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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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Iceberg Rose in December The Prudent Homemaker

Iceberg Rose in the white garden at sunrise


The weather has been beautiful and warmer than usual. I enjoyed being out in the garden. I planted seeds in the garden for spinach, radishes, and lettuce.

I picked up the free nuts and candy that I had loaded to my grocery store card last week. I also added another freebie to my card this week that I picked up as well (a free 2-liter bottle of soda). When I was at the store, I couldn't find the chewable version of the candy that the website had listed as the freebie. The cashier told me it also included the hard candy, which is what my husband prefers, and they had plenty of those in stock. I'm glad I asked! I used the candy for a stocking stuffer for my husband (it's one of his favorites).

I returned a small item I bought but did not use. I had waited to return it until I needed to go to the same store again.

I used a $10 off coupon that I received in the mail to buy my son a shirt for a Christmas gift. I spent $5.40 out of pocket for a new shirt.

I contacted a company about their one-year-growing guarantee for my rosebushes that died. Replacements will be shipped to me early next year for the plants which didn't make it. Also, one plant did fine, but it was mislabeled. They will be sending me the correct plant next year, but I now have another rosebush! (This is their normal policy for mislabeled roses). 

My husband and I had short 2 dates at home. We played card games together after the children were in bed.

I accepted a small 2017 calendar from my mom that she received as a free promotional item. This will save me the expense of buying a new small planner (and it was just about the same size as the one I usually buy!) for my purse. I'm a paper and pen planner (I don't have a cell phone) and this is perfect for my needs.

I watched some free French language videos to improve my French on the Comme Une Française blog.


What did you do to save money last week?


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Harry Potter Christmas Baby Shower

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Harry Potter Baby Shower 2 The Prudent Homemaker

I hosted a baby shower last week for a soon to be first-time mom who is a huge Harry Potter fan. Since I seem to have a Harry Potter birthday party for at least one of my children every year (and have for the last few years) this meant I already had several items that I could use for the party, and that some of the items I purchased could be used for future parties.

I had several people ask what they could do to help, so I assigned out paper plates, bowls, cups, napkins, soda, salad, and the Happy Christmas banner. This saved me money as well as time.

We hung the Harry Potter house banner that I had made several years ago. Underneath it we hung a Happy Christmas banner that one of the guests made (using this tutorial and glittered poster board. I didn't even know glittered poster board existed before I asked this guest if she was willing to make the banner, and she told me that she already had glittered poster board to make it!)

On the couch I put the Harry Potter pillow that I embroidered several years ago.

HP Party Flying KeysThe Prudent Homemaker

In the entry way over the table, we hung flying keys with fishing wire. I purchased the keys and we downloaded the wings, which I printed on vellum. My 11-year-old son,Ezrom, cut out the wings, taped them to the keys, and hung them.

 HP Party Flying Keys 2 The Prudent Homemaker

Harry Potter Baby Shower The Prudent Homemaker

Over the dining table, we hung snowflakes, a nod to the enchanted snowflakes that fall over the Christmas table at Hogwarts. Winter made the snowflakes and ironed them on low before hanging them with fishing wire. She also cut the curling ribbon and hung it. 

Besides decorations, a large part of a Harry Potter party is the themed food. 

Since we were having the party on a weeknight and many women would be coming from work, I served dinner. Knowing how inexpensive soup, salad, and homemade bread are to serve, I made pumpkin soup and rosemary olive oil bread. When someone asked how she could help, I assigned her to bring the salad, since I don't have much lettuce growing in the garden right now (despite planting several times). The pumpkin soup was a mixture of butternut squash from our garden, acorn squash I bought on sale (which decorated our table all fall), and mini pumpkins I had also bought as fall decorations.

HP Mini Chocolate Frogs The Prudent Homemaker

I made most all of the desserts in miniature, which made it possible for people to try several things without feeling like they had too much dessert. I used my miniature chocolate frog mold and a tiny snowflake mold to make these chocolates.

HP Chocolate Snitches The Prudent Homemaker

I used a half- sphere mold to make these snitches. My 11-year-old put them together, piped the design over them, and added the wings.

HP tarts and cookies The Prudent Homemaker

I made miniature treacle tarts (Harry's favorite), snowball cookies (about double the size of normal, which was only because I had not made them before, but in the future I will make them smaller), and chocolate wafer cookies.

Harry Potter Party Hogwarts Letter Cookie The Prudent Homemaker

I made some envelope cookies with red fondant Hogwarts seals (affixed with white chocolate). These were a bit larger and though delicious, I think they were too large for a baby shower where all the women want just a little dessert. At a children's party I think they will be eaten without a problem.

Harry Potter Mandrake Cupcake The Prudent Homemaker

The biggest hit among the Harry Potter fans in attendance were these miniature mandrake cupcakes. I made the cupcakes in miniature and bought the smallest terra cotta pots I could find. The mandrake label is a free printable (see sources below). The cupcakes were topped with melted chocolate and chocolate cookie crumbs. We then put in the baby and added a bit of melted chocolate to his head, which we used to affix oregano leaves from the garden.

The second largest hit were the cheese and pretzel broomsticks. We made them last minute so that they cheese would be fresh. I didn't get a photo of them, but I've included a link to the instructions below. I think everyone enjoyed having a savory choice in addition to the soup and salad.

All of those who had soup loved it. It was just the right thing on a winter evening.

 HP food The Prudent Homemaker

The white pumpkin is one I bought at Lowe's that has graced my table all fall since I purchased it at Lowe's in early fall. The floral arrangements were apple branches, Thai basil, dusty miller, and euonymus from the garden.

Being Christmastime, we had up our Christmas decorations as well. We set up a trunk that I had (a garage sale purchase years ago) under the tree, and the gifts went into that as well as around the tree.

For drinks, I served water with a lemon from the garden. Another guest brought butterbeer, which she made by mixing up a few different recipes that she had found on Pinterest. It was delicious!

There were about 30 people in attendance.

The best part, after everyone else had left, was when the recipient told me that it was just the kind of shower she wanted: we had food, sat and talked, and opened gifts.



Mini Chocolate Frog Mold

Snowflake Mold

Sphere mold


printable wings

vellum (opaque paper for printing wings)

Hogwarts seal

Happy Christmas banner template

plastic babies: Hobby Lobby

mini cupcake wrappers: Joann's on 50% off sale

mini pots: Hobby Lobby. They come in a package of six for $1.99. I bought them on a 50% off sale.

red fondant: Hobby Lobby.  I used a 40% off coupon to buy the small package.

Free printable customizable invitation

Wilton melting chips: bought 3 for $5 on sale at Michael's

Pretzels: I bought just a small amount (enough for the party) in the bulk bins at Winco. It was much less than buying a whole bag of pretzels (as well as cheaper per pound)

String cheese: Sam's Club in bulk (around $2.56 a pound)

chives, oregano, and centerpiece greenery: From the garden




Pumpkin soup

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

White cookies

Chocolate cookies (also used for crumbs on top of cupcakes)

Chocolate cake

Snowball cookies

Treacle tart

Cheese and pretzel broomsticks


Looking for more Harry Potter party ideas? Check out my Harry Potter party board on Pinterest.

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Winter White Garden Urns

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Winter White Center Garden Urn The Prudent Homemaker

I've been trying a mixture of annuals and perennials in my urns in the white garden, but it seems the only way to have something growing in them year-round is to do annuals, as even my perennials have died. The pots by the front door are particularly challenging; they are in full shade all day long. The garden itself is in shade all winter, and come summer it is mostly in our brutal sun, but for much of the year, it is half in sun and half in shade.

I have been staring at beautiful urns on Pinterest (I even have a board for it) trying to decide what to do this winter that will last into spring. I know what plants do well here winter through spring, and all of them are on sale right now (and I had an additional $5 off coupon on top of that to use). I knew I wanted to use some free evergreen branches, and the nursery, which sells Christmas trees, was the place to get those too. I just hadn't decided exactly what to do.

Winter White Garden in December The Prudent Homemaker

At the nursery there was a birdbath, and it was filled with flowers that looked so beautiful--and then I knew. There was a silvery small-leafed plant in the center, surrounded by a dark pinkish red cyclamen, surrounded by white ornamental cabbages. It was so pretty I seriously considered planting some red cyclamen in the garden for Christmas.

However, it's a white garden, and I wanted something that would last until April (winter annuals here are good October through April). I loved the cyclamen, but I know they do better in the shade here (they'll last longer in the shade when the heat comes, which is early here). I debated a change in the middle--stock or snapdragons? Both will do well; stock (what I ultimately chose for the center urn) flowers for a shorter period, but has an intense fragrance which I enjoy; snapdragons get larger and would be a less expensive option; I could just choose one or two plants if I wanted.

Winter Urn Detail The Prudent Homemaker

In the end, I went with sage in the middle (not noticeable at all, but a silvery-grey color that I think may work for a similar design come summer, by which time it will be larger; on sale for $0.98), surrounded by 4 stock flowers (on sale for $0.78 each), surrounded by 9 ornamental cabbage (on sale for $0.78 each). Should the cabbage grow too large before they bolt, I'll transplant them to another spot in the garden.

I added some pinecones that we had gathered in between the stock and cabbages. I used clippers to cut the free Christmas tree branches into smaller pieces and then stuck them into the arrangement. The ends are in the moist soil, so they'll stay good for a while (and longer if I mist them).

Winter White Black Urns The Prudent Homemaker

I had planned on getting some cyclamen too (on sale for $2.88 each), so I added some into the black pots by our entrance, along with more ornamental cabbage and a primrose ($1.98 each) . As I was in line at the nursery, I noticed that they had repeated the same arrangement indoors I had admired outdoors, but with purple cabbage and white cyclamen. 

 Winter White Urn by Door The Prudent Homemaker

In the urns at the front door, I had added some wire vine earlier this summer. I dug in the spaces around it and put a cyclamen plant in each, along with two primroses. These won't mind the full shade of this spot. 

Winter Urn on Wall The Prudent Homemaker

Earlier this year I added an urn (that I got for free) at the end of the low wall that I built. I dug up some oregano that had grown from seed in the garden and moved it into that urn. I added 2 viola plants that had been growing in the center urn. I then added some Christmas tree branches and some pinecones. Should the ornamental cabbage get too large for the center urn in the months to come, I may move them to this urn.

We still haven't had a frost here, but all of these plants will do just fine with a frost. Other good choices for our mild winters that are also on sale are snapdragons, pansies, and violas. 

Snow is extremely rare here, and frosts are short-lived: Our official first frost date is November 15th (but I usually don't see a frost until mid-December) and our last frost date is February 15th, though I have rarely seen a frost past the third week of January. These plants should last until sometime in April.

My next plan in the white garden is to plant the daffodil bulbs that I've been chilling in the refrigerator for weeks. In our mild climate, prechilling helps to get the bulbs the chilling hours they require in order to flower. I won't dig them up in years to come, however.

After Christmas, I'll be pruning the roses and stripping any remaining leaves to force them into a short dormancy, which will make them stronger and healthier in the year to come.  The white garden will then be empty of flowers except for the flowers in the urns until the bulbs start flowering and the roses flower again, sometime in late February at the earliest (and possibly not until mid-March).

Winter Garden Urns The Prudent Homemaker



Tagged in: White Garden
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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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Harry Potter Baby Shower The Prudent Homemaker

I hosted a Harry Potter themed baby shower this past week. I had several people ask me if they could bring anything or help in any way, so I assigned out several things: paper plates, cups, and bowls; salad; soda (and she went the extra mile and made butterbeer, which was delicious!), and a banner.

I made pumpkin soup (a mixture of acorn and butternut squashes plus the mini pumpkins I had bought in early fall for decorations; the butternut squash was from my garden), rosemary olive oil bread, salad dressings, chocolates, mini cupcakes, mini treacle tarts, and cookies. I sliced a lemon from the garden to add to the water.

I sewed a bib for the baby shower, and also gave a free print (the Walgreen's offer) and a rubber duck (bought on sale plus the extra 15% off last week) .

I mended the pocket on a cardigan.

Winter and I took a trip to Goodwill (a thrift/charity shop). The store opened up a little over a year ago, I believe, and it was our first time there. They mostly have women's clothing, but we managed to find several like-new shirts and sweaters that I can use for Christmas gifts for three children. I found a couple of items for Winter, and a dress and two cardigans for myself. The prices were above what I pay at garage sales, but lower than the thrift store we usually go to. The dress was $6.99! It's a bit too cold to wear it now but it will be nice to wear most of the year here.

My mom has continued her quest to find Christmas gifts at garage sales. She found some things Saturday morning, and some of them she gave to us already, including clothes for my girls in the sizes they need (she has a copy of my garage sale list) and a pair of brand-new jeans for me. The jeans fit perfectly, and she paid $2! 

I made a double batch of laundry soap.

I added a free one pound container of dry roasted peanuts to my grocery store shopping card (a one-day only coupon that needed to be added on the 5th but can be picked up anytime through the 19th).  I also downloaded the Free Friday coupon for some free candy, which I'll use as a stocking stuffer for my husband. I'll pick up these items next week.

I combined coupons and a cartwheel offer at Target to purchase a few stocking stuffers. 

I used Duolingo to practice my French skills. 

Winter used a free 5-day trial to prepare some more for the ACT test, which she took on Saturday. I canceled the trial in time to not be charged.

We went to a Christmas party at church. Afterwards, we were offered some leftover pasta to take home, which we ate the next two days.

I cut parsley, beet greens, basil, and oregano from the garden. We still haven't had a freeze (despite predictions to the contrary). I picked 2 figs from our Mission fig tree. It always comes close to giving a third crop of figs, but it always freezes before that happens. This year, it looks like we may harvest at least a few more before a freeze!

I sowed seeds for arugula in the garden.

Winter Urn Detail The Prudent Homemaker

I used a $5 off coupon for the local nursery to pick up some annuals that were on sale for the white garden. While I was there, I also picked up some free tree trimmings, which I used in the urns in the garden (along with some of the pinecones we had gathered).


What did you do to save money last week? 



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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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I cut Thai basil, euonymus, and lavender branches from the garden to enjoy indoors.

December Arrangement The Prudent Homemaker

We collected pinecones to use as Christmas decorations.

Green Tomatoes The Prudent Homemaker

We harvested basil, tomatoes, chives, oregano, and Thai peppers from the garden. I heard there was going to be a freeze and so we harvested all of the tomatoes and brought in most of the basil. The freeze didn't come yet, but we are enjoying our ripening tomatoes inside and I've left some Thai basil and Thai peppers out in the garden still.

I made 2 large batches of pesto from our basil.

I planted seeds for spinach, snow peas, arugula, mache, carrots, and larkspur in the garden.

I saved warm up water from the shower to water potted plants in the garden.

I rolled up towels and put them in front of the doors to block the cold draft that comes in at this time of year. I also added some rolled towels to a few windows to block the draft.

I mended the buttons on a coat.

I had a date night at home with my husband. We played a card game together and had a treat.

Ezrom The Prudent Homemaker

We cut my husband and the boys' hair at home. My husband said, "Well, that just saved us $50." It saved us time, too!

I said yes to some leftover food at a Christmas party I attended, and received baked potatoes, sour cream, rolls, and a huge bag of spinach.

Winter is preparing to take the ACT test on December 10th.  She is using this book and also has been printing free ACT practice tests. This week she found some more free tests online to help her practice.

Winter modified a dress to fit her. My mom bought the formal dress for $1 at a garage sale. She gave it to Winter, who took it in after I pinned it for her. The top is lace and the sleeves were unlined. I bought a piece of fabric for Winter to use to line the sleeves. She used half the fabric (I'll use the rest for another project) so it cost us $1.50 (plus the time for her to alter it) for her to have a formal dress. She is going to a winter ball in January and is happy to have a dress to wear.

I played Christmas music on Pandora for us to enjoy. 

I went to Target on Monday for their 15% off one-day only sale and bought some new socks.

My husband and I went over the budget for the next 4 months and discussed what we could do to keep our expenses down.

What did you do to save money last week?

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Ten Things You Can Do To Save Money This Week

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Feeling a pinch in your finances this week?

If you're feeling the need to save even more this week, but wondering what else you can do, here are some ideas to keep money in your pocket. (I'm planning to do all of them!)

Tuscan Tomato Soup 

1. Eat all meals at home

Don't go out to eat or order takeout. If you've got a busy week ahead, put together some crockpot meals in the morning, make a large pot of soup every few nights (enough for leftovers for another day or several lunches during the week), and plan some quick and easy meals to save you time this week.


2. Don't buy any groceries this week

Use up whatever you have in the fridge, freezers, and pantry. 


3. Turn the heat down

Set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower this week (for those in the Northern hemisphere). If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to be even lower during the day if you won't be home during the day. Add another blanket to your bed (a throw blanket works fine if you don't have another bed-sized blanket).

During the day, dress in layers.


4. Block drafts in your house with old towels

Roll up some old towels (or your summer swimming towels) and use them as instant draft blockers to block cold drafts from doors and windows.


5. Mend something 

Rather than buying something new, mend what you have. Sew up the hole in a shirt, patch a sheet, glue your shoes, or fix that thing that's been broken for a bit in your home.

 December Arrangement The Prudent Homemaker

6. Decorate for the season using what you have (and can get for free)

Gather pinecones and put them in bowls. Decorate with cookie cutters. Cut greens from your yard. Visit a place selling Christmas trees and ask if you can have the trimmings; many places will give them to you for free!


7. Make a gift using items you have on hand

Repurpose old clothing to make a hat, scarf, or gloves. Refashion a broken piece of jewelry into a new combination to give.


8. Be diligent about turning off lights when you're not using them

When you sit down to eat, turn off any lights that aren't right above your table. Studies have shown that you'll save more money turning them off if you leave a room for 20 seconds (incandescent) or 2 minutes (fluorescent).


9. Take a family photo (or individual family pictures) yourself

Set the timer and take a new family photo.  Email it rather than sending Christmas cards or post it on Facebook instead.


10. Have a date night at home

Play a board game or card game, watch a movie you already own (or borrow one from the library), work on a project together, clean something together, or just enjoy talking together while you have a homemade treat.


Do you have any other plans to save money this week that won't cost you anything this week?



Tagged in: Frugality
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