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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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Helping Grandpa The Prudent Homemaker

We had the most beautiful weather all week: temperatures of 70-75ºF/21-24ºC. I opened the windows and we enjoyed fresh air in the house all week.

We enjoyed lemons, Swiss chard, oregano and parsley from the garden.

I enjoyed working in the garden in the record highs for this time of year. Usually, I'm still sporting long sleeves and a jacket while I do the busy work of January and February in the garden, but this year I'm in a short-sleeved t-shirt.

I used stakes and concrete mesh wire that I already had to add another vertical growing space to the garden. I planted Armenian cucumber seeds under it.

I planted seeds for alpine strawberries and poppies.

I opened the house up to air it out for several hours each day.

I stocked up on pasta (I bought 96 pounds) at the lowest price it gets here ($0.49 a pound). This price only comes around 2-3 times a year. When I was leaving the store, I picked up a dime I found in the parking lot.

I redeemed 2200 Swagbucks for a Target gift card. I'll use this to reduce my out-of-pocket expenses for February's shopping trip.

I read two e-books from the library.

My two eldest downloaded a combined 12 free songs from the library through the Freegal program.

We enjoyed watching the last bits of the lunar eclipse early in the morning.

I gladly accepted a hand-me-down infant car seat and matching stroller from a reader who lives very close by.

Nap The Prudent Homemaker

What did you do to save money last week?

 

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February's Shopping Plans

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Meyer Lemon Tree The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains affiliate links.

I'm zesting and juicing lemons this month from the garden. I am freezing lemon juice and zest to use throughout the year. In order to have enough space in the freezer for so much juice, we're eating lots from the freezers. This time of year, we eat the frozen fruit from the garden that I froze over the last year. We're also eating meat from the freezers. 

The pantry is still plenty stocked, including canned fruits and vegetables, butternut squash, pumpkins, and onions.

I'm glad I was able to can so much applesauce from our tree last year, as due to massive borer damage on all but one branch, we had to pull the tree last month. I'm replacing it with another. It will be a few years before the new tree is large enough to start bearing.

Snow Pea Blossoms The Prudent Homemaker

In the garden, (In addition to hundreds of lemons) we have green onions, oregano, nasturtiums, Swiss chard, New Zealand Spinach, and the first of the snow peas ripening this month.

I'm focusing on filling holes in the pantry. I've been asked before what percentage of the grocery budget I allot towards filling the pantry. Stocking up on pantry staples is my first priority, not my last, nor a tiny bit. I then look to purchase fresh items in addition to any pantry needs. I find that my money goes further this way (such as 25 pounds of oats for under $17 at Winco!) 

Each year I aim to increase the yield in my garden to allow for plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits throughout the year for my family. I succession sow seeds, I grow vertically, I've added additional fruit trees in pots (underplanted with flowers and herbs), I've planted more that grows well in my climate (especially more cut and come again vegetables like Swiss chard and green onions), I've covered the walls with berry bushes and grape vines, and I re-landscaped my small front yard to allow for 5 fruit trees in the ground and 3 in pots, in addition to herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Doing all these things not only helps us to have something always ripe in the garden to harvest, but it also allows me to be able to can and freeze fruit. I currently have a total of 29 fruit trees, including 3 nut trees and 8 potted fruit trees. Everything in the ground is watered by drip irrigation (and a few of my potted trees are also on drip irrigation).

I have a budget of $200 for February's purchases. Here's how I'll spend it:

 

Smith's:

Pasta. American Beauty brand pasta is on sale for $0.49 when you buy multiples of 6 (regular price is $1.25 a pound). This is the price I've been waiting to see; it's the lowest price I can find for pasta, and this sale only happens 2 to 3 times a year, so I'll stock up. Smith's is our Kroger affiliate, so you may have this sale price on pasta where you live, too! East of the Mississippi River, it's often the Creamette brand of pasta that goes on sale this low. (Note: One reader noted that her store has this sale for $0.38, but it's on 12-ounce packages pasta rather than 16-ounce.)

 

Target:

Diapers. There should be a spend so much get a gift card deal back on diapers this month. Every year, Target has a similar offer in January, but February's offer is usually a little better. Last year, it was spend $100 on diapers, get a $25 gift card. If I don't see this deal for some reason, I will hold off on buying more diapers. I still have plenty for my youngest and I don't need diapers for the baby yet. I will still have a 15% off coupon coming for one purchase from my registry to use on diapers if there isn't a great sale before the baby arrives. For the 15% off coupon, the item has to be on your registry. I created a registry just for this purpose, and I made sure I put diapers on the registry. (I will also pick up my registry freebies this month when I go to Target). (Update: It looks like it will be spend $100, get a $20 gift card starting next week. You'll need the coupon, which will be in the ad and also in the Target app, in order to get the $20 gift card).

Salon Graphix hairspray (unscented super hold)

 

Walmart:

Oxi-Clean spray in the refill bottle (I pour it into this pretty spray bottle to use for laundry)

Equate dandruff shampoo

 

Winco:

Oats (25-pound bag for a little over $16)

Potatoes

Vegetable Oil

 

Our last official frost date is February 15th, at which time our local nursery will have a large number of vegetable and herb plants available. I spoke with the manager, and because of our record heat this year (it's going to be 76ºF/24ºC on Monday), they are expecting these plants to come in earlier. (They had a few tomato and vegetable plants and a number of herb plants on January 26th when I went in; normally there are no tomato plants there until February 14th).  For those who are local, Star Nursery traditionally has a sale on tomato, vegetable, and herb plants on President's Day weekend. I plan on purchasing tomato plants and two fruit trees (to replace my dead ones) for the garden. I'll be watching for sale prices as well as coupons (usually there are coupons this month in the Val-Pak and/or in the ads that wrap around hte grocery ads in the mail) and I will be purchasing these items on sale. (My garden budget is not a set amount. I have spent as little as $150 a year on my garden up to $1500, not counting years where we landscaped the garden. Larger purchases include non-edible things like dirt, bushes, sprinkler and valve replacement parts, drip irrigation, etc. I take money for the garden from my miscellaneous budget, which includes clothing and household purchases for the family. That amount is generally equal to or less than my grocery budget for the month. This year, my miscellaneous budget for the garden, clothing, and household goods is $200 a month, but I will spend less if I don't need anything.)

I'll sow seeds for Armenian cucumbers, Red Noodle beans, lettuce, radishes, alpine strawberries, pumpkins and squash this month in the garden. I'll also sow flower seeds. I already have these seeds, purchased in past years and collected from my own garden.

I don't know if our record highs this month mean we'll see a longer spring or just an earlier summer. Either way, the ground is warm enough to plant now, so there's no point in waiting. Hopefully, everything will germinate well and my seedlings won't be eaten by bugs, and I'll have lots of fresh food and flowers to enjoy from the garden this year!

 

Tagged in: Grocery Shopping
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I love lemons. I've always liked them, but growing Meyer lemons, I've come to really love them. They're sweeter than regular lemons, larger, juicier, and have thin peels and very few seeds.

They grow large in my garden, and they are such a bright, deep yellow that between the color and the size, people think they are oranges.

Despite their bright color, it's the egg yolks that give color to lemon curd.

I recently used lemon curd on top of these meringues. Lemons start to ripen in my garden the last week of November and will hang ripe on the trees through the beginning of April. Pomegranates are ripe in October/November, and they will last a few months in the refrigerator (you can also freeze the arils). 

Meyer Lemon Meringues The Prudent Homemaker 

I am currently growing six Meyer lemon trees in the garden: two large, older trees, which provide hundreds of lemons, a small potted tree that gave me a few lemons this year, and three small trees in my white garden that will give me a few additional lemons each year; these trees will stay small as they are limited in the small space they have.

I have five pomegranate trees in the garden: Four small potted trees and one small tree that I planted in the garden last year. The tree in the ground will be able to get much larger than the potted ones, but right now it's about the same size. These give me a small number of pomegranates. Last year (and in years past) I have been able to pick pomegranates from those who had so many on one of two large trees that they couldn't use all of them. 

We loved this dessert, so it will be on the menu in winter and early spring for years to come.

You can find the recipe here

More lemon recipes:

Lemonade

Lemon Parmesan Pasta

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Dill Chicken

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lenon Popyseed Muffins

 

 

Tagged in: Recipes
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Meyer Lemon Meringues The Prudent Homemaker

I used lemons from the garden this week to make lemon curd, which I used to top homemade meringues, along with pomegranate arils. I'll be sharing this recipe later this week.

I dug up and moved several plants to help them to get better sun exposure/less sun exposure (some were burning in the sun and others were failing to flower). Moving the plants made it feel like I've put new things in the garden. (You can see some recent pictures of the garden over on Instagram.) I planted two bushes that were started by tip layering several years ago to the pots by the front door.

We have been working on making our raised bed smaller. About half of it was on the east side of the house. It wasn't getting enough sun, and we want the space for bicycles. I ran new drip irrigation to the remaining part of the bed (the old irrigation had become clogged with calcium and salt that is prevalent in our local water). As I evaluated the bed, I saw that I could install the lines closer than they had been before, allowing me to almost double the number of rows in the remaining space. My lettuce and green onions can grow closer together than they have in the past.

I planted seeds for lettuce, spinach, green onions, snow peas, radishes, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and pumpkins in the garden. We're expecting record high temperatures this week (70F/23ºC), and with our normal last-frost date only two weeks away, it's warm enough for warm-weather crops to germinate in the garden.

I transplanted parsley seedlings from where I started them in a pot in the white garden to several shady spots in the garden. Parsley will burn here completely in the sun come April, but will grow year-round in the shade.

I covered vegetable seedlings with jars to protect them from being eaten and to speed up growth. Glass jars act as miniature greenhouses in the garden, and I've found that the seedlings grow three times faster when covered than when not.

I updated my garage sale list. I usually print my list and take it with me. Now I have the list on my phone, so I'll have it with me always, and I can update it more often as I both find things and think of things we need. Garage sale season usually starts in March here (and is at its peak in April and again in October, when HOA's have their semi-annual community sales).

Meyer Lemon Crepe Cake The Prudent Homemaker

I made a crepe cake for my son's birthday (my children choose the meals for their birthdays, and this was his request). He asked for a crepe cake with lemon curd, Nutella, and whipped cream for breakfast. I still had heavy cream left in the fridge that I bought a few months back that was good (whipping cream lasts months, unlike milk) which was perfect to top the crepes.

I checked out and read four e-books from the library.

I made a triple batch of laundry soap.

I made homemade hair detangler/leave-in conditioner. A small squirt of conditioner in a squirt bottle and water work just as well as Infusium leave-in conditioner.

I said yes to some free clothes hangers.

My husband cut my hair for me.

Meyer Lemon Crepe Cake 2 The Prudent Homemaker

What did you do to save money last week?

 

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What I've Been Reading

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Ebook The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains affiliate links.

Shortly after Christmas, a reader wrote to me about a shopaholic relative who decided to spend $1500 on one of her children right after Christmas. This relative lives on a fixed income and the reader knew that the relative was unable to afford the purchases (she was charging everything). She and I were discussing how to talk to her child about the relative, and I thought immediately of the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic. My whole family enjoyed the movie, and it has been a good point of discussion at our house about buying on credit (my husband and I have never been ones to use credit cards for shopping, and we often discuss saving up for things that we want).

As I looked up the movie on Amazon, I found a number of negative reviews about the movie. My husband, my eldest, and I were surprised; we thought the movie was great and that it had a great message about not overspending. 

The reviews mostly were negative because the movie was so different from the books that it was based on.

I looked up the author of the books, Sophie Kinsella, on my library's website. Since everyone was saying that the movie was so different, I thought I'd try reading some of her other novels, and there were quite a few in addition to her Shopaholic series.

Ivory Musketeer The Prudent Homemaker

It was Christmas break, so while the children were playing with their new Legos, playing board games and endless rounds of dress-up, I decided to read. I had already downloaded the free Overdrive app on my phone, so I decided it was time to start using e-books (I've had a cell phone for less than a year now). I checked out the first book at night, when the library would have been closed. I loved that I didn't have to drive to the library and that I could get something new to read immediately.

Octavius Pirate The Prudent Homemaker

I found the books to be funny (I was laughing out loud several times). so I read each of her books that my library had, downloading them to my phone. I read some while the children played, during our naptime/quiet time while I laid down with my toddler to get him to sleep, and at night after the children were in bed. We don't have cable, Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, so I don't watch a lot of tv, but I often work on the website or read other blogs during the evenings. Being Christmas break, most blogs were quiet, and it was nice to have some downtime and just read. 

It took me around 4-5 hours to finish a book. I stayed up late reading several nights, so I usually read 3 hours after the children went to bed and a couple of hours during the day (usually during naptime, while my youngest napped and the others played Legos, did genealogy, and sewed). 

When we started school again a few weeks later, I continued reading at night and during naptime. 

I decided to read the Shopaholic series last. The reviewers were right in that the movie was quite different than the books in several major aspects. At the end of the movie, you're left with the feeling that the main character has learned to control her spending. In the book series, however, she never does. It was very different reading about someone who lives such a different way of life, constantly charging very expensive purchases that she can't afford. 

I liked the main character's optimism about herself, her caring and concern for others, and the fact that despite her weaknesses, she had some great strengths. It was a good reminder that everyone has good qualities, even if they have large weaknesses.

A few things about the author's books that I didn't like: her use of swear words was something I'm not used to reading, and a few scenes were a bit risqué. I also noticed that most of her main characters were women working in entry-level jobs who ended up with multi-millionaires who were heads of companies. While that's a fun thing to imagine, it's definitely not how things work out for most people. 

Despite this, I did enjoy reading her books. I also loved the ease of downloading e-books from the library to read, saving me time and gas (I checked out most books at night after library hours, which was nice, too!)

The last New York Times best-selling author that I read was John Flanagan. My husband, my four eldest children and I have enjoyed all his novels immensely!

I'm thinking that I should check out the New York Times best-seller list to see what other authors' works I may enjoy reading. Reading library books as e-books has been simple, convenient and a great source of free entertainment. 

Have you read any great fiction recently that you can recommend?

 

Tagged in: Frugal Fun
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January Garden Harvest The Prudent Homemaker

I cut and dried oregano from the garden. I also harvested beets and lemons.

I dug and planted more tiny bushes started by tip layering in new spots in the garden.

January Iceberg Roses in Entry The Prudent Homemaker

I cut roses from the garden before pruning the rose bushes.

I juiced lemons from the garden and made a double batch of lemonade.

We enjoyed lots of produce from our own garden, including butternut squash that I grew and harvested last year (I love that it keeps for several months), peaches that I froze from our trees, tomatoes that we picked in December that have been ripening, and herbs that I dried.

January is our coldest month and I usually have the highest natural gas bill in January. It's been so warm that I haven't had to run the heater almost all month, so even though our natural gas rates are higher in the winter, I will have a very low bill.  We even opened the windows for a few hours each day to let in some fresh air. (December's bill was akin to a bill I pay in summer!) Friday was the nicest day at 69ºF/21ºC. A storm blew by over the weekend, bringing cold air and lots of wind, but it was still plenty warm in the house.

I collected shower warm up water in a bucket all week and used it to water potted plants on my patio.

I downloaded and read an e-book from the library.

We cut my husband's hair and all three sons' hair.

My husband used two very used 2 by 4s that we've had for years and nailed them to the walls in the shed using nails that someone gave us some time ago. He used more of the same nails to make places for me to hang our garden tools. This is a project that I've been wanting for years; it took 20 minutes to complete and cost us nothing out of pocket.  Last fall my eldest son rearranged the shelf units in the shed (his way made more sense that what we had before) and now the shed feels much more spacious and it is much easier to access everything. Every time I opened the shed door this week (which was often, as I worked outside almost every day) I was delighted!

We removed two dying trees from the garden ourselves.

I mended two holes in my drip irrigation using supplies I had on hand.

My husband's work insurance was up for renewal. He shopped around and found another company that has a deductible that is half what our old coverage was, and the insurance itself is $1000 less than what we paid last year! 

My second son made phone calls to have materials donated for his upcoming Eagle Scout project. He had all the steel donated that he needed for his project.

Two of my children downloaded 6 songs each from the library through Freegal.

My two eldest went to a free swing dance. They've been getting together with other teens every week for a few months to learn new swing dance steps and dance. My eldest provided the swing music, which included the songs she downloaded from the library (she's been adding new ones for months, so with that and the ones I already had, she has quite a collection of swing dance music).

Iceberg Roses in Entry The Prudent Homemaker

What did you to save money this past week?

 

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