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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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  • Jeannie September 11, 2018

    Laurie, hurricane Florence is turning into a monster. I hope you will be safe and take no chances. My youngest son Reese is in Charlotte and is far enough inland to be fine. I have a close cousin who is in Wilmington, only a few miles from the water. Last night I googled her address and her house is 29 feet above sea level. It will not escape destruction. This morning she is evacuating and returning to Nashville. She moved there last year to be close to the grandbaby, renovated the house and now this has happened. Do be very careful.

  • Jeannie September 12, 2018

    UPDATE: My cousin arrived to Nashville safely. Also, I was FINALLY able to reach Reese. He had been in a conference and had his phone turned off!!! He said what I expected him to say, "There is a hurricane coming this way? Really Mom? I didn't know that."

  • Laurie in central NC September 12, 2018

    Thank you, Jeannie. The latest update has changed the path to a more southerly route. We'll still get wind and rain, but not as scary as it was sounding. I hope it will not be as severe a storm as predicted.

  • Bethany September 10, 2018

    The garden is about done as far as canning, I'm still getting a few things here and there I use in salads. Apple season won't be in full swing for a few weeks, so I have a bit of a break from the canning. I worked both Sunday and Monday nights, so I as able to get the full 12 hours of holiday pay ( which is double time- yeah) and will put the extra into savings. I did duck into my favorite thrift store on my way home Monday morning for their 50% off holiday sale, and was able to get some fall and winter sleepers/playsuits for the youngest grandchild.

    A series you may enjoy is "The Hangmans Daughter" by Oliver Potzsch. It is set in Bavaria in the middle ages, and gives a good glimpse into beliefs, practices, social structure of the time. Tony Hillerman is also very good, his mysteries are set in New Mexico, and incorporate a great deal of Navejo culture detail.

  • Laura September 10, 2018

    Sounds like a busy and stressful season of life. I will be thinking of you. And yes, always wear sunscreen!

  • Tina S. September 10, 2018

    Good luck with the new schedule, and I hope the biopsies are all negative. You have a lot on your plate at the moment. Sending good thoughts your way.

    My week was busy. On Tuesday, I had scheduled a carpet cleaning, but I got a call 20 minutes before they were due to come that the truck was double booked. This was after I had spent an hour moving everything out of the way. They came Thursday instead, and I got a 5% inconvenience discount, so I was happy about that.

    Frugal accomplishments:
    - I made a sunflower wreath out of burlap I had purchased and a wire form I already had. It looks great on our front door.
    - I met my sister for coffee. I am still using a Starbucks gift card that someone gave me months ago, so there was no out of pocket cost.
    - One of the patients at my work brought in a bunch of tomatoes from her garden. I made a huge batch of tomato soup and froze it for my work lunches.
    - I made bone broth, baba ganoush, a huge batch of meatballs (which I froze), and a half gallon jar of fermented jalapenos. I also froze 3 quart bags of sliced jalapenos. My husband loves spicy food and we enjoy these all winter. I ran out last year.
    - Someone else gave me a bag of Italian prunes (purple plums) from their tree. I love these and they bring back such good memories of my grandparents.
    - My mom gave me some fruit and a few magazines she had already read.
    - I picked green onions from my patio.
    - I have a CSA share at a local farm, and they also allow you to pick herbs and flowers. I have been doing this every week.
    - I mixed up neti pot solution (a mix of salt and baking soda).
    - I used boric acid capsules to deal with a yeast infection. I am including this here because I have never seen anyone list it, and it is a great money saver. You can fill the capsules yourself once you have the supplies, which are not expensive. Two different doctors have recommended this to me, and I have used this remedy for years without any issues.
    - Using a pattern and fabric I already had, I spent an enjoyable afternoon sewing a top for work. The pattern used a technique I was not familiar with, and the instructions were confusing, so I found a tutorial online for this pattern.

    Hope everyone has a great week!

  • Ellie's friend from Canada September 16, 2018

    Tina S.
    I too love Italian prune plums and wonder what you do with them? I stew them. I wash them, pit them, and freeze them. On a cold winter's day, they are great warm and stewed.

  • Laurie in AZ September 10, 2018

    Praying for you, Brandy! My husband has had issues with skin cancer also. They've always been able to remove it all. He is hyper vigilant about keeping an eye out for any irregularities.

    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 6 times, including hamburgers, Hawaiian coleslaw, corn on the cob; bratwurst with baked potatoes and sauerkraut; homemade soup from a recipe I tweaked according to what I had to use up (twice); pork stir fry; steak, baked potato and asparagus. Had my Grandson overnight on Friday, so we ordered a pizza in. Usually we would order a couple of medium pizzas and some wings, but this time I only ordered 1 large and it was just enough.
    • Worked 12.5 contract hours, working from home again.
    • Found another pair of capri pants in my closet that are brand new that were too small that I can now wear.
    • I continue to use up things from the freezer rather than buy anything. I have been good about tracking everything in a spreadsheet so that I use up the oldest items first.
    • My sister had to take my Dad to the hospital Friday night (he’ll be ok), so I drove out to be with him on Saturday. I packed a lunch instead of buying food at the cafeteria.
    • Used the library.
    • Got a free container of yogurt for the Friday Freebie. Gave it to my Grandson for breakfast after he spent the night.
    • Had a recipe for low point Weight Watcher pumpkin muffins. It called for sugar free cake mix. These are normally $2.59. Was very lucky to find 3 boxes on the clearance rack for only $1.29 apiece! It also called for a can of pumpkin. I had some in my pantry that was past date, but it worked great.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

  • Athanasia September 11, 2018

    Laurie, what's Hawaiian coleslaw? I'm interested as we grow a lot of cabbage. And eat a lot of cabbage salads.

  • Laurie in AZ September 12, 2018

    Here is where I got the recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/24819/hawaiian-coleslaw/

    I used regular pepper and chunked pineapple because that is what I had on hand. I also used lite mayonnaise. I am on Weight Watchers and this is a very low point side dish. I love it!

  • Athanasia September 13, 2018

    Laurie, thank you for the recipe. I too use the lite Hellman's. I mostly use canned pineapple as the fresh is seldom less than 3.99 per fruit. I like to buy fresh for a special occasion, though. I have all the ingredients and I will probably make it for an upcoming church potluck this coming Sunday.

  • Debra September 10, 2018

    Prayers that your biopsies come back negative. I do my annual check-up with my physician and have her check out any unusual skin patches that I may be concerned about. For frugal things, a friend gave me a large bucket full of cucumbers. I processed 8 quarts of dill pickles. She has told me she has more to give me, so that will be either more dill, bread & butter or sweet pickles that I will be continuing to process. I have 6 large ziploc bags full of cherry tomatoes I placed in my freezer. I plan on making salsa out of these, unless I decide to make tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce out of those.

  • Stephanie September 10, 2018

    Phew, what a busy week! My hopes are that things will settle down as you get into a routine with your new schedule. I'm wishing you all the best in regards to your biopsy; thank you for sharing this and passing along the importance of getting those spots checked!

    This week, I finally dealt with a large pile of mending that I'd been meaning to get to for ages, including sewing a button on my daughter's shirt- I found one in my button jar, which I started thanks to you, Brandy! :) I also sewed up a very ripped shirt that I'd bought at a thrift store (but didn't discover the rips until I returned home), so now I can wear it. I discovered a rip in the arm of a sweatshirt this morning, so I'm going to have to get on that soon! I continued sending burritos made from leftovers in my son's lunches (they're in the freezer, and he LOVES them), and I made him a batch of breakfast sandwiches from cheap biscuits in a can and on-sale-eggs.

    I added six boxes of whole wheat lasagna noodles and four packages of fruit cups to my pantry; they were all on sale for fifty cents a package in my grocery store's clearance rack. I was pretty excited about that! I hung laundry to dry inside, made pierogies out of potatoes that were getting a bit wrinkly, read library books, baked four loaves of homemade bread, and ate tomatoes from the garden (and made another large container of sauce for the freezer). I'm still working on knitting a Christmas gift out of scrap yarn; it's slow going!

    Have a great frugal week, everyone!

  • Libby September 10, 2018

    What an exhausting schedule. Your littlest sounds feisty! Hopefully he is going through a growth spurt and will let you get some more sleep soon. Thank you for continuing to keep the blog active while your energy is stretched so thin. Sending you prayers that the biopsy is benign. There is a lot of skin cancer in my family and it is no joke. A few years ago I started having an annual dermatologist appointment for a full body scan to be pro-active.

    • Used the “What’s Up” App and talked with friends in Europe for free
    • Worked my side hustle and inspected my friend’s house after their tenant left. Tenant left a note saying please help yourself to food in frig & freezer. I got a huge bag of frozen blueberries and another huge bag of frozen mixed berries, 10 frozen hamburgers, frozen package of organic hot dogs, orange juice, organic milk, eggs, sliced ham, apples, lemons & limes, an unopened bottle of cranberry juice, an unopened bottle of wine, an unopened package of graham crackers, and condiments.
    • Made two batches of blueberry lime jam using the tenant’s fruit
    • Made homemade pizza, made rice pudding to use up milk from the tenants.
    • I also went through the tenant’s recycling bin and removed all cans & bottles which have a $0.05 redemption value in my state.
    • Went clothes shopping at the Talbot's outlet as all clearance items were 70% off the lowest marked price.
    • Took down my bedroom window shades, which had mildew on them. I washed the shades in the bathtub with bleach and then hung out to dry in the full sun.
    • About a month ago I had the brilliant idea to clean my computer keyboard using the vacuum cleaner. All was going well until the vacuum sucked a key off the keyboard. I’ve tried living without the key but it just didn’t function very well. I finally took the bag out of the vacuum, opened it up, and sorted through all the dust, cat fur, human hair, and goodness only knows what else while trying not to gag. I did find the key, washed it, and it clicked right back into place on the keyboard, saving me about $85, which is the cost to replace the entire keyboard.
    • I ordered gravel and insulation on the Lowe’s website, going through Swagbucks to earn points. I paid for home delivery. When the pallet of gravel arrived, it was short by seven bags. The delivery truck driver took a photo and I noted the shortage on the receipt. Next day Lowe’s delivered the missing bags. So far I’ve spread 50% of the gravel across my driveway.
    • I ordered 11 pounds of Arborio rice from Amazon and used a Swagbucks $25 gift card to pay for the majority of it.

    Hoping Florence treats the Carolinas with kindness.

  • Tina S. September 10, 2018

    Your story of vacuuming up a keyboard key sounds made me laugh, because that's totally something I would do. And I would have gone through the vacuum cleaner bag too! ;)

  • Patricia September 12, 2018

    Next time you vacuum your keyboard put a sock or old pair of nylons over the end of the hose.

  • Laurie in AZ September 14, 2018

    That's a great idea!

  • Cindy Brick September 10, 2018

    Brandy, you can be even more brief...your readers are still here, and we can wait. I'd rather you got more sleep, than give us long entries.

    My first thought, while reading, was that making doubles on meals would help you right now...store the extra, then have it later in the week. (Have one of your kiddos heat it up, while the others do what I'm guessing you already have them do -- set the table, clear table, wash dishes, etc.)

    This has been -- and will be -- a hectic time for a while. I taught in North Platte, NE last week; some little dear on the plane passed around their flu. I am fighting that while packing for the next gig -- judging in Creede, CO, a six-hour drive away. Fortunately, the Brick and the dogs will be going with me this time; we'll pull the trailer, then camp for a few days afterward. (It's maximum fall color time in the mountains in Colorado right now.) Then after we get home, I have a much longer commitment for the Higher Ground Fair in Laramie, WY! It's nice to have the extra $$...but exhausting. Lonnnggggg days, much like yours. I do the bare minimum to get by at home, and Husband fills in.

    Whoo hoo, I am glad to report -- this second batch of chocolate mint and geranium cuttings is rooting nicely! Guess I was too impatient. Will plant them when I get back from Creede.

    Oh Brandy, please don't feel you have to be supermom and take care of everything yourself. Your kids are old enough; in return for your helping them with homework, they can certainly pick up a household chore or two. You need to stay well and strong to supervise and keep the household going -- and you can't do that exhausted and/or sick. Especially right now, until everyone gets used to this new schedule.

  • Brandy@The Prudent Homemaker September 10, 2018

    We already do all that--making doubles and having the children do chores. But I lose four helpers during two chore times and sometimes during a third chore time, leaving me with the dishes after breakfast if my daughter doesn't finish that chore before it's time to catch the bus.

  • Elizabeth M. September 10, 2018

    I've always been impressed by how even your young children are part of the regular routine for taking care of the house. When I find myself procrastinating on a household task, I remind myself that at Brandy's house, a six-year-old is taking care of this.

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