Christmas Wreath The Prudent Homemaker

I made several Christmas gifts. I sewed a pencil bag, a pair of mittens (from a felted wool thrift-store sweater), a dress, a scrunchie to match the dress, a skirt, a matching bow which I sewed to a barrette, and a second matching bow that I attached to a headband.

Christmas dinner was a collaboration between us and my mother. We provided ham (bought on sale for $1.19 a pound), potatoes (bought for $0.10 a pound), green beans, olives, and toppings for the potatoes. My mom provided squash, a fruit salad, and baked beans. Our Christmas menu is not always the same and is often quite different each year. We opted to skip dessert as everyone had plenty of candy and treats earlier in the day.

My mom went to the grocery store the day after Christmas. They had marked all of the remaining fresh green beans down to $0.10 a pound. She called me to ask if I wanted any. I had her fill two large produce bags of beans for us.

We received rain yet again! I was thrilled to not need to water the garden. Lake Mead is rising, which is a very good thing!

What did you do to save money this past week?

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  1. Sounds like a lovely Christmas dinner, and a productive gift-making session, on top of all that you do!

    My frugal week:
    – I made gluten-free cheese crisps ( . Super-easy to make, and tastes like a chip made out of cheese! These are very expensive in the stores.
    – I made egg-free Irish soda brown bread, and another loaf with white flour.
    – I took my daughter to a free music and movement class at our local library, and she was able to make a music shaker as well.
    – My mum sent home Christmas dinner leftovers with us, so I didn’t have to cook for a few meals.
    – My mum also sent home a bag of bread crusts with me, which I turned into bread crumbs.
    – I saved ribbons, gift bags, and gift boxes from Christmas, to use next year.
    – I used my husband’s monthly bus pass when going shopping, which saved me from a long walk (which I usually enjoy but was tired that day) or spending $7 on a rt.
    – I signed up for a free mama + baby fitness class. Just a one-time class, but I’m looking forward to it.
    – I got a package of Nescafe k-cups for free, using a coupon from I don’t use them, so plan to trade or donate them.
    – I made lentil hummus and served it with homemade pitas. Both my husband and my baby liked it, so I plan to make it again sometime.
    – I used the leftover pitas to make egg-salad stuffed pitas for lunch the next day.
    – I redeemed $10 worth of loyalty points to reduce the cost of some pharmacy items; I also used a gift card that I received as a gift. As part of that, I purchased some paper towels on sale. Before leaving the store however, I realized that I actually had a $1 off coupon for those paper towels, so I returned them then repurchased them using the coupon. Hey, a dollar is a dollar! I then submitted that receipt along with other receipts, to get a $10 gc back in the mail.
    – I redeemed some Starbucks loyalty points for a venti (i.e. biggest possible size) hot chocolate with whipped cream as a treat when running errands on a rainy day. My daughter was sleeping in her stroller, but I knew she would wake up and want my hot chocolate, so I also asked for a cup of water. That way when she woke up, I could redirect her to the cup of water (which has a lid, similar to a sippy cup) instead of my hot chocolate (as all of you mums know, it’s easier to redirect a toddler than to get them to stop asking for something!). I also saw a sign for free fancy coffee samples, so I got a shot of nitro (fancy espresso) for free. I added it to my hot chocolate for an energy boost. In total, I got about $10 worth of drinks for absolutely $0 OOP.
    Looking forward to learning from everyone as always!

    1. I really enjoy reading everyone’s frugal accomplishments. It directly helps your families now and in the future. It helps reduce waste, consumerism and helps our environment.
      So inspiring.

      I thought I would list some of my accomplishments this week but they seem so little in comparison.
      – We stayed home for New years eve and I made a roast beef dinner, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings (entire meal was in the same oven), gravy and massaged Kale salad (from my garden!). We had leftovers yesterday, and I am making a shepherds pie for today. The roast cost $16 was big enough for 3 generous meals. And I received 30 AM for purchasing it.

      – I collect air miles when ever possible. They help bring my daughter home from Montreal at least once a year.

      -We gassed up at Shell where we received a 3 cent per liter discount for using our Air miles card plus I had a 4 cent per liter coupon from grocery shopping so we saved 7 cents per litre on gas plus recieved 5 Air miles.

      – New Year’s day was beautiful and I spent the day relaxing and walking the dog at the dikes. Purchased a coffee using a GC which I received as a gift from a student, I used our reusable travel mugs (also gifts from students from previous years).

      – Took cuttings from my black current bushes. Made 4 cuttings and rooted them. Hopefully they will all take and I will plant new bushes next September.

      – Began preparing for classes by saving useful Christmas cards (for crafts) and Wall Calendar pictures ( for Geography and science projects). A friend also gave me a stack of old magazines which I also went through to see what else was usable for student projects.

      1. Hello, Rose! That was my grandmother’s name, and I really like it for all the different kinds of rose flowers there are.
        I like what you wrote about saving pictures for school projects, and not just for environmental re-use reasons. It is too much to tell a student “Find a picture of anything in the world on the internet and print it”. That is possible, but overwhelming, and having too many choices is paralyzing. Setting some boundaries makes the students’ work easier, I think.

  2. On the morning of Christmas Eve, my daughter and I ran over to Kroger’s to get another gallon of milk in preparation for another daughter, son-in-law coming over with their 4 teenagers to feed in addition to this daughter and her 3 teenagers! While we were there we saw a display of Nestle’s chocolate chips- white & milk chocolate- $1 each (rather than $3.49 each)! We both got several packages and when we paid, the cash registered gave us each a coupon for $2.50 off next 5- making the chips 50 cents each if we bought more! I went back with both coupons while I bought 10 more and got them each for 50 cents PLUS 2 more coupons!! Before they closed at 6 pm, my daughter who was visiting went with me and she got some to take back to St Louis and I bought 5 of the larger 22 oz size for $1.49 each by using the coupon. There was also a $1 ibotta rebate on up to 5 of the large size so my final cost on those was 49 cents each also! I am now stocked in baking chips for the year! I repackaged them into mason jars and vacuum sealed them! I also picked up an 88 ounce bottle of Arm and Hammer laundry detergent for $2.99 after coupons and 8 oz
    Philadelphia cream cheese for 49 cents each after coupons!

    On Dec 26, one of my other daughters messaged me and her other sisters/sisters-in-law on our family Facebook site about an after Christmas sale at Aldis! They had the big holiday Popcorn tins for $1.07 each (I bought a dozen), their own brand of ziploc holiday bags – boxes of 40 gallon size or boxes of 50 quart size- $1.14 each. I will use those for freezer meals throughout the year! I bought 15 boxes of gallon size and a dozen boxes of quart size! They also had Rice Krispy mini treats – 32 pack for $1.14! I bought the 9 boxes that they had and will keep them for snacks for grandkids! They also had Hershey kisses- bags for 73 cents, so I bought all 6 bags to use for cookies/candies! So, I’m pretty well set for baking and candy making for 2020!!

    Quilts made this week:,, and, and, and then this morning this baby quilt:
    We are now feeling ready promote our machine quilting for hire. This has been an incredible learning experience! So we’ll run a sale on the per square inch charge for our quilting to encourage new business! Wish us luck!
    January will be a low spend/no spend month (especially with all the stocking up we’ve done in the last few months on things we use regularly!) ! Our son was disappointed yesterday when he got home for lunch that the beef stroganoff I made the other night had been gobbled up by visiting teenage grandkids. Then it occurred to me that I made it in my Instant Pot (8 minutes pressure) and I had all the ingredients in my storage! Voila! I made another batch! He now thinks I’m awesome!

    We’ve been trying to reuse/repurpose things we have/need around the house too. We cleared the landing by the side yard door and put in a particle board shelf unit that we decluttered from the workshop to put our chicken sloggers and Wellies on that we wear when we’re working outside. No cost but how much more tidy it looks than the big pile of shoes/boots and how convenient!
    In December, we were able to make 4 extra principal payments to our mortgage in addition to our regular December 1st payment. Looking back on 2019, we have made the equivalent of 28 mortgage payments with 22 of them just since July! We are working hard to get our mortgage paid off! It is our final debt. Since it is a 15 year mortgage with a 3.6 interest rate, about 2/3 of our payment goes towards principal. I printed off an amortization schedule and every month, I cross off each payment we make! It’s nice to think we have saved the interest that would have been attached to those extra payments if we had just paid them as scheduled!
    We had a nice bit of weather earlier this past week so Hubs was able to add the wooden framework around the serving table by the BBQ. We won’t be able to put the grout between the tiles on it because the temperature can’t go below 32 degrees for 21 days while it cures and we can’t imagine having three weeks during this winter where consistently the temps stay that warm! So the rest of that project is on hold until Spring!
    We are looking forward to 2020 and are grateful for all that we’ve learned this year!


    1. GardenPat–I so enjoy reading your comments every week and looking at your quilts. You got some awesome deals this week. We are also working on paying off our mortgage.


  3. What a great deal on the green beans. We are also getting plenty of rain lately. I made a number of reusable produce bags as gifts, and also gave several jars of pear preserves canned last summer. Our broccoli is very happy this year, and I was able to harvest another two large heads. I made a batch of batter for hot buttered rum. A friend gifted me an amaryllis, which he made sure to tell me he got after it had been marked down to $1, knowing I would appreciate that :o).

  4. -For Christmas Eve, I made homemade pizza. The pizza lasted for several additional meals. I also put half the dough from the recipe into the freezer, so I can make one quickly next time. This was the first time I had used the dough hook on my new stand mixer. It was much easier on my arthritic hands than kneading by hand, and made much less mess, so I was pleased.

    -I attended a potluck supper Christmas Day at a church at the next town over. I brought a corn, black bean and pepper salad. It wasn’t very popular, but I shared the leftovers with someone else who attended the supper, who was glad of having some extra food to take home with him. When I got home from dinner, I had phone calls from a couple of relatives who are getting on in years. One has not been well, and we have not been able to talk very often this year, so it was good hear from her and to hear her sounding quite well. We had some good conversation, and it was nice to connect with both of them.

    -On Boxing Day I cooked a small roast I had bought on sale, and have been eating leftovers since then. There are still quite a few meals to go.

    -I closed my account for doing freelance transcription, so I am officially retired. It is a relief to have more time to get on with some projects of my own, and to have some time to play. The work had become more stressful lately as the company’s business model changed, so now is the right time for me to finish there.

    -As part of a kitchen clean-up, I sorted out some papers in a serving table drawer, and have started to get all my medical receipts in one place to prepare to do taxes.

    -Happy New Year to everyone!

  5. That was some ambitious gift-making! I have followed Lake Mead’s water level for years and the recent increases ARE impressive.

    My daughter and her now fiancee (sorry, not sure how to switch to a French keyboard on my phone to do an accent) visited for several days and got engaged on the 26th. They don’t plan to marry for nearly 2 years so they can save money for a wedding. I told them how much I would contribute so expectations would be set. They were not expecting anything and it was nice surprise for them.

    I bought a lot of food, most of which did not get eaten because the visit was so short. Fortunately, I like most of it, too, so some has been frozen and I made a rough list of meals to have in January. I will not be going to the grocery store until at least the 3rd week of January and that will be just for perishables like fruit and eggs. I am also eating from the freezer.

    Our weather has been superb the last week or so and I have been able to keep the heat off during the day and the door to the screen porch open for my cats. I’ve turned the heat on st night but based on the electric co-op’s usage data and the morning temperature in the house, it did not turn on even then. It is cooling off now, but will still be in the 50ies and 60ies.

    There really has not been much else going on. Staying home saves money and I have been doing that as I prepare to retire near the end of January. My letter from Social Security with my monthly check amount and confirmation of enrollment in Medicare was confirmed so now I just need to enroll in a supplemental plan and I am all set.

    Have a happy and blessed new year, everyone!

    1. Of course 5 minutes after I posted, I remembered my BIG thrift action. Despite taking off all day Christmas Eve and Friday afternoon, I did not take any vacation time because I worked an extra 12 hours between Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and Friday night. When I retire, I will be paid for all accumulated vacation and not taking those 12 hours will give me several hundred additional dollars in that check.

  6. I’m glad to hear about the rain! Rain is (almost always) a blessing here, too.

    Here’s how we saved money in the last week:

    * I prepped food for my SO to eat while I was out of town for Christmas (they had to work, and thus could not come along).

    * I made black bean burgers for lunches this week and made a big pot of red beans and rice for dinners. Bean dishes always help reduce our grocery bill!

    * I visited a bookstore while I was out of town, and instead of buying anything, I noted the titles of several books I wanted to read and was able to find most of them at my library or via interlibrary loan. The few that I did not find, I will be requesting for the library to add to their collection. If I had bought all of the books I was interested in, I would have spent over $150!

    * I got a ride up with my uncle for Christmas, and a ride from my dad to his side of the family’s celebration. I am very grateful for both of them.

    * I took inventory of all of my spices and herbs, cleaned up their jars and shelving, and reorganized them. This means that when I do my next order from San Francisco Herb Co, I will not order anything that I already have enough of.

    * I habe been brainstorming ideas for new teas blenda and herbal tea blends. I think I will use a bit of our food budget for January to buy some dried fruit for these.

    * I meal planned for the month of January and wrote up our shopping list based on that. We should come under budget by a significant margin. Additionally, we will not have to buy cat food until the end of the month, so we will likely not have to use February’s cat food budget.

    I hope everyone had a lovely holiday (or holidays!) and, for those who are receiving snow/sleet/freezing rain, I wish you safe travels!

  7. We did decent by eating from the pantry and not going shopping. I did get a new yoga mat as mine now does the slip and slide when I am on it on these wood floors. We decided to do a no spend Jan and pantry challenge through the month of Jan. We made a menu of meals we think we would like to eat in Jan and 90% is already in the house. We are doing a no clothing for the next 3 months. We turned the Christmas lights off and took down the outside lights while it was warm as it’s below 30 with winds at 20 mph now. That puts the holiday lights on 1 electric bill instead of 2. Hubby added air barrier to the side attic over the front room to help with air loss. Looking forward to ideas to help be frugal this coming year.
    Blessed be

  8. Brandy, I’m always amazed that you have time to make presents. Love the idea of matching bows. One of my daughter’s classmates who competed on the horse circuit would buy long sleeved shirts, cut the sleeves to short sleeves and use the sleeves to make matching bows for competition.

    We have been very faithful finishing up leftovers. No food waste this week! There were so many gifts of sweet foods that I didn’t make many of our traditional desserts and candies but stored the ingredients away in the pantry. The baking sales were still good this year, so I’m delighted to get ahead. I’m concerned about rising food prices and am determined to put away whatever we can afford to. Christmas dinner and baking supplies were thanks to a check from my mother especially slated for that.

    The expired food table was a bonanza of prepared salads. I took them and shared them with a coworker. Most of them were really tasty. It was fun trying things I wouldn’t normally buy. I also secured some breakfast treats for my son and husband on these busy winter days, tubers of Cresent rolls, milk, and a few veggies. I made the rolls into “chicken blue cheese rolls” that the family loved. I was able to use up some leftover chicken, cream cheese and pretty old blue cheese.

    Friday is the final day of my part time job. While it has been exhausting – getting out of the house and earning some money for an upcoming tax bill has been worth it. However, I’m tired and will not have time for working with the upcoming radiation. Fortunately, my DH is working full time again and things look to be much smoother for the future. As we have the funds, I will look to refill the deep pantry.

    I’m feeling blessed to have made it through this year. Thank you for your prayers and support! Happy New Decade!

      1. Blessing for you and your family Patricia in this new year and through the decade. We will need all the prayers we can all get…and give.


  9. It was Christmas last week and we were on the road–what can I say!
    * My gift-a-month (which I intend to continue all this year) resulted in 2 pairs of pajama pants, a potholder, bath bombs, a gardening gift basket and 4 jars of freezer jam, in addition to several birthday gifts. So much more fun than a trip to the mall with a credit card!
    * I repurposed an unused Rubbermaid dirty clothes hamper as a recycling bin in the kitchen. It is squarish with vent holes and a removable flip lid. It is way better than what we were using before.
    * I re-sewed a zipper that was tearing out of the placket of my daughter’s jeans.
    * My daughter-in-law sent the leftover prime rib bones home with me and I made a big pot of soup. Later she e-mailed and asked me how! She cooks mostly from scratch from a cookbook, but seems to want to learn to wing it…and I am only too happy to help!
    * I got my husband to stop in Winter’s college town for 10 minutes so I could check out the Deseret Industries thrift store. It’s the biggest, cleanest and possibly the cheapest thrift store ever. Great place for furniture and home goods, and more clothes than Macy’s! I stumbled upon a stuffed Westie and bought it for $1! It’s big and floppy with ears that stick straight up!
    * Speaking of Westies, our two were filthy and stinky when we picked them up at the kennel. My husband offered to take them to the dog wash and get it over with, but I bathed them myself in the garage sink. It just seemed like less trouble than going out, and saved $10.
    * My husband received $64 from the oil and gas leases he inherited from his great-great uncle (via his great-grandfather, grandmother and mother). I married an oil baron, LOL.
    JUST A REMINDER–Brandy maintains this site at her own expense. We aren’t constantly bombarded with ads when we come here. She receives a small commission each month for Amazon purchases made through this site. All you have to do is click on any of the Amazon products depicted, then search for the product you wish to buy. If you would like to short-cut the process, after you click on the Amazon product and reach the Amazon site, bookmark it. In the future, all you will have to do is click on the bookmark and search for your product and Brandy receives a commission for the sale, at no cost to you. I should have mentioned this before Christmas, but…better late than never.

    1. Forgot to mention, I also gave $20 in Target GCs I got for buying TP and such (they are doing this again this week) and a $25 Amazon GC I got from my insurance company for having my annual physical. My son immediately used the Amazon card immediately to help pay for a tool he needs to change the oil in his work car (a diesel). My gift-giving habits have changed A LOT in the last few years, and it’s been a lot more fun. I also gave my husband two used books!

    2. Maxine, I laughed out loud at your mention of your oil baron. I, too, inherited a bunch of oil and gas leases from my father. Over the generations, they have been divided many, many times. My quarterly check — which came with a 4 page statement with tiny print — came to $54. I’d never turn down free money, but it does always make me chuckle, and my husband jokingly refers to me as the oil heiress.

  10. That’s a wonderful price on the green beans. I went to the stores the day after Christmas and almost nothing was marked down here. (Christmas wrapping, but I don’t need any of that.)
    Christmas Eve I hosted brunch for several neighbors. I think we had 9 people and the two of us. It was so fun. I bought a little extra food, but not much, so it was an inexpensive way to celebrate. I may have to make this a new holiday tradition.
    Christmas Eve night after church, our friend who works at the hot springs invited us for a soak. It was so lovely and peaceful and a wonderful way to celebrate.
    Christmas Day was quiet, which we prefer. Later in the week I baked bread and made yogurt and did some mending.

  11. So, the last time I commented, it was to lament over how careless I had become. Since then, I am happy to report that I have made some frugal accomplishments.
    1. I have not ordered breakfast at McDonald’s in almost three weeks. This had become an everyday habit five days a week. This added up to $30.00 a week just for a breakfast combo! A piece of bacon and cheese stuck between two mini pancakes and a hashbrown with a drink is not worth that!!!
    2, In three weeks, I went out to eat twice. The first time was a date with my husband using a gift card a student had given me, so no OOP for me on that one. The second one was a planned eat out that was budgeted for and it was NOT a hundred dollars. LOL.
    3. We cooked gumbo for Christmas Day. I usually do chicken and sausage and I usually get chicken legs or thighs as they are the cheapest, but my husband went to the store for me, and found boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale. He got those. That one pack of chicken made FOUR meals and it only cost $5.34. We are a family of six. My sister is also a family of six. She tells me all the time she has no idea how I can stretch a pack of meat that far. I made gumbo, chicken and dumplings, chicken fajitas, and chicken salad. There was enough gumbo for lunch the next day. There was enough chicken fajita mix for my husband to take two fajitas to work yesterday, and the chicken salad fed all of us lunch today.
    4. It is a little cool outside today, so I turned the heat on long enough to knock out the chill and now that it has warmed up some, I have opened the doors to air out the house.
    5. We have a new member in our church that just got an apartment and she is in need of basic household items. My daughter-in-law and I went in together and purchased two towels, two hand towels, two wash cloths, a small picture, and some after Christmas bath items like lotion, bath bombs, etc. that was 50% off and created a basket. I took a bottle of my Bath and Body Works foaming hand soap that I bought when it was on sale to finish off the gift. We used a 10.00 gift card to buy a nice wicker basket that she can use for storage and then spent 10.00 each to fill the basket. I wrapped it in a clear cellophane bag and added a flower and ribbon I had in my stash to make it “pretty”. I used a blank card from my stash to add to it, rather than buying a specific “house warming card”. I keep beautiful blank cards that can be used for anything on hand. It was a beautiful and functional gift that didn’t cost each of us a lot of money to give. I have added baskets to my garage sale and thrift store list that I can put away and use for gift baskets. My daughter in law and I decided that combining our gift for functions such as housewarmings, baby showers, etc. for people we both know allows us to give a nice gift without spending a fortune.
    6. I have been on break from my job as a school teacher. Rather than going shopping everyday, I have stayed home. Staying home and finding things to do around my house keeps me from spending money! I normally go to Wal-mart the day after Christmas and I didn’t even go this year because I really didn’t need anything.
    7. I made hamburgers for dinner last night. Instead of using the entire pack, I kept about a half a pound set aside to use in tonight’s dinner, which is spaghetti and doesn’t require a lot of meat.
    8. Our church normally has a New Year’s Even banquet, but due to some circumstances, it had to be moved to New Year’s Day. Everyone brings a meat dish and side dish. My husband and son both work for the same company, and each got a $65.00 boneless ham for Christmas. My friend is the supervisor for our local deli in the grocery store, and he told me to take it up there and they would slice if for free since I don’t have a meat slicer. We will smoke half of it to take to the church tomorrow night and I separated the other half into four meals and froze them for later.
    9. I have been debating on getting an InstaPot, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money on something I may or may not like. I mentioned this to one of my teacher friends and she offered to let me borrow hers over the holiday break to try it out before buying one. I used it, and I liked it, but I am still on the fence as it did speed the cooking time up, but I don’t know if it is worth spending a hundred dollars on a kitchen appliance. I am also going to borrow a friend’s air fryer to try before I purchase one.

    That’s all I can think of now. Happy New Year and may 2020 be a frugal and blessed one!

    1. I am one of the few people I know who is not thrilled with an instant pot. I find that with the time it takes to bring it up to temperature and then to cool it down, the time savings is not that great. Also, if you buy a hunk of meat that it oddly cut or too large, you have to thaw it to cut it into a size that will fit into the pot. If you have to thaw it anyway before you can use it in the pot, then you can cook it in the oven. Pretty much the only thing I found it useful for is as a pressure cooker and I don’t care for the taste of most pressure cooked items—they all taste over cooked to me. And the rings you use in the inside of the lid take on the odor of the lasst item you cooked and for strong odors they cannot be removed, soyou end up buying more rings. It is also an awkward size and pretty ugly so I didn’t like having to keep it on the counter all the time. I like making soups and being able to tste them to see if I need to add anything and I like my house smelling of what I am cooking for dinner (unless it is certain fish!). The best use was for hard boiled eggs—I have never had eggs peel that easily. I have a friend who swears by it for yogurt, but I think yogurt is easy to make anyway using other appliances. So, all in all, I’m not as crazy for it. The idea of trying out someone else’s for a test run is wonderful!

      1. Mable, thank you for your “review” of the Insta Pot. Many of my friends rave about it, but I think your summation is more in line with what I think about making food.

    2. I LOVE my instant pot. I agree not a time saver per say because it has to rise to pressure, cook, and then release pressure. However I can set and walk away. No watching cooking food. Good time to take my daily walk while supper is cooking.

      There are lids you can buy to convert the instant pot to an air fryer as well, so one appliance-2 functions.

      For me worth the cost!

  12. Glad to hear you had a nice Christmas and got some rain. We had some very serious rain here (Seattle area) last week, and there was a foot of water on part of the street where my office is located. It was crazy! Luckily there was another way to get out of our parking lot, so I didn’t get stuck in the water (several people did).

    We had a busy Christmas eve and Christmas, and I was exhausted afterwards from all the food prep and travel. I have a few days off from work so I have had some time to relax, which is nice.

    During December, I took the opportunity to attend a bunch of free or low cost holiday events. A local mall has free live Christmas music at various times, and I was able to hear high school bands play on two different days. I was in band years ago so it brings back lots of memories. My sister and I also visited a garden center one day when they had a saxophonist playing holiday music. One evening in mid-December, I got together with two friends and we visited a botanical garden that has a huge display of holiday lights every year. The entrance fee is only $5, and we went to an dinner afterwards, which also ended up being quite inexpensive. And, just yesterday, I went to see a display of fancy gingerbread houses made by local chefs. Last December, I did not feel well, so I decided that this year, I was going to do things to enjoy the season. And I did.

    Here are some of my frugal accomplishments for the last few weeks:
    – Made three big batches of soup, tomato and broccoli (twice). My mom and sister and I had a potluck Christmas lunch the Sunday before
    Christmas, and they loved the broccoli soup. I froze the rest of the soup in meal-sized portions.
    – Cooked from pantry and freezer whenever possible. Made a pan of enchiladas for another get together with my mom, and gave her the leftovers. Made a large pan of roasted vegetables to take to Christmas dinner with my in-laws.
    – Made muffins, kombucha, and many batches of water kefir. Made cranberry relish twice. Got up early to get to the grocery store to get the last things we needed before Christmas. That saved a lot of time.
    – Decorated the tree using ornaments I already have. Wrapped presents with items I already had. I always wrap one present in the Sunday comics as a joke (my mom gets the newspaper and gives it to me afterwards). We did simple presents this year.
    – Read books from the library, enjoyed blogs I read (including this one), watched streaming tv and DVDs we already own.

    I haven’t posted in a few weeks, but I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s posts here. Wishing everyone the best for the new year.

  13. I loved seeing your hair scrunchies!! My girls were big on those for a while. For a couple years we owned a mobile home although that’s a funny name for a home that was anything but mobile! Anyhow, a bunch of kids their age also lived in the small trailer park where we lived then. One of my daughters made some hair scrunchies for herself when she was about 13 or 14–using just scraps of cotton fabrics from my sewing stash. (Leftover bits.) When the kids at school saw hers (some of which matched clothing I had made) they wanted some too. She made a few for free for her friends and then we must have run out of narrow elastic because she charged 50 cents or a dollar for the rest to cover the cost of thread and elastic. She had a little spending money and every kid in school had scrunchies!! Another time in the summer the other daughter wanted a hat (it was the 70’s and hat were big, I guess.) She picked a pattern that was like a newsboy cap and I made it for her–again out of scraps of fabric. The other kids wanted one also, and I liked to sew, so I think I must have made at least 6 or 7 of them for her crew of friends.
    So many “accidental” ways to make kids happy. The hats took a bit of sewing but scrunchies could literally be made a dozen at a time, they were so simple to sew.
    This Christmas one of my bargains was when I was looking at the Beauty and Bath Works web site–they had a bunch of the foaming liquid hand soaps on sale at about $2.50 each–price marked on them is $6.50. It was a “flash” sale but I ordered 8 or 10 of them and figured I would use them for my big family sooner or later. Gave several as small gifts, and one of my nieces mentioned something about them being discontinued. I don’t know whether she meant the scent I gave her or the soaps in general, but I remember hearing from some of the ladies on line that people loved them. I still have about half of them left for future gift giving occasions.
    We also save as for the last several years my family has decided on lasagna for Christmas instead of a big roast of meat. It’s not inexpensive to make but it doesn’t cost as much as some other things. I put both ground beef and Italian sausage (bulk) in mine, along with a moderate amount of ricotta and a generous amount of mozzarella. I use a jarred sauce which I buy on sale ahead of time. My granddaughter doesn’t eat red meat so I make a separate small pan for her using ground turkey to which I add a generous amount of Penzey’s Italian sausage seasoning. Sometimes I do the same for us with ground pork if it’s less $ than already made sausage. I served it with a big green salad. Had planned to get some Italian bread made or bought but didn’t have time, so simply went ahead without it. No one starved for lack of bread.

    Since my “immediate family” consists of three households of two people, they help me out by taking home leftover lasagne and Christmas cookies. I only had time for three kinds of cookies this year, although I “cheat” by making a drop sugar cookie and frosting all of them with white icing, putting coconut on half and chocolate jimmies on the other half. Looks like two different cookies on a tray but really isn’t. Generally I made at least two or three more kinds but I just didn’t have time this year—with the shorter amount of time from Thanksgiving to Christmas and taking care of my husband (who has dementia) I was just slower than usual. When I was younger I made 14 kinds of Christmas cookies although I must have had more company then, because we certainly couldn’t have eaten that many!
    Much of my stocking-stuffer ideas come from the grocery store. One particular kind of granola bars that we like come 10 to a package, and they are $2.50 or so. The “movie size” boxes of candy often go on sale for $1 each so I can grab everyone’s favorites. The dollar store yields some silly things to keep the adults amused as well. I personalize them by getting everyone’s favorites, both candies and toys or whatever else I see for fun.

  14. We hosted Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner. We did a Mexican fiesta on Christmas Eve, with chicken enchiladas, pozole, beef tacos, homemade mexicorn, refried beans and Spanish rice. The pozole had onions from the garden, the refried beans were from pinto beans from the garden, the mexicorn had onions, corn and peppers from the garden. We also had homemade salsa, with ingredients from our garden. So, we tried to make it as frugal as possible. Christmas dinner was a traditional turkey dinner. However we had cauliflower with cheese sauce (cauliflower was from the garden and frozen) and corn with thyme (corn was from the garden and frozen, thyme from the garden and dried). We did what we could. My son’s new girlfriend came over for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She was just going to come on Friday (we had not met her yet), but her parents got sick so she couldn’t go home for Christmas. When my son told me I said to ask her over. I didn’t want her to be alone on Christmas. She seems like a lovely young lady.
    I found two hams (spiral sliced) for 99¢ a pound. They told me they just had too many, so they marked them down.
    Did my mom’s laundry, saving her $25.
    Helped my mom with her Christmas shopping, and other shopping. Went to the bank for her. Mailed letters and cards for her. Took her to church I am glad I am still able to physically help her.
    Made a meal plan for the week.
    Cleaned my kitchen counters, getting rid of clutter that seems to accumulate. I am going to try and be more diligent about this. Partially opened boxes, Empty jars. Just accumulated “stuff” that is around while I am cooking. My kitchen is very small, so having it cluttered makes it much worse.
    Hope everyone has a great New Year and happy roaring 20’s!!!! 🙂

  15. I have made sure to use all the leftovers from Christmas meals. Froze as much as I could, steamed the vegetables, made cheese sauce from the leftover cheese tray for casseroles I froze. Bake and cook from scratch, shop sales. Have enough in pantry and freezer to last us a few months. It is just the two of us and we are pretty frugal by choice. We hibernate in January to stay warm, save money and to reorganize, recharge and reflect. Waste not want not.

  16. Taking advantage of my local store’s 99 cent produce markdowns. Got an expiring veggie tray that I took apart and washed everything. Grated the carrots (in my vintage “Salad Shooter’, if anyone else remembers the 80’s) and froze them in one cup portions for future cake. Froze the broccoli for soup. The dip is dated for February, so put that aside. Ate the celery and snow peas. Gave the cherry tomatoes to the squirrels. 
    Also got Pom pomegranate cups for 99 cents each. Got three; ate two, yet didn’t get to the third one in time, and it fermented. I try to not be greedy with my bargain shopping, yet messed that one up.
    We give few Christmas presents, but I do send lots of cards, and got some I like on half price after-Christmas sales. I got the equivalent of two shoeboxes full of assorted grandmotherly cards at a yard sale for a dollar last summer, and sent many of the Christmas ones. Waiting for grocery store to drop prices even further on poinsettias, currently 50% off. They always have leftovers. 
    Friends hosted us for Christmas dinner, and we brought bread to share and cinnamon rolls for them, and some NIB pretty Christmas crackers I had found at a yard sale last summer, a dollar for a box of six. (Seriously– $29.99 from Pier 1 originally? Five dollars each?). The crackers included bad jokes, crowns, and instructions and paper for origami figures. We laughed so hard, because we could only figure out how to follow the instructions for one of the four creations.
    My son’s extra large desk chair broke– the rolling feet break off, and though we propped it up on boards last summer, it has finally given up. I looked to order one online and found not only a sale, but getting blue instead of black saved another third of the cost, as two colors were on clearance. For once, I remembered to look for coupon codes on line, (search name of company coupons), and found an additional 3% off. And shipping is free! (It was not through Amazon; I did think of Brandy’s links).
    I have a list of small financial things to do in the next week for the new year: Update auto pay for health insurance, as expiration date on credit card changed. Cancel card I got for airline points that now has an annual fee. Got new card for hotel points as we have a really ritzy wedding to attend in Chicago in May, and if I charge all groceries and utilities for three months, I will get bonus points to cover one or even two hotel nights. 
    I so much enjoy reading everyone’s comments. A new post is a joy! Wishing Brandy and all of us a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

      1. It works well to grate carrots and chop walnuts and cranberries.
        I had never seen that particular cooking tip! Thanks for the laugh! I grew up among Scandinavians in NW Minnesota, so I’m familiar with the chef’s accent.

        1. It wasn’t the particular video I remembered. There was another, and they shot salad all over the place in a restaurant, I believe. But this one was funny, too!

          1. My mother LOVED gadgets, and her salad shooter was her fave! I always think about how many parts of everything need to be washed and generally end up using a knife! (only one thing to wash).

  17. We had a lot of food around, some that was given to us and other that we made. I had a ham in the freezer, so we heated it. I sent some home with family, then cut it into sections and froze the rest. We had ingredients on hand to make potato salad to go with the ham. My family also likes clam chowder and I had everything but some extra cans of clams to finish the soup..
    For dessert, we had food that was given to us–a loaf of pumpkkin-apple bread and some fruit.
    This week, we have mostly been eating leftovers. Not the healthiest food, but what we have on hand. I am starting to crave green salads and lighter fare from what we have been eating. I’ve also been pretty good about pacing myself through the chips and chocolate.
    Our Christmas was generally quiet, with some handmade gifts or inexpensive things made by local artisans. We got a few books, which I have been reading.
    I’ve also had some time to crochet the baby afghans that I donate to the Linus project.
    My husband was able to take most of the week off (he’s self-employed and did a lot of work from home) so we have enjoyed time together.
    I also had gift cards to a movie theater, so we were able to see Frozen II and Little Women.
    Thursday starts back into our regular routine. I’ve enjoyed the time to read, relax, sleep a little more each night, work on crafts, watch movies, eat from a variety of yummy treats, and walk a little longer during the day.
    Here’s to 2020!

  18. Our name draw for Christmas gifts was a big success. We have been staying with family on the east coast so travel not frugal (though we flew Southwest and checked 2 free suitcases each in order to move our daughter from west coast to east coast for new job. Frugal for her!). But while here we have eaten out once as a treat and cooked the rest of meals for 7 adults at home. We brought board games with us, and there were many already here, that has been our main entertainment. I have also learned how to change a plug, make wild sourdough bread, and authentic Korean kimchi (from a native Korean). So it’s been a fun, and informative vacation!
    I bought fabric on sale at Hobby Lobby while on vacation. I will make a Roman blind with it and it will be a lovely momento from our vacation.
    I have advised daughter in law (at her request) on various bushes in her garden, and pruned several of them. I love it that at whichever house we get together, we all pitch in with jobs and projects that need an advisor or extra hands. I have also mended several items for them and knitted another dishcloth to leave here. I have also knitted a baby blanket for World Vision when I needed a break from games.
    A blessed and peaceful Nee Year to all. Thank you all for contributing comments, and to you, Brandy, for your positive and resourceful posts. I really look forward to your post each week.

  19. We just had a 2 day visit from our son, DIL and newly 3 year old granddaughter while the weather outside was not great for play. Since we usually go visit them we don’t have many toys. Brainstorming and Googling how to entertain a 3 year old kept us from buying anything to play with except a bag of balloons. She had a great time with building a “castle” from a table and blankets, balloon games, library books and the few card games and toys we have on hand. We also ate at home except for one night when we brought home take out to give us all a break. They even brought what was in their frig to share as they head on to our other son’s for 2 nights and didn’t want it to spoil.

    I am embarking on a low spend year as I want to fund some vacation travel for us without dipping into our savings (we are retired.) Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season.

  20. My husband is a quiet man but this week he startled me by going grocery shopping and when they were out of BOGO boneless skinless chicken breasts, he knocked on the door to the butcher and explained that it was 37 below zero and they are out of the advertized chicken breasts. The butcher basically said, well, too bad come back tomorrow. My husband then said, “I am old enough to be your grandfather. Would you tell him to go out at 37 below a second time to get a promised price that you knew was going to be popular?” Then he just stood there. The guy, who was about 25, finally said, “Would it be okay if I gave you organic skinless boneless breasts instead?” So, we got $50 worth of organic chicken marked down to $25. And then the guy told my husband if he wanted hamburger to wait for a few minutes and he would bring out some burger that was about to go into the cheap-almost-out-of-date bin. So, we also ended up with $1.99 a pound burger, the 90% lean variety, another $50 worth. We had to borrow from the January food budget but it was well worth it. I don’t do that often but when I do we always manage to make it up the next month. We do have a lot of meat from a recent “raining food” situation, but by my reckoning we now have enough meat for more than six months.

    That was the most frugal thing we did this week. The other stuff was just the usual washing out plastic bags, making bread, making a pot of soup that lassted for five lunches, and that sort of thing. I did spot a box that I could not remember putting under the bed and when I opened it, there were several sweaters that I completley forgot I owned! It made me feel a little ashamed, to have so much that you don’t even remember what you have. Also made end of the year donations to the used bookstore and Goodwill.

    Happy New Year everyone.

    1. -37 degrees?! Really? I’m not sure I would leave my bed, let alone my house! I was feeling bad that our temperature went from highs in the 70ies to the 60ies.

    2. Good for your husband!! He said what needed to be said and the young butcher man followed through by doing the right thing for his customer. We should all learn to stand up and speak up when something is not right. I also am guilty of sometimes not speaking up. Penny S.

    3. I am so impressed by your husband’s approach! And the fact that he not only got what he came for, but some bonus items and all organic? Really impressive!!

    4. I too am impressed by your husband’s approach! Also impressed by the 25 yr old butcher who got the picture (a little slow but he finally did!).

  21. My heart goes out to all Australians-especially those dealing with the devastating wildfires. Unbelievable. Wishing you a better year in 2020 and a Happy New Year to all.

  22. This year’s most nonfrugal moment goes to the Christmas holiday. Everyone in the house had the flu. The Christmas dinner eventually ended up in the garbage can. My $150.00 ticket to the NutCracker not used. I’m still trying to recover. The house is a simple wreck. With the new year comes plenty of time to get things all in their place. I did manage to go online and order Christmas decorations for the next year. At 75% off, I am happy with the prices I paid. I had wanted outdoor lights, but in good conscience I just couldn’t pay full price. I used a gift card from Swagbucks to cover my shopping spree. I must get back to my daily swagbucks journey as I have slacked off for several weeks. I hope everyone starts the New Year off with great blessings.

      1. Lillianna, we are a family of seven and we had the flu over Christmas, too. Awful!! We have three bathrooms in the house and for almost a solid week, someone was sick on every one of those toilets around the clock, so I totally relate to your non-frugal/completely wasted Christmas! I don’t think our entire family has ever been that sick at one time. We cleaned out our refrigerator yesterday and so much food went to waste because of it either being old (nobody ate much of ANYTHING this past week, so lots of spoiled leftovers, etc.), or because we didn’t want to take a chance on the foods that had been exposed to sick family members. Made me feel sad to have to throw out so much food. And I am so sorry that you weren’t able to use your ticket to the Nutcracker! We usually buy tickets to a student performance/dress rehearsal that our local ballet company hosts for the area schools and senior citizens (we homeschool). Through the years we have missed our performances a few times due to the inevitable illnesses that seem to find families in December, but I never worry about it too much because I always know that most arts groups run on a pretty tight budget and need the money, so that always makes me feel a little bit better about “wasting” the money. Here’s to a healthy start to your family for this new year, and no more sickness for a long time!

  23. We had a busy, wonderful week, as many of you did. It was full of family and friends, and I was happy, but simply exhausted by the time Friday came around. We had house guests, visiting grown children and 27 people for Christmas dinner. So, I did nothing on Friday, and very little on Saturday. By Sunday, I was back to myself.

    During the week, we saved money here and there as we could. We had tacos for Christmas dinner, which was a departure from tradition for us. I served finger foods on Christmas Eve after church to our 5 guests and us. People brought things, which helped. A couple of family members have trouble getting around, so they gave me some money so I could buy things like drinks as they wanted to help with the meal as well. I thought that was very thoughtful of them, and I bought paper products as well, since I don’t have a dishwasher and 27 guests can make a lot of dishes.

    We were able to get in all the hours we needed to work in December. It’s tricky, around holiday times, when working with the kids, since their own mom and dad want them to be home with them for things like opening presents, family gatherings, etc. LOL. Go figure. But, we squeezed in extra hours at the very end of the month while my nephew was home from school (on vacation) and got them all done! The truth is that our budget is so very tight that we cannot afford not to work our regular hours, so we are thankful.

    I cooked quite a few things as there were hardly any leftovers from Christmas. I used items I had on hand, and only shopped for things to fill in the gaps, so ended up at about $52 for the week. I thought that was good considering how many extra people were in and out.

    My husband made me an amazing rack to hang my cast iron skillets on. He used reclaimed lumber and tin he got for free from the scrap bins that are located at various businesses around town. He was SO creative this year. He also made me garden stakes that he painted white on the upper 1/2 so I can write on them with Sharpie when it comes time to plant seeds.They were also from reclaimed boards. Pictures of the rack are on by blog at:

    I ended up making 17 sewn pillowcases for gifts. I was so amazed that I had 17 yards of fabric, and contrasting fabric, and they were nice gifts. I paid for, or was gifted all of those pieces of fabric years ago, so that made 17 presents that were free to me this year. I used some pieces leftover from my girls’ dresses from long ago. I felt great using up so many short pieces of fabric.

    I made my husband a pair of sleeping shorts. I sewed tops on 2 dishtowels for my nephew. I used outdoorsy fabric as the contrast. We made him a camping kit and he may use these towels for that purpose as he could button them over the car mirror, or over a tree branch. He camps out of the back of his car. I got to see how he sets it up last summer when he came down and camped with us for one night.

    I cleaned out the fridge and used things that were lurking in there. One thing was vegetable lasagna with thin slices of zucchini for the noodles.

    1. I looked up the rack your husband made, very ingenious! I, too, am blessed with having a handy husband. And kudos to your man for the weight loss. A few years ago I lost 125 pounds, and it is a battle to not regain it.

  24. I’m a long time reader and first time commenter.
    I love that I can read the comments and know who is writing them without looking at their name – what a wonderful community you have built here Brandy!
    I’m so impressed by how much you accomplish! What wonderful Christmas gifts you made. I love it when you post photos of your sewing projects.
    The best way I’ve found to save money is to keep a spending log where I record every penny. I think more about wants vs needs when I write it down! I plan to keep a log as part of my New Years Resolution.
    One of my favorite post was when everyone said where they lived. What I would also love to hear is what others view as the best part of living where they do. I live in Southern CA and I love living close to the ocean- we don’t have air conditioning ( most of my neighbors have added it)I love that we get the ocean breeze. I love that I live at the beach but a two hour drive will get us to the mountains or the desert. It’s beautiful but expensive! I hope to stay here when we retire in 5 years but only time will tell.
    Happy New Year Everyone!

    1. Welcome, J. I can definitely tell who some of the commenters are without looking!

      I live in SC, about 30-45 minutes from the beach. I love the small town feel of my town, althoughit is definitely growing. We even have a town square!

      I hope you continue to comment and agree with the spending log. It’s like a food diary that keeps me from eating too much junk food because it would be so embarrassing to put it on paper!

      1. Thank you for the warm welcome Mari! I’m excited that I will be visiting SC ( Charleston)for the first time this spring!
        I forgot to mention that in addition to not having AC we also don’t run our heater! One way to keep our utility bills low! Most winter nights an extra blanket is all we need.
        This year I made a few homemade gifts like jam and Madagascar vanilla ( which was more expensive to make than I anticipated but a nice gift and since I’ve started another batch with the same vanilla beans the next batch will bring the overall cost down.
        I’ve made a list of homemade gifts I plan to make for next year and plan to start soon do I’m not rushing next fall/ winter to complete the projects.
        So far I want to gift linen aprons, family recipe books, more vanilla and jam.
        Brandy, I’ve visited St. Augustine and it’s a lovely town rich in history.

    2. J — I love Calgary. It is 48 minutes to the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains and the mountains just east of Banff at Kananaskis. It is about an hour and a half to Banff. Although one needs a park pass for Banff National Park, a federal national park, the mountains to the east in the provincial park are free.

      I love how clean a city Calgary is and its beautiful natural parks (as well as manicured parks) and the extensive pathway system for walkers and cyclists. At 905 km, it is reported to be the most extensive urban pathway system in North America. I love the diverse habitat types in Calgary — prairie, foothill, riverine, montane, boreal. I love the fact that the city has preserved one street of historic sandstone buildings from the 1880s and 1890s and historic buildings elsewhere in the city. I love that the city and residents have planted an enormous urban forest where once there were no trees. I also love that the cold winter temperatures are moderated by warmer western winds called Chinook winds. The winds make it hard to grow some things here but make winter bearable. I love that, historically and today, Calgary has been a vibrant city for the arts. I love the new architecturally stunning library, and that we have a philharmonic. I like that lower income residents can get reduced admission to various facilities such as museums…

      Due to last year’s 150th anniversary of Canada and the free national parks passes for that year, and the enormous number of tourists, we now have a bus in the spring and summer from Calgary to Banff for $10 each way. The private bus companies charge $70 each way. To the east of the city, one gets into flat prairies where in the winter one can see Snowy Owls and during spring and fall migration thousands of snow geese and trumpeter and tundra swans. A couple of hours northeast of Calgary is Drumheller and its badland scenery and the Royal Tyrrell Museum with it fantastic displays of fossils and dinosaurs.

      I love the fact that in the summer it usually doesn’t get too hot and it cools dow at night.

      The great variety of topography and regions of Alberta is a great asset.

  25. Happy New Year, Brandy!

    Except for going to and from work, I mostly stayed home this week, so saved there.
    Christmas Day was spent at my parents and I did bring some leftover ham home. It was used for sandwiches and then soup. For my own family I cooked a turkey I had gotten on sale at Thanksgiving for $0.39/lb. When we were tired of turkey I deboned it and froze it. Normally I would have then made broth with the bones, but I wasn’t feeling well and just did not have the energy.

    I have started making my gift list for this year and already started making a gift for a January birthday using materials I had on hand.

    Saturday the children and I were invited to go to a local amusement park that does a Christmas theme. Really it is just lots of lights and Christmas music, but it is a lot of fun to walk around. The children already have passes for the park, so they were able to get in free and, through a promotion, my ticket was also free. We had a lovely time!

    1. Hope eveyone had a wondeful Holiday! We are still on school break, and I am just trying to entertain kids this week. My son’s best friend lives with his great grandmother so we are trying to give her a break this week by taking him and his little sister and my son to our vacation condo for a few days. The weather is cold, rainy, windy and gloomy, we are playing board games, watching old Disney movies and heading to the community center today. The kids are 11 and 13, so I’m trying to find free things that are fun for them. that can be done inside. We are in a very small beach town, so most of the things to do are outside, but it’s too cold and rainy.
      -Frugal wins are: Bought 2 spiral hams after Christmas for 69 cents a pound. Wish I could have bought more, but my garage freezer isn’t working well and needs to be defrosted. Fridge freezer needs to be cleaned out, that will teach me to be more organized and prepared with freezer space!!! Did NOT buy anything besides the hams at the after Christmas sales!! I will go back out next week to look when the prices hit 80 % to 90% off. Getting ready to start a no spend or very low spend January after school starts. I have so many bits and pieces of things in the freezer that need to be creatively used up.
      -My big happy news is that I finally talked my husband into agreeing to move out of our “Fake Rich” neighborhood and look for a house that is less expensive and fits use better. When he looked at it from a financial view, he realized it would be a very smart move. Home prices in our neighborhood have increased a lot this year. Hoping for a place for a garden, we are in a woody area now with very little sun. We still have to live in the same city to keep my son at the same school, but I’m so happy to get out of my neighborhood. We are putting the house on the market in May, so I have a few months to start cleaning things out.
      Wishing everyone a Happy New Year with many blessings!

          1. I’m in Mukilteo., WA. I enjoy checking out the thrift stores in Redmond/Kirkland/Bellevue area every now and then.

  26. I forgot to add: one of my local Kroger has built a new, larger building and will be moving locations at the end of January. To help with the move, the entire store is marked down. While most of the deals aren’t that great (yet!), they do have general merchandise for 50% off. I was able to purchase 24 quart size canning jars for $20 and I bought quite a few boxes of lids (I have plenty of rings!) for $1.49/box.

  27. Happy New Year!! My only resolution is to get back to reading my favorite blogs. Haven’t done so for a couple of years. We had a wonderful Christmas spending the week at our daughter’s house. She and her husband work at the hospital and had to work Christmas day, so we celebrated on Christmas eve. I took two pecan pies and a chocolate cake. We ordered pizza. Just laid around all week. They live in St. Augustine and there are a few places I have not been yet, and now I kind of wish I had done a little exploring. But the town has lots of tourists every holiday. This week I am reading library books, cross stitching. Cooking a traditional New Year day dinner today, black eyed peas, cabbage (I don’t like the greens most people eat), sweet potatoes, barbecue chicken, cornbread. Think I’ll go see Little Women at the cheap theater at some point. $5.99 tickets and that includes a small popcorn. Happy New Year everyone!

    1. I think St. Augustine would be such an amazing place to visit!

      My mom took my eldest and I to see Little Women. It was wonderful.

  28. May everyone have a wonderful 2020!

    We exchanged few gifts this Christmas. All I gave Gary were second-hand, including a teapot to replace ours that got broken and a rooster tea cosy bought on ebay.

    We had two friends for Christmas dinner and made lentil-nut loaf with free nuts and lentils, as well as sides of kale (free) and yam (Caribbean, not sweet potatoes) colcannon, Cranberry sauce was in the freezer from last year, and the same with the mushroom gravy. Garu baked two pies– a pecan with a nut crust (free nuts) and a sweet-potato with a cassava flour crust. We’re following the Gundry Plant Paradox diet as strict vegetarians. It was a nice, calm day because we’d prepared everything ahead of time.

    On Boxing Day we had a spur-of the moment get-together with about 8 friends. I’d made sorrel drink with sorrel given to me by a neighbor, and we made a pitcher of Pimm’s Cup with Pimm’s we’d had forever. People brought wine and beer, and we put out nuts, crackers and vegan cheese, and Gary made warm bolons verdes with plantains. The get-together was so much less work and angst than our usual formal affair and it was nice to have it as an impromptu event. I grew up celebrating Boxing Day and find it so much more pleasant to have an extra day after the holiday. I wish America would get on board with Boxing Day!

    Thank you Brandy, for all the work you do on this blog!

  29. December was not a frugal month! The hubs and I decided to concentrate on getting back on track in January 2020. I spent the day after the holiday going to after Christmas sales. Found gifts at rock bottom prices for some co-workers. I also bought a few items for white elephant gifts for work and a few for donation raffle baskets for events for the coming year. Before going out took an inventory of the things that I had. That really opened my eyes. Decided to clean out the spare room. Realized that I do not need anymore gift wrapping supplies. I filled six bags of items we don’t need to go to the goodwill. I also cleaned my son ‘a room….he does not need another lego ever. My goal for this year is to reduce waste & live more simply. If there is anyone in the San Jose, CA area who would interested in providing reciprocal encouragement in this area?

  30. Brandy I’m impressed that you found time to make some gifts!
    I made none this year. I have the materials to still make them, and I hope to do so, but my husband’s health issues take all of my time at home, and I still work full time.
    We had a nice Christmas dinner with the food prep, and thus the expenses, shared, although my poor husband had Christmas at the hospital (he came home the next day).
    I tried wrapping everyone’s gifts in one box per person this year, and with one exception, I succeeded. I usually get each person a few smaller items, so I always had a lot of gifts to wrap. This year, for my kids, their spouses and the grandkids, instead of wrapping 25-30 little boxes, I wrapped 10 medium boxes. I used less paper and tape and we had less mess when done. I re-use bows, so there was no expense for them anyway.
    We’ve had to set up my husband’s hospital-type bed in a spare room downstairs, and there was no room for a dresser or big chest of drawers, since he uses a wheelchair a lot, and our bedrooms are all rather small. I ended up hanging his shirts and slacks, even his tee-shirts in the closet, and found a very nice, good-sized nightstand with two drawers at a used furniture shop, to hold his underwear and socks. I paid $85 for it, but it’s solid wood, good construction, attractive style and looks new. I had been pricing new ones, not as nice as this one, at $200 and above at the furniture stores. I had been looking for literally months, and the need was getting urgent, so I was happy to find this one.
    I bought very little after Christmas, but I did pick up a roll of wrapping paper and three natural looking garlands, all at deep discount. I continue to go through my Christmas decorations as I put them up, and pull out the ones I no longer use. My goal is to have only the things I truly love and use.
    Our Meyer lemons are finally ready! I used a rebate card to pay for a citrus squeezer, since the old 1950’s juicer that was my mother-in-law’s wears my hands out after a few lemons. I made sure to get a squeezer sized for an orange, since these lemons can get so large. There is a pitcher of fresh, delicious lemonade in our refrigerator right now. I will zest some peels and freeze some of the juice.
    I bought a bag of mandarins on sale and they started molding in two days. I easily tossed two-thirds of the bag. I took a picture of the moldy ones with my phone and took that and the receipt back to the store, where my money was fully refunded.
    And for J., who wanted to know where people are from: I live in northwest Florida, in the flat pine woods. Just north of us, the landscape becomes rolling, and the pale sandy soil turns to red clay dirt. It’s too hot and humid in the summer but can have a few frosty days in the winter — even a rare light dusting of snow. We are less than half an hour from the Gulf, but in a bay area, so there are no waves at our “beaches,” unlike most of Florida. There are many small towns and very few large ones in this area, and the average income is pretty low. Hunting and fishing are very popular here. A lot of locals would never want to leave this place, although I would, if my kids and grandkids weren’t here.

    1. My parents did the same thing with Christmas wrapping this year! I thought it was very interesting and especially practical at their house where the tree is behind the couch.

      My Meyer lemons are also orange-sized.

  31. Happy New Year to All!

    My husband and I have a Christmas wreath business and this year was very successful for us. We decided to tithe some of it. We came up with the idea of giving back to the community that has supported our wreath sales for years now. We will do several small improvement projects around our small town in the Spring and Summer for all to enjoy. We had one wreath left over so a few days before Christmas we wired it to the back of a park bench that faces the main street of our small town. I hope it brought joy to those that walked past.

    I got some really nice home and garden magazines as Christmas gifts. After reading them, I clipped a few nice pics and made them into name tags for next year’s Christmas gifts. Now that I have enjoyed them, I will place them in the free box at the local library for others to enjoy as well.

    One of those magazines gave me a good idea for a homemade gift for next year which includes some hand sewing so I hope to get an early start on that project. I believe I can make several out of the fabric I already have on hand.

    I was also given some nice yarn as Christmas gifts so I will be trying to knit my first pair of socks and hope to knit several hats and scarves for the homeless. Sounds like I will have a busy 2020.

    Wishing the best for the New Year for all.

  32. Brandy , I see an offer today that made me think of you. There is a 20.00 Amazon gift card available for listening to three books on Audible. I searched for a general link but don’t find it popping up in Google. I read it today on swaggrabber.come blog. All the details are listed and this is good with a 30 day free trial if anyone else is interested.

  33. Thanks, Lillianna! I found the link:
    Anyone who is going to do this, take note: I read the fine print. If you cancel the membership prior to March 17th, you aren’t eligible for the reward. So, I suggest signing up for the free 30 day trial less than 30 days before March 17th, listening to the titles prior to March 3rd, and then cancelling on the 18th. The Amazon credit expires 30 days after it is added to your account. Definitely a fun way to get $20 in Amazon credit though!

    1. NOTE: you must be a member by January 31st. So you will definitely have to pay for one month of Audible to be eligible for this promo.

  34. Hello everyone – hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year! I always read the weekly posts but haven’t commented in a couple of weeks – I work for a church and it has certainly been our busy season! I spent Christmas day with friends as all my family live out of town and travel and work schedules just didn’t work out this year – I’m always the one who has to travel. I took dessert and it was a lovely day. Bought a few gifts but didn’t overdo it – we have all cut down a lot in the last few years so that is a bit of a relief.

    I’ve paid all the fixed expenses for January and with so much in the pantry, fridge & freezer I’m only giving myself half the usual amount for grocery shopping this month.

    I’m going to take the year about 4 months at a time as far as shopping is concerned. I’m writing down only what is really needed and hopefully that will keep me on track. My worst habit is eating out for my socializing so I’m hoping to change lunches and dinners to coffee & a glass of wine – or perhaps breakfast as it is much cheaper. It’s not as though I can’t or don’t cook from scratch – it’s just that my social life does tend to happen around food. I am determined to cut back without feeling deprived and miserable.

    I’ve taken some time to go through drawers & cupboards and have put a bundle of clothing together for a friend, plus I’ve got a couple of bags full of books and dvd’s to donate so that clears out some more clutter – I’ll keep going while I’m on a roll.

    For J. – I live in a city of 3 million people – I live in the west end of the city near a main river and park and just north of Lake Ontario. I live across the street from a subway station so I use public transit or walk. I am a city girl who loves going to museums and art galleries, concerts & the theatre. City life isn’t perfect and it is expensive, but it’s never dull and there is always something to see or do.

    1. Margie,

      One tip I heard recently from a Podcast was to meet friends for just dessert to save money.

      1. Yes, but dessert in a restaurant is so overpriced. If you possibly can, invite your friends to your home for coffee and dessert that you made, or even bought in a store. I always relax more when I’m not worrying about taking up a table at a restaurant with an after meal chat.

        1. I definitely agree that dessert at home is cheaper! I can feed my whole family ice cream for what it costs for one person for dessert. However, as she is wanting to go out still, dessert out would be cheaper than a dinner out.

  35. I keep checking back here to see if Lorna from Australia has posted. Lorna, if you read this, know that between the fires and your husband’s aneurysm, you have been much in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you are all doing okay!

    1. I second that – very worried about all our Australian friends. I just found a post from Annabelle at “The Bluebirds are Nesting” = it had been over a week and I was getting worried. They did have to evacuate but have been allowed back – although may have to leave again tomorrow. She was very well prepared but it was still terrifying for them. I hope Lorna and her husband are ok.

    2. Cindi,
      Lorna posted on “The Bluebirds are Nesting” on Thursday.
      Continued prayers for our Aussie friends are much needed and appreciated.

      1. Just went back and checked and saw her comment – she was listed as Anonymous at the top so didn’t realize it was her until I saw the signature. Thank you for letting us know.

  36. I learned about Louise Penny books here, so I am writing to note there is a novella I’ve never seen!
    It is described on her website as: “‘The Hangman’ was written for a literacy campaign, for emerging adult readers. It’s a novella, and while it features Gamache and is set in Three Pines it is not really part of the series.” Published in 2011, 96 pages, not quite the vocabulary of her other works.

  37. My plumber stopped by with his bill this morning. I am extremely grateful that he cut his bill. He honoured the amount he quoted for the hot water tank and installation but was really very reasonable for unplugging his drain. Unplugging the clogged drain for this reason and that took three times as long as installing the hot water tank. I have been really worried about his bill for the drain. It is still steep but not as steep as it could have been.

    Yesterday I was treated to lunch in the mountains. I had promised to take snapshots of my friend’s kids and their grandmother who is visiting from Australia. My friend had acted as driver in October so I could take my friend to the mountains to celebrate her 90th birthday. I had offered to pay her gasoline and something for time but instead she said she’d like it if I could take photos when her mother-in- law came over Christmas and New Year’s. She had asked a professional photographer the price for such photos and was told $300. Today my bad arm really hurts from having used my camera. It was a nerve-wracking experience as in so many photos either the kids or the MIL had their eyes closed. The MIL often turned up as being really red-faced and the teen-aged son had a bad breakout on his face. For the photos where I couldn’t satisfactorily overcome a ruddy complexion or pimples, (even by retouching), I turned the photos into black and white photos and pimples were hardly noticeable and complexion was normal. I was very relieved to get it over with. Although I already admire your photography, Brandy, I admire your efforts even more so after my adventure of yesterday. The light was continually changing and often bad. Still, I ended up after editing with some unique and lovely photos and my friend is satisfied (perhaps even thrilled).
    I think birds are easier to photograph!!!!

  38. My husband and I have been down with bad colds for the better (or worse, haha) part of two weeks. At least he was able to work from home during part of the time, saving gas and wear and tear on our vehicle. His commute is just under 30 miles/50 minutes each way.

    We finally had to go to the grocery store after having eaten everything perishable in the refrigerator ? I saw green beans right as we walked in for $2.99 a pound, so I had to tell him your bargain green bean story right away!

    My parents gave us Amazon Prime for Christmas so we have watched the show Dickensian so far. Jeff and I were both English majors (met in college where we had some of the same classes) so we just loved the series. I highly recommend it. Free with Prime.

    We also watched Toy Story 4 from the library on Christmas Eve, then passed it on to my parents to see. They returned it to the library for us.

  39. May I ask how made your mittens? I have a wonderful sweater that was washed and dried and now I would love to make mittens out of it. Thanks for any info

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