroom gravy and rice leftover from stir fry night and mashed potatoes that were in the freezer; and steak, baked potato and zucchini.
    • Brought our lunches to work every day except for 1, when Hubby had to get to work quickly. He used a coupon for a free entrée at Rubio’s that I won during the library’s summer reading program.
    • Worked 11 hours contract work.
    • Had a tea party with my daughter and niece. I used up some sweets I had in the freezer. I don’t eat sweets very often, so save what I get for these types of occasions. Also made the menu based on what I had in the freezer. We had chicken salad w/ grapes finger sandwiches and sliced turkey and cucumber finger sandwiches, blueberry scones, date nut mini muffins, fresh peaches and blueberry soup. I set the table with my best china and crystal and this simple food became a feast.
    • My boss took our group out to lunch one day.
    • I won a $10 gift certificate and $6 playing trivia.
    • Got a free snack bar from the Friday freebie, plus a free loaf of bread and a free package of sliced cheese from coupons the grocery store sent to me.
    • Saved onion and carrot peels and celery ends in the freezer for stock.
    • We are having a dinner party next week. I tried out a recipe that I want to make for that. 40 Clove Garlic Chicken. It is elegant, but very low in cost as the main ingredients are just chicken quarters, celery, onion and garlic cloves. It was delicious! I got the recipe here: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3764-chicken-with-40-cloves-of-garlic Paid extra on the mortgage and knocked out 2 more months from the end. My CPA niece put together an amortization chart for us so every time we pay extra we can see how many months less we will have to pay at the end. It is very motivating!

    Have a wonderful week, everyone!

  • Mary August 21, 2018

    We also are using an amortization chart - we just paid a large amount to our principal of our mortgage and hope to continue to be able to.

  • Elizabeth August 23, 2018

    We paid our mortgage off in three years after seeing an amortization chart of how much interest we would be paying over 30 years! Granted we had a small mortgage to start with ($65,000) but it really inspired us to buckle down and throw all of our overtime and bonus money on the mortgage. Not having a mortgage was a huge blessing last year because my husband was unemployed/underemployed for 8 months.

  • Terry August 20, 2018

    Eating as much as we can from the garden. Shopping only good deals at the store on stock up items. I've also been dehydrating grapes to make raisins. All meals made at home. Using zucchini, homemade raisins and some apples from our tree to make fruit breads. Bacon purchased on sale and tomatoes from our garden made lots of blts. Shared veggies from the garden and took a lot of zucchini to the food bank. Made sure we used up all leftovers or fed them to the chickens for no food waste. Hubby used some leftover siding panels from my parents garage to construct a new roof for our chicken coop. Hung all laundry outside to dry. Bought pork shoulder roast on sale for 69 cents a pound. Boned it out and ground the meat, adding leftover bacon grease and spices to make sausage.

  • Ellie's friend from Canada August 20, 2018

    What a huge amount of work to get lunches organized for everyone! What you sent with them sounds so delicious! Years ago, I had the best soup. It was a hot cucumber soup. I think it went something like this:

    Sweat and saute an onion (one or more) in a frying pan;
    add it to chicken stock;
    add some shredded chicken;
    add some grated potatoes;
    just before it is finished, add cucumber.
    add a bit of thickener like corn starch.
    Add seasoning.

    Sorry I don't
    have exact quantities. I first tried it in a restaurant and they gave me the basic ingredients. Other things, like mushrooms, could be added. The soup I had had small chunks of cucumber (not grated). It was delicious. I don't know how well it would travel in thermoses and think it would be better for a dinner soup but one could always try it to see how well it travels.

  • Amy S August 20, 2018

    Wow! That was a huge change for you with kids in public school!! And the expenses are difficult but I admire how well you handled everything. Also love the pictures that are posted.

    *We went on a quick family vacation last week to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. We go every year and take our trailer. I brought all our food. We had Dutch Oven Chicken Enchiladas, Dutch Oven Mountain Man Breakfast, Hamburgers, pancakes & sausage, egg salad & tuna salad sandwiches. All the food/snacks were purchased on sale. But the majority was already in my food storage and freezer.

    *My husband and kids like to go tubing on the river. The place we stayed wanted to charge us $60 dollars for 1/2 day. My husband shopped around and was able to find a place that charge $5/hour for the tube/per person. It also included the shuttle run. They went for 2 hours.

    *My youngest started school the day after we got back. I used leftovers from the trip to make her lunch - tuna salad sandwiches, grapes, pretzels and cut up veggies from our veggie tray. I had purchased her school uniform very early in the summer to avoid having to pay higher prices later in the summer when things have disappeared quite quickly from the stores at the lower prices. One thing I did pay for were some binders that would help keep her organized better. I paid $16 for both. She has 5 classes each day in junior high on a A/B schedule. We tried combining everything into one trapper keeper but it was too heavy for her to carry and wasn't organized for what she needed. I have to help this child not lose things and this system is proving to be much better for her to keep track of papers and homework.

    *Made all meals at home except for our date night. We used a gift card for that night out. We had a enchilada casserole made from leftover chicken and tortillas that weren't used up on our trip, steaks, rice & watermelon (that wasn't finished on our trip). My kids and I ate the other leftovers for lunch through the week.

    *Gave our dogs baths in our laundry sink.

    *Returned items that were no longer needed or didn't fit and put the money in our account.

    *Continue to pick things from the garden.

    *Took banana bread from the freezer to gift to a friend who had surgery. Wrote her a note from my own stash of cards.

    *Our nights are finally starting to cool off. Turn the A/C off at night and run the fans with the windows open. It's wonderful. Now if we could just get all the smoke out of the air.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful and frugal week. Thank you for the inspiration and ideas.

  • Laura Anne August 20, 2018

    Our oldest is going into 7th grade in public school and I will be homeschooling our 5 and 3 year Olds for the first time this fall. I am not getting a ciriculum. I'm a little nervous about this, I want to focus on learning about each state and base our word learning, etc off the state, state animal, state flower or tree for science.

    I remember hearing about a history program that was mostly reading aloud to the kids out of a big book, does anyone know what that is?

    Brandy, is this the first time you have sent your kids to public school or have you tried it before? School time is always a big change, our children are looking forward to it. Hopefully that joy of learning continues!

  • dawnelle August 20, 2018

    I think you might be referring to "Story of the World" for history.

  • First time.

  • Marney August 28, 2018

    There are a few homeschooling programs that are based on a read aloud philosophy. I've used 'Sonlight' ( can use library books instead buying. They have a great catalogue! ) and 'Ambleside Online ( free). There are others as well. Try searching Charlotte Mason homeschool for more ideas about reading 'living' books instead of, or in addition to text books. Best wishes :).


  • Stephanie M August 20, 2018

    For lunchboxes: you can also purchase or sew reusable snack and sandwich bags, and use small Mason jars :)
    The frugal accomplishment that is on my mind right now is working on handmade holiday gifts already. I am making soap, canning jam, knitting socks, and cross stitching. All things that I enjoy and I have many of the supplies on hand.

  • AmyD August 20, 2018

    Many public schools do not allow glass containers in lunch boxes. Just check with your school first.

  • Jenifer August 20, 2018

    Look at that face - so full of curiosity of his wonderful life ahead! The bread sharing comment made me chuckle as I have had similar situations.

    This week, I asked if I could stack coupons. The owner said that was the first time he heard of such a request and accepted. I'm glad I did as it saved a significant 10% off the total.

    We celebrated the last of the celebrations for my husbands birthday (due to schedules, and activities it was easiest to break up this noteworthy birthday). I made a simple lunch of Chicken Shawarma, fresh corn, watermelon and brownies for dessert. Everyone left well fed and with leftovers.

    I have been enjoying beans and rice tacos for lunch.
    Since leaving my job I have been stepping up online selling hustle and am thankful I have been able to cover a months worth of bills with that alone. My previous employer had held onto my paycheck for a few weeks - causing me to worry but remembering to take deep breaths.

    Due to the all the rain, my garden is rotting or dying off. So, I will purchase canning tomatoes at the end of this week to get soups and sauce made - for $8, I will get a pantry supply to hold us until next summer.

    Have a wonderful week everyone!

  • It was so funny, too, because my son asked the next day what was wrong with the bread! I busted up! They know what it is supposed to be like, and a little doughy in the middle is not normal!

  • Tammy August 21, 2018

    I like your bread story Brandy.

  • Jenni@DitchingOurDebt August 20, 2018

    You can feel free to not answer this - I know that education is a very private choice. As a fellow homeschooler who has considered public school, though, I am curious about the path that led to this decision. We are a one-car family too and our particular school district is not great, which is why I have avoided it so far. But I also see advantages in it . . . it's just so hard to decide.

    I am sure that school supplies are expensive! Whenever I buy a few things each year for our own family it seems that families shopping there are so stressed - probably because of the long lists they have!

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