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Lemonade 2 The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains affiliate links.

This year, our grocery budget is $200 a month (down from an average of $300 a month last year).

Our income in 2017 was half what it was in 2016. We also increased our expenses significantly in 2017, as we added life insurance, we had some hospital bills, and we started paying for online college classes for our eldest.

With a variable income, we never know what our income will be each month or for the year. Because we have increased our expenses, we need to cut from other areas of the budget. We don't have a large discretionary income, so cutting the grocery budget and the clothing/garden/miscellaneous budget are the two places we can cut.

Here's how I intend to make $200 a month work for our family of 10 this year:

I intend to grow even more in the garden and do a better job with our fruit harvest. I wasn't always fast enough on everything last year and the birds got to most of my grapes and a large number of figs. I intend to use paper bags on my grapes earlier in the season to keep the birds away. I also will be spraying the grapes a couple of times early in the spring (i.e. January and February) with neem oil, before they leaf out, to keep the powdery mildew away that has posed a problem (and destroyed part of the fruit) the last two years.

I am planning to grow even more Swiss chard, green onions, lettuce, and beets. My children went from not liking canned pickled beets much to suddenly welcoming them at the table. I'll plant lettuce seeds (which I've collected from my own open-pollinated lettuces) every two weeks for a continuous supply of lettuce from March through late April/early May (at which point it get too hot here, as it is well over 100ºF).

I will plant my warm-season seeds shortly after our last frost date (which is February 15th). Sometimes I get these in later than I hope and it is too hot by the time they are large enough to flower for them to put forth any flowers. If our warm weather keeps up and no frost is predicted, I may plant earlier and cover the ground with glass jars to warm the soil (I already took a chance with some cucumber seeds last week this way, so I'll see if they come up).

Last year, I rearranged the garden beds and added some concrete mesh we already had (I unrolled 5-foot tall cages to make them flat)  and my eldest son and I put them in the garden so that I can grow more vertically in the same space. This will be an advantage this year. I already have snow peas coming up under most of these trellises. I'll plant Armenian cucumber seeds under the others come February 15th.

I also changed up a bed along one whole side of the garden, which gave me more space to grow lettuce, tomatoes, basil, and squash last year. I will use the same space for lettuce, poppies, squash, and herbs this year (the tomatoes will be grown in another space).

My garden budget is separate from my grocery budget. It includes things like replacement valves, drip lines, sprinkler heads, grass seed, manure, organic fertilizers: bone meal, Epsom salts, soil sulfur (to lower the ph, as our soil and water here have a ph of 8.2), and blood meal, vegetable seeds, flower seeds, fruit trees, vines, bushes, other plants, etc. 

I already have flower seeds and vegetable seeds to plant this year, both from collecting seeds in my own garden and seeds I've purchased in the past. I don't need to buy any this year (though I may add a few new varieties of both to try). This is a blessing as I am decreasing the garden budget this year. I have also planned for a lowered budget, as I have been buying open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, and collecting them to plant in my own garden.

We'll continue to eat from the freezers and pantry, and I'll stock up on items as they get low.

We'll continue to practice the principles from when I had an even lower budget of $100 a month. You can read those tips in my Eat for $0.40 a Day series.

 

Here's how I'll spend my $200 this month:

 

Winco:

Canned tomatoes. I am completely out of canned tomatoes. I used to buy 28-ounce cans of these, until Sam's Club started carrying 102-ounce cans of these for an even better deal. Sam's Club no longer carries them in this size (and Costco doesn't either), so I will be comparing prices of the store brand of canned tomatoes (I'll start with buying some at Winco). I use these in lots of recipes (especially soups), and I cannot grow enough tomatoes to can them (I have tried!) Update: After a year of not having these, it looks like my Sam's Club might be bringing them back, but as a store brand instead. A reader's suggestion to look at another Sam's Club in town had me looking online. They didn't have these in the store when I was there last month, but it says online that they have them now, so I will check!

Canned pineapple. These go on sale for $0.99 a can from November to January at Winco. I will stock up on these to use in fruit salads and on homemade pizza (and in the occasional carrot cake).

Canned olives. These also go on sale at Winco from November to December for $0.99 a can. We use these in pasta salad and on pizza. I will stock up on these for the year.

Potatoes. Winco carries russets around $0.25 a pound all year. We eat even more in the winter. and can easily go through 50 pounds a week in winter. You can see how we like to eat potatoes here.

Broccoli. Broccoli is in season in January and February. My whole family loves broccoli. I will look for a price of $0.99 a pound or less (I'm hoping for $0.77 a pound) and I will blanch and freeze broccoli to use for months. I will also watch the store ads to see if I find a lower price elsewhere. However, Winco sells just the crowns, which means I don't end up with a lot of stems for the same price (or less) as I find elsewhere.

Onions

Spreadable margarine

Eggs

Milk

Vegetable Oil

 

Target:

Vitamins.  There are always sales on vitamins in January, and Target usually has additional Cartwheel offers on top of sales prices to get them even lower. I will look for both multivitamins and individual supplements of the store brand that we use.

 

Walmart:

Dish soap

 

Sam's Club:

Mayonnaise

Toilet Paper

Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Mozzarella Cheese

Flour tortillas

Canned tomatoes in the 102-ounce (#10) can

 

 

In the garden this month, I'm harvesting Swiss chard and Meyer lemons. We're also eating fresh tomatoes from the garden that we picked green and have ripening in baskets as well as butternut squash and pumpkin from the garden.

 

Some of the meals we'll have this month:

 

Crepes 500

Oatmeal with brown sugar and almonds

Crepes

Eggs and toast with canned fruit salads (including home-canned fruit and frozen blackberries and pomegranates from our garden)

Homemade yogurt with jam and granola

Cheese grits with eggs

Fried diced potatoes with onion

 

Minestrone Soup The Prudent Homemaker

Black beans and tomato rice

Minestrone Soup with French Bread

Rosemary White Bean Soup

Swiss Chard Soup with Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Vegetable Noodle Soup

Pasta e Fagioli

 

Butternut Squash Soup ingredients

Pizza

Spaghetti with green beans on the side

Enchiladas with Swiss chard

Butternut Squash Soup, Herb Roasted Chicken, Swiss Chard, and Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Baked Potato Bar

Pumpkin pasta

Turkey Devan

 

For more frugal winter menu ideas, check out my winter menu here.

 

Note: If you're new to my site, you should know that my grocery budget includes food, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for my family.

Tagged in: Grocery Shopping
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The Last Frugal Accomplishments For 2017

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Pansies in Black Urn The Prudent Homemaker

I spent all week working in the garden each day, tidying it for planting. I pulled out dead plants, pulled weeds, spread manure. and pruned.

I planted seeds in the garden for beets, green onions, snow peas, Armenian cucumbers, spinach, and lettuce in the garden.

I began my birthday gift list for 2018, starting with moving several items I didn't make for Christmas to the birthday gifts list. I already have fabric for these.

My efforts to save energy and water resulted in my utility bills (water, power, and gas)  all coming in significantly lower than normal for this month. Our warmer winter should mean a lower heating bill too; it's been 10 to 15 degrees warmer than usual, which means we're rarely running the heater. It was so warm last week that I even opened the house for a few hours several days.

My daughter downloaded six free songs from the library.

I downloaded and read four e-books from the library.

What did you do to save money for the last part of 2017?

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Christmas Home Tour

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Welcome to our home!

Christmas 2017 Entry The Prudent Homemaker

In the urns by the front door, I added some free Christmas tree trimmings and free pinecones. Many places that sell Christmas trees will give free Christmas tree trimmings if you ask.

I hung some wreaths I bought several years ago.

This year, I added the two lanterns by the door. The black one I bought used for $5 earlier this year (it turned out to have a broken hinge, but it still works fine). The red lantern has faux candles inside that don't light up and a crack in the bottom; my mom found it for free at someone's trash last year after Christmas and picked it up for me.

 

Christmas Entry Table and Living Room The Prudent Homemaker

We were gifted this poinsettia a couple of nights ago by some friends who came caroling at our door. I took out the roses and basil from this arrangement (which were done) and put the poinsettia in the middle instead with the dusty miller from our garden and the free Christmas tree trimmings.

Christmas Entry Table and Mirror The Prudent Homemaker

The wreath was a $2 garage sale find in October. I used a ribbon that used to be the drawstring to a pair of flannel pajama pants. The pajamas wore out years ago but I kept the ribbon. The urn was an $8 garage sale find in October.

Christmas 2017 Piano The Prudent Homemaker

 I bought our Nativity set 16 years ago with my husband at Walmart for our second Christmas together.

I hung the star music garland that I made for another Christmas. I used a vintage fur collar from my grandmother on the bust, and I added pinecones to the urns.

The Christmas book is one from which my daughters are currently playing. We sing Christmas carols every night as a family starting the first of December, and sometimes one of my daughters will play for us when we sing. I have been enjoying hearing them practice their Christmas music all month.

Christmas 2017 Living Room The Prudent Homemaker

A woman who works with my husband gifted him the beautiful live wreath that is hanging in the large window. I have two small wreaths in the end windows,  but I wanted another in the middle window. One day I hope to purchase a large faux wreath for this space.

Our tree is a beautiful faux one that we bought 11 years ago from Lowe's. It was the display model and they couldn't find the box. They charged us only $80! (This style of tree retails for $300 to $400).  We have it in a tree stand that is bolted to a little table (the table was free and my husband cut the legs down to make it a bit shorter). Having the tree on the table gives the illusion of a taller tree, and it keeps our toddler from reaching too much of the tree. He can reach the bottom two branches, so we don't have any ornaments on those branches this year. We have eight children, so this arrangement has worked well for us for years to keep the tree and ornaments save from toddlers.

The ribbon and ornaments on the tree are ones we have had for many years.

I made the tree skirt this year from some drop cloth that I had on hand. 

Christmas Gifts Under the Tree The Prudent Homemaker

 I have been wanting reusable boxes for years. I had a few velvet covered ones that were gifted to us years ago. I added the brown ones and the two white and gold ones that are on the table last year (I found them at Target in the gift wrapping section). This year I was very excited to see that Target was offering more reusable boxes in the Christmas section, and they were very similar to the boxes I bought last year. I bought several. I can use these every year for Christmas, as well as for birthdays, without needing to use wrapping paper. Since I hand make gifts and purchase many gifts at garage sales, I don't usually have boxes for my gifts. This will make wrapping so much easier for me every year. 

Christmas Gifts The Prudent Homemaker

I purchased a few spools of ribbon to tie the boxes closed. I also have lots of ribbon that I've saved from gifts we've received in years past that I use to close boxes.

I bought the gold and burgundy faux berries this year from a local Facebook garage sale page for $3 for 12 of them.

I bought some large and regular sized jingle bells this year as well to add to the top of the boxes. They still don't disguise the sound of Legos in the boxes, but they are a fun addition that I can reuse every year.

Christmas 2017 Table Runner 2 The Prudent Homemaker

The small wreaths I have in the windows at the end of the room are faux ones I bought for $2.99 each (on sale at Michael's) several years ago.

The pinecones were gathered from the side of the road.

The faux greens on the table are ones I bought years ago. This is my first year using them on the table; I usually place them on the piano.

The lanterns are ones I bought early in our marriage. The candles I've had for years, as I like the look of them during the day, but we don't use them at night.

The silver-plated bowls and urns are ones I've picked up for $5 and under each at garage sales over the last couple of years.

Christmas 2017 Table Runner The Prudent Homemakerjpg

 I purchased the clementines on sale for $1 a pound, which is a good price here.

Christmas 2017 Table Runner 3 The Prudent Homemakerjpg

The Meyer lemons are from my garden. The beautiful silver reindeer were a surprise gift from a reader who inherited them and didn't have a place for them. She didn't know it, but I had been looking at faux mercury glass deer very similar to these last Christmas. I was so excited to find these in a box from her as they are even better than what I had looked at!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Lemons on the Christmas Table The Prudent Homemaker

I put up a few more decorations that I already had.

The frost that was predicted earlier this month never came, but a frost was again forecast for this week. There were still some green tomatoes in the garden, so we brought them in. We also enjoyed eating garden tomatoes that we had picked green earlier in the month that had ripened.

We harvested lemons from the garden.

Eiffel Tower Pencil Pag The Prudent Homemaker

 I sewed and made gifts for the children using items I had on hand, including another pencil bag.

I made several batches of caramel sauce using ingredients I had on hand. We enjoyed it on brownies and cookies. I used some to fill Christmas candy.

I made candy for everyone's stockings.

I sorted through the garage sale Legos I bought in October (two purchases; one was $0.50 and one was $20). I thought they would all fit in the girls' stockings once I divided them. Then I thought they would all fit in small boxes as there were more than I thought. I quickly realized that wasn't going to work, either. I ended up dividing them into 5 boxes for five different gifts, and I realized what a great price I had really gotten when I started seeing how many sets and people were inside (It took me over 2 hours to divide them up). The girls will be delighted! 

A comedian came across the suggested videos on YouTube for me. I had never seen her before. I watched/listened to this video first and then a few more of hers while I worked on Christmas gifts.

My children watched several children's shows on YouTube.

We listened to Christmas music on Pandora.

My husband and I had a date night at home.

 

What did you do to save money this past week?

 

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A Gift a Day 2017: Day 5: Polka Dot Skirt

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Polka Dot Skirt The Prudent Homemaker 

My five-year-old daughter has been wanting a polka dot skirt. She knew I had this fabric, and asked that I make her a skirt from it.

Because she is still small, I just cut one piece of fabric from selvage to selvage. I sewed the side seam together with a French seam.

Polka Dot Elastic Casing The Prudent Homemaker

I ironed 1/4 inch down across the top of the skirt, and then folded it and ironed it again at 1 1/4", to make a casing for the elastic. I sewed this part, leaving a small opening, and then ran the elastic through the casing by attaching a large safety pin to one end and pulling it through.

I hemmed the skirt in the same manner, first folding and ironing under 1/4", and then ironing an additional 2 inches, as I wanted a deep hem.

 

Supplies:

polka dot fabric (I used a little less than 2/3 of a yard)

1-inch wide elastic



Tools:


Sewing Machine

Iron

Sewing pins

Scissors

 

Time:

About an hour



Cost: $4

I purchased this fabric on a Black Friday sale several years ago from Fabric.com.

I purchased the elastic on sale in bulk from Wawak.

Tagged in: A Gift A Day
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Christmas Gifts Under $5

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Gift Tag Slider

This post contains affiliate links.

My per person budget for members of my immediate family is usually between $10 to $20 per person, including gifts that go in their stockings. While I make many gifts for pennies, I also purchase items from garage sales, and I look for low-cost items that my family members will love that also fit in my budget.

 Here are some deals that you can give for $5 or less; click on the photos to go to the item:

 

Kitchen tools:

Amazon has a huge selection of unique cookie cutters. Even with shipping on these, they still work out to be under $5 each, with most under $3 (no minimum order required).

    

 

Scarves:

I've bought these for myself and for my daughters. They all come in different colors, too! (Note: a couple of these are now priced just above $5, but some color options are below $5, including shipping).

 

 

Fountain Pens:

There are beautiful inexpensive options: 

 

Read Alouds for Children:

    

 

Art Supplies:

     

 

Baby Gifts:

These are favorites at my house. 

           

 

Having trouble coming up with $5 for a gift this year? Try racking up enough Swagbucks to earn a $5 Amazon gift card. Many of the above items have free shipping with no minimum order, or are still under $5 including shipping.

If you have Amazon Prime, you won't need to pay for shipping an order, plus you'll get 2-day shipping. You can click here to get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, which includes free online movies and music along with 2-day shipping.

 

Today only, Amazon is offering $5 off $15 worth of books. Use code BOOKGIFT17. You can read the terms and conditions here.

 

 

Tagged in: Christmas Deals Gifts
Last modified on

Spring Gardening

 
 
 
  
 
 
 

 

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How To Eat Beans Every Night
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