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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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  • Marcia R. September 11, 2018

    My relative were farmers who also worked outside the home. In summer they always had a "hired girl" to help with things. Often a high school or college student, she was literally an extra set of hands for my aunt. My uncle worked on repairing roads, kept bees and gathered the honey and was also an accomplished harness maker. He had to make time for fishing also! The hired girl helped with harvesting, canning, and housework in general. I could use one myself this year!!

  • Signerjack September 12, 2018

    I hired a 14 yr old to help me for 2 hours a week housework, 2 and a half years ago. She is now nearly 17 and at a local college. She is fantastic. As well as going to college, she now has 5 cleaning jobs (4 off them through my high praise of her) and has nearly got the money together for her first car in 3 months time. She is now part of our family. We all love her and that 2 hours is a big help.

  • Marybeth September 12, 2018

    My Oldest Daughter was a mother's helper at 12. The mom had a 2 year old and 6 week old. She couldn't function. She had had a very bad c-section and it took her a long time to recover. My daughter would go over and the mom could do laundry with help from my daughter, shower, cook. It was summer vacation so she was able to go for several hours a day. Then she started back to work so my daughter would come over and play with the boys while she did dinner and dishes in the afternoon. She lived 2 blocks away so my daughter could walk there and back by herself. She ended up babysitting the boys until she went away to college. We still talk to them all the time.

  • Lynne September 11, 2018

    Brandi I hope the results come back ok and that family life settles soon for you. And a timely reminder I need to book in for a skin check. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Not a statistic to be proud of.
    I finished planting out my new veggie garden on Friday afternoon and then 2 hours later we had a very heavy hail storm. I have lost half of my seedlings but will wait a few weeks before I re- plant.

  • Becky September 11, 2018

    Now, that is disheartening to lose your garden seedlings only 2 hours after planting them. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you will be able to replant, and hopefully a few things will survive to give you some early produce!

  • Lynne September 11, 2018

    Thanks Becky funnily enough the kale ( which I don’t really like but thought I should plant) is the one that has survived! And I think I was having a senior moment as I put an I on your name Brandy.

  • Darcy September 11, 2018

    Frugal Accomplishments at our house:

    With cooler temperatures we have been able to turn off the air. We opened the windows and enjoyed the fresh breezes.

    I stayed out of the stores except to go to Aldi for groceries and to Walmart for a couple of needed items.
    I took out only the budgeted amount for the week in cash. I am determined to stay within our budget and not overspend by using cash only.

    I made chicken vegetable soup from bits of this and that I had stashed in the freezer. I made homemade french bread to go with our soup. I also made two pizza crusts for the freezer for when we want pizza but now won’t have an excuse to buy a frozen pizza or order out. I also made a large pot of pinto beans and brown rice. For our breakfasts I made muffins and granola. I also made a frittata to put into our lunches.

    My husband found some jalapenos for 10 cents each and bought many. I roasted them, chopped them up, and froze them thereby avoiding waste.

    We took our lunches to work every day.

    We are still harvesting tomatoes, basil, and mint.

    I mended a tablecloth.

    I took in a blouse that never fit me correctly but that I always liked. Now it fits much better and I have something new to wear to work.

  • Elizabeth September 11, 2018

    If you enjoy time period mysteries the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd is fantastic (and clean) and the Gaslight series by Victoria Thompson is clean and I think there are almost twenty books in that series, so you will have plenty to read for sometime:)

    1. Rooted plant clippings to start a new plant for my son
    2. Found a cute dog costume in the Target dollar aisle...it was a hot dog
    3. Chase sent me a message telling me that I have earned $206 in reward points so far this year...so Christmas is paid for:)
    4. Found free study guides online for Frankenstein, so I will not have to buy or make one...thank goodness!
    5. Stocked up on dollar tree toys to refill my homeschool reward box

  • AndreaG September 11, 2018

    You are certainly juggling a lot at the moment, Brandy. You are doing an amazing job of fitting in everything that needs doing. We had a quiet week with back to school here. We only went out on essential trips and stayed in the rest of the time. It was finally cooler at the end of the week after record breaking heat in S. Ontario so we could get out for walks again comfortably. I made all meals at home and packed my husband’s lunch every day. My mom was once again generous and send home leftovers as well two bricks of cheese. Cheese is quite expensive so I was pleased as this will stretch for quite a while for us. I hope everyone is having a great week.

  • Karen September 11, 2018

    Brandy, I continue to be amazed at all that you can accomplish in a week. Please be gentle with yourself and remember that it's ok to let things slide a bit during the hectic seasons of life. Praying for you!

    With school back in full swing, we had a fairly frugal week last week. Over Labor Day weekend we went to the beach for a free family fun day at a state park. When we were finished there we went a few miles down the road to a national historic site. Had a fun tour (and my daughter did their Junior Ranger program and picked up another free patch for her patch blanket) and got her "Every Kid in a Park" pass since she's a fourth grader now (https://everykidinapark.gov/), so admission was free there also. This past Saturday my daughter and I attended a free evening at a national historic site near my parents' house - we stopped there for dinner beforehand and they joined us as well.

    I canned apple pie filling. I'm trying Clear Jel for the first time so we'll see how we like it. I did a small grocery shop - originally my plan was to only shop every two weeks but my husband ran out of salad dressing at the same time Safeway sent me a coupon I couldn't refuse (I can only get his salad dressing at Safeway), and I wanted to use my last $10 off $40 coupon at Fred Meyer. Funny thing was, I sat down to plan what I was going to get at Fred Meyer and I had trouble making a list because I really didn't need that much! I think that's the first time that's ever happened to me. Usually I'm so impulsive about grocery shopping. I quickly planned out my menu for a couple more weeks and bought some nonperishables I knew I'd need for those meals.

    I volunteered in the school lunchroom and got a free meal. My daughter and I both took leftovers in our lunches.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful week and Brandy, I hope you get some rest!

  • Jenny September 11, 2018

    Brandy, I haven't commented since you shared about your schooling changes. I always wanted to try to home school (many of my close friends did), but we never felt completely convicted for our family so I supplemented and stayed very involved as our children moved through the public education system. I currently teach 120 8th grade students every day and I understand the new pressures you must be feeling right now. These children are wonderful, but sometimes my heart just hurts for them. I think they are just moving so fast through everything and it is difficult for them to slow down and appreciate what is around them. Your children know how to do that and they will certainly be a blessing to others. I pray that you are able to find a good balance over the next few months for all of your family. My humble and best advice for those working through the education years is that there is no certain formula for each child. Society's expectations of homeschooling, elementary, middle, high, college or career and the timing involved are just that....society's expectations. I stress to my students that they have to find what works for them in order to become the person they were meant to be.

    While I'm sharing, I would like to make two comments that might save money for some of you. I also like the quality of Lands' End and have found a great outlet that sometimes carries their merchandise for next to nothing. sierratradingpost.com (like the outdoor version of TJMaxx) has a good online site and they do have some stores out west. To find the Lands' End merchandise, you have to search for "specially made". There you will find closeouts from all kinds of store brands. I generally can spot different store brands but if you read the reviews on items, sometimes reviewers will list the store in their comments. I have scored some very nice Lands'End fleece and Thermaskins there. If you sign up for emails, sometimes you can get free shipping or an additional 25% off codes.

    My final comment is an idea for Christmas gifts. Years ago, at a craft sale, my mom bought a heating pad/bag of cherry pits for me. You can freeze them, or heat them in the microwave. I have seen them many places for as much as twenty-five dollars. They are amazing because they are so flexible and can mold to whatever place you have that is hurting. I found a great supplier, The Cherry Pit Store, that sells dried pits for crafters. The shipping is high because of the weight, but with a piece of fabric the size of a fat quarter and two pounds of cherry pits, you can make a very nice gift for around $5.00, even after incorporating shipping costs. I have even had my fabric embroidered/monogrammed with names to make it extra special. I print up a nice little tag with instructions for heating (1-2 minutes in the microwave). They smell the first few times you use them, but that goes away. These have also been a great comfort for some of our friends who suffered in their last days of cancer. (sadly, this has been too frequent lately) I buy the big box every five years to make gifts. This year, my daughter and I are splitting a box so she can share these with her co-workers for Christmas gifts. She has a friend who will do our monogramming for us.

    Brandy, you are an inspiration. Thank you for taking time to nourish this community. I'm praying that you have good health reports! Have a wonderful week!

  • LynnDinKY September 11, 2018

    oooo I make these for my family. I use field corn for the big heating pads and rice for small ones. I've never heard of cherry pits. I'm interested. How long do they stay warm? And what a great idea to Monogram them!

  • Athanasia September 11, 2018

    Brandy, we are praying for you and a good outcome to the biopsies.

    I was wondering, since you mentioned the homework situation, if your older children were in the habit yet of making full use of class time to do as much as they can and study hall, should they have one. That could cut back on some night time work, possibly. Here it is an unwritten rule in the public schools that homework is not given out, or is kept lighter, on Wednesday nights. That is considered church night across the board. I've never heard of that other places, though.

    I always liked the after school schedule of them working at the kitchen table while I made dinner. The younger ones could ask the older ones for help too in areas they had previously studied. Kept more of the evening open once the homework was done.

  • Terry September 11, 2018

    Prayers this morning for all those facing the hurricane.
    We left on vacation August 28. Visited two of our daughters and their families and then spent two days camping on the coast. The last day before coming home we rented an inexpensive motel room with the ocean view from our balcony. Friday was a 10 hour drive home. We were tired but happy to go pick up our dog from our grandson's house. We used our credit card rewards to pay for more than half of our vacation. There was enough left from what I had budgeted to buy the new microwave we needed.
    Our garden exploded while we were gone. Far more than I could process before it turned bad. We picked everything and boxed it up. I drove it to the mission yesterday. Also shared with my mother in law, her neighbor and her dog walker. The neighbor graciously allowed me to pick a bouquet of cosmos to deliver to my mom in her care center.
    From there I picked up a few groceries and stopped at the thrift store where I found a nearly new microwave, a winter jacket for myself, a fleece pullover for hubby and a small candle to use in a gift. All for 13.00. I think everyone was blessed yesterday.
    Since arriving home I have been canning and trying to get all the things from the trip cleaned and packed away. I'm starting a collection of clothing to donate.
    Today it's back to the garden to pick beans, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes. I have a canner of applesauce cooking now.
    Prayers for everyone to have a healthy and frugal week

  • chantal September 11, 2018

    Dear Brandy,

    Thank you so much for sharing with us. I will be praying for you and your family. Life seems to through so much at us but we get threw it all with Gods help. You continue to inspire me with your life.

    We have saved by only buying what is on sale and make all our meals from scratch. Apple picking is starting this weekend. We will pick some apples to put away in the cold storage for the winter and dry some also. I sewed some of my daughters bibs so they will last longer.


  • Marivene September 11, 2018

    Thank you for your prayers, Mary, Maxine & Heath. I appreciate that.

  • Shannon September 11, 2018

    Oh Brandy hello. I am praying for good news on the biopsies. Having been in your shoes all that can really be said is to take time for yourself! Not that long ago it was get up all night with the baby (had feeding issues and could only eat a couple ounces every hour) get the other child ready for school, get husband ready/out the door, clean house (not the priority but did try to keep it uncluttered, my darling sister would come over frequently after work so I could clean/shower/nap), child came home, dinner, husband home, dishes and homework. Then do it all again. Truly it does get better and what I wouldnt give to have that time with my little one. There is a light at the end of the tunnel promise.

  • Laura September 11, 2018

    I love your blog! In the last two years, I have strayed from the super frugal ways I used to practice when I was raising nine children. As they moved out, things got easier and it was nice not to have to be so frugal. For the next year, my husband will be away on assignment and I am determined to return to my frugal ways. I will be eating out of my freezer and pantry as much as possible. I planted an over abundance of tomatoes and peppers this year, forgetting that it is only the two of us now. I have been busy chopping and freezing tomatoes...so far, 20 bags, t throw in chili, stew and soups. I ground up all the baseball bat sized zucchini and froze that...fifteen bags. I still have many tomatoes to do and my daughter came over and took one bag already. I also will be canning jalapeños for the men in the family who like it. My plan is also to start in on all the craft and sewing bins and start projects, including Christmas ornaments. Reading all the comments here has given me so many new ideas and motivation. Thank you.

  • Marivene September 11, 2018

    One more thing to do with zucchini: grated zucchini is a great thickener for chili. It cooks down & disappears into the sauce as it thickens, & it does not alter the taste. I would guess it would cook down even faster if it were ground. Same thing with pumpkin purée. Zucchini or pumpkin are always part of our chili now. It increases the nutrition & no one even knows or cares that it is there except me.

  • jennifer September 17, 2018

    I have also used shredded zucchini in stew and shepherds pie for just that reason, It adds to the nutrition, the bulk of the dish, it thickens and it does not add any flavour. I add zucchini whenever possible. The teenagers in my home feel that chocolate zucchini cake is the best and only way to eat zucchini. While I love the way it makes cake moist I love adding it to our meals more, in ways where they can't even recognize it. I feel so sneaky!

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