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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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  • Elizabeth M. September 10, 2018

    Thank you, Brandy, for telling us about your biopsies. It encourages people to get these health issues checked out themselves. I had a large spot checked by a dermatologist a couple of years ago that even my GP was frightened about, but all turned out well.

    I was interested to read about your new schedule. I trust you'll continue to find ways to simplify it. No doubt the kids at school will get more used to how things are done there, and be able to find more of their own way through homework as a little more time passes. I was wondering how you had so many pairs of jeans to turn into shorts, but now I understand that several of the girls were wearing them!

  • kim September 10, 2018

    I worry about you not getting enough rest. But the baby will not need as much attending in a few months. When they are newborn I just sat on the couch nursing most of the day, so i cannot imagine trying to do many other things. Relax your standards a little and get those older ones to help.:)

  • Brandy@The Prudent Homemaker September 10, 2018

    Kim, my older ones help as much as they can. Everyone has regular chores before and after every meal. But some of my older ones are now gone during the day and can't help like they used to. I rearranged the chore schedule at the beginning of school to account for four people being gone at lunch time (My eldest goes to work with my husband and does her schoolwork there and the others are at school). Dishes still have to get washed, and cooking for 10 from scratch is a lot. The dishwasher has to be run after 2-3 times a day with dishes for this many.

  • kim September 10, 2018

    I think the hardest year of my life was when our oldest left for college. She was 8 years older than the next child ( I had a hard time carrying and lost a little girl to birth defects between my oldest two. But as she was so much older she did all the driving for years for the other girls. She also took care of much of the house work and could help me entertain when I needed to. When she left I had to do all the driving and I realized I had never cleaned or dusted my front room. I gave up having any fund raising parties. I know that your children are well trained to help, but again the new baby will take less time in a few months. Take care of yourself and ask the church for help if you need it. I wish I lived close. My husband and I watch two babies once a week for our young neighbors. They had two less than a year apart and the day care was killing them. This saves them $400.00 a month but it runs us ragged. Our children were very far apart and we never had two babies at once. You should see us after they go home. We are wiped out. We just sit and stare into space and laugh at each other.

  • Athanasia September 13, 2018

    Brandy, you mentioning all the dishes reminds me of a gathering on my husband's side we went to last Fall. It was outdoors after the church service and they had many tables set up with those oilcloth tablecloths over them. All the food was in the center in platters and there were stacks and stacks of cloth napkins. The napkins looked to be made out of sheet material. Everyone sat at the tables and served their food either right onto the tablecloth in front of them or some used the napkin. It was all finger food; things like pickles, pre-made sandwiches of peanut butter and jam or ham spread, cookies and bars, whole apples and apple slices, grapes, cherry tomatoes and celery and carrot sticks, hard boiled eggs. Nothing that needed spoons or plates. Of course the men and older boys sit on their own and the women and girls and younger children sit together. The little children just sat in laps and ate right off the same "plate" as mother or older sister. Now I have been to other church lunches there and those were more normal, if you want to use that word. Just an idea for saving on dishes and dish washing. And it was fun!

  • momsav September 10, 2018

    Hi, Brandy!
    I’ve been so busy working that I haven’t had time to comment much. I’m at my daughter’s waiting for the birth of her first child. (She’s in Fl. while we’re in the U.P. of Michigan.) I wanted to send good thoughts and prayers your way. My husband just had malignant melanoma removed from his arm. He brought it to the attention of the Dr. who poo-pooed the possibility of it being cancer. We know our bodies best! Sometimes we need to insist on testing, if nothing else, just to ease our own minds. They are human and make mistakes. Blessings to you!

  • Maggie September 10, 2018

    momsav, We also live in the U.P.! Hi neighbor ;)

  • Jen C in Phx September 10, 2018

    Hi, Brandy,

    Unfortunately I don't have much in the way of frugal accomplishments to report; last week we had sickness run through, so days were spent either in bed with the sick kid, listening to Adventures in Odyssey, or back at work trying to get through priorities as quickly as possible before I had to go out with a sick kid again.

    I just wanted to say that I totally hear you on the helping with homework thing. I only have four. My oldest, my only daughter, is a self learner and I never ever had to help her with homework or help her study. Now that my two youngest are in school, it's a totally different story. The teacher said to study with your parents, so that's what we have to do! Teacher said! Ugh! I'm trying to teach them how to study on their own, but it's still a work in progress. And my 3rd grader has this Timed math thing at least twice a week that he has to have someone do with him. It's definitely taken a lot more of my time and energy. And I do it, lest my kids are scarred by "Mom never had time for me and thus I flunked" (oh the guilt!) (Dad helps as he can, but has poor eyesight, so some things just don't work for him)

    On top of that, my oldest son is doing online homeschool, so I must spend several hours a week with him.

    Oh, and my daughter just told me that she needs help with college admission applications. Eeek!

    These are the overwhelming moments that we absolutely love and will miss when they are gone.

    Right there with you, girl. One moment at a time. You're awesome!

  • Karen September 10, 2018

    Schools are so different from place to place. I am a retired 3rd grade teacher. Students were encouraged to read daily at home and do one page of math (that was an extension of that day's lesson) 4x a week. The math took maybe fifteen minutes and could be completed independently most of the time.

    At my granddaughter's school as a policy no homework is ever assigned, other than reading.

    Family life is so important and kids are already in school the majority of the day.

  • Jen C in Phx September 11, 2018

    I agree. I just wish the school did.

    My 3rd grader has homework 3x week: a math paper and some form of spelling, always. Then, several times a week he now has the timed math assessment that someone must help him with. On top of that, he usually has a least two quizzes or tests each week that he must study for. This is his first year studying for tests, so I assist him with that. If he's on task, the whole process takes about 45 minutes.

    My 5th grader is about the same. For one kid, it's not that bad. When you have multiple kids it compounds.

  • SJ in Vancouver BC Canada September 10, 2018

    Good for you to get screened for skin cancer. I started having precancerous spots removed in my 30s. I go to the dermatologist for a yearly screening. She also told me to wear an SPF15 lotion even when in the house. That one surprised me.

    I also wanted to say LandsEnd is fantastic. They also have a great return policy should you need it.Also, once you start shopping with them, they'll send some great offers to you.

    My greatest savings this week came from eating from my garden and cooking all my meals at home.

  • Ellie's friend from Canada September 10, 2018

    Brandy, Prayers and fingers crossed for a good biopsy result! When you were homeschooling the kids, I used to wonder how you had enough hours in the day to homeschool them all. Now, it is still a push for you to have enough hours, and, understandably so. I am wondering if you sit with each child while he or she id doing homework or if you only answer difficulties? I think it is useful only to address difficulties so the children learn resilience and self-reliance. My mother used to dictate my spelling list each week to me for practice. Something like this might be delegated out to older children to help younger children. Just curious as to how you organize this? You are such a whiz at organization, I am sure you have a great system figured out! Take care of yourself!

    Momsav is right on about pursuing and insisting on tests. And that doctors make mistakes. Better safe than sorry.

  • Pamela September 10, 2018


    Wishing you the best. Reading all that you do makes me exhausted. It's very tight here as well so had to cut my Christmas budget by 2/3. Finding that God is helping me with a few "once in a life time" deals makes me know I can do this. I went to a store to just see what I could start getting for Christmas and found a new shirts on sale for $6 but then finding out it's addition 30% plus a special day promotion so walk out of the store with 3 items and that shirt only cost $1.48:)

  • Roberta in So. Cal. September 10, 2018

    I'm praying for you, Brandy!

    Frugal Efforts for Us:

    * Ate mostly home-prepared meals (Hubs and I did have one lunch date). Meals included hot dogs that were left over from a scouting event, grilled chicken w/ Greek pasta salad, Chinese chicken salad, black bean burgers w/ homemade buns, quesadillas, and lots of leftovers.

    * Shopped w/ a list and kept to it. The only spectacular deal was a free can of whipped cream. Fortunately, I didn't need to buy too many things.

    * Son had been mildly pestering me for dessert (it's been too warm to bake, and the freezers have no room for ice cream so we've been going without dessert for some time). While looking for something else in the pantry, I noticed some boxes of Jello that I had purchased ages ago, so I made up some Jello and served it with whipped cream.

    * Harvested two lemons, two small heads of cabbage, parsley, and a yellow honeydew.

    * Cooked up a huge batch of black beans and froze them in 2 C portions.

    * Made sun tea a couple of times.

    * Hubs washed our vehicles.

    * Hubs repaired his bicycle and rode it to work at least a couple of times.

    * Son rode his bike home from a friend's Eagle Project. (He and his bike got a ride to the project, then son rode home when he was finished.)

    * Paid bills online.

    * The weather has warmed up again, but we've been using the AC only when absolutely needed. So far our electrical usage is down 21% compared to last year. I'm so thankful that the weather was cooler earlier in the month.

    * I needed to get some blood work done for an upcoming medical procedure. I had a choice of either having it done at the same facility as my doctor's office for a $5 charge or driving about a mile to another lab to have it done for free. I chose the free option.

    * Have been using up the little sample/travel toothpaste tubes that have been taking up space in the drawer before opening up a new full-sized tube from our stash.

    * Have also been using up a couple of lotion bottles that made it home from our vacation, and added some water to a nearly empty full-sized bottle of lotion before opening another full-sized bottle from our stash.

    * Son's piano teacher gifted us with two soaps and some chocolates when she returned from her home in Brazil. I've been enjoying one soap in the bathroom, and the other is lending its lovely scent to my closet while we wait to use it. We've been savoring the chocolates. ;) I saved the gift bags to use in the future.

    * Continued to save rinse and warm-up water.

    Thank you to those of you who sent congratulations to my husband. Getting his degree was truly an exercise in hard work and perseverance. Now we need to use that same diligence to pay off the debt that was accrued.

    Have a good week, everyone!

  • Michelle September 10, 2018

    Hi Brandy,
    I always look forward to your updates. I am amazed by all you do! I'm sorry the adjustment to the new school schedule has been so challenging for you. Do you ever use a crockpot? There are some great options for freezing fresh meals ready to dump in your crockpot and cook for the day. Maybe Winter could prep them for you on the weekends? I don't recall you mentioning ever using a slow cooker - thought you might want to add that to your garage sale list. I have 7 kids (5 in school) and find the crockpot to be a sanity saver when trying to help with homework during "dinner prep time". Just a thought. Also, did you look at Target for dresses? Just like Land's End, they have several cute short sleeve, knee length dress options in the school uniform section. If you get Target emails or have their app or just check the website regularly, you can watch for flash sales. They often will do a 1 or 2 day promotion where all school uniforms or some other item is 30-40% off. https://www.target.com/c/girls-uniform-dresses-uniforms-school-clothing/-/N-5tdww
    Thank you for the reminder about skin checks. I'm 45 and have a few spots that I need to have checked. I'll make that appointment this week. You'll be in my prayers that it all comes back with negative results for cancer. I'm also praying that you find a good new groove for the schedule and can get more sleep. Change is hard, but remember that you're doing what you think is best for the kids - so keep up the good work!

  • Jo September 10, 2018

    My goodness, Brandy, that is quite a schedule. I know that the baby will take less of your time eventually, but I know what you mean about losing your helpers -- when my kids moved out as they went off to college, I suddenly realized it was all mine again -- all the cleaning, laundry, shopping, taking pets to the vet, getting an oil change, gift shopping/wrapping, painting projects, gardening work, cooking -- all mine, because my husband worked across the state and only made it home on weekends back then, and not even every weekend. The kids used to help me so much when they were tweens and teens! I worked (and still do) full-time outside the home, and I was exhausted with my new kid-less schedule, even though only taking care of me, the pets, and my home and garden, not an entire large family. I pray you will be able to take care of yourself as well.
    I had a skin cancer removed from the bridge of my nose about 3 years ago. I now wear sunscreen under my makeup all the time. I had a bad burn on my face when I was a teen -- a cloudy day and reflective water, with an unprotected face, giving me painful blisters for a week -- and I suspect that burn helped create the conditions for skin cancer. It was just a little dry patch of flaky skin that wouldn't go away but turned out to be cancer. Luckily, it was not melanoma. Good luck with this biopsy! I'll pray for the best there, too.
    This week, I was able to use Swagbucks to buy two small Christmas gifts.
    We finally dropped our home phone. We have pretty much everyone trained to call our cell, now. I'll save about $20 a month, and I'm also looking for a better price for internet, since I'm no longer getting the bundled price with my home phone.
    I got a little mending done this weekend. I still have several items waiting on me, but they aren't critical.
    I've managed to stay out of the thrift stores lately -- they are a real temptation for me, but I don't have anything specific to look for now, so I need to just stay away.
    Not frugal, but yesterday I was going to water my potted basil plant on our open porch, but I had to wait -- a fledgling wren was hopping about the pot, trying to get up the courage to make the flight to the trees. Somehow, the wrens hid a nest on our porch that we had no idea was there. Normally we see the parents flying to and fro. The little guys are so cute. I immediately shut the cats inside until the fledgling was gone.

  • Ellie's friend from Canada September 10, 2018

    I meant to mention I love Land's End! I wait until after Christmas and then buy snow boots on sale. I have a hard time getting boots to fit but Land's End has them. One year I bought 4 or 5 pairs cheap and have a supply for a long time! Great to watch their sales.

  • Kitty B (Calgary) September 10, 2018

    Thank you Brandy for continuing to post on your beautiful blog; your writing style encourages us all. Sending you all the best.

    Accomplishments this week included:

    Made an extra $108.00 selling items on local FB selling site;
    Stayed home 3 days (No driving & No spending)
    Made Alice in Wonderland Birthday Banner out of an old storybook that was falling apart. I will use this for a tea party I am hosting for a friend;
    Made SB goal 4 x
    Redeemed SB for $50 Amazon gift card which I will use for Christmas gifts
    Returned recycling ($20.80)
    Cut up some clothing into rags
    Linked up gas rewards with drug store/grocery store to optimize points

    Wishing everyone a happy frugal week.

  • Susan M. September 10, 2018

    I kept a written list this past week of frugal things I did to bless my family, and was amazed at how many things I was really doing! I think often we do not give ourselves “credit” for all the day to day stuff that we are already doing! I do not say this to brag, just to realize that all of us here are probably truly doing quite a bit but we may be feeling like we are not doing anything at all. Some of the things I did were:

    *cashed in Office Depot rewards to use on needed items
    *sold a few books we were done with and took trade credit at the store
    *fixed our shower faucet ourselves
    *ordered through a food co-op
    *took a free online class through our library
    *cut dog nails myself
    *found an inexpensive place to have my daughter’s homeschool “back to school” pictures taken.

    Details on my blog! http://tnquiltbug.blogspot.com/2018/09/frugal-friday-week-of-september-2-9-2018.html
    Looking forward to reading what everyone else did!

  • Kara September 10, 2018

    I am praying for you, Brandy.
    Used a $5 off $35 at the grocery store, and rode my bike to do the shopping. Also earned a bonus $5 off that was a special Monday promo.
    We had to replace our daughter's cell phone that was broken. We bought a new one through Consumer Cellular. They sell brand new iphones for about 20% of the cost of any store. They have been the BEST cell phone provider-cheap, with absolutely first rate customer service.
    Sewed gifts and a quilt this weekend, all from scraps. So frugal gifts, and no gas needed for the cars.
    Found drawer pulls for 40% off at Orchard Supply, which is going out of business near us.

    We continue to check our budget every 2 weeks. We have an old-fashioned paper and pencil method, every dollar is allocated and every 2 weeks my husband gets our bank and credit card statements up on the computer, he reads off each entry and I check it against the receipt. Then I subtract all the entries in each category of the budget. This has saved us an enormous amount of money over the 8+ years that we have done this, since we are very aware of every dollar going out and what is left to spend. It has made saving for large purchases easier, too. We also have good conversations about where to give money, and long term financial goals.

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