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Recent blog posts

Polka Dot Dress 3 The Prudent Homemaker 

Last fall, my eldest and I were invited to someone's house to check out the clothing she was giving away. Her mother said she had told her daughter to narrow down her clothing and wondered if we would like her hand-me-downs. This young woman is always impeccably dressed and we went over there a bit giddy with the prospects of finding something "new." We met up with another young woman as well who had been invited over.

As it turned out, what she had decided to get rid of wasn't really what Winter or I were looking for (I keep a list of items we need on my garage sale list). But before we left, she also brought out a bunch more clothes that she had been given by a woman we know. We looked through these as well, and again, came up short.

Polka Dot Dress Before The Prudent Homemaker

There was a skirt, though, that had a couple of elements that I know my daughter had been looking for. It was mustard colored (something we had been discussing after seeing lots of mustard-colored pieces over on this blog) and it was polka dotted, something we both loved. Winter isn't really into maxi skirts; she looked at it several times and thought about shortening it, but still wasn't sure.

I pointed out that the rather large waistband was doubled over, and there was enough material in the skirt to make a dress.

With that thought, Winter snapped up the skirt. 

It's been sitting in the sewing room, waiting for the right moment.

Polka Dot Dress 1 The Prudent Homemaker

Winter used the existing skirt part from below the waistband down to make the skirt part of the dress, and cut off the bottom and the waistband to make the sleeves and the top of the dress. There was just enough fabric to make everything.

She copied a sweater dress she has to make the bodice

She didn't want any darts in the dress, and as it is a knit fabric, it could go on over her head without needing a zipper.

Polka Dot Dress Back The Prudent Homemaker

Oxford Shoes  Book  (affiliate links)

 Polka Dot Dress 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 Now she has a fun everyday dress to wear, and all it cost was her time!

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 Cucumbers and Basil The Prudent Homemaker

My freezers are packed full of frozen fruit from both our garden and from deals I found earlier this year. There's some meat in there, somewhere behind all the peaches, blackberries, figs, strawberries, and blueberries. There's lemon juice from our lemon trees too.

The garden has started producing Armenian cucumbers. I'm hoping for enough to can pickles this year. I planted loads of them in several places in the garden and the vines have reached the tops of my five-foot trellises and started producing female flowers.

We have Swiss chard, red noodle beans, and green onions in the garden.

Yellow Pear Tomatoes The Prudent Homemaker

The tomato plants are still producing (especially the Yellow Pear tomatoes), though they are winding down because of the heat (they are not longer producing flowers).

I've got butternut squash growing and will have a few to pick this month.

I have 5 zucchini plants. None are producing for me at the moment, but the overcast days in July led to cooler temperatures and I can see a combination of male and female flowers at the base of them. Hopefully, they'll be open on the same days to be pollinated and we'll have some zucchini too!

Bartlett Pears on Tree The Prudent Homemaker 

The Bartlett pears are ripe this month. There aren't many, as the trees have never grown very large in 10 years, but we'll still have a decent number.

The table grapes are ripe (the birds have gotten a number of them though). We'll have some to eat (they have seeds) and some to juice. When they're all done, I'll pick the leaves to cook. They have a lemony flavor and are delicious in all sorts of recipes. I'll stuff some this month too.

Bucket of Zinnias and Sunflowers

The zinnias I planted in the backyard are opening! I know they're late but I'm happy to have them! I have a few small sunflowers too (about the same size as the zinnias).

I've got a decently stocked pantry

And I'm not planning to go shopping at all during the month of August for food or toiletries.

We're having a lower income month along with increased expenses. We're adding life insurance to our bills this month and in September we hope to add some online college classes for my eldest, which will mean tuition and book expenses. These will mean increased expenses every month, so hopefully, our income will increase to cover the difference. 

With an irregular income, I never know what our income will be. I try to plan a month ahead for expenses whenever possible, but that isn't always possible. This month, I'm waiting to see what else will come in. Our first priorities are our mortgage, utilities, and insurance. Should anything come in past that, I'll save it to put toward's September's bills.

Whether or not I'll go shopping in September is yet to be seen. If I do, it is certainly to be a reduced amount. We were very blessed last year to make more money and be able to increase our grocery budget. This year, our income has been lower, and if it continues as it has been, we will make 1/3 of what we made last year (Last year was a blessing! We were able to repair several things and purchase some needed furniture. Before that, things had been much lower, like this year, for the 8 previous years). Consequently, it's possible that I'll go back to a $100 a month budget. I know we can do it, as we have in past years where we've made this amount, and we managed to build our food storage while doing so. It's been nice to have had the money to buy other things we like to eat, including more meat and cheese, but we can certainly eat more soups, oats, rice, and beans going forward. I'm collecting lettuce seeds from the garden this week and I look forward to planting them in my fall garden along with other seeds I have on hand. I'm feeling really grateful that when our income was higher last year, I bought a couple of years' worth of seeds, and that I'm growing almost all open-pollinated seeds, which allows me to collect seeds from my garden to plant every year.

Here's some of what I'll have on the menu this month:

 

Breakfasts:

 

Oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins, and almonds

Crepes (I still have some eggs and I'll use powdered milk)

Whole wheat waffles with fruit from the freezer

Smoothies and toast with cinnamon sugar 

Bread and jam (I've got homemade strawberry, apricot, and fig jams, plus apple butter on my pantry shelves)

 

Summer Pasta Salad The Prudent Homemaker

Lunches:

 

Black beans and rice with tomatoes and corn

White bean dip with pita bread, cucumbers, and tomatoes (produce from the garden)

Macaroni and cheese with sliced tomatoes (on the side!) and cucumbers in vinegar

Tomato Basil Sandwiches

Pasta Salad

Leftovers

Fig Tarts The Prudent Homemaker

 

Snacks:

 

Fig Tarts

Cookies

Peach Pie Popsicles

Popcorn

Grapes

Smoothies

 

Dinners:

 

Black Bean Burgers with Steak Sauce and tomatoes from the garden

Turkey Curry over basmati rice with peas and chapatis

Pork Roast with fig sauce and mashed potatoes, Swiss chard, and butternut squash

Baked Potatoes with a corn and tomato salad

Stir fry with pork or turkey and vegetables from the garden and bean sprouts

Pinto beans and rice with onions and tomatoes

Spaghetti with red noodle beans

Stuffed grape leaves with homemade pita bread

Ham with Rosemary potatoes and red noodle beans

Ham sandwiches with tomatoes from the garden and home-canned dill pickles

 

 

If you're living from your pantry this month, check out my two weeks' worth of pantry meals here.

If you need more bean recipes, check out my post on How to Eat Beans Every Night.

If you're looking for a frugal summer menu, check out a month's worth of summer meals here.

 

Are you planning to go shopping in August? What deals will you be looking to purchase?

 

Tagged in: Grocery Shopping
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Mission Figs in Basket The Prudent Homemaker

I picked five baskets of figs from my Mission fig tree.

I canned rosemary fig jam.

I used the water from rinsing figs to water potted garden plants. I also collected water from the air conditioner drip and used it to water potted plants. 

I picked tomatoes from the garden. I also cut rosemary, garlic chives, and Genovese basil from the garden.

I collected Danish flag poppy seeds from the garden to plant next year.

I used the whey from making Greek yogurt last week in a batch of crepes in place of the water I would have used in with powdered milk. I used some powdered milk as well (just no water) resulting in crepes with a higher protein content and no waste of the whey. 

I used 8 $1 off 2 packages of pasta to buy 16 pounds of pasta for $0.38 a pound.

I started turning the printer off for days and times when no one is printing. Several people print from it (including my husband for work) but no one needs it on unless it is being used.

My husband cleaned the dryer coil out. It wasn't very dirty, but my loads seemed to be taking a bit longer to dry than normal and I know a blocked vent can cause trouble in that way. We have a gas dryer, which costs very little to run, but time is an important factor for me as well. After the coil was cleaned loads went back to drying in their normal time.

My husband welded a handle on our side gate to make it easier to open.

We attended a free health clinic where my children received free immunizations, vision checks, and dental checks. If you're looking for something like this near you, search your city name, 2017, and "health clinic", "health fair", or "back to school fair." Some of these include free haircuts;  (if you don't already cut your family's hair at home; you can also search for back to school free haircuts). This was our first time attending a health clinic like this; I had heard about them in the past but always remembered about them a week or two after they actually took place, as while I'm thinking about school supplies sales in July, I didn't think about these other things as being in July as well.  A few internet searches turned up several of these throughout the country in August and even one in September, so you may be able to find one near you!

I took photos of my son in his Scout uniform for his upcoming Eagle Scout ceremony, rather than paying a photographer. 

July Zinnia Arrangement The Prudent Homemaker

I cut flowers from the garden for an arrangement in the house.

 

What did you do to save money last week?

 

Please check back later this week for my August Shopping Plans post and a refashion post featuring a maxi skirt my daughter turned into a dress!

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Vintage Inspired Pillowcase Nightgowns

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Vintage Summer Nightgowns The Prudent Homemaker

I love a loose-fitting cotton nightgown for summer.

Winter wanted a summer nightgown, and so she set forth to make one using a pillow case we had. It was a hand-me-down from my mother (the sheets had worn out) and was rather long, being a king-sized pillow case.

It wasn't a vintage-embroidered pillowcase, but she was able to give it an even older look by doing her own hand-embroidery.

She laid the pillowcase flat and cut a rounded neckline in front and back.

In the back, she gave it an additional slit down to allow it to open large enough to go over her head.

She undid the side seams just enough from the top down for armholes. When worn, it looks like a raglan sleeve.

Vintage Nightgown Front Detail The Prudent Homemaker

Around the raw edges that she cut at the neckline and armholes, she sewed a scalloped hem using the scalloped setting on the sewing machine. She trimmed around this with a pair of sharp scissors.

Vintage Nightgown Back Detail The Prudent Homemaker

She added hand-embroidery to the front and back of the nightgown.  For the back, she used an old pattern that you can get for free here.

To close the nightgown in back, she added an elastic loop on one side and a button from one of my button jars. I had a covered button that matched perfectly!

Nightgown Hem The Prudent Homemaker

One of her younger sisters wanted a nightgown like hers, so she chose a vintage pillow case (embroidered by my grandmother) and made one for her sister. She added some hand-embroidery to the top to match the embroidery colors and design on the bottom.

 Vintage Nightgowns Front Embroidery The Prudent Homemaker

Since I had everything on hand already, these cost me nothing additional out of pocket. Pillowcases often out last sheet sets and are a great source of fabric. Don't have a pillow case but have a leftover top sheet after the bottom one has worn out? Cut out a pillow case length from it and sew it into one using an existing pillowcase for size, making the top hem your bottom hem, so that you have an already finished hem.

Looking for free embroidery designs that you can use on your projects? Check out my Embroidery board on Pinterest.

 

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July Garden Harvest 2 The Prudent Homemaker

I've been seeking new ways to save money all month, as our finances are particularly tight at the current time with a lower income, increasing expenses, and an emergency trip to the hospital earlier this month. I have found that if I look closely, there's always another way or two to save money in addition to what I normally do.

Here's what I did this past week to save money and make the most of what we have:

Concord Grapes The Prudent Homemaker

I harvested two Armenian cucumbers (these are quite large if you've never grown them; they're easily like having 2-4 regular cucumbers a piece depending on when one harvests them), a zucchini, a handful of red noodle beans, two colanders of tomatoes, five baskets full of Mission figs, bay leaves, garlic chives, rosemary, Genovese basil, 2 baskets of Concord grapes and a basket of table grapes from the garden.

I used water collected from the a/c drip (a couple of gallons a day) and from shower warm-up water to water pots in the garden.

We had a few minutes of rain on Monday. I saw the storm clouds and I know that mid-July is usually one of the two days a year where it normally rains here. I put out buckets and pans to collect water off the roof (houses here have no rain gutters as our annual rainfall is 4 inches a year). I collected about 20 gallons of water this way and used it to water potted plants in the garden. I even put out trash cans (several of which are actually buckets) which were needing a good rinse. The rainwater cleaned them out and I reused it on potted bushes.

I sowed seeds for zinnias (if at first you don't succeed . . .) and vincas in the garden.

We changed the filters on our air conditioner. We use really inexpensive filters and changing them means using less electricity, as the air conditioner won't have to work as hard. Our lows have been around 89ºF, so the air conditioners (our house has 2)  are running all the time.

We had one exceptional day on Wednesday where a storm was south of us. We got a few drops of rain but it was overcast and temperatures dropped to 81º for a large portion of the day. I turned off the a/c units for a good part of the day, which saved us $4 for the day. (I saw the results on the weekly report from the electric company. I receive an email each week showing how many kilowatts I used and how much it cost for the week).

My husband had our insurance agent reshop our auto insurance. We were able to get better coverage for $400 less per year. 

We cut my husband's hair and two daughters' hair at home.

I read a borrowed mystery book.

I cooked chicken pieces using a free sample of seasoning that came in the mail. I used the bones to make broth and made chicken soup with Swiss chard, bay leaves, and basil from the garden and some garlic, an onion, and white beans.

I canned applesauce, fig jam, and grape juice using produce from the garden. I dried figs in my dehydrator  (affiliate link) as well. 

I made cupcakes from scratch for a party my daughters had with their friends. I cut flowers from the garden for the table (I shared a photo over on Instagram, along with three others from the garden this week) and we hung a cloth bunting that I made years ago from scraps.

I accepted some hand-me-downs.

What did you do to save money this past week?

 

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Why I Don't Mind Being a One-Car Family

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One Car Family The Prudent Homemaker

 

Twelve years ago, after our third child was born, we sold both of our vehicles and bought a single vehicle for our family. We needed something that would fit three car seats and have rear air conditioning and tinted windows. In our heat, it can easily get to 140º in a car in the summer, so having these features in pretty essential in making sure that passengers in the back don't overheat; we run the air conditioning in our vehicle eleven months of the year.

After our seventh child was born, we needed a larger vehicle that would fit our larger family. We sold what we had and bought a used van for $500 over what we sold our previous vehicle.

 

Why I Love Being a One-Car Family:

 

1. We only have one car to register.

In our state, registration for a vehicle is pro-rated by the vehicle itself as well as the age of the vehicle.  It's several hundred dollars a year, even for older vehicles.

2. We only have one car to insure.

This easily saves us hundreds of dollars a year.

3. We don't have car payments.

Not making payments on multiple vehicles saves us a ton of money.

4. I have plenty to do at home.

Being home more often rather than running around gives me more time to do the things I want and need to do

5. I am happy at home.

I have been asked if I don't feel "stuck at home" with just one car. I have never thought of being in my own home as being stuck. Home is not a place I want or need to leave and get away from in order to feel complete each day. I try to make my home a beautiful place to be where I am surrounded by the people and things that I love.

 

The practicalities of living with one car: 

 

1. Most of the time, I don't go further than a two-mile radius.

Within that distance, I combine trips to save time and gas. We have a lot of stores within that distance. Once a month I'll go to Sam's Club (which is 5 miles) and a couple of times a year I run an errand a bit further out. 

2. I will make a trip to the store usually very early in the morning or late in the evening.

Stores are blissfully empty early in the morning, making it easy to check out quickly without a 20 minute time spent waiting in line. Late evenings are good for that as well, depending on the store. 

In our summer heat, running an errand during the day will literally wipe you out. Sure, it may only take 5 minutes to get to the store, but your vehicle is 140º inside and it doesn't cool down by the time you've gotten to the store. Then you get back in on the way home. This makes a person exhausted and in great need to cool down when they return home--and leaving you too tired to accomplish much for the rest of the day. In the summer, I try to go shopping less frequently. No matter the time of year (but especially important during the summer) I'll try to go super early (like 6 a.m. if the store is open then, or right at 8 if it opens later) or go after the children are in bed, so I can come home and go to sleep afterwards. Going shopping during those hours means I don't interrupt our day and my husband has our van to take to work.

3. I don't go shopping very often.

I try to limit my trips to the store. I keep a well-stocked pantry, which means I don't have to go to the store every week and can wait to find the best deals.  Staying out of the store also makes it easy to stick to my grocery budget.

4. I do my shopping research online ahead of time.

If I know what I need but I'm not sure where to get it, I'll look at several stores websites before venturing out to see if the stores have what I need. This saves a ton of time and gas. It's much faster to "go to" 10 stores online and figure out if they have what I need before I go. Another bonus of looking online ahead of time is that I can often find out if the store has what I need in stock.

5. I shop online when possible.

This saves time and money. I look for free shipping deals whenever possible.

6. My children use bicycles.

My older children get to where they need to go on their bicycles. Last week when my husband was at Scout camp with one son, my daughter attended a swim party and my son attended Boy Scouts. They took their bikes where they needed to go. They learn independence.

We bought used bicycles and solid tires for their bicycles to keep costs down and keep them from getting frequent flats.

7. We carpool when possible.

When my eldest has a church dance she wants to attend, she'll go with a group of friends all together and one of them will drive or one parent will drive. They have more fun being together in the car. We'll likewise do the same for church activities for our younger girls.

8. We have piano lessons at home.

We have a piano teacher who comes to our home every other week. I don't need to drive my children to lessons. (Bonus: I get to accomplish more things at home while they have lessons!)

9. I homeschool my children.

Driving them to school and picking them up isn't something on my to-do list. This alone gives me a ton of time in my day which I can use to do other things.

 

We generally put between 8000 - 10,000 miles a year on our only vehicle. We save not only gas, but wear and tear on our vehicle.

 

I know being a one-car family isn't practical for everyone, but if you can make it work for you, it's a great money-saver!

 

Are you a one-car family? How do you make it work for your family? Do you have great public transportation where you live and go without a vehicle?

 

Tagged in: Frugal Living
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