This month and next (and probably March) look to be very tight months, as they are low-income months for us. My husband’s new job is seasonal work, usually without any winter work, so I am grateful for whatever we get. In order to make it through, I am cutting spending almost completely, eating from the pantry, freezers, and garden, staying home as much as possible to save gas, and being extra careful with our utility usage to keep our utility bills as low as possible (and utility rates went up significantly this month). While I had money saved for the winter months, having our home air conditioners break and having to replace our van last summer ate up that savings. I share this in hopes that in so doing, I may bring some encouragement to those of you who are also facing a tight winter while the prices of everything rises faster than our incomes.

I know several of you have asked me to share my shopping plans recently. I have been aiming to buy very little the last few months, and even less now, which is why sharing shopping plans doesn’t really work. I did spend $17 this week, buying a gallon of milk, a large tub of spreadable margarine, and some sour cream (which we will enjoy on beans and rice and on soups). I have plenty of powdered milk of hand, which I will use in cooking. Many of you in the comments last week stated that you are also limiting shopping to little to nothing right now.

I volunteered with a woman I know to distribute food to refugees and immigrants. I got to speak to people in six languages with what little I knew in each, only being fluent in two. I spoke in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu. The French speakers all thought I was not American! That was funny. They didn’t expect an American to speak fluent French. One person asked me if I was Canadian. It really was an encouragement to me to learn more words in several languages; I have found that just being able to say “Hello”, “please”, “thank you”, and “You’re welcome” goes a long way to make people feel welcomed. We had several Nepalese immigrants, so I want to learn to at least say “hello” in Nepali before I go with her next month.

To my surprise, I also got to take home some food at the end (all of the volunteers do). I brought home a gallon of milk, cheddar cheese, frozen blueberries, dried cherries, pistachios, two large cans of chicken, and applesauce.

The woman I was volunteering with had promised to buy two dozen eggs from someone in the charity office who has chickens (where we had to stop on the way back) and gave me a dozen for coming to help her. She was so delighted every time I spoke French, as she doesn’t speak it.

The temperature dropped below freezing this week. We added extra blankets to our beds, rather than turning up the heat at night.

I collected shower warm-up water and used it to water potted plants in the garden. I used leftover water from drinking glasses at the end of the day to water potted plants inside.

I had to replace a toilet (another expense!), so I replaced it with a dual-flush type that uses 1.2 gallons and 1.6 gallons (for the stronger flush). Though we had a water-saving toilet before, this one uses even less water. With water at such a premium here, every little bit that I can save makes a difference.

I enjoyed herbal tea from lemon verbena that I had grown and dried from my own garden.

I chopped back and covered my lemon verbena plants in the garden to protect them from frost.

I harvested Swiss chard, lemons, lemon verbena, green onions, parsley, and mâche from the garden.

I gave my son a haircut.

I mended a blanket.

I cut out and started sewing some burp cloths as a baby gift for an expectant mother using fabric I had bought years ago on sale.

I gifted a friend some dried lemon verbena from my garden in a canning jar, along with a tea ball that I had as a birthday gift. We spent time together on her birthday and I taught her to embroider. We both have different talents and plan to teach one another the skills we each know. Last fall, I showed her how to make bread one time and cookies another. She knows how to do lots of things that I do not, so in the future, I will also learn from her.

My mom went to an orchid club meeting and entered the raffle. The winner of the raffle won all the orchids that were on the table.

She won! She came home with twenty-two orchids and let me pick one. I chose the pink one above and put it in a pot that my mom had found at a garage sale.

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What did you do to save money last week?

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  1. I significantly cut my budget for groceries and other household spending, and have managed to stay on track so far. When I go to the grocery store I think about every purchase, whether it will definitely get used and whether we need it this month or not. I cut back on bottled drinks and am saving them for my daughter’s lunches only. Hubby cooked 5 meals with meat from the freezer and sides we mostly had in the house, except for some sausage he got on sale. I’m making sure to either eat or freeze leftovers so they can be eaten later. I sent my hubby a birthday list (he asked) with some items that I would have normally just bought (earphones, charger, some Amazon stuff) and he will be passing some of that on to family members and friends (I’m 50 this year and there will be a party). Anything I find on Amazon is going into a wish list to be considered or saved if there is money left at the end of the month. I am going to a meeting next week to possibly sew 50 pillows for the local high school to give to seniors, so that could be extra income if I think it’s worth my while. We are in a push to pay off debt for good so we can save more for retirement, so any extra income is helpful. This week I will be baking gluten free bread for about $1.50 a loaf rather than paying $6 a (smaller) loaf at the grocery store. Stocked up on chicken thighs and legs for $.78 a pound on sale at my local grocery store.

  2. That is great that your mom won all those orchids! What a pretty pink orchid! How wonderful that you were able to speak to all those immigrants! I’ve been spending a little bit of time studying Spanish so I can communicate effectively as well. I was studying other languages as well. But for now I’m concentrating on Spanish. I took two years of it in college. But that was awhile ago. My husband also has no hours at this time of year, or very little hours. He had about 14 last week and probably none this week. I’m glad that we saved during the summer. The good thing is that he will have time to work on our music. He has been doing that all day today. I am expecting hospital bills. The first one came already. I ‘m glad they have not come all at once. We are also cooking from the pantry and freezer for the most part. Beans are healthy and we have plenty of beans. So I am incorporating those into our diet in many ways. Today I am making a Greek butter bean soup. I made my own chicken broth. It is cheaper and tastier than store bought. We are not driving anywhere today and most of this week. That will save money in gas. I have been using an electric blanket in the evening to keep warm on the couch. At night though, I use 4 blankets. During the day I am cleaning and cooking. The expended energy keeps me warm along with my sweater.

    1. Tammy, almost every hospital has a financial assistance/forgiveness program. If you call and ask for billing and ask them about this, they will give you the information. I hope this helps you.☺️

      1. Laura S.,
        Laura S.,
        Thank-you for the information. I appreciate it. I’m glad we have Health insurance. I was in the hospital over Both at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. So, I believe we will have to meet both last years and this years deductibles to pay for everything. I’m glad we have insurance! Though it will still be very expensive. I believe that the hospital has a payment plan that we may look into as well. We saved over the summer for this time of year. But big hospital bills weren’t in the plan. I’m hoping there aren’t other big expenses as well. I was glad we had Road Hazard insurance for our tires. It mostly covered new tires for our car when they didn’t last recently. We were worried about that expense then remembered we had Road Hazard insurance. It was an extra expense when we bought the tires. It was entirely worth it! IF the bills trickle in we may be able to just pay them as my husbands hours pick up. I’m just glad that I am working. I don’t make a lot, but it certainly helps pay the bills.

        1. Hi Tammy. Even with insurance, things like this are expensive. Oftentimes a hospital will write some of it off or put it under their financial assistance category. It might be worth a shot to talk to them, particularly if it comes up as two different incidences. So glad to hear your road hazard covered the tires!

  3. This past week we were able to make morning glory muffins for breakfast . The batch says it makes 18 but I got 24! I used some baby carrots that had been languishing in the fridge and needed to be used, som home canned pineapple chunks that I crushed using my blender, some raisins and coconut from storage, homemade brown sugar, eggs from our chickens and a starting to wrinkle apple.

    I have been busy still with quilting business. I finished this quilt for a regular client – and then this large baby quilt for a new client who happens to live just 8 houses down my block! I still have 1 more quilt to finish for the regular client above but she is fine waiting for a couple weeks while we are in Tacoma and then Houston until the end of January. My daughter is working on another one that came in plus 2 others for clients. It still surprises me that so many people are still bringing us quilts and that instead of decreasing, the business seems to be growing with very few breaks between jobs! Mind you, we’re not complaint because that is helping us add to our reserve.

    I did buy some Flashfood again today, but it was too good a bargain to pass on. I got 17-1/2 pounds (7 packages) for $21.70! That’s $1.24/pound! I also bought 2 five pound packages of chicken thighs for $3.50 each (70 cents/pound) My dear friend with the 6 kids was excited to buy half of the ground beef and 1 pack of chicken for her family without having to leave home or pay crazy current store prices! I used 1/2 of my package of chicken thighs to make Mongolian Chicken- . I also used 2 leftover baguettes that were given to us to make 16 individual French bread Heroburgers . Our son will be housesitting so he can enjoy some of these and the chicken!

    Hoping everyone is staying safe and warm through the winter storms that are all over the US right now!

    Gardenpat in Ohio

  4. I am also not buying groceries this month. I have plenty of food at home that I would like to eat up and replace. I plan on a trip for fresh produce and some dairy at the end of January and then continue not buying groceries for another month. I want to see if I can do this for at least two months if not three months. I am also giving some food to my daughter as times are getting tough for them too. Since I am in Iowa, I am not able to grow much through the winter. I can do some greens and herbs indoors, but for the most part, I am relying on what I have put back from sales and preserved from last summer.

    I plan to only spend money on necessities if I run out of them. I have to continue to purchase chicken feed and I am still getting eggs which is exciting. I do have plenty stored if the hens quit laying. I also need to buy cat and dog food. On an acreage, I find cats necessary to keep the mice population away from the house.

    I need to buy a gift for my granddaughter this week. I have a budget for gifts so that has already been figured in. I only buy one gift per grandchild. I spend no more than $25 for a birthday gift and try to come under that if I can. There are still plenty of toys on clearance so I plan to see what I can get from there.

    I darned two socks this last week.

  5. We had a snow day as we got 7 inches last night and today. Staying home and cooking saves lots of money as we cooked for our extended family. More snow expected tonight and tomorrow with the high 10 degrees.

  6. Our goal this month is to buy only milk; my husband is always supportive and involved in efforts to save money but the one thing he asks is that we always have fresh milk in the house. I bake with powdered milk but I will not ask him to give up one of his chief pleasures—a tall glass of “real” milk every night before bed. I know more than one woman who lives with a man who wants a tall glass of liquor in the evening, so I count myself lucky. I have been making sprouts every other day, to keep a constant supply of some sort of fresh vegetables to add to the frozen or canned vegetables we have. I bought the seeds last year some time and never used them, so they are coming in handy this month. I have made soups with more broth than usual, stretching what would have been a dinner to a dinner and a lunch the next day. I gathered up the bags of chicken skeletons that I have been saving in the freezer for the last four or five months and made chicken stock from them; I pulled enough chicken off the bones to make a dinner of chicken enchiladas plus a hearty soup with some of the stock. To think I used to throw the chicken bones away! It embarrasses me to remember how I could have been a much better steward of our finances. We went eight days this month without using the car, saving gas. I went through our wallets and found a gas gift card. We thought it was for $15 but it turned out to be for $50! The card was given to me after I did a presentation for a group, as a thank you. Finally, we have both been trying to wear clothes (not underwear, of course) an extra day before throwing things in the wash. I am a big offender in this area as I often neglect to put on an apron when I cook and next thing you know I end up with splatters of what I am cooking all over my clothes. So far this month, I have worn an apron every time I cooked and when I repotted some plants.

    One question—does that brooch you are wearing have special meaning? Or maybe it is a design sewn into your top? In either event, it is very ineresting.

  7. Do you ever save run off water from the shower besides the warm up water? We save the grey, soap water for flushing toilets.

    1. I have a stand alone shower, so I can’t really plug the tub and save that water while showering. But I am trying to shorten my shower time this winter and use less water than way.

      1. I don’t know if its feasible or if you’d want to do it, but when my kids were little, we didn’t have a tub so I’d put a plastic tote in the shower and turned it on to collect the water for them to “take a bath”. I wonder if you could find a plastic tote about the size of your shower that you stand in while showering to collect all the gray water?

        1. I have a metal washtub, but it’s quite heavy when filled with water.

          Still, with the continued rate rises and fines, it may be worth a try!

  8. Your photos are beautiful! We need to get back to eating at home. My husband and I have been enjoying eating out for a few months. Two kids are away at college and one works full time. We’ve been justifying the cost of eating out since it’s just the two of us now. Yet, the reality is the money spent can buy so much more at the grocery store. So, yes, we’re also going to start eating from the pantry. I preserve a good amount in the Summer. It’s time to start putting it to use.

    This past week I made pizza from scratch, hamburgers with baked beans, tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chicken strips with mashed potatoes. We did grocery shop yesterday, but we only bought ingredients; no processed or prepared foods. The cost was still high. This only reinforces the desire to eat from the pantry and freezer to its used up. Other ways we are trying to reduce costs:

    I turned the thermostat down 2 degrees and layered on more clothes. We are in the single digit temps but it’s been bearable.

    We’ve made no trips other than the grocery store and work. I’ve stayed busy at home working on my blog and other hobbies. Today I spun a ball of yarn from Merino wool. I’ve also been reading. We watched Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility for free on YouTube. I did attend the homemakers meeting. We painted with water colors for recreation. It was a fun way to socialize.

  9. Hello, frugal friends from the snowy mountains of southwest Virginia! Brandy, I really enjoyed your photos this week. The sunset (or is it a sunrise?) is lovely. I guess the upside to your husband’s limited work at the moment will be that he is home a little more?
    On the frugal front:
    *Our electric bill came in $73 higher than I wanted. This is because of the renovation work we had done to our bathroom last month plus the holidays. The workmen came in and out of our house a lot and the weather was so cold. We kept the thermostat at 68 and just piled on the sweaters and blankets if we were cold. We will turn on the propane fireplace occasionally to get the chill out of the air. It does not stay on long though. Fortunately our house is well insulated being made of logs. The basement stays the same temp all year round as it is underground and well insulated as well. We will try to bring the electric bill down next billing cycle.
    *We ate at home all week except for Sunday. We decided instead of going to a restaurant we ran into the grocery store, bought the biggest rotisserie chicken, brought it home and have made several meals from it so far. I just did not feel up to cooking on Sunday. I don’t know if I was fighting something off or just over tired. Every now and then I get really tired since my surgery.
    *We used our solar generators to recharge our devices and toothbrushes.
    *I cooked once and ate multiple times throughout the week.
    *We stayed home except to go to church and one errand day.
    *We were gifted a loaf of homemade bread and soup.
    *I bought no groceries last week. I may not buy any this week. We don’t need much that can’t wait for another week. It all depends on the weather.
    *I learned two phrases in Swahili from Youtube. (“Hello, my name is …. and It is nice to meet you.”). I agree with you, Brandy. Being able to say simple things like thank you, please, and hello seems the least I can do when I go to foreign countries. It also makes those from other countries feel a little more welcome here as well. This upcoming week I hope to learn “please” and “thank you” in Swahili. Thank you to the frugal friend who grew up in Africa for the encouraging words the other week. Your comment spurred me on to begin learning the language. Our trip is in June so I thought I would try to learn 2 new words or phrases each month.
    It is snowing here today and bitter cold through most of the week. School is already closed so I will probably spend tomorrow with my granddaughter. It will be a fun day with learning crochet, sewing and baking.
    I wish all frugal friends a wonderful week.

    1. There was someone there who spoke Swahili as well. I will look those up too and hopefully I can remember them!

      The Ling app is paid ($40 for 6 months) and it has Swahili as an option.

      Also check out Innovative language learning. Look for Swahilipod101. They title all their languages this way. They have an app that is paid, but also audio books (free from my library) and a blog.

    2. I read of someone who needed to learn an extensive vocabulary of a new language fairly quickly. He made old fashioned flash cards and carried them with him. Whenever he had a few moments, such as waiting in line or on his bus ride, he studied them, and learned much more than he ever expected he would.

      1. Some language learning apps have a flashcard feature built in. I need to check the one I am using. I am glad you said this, because the other one I didn’t buy had it and I think the one I did buy might as well.

  10. Lovely, lovely pictures, especially the one of you at the end! Thank you for sharing them all.
    My husband signed up on taskrabbit and got a job through that within a few days, giving us extra income for a few hours of his time. He’s pretty pleased. It’s the first ‘side hustle’ sort of thing that he has done, other than tutoring. The person hiring his was SO grateful for his help, which pleased my husband no-end.
    I had a biopsy done last week and am still recovering. I’ve aimed to do at least one job in the garden each day, and so far I’ve achieved that. Today I made a trellis for the blackberries by my front door, did a bit of pruning, and transplanted some kale. I’ve got close to 20 starts of plants for my son and DIL. I’ll keep them another month and then take them to them. They took out their front lawn over Christmas and are planting with drought tolerant plants for a rebate from the city. Plants on their approved list which I have started from my own garden are fig, rosemary, guara and salvia. I also have 5 grapevines started for them, not approved as low-water, but they can add them because they’re a food crop. Since it has rained regularly, I haven’t had to water all of these, which is a saving of time and money.
    I received a random $5 off $5 at Michaels and used it to get command picture strips for 64 cents out of pocket. I also used my Staples $5 reward for recycling an ink cartridge each month to get some compressed air to clean the dust out of my sewing machine. Target does bottle redemption in my area and CA just approved bottles over 24 oz for 10 cent redemption value (including wine bottles which used to be excluded). I took 4 bottles in while I was passing.
    Brandy, I am thinking of you, and of all the others who are on a low income these months. My husband is a teacher, and though it will never be a high paying job, it is steady. I’m thankful for that. I’m glad you have your garden, for the joy and for the food. Mine gives me the same. I’m hopeful this year for an even more productive space. I added up my spending on the garden last year and it came to just over $100. It’s not the supplies I’m short of, it’s the energy and time. We have a free seed bank in our town, as long as I grow from their extensive collection, seeds are free. I rarely buy any landscape plants. Our city gives away free compost multiple times a year. It’s all a blessing.

    1. How wonderful to get free compost! We pay dearly for it here.

      I hope you recover quickly.

  11. Our five-day polar vortex has stretched to six days, but temperatures should start to warm up tomorrow. I was feeling isolated, but decided to contact several friends I haven’t been in touch with in a long time. I ended up having a long chat on Zoom with one, received an email and Christmas newsletter from another, and exchanged emails with a third. Coincidentally, one of my nieces also sent me a photo from Panama, where she is spending the winter, which was news to me! It was a lot of fun reconnecting. I think it sets the stage for some regular contact as we continue.

    I spent part of an afternoon doing some spa-type activities, and gave myself a brand-new haircut, after having had the same style for most of my adult life. It is quite a bit easier to cut, and suits the fact my hair is straighter now that I am older.

    I feel like I’ve had a mini-holiday, without spending a penny. I’ve done some cooking from scratch, as usual. This weekend included some soup based on a ham-bone broth, and blueberry muffins.

    I received a carbon-tax rebate, which is a flat amount paid quarterly that pays me more than I spend directly on carbon tax. Part of has paid my electricity bill, and then I will buy some groceries.

  12. School was canceled last Tuesday and Friday because of weather. It’ll probably be out tomorrow (we were off anyways today because of the holiday) because temperatures will be in the negatives in the morning.

    Redeemed my free 6 months of MGM+. Made a note on my calendar when to cancel.

    Stayed home and inside for the most part the last 4 days to minimize opening doors and letting out the precious heat. My big d9gs are mad they can’t run in and out as they please.

    Made sure we had what we needed from the grocery store before the weather got too bad. I will have to go soon for milk, and I’m going to try to stick with the minimum (both of us not working isn’t very good for the budget)

    Hubby found cartons of Minute Maid juices for $1 each. He purchased 4.

    Made copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Tuscana soup with homemade chicken broth and kale I had frozen from summer.

    The teen made brownies, one of my discounted gingerbread muffin mixes, and popcorn for snacks.

    Used various bags as trash bags

    Getting a little closer to paying off two more credit cards. Hoping to have all of mine paid off by summer since I won’t have an income then.

  13. Hello All. Brandy, I’m sorry to hear it will be a tight few months ahead for your family, but I know you will prevail. I really appreciate you sharing your journey with us. It is inspiring and I have learned so much from you over the years. You and your family are in my prayers. * Still not much snow here but it is very very cold (well below zero, windchill much lower). We are thankful for our warm home. We add sweatshirts and wear all our warmest clothes to avoid turning up the thermostat. So far so good. I continue to make hats and scarves to donate to the homeless shelter to help those that are out in these horrible conditions. I’m thankful for my friend who works at Hobby Lobby who donates so much yarn for this project. * I am staying home a lot and that is thrifty for me. * I have chosen to stay off social media since mid-December in an effort to promote peace and contentment. It seems to be helping. I still look at Pinterest for recipes and patterns and I watch a few thrifty cooking YouTubers. I’m not opposed to social media, I just knew I was feeling out of sorts and was looking for something to change that might help and this did. At no cost! *Today definitely felt like a soup day. I searched my freezer for leftover bits and bobs of leftover veggies and meat that end up there after our dinners. Had enough for a big pot of soup. All I added was a little boullion, half a cup of rice and a can of cream of chicken soup, since my husband prefers thicker soups. I made enough for an army so I’ll freeze the leftovers for quick meals in the future. I served with some biscuits and jam. Warmed up my insides. * Other meals included baked chicken, shepherds pie, teryaki chicken and salad, and leftovers. I’m working so hard on using up things from the freezer. I’ve been able to stay under the new grocery budget again this week. Thinking of lowering it again next month. * My son’s favorite comforter was torn by his dog. Instead of tossing it, he asked how he could mend it and make it thicker. He ended up patching the tear and then sewing it to another old comforter I kept from one of his sisters. I donated some batting and a big piece of fleece for the middle. It’s very thick and heavy. Much like a weighted blanket. He hand sews (offered him the use of my machine, but he preferred to hand sew). And now he has a huge thick double comforter. He is 21 and working hard on being independent with a goal of moving out someday. It was good to see him problem solve and frugally get what he wanted and not just throw the original blanket away when it was torn. Seems like progress and I am thankful. * Still reading from the library and my shelves, knitting and crocheting and enjoying shows. I’ve become pen pals with the daughter of a friend and that’s been fun. Starting to think of what I can make for the grand kids for Valentines. Since there are five of them now, I need a head start. * Hope everyone stays warm and safe and next week is great for everyone.

    1. A couple of years ago, I decided to cut back my social media use, drastically. I can’t even tell you the increased peace and contentment it has brought into my life. I am, in no way, judging those who use social media more than I do. It was just a prompting that I am grateful I followed.

  14. I haven’t posted in some time. Our second oldest daughter has been diagnosed with cancer. It has truly turned our world upside down. During this time it has been such a blessing to come to the site and read about all the ideas and happenings in everyone lives.

    We had a huge snowfall with frigid temperatures to follow. We are praying that our pipes don’t burst. We plan to keep our heat turned up in hopes it will help. Our utility bill will be astronomical!

    I am starting to look at seed catalogs and dream of Spring and gardening. Cannot imagine life without plants and animals!

    Hope everyone is staying healthy and warm.

    Onward, y’all, by all means! Take care.

    1. What a heartache to have your daughter diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully there are excellent treatments to prolong life.
      As for your water lines. Leave a tap dripping continuously to keep the water line from freezing; no need to turn up the heat. Moving water will not freeze.

      1. I used to leave pipes dripping with my cabinets opened underneath sinks until my drains froze and the water overflowed the sink! Now we turn heat up a bit as well and added as much insulation as we could yo that bathroom. I was trying to save money with heat at 60 and it was just too cold for those pipes.

    2. Writing from Northern Alaska here. You probably already know this but in case you don’t: open up the cupboards under your kitchen and bathroom sinks until it warms up outside. They are often in the least insulated areas so anything you can do to get more heat to them will help prevent pipes from freezing.

    3. I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s cancer. My heart is with you, her and your whole family.

    4. Oh, CherylB, I’m so sorry to hear this update on your daughter. I hope you have medical care that you trust, that she can tolerate, and that is compassionate.

    5. Praying for wisdom for her doctors, healing for her, strength for each day for you. Hugs!

      Susan M. in Chattanooga, TN

    6. My best wishes for speedy recovery for your daughter, mine had thyroid cancer- 2yr ago and people’s kindness really helped me. Mine is a health devotee, eats organic etc no family history and still had the heath issue. So I am thinking of you during this challenging time

  15. The red roses are gorgeous– very striking all together! And it is nice to see your smiling face: I’m sure that is welcoming to the people you are delivering food to. Hearing one’s own language would be such a spirit lifter. I am cheered up when I just hear the regional accent I grew up around.
    Most of our frugal activities are weather-related, which I expect is the case for many readers. We have the front door covered with a hanging tacked to the top trim board to block sneaky cold drafts. The wipers on our cars in the driveway are put “up” so they don’t freeze to the windshield if we get sleet. Our laundry room and half-bath are the coldest rooms in the house, so I am washing some heavy bedding to run the dryer, hoping the extra warmth will keep the pipes from freezing. That hasn’t been a problem in the past and I want to keep it that way. The oven door is left open until it cools after supper.
    I bought a thick wool Hudson Bay blanket at a yard sale many years ago. One edge was frayed and unraveling. While watching TV, I have darned and overcast the edge with embroidery floss to keep it from coming apart further. Having it on my lap is also warming and I like the colors.
    I found a pair of my favorite shoes online for almost half off and ordered them to replace the several year old ones ones I am wearing out, as I knew the exact size and style name.
    So much of what I do is routine. I look forward to reading what others do each week and appreciate Brandy’s time in hosting us!

  16. You are inspiring me to go back to studying other languages online. It is so much fun when people mistake you as being from another country or their country. This happened to me multiple times in Sweden but that was before I opened my mouth to speak.
    It is cold here so we are busy cooking/making food and feeding crows (who recognize us). Lots of sewing and reading free library Kindle books. Two excellent books I finished are The Alice Network and Goodnight Irene. The Alice Network is about female British spies in France during WWII. Goodnight Irene is about the ‘doughnut dollies’ – women recruited during WWI and II by the Red Cross to provide refreshments and other items to the men fighting at the front lines in France. I found this book very realistic and not for the faint of heart. Also it was interesting to me because both of my grandfathers fought at the front lines in France in WWI. I have the letters sent home by one of them – mentioning these women and how much it meant to him to be able to have a brief respite by having some coffee and treats. Sorry I don’t have the authors for these books right in front of me.
    I found a great LlBean shirt at a charity thrift store which was in new condition for $8.
    Exercise has been walks in the cold and a free YouTube video.
    Your orchid is lovely – what is your mom going to do with the other 21? I’m guessing she lives plants.

    1. My parents have gotten really into orchids the last few years. I find it touching as my dad’s brother loved orchids (he died years ago at age 41; they cut all his orchids and put them on his coffin).

      The Alice Network was a great book.

      1. Hi Brandy,
        This is the end of the week so you could skip publishing this but I have been thinking about your touching orchid story all week.
        As I wrote before, my brother passed away in the midst of Covid at a hospice. He had been a published poet, artist, actor in a few Indie films and wrote fairy tales. Before he passed he told my sister that he would send a message back through an unusual animal and/or flower. Not long after he died my sister spotted an albino bird; I think maybe a blackbird. A few months later my husband and I were hiking in the forest. I came upon the prettiest pink small wild flower and took a photo from my phone. I identified it when I got home. It was a fairy slipper orchid which I believe are fairly rare. It was so appropriate due to the fairy tale books he wrote. Your story about your uncle made me remember this:)

  17. Brandy, How wonderful you were able to get some free food this week. I am sorry that your husband is without work for awhile-I am hoping he will qualify for unemployment or that you can get some SNAP benefits or visit the food bank to tide you over-in addition to your pantry and garden.
    A frigid but quiet week at our house with windchills in the -40’s for several days. Stayed home the last few days spending no money but of course the heating bill will be much higher. My husband and I did our twice yearly financial review to make sure our spending and saving is staying on track. He has done a quick run through of our expected income taxes and expects we will need to pay about $5,ooo so we will be sure to put that aside.
    The one day I did go out to pick up milk and bananas I forgot my wallet in the top of the shopping cart. We rushed back to the store and checked the carts outside and asked the clerks and nobody had turned it in. Then I decided we should check the carts in use in the store and sure enough there it was in the first one we checked!! The man pushing the cart said he was a retired police officer and had checked my address in my wallet and was going to bring it to my house after he finished shopping. So wonderful to find honest people and I definitely felt very lucky that day.
    A free govt program came and replaced all our light bulbs with LED bulbs in the fall of 2017. They are only now starting to burn out( just 2) which I thought was pretty amazing. We stocked up on light bulbs with a govt rebate at the same time so I think we have enough for years. Wishing everyone a great week.

    1. So glad you got your wallet back!

      My husband is still enmployed, but he can’t work if there is snow on a roof.

    2. I am quite shocked by having used the very last light bulb I got stocking up after that government program. They are all going out at once, of course!

  18. You look so lovely in the black skirt/sweater combo with the pink blouse! The flowers are pretty also! Yes, I had a significant decrease in income because I cut back at work. I could basically live on beans, greens, and rice with tomatoes and winter squash along with mulberries, but not my autistic middle son. He has to have meat and usually will only eat beef. He is also very underweight and it is a struggle to keep weight on him because of his sensory issues. Money is very tight and I am living out of my freezer and well stocked pantry also. For son I made spaghetti, tacos, sautéed spinach, coleslaw (this is a relatively new food for him,) hamburgers, beef hot dogs, tomato soup and grilled cheese, pancakes, cinnamon toast, and scrambled eggs. I tried him on homemade bbq chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and he did eat the chicken one meal. He also ate bananas and drank orange juice. I walked for exercise.

    1. Consider sneaking in some grains or TVP into hamburger to reduce costs and still keep your son happy and fed.

      I have been keeping the house at 60 degrees. Electric throws have keep me comfortable in bed and in my recliner and raised the electric bill much less than the gas bill was reduce. But when my hands are out from under the throw to get something done, I’ve sometimes started to have a daytime temperature of 64. My kitchen drain has had a problem With 32 oz of drain cleaner in two applications one day last week and 80 oz in one application this week, it is now draining at 2 ounces a second, slower than I’d like but faster enough for me to use the sink for dishwashing and food prep. I worried the 70 degrees might have made the drain too cold and it froze. But under the sink is not cold and the small water hose for the reverse osmosis filter runs along an external wall of a walk-out basement and it has not frozen. I am slowly dec cluttering. I now have space in my kitchen cabinets to bring my kitchen and dining supplies up from the basement and declutter some more. I will have to move in the spring and need to figure out how small a kitchen I need to feel good about it and keep the stuff I want to keep. 35 years ago I lived in a 180 sq ft studio with a teeny tiny kitchen. But I now look at photos of the kitchenettes in some senior condos and sigh. One did not include an oven. Darling pine paneling with an up-north cabin feel perfect in a Michigan beach town. But…. I grew up in a little house, so I neither need nor want a giant kitchen, but I’d prefer more than a 36″ -60″ all-in-one kitchen. I somehow have accumulated 12 ft of cookbooks, and that is after thinning them out to fit in their current bookcases. I have been eating out of the pantry quite a bit because I would rather move less food in the spring and the house will show better if the cupboards are not packed to overflowing. But I found an unopened ketchup bottle in the back of one cupboard with an expiration date of 2019 and pitched some stale coffee I had overlooked in a canister. Oops!

  19. Brandy, I love the photos and your stories of speaking several languages. I’m glad that you had that opportunity and that you were also able to take some donated food for yourself.

    It’s been a week of cleaning out closets and other areas. I cleaned through my stash of yarn, knitting books, and related items. I let my friends have first pick at what I was discarding, then donated it to a resale craft shop, who was delighted to receive it. I also finished knitting a striped shawl that used up several remnants of yarn.

    I cleaned and organized my pantry and some of my kitchen cupboards, reminding me what needs to be used up. I also cleaned out a storage area. My husband sorted through his clothes too, added them to what I had gathered, and on Saturday, we took a large load to a thrift store. I’m next going to sort through books and other papers.

    I made bread twice, and put together a box of prepared meals and delivered it to my brother, who is a caregiver for his wife.

    I also hosted a potluck luncheon and afternoon of knitting with about 15 friends.

    I am teaching an online class this month and it has been a lot of fun! It pays nicely and I can do the work from home.

  20. I was looking for your amazon photos, before purchasing something recently, and saw the link after going through several posts. Good to know to look for that from now on. Last week, I strained all the jars of glycerite that were started last year… mullein, lemon balm, nettles, hawthorne and reishi. I’ve already begun using the mullein. A sweater was mended. I made tomato rice loaf, using home canned tomatoes, homegrown garlic, onions, and added sweet potatoes to the oven, while it was baking. As all the store bought canned pinto beans were gone, I canned up a batch of 15 pints, 3 quarts. Pasta sauce was made with our canned tomatoes, onion, garlic and frozen basil cubes. Laundry was dried on the line, and two wool items were hand washed. Soapmaking oils were melted on the woodstove. A pot of rice and another of sweet potatoes were brought to a boil on the stove, and finished cooking on the woodstove. Vegetable soup was made, which included our broth, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, garlic, summer squash, a bag of crowder peas pulled from the freezer, and a handful of our dehydrated soup mix, including carrot tops, mushrooms, and sweet potato leaves. At the library, I picked up four books. I caught up with the latest Call The Midwife series the library has, which is Season 11. I greatly enjoy this show. Batches of vegetable broth and pinto beans were canned.

  21. I haven’t commented in while but I wanted to say the silver lining of your husband not having much work this winter is that he’ll be home (at least I hope)!

    My husband works seasonally as well and I am trying really hard to budget better this year. It’s so difficult when your income isn’t predictable each month. We’ve been snowed in for a few days so that’s helpful to the budget!

    1. We thought he would be home, and he might still, but home without income is not so good.

      He is gone and hoping for work; due to snow and dangerously low temperatures, he hasn’t been able to work as much as we need.

      So I appreciate any and all prayers from everyone.

      1. I will definitely pray for your husband’s work situation. With the way you live when things are tight it always gave me courage that everything will be okay if we have something like that happen. We will just stop spending as much as possible and live on what we have and fix stuff and everything like that.

        Our property taxes (some of the highest in the nation and we are in a small city in the Midwest…it’s crazy) anyway, they are going way up this year. I don’t know how people will pay them with everything else skyrocketing. I’m glad our house is paid off but this will be hard.

        We drive 5 old clunkers (for three of us who drive) with a 6th truck that we rarely use. I feel like we (my dear husband actually) keep them going not knowing which one(s) will die off first.

        For my birthday we had a delicious stir fry with chicken and cashews that my husband makes. He made a large amount and we all felt like it was such a treat! It was so good and I love to have a bit the next day. It snowed heavily on my birthday and we built a 16 foot snowman. It was fun. The kids were worried as I had no cake or dessert for a birthday celebration so I ran in and made brownies from a mix and then threw in some chocolate chips. It was so quick and easy and I decided it was good to have those on hand for such emergencies so I picked up 3 or 4. The best price I could find was $1.48 which is more than I’m used to paying but I decided having them on hand was worth it. We’ve never ever bought cake for anything over the years. All birthdays and anniversaries have homemade cakes. They taste way better and I wonder how much I have saved with my large family. Chocolate sheetcake is another one that you can throw together quickly. I remember once that our guest was in the driveway when I started making one. It’s so great that you don’t have to cool the cake to frost it and we ate it right after dinner. I find that having these little tricks helps save so much money. My daughter was sweet and bought us all dinner when she was home at Christmas. It must have been so costly. While it was good it didn’t compare to our homemade meals. I think they taste better.

        1. Hi Liz! Hoping you will see this and share your husband’s recipe for the stir fry chicken and cashews? Also, my daughter made her first box cake for her husband’s birthday this month, and I made hers a week later. Her husband said she always raves about our sing and such around the standard chocolate box cake with mom’s icing. We, too, had a large family. Great memories make everything taste better!🥰

      2. Brandy, I am praying for financial provision. My husband’s work usually slows the first quarter and the third quarter of the year. God always provides a way; it sure does stretch my faith.

  22. Those photos are just gorgeous Brandy – you are so talented! There must be something in the air at the moment as so many people I know have had unexpected expenses over the past couple of weeks – not what anyone needs, especially after the holidays!

    I was lucky in that I got to work from home all last week so that saved me transit fares and gave me an extra couple of hours per day that I would have spent travelling. I made good use of my time by getting a lot of cleaning and reorganizing done – although I seem to have run out of steam with the living room and bathroom to go….

    I finally made one trip to the grocery store – the only food purchased was milk, some bagels, yogurt and a bit of fresh veg. Two non food items were both loss leaders that were on my “needs” list so I was happy to take advantage of the sales. I’ve used food from my pantry and freezer and have eaten well. This is showing me that even when it comes to groceries, a lot of time I’m going to the shops just out of habit rather than actual need. I still have cash in my grocery envelope and in my allowance envelope although I believe we are being paid a wee bit early this month so money will be there if something comes up.

    I had to have a visual field test done at the hospital last week – no cost to me and they were so quick that I went downtown and back home all on the same transit fare (we have a two hour window to use).

    That was wonderful that you were able to help out so much by using French (and the other languages) – my French is very rusty but I’m trying to get back some by watching YouTube vlogs from France and a couple of programs on streaming services that I have – Munch & Astrid are two of my favourites. I do use the captions but try to listen and pick out what I can first – it is helpful to hear it being spoken.

    It is very cold here now = but nothing like those living out in Western Canada have been experiencing! Toronto is so lucky being situated on the north shore of Lake Ontario – winds from the west pass over us, pick up moisture as they cross the lake, and then dump it all on poor Buffalo! I could not believe what it looked like there over the weekend and “Bills” fans having to dig out their seats before watching the game!!! They are true fans! Stay warm everyone.

    1. Try watching with French captions turned on instead of English. It makes it much easier to pick out words and I found that it really helped while relearning French.

  23. My word for the year is SIMPLE. For me right now that means asking myself “How important is it?” and refusing to rent brain space to things that I won’t remember in a month or that I don’t have any control over. Pretty simple. Decluttering, healthy food, new learning, quality time with people, and gardening for exercise all all top of the list.

    I turned in my retirement paper work after 35 years of teaching. It was bittersweet. I have loved my job and I don’t know if I will ever again be as good at something as teaching. But I am excited for new challenges. Also, the retirement benefits have changed for the better and I am thrilled. Hubby and I will have full medical, dental and vision for about $575 until we are 65. I am so grateful that I can also add my son who is 21. My plan is to save up six months of mortgage on the cabin to be ahead of when my pension starts and to not touch my 403B until I turn 65 in five years.

    The Century Old River House we inherited has fabulous “cutie” tangerines on a tree we just discovered. What a treat!. They are very sweet and easy peel. There is another orange tree that is also very sweet. We fill a bucket every week. I have 3 hour working sessions in the front rose garden. I use my husband’s John Deere bucket to clear away prunings, weeds, and rocks. Multiple loads per session go either to the burn pile ( it is a farming property or to the levee ( rocks.) I teased my husband I am going to start charging people to come to my “crossfit” sessions with all the rock rolling, railraod tie clearing, and flagstone lifting. Three hours and you can still barely tell I was there. Lots to do.

    I listed my Amazon Kindle on Poshmark and bought two “new with tags” bras with my credit balance. I am no longer reading on kindle – just hard copy books. I read more and relax more that way. I am putting holds on books at the library.

    I did splurge buying a one gallon yogurt straining system for $40. I I can’t get enough of the instant pot yogurt I am making with cheap milk. So healthy when I add our walnuts and low fruit spread. I should make back the cost of the strainer within two months. My time is money while I am still working and it takes me three to four rounds of strainging to get greek yogurt made. If it doesn’t work as promised I will return it and get a restaurant supply store strainer and use the restaurant coffee filters.

    My husband’s farm bought my new MacAir. I cleaned up my 2019 to give to my mom. I took her 2009 with a built in dvd, cleaned it up and will take it to the cabin where we have no tv or internet.

    1. My father-in-law was a teacher for 34 years at a local high school in my area. He retired back in 1997. After his retirement, he did substitute teaching for a while at various local school districts in our county. Somehow he is still on the substitution list because we will get calls at our house where he no longer lives, to ask him if he could substitute that day. My father-in-law is 77 and has many health issues so obviously that’s no longer doable.

      However, if you still love teaching, you could always be a substitute teacher for a little bit of extra income. I know many of my sons former teachers would come back and substitute in his school and my son would always love to see them, especially his most favorite one. His second grade teacher. <3

  24. Beautiful brooch and flower pictures! Congratulations to your mom winning those orchids. It’s a wonderful connection to strangers to communicate with more than a smile.

    Last week with much discussion I reorganized 3 rooms. Some were multipurpose rooms and now they are single purpose. I donated and tossed. It was liberating. I donated instead of selling as going through made me reflect on my childhood where shopping at thrift stores was the only way my family could shop. All those treasures I found then, so grateful for thrift stores, for budgets, charities, and recycling.
    Brandy, you gave me a thought – I can’t grow all year long, but wouldn’t a fun challenge be to grow enough to preserve and eat fresh for a year? Looking forward to digging in April.
    We are limiting our grocery shopping to half to save.
    I hope everyone has a calm and productive week.

    1. My mom got that brooch for $1 at a garage sale and gave it and the necklace (also $1) to me for Christmas.

  25. Encouraged by my eldest son, I tried to replace my car key battery myself but I bought the wrong battery. My husband took it back to the store and exchanged it to replace it for me. A good lesson for me (and my 7 year old) to lean into each others gifts and talents and not try to solve everything ourselves!

    Otherwise, just eating through the pantry and freezer, staying in, and hiking our local metro parks – how we usually spend dreary Ohio Januarys!

    I spent a Saturday shopping to a fabric outlet (Guhl’s in Jackson OH for any locals) and while I got a lot of fabric, the average price was just over $4 a yard for name brand fabric (Robert Kaufman, etc). I have enough for 3 queen sized tops and will be happily sewing for a while! As someone who usually only gets her quilting supplies on clearance or deep discount at a big box store, this was a real treat and was a great day spent with my mom and a friend.

    1. The remote car key for my 2021 Honda CRV was saying low battery when I would start my car. So I looked up some videos on YouTube and my husband was able to replace both batteries in them for the cost of the batteries, which was what’s hap like six dollars.

      I was shocked that the batteries went out so fast because my last vehicle also had a remote car start and I owned that vehicle from 2013 until 2021 and I never had to replace the batteries inside the remote. The only reason I had to get a new car was because I was involved in a car accident in 2021 and my Jeep ended up being totaled. The accident was my fault. I accidentally ran my Jeep into a telephone pole in slippery weather conditions, and thankfully the local police didn’t give me a ticket because I was working at their county jail at the time as a nurse. Sometimes it does pay being a nurse. LOL. I just broke three ribs but other than that I was OK.

  26. Catching up on these last 2 weeks. Glad to see the bits of color and how everyone is coping with this long cold month.
    I worked at the food pantry this week. It’s a once a week pantry and like someone else mentioned if there’s extra produce at the end of the night volunteers may share. I got some leftover produce,  oranges and celery, some eggs and some milk. I chopped and froze celery for soup.
    We were home all weekend so I spent time baking and doing meal prep of things we can enjoy over the next few weeks.
    With some of the oranges I juiced them and treated my family to orange poppyseed waffles. Tried making candied orange peel with the peels, and now also have an orange simple syrup for my family to use in tea or cooking. I used some of it as a substitute for sugar in a small batch of brownies.
    Roasted veggies for a few meals.
    Made chicken stock for soup and made vegetable noodle soup.
    Baked cinnamon rolls, a quiche and roast. We have lots of leftovers to work on for lunches. It’s been nice doing cooking and then leftovers for lunch, rather than everyone scramble at their own time.
    Like many of you, it’s bitterly cold. My husband is trying to hold costs so house is at 67 and I’m bundling up.
    Proud that my daughter was going to toss jeans with a rip and I recommended patching with fleece from some too-small pants. I offered to do it and she did it herself!
    I’m working on my 3rd lap blanket for the church prayer shawl ministry with the yarn I picked up before Christmas. It’s a good settling down at night kind of project.
    Not much else in ways of news. Have a blessed week.

  27. Last week was the first week back after Christmas break for my teacher husband and college daughter. We all worked at getting back into the school schedule, coordinating trips into the campus with my daughter’s classes and my husband’s schedule whenever possible.

    I cooked all meals from scratch at home, and used up even small amounts of leftover veggies by making a vegetable soup. I baked two loaves of break in our crockpot, as the electric usage is lower compared to turning on my larger oven. Another day I baked potatoes in the crockpot, topping them with chili beans and broccoli and a home made tofu sour cream. We did use our oven to bake a double batch of granola.

    I am working on altering a formal gown for my daughter to wear at an upcoming recital in February. She is a violinist and violist. I found her a dress she liked (and it is sleeveless, which helps when you play a shoulder instrument and cannot play in tight sleeves), but it was on clearance and not available in her size. It was available in the next size larger however, so we bought it and I am slowly adjusting it to fit her. I have basic sewing skills, but not really in clothing but rather as a quilter, so I am a bit intimidated but have broken the project down into tiny steps. I have already made the keyhole neckline a bit less revealing, and have taken in the dress at both seams from the waist to the arm hole. My last thing to do is to take up the double hem. I am not real confident at doing it, but just need to take the plunge and try. I have talked with a friend who used to sew wedding dresses, so have some guidance. I do not have a rolled hem foot for my sewing machine, so will sew it by hand. That gives me more control over it anyway, and I will not have light weight fabric getting caught in my sewing machine. The dress was $130 regular price, and I was able to get it on clearance for $32 so it is worth it to me to have to adjust it myself to fit her! My sewing friend told me it would cost at least $40 to pay someone to take it in, and another $40 for EACH of the two hemlines, so I am frugal enough to learn the skills myself and try it!

    We are in the midst of a winter storm, with temps expected to be 7 degrees tomorrow night. This is the Chattanooga Tennessee area, so we are not used to such severe weather and cities do not have all the salt trucks and snowplows that Michigan has where I grew up. The college was cancelled today, and we are waiting to hear about tomorrow though the public schools have already cancelled tomorrow classes. We have our wood stove going, which keeps the house fairly warm and very nice in the living room. It will also help tremendously on keeping the electric bill from spiking due to this weather. Our wood stove is a fireplace insert, and if the power goes out we cannot operate the blower fan and the majority of heat will go up the chimney and not into the house. Knowing the storm was heading our way, I charged up three large power banks that we have, specifically so we can operate that fan if our electricity does go out. The power banks will not last forever, but they will run it for several hours anyway. Yesterday I also made a grocery trip to stock up on fresh fruit and some more canned items, as my pantry had been getting low on some items. Now, I am not leaving the house until Thursday when the temperatures will dip above 32 degrees!

    Looking forward to learning from everyone!

    Susan M. in Chattanooga, TN

  28. Hello Brandy and Frugal Friends.. What a shame on the Amazon rules. I watch a lot of you tubers and they reference during their videos products that they are using and put a link below.. of course you see in the video them using the product. That is great you are able to use several languages. I was at a pantry one day and a lady and her family were there filling out their application they were mexican and she could not understand the question of what her birthdate was. I do not speak spanish it took much thought before I finally pantomimed and sung “Happy Birthday To You” before she finally understood what they wanted. This is going to be more and more a challenge as we have more immigrants moving in to our country with the communication barrier. I remember many years ago a co workers daughter was in college to become a doctor part of her requirements were to go on Emergency Squad runs, they encountered a sick man again from Mexico who could not communicate to the Squad what was wrong with him, Jennifer spoke spanish and she was able to tell the paramedics what was wrong with him. I did try the No Spend January challenge and failed I went over my budget it’s o.k. will keep trying the challenge is actually for 2 months. I like that Jessica from Three Rivers Homestead and the other you tubers who are following give so many ideas on meals to use with what you have on hand. I am finally starting to see the bottom of one of my deep freezers. Having our pantries stocked is very important for so many reasons financial, illness and weather issues it is one less worry if we are able to feed our families. I will still buy if there is a good sale I’m looking towards Easter now when Hams will be on sale again to stock up my freezers as I do like sliced ham sandwiches and much cheaper and healthier than buying commercially sliced deli meats.

    1. There was a woman there from Iraq and she had only been studying English for 4 months, but obviously quite diligently, as she was able to communicate with me. I have been studying Urdu for 3 months and I am nowhere near that far! She reminded me that it is important to try, even if you make mistakes, because it will still help you. She was so enthusiastic and positive about learning English and it was really inspiring to me to study harder.

  29. Oh I forgot one frugal thing I did this week was made Chocolate Oatmeal No Bakes instead of buying something like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.. I will be making Buckeye Bars ( very much like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups) later in the week it’s basically the same thing but using up things I have in my pantry instead of buying it. I overbought vanilla cookies like Oreo’s for my Christmas gift giving and I have a ton of Chocolate Chips again I overbought so will be making the Cookies dipped in Chocolate and giving to my neighbors. I am not a fan of vanilla cream cookies I used them in a recipe that is called Snow Ball Cookies and over estimated how many I would need so this will help and bring a smile to my neighbors during these cold winter months, thinking Valentines Day.

  30. I saw the new Amazon link yesterday and said to myself “That’s new”. I always try to use your link.
    I cleaned out the basement food pantry. I do it every January. I am always amazed at how messed up it gets. I guess that is expected with several people touching it. It is organized for now. Next up is our medical supplies and toiletries.
    A large pot of chili was made this week. I used the turkey leg meat from our Christmas turkey and a pound of beef. I add extra beans as always. Still using peppers from my garden that I froze. Hubby last week mentioned lasagna so I made 2 pans this week. He can’t have dairy and I love chees so I make 2. I haven’t had to cook a few nights with leftovers which is nice. I froze half of the chili for future meals.
    My youngest daughter came over and helped me organize all of my gift bags, tissue paper, bows and boxes that I had. They are all put away for next year. Other then tape, I haven’t bought wrapping supplies in years.
    My sister dropped her dog off. She is going to Taiwan. She also dropped off a 1/2 gallon of milk, chocolate cake, mac n cheese, salami, and provolone. She thought they would all be bad by the time she gets back. We are happy to have them. She also gifted us a Panera gift card for watching the dog.
    Hubby and I grabbed lunch at Panera with the gift card. I had a coupon also. We each brought our Britta water bottles to drink. We each got a soup and shared a salad. It was delicious. There is still plenty on the gift card for another meal.
    Was driving past Stop & Shop so I ran in to see what was on the clearance rack. There was a 12 pack of seltzer for $2. I had a $2 reward on my card so I only had to pay the can deposit which I will get back. I am doing a low spend January too.
    I make bread in my bread machine all the time. I see lots of people making it in their Dutch ovens so I dug mine out and made some. It came out great. I will definitely be making it again like this.
    The cold has arrived so I put more blankets around the house for easy access. I heat up rice packs and put them in our bed while we brush our teeth. So nice climbing into a warm bed.

  31. I, too, will be doing a pantry challenge of sorts to offset the higher holiday spending, free up freezer space, and make use of the preserved garden produce and previously purchased loss leaders. Mid January through March is the perfect time for me to do this since I have more time during winter to be in the kitchen.

    On the frugal front:
    I made chili in the crock pot using HH’s homemade frozen tomato juice, frozen browned meat, and pantry beans and spices. I served it with cornbread muffins from the freezer. We had afternoon plans so it was nice to spend less than 5 minutes loading the crock pot and come home 4 hours later to a hot dinner on a freezing cold evening.

    I wrapped Valentines for DD2 and her roommates to send with her back to college to avoid shipping costs. Each Valentine was a microwave popcorn packet and mini popcorn seasoning shaker with a cute popcorn-themed, free printable from Pinterest. The seasoning shakers came in a variety pack purchased on sale on Amazon. The microwave popcorn was purchased on sale in combination with DD2’s employee discount at the local grocery store. Buying and splitting up multipacks for small gifts is a fun and affordable way for me to love on the college girls. Even though they are young adults, they still enjoy small, unexpected gifts.

    I purchased DD1 a stand mixer at Kohl’s for her golden birthday and received Kohls cash. Because it expires so quickly (and I really do not enjoy shopping), I am rarely able to redeem Kohls cash. Fortunately, this time I and was able to buy myself and HH much needed pants with no additional money out of pocket.

    I went through the cupboards and will send DD2 back school with some groceries. I also made a batch of her favorite granola. She was complaining that the price of granola in the grocery store is ridiculous. (She’s not wrong, but I get a chuckle out of her complaints about grocery prices now that she has to budget her grocery money.)

    I made a double batch of pumpkin muffins using canned pumpkin which I purchased on clearance after Thanksgiving for 2/$1.

    We took our neighbor and his wife to a Division I college hockey game at his alma mater as a thank you for a favor he did for us. The tickets were surprisingly inexpensive. We carpooled to the game and had a great time.

    I look forward to reading everyone’s frugal feats!

  32. Brandy, you are an inspiration. In these dark times to be able to communicate with a newcomer in their own tongue is such a gift and a ray of light. Thank you for being the change we all need to see.
    Your photos are lovely, as usual.

    1. I really loved seeing the surprise on the older women’s faces when I said hello in Arabic. They were not expecting that! They each said hello back.

      I am really hoping to remember faces next time and remember who speaks what language for at least some of the people.

      I keep thinking about the younng man from Egypt. He was maybe only 19. He gladly took everything and asked if he could have more of a couple of things. I know boys are so hungry at that age. I feel like he is in real need and he has been hungry. I want to talk with him next time because I am afraid he is going hungry. The woman I was there helping said the food bank gave them a much smaller load than usual this time. I worry how that affects people who are still looking for work.

      It was a good place to be. I didn’t worry about myself or my worries while I was there.

      1. We run a weekly English class at my church for newcomers and international students and I volunteer there. It is truly amazing to hear some of their stories and how quickly they make the effort to find work, to integrate into the community and to learn English. We always have coffee, tea and treats on hand and some weeks we manage to have sandwiches or pizza and we are always down to crumbs at the end of the night. Many of them come straight from classes or work and don’t have time for supper so they appreciate all that we do.

        1. I wish the place I was at wasn’t so far. I spent time teaching free English classes in France and I have a degree in English. I would love to teach English classes once or twice a week in the evenings.

          1. Are there any opportunities for teaching online? I’m guessing some refugee resettlement programs offer that.
            My daughter works for the International Rescue Committee, specifically in refugee resettlement. I love to hear about her work.

            1. That sounds great and would save on gas.

              However, I don’t think that would work from my house as my children would be too loud on my end.

              Perhaps it is something I can do when I am older and my children are grown.

      2. Brandy I had a similar experience this morning. I have been worrying the past several days as we received our final paycheck last Friday. My husband has been applying for work for six weeks now. We have not gotten any response yet.
        I drove my mother to a dentist appointment this morning. With the wind chill it was -6. As I pulled out of the parking lot I saw a man and woman walking down the street. I asked them if they needed a ride. They were so cold. They had run out of bread and needed more. I ended up driving them to a nearby grocery store. They told me about their difficult situation, and it made me stop and realize that so many people are really struggling. It made me see that while things are hard and uncertain, I am so very blessed. This experience changed my whole attitude. I plan to help people in whatever ways I can. I will pray for you and your family.

        1. Deanna I was so touched by your post and the compassion and kindness for those poor people. My husband and I often try and help in any way we can when we see those with out. Both my grandma’s taught me this

  33. My husband and I have made the decision to transition to a vegetarian diet. We have dabbled with it a bit before out of curiosity, but some recent health revelations and the insane cost of meat (partnered with what also seems to be decreasing quality) have just pushed us over the edge. I’ve been using the Libby app to check out vegetarian cookbooks and guides, and it’s been so helpful. I’m so thankful for that resource! We also transitioned out one year old to milk from formula this week, and that’s a huge money saver. He’s not keen on it just yet but he’s coming around 🙂

    We spent a lot of time outside these last few weeks enjoying the property and taking the baby for walks in the wagon. He loves it and it’s good exercise for all of us. The older boys like to come along exploring, too.

    I was gifted an air fryer for Christmas and have been learning how to use it. I’m not sure if using it over the convection oven is a money saver or not- but it seems like it could be- a smaller space to heat up? I’m not sure! Wishful thinking I suppose!

    I used a gift card to purchase seeds. My mom had the gift card in an old purse and was going to toss it- I got after her for not checking the balance and assuming that it was empty. She said “you just take it then.” It had 14 dollars on it and that money will turn into lots of veggies for my table come this summer!

    We have been saving all of our lose change for the last since months- just what we find on the street, in the car, etc. the boys have enjoyed keeping their eye out. The saved change is going in a huge water cooler jug, and we decided that once it’s full we are using the money to take a trip to see the northern lights (a bucket list item for the whole family). Just for fun the other day we dumped it out and counted what we had….$65! I was honestly quite surprised there was that much in there! The kids had fun counting and you can’t beat free math practice.

    Have a lovely week everyone!

  34. You look lovely! And you’re inspiring! I’m on the buying less train as well. I’m currently watching Doc Martin on Amazon and wondering where I can find Protwenn in the U.S. ;D.

  35. Your photos are so beautiful, as always. And how wonderful that your mother won so many orchids. The one you selected is beautiful.
    My husband was able to repair the pump in our hot tub himself for the cost of the part, which no only restored the tub to working order but prevented further damage that would have occurred, since without the pump to circulate water, the piping would have frozen.# It’s been very cold here but we have had much needed snow. My husband freed a neighbor’s car that was stuck in the snow and they gifted us with a large bag of treats for our dogs.#We like to use canned mushrooms on homemade pizza and in recipes but they have gotten so expensive. I purchased a large package of fresh mushrooms for $6 and canned 8 jars, which would have cost $16 in the store.#I made a batch of hot cocoa mix and a batch of bagels.# We’re eating from the pantry and freezer and mostly staying home.

  36. I posted a little bit to facebook. I wanted to say that your blog and Facebook page of consistently been an inspiration to me when financial hard times have hit. 2023 was an unexpected year I had three surgeries two of them were emergency surgeries. And my oldest son who was 22 years old was shot in an attempted mugging gone wrong. He and his coworker were walking home from work and his coworker saved his life. After this my son moved back home for recovery so he’s still at home. Suddenly being unexpectedly out of work with reduced income for my own health reasons three separate times as well as leave to care for my son. While still caring my four younger children. 2023 was financially a very difficult year…. And emotionally and psychologically, I leaned heavily on the Lord. His word, his ways, and the people of God rallied around me in prayer and lifted my family up.
    More to the point, there are many times this year when I lived and fed my children from my pantry. The bills were paid from our savings and limited short-term disability income. We have a lot of food allergies and I don’t know that we would ever be able to get quite as low on the monthly grocery budget as you Brandy. There were several months this past year when our entire grocery spending for six people was $100 or less. The only spending was on perishable items such as soy milk, eggs, and butter.

    I just thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, sharing your secrets and being such a source of encouragement.

    1. I am sorry to hear about your difficulties. I am glad to hear that your son is alive and I hope you are recovering well.

      Last year was very hard for me too. I hope this year will be better.

      The only way out is through.

    2. Kendra – I am so glad your son survived what must have been a terrifying ordeal. I will pray for healing for your family and that this situation does not leave any lasting ill effects. Peace!

    3. Oh wow!! so sorry to hear about your son, but I am glad he is recovering. I will keep him in your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  37. What a joy to see your beautiful roses, it gives me hope that in a few months we will once again be enjoying flowers and produce from our garden. The orchid is so bright and cheerful.
    We are well below freezing again tonight, so extra fleeces on the bed and thicker pyjamas on, anything to save a bit on fuel. Only buying absolute essentials and the odd little extra on non-perishables, these are to help my daughter stock her pantry. We only have 3 more monthly wages before my husband takes early retirement, he will hopefully do some contract work to help with the finances which will be tight but his wellbeing is more important at the moment.
    I gain encouragement from your past articles which I am going through for home made gift ideas. Your recipes are also a great help. Thank you for keeping past articles available to us.

  38. Lovely photos, and wow, what a win for your mum, all those orchids! I’m sorry to hear about the tight months, but I appreciate your sharing and encouraging all of us who read your blog.

    My frugal week:
    – I cat-sat for just over a week and earned some money which will come in very handy. Toting myself and my kids over to the cat’s house twice a day in snow and rain paid off, literally.
    – I bought a second-hand four-seater wagon off FB marketplace for $250, which I will need when running, my home-based daycare business in a few months. Normally, these wagons are priced well over $1000, and even resale versions are over $500, so I was pleased with my purchase. It’s not in perfect condition, but it will serve well what I need it for (seating 3-4 kids, with seatbelts).
    – I wanted to make cinnamon buns but had uncharacteristically run out of brown sugar (white sugar, icing sugar, pearl sugar, large grain sanding sugar, I have all those but not brown sugar. I had to laugh at myself.) so instead I used up half a jar of leftover cranberry sauce ( and a lone orange, and made cranberry orange rolls. I defrosted some leftover cream and poured that over the rolls before baking, a tip I learned from my fb cinnamon buns group (yes, it’s a thing). I used plant butter and plant milk, and I will take half the rolls as a hostess gift for a lactose-intolerant friend.
    – I made a quinoa salad to use up the last of the home-marinated feta cheese that I had made and served during December on cheeseboards when I hosted. I combined quinoa, the marinated feta along with its oil, red wine vinegar, and some random chopped vegetables, as well as the last of the black olives I served with the cheese boards. Made for a lovely deli-style quinoa salad!
    – the toddler program I got to had some extra food leftover from the snacks, and I ended up with a can of mandarin segments, one of my daughter’s favourite fruits.

    I know I did lots of other frugal things, but can’t think of any right now. Looking forward to learning from everyone else, as always!

      1. Such a great idea! I tried to do that, and then realized I had run out of molasses too! (Probably because I used a lot to bake gingerbread cookies in December.) But mixing molasses and white sugar is SUCH a handy idea — thank you!

  39. Quick question. I purchase a lot of items from Amazon, what you are saying is that if I click on your page and then go about ordering my usual things, you will get some sort of credit? I’m happy to do it, if it can help you.

    1. Yes. If you go through my link first and then add your items to your cart and purchase them within 24 hours, I get a tiny percentage. It’s small (around 1% to 3% depending on the item, and some items I don’t get anything) but it all adds up!

      Thank you!

      1. Will you get credit if we go to your “storefront” first and then order other things you don’t have on your storefront from there? I looked at the storefront at the end of this blog post.

          1. Ok, I can do that. I don’t order that much, but maybe I can help a little.
            On another topic maybe you are already planning to use the sour cream to make more sour cream with the powdered milk. I received some free powdered milk from a food pantry once that had a recipe on the box. I tried it, and it worked, but I can’t remember how I did it. I’m sorry you and so many other people are struggling. I admire the resourcefulness of you and the people who comment on this blog. Everyone is so creative and courageous.

            1. I haven’t done that with sour cream. I don’t like the taste of powdered milk, but I use it in cooking (crepes, pancakes, etc.) I like sour cream on rice and beans and I use it in other recipes as well. I have found the cheapest price is the store brand at Winco, and it often goes on sale 9though the sale price is the old regular price, now). It’s about $1 less than it is from anywhere else.

              Thank you for your support of my site! I appreciate it. While I don’t make a lot from it, what I do make I take in Amazon credit and I buy things for my family that we both need and want.

    2. I often have items in my Save for Later Amazon cart. If I enter Amazon through your link, move something from Save for Later to the cart and complete the purchase, will you receive credit?

      1. I don’t know. It says items added to the cart, so I don’t know if those work or not. I hope so!

  40. OHHHH Brandy your post came at a perfect moment, I am imagining many of us our feeling money fatigue issues currently. Although each of us different and in maybe not same scenarios alas we are stressed, fatigued and treading water to combat high prices, less income and all other things weighing on our minds and money. It is incredibly kind for you to share what is going on at your home AND more importantly how you plan to tackle each challenge… just like your garden reno one arbor at a time lol
    As always thank you for sharing

  41. The colors and transparency in the lettuce photo is breath-taking! I love the other photos, but that one has me coming back to it! The sunset/sunrise ? photo is also stunning!

    Your volunteer efforts sound like such a wonderful opportunity on several levels. Often times we end up getting more than we give.

    Thank you for all you do. An afternoon of embroidery sounds just lovely.

    1. Lettuce is so pretty, isn’t it? I am always exclaiming over it in the seed catalogs.

      It’s sunset. I shared a video of it on my Instagram account last week.

  42. Your brooch on your black sweater is lovely.

    We dropped down to 12 degrees F. We Texans are not used to this cold weather.
    One of our pipes broke & the husband is trying to fix it. He can do plumbing, but it is very cold outside when digging a hole to get to the pipe. At least we have heat. We got some water for drinking & some to flush the toilet. We will survive. I bought some paper plates for us to use & bowls since I can’t run the dishwasher.
    Your brooch on your black sweater is lovely. I bet you have a list of fix its for your husband when when he returns from his work out-of-state.

    1. Thank you! My mom gave it to me for Christmas, and the necklace too; she gave me the bracelet in November. She found them each for $1 when garage sale shopping and I thought they went so well together.

  43. I can’t remember the name of your particular orchid but I was in the grocery store a couple of days ago and they had them in several colors, a pink, like yours, white and the most stunning royal blue I have ever seen. I wanted to purchase an entire forest of them, but mostly the blue. I have never seen it before and it took my breath away. I even wondered if someone had figured out how to “fake”it. Have you seen the blue anywhere?

  44. It was my birthday last week and instead of going out I stayed home. In the evening I visited a friend and showed her how to make some carrot soup. She loved it! I’ve tried to stay home as much as possible as it’s ski season and we are spending time at the slopes. We take our thermoses of coffee and hot chocolate and try to not spend while there. I’ve also made bread and line dried the laundry. I made a pot of beans and froze the leftovers. This is our pantry and freezer cleanout month so we don’t grocery shop much. I also make a point of cooking at home three times a day as I don’t work during the winter.

  45. Every bill that I have received so far this year has gone up. The worst was a $400 increase in our home insurance. As a retired senior citizen, I am extremely concerned. We manage, but I don’t know how younger people raising children can keep up.

    1. Our home/car (2) insurance went up 700.00 from about 1500.00 to 2200.00. We have a new car with full coverage. The car itself is very basic, no bells or whistles. We took a small loan for the car. Doing the math, paying off the car wouldn’t bring the insurance down enough to justify it. We called about reducing but it’s the cheapest we can get! I always feel that insurance is a rip-off. We’re in Michigan.

      1. momsav: I’ve not had a car loan and have a question I don’t understand about your comment. Does having a car loan put car insurance premium costs up? Or does having a loan require you carry more coverage?

    2. I am an insurance agent. Insurance rates are going up across the board, unfortunately. However, we have found in our office, that many times, the increased premium is due to an automatic increase in coverage for your home. Companies do this because the cost to replace homes is going up. If you don’t feel that you need the value of your home to be increased, just call your agent and ask him or her to decrease the dwelling coverage to what is was the term before. This will decrease the premium. Hope this helps.

  46. Brandy, I’ve been reading your blog and not posting, just lurking! for quite a few months. I’m sorry your income will be low for now, but I’ve been so happy that your husband has had this new job that he seems to be enjoying.
    I made your Tuscan Tomato Bread soup in the crockpot, and didn’t end up soaking the bread this time, just putting the bread in the bottom of the bowl and ladling the very hot soup over top. The bread got to the right consistency for us in just the cooling down time! I nearly forgot to put the Balsamic vinegar in the soup, was doing the recipe from memory and thought I’d do a quick check before I set the timer. Whew! The Balsamic is my favorite part of the soup…DH says I don’t have a “sweet tooth,” I have a “vinegar tooth.”
    I did order a good amount of Christmas gifts through Amazon this year, and spent throughout the year, really. I spend more than I should when I find a good Subscribe and Save deal. I try to remember to go thru your link every time. I used to do the Amazon Smile link for a charity that is close to my heart, but since they shut that down, you are my intended recipient.
    I do hope your husband can be with you and the family during the winter months.

  47. The price of electricity doubled for us January 9th onwards. We took really drastic measures to take control over electricity usage. We heat and cook solely on wood now. We unplugged the fridge/freezer as the temperature in our cellar is the same. Of course we first ate the freezer empty, and adjusted our shopping and eating as if we no longer have a freezer. We made other minor adjustments as well. So far, according to the app of the electric company, we have decreased our usage 80%. I don’t mean to brag but encourage others, as thinking outside the box and taking on yourself a minor inconvenience or having to do more can save your money in a dire situation.

    1. I am trying to figure out how to cut more electricity, specifically this month. The electric company shows me that we always use more electrcity in January than December, and I am trying to figure out how. Our heat is gas. Our cooking is gas. Our dryer is gas. In December, we use Christmas lights (LED).

      The sunlight is now one hour more per day here than it was in December.

      So I am trying to figure out where else we can cut to use less as well.

      1. If your heating is gas, does it use electricity anyway? Maybe that explains the higher January bill. Our electric grid was stressed to the max during our recent extreme cold snap. A major factor was that all of the furnaces (almost 100% gas) were running constantly and that used a lot of electricity.

        1. I think the fan uses electricity, and January is the coldest month.

          My December gas bill was only $13! I am keeping the heat low this month, so I hope to see a lower than usual gas bill for January.

        1. This is the thing I am thinking. The furnace is gas but the fan is probably electric and January is the coldest month here. It’s definitely colder than December.

          1. I think you are on to it with the furnace fan electricity costs if January is a colder month than December. Have you been able to test how much electricity your other gas appliances use? Perhaps your gas dryer is different, but when we researched to add the use costs to the up-front costs to determine total cost, we found that gas dryers used about 1/3 of the electricity (per load) of an electric dryer. Cutting down on laundry (both using the dryer and just reducing loads altogether) was a help for our utility costs. I actually found cloth napkins to not be cost-effective for us, which was a surprise, but calculating water, gas, electric, laundry detergent, etc. This likely varies around the country and/or by preference, including I know some people use the same cloth napkin all day, etc.

            1. My gas bill for December was $13. Normally my summer bill is $23 and rates doubled in fall, so I’m definitely using less there. January’s bill will be the highest one for the year since we use the heat more.

        2. Keeping the filters clean is a basic move that helps the furnace (or AC) be more efficient.

          Since the disposable filters stood up in our old furnace, I found I could buy ones that were the right width but too tall and stand them in place, when the taller ones were on clearance for cheaper than ones of the exact size. Wouldn’t work with ones that slide in horizontally if they would fall out.

    2. Miriam, I love your attitude. Better to address the problem than whine about being treated unfairly. Our ancestors made do with root cellars and springhouses; we can adapt. Surprisingly, changes we make to save energy and any other consumer waste are so rewarding. I’ll bet you were stoked to see that 80 % reduction.

    3. WOW! That is a scary increase! Who would have thought that in 2024 so many would be returning to wood burning stoves to heat and to cook!
      My electric bill has also gone up but I don’t use it for heating so that makes a big difference. About 2/3 of my monthly bill is the part that I don’t have any control over – it’s for the fee to send the electricity into my apt. and what is charged for upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure. My actual useage is higher in the summer when I run the A/C than in the winter and I use the laundry room for washing and drying my clothes – of course I need to pay to use the machines but at least I have some control over that! Having said that, I do try to be mindful – keeping lights off on sunny days, filling the oven when in use, and using the toaster oven for small items or reheating. Will you be able to plug the fridge/freezer back in over the summer months?

      1. Margie, I should have been more specific; I was only talking about the electricity. We have all those fees and taxes as well just because we are on the grid (that needs to be paid even if we used nothing) and they are about double the sum of electricity used, so yes, I was talking about 1/3 of the bill, the things we have control over. As to summer months we’ll see. Our summer can be anything between 5-35 C/41-95 F, even snow in June so we will do what we find to be most beneficial. This way of living does speak to my romantic side and feed my imagination though. Living in a medieval castle? In a remote cabin? So far we have had cold October, cold November, very cold December, and very cold January. I think it’s time to read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder again!

  48. Hi Brandy and everyone
    Thank you for being so open about your current financial situation Brandy. It is a great encouragement to read how you cope with this and still make life beautiful for less. I know it isn’t easy and I expect everyone reading this blog has had sleepless hours worrying about an unexpected expense, I certainly have.You are still making gifts and blessing your friends and your Mum blessed you ! Gorgeous orchid and blue and white china.
    I used leftover blue cheese from Christmas to make broccoli and blue cheese soup for a pot luck lunch at floral group.
    We planted out shallots and onions and have used parsnips and leeks from the garden. We looked through our saved seed box and need to buy very little seed this year.
    A charity shop had half price on household items so I bought six new tea towels for 50 pence each. I inspected all my current tea towels and cut some up for rags.
    My cheap everyday watch broke and was still under warranty so I received my money back. The charity shop had a display case of watches and a sign saying they all worked and had batteries. I chose one for £7.50. On the same trip I donated things to the charity shop after some decluttering.
    Lidl have boxes of mixed fruit and veg for £1.50. I thought they were for people in need but I asked a staff member and she said no, they were anti waste and they encourage anyone to buy them. So I did and everything in there has lasted very well. There were several apples and bananas, sweet potato, different types of onion, cucumber, carrots, mushrooms and several bell peppers. I hope people in need are buying them, they’re good value.
    Stay safe everyone.

    1. I have read about those “to good to go” boxes and the yellow sticker prices in the UK and you do get some great buys – also those deals on veg that Aldi and Lidl seem to run on a weekly basis – I cannot believe how cheap it is compared to what we pay – even given the difference in salaries and the exchange rate! The “proverbial” hit the fan yesterday with the news story that Loblaw (our largest grocery conglomerate) and all their affiliates will no longer have the 50% stickers on the food that is about to expire in a day or so – the most they will be is a 30% discount. They say that this simply brings them in line with the other companies but most see it as yet more price gouging. I think that so many people were waiting for the discounts – especially on meat – that it has really affected their bottom line. A friend of mine only ever buys meat at 50% off – and I have also been able to stock up on some great deals – so this is a major impact for many and people are NOT happy!
      The problem in Canada is that our population is so relatively small – especially for the world’s second biggest country – that it doesn’t pay for other dealers to come into the market. There is a rumour that Aldi might be venturing into some areas of the country so I will be keeping my fingers crossed for that!

      1. Margie, it must be disappointing when the store group says they’re going to give only 30 per cent discount, what a swizz. Lots of people depend on discounts. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Aldi comes to you, it might gee up some of the other stores to have some competition!

  49. Over the weekend we had windchills of -18. We didn’t have any pipes freeze but our Amish neighbor had a pipe freeze and bust on his well pump. He got it fixed yesterday. We had a heat wave yesterday…wind chill was -2. We didn’t get the snow or rain like they said we would, which we could have used.
    We are eating from the pantry. Baking our bread. Heating with firewood instead of the expensive propane. We get about half our wood for free. We been having to feed the stove about every 2 hrs during the day at 3 hrs during the night. I will be glad when this arctic air moves on. I was able to make 6 extra payments on the mortgage principle. I have been splitting rewards, cash back, rebates, sales etc between the savings and the mortgage along with the IRA I inherited that IRS has decided I have to take RMD now when I didn’t have to before.
    Stay safe and warm
    Prayers for peace
    Blessed Be

  50. *Brandy thank you for sharing like always. In 2009 I found your website when our income was cut by 75%. My husband was in the first year of starting our own business and I quit my job to stay home with our first child. I was mostly lost how to live on the income we had and your website really helped. Since then, this place has become a community to me that I really enjoy.
    *Last week I purchased new hair clippers to cut my boys hair. The ones I have are cheap and keep pulling on their hair. I had used Brandy’s Amazon link. Funny you mentioned that this week.
    *The lettuce I potted indoors and put in the kitchen window have germinated! Also, the flower I repotted in a bigger pot is looking better. Now to fertilize it; I hope it flowers again.
    *My oldest are now teens and I love having teens! They are so helpful with the family goals. Right now we are focusing on eating our left overs. At lunchtime they run around and will tell someone, “I know you love the cabbage/meat stir fry. We have some left. Do you want it?” My son cooked a huge batch of brown rice in the pressure cooker. He did not like the seasonings he added so he made chicken rice soup to use up the rest of it. Everyone has enjoyed the soup as the weather has been 15-25* F.
    *Use what we have. I have broccoli sprouts seeds so I am growing those. Something green and fresh in the middle of winter is nice. The kids and my husband have been pulling out create/build/craft projects we have around the house. In the living room we made room for a “create” table.

  51. Brandy I am glad your husband has a new job but it does make it hard when there are a few months of no work and tighter financially. Is he still in real estate or gone on a different path ?. The orchid is lovely and lovely for your Mum to win the raffle too. I think we all have times where everything just breaks down all close together which makes it hard and we have likewise had a few things we have had to replace too and withdrawn money from our savings to do so. Hopefully you will have a better run from now on now that you have replaced most things that needed replacing. Lovely you were able to volunteer taking food packages to refugees and could use all those wonderful language skills you have learned too and wonderful that they thank their volunteers with some food too 🙂 . So nice you could harvest so much from your gardens and have a good stock of food to get you by during these tight financial times.

    In the kitchen we cooked all meals and 4 loaves of wholemeal white bread in the bread machine saving $13.88 over buying them locally in stores.

    In the home we washed down all the walls in the sewing craft room, doors and skirting and part of the ceiling that was dirty in there too. I did the lower portions and DH the higher parts of the wall and ceilings as he is taller. We also went through the home and cut down any unneeded cardboard boxes that came from deliveries over time and put them in the recycling bin along with any other recyclables.

    In the gardens DH pruned one of the star jasmine shrubs with the hedge trimmer and I raked it all up and put it in the bin ready to collect on Tuesday.

    I purchased 9 metres of shelf liner for the top kitchen cabinets to stop them getting so dusty. Paid $23.56 from eBay saving $12.44 over buying them in our local stores here. We purchased staple groceries this week for $80.55 and we are under our grocery budget for the fortnight by $40.62 . DH and I are working on getting our grocery spend lower if possible as it has doubled dare I say it since September 2022 so I am always on the lookout for any bargains, specials, markdowns, clearances on grocery items we use to lower costs where we can.

    Hope everyone has a frugal week ahead 🙂 .

    1. Lorna, we closed the Real Estate Company in December. Our agents weren’t having any sales. Some of them used to always have sales and did none last year. Interest rates and prices are too high for people to be able to afford to buy right now. I watched a video last year that showed that in order to be able to purchase a $500K house, one would have to make $179K a year after putting 20% down.

      The average income in our city is much, much less than $179K.

      So the market is practically dead.

      1. Hi Brandy sorry I am late to reply. Sorry to hear you had to close your real estate business and there was no home sales. It is the same here that homes are simply becoming unaffordable with the current high interest rates and the home prices skyrocketing too. I am seeing many homes for sale that were purchased a year to 18 months ago now up for sale again and I would say it is because people can’t afford to pay their mortgages (mortgage interest rates are currently 6.88 – 7.45%). That is a huge salary you have to have to service a $500, 000 mortgage and very few here or there would make that amount in a year.

        I am so glad we pushed and used all our savings almost to pay our home off in April this year with 10 RBA interest rate rises and another surprise one from our bank on a variable interest rate. We are rebuilding our savings again but it was worth it for peace of mind to own our own home outright and is now freeing up more income for us to save more.

        1. Thankfully, our mortgage for our house is at a fixed 2.875%, but that low window where we refinanced at that amount wae very small! Do most people in Australia have adjustable rate mortgages? This was the issue here in 2007 through 2009. One in seven houses in my city went into foreclosure during that time when rates went up. Food went up during that time as well.

          We can’t live through a period like that again.

          Most people have fixed rate mortgages here now. So, this time around, they are not moving.

          Rental prices are way up, too, so those who rent are struggling to pay the rent and will find it close to impossible to save up to purchase a place for many years.

  52. I really enjoyed your write up, especially how you spoke so many languages and was mistaken for being French yourself! And we use plain yogurt instead of sour cream for topping as well as for stroganoff (add a little to cream of mushroom soup), and it’s more versatile—I can use it for overnight oats or sweeten it to use as a pancake topping (less sugary and more protein than syrup!) or in a yogurt parfait, or in a marinade for tandoori chicken, for example. It’s also usually cheaper, or you can make your own.

  53. ~My parents moved out of the country to Europe for a year and a half, so we’ll be taking care of their home during that time. They’ll pay my kids a little each month to do chores and compensate me for my time as well. It’s very generous of them! They weren’t able to finish all the food in the fridge and pantry that will spoil before they return (produce, yogurt, crackers, etc) so they told us to take it home and eat it.
    ~I gave my oldest son a haircut.
    ~I drove out to the Paiute Indian tribe reservation close to us to gas up. It’s not far but it’s in the opposite direction of any other errands, but it’s significantly cheaper, usually 20¢/gallon cheaper than any other gas station.
    ~I cooked a turkey and used the bones and skin to make broth. I’ve been substituting turkey for chicken in many recipes
    ~My son needed some sport shorts so I was able to find some at the thrift store almost new!
    ~my husband helped clean up at the funeral for a neighbor and was given rolls and Jello to take home. I used the Jello to make a fun dessert, adding in cottage cheese, whipped cream left over from the holidays, and fruit that was going a little soft. We are the rolls with soup I make from the turkey broth I made and noodles I got from my parents.
    ~Our goal is to go visit my parents in Europe in the summer of 2025, so we’ll start now to put money aside each month to buy plane tickets. I need to figure out how much to save each month and also include housing, car rental or train, bus tickets, food, etc.

    1. Brandy, the photo of you is beautiful. Your brooch is so pretty. It looks Art Deco. Isn’t it terrific when things found at different times coordinate well?
      # After visiting family @ Christmas, I became ill. The positive from this was I stayed home and sent my hubby to the grocery store just for milk and his “on the road” food. Meals were made from the pantry and freezer. Another positive is that I actually lost a few pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
      # I was so happy that I had canned soup, crackers, and ginger ale in the pantry. All had been purchased at bargain prices. I also had cough medicine. I didn’t have to go out while I was ill.
      #When I felt better, savings included utilizing the laundromat to wash and dry my King size comforter $11 to do it myself instead of $50 to have their fluff and fold service do it.
      More thriftiness included making rye bread at home, darning socks, reading library books and enjoying videos we already own. The books are great! They are several years old. Both are by Sara Ackerman and are set in Hawaii right around the Pearl Harbor attack. One is called “Radar Girls”. The other is “Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers”.
      #This area of the country is experiencing snow, ice and temps below freezing. It only happens about once a year and there is no dedicated snow removal equipment. Everyone is advised to stay home and most things shut down till the snow and ice melt. Staying home saves money. We were warned this weather was coming, so hubby and I covered our single pane windows with plastic and pinned the drapes closed. I’m also dripping the faucets. A little higher is better than burst pipes and plumbing repairs.
      I hope everyone is safe and warm and enjoying some cozy winter fun.

      1. It looks Art Deco to me, too. It’s just an inexpensive, worn piece of costume jewelry, but it’s fun!

  54. Brandy, I share your frustration at watching one’s targeted savings go for things not intended. I’ve had this happen to me a few times and it can be disheartening. I hope people will continue to bless you with gifted things through the lean months.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’m inspired by Brandy’s efforts to grow more of her food. To that end, I have purchased a few more fruiting plants for my garden and yard, and I have plans for still more.

    My health and prescription premiums have increased for 2024, as have the premiums for the differing health plans of everyone I know. My work covers my dental and vision, thankfully. I lay aside an amount each month to cover the quarterly, bi-annual and annual premiums of my health, auto and home insurance and the money for my quarterly property tax payment, so I know I will have the money for it when it is time. It was very hard to get that extra money set aside at first, but I’m so glad I persevered. I put the set-aside money in a special savings account. I have found that if I leave it in checking (which does get interest), the money will somehow have disappeared when I need it. I do what it takes to make this work for me.

    I have been doing excellently at not wasting food, which can be hard since I now cook for one. I may have a failure once in a great while, but I find my consistent efforts at developing this skill are starting to pay off. Like cooking, the skill of getting creative with using leftovers or becoming able to eat even a lackluster dish until it’s gone can be developed and strengthened.

    Because of Christmas shopping and several household needs, I’ve got about $30 waiting on me in the Capital One shopping program, with which I will buy a gift card.

    I wear socks a lot in cold weather, and I am slowly replacing my socks, some of which are quite old, with socks that have a lifetime guarantee. I use Catch at purchase to save on the sock purchase price.

    I wanted to grab a bite out the other day, as my errands took a lot longer than they should have, and I had a long drive to get home where I could finally eat. I made myself wait until I got home though, and saved myself about $10-15 dollars.

    I’m plotting a hummingbird and butterfly garden where I used to have other plants that I moved. I want to fill it with natives that spread. Two or three plants can fill a large area in time, and being natives, take no or next to no watering and feeding.

    I used some leftover felt and thread to sew a quick little open cube for small items.

  55. We’re well below zero Fahrenheit here and your flower photos are balm for my soul! Thank you!
    I love your stories about speaking to your volunteering clients in so many languages! My parents lived in Ethiopia many, many years ago and made a gentleman’s day once by greeting him in Kiswahili. His name (on his nametag) fit that language, so Dad took a chance. My big, blond, Swedish-American Dad had a blast and that gentleman was so pleased that someone recognized his name and language. It probably meant the world to your clients!

    It was an expensive week for us with car repairs, needed clothing expenses and a few other things that popped up.
    Here are some of the frugal things:
    Like many others, we’re eating from the pantry and freezers with the exception of dairy and salad greens.
    I mended a quilt, a sweater and a pair of denim trousers.
    My husband officiated a funeral and brought home summer sausage and cheese from the meal after.
    I used items we already had to put together a small gift for a friend who had his Eagle Scout Court of Honor this week.
    My daughter is helping coach her former high school dance team while one of the coach’s is on medical leave. She received free tickets for food at the competition they attended this past weekend – she had packed a lunch but this was appreciated as it was very cold and chicken soup and hot cocoa were much appreciated! Her boyfriend found inexpensive bowling for them to do one morning for an impromptu date – $2 + shoe rental for each. They split the ticket.
    I received a free shirt from work to wear for official events. Makes dressing much easier and I don’t have to worry about purchasing anything.
    Received a small raise for the fitness classes I teach. It’s not much, but it adds up to about $20 each month, which is appreciated.
    My son landed a new job at school this fall – he had trouble finding something that worked with his schedule and applied for about 60 jobs. He finally heard back from one of them and has hours scheduled for the entire semester now. He is in the cast of a musical at his University and needed some items for costumes. We were able to source everything from around the house and his Grandpa’s closet (thanks Grandpa!), so no cost for that! We had been concerned that we needed to purchase a pair of shoes (difficult because he had HUGE feet), but his hiking boots will suffice, though we will look at the second hand stores for something else.

    I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of for now.
    I hope everyone has a lovely week,

  56. Hi Brandy – what a thought-provoking post, there where so many things that made me think and inspired me! First of all, I hope your financial situation will soon be better! It can be very hard to live on an unpredictable and varying income. The mentioning of your and your friend sharing talents got me thinking, that I should do this a lot more – such a good idea to meet up, have a nice time together and help each other acquire new skills. And I loved your story of how a few words in another language can make people feel better. I’m glad you felt encouraged as well, while helping others in need! I’m surely learning something new in English every week by reading and commenting on your blog. I’m so happy to have this opportunity while also getting invaluable frugal tips – thanks for letting us all ‘speak’ together here on your website!

    This week I mended 3 pairs of pants that were all ripped the exact same place – the saddle on my bike were torn a while ago and the tear had a sharp edge that cut into my pants when I was biking. My husband replaced the saddle with a used one we got from my in-laws, and I mended the pants with visible mending – I was quite pleased with the result. I have a lot more mending to do, but I find it hard to find the time and motivation, so I will just do it little by little I guess.

    For Christmas I got the books ‘Rainwater Harvesting – for drylands and beyond’ vol 1 and 2, and they are so good! I plan on using a lot of the information – I hope to get an outdoor sink that directly waters the garden through underground pipes – I will only wash vegetables, fruit, potatoes and flower pots here, to keep the water clean. I also plan to get a vinyl pipe and a small hand pump to be able to get the water from the bathtub to the garden – it should work via siphoning one it gets started – it will be very interesting to see if it works!

    I will start teaching my son at home one day a week. I’m very exited about this and figure that there are some competent people in here to ask if I need advice 🙂
    As I have mentioned earlier, teachers at his school have been absent a lot, and for three! years he did not have an English teacher (his first foreign language) – so this is one of the subjects we will concentrate on as well as science. I will start teaching him about the water cycle and have planned some experiments that I think he will enjoy using free resources from the internet, the library and things we already own.

    My husband has painted the room he uses as a home office. We had a lot of very old cans of leftover paint in the utility room that he opened to check. It didn’t look good, but we managed to paint the entire office for free and declutter the utility room at once! In one of the cans, the paint had dried considerably, but we put in some hot water and stirred vigorously. Afterwards we strained the paint in a very fine-meshed strainer to get out any clumps – it worked beautifully! Another can had paint that was split in the solids at the bottom and the liquid at the top. The liquid had turned dark brown (the paint was white). We poured out the liquid and replaced it with water (waterbased paint) – it also turned out fine! We felt very frugal, and were so glad to get a free makeover. He is also going to put up all the bookcases, that has been standing on the floor for years – it will be so nice when things are done.

    I hope things will work out for you Brandy – I’m impressed by how many things you do to make everything work out for you and your family – best wishes.

    1. Cam,
      I often salvage very thickened paint by blending it in an old blender I use just for that purpose and it comes out fine, and usually I don’t even have to strain it, but it is messy scraping it all out with a silicone spatula. I usually add a bit of Floetrol. If it’s a large amount of paint, I’ve also chucked an old beater from a hand mixer in a drill. I agree it’s very rewarding to save paint, and I never thought of pouring off the darkened liquid. I just have blended it up and used it in its slightly yellowed state. I’m glad to learn your trick

    2. UPDATE: Do NOT do exactly as I did (pouring out the darkened liquid part of the paint and replace all of it with water)! Some of the liquid we poured out was most likely binder, the stuff that makes paint stick to the wall. Our paint does not exactly ‘fall off’ the wall, but it is not as washable as before – so I think the trick is to replace some of the liquid with binder that goes with the type of paint you use and some of it with water – haven’t tried it though, so I don’t know the ratio.
      @Cara: thanks for your good advice, I hadn’t thought of using an old blender, but that’s a good idea. We thought about the handmixer/drill combination, might do that next time. I looked up Floetrol, and it looks really interesting, I might also try it to make acrylic paint flow better. I really appreciate your inputs!

  57. Brandy, welcoming people in their own language is such a heartwarming thing to do.

    Our extreme cold spell has ended. During the minus 35ºC (minus 31ºC) with wind chills of minus 42ºC,
    (minus 41.8 ºF), we stayed home. The natural gas and electricity bill will be high.
    Over the weekend, we had an emergency alert as our grid was maxed out. Almost immediately, people turned out spare lights, switched to using the microwave rather than the stove, delayed plugging in the block heaters until after the peak hours between 4 to 7 p.m. and delayed washing clothes. the reduction in usage was almost immediate and the problem overcome. Otherwise, we would have had rolling electricity blackouts of about half an hour each. Not good in minus 40 weather.

    I did manage to go outside each day for about 5 minutes and refill the
    bird feeder. I was amazed that the birds were still coming to the feeder, perhaps because although there was a wind chill,
    fortunately, we did not have much of a wind. Otherwise they would have stayed huddled for warmth.
    Co-op is having a sale on Scarpone’s beans (10 cans for $1, reduced from $1.79 each). I use a lot of the lentils so will try to stock up.
    Safeway is offering a $10 gift card if you buy $20 of Greenfield natural meat. I plan on freezing some of the meat. No Frills has a deal on Spam
    which I’ll buy a few to keep in my emergency pantry. I have been eating almost totally vegetarian meals for the past week.
    I have almost finished the long delayed photo albums. I will have a lot of items to mail so that’s a budgeted expense. A friend will take everything to the post office for me and I’ll pay her back. Because there is a lot of covid, rvs and flu at the moment and I cannot be vaccinated
    I am self-isolating (probably until spring). I really appreciate the help I get from my friends.

    The thing I sometimes need to remember is just because something is on sale does not mean it is a bargain if it is not truly needed (except for stocking your emergency pantry).

    Our residential property taxes are going up 7.8%. That is based on the assessment value which has also gone way up so the real increase will e even more. Th city is shifting th tax burden from businesses more to residential. Ouch!

    We have a federal carbon tax but individuals get a carbon tax rebate. I received about $600 in carbon tax, gst and other rebates. It will come in handy to pay the utilities bill.

    I listened to All Creatures Great and Small on an audiobook free on YouTube. It is really well-read. I resumed learning Italian on the free part of Duolingo. Previously I had learned about 5,500 words. If I had a vocabulary of about 10,000 words I’d be considered fluent. I would like to brush up on my French but I think my brain would confuse the two if I did both at the same time.

    I saved money by shovelling my own snow. I had shovelled before the extreme cold so did not have to do it during the extreme cold.
    Now that the temperature is going up we are going to get snow. I have a routine where I do it gradually over three days — first a path down to the city sidewalk, ten the city sidewalk, then the next day widening the path to clear the driveway, then the third day, finish the driveway. I do not lift the snow but just push it aside. If it were a really deep snowfall, I would hire someone to do it.

    Stay warm everyone.

  58. Brandi, although I’ve read your blog for many years (almost since the very beginning), I’ve never commented. You and your family have often been in my prayers. I want to thank you for all of the encouragement your blog provides to so many all over the world. Thank you, also, for the link you’ve added at the bottom of your blog. At age 62, with some experience making jams and jellies, 2024 will be the year to learn canning and I bought 2 copies of a canning/preserving book on your list: one for my house and one for our youngest son, who lives nearby in Arizona’s Rim Country. He grew up knowing about your blog and learning from it, too. God bless you. –Elise

  59. It has been so cold the last two weeks, that I did not do much.
    I worked 15 hours last week.
    We have had quite cold weather, along with windchills. We left water dripping in our kitchen sink for three nights. Also left the cupboard doors open and did not turn the heater down as much as normal. There is nothing inexpensive about frozen pipes, so our goal was to avoid them. So far, so good.
    I made homemade pizza, using my focaccia bread recipe and leftover sausage, pepperoni, and various veggies. Also used my homemade sauce that I froze from our garden last summer.
    I made a batch of spaghetti sauce in the crockpot and a batch of taco meat. We have been eating on that for the last little while.
    I made two batches of soup – one chicken tortilla and one Italian sausage and gnocchi. Great time for soup.
    I made a batch of blueberry muffins that we have been having for breakfast.
    I had a Dr. appointment, and she gave me a month’s worth of my prescriptions that she had in her office as samples.
    Dropped off library books, including books on CD and picked up new ones.
    Hope everyone has a good week, and stays warm.

  60. Thank you for your encouragement, Brandy. My company has taken a major financial hit and did a round of layoffs at the beginning of the month. I survived the lay off but my salary has been cut by 10% starting this month. I know it’s not much, but we are already feeling the pinch.
    My husband and I are doing Dry January and plan to keep going through Lent – not that we are big drinkers, but for both health and financial reasons, it makes sense. We are also trying to eat down our pantry. I’m not allowed to go to food shopping by myself anymore – I can’t resist a “deal” but we have plenty of food at home, so I need to be held in check. Instead, we are only shopping at the farm market in town to get plain yogurt (which we eat mixed with jam or use in place of sour cream) and fresh fruit and lettuce. Our chest freezer is full, so no more Costco trips until we can see the bottom! We are more aspirational-ly frugal than actually frugal, so hopefully this helps!
    I will keep you & your family in my prayers.

    1. Thank you for your prayers.

      Sorry to hear about the salary decrease.

      My 15yo was just told, along with another employee (a friend’s son) that they have no hours scheduled “until further notice.” Most places won’t hre until 16, so she will be applying for a new job then. She thinks they don’t have enough business to schedule the two of them; they had very few hours as it is.

  61. So nice you were able to receive free food. I am sure it was appreciated and useful!
    My husband was always in construction with very little work from mid November until spring. It was hard but we learned to save as much as possible when he was working. Hopefully your husband’s work will pick up soon. Hang in there!

    1. We are used to little to no winter income with real estate, but I try to always have savings to cover these months. With the ac and car situation, that was impossible this year.

  62. I love orchids! What a fun contest! My husband actually takes care of all of our houseplants, and orchids have been his favorite for years. I’ve bought him a few especially fun ones, and I adore seeing them bloom every winter when I’m missing my flowers outside.

    I love seeing other people doing pantry challenges in January. I find it’s a pretty common thing, as many of us need to cut back after a spend-y December. I remember when you used to have your “winter menus” and such, which I thought were really fun to look over. It’s always nice to get inspiration from others doing the same thing you are.

    We’re in full-on seed starting over here, so my weekly frugal wins had a lot to do with that, as well as some other bits and bobs. January will never be my favorite, but I’m thankful we’re at least halfway through, and the winter hasn’t felt too gloomy yet (it helps that we’ve barely even felt like winter yet here! just some light snowstorms is all). I’ve also been doing some more reading, which is my favorite pastime but which is something I hardly get to do for fun during the active flower farming season.

    Anyway, here are my own frugal wins for the week:

    1. I have a number of hardy houseplants, which I treat with benign neglect, but have never had an orchid. Are the ones often available in grocery stores worth getting? Do they rebloom once a year or so?
      My sister-in-law grows them so they grow on the trees in their yard in Florida. I am in a much colder place.

      1. Yes, get one from the grocery store! Look for one with several closed flowers still.

        They can rebloom once a year if properly cared for.

  63. I am at home snuggled in bed with a good book and my cat. The weather here has dropped to 11 degrees and tightwad me has been forced to turn the heating system on. In the last 5 years ,I have found that our mild winters require only 3 to 5 days of usage each year. This anticipated one week of use may add as much as $200.00 to my next bill. Two days ago I was sitting on the beach in Jamaica. I took my annual January cruise last week. As usual I used every savings tip ,I have learned over the last few years. My greatest savings hack has been the small inexpensive rolling cart I purchased to carry my bookbag on. I’m unable to carry my backpack without ending up with extended back pain. That one 25 dollar purchase has save me several hundreds in baggage fees and an uncomfortable vacation. I enjoyed my cruise on MSC. I have the opportunity to speak several languages as there are many nationalities on this cruise line. My children all speak Hindi and Urdu in addition to French ,Spanish and Italian. Today’s menu is a large pot of chicken chili. I will be checking out my favorite store today. After being away from home almost a month ,my refrigerator needs refilling. I anticipate rescuing many vegetables today. Last night I retrieved a box of rutabaga’s. A quick phone call revealed they were a favorite of a friends elderly father. I brought home dog food , Rug doctor bottles of pet odor remover and several bags of mystery items. I will need to go through the bags when I go to the dump today. The pet smell remover was welcomed by my daughter. She has a 6 month old kitten who is spraying. The beast has an appointment to be fixed but this is a horrible issue at the moment. Thankfully those 12 bottles will eliminate the odor. As they are quite expensive, they were welcomed. I’m nice and snug in my inexpensive thrift store purchases..I have wool socks ,hats and gloves for all cold weather needs. I even have little wool slippers. Over the year ,I have picked up items for 25 to 50 cents an item. I’m always so happy to pull something out of the drawers that I want and actually have it. I’m sad to admit my weight has become a problem. My thyroid seems to be settling down with some supplements I have added into my lifestyle. While on the cruise ,I put a dress on for dinner and it simply was too tight. Not a little, but horribly too small. So now, I have to focus on healing my body, but also losing weight. I am terrified by this ,as losing weight and dieting is what caused my medical problem in the first place. Now ,I’m off on to my daily Easter egg hunt. I’m hoping to find a happy surprise in a dumpster somewhere. Stay warm folks ,its cold out there.

  64. Muskegon, MI USA
    I am quite tired of shoveling and having to put on so many layers but very thankful that we are not experiencing the brutal negative temps other parts of the states have. Our temps are hovering around 8°F during the day. My hens are not happy about being cooped up! The windows are frost covered but thankfully so far none seem to have gotten frostbite and all are still laying, just not as frequently. I’m giving them daily protein boosts/boredom busters with freezer burned meat and leftovers or the eggs that have frozen. I often cook up a big batch of scrambled eggs with oatmeal. Bonus, I now have a good idea of what’s in the freezer and needs to be used soon!
    We have not left the house now in a week – the 4×4 we discovered last week doesn’t work. 2 wheel drive pickups are really no good when the roads are this messy. I don’t know how we’ll get it fixed. At least it’s still drivable.
    We had to renew our license plate tag and my driver’s license this month but were able to do it at a kiosk at the grocery store which saved us time and gas.
    We used our OTC benefit for $200 of canned goods and for the electric bill. This was a new way to use the benefits that they just started – before it could only be used for otc meds and supplies. We lose $100 of this benefit at the end of the month due to the increase in SS. The increase kicked us off from the Medicaid program we’d been on so now we will have less income than we had before the “increase” because of having to pay $45 everytime my husband needs to see one of his specialists.
    We too are mostly eating from the pantry and freezer. When we did our once a month shop, we had a very small list to just plug some holes in the pantry and stuck to that list.
    We are taking advantage of a pet food pantry to keep the dogs fed. We will be taking a break from dogs and probably cats once these pass on as it is becoming a real burden and constant stress worrying about keeping them all fed. I also now have a rescue bunny living in our basement (neighbors just let her go and I caught her before things got super cold) but she “pays” for her keep in fertilizer for the garden.
    I took stock of my seeds and it is pitiful – I have a big list of open pollinated plant seeds I’d like to get but I need to sell some un-needed items to pay for them.
    While digging for my snow pants I found 2 other pairs that are too small for me that will hopefully work for my DIL.
    I visited the free book “store” and found several more homeschooling and toddler/preschool curriculum books for my son and DIL.
    I’ve been ruthlessly purging my craft things, Christmas things as well as things that are still in boxes since our move 3 years ago. This has freed up some more plastic totes to safely store other items away from the mice in the basement. It’s actually been very helpful mentally to do – kinda freeing to let go of projects I won’t ever finish.
    Both my computer sewing machines are down so I’m sewing everything by hand til I can unbury my commercial Juki machine in the basement. I’ve mended a pair of leggings, a pair of jeans, socks, hemmed curtains and repairs tears in several bottom sheets (price we pay sleeping with big dogs who run in their sleep 😆) and I used old fabric found during purging to sew up more holiday gift bags for giving out my goodies in at Christmas time.
    I think that’s about all I can remember. Stay warm everyone!

    1. Melissa – You may know this but putting some petroleum jelly on your chicken’s combs can help reduce the risk of frostbite as well as making sure they have no issues with condensation in their house. Just thought I’d pass that along! 🙂

  65. –downloaded a couple of free sewing patterns–a pajama shorts pattern for women which is part of a Sewing for Beginners video series–
    –downloaded a free on Friday 15-inch doll dress pattern at

  66. Brandy, I have a question for you. What’s your secret for being so gracefully content? You seem to be adept at living within your budget while buying/ getting things what you could/ would use. I see no signs of deal chasing, hoarding or infinite ways of making money or going after more (food/ clothes/ things). You accept things as they are and make all kinds of lemonades!!! There’s no sign of wisfulness or complaining. Is it something you grew up with or is it a lifestyle that you chose? Either way, do you mind sharing the secret? TIA.

    1. I did not grow up with much money and am used to living within my means. I didn’t feel deprived as a child; I had what I had, and that was the way life was.

      My parents continue to set an example to me of hard work and frugality. My mother shopped at garage sales almost every Saturday last year, and our Christmas and birthday gifts (for both me and the children) came mostly from garage sales.

      I grew up with garage sale and hand-me-down clothing and furniture.

      My mom used to be an extreme couponer when I was a child. I didn’t know that; I just knew she couponed to save money.

      My parents bought a house when interest rates were 13%. My father worked on a salary and his hours were long. Work was 10 minutes away; he would come home for dinner and then go back to work.

      Even with all that, it took 3 weeks of income to cover the mortgage.

      All utilities, groceries, clothing–everything else had to come from that 4th week.

      And my mom made it happen.

      So I certainly have been taught well and to be content with what I have.

      I also learned to find ways to afford what I desired. That meant buying used and working hard, and making things myself. It meant working as a teenager and paying for my own clothing and makeup. It meant learning skills to do things myself.

      My mother had a store and I worked for her for many years. My father eventually worked there too, changing careers after many years.

      And they refinanced the house many time, eventually moving from California and making enough off the house to pay cash for a house here.

      I hope that my children learn the value of hard work and the importance of living withing their means.

      I think the worldwide economic situation is one in which we will all need to have those skills. The last few decades have had more wealth than people had historically, but it is said that the middle class is shrinking.

      I was speaking with a food blogger I know in Egypt the other day. She said the money she has made is now only worth 1/3 of what it was, and that most people are struggling to buy more than rice, beans, and flour, due to inflation.

      I know prices keep rising here; those posting from Europe and Australia are sharing the same.

      I think that we have to keep finding ways to cut expenses and make the most of what we have.

      I knew the water district here was planning to raise rates and cut amounts in 2021. They had announced it. I also saw the way food prices went up during Covid. I figurer they wouldn’t come back down.

      So with that in mind, we took that time amd the money the government gave out to redo the garden, reducing water usage and increasing food growth in the garden.

      And I put in some more flowers, too 😊 because I knew we would be here.

      I would love to travel, but my life is here, and I am determined to make it as beautiful as possible everyday.

      1. Brandy,
        I found your comments about growing up and being prudent very interesting. I grew up in a family with sporadic income
        it was very stressful at times but as my parents had grown up in the Great Depression I learned a lot about being prudent from them.

        1. Our income was regular for many years but high interest rates were very difficult.

          Many people in our neighborhood lost their homes during that time. My parents had bought a new house. The house across the street from us didn’t sell and sat empty for a decade.

          1. When the price of oil cratered in the 1980s, every other person on my street became unemployed. Many never were rehired
            in the oil industry, and many lost their homes. It is a boom/bust cycle that unfortunately we are all too familiar with. It is sad. For those of us on this blog who are encountering problems, do not give up hope. I love your comment Brandy that you are determined to make your life as beautiful as possible. I am sure you are grateful for being able to have roses and vegetables were elsewhere we have snow –– the snow itself is beautiful but not too edible.

            1. Thank you.

              My parents bought their house in 1980, and it was such a tight time for so many for years.

      2. What a beautiful testimony! Thank you for putting it into words. I am especially touched by your last statement—that your life is here, and you are determined to make it as beautiful as possible every day. This is what I want for my life as well.

      3. Brandy, thank you for taking the time to respond. What an insightful response! I think it’s great to have a parent/ sibling/ relative who shares the similar frugal mindset. Your mom sounds amazing!

  67. Last week we paid to have our heat pump repaired. This week: a leaking pipe under the house, just in time for the deep freeze to heat us here in the South. We are zone 8b and typically get down two or three days to this temperature and then we’re done. I get through it all by saying, Peaches, peaches, peaches. A reminder that our peach crops need these cold hours in order to produce.

    Not only are we paying for repairs, both house and car insurance are up for renewal. Ouch. I do have money set aside but it’s a hard hit to pay them out all at once.

    I am continuing on the pantry freezer challenge. I realized this month that it will be 5 weeks before our next check. I have about 1/3 of our grocery budget set aside and hope to hang on to it until next month when I’ll still have two weeks to go before a check. I have been buying only dairy and produce for use during this challenge but also picking up a few sales items to carry over for when it ceases at the end of this month. For instance, I knew I was low on green beans and ground beef, so I stocked up when I found good sales on those items.

    All in all, I have no reason to complain and shall not do so. We’ve always lived on a budget and we shall always continue to live on one. I know that it is doable, and am willing to do whatever it will take.

    Happy harvest this evening, I had a second growth of lettuce come up after my initial harvest and anticipating the extreme freezing temps we’re in for, I harvested it all. I should have enough for two decent salads for us. I also pulled all carrots of size and brought them indoors. My 4yr old grandson wanted to take some home, so I told his mom to put them in his school lunch tomorrow. I harvested a bit more than a dozen carrots.

    I made vegetable soup today and have two quarts to go into the freezer. All from stuff on hand already. I also made bread this afternoon and pizza dough and my own pizza for our lunch.

    Like others I cook three meals a day five days a week. On the weekend we go out to eat for one meal and bring home leftovers, so we get two meals from that. We don’t go to movies or shop for fun. My husband asked if we could plan to eat out and I’ve made that happen by tweaking our budget. We order water and don’t have appetizers, but we get what we want to eat.

    I am very grateful for the work Brandy does here and the community we all have. I am an ‘old-hand’ when it comes to frugal things but I almost always find something that triggers memory of a forgotten method or something new I’d never thought of that works wonderfully well. Thanks to a mention by Brandy, I added water to a lotion bottle that had lotion but was too low for the pump to work. When it got low a second time, I added water and drained it from the bottle into a wide mouthed jar that I can get my hands into easily. I had a full cup of lotion! Little things like that add up to dollars. I postponed opening a new bottle of lotion because I have enough now to last another month or longer.

  68. *As others have mentioned, you look spectacular in your black outfit. I have several vintage brooches from my grandmothers and from thrift store treasure hunts over the years and love putting them on a sweater or coat. Yours are lovely!
    *Here in the mountains of western NC, we are in the midst of colder than usual temperatures, like many of you. Single digits at night and about 10″ of snow outside and still falling. Makes me even more grateful for our wood stove – not only the heat it provides but the warmth from bringing it in the house from the wood shed. My husband found a great deal on a heavy duty sled last year (the kind used by hunters to transport a dear through the woods) and it works perfectly for bringing the wood up to the house through the snow and is a fun and healthy way to enjoy some free exercise.
    *Had a funny situation with the chickens yesterday. It was snowing lightly but hadn’t accumulated much while they were out foraging. Like all chickens, it doesn’t matter how many acres they have to roam, they want to be on the porch of your house. 🙂 Normally, this is fine but, as they were hanging out there and close to the house, the snow began to fall more heavily until it was deep enough they didn’t want to venture out in it (they will if they have to but it isn’t their favorite thing.) So, my sons and I ended up carrying each one of them down from the porch one by one to their house through the blowing snow till they were all tucked up and cozy for the night. Silly birds! We have applied petroleum jelly to all of the roosters’ combs and waddles as well as to those hens with large combs. It helps to prevent frostbite. We also are making sure they have plenty to eat and fresh water. I also found some suet cakes with apples and mint in them at our local feed store the last time I was there for a really inexpensive price and stocked up. The chickens are all getting some of them to give them more fat, stay warm and to prevent boredom while indoors more than usual. Anything we can do to keep them healthy and comfortable during this colder-than-typical weather. The bees are tucked up with insulation on top and tar paper around their hives – again, a little insurance to help them come through the winter healthy and ready to go in spring.
    *Like everyone else here, it seems, we are eating from our stocked food with as minimal shopping as possible. Only thing we purchased this week was B1G1 free miniature bagels as my boys like to make little pizzas out of them. I make my own pizza dough but this is a quicker and easier option for them when I am otherwise occupied. Both of my boys have been practicing cooking more and my oldest has been taking on the job of cooking for the family on Saturday mornings. I find the more they help with cooking, the more aware they are of preventing food waste and using up leftovers. All good things plus it’s fun cooking with them. I have recently taught them to make homemade chocolate syrup which is SO much better than store bought and cheaper, too.
    *Found my cat’s food at our local feed store to be cheaper currently than where I usually purchase it. Another reminder that staying on top of current prices and not assuming things are as they always have been is helpful when saving money.
    *Priced some more items we had on hand to sell at our neighbor’s booth at the antique shop. More things out and money in is always good.
    *We now have a ceiling in our mudroom! Next will be to paint (with paint we have on hand) and rehang the hooks for coats. I also plan to paint a table I have in that space with paint we have from another project. Working on it a little every day and using what we have is getting it done.
    *The snow is keeping us home this week which saves a bit on gas. We never lack for things to do and our days can take on a more leisurely pace which I don’t mind.
    *I have read your blog for many years now, Brandy (I think when my oldest was a newborn so over 12 years?) and, if there is anyone who can manage uncertainty it is you. I hope that experience encourages you as much as you and the others in this space encourage me.
    Hang in there, everyone! 🙂

  69. Thank you all for the comments about our daughter. What a wonderful group of strong, compassionate and innovative women! So grateful for Brandy and each of you.

    Take care.

  70. I have been eating from the freezer and pantry as much as possible. Our meals this week: 1. Frozen cubed ham, fettuccine. oodles, and a white sauce
    2. 2 servings of lasagna I froze at Christmas. I got out two slices of cheesecake but the cheesecake was freezer burned tasting, so I atleast got it out of the freezer
    3. I froze tomatoes as they ripened all summer. I took out 8 gallon bags of tomatoes and made pizza sauce to can. I got 14 half pints canned and froze 3 containers of the tomato juice I got off tomatoes before juicing. I will add it to beef stew when I can it
    4. 2 containers frozen red beans and rice beans that were leftover. I made rice and a box of Jiffy muffins. and used 2 frozen eggs in the box recipe.
    5. sausage and potato soup. White bread toast.
    6. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips.
    7. spaghetti and garlic toast on white bread
    * I threw away a few items I thought we would use, but have sat and began to get freezer burn. I will do tw9 other areas in the freezer where I stick stuff. A couple were mystery items.

    I had a $10/$50 coupon for BJs so i went the day before the big snowstorm. I filled my car with gas. I clipped coupons for Excedrine, dish detergent, Tide, Parmesean, Olay Face moisturizer, Ziploc bags, and bought potatoes, carrots, and grape jelly. We have made our initial cost of membership back, $45, with an initial $30 coupon and two $10/$50 coupons.

    The only other groceries we have bought are bread, and milk, and my husband got a box of cereal and has been eating a bowl every single night, lol.

    We cleaned the garage yesterday while he was home because of snow and ice. I made a sell pile to list when roads are safe. We moved the heat sensor to the family room. With temps from 31⁰ to 3⁰ the heat pump was kicking on. He noticed it was a lot colder near the thermostat in the hall, so he moved the sensor. We run the fireplace when sitting and it heats the room well. I got laundry and cleaning done before the storm. TVA is asking people not to wash clothes, dishwasher, use oven, during most of the day.

    We drive 5 hours to a funeral for my husband’s cousin in law. My daughter was working so we just came home after. I did have 30 minutes to see my best friend since 1st grade. She lives in the same town so I met her and we had really good Mexican. It was part of a gas station, but so good. I got a chicken quesadilla for $5.99. God had favor on us with no rain or traffic all 10 hours driving. On the ride my husband surprised me bringing up that he wanted. to pay off the house. We have 25% going into retirement funds. He wants to back it down to 15% and put the rest on the house. I told him as a woman that makes me feel so much more taken care of to have house paid over a huge amount I can’t withdraw without a large tax bill. We plan to meet with an advisor and make some further plans and get advice.

    1. We were advised to invest our money rather than pay off the house. We continued to invest but a lot less and decided to pay off the house (worth about 1.7 million), I have absolutely no regrets in owning a paid for house. It is a huge peace of mind. Plus, for some reason we are not advised to borrow against the paid for house and invest that borrowed money, why not, it’s the same thing!! I’ve never understood why financial advisors often advise to invest over paying off a house but not borrowing against a house to invest.

      1. Nancy, a financial advisor earns nothing when you pay off your mortgage, but they typically earn a % to manage assets. It’s a conflict of interest; typically, the more you invest, the more they make.
        Not to be cynical, but this is often the reason.

    2. When my father passed away, my brother and I inherited my grandmother’s place. We sold it and each took half the proceeds. My husband is the ‘big’ money manager but he asked what I’d like to do with the proceeds. I wanted to do three things: tithe, buy a chair and ottoman that I would enjoy sitting in, and pay off our home. He agreed to all three. There were many other things we might have done but he knew that paying off the house was very important to me. When we went to the bank and told them what we planned to do, the manager leaned across the desk and said very very quietly, “I’m supposed to recommend you invest it here in CD’s and in a moment, I will, but personally, I think you’d be very smart to pay off your house!” Then she sat up straight and said, “We’ll be happy to help you invest this, to which my husband said “No thank you.” lol

  71. Brandy, your financial situation sounds very challenging & yet you are at your absolute most resourceful & you continue to bless others living in difficulty. Your attitude is refreshing. I pray that your pantry, resourcefulness & frugal mindset carry you through this difficult financial time. I have reread your old posts & they continue to motivate & inspire. We now have a 1 year old & I have been blessed to stay home with her despite being until then the main earner. My husband & I have not changed our frugal mindset & continue to receive blessings in many ways & maximise our resources & financial situation. Winter is always a harder season with heating costs & now financial hikes on every product & service but we think & talk about how we can frugalise each aspect & do our absolute best. I hope your financial situation improves greatly. Thank you for your honesty & for motivating others across the pond in Ireland.

  72. It’s been a great frugal week in Houston!
    The kids were out of school for MLK day, then got a cold-weather day off on Tuesday, due to ice on roads. We’re just not equipped to drive on the ice here. A local church was having a “snow” day, where basically they used a giant ice chipper machine to cover their yard in ice/snow. It was a lot of fun! The kids got free hot chocolate, which was delicious. I love finding fun, free things to do around here.
    I moved the baby’s clothes into a dresser I got for free; he had just been using a laundry basket. This is probably a little more difficult, but at least it looks nicer.
    I found a Kendra Scott necklace that my daughter wanted for $10 on a Facebook buy-sell site, which she bought using some babysitting money.
    Our Randall’s had boxes of 5 dozen eggs for $6. I only bought one, since I’m a little short on fridge space, at the moment.
    I see that the Mexican grocery store has dried pinto beans for .50/#, so I may buy some. I still have a ham bone from Christmas.
    I bought a 50# bag of old fashioned oats from Sprouts using an old raincheck, for .50/#. They said they couldn’t give me the 10% bulk discount since I was using a raincheck, but $25 for a 50# bag of oats is still good. Now I just need to transfer it to my buckets.
    Packed food from home when we were out running errands.
    I stopped at a McDonald’s to let the kids play on the playground on a cold (for us) day; I enjoyed a $1 soda and the free wifi while the kids played on the indoor playground. It was a nice break.
    I didn’t do much shopping this week, but we’ve been fine. I’ll probably pop in the store this afternoon for some produce.
    One of my classes was cancelled due to low enrollment, which leaves me only teaching one (online) class right now. They paychecks will be smaller, but at least I won’t have to pay for childcare.
    Have a nice week!

  73. Are you aware there are button shut off valves for showers? My mother and father in law have in on their shower head which was the first place I ever saw one. The idea is you get wet in the shower, stop the water at the shower head and soap up, then turn it back on. The water is still the perfect temperature and you don’t have to turn it all off and on again at the handle. They are cheap on Amazon and save water. They are especially helpful for when you want to shave in the shower and not wash off all your soap and not waste water.
    Shut Off Button

    This is one listing, though I don’t have this one it is similar.

    We saved by cooking all at once for everything that required the oven ahead of the big snow storm. We have been snowed in for two full days and off work. Found out my work is paying us anyway and not requiring us to use PTO which is a huge blessing. Such a good employer. They also are giving us hazard pay for working while the snow fell Monday which will be appreciated as we will likely have a higher gas and electric bill soon.

  74. That orchid is so pretty! And how wonderful that you could speak to so many people in their own languages, to make them feel welcome.

    We had several days of very cold weather here and even had some snow. It only lasted a day before melting, but it was certainly pretty to look at. I was glad I could stay in the warm house, though, and admire it through the windows. I dressed warmly and used extra blankets to avoid turning the heat up. I dug out an old comforter to put on the bed and also found a throw blanket I had forgotten about, which has come in handy as a lap blanket for when I’m watching TV or reading.

    I have not bought anything this past week. I’ve been eating from the pantry and using up all leftovers. I cooked a big pot of beans and froze some. I had a big baking day and froze some of what I made for later.

    This time of year is always a lower income one for me, too. I’m glad to have the encouragement of this site and all the commenters when trying to make do with less.

  75. Hello Brandy & fellow frugalistas!!

    Brandy, I always love your posts, especially on Instagram. I am sorry to hear about the financial struggles your family is undergoing.

    ** I am blessed. I have a well-paying job with the ability to pick up overtime if I need. That said, I’m a 51 year old RN. I’ve been one for over 1/2 of my life now. I have chronic back pain issues due to issues with my lower spine. It literally takes me 2 days to physically recover after working two 13 hr shifts in a row. I work in an adult ICU at the small hospital in the town where I live. It has been super busy lately. Our ICU is constantly full. Plus the emergency department is holding anywhere from 10 to 20 patients in the ER awaiting beds on the inpatient floors and ICU. Why? Because there’s just not enough nurses to take care of all of the patients and we can only safely care for so many patients at one time per nurse. It’s like this at most hospitals in the US right now.

    **Flu/RSV and Covid are filling up our hospitals. I still wear a mask even though I’m not sick & I’ve had all my vaccines. I wear one to protect myself & my patients if I might have something that I don’t want to pass on to them.

    ** Had to take my 19yr old son( my only child) to the orthopedic surgeon last week because his left knee that he injured during his senior year of high school football that ended up with a grade 2 MCL sprain in that left knee Was bothering him again. The surgeon thinks he actually tore his meniscus. His left ankle is also bothering him because apparently he rolled it during a pick up basketball game last summer. And his left ankle was swollen so he got two brand new braces one for his knee and one for his ankle. The doctor prescribed physical therapy for him and steroids so we will go back in six weeks and if his left knee is still bothering him, then the surgeon will repeat the MRI. If he does have a tear in his meniscus, it will likely require surgery and then he would not be able to work for numerous weeks. Which would likely cost him his job because he does not qualify for FMLA because he has not been at this job for a year and his job does not have over 50 employees. He is severely worried about these injuries, hindering him from becoming an Ohio state trooper, which is his goal. He could have gone to college after high school when he graduated in 2022 because he definitely has the intelligence to do so but that’s not the path he chose to take since he wouldn’t know what he wanted to major in and there’s no sense in wasting money on college when you’re unsure. However, if he cannot get into the state trooper Academy next year, then he will have to consider other options.
    ** I have been doing a lot of cooking from home recently. On Friday I made spaghetti with ingredients already on hand. On Saturday I made a pot of my chicken enchilada soup as per request of my RN coworker because it was her last night on night shift before she goes back to dayshift. Everybody loved it and it’s so easy to make in my Insta pot. Also made a big pot of chili with cornbread from the Jiffy mix, that are like 0.50/box. Makes just enough for me and my husband. Plus, we always share our extra food with my in-laws. My husband took them over some of the enchilada soup that I had left over which I brought home from work and spaghetti and then some of the chili. Because there’s plenty of food in that way my mother-in-law doesn’t have to make a separate meal for my father-in-law because she’s pickier in regards to what she will eat and will not eat .
    ** as it has been in the Midwest, with the cold spells it’s been -4 here in Northeast Ohio, where I live. I dress warmly at home, and we have two comforters on our bed.
    ** I pretty much stay home on my days when I am not at work. I play with my puppy a 11 month old PooChon, that we got last year. Yeah, I bought him but trust me when I say that the money that I spent in purchasing the dog was money well spent because this little doggy has improved my husbands and my own mental health greatly. We also take him over to visit my father-in-law because my father-in-law absolutely loves dogs and the dog that he and my mother-in-law used to watch for our neighbor had to be put down last year due to health issues and I just felt that by not having a dog around that it would push my father-in-law who had many health issues in 2022, including open heart surgery, would put him in a deep depression. My in-laws don’t live far from us so anytime we can, we take our dog over to visit my father and mother-in-law. Plus, they also help out by watching the dog when we need to run out for several hours to go grocery shopping or even for a date night. Our dog spent New Year’s Eve with my in-laws while my husband and I enjoyed a rare night out.
    **ate dinner at Applebees, using GCs we got for Christmas
    **got a $10 GC to Dunkin Donuts via my RN union for Nurses Week last year but somehow, somebody forgot to givr me mine back thrn mobile. I added it to my DD mobile app. I don’t get takeout coffee often. Only when I have a GC. My son got me a Starbucks gift card for Christmas so the next time I go there I will use it to buy my favorite beverage.
    ** watching Northern Exposure because I do have an account for Amazon prime because I order many things from there. Especially shoes for my son who has a size 16 foot. I got him a new pair of sneakers for Christmas in his size from Amazon. I told him to send me a link to what shoes he wanted and he did and then I had them shipped directly to his house because he does not live with me.
    **bringing coffee from home in my Stanley mug. They are ALL the rage right now. The price I spent on the Stanley mug, literally ends up, saving money, because the cost of the mug is like the cost of four Starbucks coffees.
    ** Bring my own lunch & drink to work every night. Sometimes it’s leftovers from the day before and addition to a sandwich because I will eat the sandwich at the beginning of my shift because I literally wake up get ready and then go to work without eating anything and then I have my larger meal later on during my shift.
    **Still waiting to find out what my husband’s inheritance will be from his late-uncle’s estate. His uncle passed away in Dec 2022 due to Covid pneumonia. The uncle was also a local teacher in one of our school districts down here and had many different investment and CDs so that’s all still being worked out. My husband helped take care of his uncle during the last years of his life. Keeping him in his own home & prevented him from being placed in a nursing home, which would’ve wiped out all of his savings, taken his home, and all of that kind of stuff.

    Sorry for the long post. Hope everyone has a wonderful frugal week!

    1. Kelly, thank you for telling us about the situation in hospitals right now. I know a couple of nurses and one is working in another state right now keeping two households (her husband has stayed here). I appreciate the insight into the situation and it makes me want to be both more supportive of both of them, and also a LOT of more diligent about not getting sick!

      1. Yes, hospitals are full across the country. We have had patients getting discharged from the ER because they could never get a bed on one of the inpatient units. I had Covid at the end of September. I know I got it at work. Yet, I got written up for missing work even though employee health told me I could not come to work if I was testing positive, which I was. Also had to use my own sick time to cover the 36 hours of work I missed.

        I could make more money if I were to become a travel RN. But I prefer sleeping in my own bed every night & I only live 4 miles away from the hospital where I work.

    2. Kelly sounds familiar, here in NY our hospitals are packed- boarding in ER etc
      Been a nurse 40 years and done triage telemedicine since 2015…. was working in hospitals for 30 years and I have not seen it this bad- we have always had a nursing shortage but this is unusual and not looking like a solution anytime soon
      There goes my hopes of retirement lol
      Take care

      1. There’s no shortage of nurses. Theres a shortage of nurses willing to work bedside because of the unsafe staffing situations & the danger nurses face every single shift. I felt safer working in a prison than I do working in my local hospital.

  76. Brandy, you look so beautiful! You have such a timeless, classic style!
    It’s a very tight month at our home! We have some large bills that are due every January, our dryer just broke and needs a new motor, we have a new driver with very expensive car insurance, and trip to pay for. My son has a chance to perform at Paris Disneyland with his High School band this spring. It’s very expensive but we couldn’t say no to such a wonderful experience. January is an “almost” no spend month. We have a delivery of local milk every week that I have kept. We are only buying the necessities and produce. My online business has been very slow this month. I sell toys mainly to collectors and for hobbies, people don’t have money for that right now.
    My Frugal ways have included:
    Eating out of our pantry and freezer. I made chicken noodle soup using frozen pieces of chicken from Thanksgiving. (We have chicken instead of Turkey), homemade bread in the bread machine, homemade pizza using frozen homemade pizza sauce and homemade dough from the bread maker.
    Nachos using leftover frozen taco meat from the freezer. The guys in my house were complaining that there were no good snacks left. I had homemade cookie dough in the freezer, so baked up some chocolate chip cookies. They were very happy! Snacks are low again, so time to bake.
    *It has been cold and snowy here, so haven’t gone out much. That’s a huge savings on gas.
    *I needed some graph paper for a project. I found an old math workbook of my son’s and cut the graph paper out.
    *I was given a Euro $5 Bill through my local Buy Nothing Group. Free money for my son’s trip, and it was within walking distance to pick it up!
    *My Mom recently moved across the country. I got to choose from the things she didn’t want to take with her. I received a beautiful pair of new loafers, a sweatshirt, a few bowls, enough foil and plastic wrap to last years, garbage bags, dryer sheets, laundry detergent. She donated most of her food to a local free pantry, but she gave me some frozen steaks and salmon.
    *We are doing a 90 day 1000 item declutter challenge in our house. So far, we have donated over 200 items. It’s such an improvement to get rid of all the little things that clog up drawers and cabinets. Now, I know what I have. To me, it’s frugal because I can make better use of the things I have. We have found some real surprises in our kitchen. Things that we forgot we had, but are excited to use!
    Hope everyone stays warm this week!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. It is encouraging to know that others have a tight couple of months right now.

  77. Well, it’s mostly what I DIDN’T do! This year I have started an unshopping list, where I list all the things I want to buy and… don’t buy them. So far I have not bought such items as a new bread knife, rennet to make cheese and new cycling gloves. (I need a solution for that last one as my fingertips get absolutely frozen, but I only cycle once a week and I’m trying to figure it out with things I already have.)

    My grandmother died a few weeks ago and we have all her stuff in my house while my mother and I sort through it. We have been able to pick out quite a few nice-to-haves to keep so far. My favourites are the small games (dominoes, tic-tac-toe, etc) that I used to play with her all the time, and a tiny little melamine tray that she used to use multiple times a day to carry her tea/coffee and meals from her kitchen to her dining table. I think of her every time I use it.

    We now live far from a library but I have fifty new books from her collection, so I hope my book expenditure this year will be £0! In moving house recently I have also rediscovered many old favourites and some new-to-me books my husband bought some time ago that I can add to my enormous to-read pile. It’s exciting to shop your own house!

    I have decided to focus on increasing our income rather than cost-cutting for a little while as we are still finding new things we really do want/need for our new house and garden. I have a few small online businesses selling digital or print-on-demand items. One is doing very well, the others not so much. So I am putting some time aside to look at what’s working and what isn’t and have a big list of new ideas for products to make and list to see what there’s a market for.

    1. Suzie, so nice that you have meaningful little keepsakes from your grandmother! Even tough we miss our loved ones who passed away such things make the everyday cherished more. Your cycling glove problem reminded me of my daughter who lives in Brussels and rides a bicycle everywhere. She simply wears socks on her hands, two pairs if needed. She said she finds gloves too fancy and I am not sure what to think about that 🙂

  78. I love your pictures this week, Brandy! With frigid temperatures and snow now entrenched here, it is nice to see things growing! I am sorry your husband has no work at the moment. It makes things such a struggle. We are still eating from our pantry and freezers. We have lots and I will only venture out for some milk and juice tomorrow, along with a couple of other small chores in the area. I have cash on hand and gift cards so none of it will cost me any money.

    We have continued to be blessed by our two local free groups. I picked up a new with tags scarf for my son that I have put away for next Christmas, a set of four Corelle dinner and lunch plates in a new pattern to us, a chocolate bar and a box of chocolates, a large bag of food that included bagels, hot chocolate bombs and lots of small snack sized items like crackers, granola bars and instant oatmeal, a bottle of gingerale syrup for the Sodastream and a package of candy canes. My mom also sent us home a box of corn flakes that she would not finish. All of this really helps our budget. I have also been doing surveys when I can to earn Amazon codes to use for food items.

    We have been told our water rates will be going up over the next four years so we are actively using as little water as possible. I now consistently have a dishpan of water on the counter to rinse dishes lightly before going in the dishwasher. We had to have our dishwasher repaired last month but thankfully it was not too expensive.

    We are keeping our heat at 65 in the day, 63 in the evening and 62 overnight. I wear warm sweaters in the day and keep moving and in the evening and overnight warm blankets do the trick. We do have several electric fireplaces and will put them on briefly in the evening to warm things up if we need to. They are powerful and a short time really makes a difference.

    Hope everyone has a peaceful week.

  79. Such beautiful photos. I love your brooch. Those are fun to wear both horizontally and vertically, but my favorite is to wear it pinned at the throat on a collar.

    Money is really tight, as usual, but fortunately, not experiencing the cold that most of the country is. I continue to turn the heat on only in the morning to take the chill off the house, then leave it off unless very cold. We had a few nights of freezing temps. Growing up, we always had the heat turned off at night, and as an adult, my thermostat would only go down to 55, so that’s what I set it overnight. Having it turned off like when I was a kid has made me really enjoy snuggling under a bunch of blankets. I forgot how nice it is to snuggle under piles of blankets. Especially when you have a warm cat that constantly snuggles. To take the chill off in the evenings, I have an electric throw blanket I sit under on the sofa if I’m watching TV. I’ve been keeping the house so cold that my room temperature butter is as hard as if in the refrigerator.

    With the cost of bread $6+ a loaf I’ve decided to go back to baking my own bread. My concern was getting bread to rise in such a cold house as I don’t have a light I can turn on separately in my oven or any of those tricks. I settled on an idea of using a heating pad and an online friend told me she’s tried it and it works! So excited to try it, a cooling rack sitting over a heating pad and a cardboard box over the top instead of. $250 proofing box!

    I returned a garden pot I got on sale at Home Depot, I was going to repot a small lime tree gifted to me as it’s dying and don’t know what else might save it. It’s only 2 ft tall, but it’s been yellow for some time and now with only two leaves left seems a lost cause. It’s times like this I wish I could ask mom because she had a very green thumb. She landscaped our entire backyard from cuttings. Meanwhile, the lime tree I got at Costco several months back is in bloom.

    Growing up going to garage sales and making all our clothes, it wasn’t till I was adult mom told me we couldn’t afford otherwise. Frugal was normal to me. When I got married and my husband was going to toss out foil after using it was the first time I learned not everyone washes it and folds it to be reused next time.

    Brandy, thanks for putting your affiliate link on your new posts. I always go through you when I buy anything off Amazon and appreciate not having to hunt for the link. It makes me feel less guilty for not buying local too.

    I continue to use the library and be grateful for the miracle of free education and entertainment it is. I once heard Ray Bradbury say he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of his local library. He was able to rent a typewriter at $.10 an hour, or was it a day? He was a big library supporter. I’ve been enjoying them on audiobook lately. Great for helping my dry eyes.

    Tomorrow I pick up groceries to make chicken enchilada soup. I’d forgotten about that recipe and am eager to make. Will be able to eat off it for days. So many orange trees with fruit in the neighborhood. Now that my neighbor’s house sold, and they took out the fruit trees, thinking of knocking on someone’s door to see if I can trade some of my meyer lemons for oranges.

    My car insurance is up for renewal and though when I stopped working had them lower it to the lowest mileage I could get, saw it was renewing based on my driving 30k miles per year…way over what I drive. I will be calling my insurance company to get it lowered. It pays to check!

    Brandy, you inspired me the other day when I went to the Mexican market. Been going there for years, but it was the first time I thanked the checker in Spanish. The smile lit up her whole face and was the first time I’d seen it. Such a small, but powerful thing. Thank you for sharing.

    Sending warmth, frugal thoughts and prayers for all who need them during these tough cold months.

    1. Ahh, that makes me happy to hear that about speaking Spanish!

      It’s such a simple thing, isn’t it? And people are so grateful.

      I remember being in France in a room full of people, and there’s a certain lonliness that comes when you cannot communicate with others. A hello in English really made me feel welcomed. I try to do the same for others as I remember how it made me feel.

      The smiles from others are so worth it!

      Concerning the oranges: I bet someone will take you up on that offer!

    2. Maria, if I need to leave my bread to rise and my house is too cold, I’ll turn my oven onto the lowest temperature it allows, let it preheat for 5-10 minutes, then turn it off and set my dough in the warm oven. Works really well! I also set it on top of my clothes dryer if I’m drying a load, as the top of the dryer gets warm. Lately I have been using Emma Fontanella’s easiest no knead bread ( that I start before work and leave out to rise all day, then bake when I get home. It seems to rise well regardless of the house temperature.

  80. I wanted to comment about the fact that you have learned to speak another language plus you have learned to say some basic greetings in other languages so you can speak with refugees! This warms my heart so much. I have learned to say some basic greetings in Farsi and Punjabi. It amazes me how such a simple act can bless others so much. It has given me opportunities to share a gospel tract at times when it opens up a conversation as to how I learned those words in their language. I wish we had a ministry to refugees in our town.

  81. I learned a valuable money saving trick this week. When you sign up for a free week or month of a streaming service cancel it immediately. This doesn’t cancel your free trial period, but you won’t forget to cancel it and get charged. I used to mark my calendar to make sure I cancelled before my credit card was charged, but this works so much better.

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