Meyer Lemon Tree The Prudent Homemaker

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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:



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.)



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)



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

Equate dandruff shampoo



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


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!


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  1. Love to hear all your garden plans. It is amazing what you are able to do where you live. Where I live is still the dead of winter.

    My shopping plans are to fill the holes in my pantry as well. I saw the pasta deal at Smiths and will stocking up on that today. Also need to find some green chiles. My meat supply is still good so I will only buy something if it is a rock bottom price. We like to have a good variety of fresh veggies and fruit on hand, but I keep a good supply of canned things as well.

    Thanks for this blog post – it gets me inspired!!!!!

  2. I get paid every two weeks and so spent money last weekend on the normal grocery items. I won’t be spending much more this month since the repair man told me yesterday that my 5-6 year old washing machine cannot be repaired and I need to buy a new one. I found one at Home Depot for $570 total (washer, lines between faucets and washer, tax, and hauling the old one away). I used $50 in gift cards earned from credit card points and charged the remaining $520, which I’ll pay from my emergency fund. Since I want to put that money back as quickly as possible, I’ll be cutting back where I can, including groceries and miscellaneous. That means that I plan to limit my shopping to milk, eggs, and fresh produce and fruit (mostly berries). Most items will be purchased at Aldi’s. If I see meat on a good sale, usually because it’s close to expiring, I may buy that. I eat organic meat, often purchased at Wegman’s, and that usually is not on sale and usually sold before it gets close to expiring, but every once in a while, I stumble on such a sale. All shopping for the next 2-3 months will be done using a gift card received from work because I completed my biometrics (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, etc. testing). That card has $475 left on it now.

    I’m thankful that I have a well-stocked pantry and freezer. I’m also thankful that I have a savings account. I mentioned the new washer and paying for it with savings to a co-worker yesterday. She said she wished she had one. It turns out that after re-financing their house about 3 years ago and paying off all the credit cards, her husband has now run up $38,000 on his cards again. She is blaming him for all of it, but they use his cards for groceries and eating out as a family, as well as his daily lunches out, gas, and whatever he wants to buy. I gently suggested using cash for groceries and not eating out but she told me she can’t cook 7 days a week and when they spend $80-100 for lunch on Saturday and Sundays for their family of 4, they have leftovers for dinner that night. I tried. She doesn’t get it and would rather blame her husband than work on the problem together. I don’t see how they can possibly retire in 12-14 years as she is planning to do with this debt level, which increases each month. I am planning on retiring in two years and am seriously devoted to this. All I can say to everyone is to keep saving and controlling your spending. I am so happy there are like-minded people here.

  3. I agree with you on stocking the pantry first, Brandy. Now that I have built up my pantry & freezer stock, most of my shopping it restocking what is low, not buying things to eat for that week. I’m still working on trying to stock enough fruit & veggies in the summer to last all winter, but I’m getting closer each year. I hope to get a garden set up again this year.

    This month I have a few items that need restocking in our pantry. I am reducing my grocery budget by $100 this month, so I need to be a bit more careful with my spending. Here’s what I know I will be purchasing or watching for sales on:
    *Margarine (I need block margarine to use for baking, and soft spread margarine for every day needs. I have butter, but it is extremely expensive. So, I reserve it’s use it to special occasions only)
    *Taco Seasoning (I buy in bulk. We recently ran out)
    *Mayo (been watching for a sale at Costco with no luck yet. Will need to buy some soon, though)
    *Parmesan Cheese (we’re low, hoping for a sale soon at Costco)
    *Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts (again watching for a good $ off per pack sale at Costco to restock freezer)
    *Ground Beef (we still have some in the freezer, but will most likely need more before end of month)
    *Breakfast Sausage (will buy several packages for freezer if they go on sale)
    *Rice (possibly, if I find a really good sale price. Still seeing Chinese New Year sales, but they haven’t been as good this year. We still have some rice, so no panic on this one)
    *Shampoo & Conditioner (watching for sale at Costco)
    *Parchment Paper (no rush on this, but if it goes on sale at COstco I will pick it up)

    Of course, I will continue to watch sales and clearance sections closely and stock up on pantry items my family enjoys as I find a good price.

  4. Brandy, the paragraph about how many trees you have is missing the initital number. Only pointing it out because I am curious. Thanks!

  5. Although my pantry is not quite stocked like your pantry is. I’m thankful for what we do have and that I won’t have to shop this week except for milk and eggs.

  6. How old is your lemon tree that is producing so many lemons. Mine are three years old and not giving me nearly as many lemons. I am jealous of that beautiful tree. I want to get another tree soon.

    We have 3 birthdays this month. I have gifts already. My plan this month is to not buy anything but some milk and fresh fruit. I have plenty of food in the pantry. Other that normal bills we are doing a no spend month.

  7. Mari, I see the same behavior in my own children. They all know how to shop carefully, do their own repairs, and buy second hand, but they are prone to treating themselves to frivolous meals and snacks every week, too. We have always saved meals out for special occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries and even those are often made at home and enjoyed with friends or family. I am sure they will become more careful as they get older, but they are wasting precious resources now that could be going towards their savings.

    Thank you Brandi for providing a forum to encourage the frugal lifestyle with your glowing example. It is so helpful for others to read and share their stories.

  8. A three-year-old tree will not give you many. I started with trees that were already a couple of years old, and these large trees have been in the ground for 9 years. I have smaller, younger lemon trees in the white garden (2-year-old trees planted 4 years back) and they are only giving me a few lemons each so far.

  9. I’m happy for you and your warm weather, Brandy. 95% of my balcony door is frozen over.

    How exciting to read of your garden plans!

    I would like to transition to shopping once a month for most our needs, except for fresh vegetables and such.

    Another idea I would like to implement is having cooked meat in the freezer. It makes cooking ten times easier.

    This month I’ll be purchasing a couple of chickens, some squash, and frozen fruits and veggies–if they are on sale.

    Has anyone frozen bananas themselves? Is it better to freeze or to dehydrate them for adding to breakfasts?

  10. You are indeed frugal, but the diaper budgets of today always just blow my mind! I am of your mother’s generation and , of course, we all used cloth diapers. I certainly do understand the convenience of it, as my children have all used disposables for my grandchildren. (And working moms with children in daycare really have no choice.) That said, there simply was no way I could ever have fit this in my budget. When I look at the cost of disposables multiplied by a year….well, it is mind boggling. With washing my own and mostly line drying (we lived in Texas when our children were small), I saved a fortune with four babies. I know you have addressed this before, but I am sure there must be mothers today on tight budgets who cloth diaper. I also understand that the cloth diaper, covers etc. have come a long way since my day, and it is easier to use.

  11. It usually costs me around $250 a year per child for diapers and wipes, not $2500 like I see people saying it costs. Then again, I don’t buy brand-name diapers and wipes. I buy store-brand on sale and with coupons when they offer them.

    I tried cloth diapers more than once, and I hated it so very much.

  12. Isabella, my late husband addressed the cloth diapers verses disposables when we had babies (my oldest is 50). He said the difference in price was not there when you took into account the time a mother took to wash and take care of the cloth diapers. Adding in the cost of water, electric, detergent, etc. also made the cloth diapers as expensive as the disposables.

  13. It seems to me that babies using disposable diapers don’t get the terrible rashes that can come with cloth diapers. That is a blessing beyond price.

  14. Brandy, I read somewhere that borers do not like the smell of nicotine. I had 2 cherry tries (Bing and a pollinator) that became infested with borers. I was able to save the second tree with nicotine. My neighbor’s gardener threw his cigarette butts in the street in front of our house. I swept up those butts and buried them around the tree. I even placed some butts where the bark had separated from the tree. I also bury the butts around my plum and apricot trees for preventive measures, as borers do spread from tree to tree if in close proximity. My brother, who is a bonsai master, also mentored me to make sure a new tree does not branch out too close to the ground. He suggested 18 inches from ground for first branch for a non-dwarf tree. He said a low branched tree is more prone to disease. Hope this bit of info is helpful to someone!

  15. I spray Neem oil every year for borers, but I think I will need to up it to twice a year. In my extension classes, we learned that stone fruits usually only last 10 years here, so I wasn’t surprised to lose the peaches. The apple tree was a surprise. However, our winters are getting milder every year, so the bug problem is increasing also. I had one year that I missed spraying (I was pregnant and ill as well) and that seems to have let in the chance for bugs and disease in my garden.

    I don’t let my dwarf trees have branches that low, so I know low branches aren’t a problem.

    Making sure any fruit that falls is picked up and not left to rot is also helpful to keeping away bugs.

  16. I tried cloth with all four of mine as well and if it had been a situation where we were between food or diapers we’d have stuck it out with cloth. Thankfully we have managed to do disposable in much the same way as you Brandy, with sales and coupons. I’m so glad that is an option for us and sold all our cloth diapers last year. I’m glad that cloth diapers have come so far with the new modern ones but will stick with disposables!

  17. Brandy: I wanted to let you know that last night I did your lemon pasta recipe with regular spaghetti noodles, plain yogurt instead of sour cream, and bottled lemon juice (these were the ingredients I had on hand), and it was great! I ate it with canned green beans, and I put some of the sauce on the beans and they were delicious! Thank you! As far as groceries, I had a $5 off $25 coupon at Dollar General and bought more pasta, canned evaporated milk, DG cat food, canned sweetened condensed milk, and other items I was low on in my food storage. I also bought cat food. All my neighbors have a terrible rat/mouse problem in their houses but I do not because I feed all the stray neighborhood cats outside my house, and the mice stay away… Dollar General gave me a coupon for $5 off $25 for tomorrow so I will probably stock up on my dog food for my large dog, who barked the other night at prowler broke into my neighbor’s place, but not mine! We have had the coldest winter in 20 years down here, but it is back in the 60’s this week so, hopefully, we have turned the corner.

  18. I freeze them when they are about to go bad, for use in banana bread – they thaw out very mushy so I would think dehydrated would work better for adding them to oatmeal or cereal. Just make sure to add enough liquid to account for them rehydrating.

  19. My babes were the opposite – they reacted to almost all brand or off brands of disposables but had no problems with cloth (mine are 20 and 22 now)

  20. I love hearing about your wonderful garden – and your warm weather! It is Minus 9C again here and we’re back into the deep freeze!
    I have come down with the flu/cold bug that is making the rounds so won’t be going out for at least the next few days. I made a quick trip out yesterday to take care of some errands, do some banking, and pick up a few groceries but that will be it until next Tuesday or Wednesday.
    I’ve budgeted $125 for groceries and a further $25 for non-food items in February. I need paper towels, kleenex and laundry detergent – nothing more and will only buy them on sale.
    I don’t have a big appetite at the moment with this cold so it will mainly be soup and yogurt & fruit. When the appetite returns I’m concentrating on using up meat in the freezer and from the pantry. Lent starts on Feb. 14th and I’m giving up meat – but will eat poultry and fish/seafood. I’ve got a few things in the freezer and cans in the pantry so $25 should cover what I’ll need to buy for the last two weeks of February. Fish & Seafood (even frozen) is very expensive here so March will be tricky – it’s going to take some major meal planning. Of course there will also be a lot of vegetarian meals to help out!
    I’m also hoping that this will be a bit quieter month when it comes to social commitments – January was a much busier month than I’d anticipated. It will also lower what I spend on transit fares if I stay home a bit more!

  21. We just ordered Zaycon BLSL chicken breast – 99 cents a pound in a 40 pound box (with 4- ten pound bags inside box for easy dividing with friends) – promo code (is only good through today -Friday Feb 2) JOINED99 and here’s a link: Pick up is in mid-March so that gives us time to make room I our freezer!

    I need to find a good price on potatoes so that I can dehydrate them into cubes and make up quart jars of beef and barley stew out of dry ingredientsformypantry shelves. A friend gave me a jar and I put it in the crockpot and it was wonderful!!!

    I am also running low on coconut. Other than that, I’ll see what bargains my produce market may have. Last week I got 20 pounds of big tomatoes for $2. We enjoyed eating several and then I canned 2 quarts using my steam canner!i am regularly using my canned tomatoes in so many recipes!! My husband jokes that our empty jars don’t have time to get dusty on the shelf before they are refilled and back to work holding more fruits or veggies or meat!! Lol!!

    Lasagna noodles are really the only variety that I am running low on and those are never included in the pasta sales!

  22. That is quite reasonable. It still would have been beyond me, financially (we were very poor students on a poverty level budget!) but I can see why people enjoy disposables. And no, for us, even weighing all the costs of detergent, water etc. we still came out way ahead with cloth diapers.

  23. It is so nice to see pictures of green grass and trees and flowers. Here in Canada it’s -2 F and snowy. Your lemon tree is astounding! I was going to buy some lemons this week but when I saw the price I changed my mind. 95 cents – Each! I guess I’ll be using the bottled lemon juice for a bit longer. Still your lovely pictures make me think of what’s to come and warm spring days will be here before you know it.

  24. That tree is beautiful!
    My grocery shopping plans have changed. I am allowing myself $40 a month for restocking. That will include foods that will last a month or more. If I don’t spend it all, it will go to savings. I am going to track my spending for a couple of months for perishables (fresh fruit and salad stuff mostly) to see what that amount should be. There are 2 of us now on a regular basis so we don’t need much. We don’t drink milk and can’t eat salads everyday. My chest and upright freezers are full of meat and veggies for meals and the stuff is going to get used up so I can fill it up again from our garden and great sales.

  25. Thank you for the information. I have not grown lemon or lime trees before and did not know how long it would take to produce a lot of lemons. So far we have used the ones we produce and I have not had extra to freeze.

  26. I love your lemon photos. They are such a nice injection of cheer in my winter days.

    We closed out January in our house with a round of colds for all of the adults and the children. For February we will need to restock our supply of Kleenex, cold meds, and chapstick. Most of us are still sick and last night finished off the last of the Kleenex at home.

    I’m having eye muscle surgery in the middle of February and we also have a couple of birthdays so it’s important that I plan ahead this month and accurately project our needs as I’ll be feeling less than my best for a week or so. I’ve been craving soups lately and will plan on making an assortment this month and storing left overs in the freezer for easy meals. This includes French onion, tomato basil, and chicken tortilla. All will be served with either grilled cheese sandwiches or homemade french bread. Staple items that need replenishing include peanut butter, all purpose flour, salt, onion powder, and canned tomato paste.

  27. What recipe do you use for the beef and barley stew? My goal is to get more freeze dried meats to make emergency meals out of and am always looking for good recipes!

  28. My oldest son was allergic to every kind of disposable diaper around in 1973. I tried them all. Lucky for me I got 3 dozen cloth diapers from my mother. I used those on Jimmy. I did not have a rash on him. I changed him very often and we were living in Cal. by then and the weather was good. We lived in base housing and water, power, etc. were covered in the military housing. So I washed a load of diapers every single night. I hung them to dry and folded them as I used them most of the time. These were the OLD diapers too where I had to use pins on his diapers. (I still have a couple of the pins I used on his diapers) I won’t lie, it was not fun. But he was our only child at the time and I did not work. So we got by just fine.

  29. It’s below freezing as I sit here watching a beautiful sunset… winds are blowing around 20 mph plus we have 2 different winter storms coming through with in the next 5 days.

    I have set Feb food budget for $250 for us (3 adults). It was $420 but I am taking the difference to pay for the items needed for the house. We spend 3 hrs with the contractor today who is willing to help us cut costs but willing to step in and say when we get a bit too cheap (like the wheelchair shower I picked out, he flat out side it wouldn’t last a year of daily use or the door that is known for a seal leak that I didn’t see in reviews). With the keeping track of what I bought I broke down what I bought by % to see what I was buying.. We also set a budget for the items we still need for the house we are buying to get it done so we can move in by Sept.

  30. Brandy,

    How will you use your lemon juice/zest? You have a LOT to go through, even with your large family. I need some more ideas for ways to use up our lemons with our small family. (I make lemonade, lemon-pepper marinade, put lemons in water, etc., and we give a lot of lemons away, but some still end up in the compost pile.)

  31. I freeze bananas often, as we get them from gleaning at the food pantry at the close of their week. I peel them and store them in freezer gallon bags. Peeling them saves freezer space and makes it quicker to use them for baking, smoothies, etc. They are also a favorite treat for my boys, and nice to have on hand when we’re low on other fruit.

  32. We’ve used cloth diapers for our boys and have loved them. It really only works because we have a stay at home parent who can manage it. Daycares wouldn’t allow them, as you say. We do use disposable ones at night, just because we found they wake up less. We’ve also discovered our local children’s council has a diaper bank that’s free to anyone in the county, though they do have a monthly limit. Between this and using coupons, we probably spend $30/year on disposable ones. Our washing cloth ones costs less than some areas because we’re on a well. It might not be as smart financially if we had to pay higher water rates.

  33. We’ve been using handkerchiefs in our home for years to alleviate the trash and expense that tissues create. We just throw them in the wash with towels, so they get cleaned regularly. Each family member has their own color, so we don’t get confused. While this might not work for everyone, it works well for us and makes for one thing less I have to purchase or think about keeping in stock.

  34. Hello Brandy and everyone from Australia 🙂 . Brandy I will say you do a marvellous job in supplying your family with fruit and vegetables mostly from your own yard and you should be congratulated on your achievements. I appreciate and know how much work goes into the gardening and preserving of produce as we supply all of our own vegetable, herbs and berries from our own gardens and by preserving each year for the two of us.

    We are still building up our food storage pantry on tinned fruits (we don’t grow as we are in a rental), vegetables, tinned meats and tinned long life meats and vegetables to a 12 month level.

    Currently we have been working on at the moment stocking our staples being honey (we did a trade for labour and obtained 2 years worth of honey from an apiarist to help him move and do a final clean on his rental home), flour (8mths), rolled oats (6mths), raw sugar (now 12 months worth), white sugar (6mths) and powdered milk now at a 6 month level.

    Februaries focus for us on food storage will be in addition to maintaining current stock levels –
    – An extra months worth of flour.
    – An additional 2 weeks worth of tinned lychees that we have seen advertised on special for over $1 less per tin than we usually pay.
    – On the maybe list will be if it is in the budget another 3 months worth of rolled oats.

    Apart from the list above it will be just topping up the usual things we have used during the past 6 weeks as we only shop once every 6 weeks.

    We face an additional challenge as we are also whilst increasing our food storage are saving a good deposit to buy our own home. Our aim is to have 12 months worth of all our food and other needed household items before we borrow around 50% from the banks for having our home built.

    Wishing everyone the best to be able to increase your food storage in your homes and hope that you too find some great specials to help you with this.

  35. I totally respect that each family needs to make the choice that is right for them so this is not to say that anyone needs to make the same choice that we did, but I have cloth diapered all of my children (and am still cloth diapering the youngest now). I have had as many as 3 in cloth at once. With that many it is work but I have enjoyed the financial savings, the joy of knowing that running out of diapers did not necessitate a trip to the store, but a trip to the washing machine, and most of all knowing that I am not exposing my babies to the toxins that are in disposable diapers. There are currently studies that point to the growing epidemic of infertility that could possibly be linked back to the chemicals in diapers and to the heat that is held against the genitals (especially males) while wearing a diaper. For those reasons I am thankful for cloth diapers. 🙂

  36. Brandy, your lemon trees look stunning. As do the snow peas. I’m so impressed by the variety & quantity of fruit trees, veggies & flowers you grow in the desert. It’s 40F here at the Jersey Shore today and my daffodils & Star of Bethlehem are peeking out from the ground – to me the first signs of spring. I would love to grow peas & strawberries but we have Eastern cottontail rabbits & they feast on these & other plants; fences don’t stop them. Are you about 7 months along now? I’m sure you’re super careful in not over exerting yourself with all the garden work you do (plus everything else you accomplish).

    For February, I’ve trimmed the grocery budget (which includes paper goods & toiletries) to $250 from $400 (for 2 adults & my weekly cat/dog food & other items they need contributions to our local animal shelter) since I stocked up on staples, canned items, chicken, some beef, herbal teas and coffee in January (my local grocery chain runs mega sales in January & Sept). In February I will only need to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish & bread. The $250 may seem high but we live in a high cost area where vegetables & fruit are expensive year-round. I also mostly buy only organic fruit (especially apples, berries, stone fruits & grapes) & vegetables (especially salad greens) due to so much pesticide used on these. I will also be able to buy any good deals that will come up for fresh salmon & chicken/beef in the next few weeks.

  37. Brandy, I don’t recall you having mentioned you had nut trees before. What kind? We have a very, very mature pecan tree in our yard (branches are probably 20 feet off the ground) so we get very few nuts as they aren’t possible us to pick. The squirrels love our yard though! 🙂

  38. Interesting subject. When my children were babies we were on a very, very tight budget. I started out with disposables when they were born. Both children ended up being allergic to one or several chemicals in the disposable diapers. They’re poor little bottoms were fushia pink from them! I reluctantly switched to cloth. At first I hated it, but after a couple of weeks I found it was really no bother at all. My bank account was happier and so were my babies bottoms. LOL

  39. Roberta, the reason I now have six lemon trees, rather than just these two large ones, is so that we can have more juice. I have to make two pitchers of lemonade for everyone to have a glass, and that’s 3 cups of lemon juice right there. We’d really like to have lemonade more often. I put a list of lemon recipes on the bottom of the previous post. You can also access them quickly in y recipe index page, under the “Cook” tab. We do go through a lot. We use it on Swiss chard and artichokes in addition to the recipes I listed, plus several of my other recipes call for lemon juice as well (like white bean dip and salad dressings).

  40. You can put chopped frozen bananas in a food processor and blend until smooth for a healthy frozen treat or dip in melted chocolate, roll in nuts,sprinkles, etc then freeze for a fruit pop.

  41. I didn’t have nut trees before. I now have two self-fertile almond trees that only get 15 feet tall. I also have a male and a female pistachio. My nut trees are new (the pistachios and one almond went in last year; the other almond was purchased last year and I put it in the ground yesterday) so they are not producing yet. I’ve made a lot of changes to the garden in the last two years as trees have died or been pulled out for not producing, and I decided that we should have some nut trees as a source of protein. I would love to grow hazelnuts as well (another short tree option that gets about 15 feet tall) but I can’t find any conclusive evidence on whether or not they will grow in our climate. Some say zone 8, a few say zone 9, but I can only find them online as bareroots, and no one wants to ship until April (when it’s 100º here; bareroot plants have to go in by Valentine’s Day).

    Pecan and walnut trees get HUGE. My grandpa grew them, but he lived in a zone 6 and had 2 acres for his trees.

  42. Mari, I’m not that far along yet. And I work in the garden until I can’t anymore 🙂 My third baby was 3 weeks late (all of my children are born between 42 and 44 weeks). I had 500 bulbs to plant in the ground and they had to be pre-chilled in the fridge for 10 weeks because our climate isn’t cold enough (this was at my old house). I was glad he was late as it took longer than I expected to get all of those bulbs in the ground. When I stopped being up to working in the garden 2 days before he was born, my husband knew it was close to time 🙂

    Gardening is my exercise 😀

  43. I have often frozen bananas and I eat them when still frozen. Almost like ice cream. When i see them on sale,I pick upas many as possible then freeze them in freezer bags. It saves trips to the store and with apples and oranges, I am hlfway to the number of fruits and vegetables we”re supposed to have each day.

  44. Brandy, do the borers leave their larvae in the soil? If so, you might use food grade diatomaceous earth around the base.
    Just a guess but it might break the cycle.

  45. Oh sorry to hear about the cold/flu. Everyone has it. It is epidemic in Canada and the States.

  46. Brandy, I have a big smile on my face reading your reply. I can just picture you nine+ months pregnant planting all those bulbs!
    Gardening and walking on the beach are my favorite exercises 🙂 Be well.

  47. Here is the link to the recipe my friend gave me for the beef and barley stew. You put it in the crockpot along with 8 cups of water and either ground beef or beef chunks and although my friend crossed out the Worcestershire sauce, I added it as the original recipe called for. The handwritten part on the right margin is how to pack it into a quart Mason jar for gift giving!

  48. I freeze bananas all the time. Since they are usually used for smoothies (still frozen), I cut them in chunks. I put the chunks into a ziplock bag and squirt in a little bit of lemon or lime juice–whatever I have in the fridge since we can’t grow those things here. I then gently roll the banana pieces around in the bag so they are coated with the juice then pop into the freezer over my fridge so they are handy. That keeps them from browning so much. If I decided to make banana bread instead, it’s very easy to mash the pieces up.

  49. I too was curious about what nut trees you are growing. I’m thinking of growing hazelnuts. I think (but am not sure) that they would grow where you are. There is a kind that will grow here in a cold climate. It is very tempting!

    I have really overspent on groceries this month. I ordered meat delivered and it cost more than I planned, although 10 cans of beans were included. My friend also bought groceries for me and I paid her back. As mentioned before, I can’t be vaccinated against flu (or measles, either) and so I am hibernating and my wonderful friends have stepped up and are picking up the groceries for me. This week, I got 10 pounds of beets for $9.99 which, for here is a great price. My friend and I split the bag. Cheese was on sale so I am putting some in the freezer. Most of the meat will go in the freezer, too and I am hoping that I have at least a month’s worth of meat for dinners. The beans were a little expensive but if I use the pasta I bought on sale, then dinner costs 0.25 cents for pasta, $1.25 for beans, or less for broccoli a little more for the tablespoon of olive oil. For lunch, a salad or an apple and for breakfast an orange, oatmeal and sometimes yogourt. I still have plums in the freezer and some sour cherries that I will be eating for variety. I will try to make borscht for the freezer. I want to be well-stocked in case my friends come down with the flu and cannot buy groceries for me for awhile. Now I am well-stocked on apples, oranges, beets, broccoli, beans, (canned), dried beans, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower. I may freeze some of the fresh veggies if I can’t use them all quickly enough. I should have enough for about a month and a half. I am slowly building up a pantry, too and emergency supplies. I have 10 cans of beans and 30 cans of fruit. I will make a lasagne tomorrow and freeze some of it. I found a hand cranked radio and will have to see if it works. I want to get a Swedish firestick.

    I ordered lingerie from Marks and Spencer from England. I ordered it on Wednesday (two days ago). Shipping was free (and customs and taxes paid) with a minimum order, it was 3 pairs for the price of 2 (panties), and I bought a bra. It was 15% off. (This is probably too much information). I couldn’t believe that it went via the States but was still here today (2 days!) and everything fit and was quite nice. Historically the English Marks and Spencer stores sold beautiful lingerie at reasonable prices and it lived up to its reputation today. There are no more M&S stores here as they closed in 1999. It was not a great bargain but it would have cost me as much as the purchase price of the items to take a cab to and from the store to buy them and since I am hibernating (flu and now measles avoidance), it was really good to do it this way.

    Our church had a diaper collection and 1360 diapers were donated and then given to a charity that provides them to low income people. Having read about diapers on this blog, I realize they are really expensive and I am glad you can use specials and coupons.

    I spent some time taking bird photos two days ago. I was about to call it quits when the prettiest little Downy Woodpecker
    came along. My fingers were so cold but I toughed it out a little longer and was rewarded with a couple of lovely photos. I saw a huge bobcat in my neighbour’s yard that night. I would really like to get a photo of him but bobcats are mostly nocturnal (although occasionally one sees them in the day). Still, except for the initial outlay, photography when done modestly (one does not need much equipment) is almost free.

  50. The end of January ended up being a blur of sick people around here. We were on survival mode, and ended up spending a little bit more than I anticipated. But, thanks to a large, deep pantry, it wasn’t very much over, and was well within our usual budget. I had just hoped to be way below budget with a lot left to save, as I am well-stocked. We were able to make the small Costco run that we wanted to do, and thanks to my husband’s strick adherence to the list, he stayed within $5 of the budgeted amount, and the extra $5 was for a rotisserie chicken to just eat with no prep work. The truth is…there was never a lack of food, just a lack of manpower and energy to make that food. He is the biggest help I have around here, and when he went down flat for over a week, I just couldn’t keep up. (One of the big girls had a very hard time with wisdom teeth removal, and the other one got the awful flu as well–high fever for almost a week, then recovery). That left me and one daughter to cook, clean and care for my autistic nice and special needs nephew all last weekend. I was very thankful for that chicken. I did do a lot of cooking, though, and my daughter tried 2 new recipes this week from storage.

    So, I will buy produce this month, as needed. I will continue emptying out freezers and canning jars and pantry shelves. I can see some spaces emerging in the freezers from my efforts last month, and see some small gaps on the pantry shelves. I have a basket I put empty, washed canning jars in and count it a good week when I fill it more than once. (I then take the empties out to the shop where they live on the shelves and bring in new full ones to use). I did several bean meals last month, and already have some kidney beans soaking for chili for Sunday, as a good start for February. I am sprouting some very old bean sprouts that were on the pantry shelf. I’ve eaten the first batch, and have another one going. They are so old, many are not sprouting, but I’m still getting a bunch, and just pulled out the good ones for my stir fry and threw out the ones that didn’t grow.

    I was able to get 5 dozen eggs from Costco for $4.20, so am stocked up now on those, but we may run out by the end of the month–they are good, cheap protein and we eat a lot of them. Also, most gluten-free baked goods take more eggs than the wheat kind. I keep egg cartons on hand, transfer them out of the big package into the cartons, and store them in the camper fridge, leaving only 2 dozen in the house fridge. I was able to get 2 lbs of butter at $1.99/lb at Safeway, and my husband got the 4 lb pack while he was at Costco, so I’m good on butter for now. I will get sour cream, milk and 1/2 and 1/2 as needed. When it comes on sale, I buy a lot, such as a couple of weeks ago, when I bought 6–1/2 gallons one day, and 3-4 more a few days later, while the sale was still on.

    I was able to get a 4-lb bag of Pamela’s gluten-free pancake/baking mix for around $13.50. Being so impacted by wheat that I can’t have even one grain of it is expensive, but that is a good price for what I got.

    I was given 8 lbs of oranges today, along with a large, flat loaf of wheat-raisin bread that the rest of the family can eat. The garden has some chard, 2 cabbages, boc choi, and kale still standing. I was given several bags of dry beans from the bulk section, assorted kinds, that the giver was not using. I was also given a bag of creamy rice cereal (like Cream of Wheat, but rice, and from the bulk section) that they were not going to eat. We’ve had that twice already, and I’ve started in on the beans, too.

    There is a new store opening near where I work. So, Safeway sent all the people in the area coupons to use, as their effort to get their customers to keep coming there. My aunt gave me hers. So, tomorrow, I will pick up my $5/Tillamook cheese (2 lb), 18 eggs for 99c, and 39c/lb bananas. Then there is a new batch of coupons for next week, the week after, etc. There is also a $10/50 coupon on my phone for Safeway, but I will see if I need that many groceries before I use it.

    The only meat I may have to buy is chicken, and I will only get it if it’s a super sale, as I still have some bought on the last great sale. However, we are getting low, so I will keep my eyes open.

    It worked well to not shop every single week, so I’ll aim for that again this month–hopefully, I can skip a week at least once.

  51. Chinese New Year is later this year – 16 February – than years in the past. It could be the sales for CNY haven’t happened yet.

  52. A coupon for $20 off a $100 spend arrived in my email box yesterday. It is only good for three days, so I’m planning out meals for the entire month of February and seeing what is needed. Replenishing citrus (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes) is definitely on the list as well as broccoli and zucchini. There is enough protein in the freezers. I will only use the coupon on items which are on sale or the same price as other grocery stores otherwise the $20 savings is wasted.

    In January I started keeping track of the coupon promotions from my favorite grocery store. It will be interesting to see how often they have these $20 coupons as it is at least a few times a year. If I know when they might be coming, I can do a better job of planning my shopping around them.

    I’m hoping that the warmer weather will turn into a longer spring and not a longer summer for you. The lemon and pea photos are gorgeous APU (as per usual!):)

  53. This month is a good month to fill in pantry gaps…no birthdays or expensive holidays and I’ll be staying home more. I want to work on being more frugal with my time as well. Making an exercise plan and sticking with it. When I moved here because I had to and we put in this cabin (under a great deal of financial and emotional distress on my part), I just seemed to have misplaced my umph to consistently use my time well. With success enough, I am looking at where I am.

    Spring is right around the corner and I am excited to put a garden plan into place that will eventually provide food for my family. Thank you, Brandy, for the inspirational photos…even though I’ll never grow citrus, there are many fruit and nut trees I can grow!

  54. This month I will just buy what is needed/on sale for groceries. I received a $25 credit at Save on Foods( even though they were not involved in the bread price fixing scheme), have $40 in pts to cash in for free groceries with PC optimum who just combined pts from two stores, and I am waiting for 2, $25 grocery gift cards to arrive by mail for the bread price fixing. That will be plenty to restock my husband and I-my daughter is not coming home from uni for reading week as she has a friend coming to visit( which also saves us the airfare which we had budgeted for). I am flying to Toronto to visit my elderly Mum-got a seat sale of under $200 which is unheard of-that is usually a good price for a one way ticket. My DH is usually pretty good about cleaning out odds and ends from the freezer while I am gone. I have also taken on an extra 6 hrs work per week until the end of June-this money goes into our travel fund as we are both semi-retired and day to day expenses are covered by our pensions and investments.

  55. Our food budget for February is up in the air at the moment- Normally, it would be about $200, but because of some potential dietary changes I may need to make if I end up on a certain medication, it could potentially need to go up to $250 or $300. However, I was able to get a grocery run in on the 31st of January which will cover the first few weeks of February, so we may get away with a smaller budget for February. Though, this means that January’s food budget was about $250, instead of the $100-$160 I had planned for.

    In my latest trip, I stocked up on ground beef, and in the mid-January run, I stocked up on chicken breast, so I should be covered for meat options for a long while. I also still have a few whole chickens in the freezer as well as a bit of lunch meat, some Italian sausage, and a bit of bacon, which will allow me to have some variety in our meals for meat options.

    Our pantry is decently well stocked, though I may need to purchase another large bag of both pinto beans and black beans from Sam’s club. We’ll see if I can make a trip out there- if I do, I’ll buy the beans, string cheese, and maybe some mozzarella. That being said, we still have a couple pounds of each, which should last us until March (since there’s only two of us in the house), so I may delay going to Sam’s until next month.

  56. Brandy, how do you freeze your lemon zest? Our last frost date isn’t until March 10th, so we have another month before I can plant anything. It’s time to start thinking about starting my seeds indoors. We live in a condo with very little outdoor space, so I’m very limited on what I can grow, mostly herbs. I bought herb seeds at the Dollar Tree recently, they were 5 packs for $1.

  57. Having had a baby just a month ago, I hopped on the disposable diapers wagon as well. I started stocking up since I was theee months pregnant. In between coupons, % off emails and extra bucks I managed to pay between $2.5 – $3.5 per jumbo pack at CVS. By the time Franco was born I had almost 1,000 diapers stockpile (in different sizes) I spent a fraction of what they normally cost. But then again, it took some planning.
    I never even looked into cloth diapering. I will be going back to work in April and the baby will be in a nursery so that’s reason number one. And reason number two, living in NYC, we don’t have a washer / dryer in our apartment! Can’t imagine how I would manage poopy diapers 😉

  58. Since my husband is still officially laid off, buying is at a minimum. In the near future, i’ll need to purchase long grain rice, whole oats, black beans, lentils, the cheddar cheese is running down, butter, (always), elbow macaroni if I can find it below 1.00. Looking at this written out, it looks like I need a LOT! The freezers are still pretty full. I did notice yesterday that we’re on the last of our frozen peas, spinach and broccoli. So, that will need to be addressed at some point. We still have quite a bit of canned vegetables.
    Beautiful picture of the lemon trees! We’re buried under several feet of snow with more to come. (yippee…) I wanted to mention that the Dollar Tree has dandruff shampoo that works well for me. I use herbal essence shampoo and add the dandruff shampoo and water to make my own. I haven’t had any problems with their brand. Their sensitive toothpaste works well, too. Sensodyne is close to 5.00 here. Who can afford to spit that in the sink every day? eeschhh….

  59. Oh my what a horrible month it has turned out to be. The light bill came in and was triple. We had snow twice in this billing cycle and although we kept the thermostat down to 65, I am doomed. The worse part about the bill being so high is that we froze all month. I wouldn’t mind paying 300.00 if we had been snuggly and warm. I can cover it but we will have nothing left after paying the immediate basic bills and none of these bills are luxury items. If we have any upsets this month, I will have to turn to my father and at my age that is ridiculous. Sugar cookie has a birthday very soon and I have that covered. Meanwhile we were notified that she will continue to receive 60.00 a month on SNAP as she is disabled. I can certainly do wonders with that each month. My tax refund will take care of my 0 bank balance so I am patiently waiting. We have everything we need to get by this rough month. I panic over having so little money as I have never been quite this low.I realize that it is a temporary situation and it will resolve itself in a couple of weeks. I have taken a hard look at our budget and there is nothing we can cut. I will use the tax refund to replenish the emergency fund and pay the taxes on my home due at the end of the year. It is scary but it is all ok.

  60. Cindy, we also are in the rural South and the rats and mice are horrible here. I have been feeding a stray cat for four years and she had become quite tame. The rodent problem was eliminated and it wasn’t expensive to feed her. Last week, she disappeared. I imagine the neighbor had her trapped and sent to animal control. I explained to him what her purpose was and when the neighborhood was overrun again, he would know why. With spring right around the corner, it won’t be long. Their nests reek of urine and they chew through wiring like crazy. Houses get infested and they love car engines. Ight !

  61. Thank you – my ribcage feels as though I’ve been in a boxing match as they are so sore from coughing. I;m enjoying the rest!

  62. Hi Brandy
    Last night I watched an interesting programme on television called Nigel Slater in the Middle East – Nigel Slater is a British chef. He was in the mountainous region of the Lebanon learning about the local cuisine and the women he spoke to said if they didn’t preserve summers bounty they would starve in the winter when they are snowed in for months with impassable roads. It reminded me of your gardening, preserving and feeding the family from long term stored goods. I know many of your readers keep very well stocked larders too.These women preserved many different fruits in syrups and made jam including a rose petal jam, they dried and ground up herbs to make many different herb/ spice flavourings – Nigel Slater said a type of oregano was a staple of their cuisine and they kept big sacks of dried goods such as dried chickpeas, bulgar wheat etc. Many rural families keep a house cow and use the milk for yoghurt and labneh a type of cheese similar to ricotta. One of the women showed three huge glass containers of tomato puree she makes for which she needs 50 kilos of tomatoes.
    It was fascinating to see the storage and cuisine without supermarkets to restock from. I don’t know if you can access British TV but for those of us interested in gardening, cooking and preserving it was really interesting. Sorry this is a bit of a ramble!

  63. I’m chuckling about your M&S order. Whenever I go to the UK friends always ask me to pick up knickers from M&S for them. Even after the stores closed here in Canada we would get relatives to send them to us here!

  64. Pray tell, how large is your backyard?
    You are an inspiration and I’m grateful for your sharing of your passion for living a frugal life. It motivates me to do better

  65. Ha ha! Of course I noticed your lemon recipes on the previous post and in the recipe index [u]right after[/u] I posted my question. :p Thanks for taking the time to answer anyway.

    I find it just amazing how much food/drinks large families consume. There were five of us in the family I grew up in, but my brothers are 11 and 13 years older than I am, so for most of my growing up years it was really only three of us. Hubs was an only child. Hubs and I were blessed with only one child (for whom we are extremely grateful!). Our challenges are probably the inverse of yours: we have a hard time consuming all of the produce Hubs grows. (We do share with others, can, dehydrate, freeze, etc.)

    I’m also incredibly amazed by how you are able to feed your growing family such wonderful meals on such a small budget. I learn new things from you and this site nearly every day. Thanks again for hosting this.

  66. I bought parchment paper from Costco the last time (I think it was on sale when I bought it) and it lasted a few years! It was worth the initial investment.

  67. You tried. That is all you can do. I have tried and sometimes I am successful sometimes I’m not. I bring my lunch with me everyday. Sometimes we are treated to lunch so I then save it for the next day. Some of my co-workers eat out everyday. We would like to retire someday and are trying to put our kids though college debt free. I think that is more important then eating out constantly. We do enjoy eating out but I think its because we don’t do it weekly.

  68. I use mine for smoothies, banana bread, muffins, pancakes and pudding. I always freeze them. Also when it is hot in the summer I coat them in chocolate and nuts and freeze for a refreshing snack. I can usually get ones that are turning brown on the produce clearance rack very cheap. My dog also loves to chew on a frozen piece.

  69. We use our smoker in the nice weather and lots of the brines call for lemons. I just made lemon bars last week. Many of our homemade dressings call for it. I use it on fish and chicken. We use it for water, tea and lemonade. I have made a lemon sorbet that my husband loves. I wish I could grow a tree like Brandy’s. Aldi had a five pound bag on sale yesterday for $3.49.

  70. I am so jealous of your lemon trees. They are beautiful. Your peas look wonderful. I usually plant my in March. Can’t wait!
    We did a pantry challenge for January($100) and I came in under with the help of a gift card I received. I am out of chicken and ground beef. Still have plenty of ham and turkey. I went shopping yesterday for mostly dairy and fresh fruit/veggies as we were pretty much out. I also had to go to Whole Foods to get a few dairy free items that my husband can eat. I spent a good amount there but they last a while as he is the only one that eats these items. Our budget is $400 for the month so I will be able to stock up on what I need.

  71. The old wives’ remedy for diaper rash (and I’m an old wife…youngest kid is 39)…cornstarch. Keep it in a salt shaker (I used one of the big metal ones with a handle) and sprinkle it on baby’s bottom EVERY TIME you change a diaper. Easy, VERY cheap, and very effective. (More effective than any other powder or cream). My oldest (41) only had a diaper rash once, and then I discovered this. The youngest was very prone to rashes, and this kept them at bay. Both of my kids were in cloth diapers, and I didn’t find it much of a hardship because I had a washer and dryer. (Poopy ones got dipped into the toilet before going into the diaper pail). If I would have had to use a coin-op, those kids would have been in disposables.

    As a side note, both of my children were adopted, and it was $$$$. I knew if we were going to have more than one child, I would have to $ave in every way possible. At that time, there were only two brands of disposables, Pampers and Huggies, and both were pricey for the economy of the late ’70s. I never saw a store brand or anything cheaper. Our adoptions were two years apart. In that time, I saved about $1,000 by using disposables.

  72. Sara, our entire lot is .24 acres. We have a 1-story house, the front is mostly driveway and then the white garden that I have shared pictures of. A third of the area behind the house is a patio; there is very little side yard on each side. I believe our backyard is 75 feet across.

  73. Hi Margie!

    It was inspired to order from M&S. They are closing several of their U.K. stores so reading that made me go to their online site. I couldn’t believe how quickly the order came and it’s really lovely. I highly recommend their on-line service. I may order some more. It is good the DHL truck came yesterday as it was a heavy snowstorm today, although DHL once delivered a parcel to me in the very worst weather (to my utter amazement). M&S had very nice part linen dresses on their website. It is highly tempting but more problematic about sizes… Your comment gave me a smile –– bringing knickers back for friends! Ann. I shovelled down to the street where my neighbour who loves his snowblower had cleared my city sidewalk. By the time I turned around to come back up the snow had totally filled in what I had shovelled.

  74. Thank you Marybeth for your encouragement 🙂 .

    We are quite chuffed with the deal too which was 30kg of honey. I will say though it was a huge job for both DH and I to help him as he was somewhat of a hoarder so we definitely earned our keep 😀 . Such a good way to build up food storage and offer service to a friend in need too and trading is good too.

  75. We live in a high desert, but I grew up with lemon tree groves near us and miss the fragrance of the flowers. I had a Meyer in a container, but lost it due to forgetting to cover it one night that had a freeze. Do you have to cover your lemon trees there?

  76. We love frozen chocolate covered bananas during the summer. I peel, freeze the bananas with a Popsicle stick till very cold/frozen, then dip in candy chocolate or use magic shell, then lay one side in chopped peanuts (I buy the ice cream topping nuts usually) then freeze again, once frozen I put them in a gallon freezer bag. We decided these are one of our healthy snacks/desserts during the summer.

  77. I’ll be looking for rolled oats, dishwashing liquid (the eco version is on sale this week), baking powder, and brown sugar. Rice and pasta, if they can be found at the right price. I need fruit, either fresh or frozen, since the berries I froze last summer are almost all gone now.

    I’ll buy some pork if the prices are good this month.

    I also need dish towels and new winter mittens! I’m still a six-year-old when it comes to keeping track of two mittens.

  78. Lilli, I know that feeling of panic and I’m sorry you are going through this rough patch. First, remember to breath! Whenever you feel that panic coming on, just take a moment, sit quiet and concentrate on just breathing…it does help. You are focusing so hard on the 0 bank budget, that you are forgetting how prepared you are and what you do have.

    One of the things that helped me during my time of financial stress was to find something that made me feel like I was being productive. Bake some frugal muffins to enjoy for breakfast or snacks or soak some beans to have ready for a delicious frugal meal. Research some frugal recipe ideas and find something new to try using pantry ingredients you already have. Clean up a closet or area of the house that needs decluttering. Repair or paint something from supplies you already have in your home, to give it new life. Rearrange the furniture to change and refresh the look of your home a bit. Find some free activities to do in your community. Check out your’s free, it gets you out of the house, and you can look at recipe books, craft books, magazines or various reading material and/or see what movies they have. Do a craft project from supplies you already have in the house and/or can up-cycle (e.g. make something new from old bed sheets or clothing, or make some cute garden lanterns from cleaned tin cans and a nail to punch designs in the side, cut old greeting cards into bookmarks and add a handmade tassel) that can be useful to you or can be added to your gift stash. Look up craft ideas on line and learn a new skill using things you have (YouTube is amazing for this as you can watch it, pause it when needed and re-watch it as needed until you learn the skill). If you can find things that make you feel like you are propelling yourself forward despite your lack of $, it will help you feel better about your situation.

  79. You are right; it’s all about mindset. I once met someone that was single, unemployed, and childless who told me that she had no time to look for deals or use coupons, even though she had 19K in student loan debt. There is so much info available for anyone who wants to budget, but the motivation has to be there as well.

  80. Lilli, If you really need to, you could call your utilities company and ask them if you could split the bill between this month and next month. They are usually glad to make an arrangement. It sounds though as if you’ll just manage without it and I agree with Rhonda A.’s comments. Don’t concentrate on how little you have but on finding things to keep you busy. Soon enough the problem will be over. I am dreading my utilities bill because we are now having extremely cold temperatures again and the furnace is running constantly. Spring isn’t that far away, although it certainly feels like it here today. Bon courage! Ann

  81. Sandra, Marybeth, and Jewish Lady,

    Yes, I agree with all of you. You can tell people until you are blue in the face and if they are not committed to changing so they can be financially responsible, you are just wasting your time.

    I was talking to my daughter yesterday and we were discussing this. She remembers when my co-worker went through the refinancing because we discussed then what the chances of them not getting into debt again. At the time, we didn’t think they were good and now we know. She and I also talked about her finances, which are not great since she doesn’t earn much. However, she has no debt and pays off her credit card every month after using it for gas and a couple other things, simply to build up a credit history. We both sacrificed fancy vacations and a number of other things so she could finish college without student loans and she has thanked me any number of times for that. A bunch of her friends have loans and some of them are buying new cars – and by new, I mean NEW, not new to them – and she has no idea how they ae doing it. She still eats out more frequently than she should – so do I, especially in the summer – but she’s also cooking more at home so she’s getting there. I’m really proud that what I’ve tried to teach her over the years has sunk in and, although she’s not perfect in following those teachings (who is?), she is self-supporting.

  82. I’m with you on the gardening. With my youngest, I went into labor on Labor Day, he was born the next day. I spent part of Labor Day buying plants at the nursery, then going home and quickly getting them into the ground. The only thing that slowed me down was not being able to bend over very far!

  83. Brandy,
    I really enjoy your gardening pictures. I am looking forward to gardening in the spring. I would like to plant some fruit trees also.
    Purchases this month will definitely include fresh fruits and vegetables as frugally as I can buy them. I will probably shop at Aldi. We are running low on everything as I have been sick this month and have not done much shopping. I am feeling better now. I always comparison shop online. I have a Sam’s club card now and will take a look there.
    I am going to be on the lookout for meat and poultry sales. We have used just about everything in our freezer.
    We will have to buy things to build our house. So I am being frugal so we have money to do that. I hope to be in our little farmhouse in a month or two. Glad we didn’t have to move in when it wasn’t done.

  84. We set our budget to include regular meals out and fundraiser events, but still save more than 25% of our income for retirement. Those outings are special to us – not frivolous – because it is time we spend just us without thinking we need to go do some chore or take of some “pressing thing”. Oddly – “special” meals and desserts are generally done at home.

  85. i freeze them whole for smoothies and banana bread. I dehydrate them for snacks.
    And i also slice them into small chunks and drizzle chocolate over and freeze them for chocolate covered banana dessert/snacks.

  86. My mother and her companion arrive for a visit this afternoon. I have no idea how long they are staying. I made several casseroles to eat while they are here (I work full time). I have a ham and a turkey I bought months ago to serve on the weekend.
    They eat very differently than I do (lots of snacks), so I’m sure they will go buy all sorts of individually packaged stuff, keurig pods, and sugary pastries that I don’t usually keep here. I have coffee and the refillable pods, but they insist on the disposable ones. Same with a large container of yogurt and fruit, but they will go buy individually packaged ones. Sigh.
    Our freezers are full and the pantry holes have largely been filled – thanks to a sale on ground beef $2.99 lb! Hoping for a sale on Asian sauces and ingredients for Chinese New Year. My husband will take a trip to the Hispanic grocery while he’s in Miami this week and get me 40 lbs of basmati rice and 40 more lbs of jasmine rice and coffee (super sale) those will last a couple of years. He will also pick up as 4 containers of powdered milk (Nido).

  87. Brandi
    how do you freeze lemon zest? Do you do it in individual sizes or a big chunk? Do you freeze in bags or ice cube trays. Thanks

  88. Because I gained 5 lbs and think I have IBS or just a very sensitive digestive system, my grocery budget is going up for the next few months as I switch to a Mediterranean diet full of vegetables and whole grains and legumes. Until I learn how to follow this diet by cooking from scratch, I’ve been buying quinoa mixes and wild caught salmon which ate expensive. On the plus side, I feel so much better!! I have to figure out a frugal balance between eating healthy and saving money to pay off our mortgage sooner. So far I spent $360 on food in the last 3 weeks, but it should last a couple more. That is about double my $200 I wanted to spend but worth the health. Now I will focus on bringing my budget down!

  89. I’m a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, which has a great deal of information about trees on its website. They also have a nursery from which members and non members can order fairly inexpensive trees and shrubs. It might be a helpful resource to those researching various trees and the best climates in which to grow them.

  90. Thoughts and prayers are with you! I understand how tough that can be. Our power bill was also really high this past month. We try to get through by sharing meals with family and friends, and using the food pantry when needed. We also try to research frugal living ideas, like Rhonda said. Simple things like keeping the curtains closed and using every part of food (save carrot peels for stock, reuse tea bags twice, etc. ) really does help in the long run.

    Our power company is also very willing to work with customers and called ahead to notify customers that the bills would be higher than usual due to the cold. I know they offered payment plans. I wonder if yours might do something similar if you called?

  91. Hello Rhonda,
    Have you or anyone else tried Zaycon Fresh? I ordered 40lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts at 99 cents a pound. If you are new to the site you can receive 25% off your entire order using the code GET25. You do have to wait until the product is sent to a pick up zone but I can do that for that great price.:) You could also share an order if the quantities are too much for your freezer.

  92. I understand your mild frustration with the individual packages, disposable items, etc. We feel very much the same way with my in-laws. We love them, but they live so differently than we do, and it does feel wasteful at times. But I’m sure they likely don’t quite understand our way of living either.

  93. I have had similar issues and found out that I have an overgrowth of Candida, a naturally occurring yeast in your gut that can take over if you’re on antibiotics, stressed, etc. I have found that a Paleo diet really helps, but you’re right that it’s much more expensive and time-consuming. Overall, I like feeling so much better, but I really do miss bread. If anyone has good grain free recipes to share, I’d love to try them! I love to bake and am finding that I really miss that creative outlet.

  94. Hi Allyson,

    I have a great grain free cook book ( mostly uses almond flour) called ‘Everyday grain-free baking’ by Kelly Smith. Your library might have a copy ( at least my did, but I wore it out, so bought my own copy!). She also has a blog I hope that you enjoy!


  95. Marney, thanks for the suggestion! I’ll check it out. I would love to have something that isn’t quite as dense as the coconut flour muffins I’ve tried. I really appreciate the support; this diet is really tough some days to stick with when it feels like everyone else can eat what they like. I know I’m not the only one, but feels that way sometimes! So thanks!

  96. My husband has dairy allergies and we found a great cookie recipe that doesn’t contain flour. Hope you can eat them.
    Dairy free Peanut Butter cookies:
    1 cup creamy peanut butter(I use Skippy)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 egg
    Mix egg with sugars. Add vanilla and mix. Add baking soda and mix. Add PB and mix. Make big ball and put on a greased cookie sheet. Squish down with fork and make a crisscross on top with fork. Bake 10 minutes at 350. Bottoms will get browner but tops stay light brown. Mine tend to break when we take them off but we like them very soft. Makes 18 cookies.

  97. Hi Kim. We follow a Mediterranean diet by choice and truly enjoy it. It is more expensive to buy fresh veggies & fruit but to us it is worth it as we are rarely ill. I do buy canned pineapple in its own juice. Fruits & veggies I mostly buy what is in season, which is a saving but where we live they are pricey year-around. We do eat a lot of fresh fish (we’re on the East Coast where fish is reasonable except for wild salmon) and some lean beef (bought on sale of course). As you know, legumes and beans are very cheap, especially the dried varieties. We love lentils, kidney & cannellini beans & chickpeas and I serve them in salads, soups & stews. I also use quinoa (it’s a complete protein) & and barley, couscous and brown rice.

    I do have a garden and grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuces and herbs. This really helps with the budget during summer months. Our soil is very sandy/clayey here so I’m limited in what I can grow.

    I highly recommend the cookbook The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop. Also, any book by Dr. Dean Ornish, which contain heart-healthy recipes based on a Mediterranean diet. The Woman’s Day and Family Circle websites also have terrific recipes As does Brandy here. Best wishes with your new lifestyle 🙂

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