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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

August Foliage The Prudent Homemaker

The few tiny flowers to be had in the garden right now: Siam Basil flowers, Peppermint flowers, and Honeysuckle


This post contains affiliate links.

We sent three of our children to public school this past week for the first time, which was not at all frugal. Besides the hundreds in school supplies that are required (different from what we normally use and already had on hand, including classroom supplies of things like tissues and dry erase markers), I had to pay for their elective classes ($25 each), buy a backpack and three lunch boxes, buy new watches, buy earbuds with a microphone, and purchase shoes (they are not allowed to wear sandals at school).  There are yearbook fees($45 each), a health class fee ($15), media fees ($20 each), and field trips to pay for as well.

This certainly changes my financial needs and my schedule, and will definitely require some changes in planning lunch ahead of time.

As this was a totally last-minute decision, I wasn't prepared for lunches, and I was so busy with extra school stuff that there wasn't time to go to the store. I still managed to put together lunches using what I had on hand.

I cut a large Armenian cucumber from the garden and picked some cherry tomatoes from the garden as well. To go with them,  I made some ranch dressing dip with plain Greek yogurt, onion powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley. This was enough for several days for those going to school as well as those of us who stay home (these cucumbers are huge). I sent almonds, dried fruit, and leftovers in lunches. I made cookies and macaroni and cheese for lunches as well. To make it easier, I made a large amount of homemade macaroni and cheese for part of our lunch at home one day, making enough for leftovers for lunches for everyone (including those at school) the next day.

When it gets colder, I'll send soups, chili, and rice and beans, and leftovers, which are our normal lunches. I purchased two of these Thermos containers with folding spoons for that time; I already had some but this will make enough for those leaving along with my husband and oldest daughter, who already take leftovers in them for lunch. (My eldest daughter takes college classes online but goes with my husband to his office to work on them most days).

I also bought some of these reusable ice packs to keep lunches cold. Since I didn't have any this week, we just sent ice in bags with the cold items.

I am researching bento boxes that will fit in their lunch boxes, which will mean we won't need to use any plastic bags.

I picked pears from the garden. They ripen off the tree, so I'll be able to use these in lunches next week.

My daughter had shared a bite of homemade bread at lunch one day at school and the girl she shared it with asked her if her mom owned a bakery! She brought another piece the next day to share with the girl. I thought this was a bit funny because it was a loaf that didn't rise properly, as I pulled it from the oven a bit too soon on the first morning they went to school.

We made arrangements for the children to take the bus. It took a few days (and was tricky with children at two different schools starting at the same time) before they were approved to ride the bus. Having them take the bus will make it so that we can continue to be a one-car family, reduce wear and tear on the car, and not add to our gas needs.

I read three Hamish Macbeth e-books from the library.

My husband cut my hair.

One of my daughters is taking a beginning orchestra class. My mom had a violin that she had purchased for a framing example in her old store. My daughter is using that violin, so we don't have to pay to rent one. 

I was able to purchase the backpack and lunch boxes on sale.

I took advantage of a spend $50 on household goods get $15 off sale to purchase the required tissues and paper towels for school, combining that with some borax and bleach for the house to reach the required $50 total (We will use some of the paper towels as well to drain fried potatoes).

The watches we purchased were inexpensive ones from Walmart ($7.99 and $15.99).

I collected leek seeds from the garden.

Hamish Three Months The Prudent Homemaker

What did you do to save money this past week?

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  • Heather August 20, 2018

    Prayers for you Brandi! I sent my 6th grader off to public school today for the first time and it can be a lot. I hope your children have a wonderful year and make lots of friends!

  • Meagan August 20, 2018

    How progressive of you to send them to public school! Our children attend Charter school and are so well-rounded via there experiences both at home and at school. Thanks for the links to the thermos—just look amazing.

  • Cindy S. August 22, 2018

    My son attends a charter school also. One fee of $25 each year to register and that's it! I don't have to buy school supplies, pay for field trips or pack lunches. The school provides breakfast and lunch. I only have to buy his clothes and backpack. I love it. It's a great school compared to our local schools and he does great there.

  • JT August 20, 2018

    A bit of advice. I've always found the last month of school is more expensive than enrollment and school supplies . The field trips, class parties, teacher gifts, special "bring a dollar for a snow cone, cupcake, bounce house, book sale ... etc" days and sign ups for summer camps (some of which are "highly recommended" ie. not actually optional) all really add up! If you haven't already bought extras of things like notebooks, filler paper and 3 ring binders watch out for clearance sales. Many times kids will need more of these things at Christmas time. Either they'll run out or the new classes second semester will require things that weren't on the start of school list. Good Luck with this new chapter! I send cupcakes/cookies etc in my kids lunches from time to time and kids will actually offer to buy them from my kids. I guess not all mamas bake! LOL

  • Michelle August 20, 2018

    Just a word of caution so your kids don't get in trouble - some schools do not allow kids to share/trade food items due to allergies. You might want to check on that to make sure it's allowed.

  • I really appreciate the heads' up. I already thought about teacher gifts for at least the first-grade teacher (flowers from the garden for the end of the year and maybe a couple of lemons from the tree for Christmas, as I understand a lot of teachers are leery of home-baked treats). I don't know what we'll do for the 13 middle school teachers.

    I bought extra filler paper while it was on sale.

    I don't know how many field trips there are, but the first one is $5. I have a feeling others will be more costly.

  • Heather August 21, 2018

    As a former middle school teacher, I will say not to worry about buying/making gifts. Most kids don't. BUT, what I really, really loved was a hand-written note of appreciation from a student (even when I knew their parents probably made them do it. I didn't get many, but I would keep them in my desk and read them on bad days. So now I make my kids do the same - even for teachers they don't like - there has to be something good you can say!

  • Athanasia August 21, 2018

    Heather, I agree so much! A note or card of appreciation is so nice. Another item a teacher appreciates is a book to add to their classroom library for free reading time. Brandy, I like the idea of giving her teacher the lemons. Since our church school has a large percentage of farming families and families that don't farm but do garden there is always an excess of produce going around. What we do here is have a table by the staff lounge where the produce is left and folks can take what they can use. In spring people even leave flower and vegetable transplants.

    Sprinkle your gratitude throughout the year. If you feel it on your heart or mind that is a nudge, I believe, from God letting you know that maybe that teacher could use a little encouragement that day. Flowers are lovely, the notes with a teabag or too even. I was given 6 chocolate zucchini muffins 2 Wednesday nights ago by one of the children that came in for my reading club. They were hot out of the oven! My helper and I each had one then and I saved the other 4 to share the next morning with my other volunteers.

    My youngest daughter taught in a two room school last semester and her going away present from her class was a pet rabbit. Now obviously that is not for everyone but she really really liked the bunny that the family she was living with had and her kids thought this through and it was a very nice presentation from the families on the last day of school.

    We do not have a large staff as a public school might so just about everybody knows each other. Most likely even be a relative. Teachers teach more than one subject in the upper grades. We do have a staff appreciation luncheon about the beginning of May where the parents set up the fellowship hall and decorate it and serve a lunch they made to all the staff and volunteers. Other parents supervise the lunch hour for the students as this is where they normally would eat so they have them outside for a picnic, or if raining in the gym. It's very nice.

  • Rhonda A. August 21, 2018

    I usually gave gifts to the elementary school staff that worked with my daughter, as she can be a handful and deserved our appreciation. I didn't give any gifts last year (grade 9), however, partly because it's not expected in those grades and partly because they were not very understanding to my daughter's disability, which I certainly was not appreciative of.

    Since many years I was gifting the teacher, her EA supports and her principal (all of which her always heavily involved with DD), and I didn't always have a lot of money, I had to get creative sometimes. My favourite gift was when I sewed drawstring shoe bags for the staff. The principal was especially appreciative of this gift. She said she often had to go to meeting, where she wanted to wear nice shoes, but perferred to wear comfortable shoes the rest of the day. The pretty shoe bag was perfect for carrying her nice pair of shoe to the meeting. Another nice gift is homemade baked goods, like your homemade bread. Working people rarely have time or interest in baking such things and therefore appreciate them all the more when they receive such items as gifts!

  • Crunchycon August 22, 2018

    I’m the daughter of a very popular school librarian back in the day, and she was showered with an extraordinary number of gifts, all heartfelt and loved but some were more useful/appreciated than others. Homemade gifts like the shoe bags or gifts from the garden would be as loved; not discounting the note of appreciation, which would be treasured.

  • Nikki August 22, 2018

    Former teacher, totally agree! I still have and cherish those handwritten, heartfelt notes from both students, parents and families!

  • Susan H August 21, 2018

    As a current elementary teacher, I can honestly share that I love the homemade notes/drawings the best. All of the ideas shared are awesome as well. When a gift is given from the heart, it is most appreciated, no matter the cost.

  • Juls Owings August 22, 2018

    We have several family that are teachers , they appreciate school supplies... they always have some student that lost their pen/pencil out of paper... gift cards to Walmart work also. You could give something to a different teacher with a note saying you felt they needed to appreciated now instead of the end of the year. My brother said the best gift he got at the end of the year was a grocery gift card, he is the one that pit stops for the milk and bread and doesn't use his debit card for anything less than $10.

  • Karen August 22, 2018

    Let me start by saying, teachers do not expect to receive gifts from our students, but at the same time we very much appreciate acts of generosity by our students. As an elementary school librarian, I work with all students on campus. I must say that the notes of appreciation and/or drawings from the students are very cherished. In fact, I received a drawing just today that I posted behind the circulation counter, and it will stay up the whole school year. Your idea of lemons is a great one; I imagine Las Vegas homes and gardens do not support too many lemon trees, making fresh lemons a real treat in and of itself. Fresh flowers are also such a special treat as well. You have such a great eye for garage sale bargains you may even stumble on a vase for one of your beautiful arrangements.

    I do not want this to sound ungrateful, but if I were to receive 700 anythings every year from all of our students my home would be very overwhelmed. Consumable items are really very appreciated. Just to name a few ideas: I've been given flowers to enjoy on my desk, a box of note cards, $5.00 Starbucks cards (my college son and niece clamor for these!), and I still remember the quart jar of shelled pecans with a pretty cloth lid cover I was given nearly 25 years ago (and the name of the student who gave it to me). I also remember an incredible surprise from a family of four daughters: each daughter helped to make breakfast for their teachers (one made blueberry muffins, one sausage balls, another a small container of fresh-cut fruit salad, and the youngest helped combine a small jar of spiced tea mix). It was all arranged on a paper plate with a pretty paper napkin and brought before the school day started. Another gift I've been given a few times recently is a package of Thanks-A-Lot Girl Scout cookies. Not only are they a tasty and consumable treat, they are a fundraiser and the purchase benefits that organization. The name of the cookies also fits the sentiment of the gift.

  • I should add that my husband and I got a kick out of your cupcake sales idea!

  • Allyson August 25, 2018

    As a teacher, I loved handmade gifts... muffins, seed packets, tea or coffee. Low cost gifts with a sweet note from the kids are the best.

  • Tracy August 20, 2018

    Thanks for being so real with us! May I ask why you decided to send the children to school?

  • Robin August 20, 2018

    I am also really interested to learn more about your decision to try public school!

    I also thought Winter was going to college this year, but I may have misunderstood a previous post (http://theprudenthomemaker.com/blog?view=entry&id=18698).

  • Winter is still taking online university classes. They are taking longer than she planned, so she has not yet applied to a college. We are making adjustments to our plan.

  • Annaliese August 21, 2018

    I have to agree with what Heather and Athanasia said in their posts. Being a retired teacher of many grades, I loved getting the homemade stuff. I worked in low income schools and when the students brought me gifts, I was very appreciative of them since I knew their families financial situations. One Christmas, a couple of the Hispanic families gave me a basket of homemade tamales and sauces because we were reading a book about them and it struck a cord with the girls since I also told them that one of my grandma's used to make them on Christmas eve for whoever came by to see her. I will never forget that!! Other times I have collected soooo many coffee cups and ornaments. I always gave some kind of homemade bread or cooking/baking DIY mixes for my DS teachers.
    My advise to you is to shop the back to school sales for glue, pencils/pens, paper, folders (for reports) since these are the things you will ALWAYS run out of. Plus items you will need when the nasty cold bugs start making the rounds.

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