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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments


What a busy week! 

I am finding that my new schedule means school all day with my children who are at home, and then just as we are done, I am helping with homework all afternoon until late into the night (10:45!) The baby nurses at 11, 2, 3, and 4 since school started (before that it was 11, 2, and 5), and I have to be up at 4:45 to make sure my two oldest get out the door by 5:20 a.m. for their 6 a.m. class, so I am still not getting much sleep at all and I am awake from 4 a.m. (and often 3 a.m.) on. Finding time to make meals from scratch for 10 people is a challenge, let alone doing laundry and cleaning. I usually start making dinner at 4:00 to eat at 6:30 p.m., and now I am trying to help with homework at that same time and supervise before-dinner chores as well. I had hoped Saturdays would be at least easier, but my children still have a lot of homework.  Consequently, accomplishing all that needs to be done is extremely challenging. I am striving continuously to be more efficient with my time; I'd certainly like us to all get back to getting to bed on time!

To that end, I have been using my solar oven to cook several times this past week. 

While my husband held the baby on Saturday, I cut up an old burgundy sheet of my mom's to make new toddler-sized bibs for my 2-year-old. I used one of my old, worn-out bibs as a pattern. I had previously made them from the pillowcases from the same set and other old pillowcases that she had given to me. I cut out five bibs from a queen-sized fitted sheet, which I hope to sew up this week. I will use buttons from my button jar to close the bibs.

I cooked a quadruple batch of banana bread into mini-muffins to use at breakfast and in lunches this week.

Despite my time being very limited lately, I have had the chance to do one thing for me, which is to read e-books while I am nursing the baby. I started reading a new series of e-books from the library that a reader just recommended to me called The Darling Dahlias. It's a mystery series set in the 1930's that includes gardening, cooking, making do during the depression, and of course, 30's clothing and car descriptions. (It's like this series was made for me!) Recipes are included at the end of each story as well as interesting information about the time. I used to read news and blogs while nursing, but changing to reading stories in e-book form has been really wonderful for me. It's also been easier; this baby tends to kick and squirm while nursing, making it hard to read the computer at my desk, lest he bonk his head or feet on my desk. I can put my phone down on my bed and read it while I sit on my bed to nurse him or put it on my ottoman while I sit on a chair in the living room. I nursed babies 5-8 while often working on my website, but I haven't been able to with this baby, so I am happy to be reading something still.

(A note to those who asked: my older children are already helping, I am making doubles of things (which means cooking for 20), but that is something I already did, and there is not much more that can go; the house has been let go quite a bit but schoolwork cannot be ignored. My husband is helping my children with homework and so am I. They just have a lot of it and the curriculum is different than what they are used to. I like the assignments that I am seeing come home from their teachers, but they are challenging!)

I download a free e-book on growing dahlias. They're a challenge to grow in our climate, as they are prone to being sunburnt, but I grew a few earlier this year (now all fried in the sun, they are attempting to grow back from the tubers) more successfully than past years, as they are in a place with afternoon sun.

I ordered some dresses for my daughters using a 50% off coupon code for the entire order and also got free shipping. My second and third daughters wear the same size, and I really needed more clothing in that size, so now they have a couple of casual dresses in a knit, in a solid color with short sleeves that are also knee-length. Finding dresses that met those specifications this year was no easy feat, as the styles are very different. I found them as uniform dresses from Land's End, and the sales code made the price reasonable. As a bonus, they have pockets, which thrills the girls to no end! I only wish they came in a few more colors. My girls have been loving jeans for a few years (and in that size, my eldest daughter wore jeans all the time) but since Winter has switched to wearing beautiful dresses every day, they all want to wear dresses more often, and as a dress-lover, I couldn't be more thrilled. Since my time has been so limited, I knew I needed to buy something rather than make it right now, so these were perfect. I went through Ebates first to get cash back on the purchase.

I purchased some Aveeno lotion on sale at Sam's Club for around 40% less than I could buy it on sale and with a coupon elsewhere.

I purchased a few pairs of pants, including thin sweat pants/pajama pants for the baby at a used children's clothing store that is next door to my husband's office (so I didn't have to make a special trip).

I set up free Duolingo accounts for my two elementary-school-aged children who are homeschooling with me so that one can learn French and one can learn Spanish. Duolingo is free to use and has lots of language choices from lots of language choices. If you use the classroom option, children who don't have an email address can still have an account (you need to create a classroom for each language).

I continued to open windows between 5 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. to cool the house, making sure to turn off both a/c units while the windows were open. It was 5-7 degrees cooler outside during those hours. It's still quite hot here (106°F/41°C) during the day and I expect to run the air conditioners until at least the middle of October, if not longer, but I am grateful that the mornings are cool for a short while, not reaching 80°F until 8:00 a.m.

I looked over my budget for the rest of the year. It looks like I will need to make some large cuts to the budget (home sales are down all across the country, including here), so I'm evaluating where they can be made. I'm also trying to figure out if there is any way I can find time to make Christmas gifts this year, using what I have on hand. I already have the supplies for several things for my girls, but I have no idea yet how I can find the time to sew those gifts. I am taking every moment I can to organize things at home that have become disorganized since school started in hopes that I will be able to spend less time picking up and more time doing some needed sewing.

My daughter who started school needs black pants for two orchestra performances (which are part of her grade). Rather than purchasing pants for her, I took out a pair of her brothers' outgrown pants in her size from the clothing box, which she can wear for those few hours.

We put up outgrown children's clothing in boxes in my closet.

I harvested green onions, New Zealand Spinach, red noodle beans, basil, and mint from the garden.

I used the water from steaming the beans and collected from the shower while the water was warming to water potted plants in the garden. I also used shower warm-up water to rinse the shower floor after I scrubbed it with borax.

What did you do to save money last week?


Just a note: I would like to thank all of you again for your well-wishes on my new baby. I received a few gifts a few months back but had no way to contact some of the senders. I just want to say thank you.

Also, I appreciate everyone's prayers for me. In addition to having my days change to being much longer than normal lately, I went to the doctor's this past week for a biopsy to see if I have skin cancer. I'll know the results in a couple of weeks; in the meantime, I have stitches and some places of missing skin that are rather large and deep. It's been an interesting learning experience; I was about half the age of the people in the waiting room, but I've since learned that many people develop skin cancer starting in their late thirties and early forties. Last year I learned that a childhood friend of mine, who was a year younger, died a few years ago (in his 30's) of skin cancer just 4 months after being married. I had been putting off having some questionable spots checked, but no longer. This is one cancer that can be removed rather simply if you find out early. Wear sunscreen, wear a hat, wear long-sleeves when you can, and garden in the early-morning hours when the sun isn't yet high in the sky! And please--go to the doctor if something doesn't look right. 

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  • Maxine September 10, 2018

    Marivene, I didn't realize you were on chemo. I hope it goes well and that you're back in the saddle again soon. Interesting about potatoes. I have severe gut issues resulting from a failed surgery for a hiatal hernia. I had found on my own that I could eat potatoes or oats with minimal discomfort. I might add that ice cream has never made me sick! I was never a big ice cream eater, but this summer I have become addicted to Breyer's butter pecan. Think butter-flavored ice cream (yum!) filled with pecans. In case anyone here is interested, bread is very hard to digest. When I get sick after a meal, bread is usually the culprit.

  • Heath September 10, 2018

    Marivene, I am so happy that you're back!! I look for you every week here in the comments and got so worried about you. I always love your comments.

    I'm so sorry you've been sick and will definetly be praying for you.


  • Jeannie September 11, 2018

    Marivene, so sorry you and your husband are sick. It must be rough.

  • Athanasia September 11, 2018

    Marivene, I was sorry to read of your health problems. I have added you and your husband to our prayer list.

  • PJGT September 11, 2018

    Glad you commented, and hope you are feeling better each day! We are an online group of friends and I especially look for comments from those who are always here.

  • Marybeth September 11, 2018

    I hope you and your husband are doing better soon. I knew you had surgery but didn't realize you needed chemo. I am glad that your family is able to help out. That is what family is for, good and bad. I will be praying for you and Brandy that you are both well soon.

  • Marivene September 12, 2018

    Thank you all.

  • Taryn September 10, 2018

    Prayers for you! Sometimes life is just overwhelming, this sounds like one of those seasons for you. I think you are doing an amazing job of balancing everything on your plate. You are quite an inspiration, thank you.

  • Ingrid Lanford September 10, 2018

    While I don't have little ones at home, I still admire all you manage to accomplish in one single day. You're truly an inspiration to to all of us. I wish you well and hope all your tests come back with good news. My husband has battled skin cancer for probably close to 30 years and were only 52. He's had to undergo the photosynthesis treatment at least every other year due to him having so much on his face. This year he had to have a double dose within 3 weeks and glad we did catch his early and are able to at least keep from going malignant. Praying for you and wishing you all the best. PS: we'll be visiting Vegas next week. Wish we could meet in person

  • ms.p September 10, 2018

    My prayers are with you and your family. I know our youngest is senior and we are to point we cant help her with her homework. Her algebra was what I did in college. When our oldest was in high school she ask me for help. I show her how to do the problem. She got them all wrong. I went to the teacher. I as why. He said her answers were right but the steps she did was wrong. I said how it the steps be wrong. You taught me that when I was in high school. He said back when I had him is was correct but the process is different know. Still don't make sense to me. Good luck with the school year.
    Our local salvation army had 50 percent off store wide. End up getting some glass baking pans, juice cups and hubby some clothes.
    eating out of the pantry and freezer.

  • Sandra September 10, 2018

    I hope the coming days will find things settling down and that your mind will be able to relax even when your body is busy with family and chores.

  • Rhonda A. September 10, 2018

    Wow...just wow. Brandy, you certainly have your hands full right now. I hope you find balance and some peace soon. In the mean time, the comments about sunscreen jogged a memory of a "song" that came out when I was in my 20's. You may remember it, too. I listened to it again and thought you might feel inspired from it as well. Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=MQlJ3vOp6nI.

    This morning, we watched for about a half hour as the twin fawns helped themselves to a feast in our garden, then romped and played around our back yard in the pouring rain, without a care in the world. Wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. One good thing...it was cold enough to wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt this weekend. After such a hot summer, it was pure joy to feel fall arrive!

    This week, our frugal accomplishments included:
    *Meals made at home included breaded chicken burgers/strips with choice of onion rings or sweet potato fries (made a homemade spicy mayo for hubby and I), hamburger helper, BBQ hamburgers & hotdogs with potato chips, baked chicken smothered in cheddar cheese soup with loaded potato skins (used up the 5 left in freezer) and corn,
    *Since I have been working quite a bit, and extremely busy on my days off, I hadn't been able to go grocery shopping for a few weeks. With school starting this week, I needed to come up with lunch ideas that came mostly from our pantry supplies. My mother was panicking, but I knew we would be just fine. I baked a dozen chocolate chip banana bran muffins (recipe link: https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2015/01/01/chocolate-chip-banana-bran-muffins/) to use in lunches this week. DD requested chocolate chip muffins, so I made healthy ones that used up 2 very ripe bananas, and some of the large quantity of bran that I received for free about a year ago. I also mixed up a box of chocolate pudding from the pantry and divided it into enough reusable containers for DD's lunches. We have lots of preserved fruit, tortilla wraps, crackers, canned tuna, frozen hummus, and eggs (for egg salad and/or deviled eggs) on hand, not to mention potential leftovers or other pantry items like canned soup. I did skip out to buy bread and yogurt just to balance out our potential needs. I'm very confident no one will starve!
    *Despite my confidence in our food supply for lunches, my mom still ran out on Monday and bought bananas and a few other supplies "just in case". Apparently the massive amount of canned peaches, pears, pineapple and applesauce were not reassuring enough for her liking.
    *Found out on Thursday that DD's friend doesn't have enough food in the house again. She was given $20 and was told she needed to make it stretch over a week for buying lunches in the cafeteria. So, on Friday, I sent 2 lunches with DD, 1 for friend and 1 for DD. Just doing some calculations in my head (Canadian prices), if her mother had used the $20 to buy a dozen eggs, a loaf or 2 of bread, a jar of mayo, a bag of apples and a pack of a dozen containers of yogurt, she would have been able to make her daughter healthy, filling lunches for 2 weeks, with some extras left over!
    *Our freezer meat stash is quite low at the moment. This made it a perfect time to defrost both our freezers. We shuffled everything around between freezers while we defrosted and cleaned them. I also purged some items that had been in the freezer since 2014/2015, mostly some pumpkin and zucchini which went into the compost. I won't replace the zucchini, as DD was not a fan (even hidden in baking), and pumpkin is cheap and not hard to replace. As we enter autumn season, I will be slowly shifting my focus from preserving in-season produce for winter, to restocking meat and other pantry items that are low.
    *On the weekend, I finally did a big grocery shopping trip. Highlights included buying a total of 18 kg of peanut butter (12 were $3/1kg and 6 were $3.77/1kg), 6 cooked/smoked hams ($5.99/800g ham, 4 original and 2 black forest) and a package of hotdog buns for $0.39 (short dated, so put directly in freezer). I will cut up the hams into steaks and shaved luncheon meat for the freezer sometime in the coming week.
    *Bake a pan of applesauce snack cake (recipe link: https://www.chef-in-training.com/applesauce-snack-cake/) to use in DD (and possibly friend's) school lunches this coming week. I used a jar of homemade raspberry applesauce, to use it up, and omitted the nutmeg, as that is a nut and the school is nut free. The cake has a delicious hint of raspberry flavour!
    *Received the sweetest thank you note from my co-worker that I have been mentoring this summer. She's really embraced all the ideas I taught her and is finding great joy in it all. Made me feel really good I could help her out!
    *Hubby and I went to an auction on Wednesday evening and ended up buying a microwave. It is a barely used, large, stainless steel Panasonic microwave that retails for around $200-$300 new. We got it for $80. Our existing microwave was quite small, older and questionable on how long it would hold out.
    *Bought 2 new, very good quality bras that were on clearance and used the last of a gift card to pay the majority of the cost, with only a few dollars OOP. They have been put aside to take on our trip.
    *Not so frugal: Hubby and I attended a charity event at our local mall. My mom bought the tickets for $5 each and this money goes to support one of the charities on the list for that year (the Autism Ontario chapter for our city was on the list this year). In return, the stores in the mall offer various discounts in their store. We bought several Christmas gifts for DD, including her main present, 2 t-shirts for hubby to take on our European trip, a packing cube (which has a dirty and clean side) for our trip, and a new purse for me (very rare that I actually find a purse I like, and my old one is getting quite worn). I entered a few draws, and we brought home 2 cupcakes we received free. It was an expensive shopping trip, but everything we bought was on our list of needs already and I'm happy we have some more Christmas gifts bought!

    Than you all for your inspiring comments. May you all have a gracious week of frugal living and find joy in many simple pleasures!

  • Elizabeth M. September 10, 2018

    Rhonda, I thought of you while I was getting 10 lb. of peaches ready to freeze. I'll use the peach slices in oatmeal and muffins during the winter. I am impressed with the energy you and the other readers have who preserve so much more than I do.

  • Rhonda A. September 11, 2018

    Yeah, 50lbs of peaches was a lot to process! Yet, I see other people who can so much more than I do and wonder how they do it. It's definitely hard to do when the temperatures are soaring and you work full time during prime canning season.

  • Becky September 10, 2018

    We did some freezer cleaning this morning and I found one package of broccoli from 2012 and a zucchini from 2011. Yikes! They clearly got shuffled during the moving a couple of years ago, and stuffed down into the bottom of a larger plastic bag where smaller bags were corralled. They, and a couple other items got sent right to the compost pile, and thankfully, there is no shortage of fresher food, especially frozen zucchini! This was a banner year for that.

    I've been slowing down on buying things like bananas right now, as there are other fruits to eat, such as an occasional jar of fruit that did not seal, and berries from our bushes. Still, they are used to bananas, like bananas, and want bananas, so I'm sure it won't be long before I buy some more:). Hopefully, your crew was happy with the bananas.

  • Rhonda A. September 11, 2018

    I knew these had been in the freezer for a while, but didn't realize just how long. Good to start fresh sometimes. The bananas didn't all get eaten. However, I can use the ripe ones for baking school lunch treats. It will all work out. Just annoying that I make the efforts to ensure we have lots of food in the house, only to have someone say there isn't enough to their liking!

  • Maxine September 10, 2018

    Rhonda, here is a contrary thought for your trip. Instead of taking all new clothes, take old ones that you can leave behind to make room in your suitcase for things you buy on the trip. The people you see will not know if you are wearing old or new clothes. When I finish a guidebook, I also leave it behind. I don't have a Kindle, so I take a few paperback books with me and leave them behind, too. Regardless of what you wear on the trip, I hope it's wonderful.

  • Margie from Toronto September 11, 2018

    I do that old clothes bit when I travel Maxine and recommend it to everyone. Even for 2 or more weeks in Europe the largest case I use is a 20" one, along with a tote bag. I save old t-shirts (to wear under sweaters and then toss them. Whenever I do a clear out of worn and grubby undies I simply wash them and then put them aside in my suitcase. I take a couple of good pair for the first couple of days, wash those but then use all the old ones and throw them out as I go. I keep those good ones for the flight home and a couple of pairs for the suitcase so, just in case I'm stopped by Customs it doesn't look weird. I have even taken old PJ's and tossed them as well. It leaves lots of room to bring home items. I don't buy a lot of souvenir type of things - I prefer clothing, scarves, gloves & shoes - I prefer European sizings. I learned to pack light a number of years ago and have never looked back. When I was leaving Budapest a few years ago a couple of the women on the tour kept looking at my case and finally one of them asked me if that was all my luggage. When I replied, yes, they both said that they couldn't believe it as I always looked so well dressed throughout the trip. I have always maintained a relatively small wardrobe but have learned to mix & match and use accessories. I urge everyone who has an upcoming trip to think about the old clothes option.

  • Jeannie September 11, 2018

    I did the same thing when my boys went to summer camp. All year I would save their worn clothes, ratty washcloths, and towels. They were instructed to throw everything away when they showered. It was wonderful. I didn't have to sew their names in everything, write their names on all the towels plus the horrible smell from their suitcases no longer gagged us in the car on the way home.

  • Jen C in Phx September 13, 2018


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