Monday, May 31, 2010

May Wrap-Up & June Goals

Here we are at the end of May. These monthly updates come much too soon for me as I never manage to accomplish all the tasks before me, but I did OK this month.

First a huge Hallelujah! for DH's temporary job as a Census worker. The hours are flexible, the pay is good, and DH has been enjoying the work. The paychecks filled "the gap" in May and we were able to pay everything on time and the credit card remains with a $0 balance. We also received a grocery gift card and had our food all paid for the first week of May which were both a huge help.

My goal was $100 for groceries, but I spent $147. This was a conscious decision to do some bulk buying instead of just "survival" buying as I have been for several months. For example, when pasta was $.75/box at Fred Meyer I bought ten boxes knowing I would use five for my freezer meal swap in June. I also found markdown pie crusts for $.99 and decided to buy enough for another freezer meal swap. Chicken Pot Pie is so ridiculously easy and delicious if the crusts are already made. I also bought a case of organic macaroni & cheese at Champion Foods because they were $.83/each. Usually I would only buy a few boxes at a time. So this bulk buying increased the grocery bill a bit, but overall I feel pretty good about $147, especially considering how full the pantry is and how prepared I feel for the freezer meal swaps coming up.

I didn't sell anything on ebay, but I did sell a book on I started to look a few things up on ebay this month, but I think many of the 'potential' ebay items will just end up in the garage sale pile.

I also got a good start on the Spring Cleaning, but it has been slow going. This rainy, cloudy weather is a major downer for me and I haven't been very motivated to work on any of my projects. I'm so looking forwad to a sunnier and more productive June!

I only used the dryer ONE TIME in May. We were out of town the first week of the month. We had a beautiful week the 2nd week of May and I was able to get all the laundry caught up (including bedding) which was excellent! We had one super-sunny morning the next week which allowed me to dry four loads of laundry before the afternoon rain started and those clothes have tided us over through about 10 days of rain. I used the dryer once this week because one of my kiddos wet the bed and I didn't have time or cooperating weather to dry the thick, waterproof mattress pad. But just that once the whole month is pretty good. Unfortunately I have full laundry hampers, a full diaper pail, and waning supplies of clothing in dresser drawers. I'm hoping for at least one solid day of sun this week!

When we get our electric bill for this month I'll be sure to post about the impact using the clothesline intead of the dryer has made.

I still plan to post about chickens and a series on how I grocery shop - so look for those in June. I did finally post about making your own bread, cloth wipes, and the big deal with drugstores.

Goals for June:
  • $200 Groceries - This includes a trip to Costco
  • Sell 1 thing on ebay - I'm lowering my goal so it's more achievable. =^)
  • Finish the Spring Cleaning
  • Blog posts about chickens, spring cleaning, & how I grocery shop
  • Again, use the dryer less than 5 times.
Thanks for reading and taking an interest in our survival!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Big Deal with Drugstores

Over a year ago I discovered the "drugstore deals" method of shopping. I knew that sometimes the Sunday ad had some pretty good coupons for Walgreens & Rite Aid, but I didn't know to get those "free" items that were sometimes advertised. What are Register Rewards? What are SCRs?

The best tutorial I've found is by Charlene at My Frugal Adventures. She explains -in detail - how to get the deals at Walgreens and Rite Aid. Check out her "Drugstore 101" tab to find those great articles. Even better, Charlene posts every week about the deals you can find at drugstores combining the store coupons with manufacturer's coupons and sometimes mail-in-rebates. Her blog is awesome if you want to chase those drugstore freebies.

Basically, here's how I get the Walgreen's deals: First I go to My Frugal Adventures to check out the deals. I do this early in the week because sometimes the drugstores don't keep much stock. I decide which deals I'll shop for and use the links to print coupons. I'll also go through my manufacturer's coupons and the store ad to find the coupons I need for this week's shopping trip. Then, I take my list and my Walgreen's circular down to the store and start shopping. When I check out I make sure all the Register Rewards coupons print. These are those advertised deals that say "free after register reward." If the Register Reward doesn't print, you don't get the item for free so make sure the RR prints! The RR coupons works like a Walgreen's gift certificate, but it's only good for 2 weeks. Again, if you don't use the RR before it expires you didn't get that original item for free. The difficulty here, obviously, is that you have to keep going back to Walgreen's to use your RR. If I don't see any deals I want to use the RR for in the two week expiration period I'll go and buy the store brand sleep diapers since those are reasonable at regular price. There are lots of rules & tricks about number of coupons allowed and if you can "roll" RR for similar transactions. Check out the tutorial at My Frugal Adventures for more details.

Basically, here's how RiteAid works: Find a list of the deals online and decide which ones you want to pursue. Again, I recommend going early in the week. Next print your coupons & make sure you have everything you'll need for your shopping trip. When you're at RiteAid you make your purchases, using all the coupons, and pay the coupon price. You will request your Single Check Rebate after you leave the store. If you want the really good deals that are advertised at the "after SCR" price, you MUST save your receipt. When you get home you log in to your RiteAid account, which is very easy to set up, and input your receipt date and a long code at the top of the receipt. The software figures out all the SCRs you qualify for and accumulates your total all month. Once a month you can request a check the pays out the total of your SCRs. Again, check out a more detailed explanation at My Frugal Adventures.

Most of my couponing friends prefer the RiteAid deals to Walgreens because you get an actual check from RiteAid that doesn't have to be spent at RiteAid. You generally wait until the SCR period ends (usually around the end of themonth) to request your check, then it arrives in 3-4 weeks. You also have to be sure you don't lose your receipt or forget to log it in on the RiteAid site to redeem the SCRs. On the other hand, Walgreens gives you the RR immediately and you don't have to wait a long time to get your 'money' back. You also don't have to remember to record your receipt online later. But you have to spend your RR at Walgreens within 2 weeks. So check out those tutorials and find out what seems like it would be better for you. Then give it a try.

A word of caution: When I first starting shopping these deals I had a great time getting free or almost free toiletries, diapers, & cleaning products at drugstores. Then I realized it was using lots and lots of my time between traveling, sorting coupons & researching the deals online so I slowed it down. Over the course of several months I accumlated a huge supply of toothpaste, deodorant, & shampoo (and I still have most of it stockpiled a year later), so now I only head for the drugstore when the deals are really ridiculously good. I save myself a lot of time & stress by picking & choosing to go only on those weeks when the deals are worth the effort.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Shopping Deals

I saw a great post on Bucktown Bargains that included lots of great coupons if you're doing some clothes/mall shopping this weekend.

Those printable coupons include:

Abercrombie & Fitch - 20% off
Calvin Klein - 40% off shorts & polos
Carters - 30% off $40
Coach - 20% off
Express - 15% off 1 item
Juicy Couture - 30% off
Lord & Taylor - 20% off
Peebles - 25% off 1 item
Stride Rite - 25% off
Yankee Candle - Buy 2, Get 1 free

Click Here to find those printable links.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

$100 Chase Checking Account

I saw a great deal on the MoneySavingMom blog yesterday.

If you open a checking account at Chase Bank by Friday, May 28th you qualify for a $100 bonus from the bank. It looks like you have to set up direct deposit or use the debit card 5 times to receive the $100 after 60 days. Chase free checking requires etiher direct deposit or at least 5 uses of your debit card in a 30 day period.

This offer is for new Chase customers only, but it's worth checking out since it's such a big bonus. You have to ask for the $100 voucher from this page. They'll send it to your email address & you'll take the printed email into your local branch.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Menu Plan - Out with the old.

Now that the pantry has been thoroughly cleaned out I am left with a number of items we must eat very soon because they are past their 'best by' date. Luckily I've been using many of these items the last few months as part of the pantry challenge, but there are a few lingering things.

As I was cleaning out the pantry I also sorted & organized my spice cabinet. I had a good idea, if I do say so myself, while refilling several jars. I made a list of "overstock" spices and taped it to the inside door of the spice cabinet. I don't want to keep buying thyme, for goodness' sake! I have enough thyme to last a lifetime - how often do you use thyme anyway?

Another discovery in the spice cabinet were seasoning packets that are long past their 'best by' date, as well. Seriously, do spices even go bad when they're in airtight envelopes? I'm sure that's what I was thinking when I accepted expired spanish rice seasoning from my Grandma back in 2004 . . . and what compelled me to keep it when I moved to this house in 2007 . . . and what convinces me I can still use it even though it "expired" in 2002. I hope to be inspiring and encouraging with this blog, but if nothing else I'm OK if you just feel better about yourself knowing you're not as bad as the crazy lady planning to use spices that expired 8 years ago.

I have lots of groceries just now and we'll be out of town a few days in the near future so here's the two week plan:

Monday - Chicken Milano with pasta (spice packet 4/2009)
Tuesday - Beef Enchiladas (Enchilada spice packet 7/2003)
Wednesday - Cheesy Chicken Casserole (cream of broccoli soup 6/2009)
Thursday - Stuffed Bell Peppers (spanish rice spice packet 3/2002)
Friday - Cranberry Chicken (cranberry sauce 4/2007)
Saturday - Fajitas (spanish rice spice packet 3/2002, fajita spice packet 9/2006)
Sunday/Monday - Leftovers for DH
Tuesday - Beef Stew (need to use up carrots & potatoes)
Wednesday - Sour Cream Chicken (chicken broth 4/2010)
Thurs/Fri/Sat - Out of town wedding
Sunday - Something from the freezer



Spring Cleaning - Pantry

So it took three days, but the pantry is all cleaned and organized. The girls loved helping with this task. We started at the top emptying one shelf at a time and wiping down that shelf. Then we put things back in using a little more organization. The top shelves are for tupperware & appliances, the next two shelves are for food. The next shelf for incoming craft items & the floor for heavy food items. I had hoped to have a discerning eye regarding what to keep & what to get rid of, but I actually found very little I could part with: Mostly a few pieces of Tupperware that are rarely used or redundant.

A few other finds: The infant head rest from a friend's baby swing that I returned several months ago (didn't even know it was missing), 17 empty plastic bottles from ketchup, syrup & salad dressing, a big can of chili & a box of 8 wine glasses I had completely forgotten about, and one nice discovery - I have tons of great serving dishes & hostess stuff. I should have people over more often.

My personal goal for this space was to clear a shelf that could eventually be used for my craft supplies. Currently these are all housed in the garage and I would absolutely love to get my paper crafting stuff inside and more accessible. Also, I needed to clear space on the floor for some bulk food that is coming in and the canning jars that I'll be filling up come end of summer/fall. Mission Accomplished!

Here are the before and after shots:

Now that it's organized I am hoping to limit my food purchases to what fits on the "food shelves." The heavy canning jars and bulk food that are in bins ie. flour, sugar, oatmeal, rice will have to be stored on the floor. All other food purchases will have to fit on the two other shelves, including the ridiculous cereal deals that will be coming this summer. It's a huge pantry and even this much space allotted to food will allow a sizable stockpile.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Champion Foods - Organic Mac'n'Cheese

I was at Champion Foods in Issaquah yesterday to pick up diapers and I found some other good deals I thought I'd share.

The diapers, of course, are a great price. There aren't a ton left and you have to go into the extra "room" in the back corner of the store to find them. I have been buying packages of 24 in size 4 and 5 for only $2.50. They are generic and not awesome for overnight, but they do the job well enough for me.

They also have tons of organic boxed macaroni & cheese right now for $1.00 a box. This is a great price on it's own, but you can get a case of 12 Back to Nature white cheddar/shells for only $10 which works out to $.83ish per box which is really excellent.

Champion has a lot of chips & snacks right now, too. They range in price from $.25 for snack size to $1.00 for full-size organic blue tortilla chips. I picked up a few bags of chips since we're always out and the price was right. Now I'm looking forward to some easy nacho lunches for our kiddos in the next couple of weeks.

Another great find for summer are the Cool Fruits popsicles. They are like otter pops but all natural with 99% juice. 14 pops are only $1.00 and these keep in the pantry until you're ready to pop them in the freezer. They have boxes of grape/cherry or apple/strawberry. We have had these before and love them. Moms keep in mind these are only 23 calories per pop so they're a good snack for you, too. Heads up that the grape flavored ones are yellowish from green grapes and your kids might not expect that from grape.

Other Champion staples I usually check for include spices (many for $1.00), pasta, dried fruit, teas ($2.00/box) and cupcake liners ($.90).

One of Champion's consistent suppliers is PCC so they usually have a great selection of organic and gluten free items. They also package many bulk grains, spices, pasta, dried fruits, and nuts. It's worth the trip to check them out.


Friday, May 21, 2010

You Can Garden, Too!

Our garden has been planted about 3 weeks now and it's doing great! My friend Ruth, who I gardened with last year, even came over and said it looked really good so I am feeling pretty encouraged by that.

Everything seems to be coming up with the exception of the cucumber plants that I purchased for $1.50 each. They didn't survive that week we were out of town so I went to the store and bought a couple more and I also picked up two zucchini plants. I had lots of tiny zucchini starts, but they didn't seem to be thriving ouside so I am supplementing with the two new plants.

The small, struggling zucchini:

Don't these new zucchini plants look so much better?

I will probably be kicking myself in August as I figure out what to do with ridiculous amounts of zucchini, but some pretty plants make me feel better today.

I am pleased that the peas and green beans are also flourishing! These ones started from seeds and are just growing like mad.

Green beans:


If you have a pot and a sunny spot I'd recommend just giving one of these a try. They are super low-maintenance and will delight your kiddos, too. It's not too late to start! I planted peas, beans, & lettuce early on purpose in hopes that I might be able to replant in July & get a double crop. You could wait a couple months to start and probably still get a small harvest in September.

Plants have been so inexpensive at $1.25 to $1.50 on sale this year that I am considering if starting from seeds is even worth it. Ruth tells me that she has never seen plants this inexpensive this early in the growing season though, so perhaps I'll just give seeds a try again next Feb/Mar and we'll see what plant prices are like come May.

I'll keep you posted on the garden as the summer progresses since I'm so excited about it and won't even be able to resist posting.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Free Movies & Books this Summer

I just saw a great post on the moneysavingmom blog about summer freebies that reminded me of some great ones around here we did last summer.

Half Price Books has a great program called Feed Your Brain where kids under 14 can earn a $3 gift card each week they read for at least 15 minutes per day/5 days a week during June & July. That's potentially $27 per kid! Go here for details and here to print the required reading log.

Regal Cinemas also has free movies on Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10AM for ten weeks this summer. It's first come, first served so be sure you're on time or early! DH [Dear Husband] took Eve to a few of these last summer and they had a great father/daughter time. They show one rated G and one rated PG movie each morning. They run at the same time on different screens. Here's a schedule for Crossroads in Bellevue (where DH will be taking our DDs [Dear Daughters]). Check here to see if your neighborhood Regal Cinema is participating.

Rugrats In Paris (G)
Kung Fu Panda (PG)

Wallace and Gromit (G)
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (PG)

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (G)
Monsters Vs. Aliens (PG)

Doogal (G)
Hotel For Dogs (PG)

Muppets From Space (G)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (PG)

Muppets Take Manhattan (G)
Aliens In The Attic (PG)

Tale of Despereaux (G)
Coraline (PG)

Pirates Who Don't Do Anything (G)
Astro Boy (PG)

Charlotte's Web (G)
Planet 51 (PG)

Rugrats The Movie (G)
Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs (PG)

DH and I try to be really careful what our DDs see, and I know some of these titles are definitely not what we would consider appropriate for our own kids. Check out their content on a rating site before assuming it's safe for your kids. Go here to see one of our favorite family-friendly review sites.


Spring Cleaning Update - Playroom

OK - Some of you who commented or emailed to tell me I was crazy are totally right. I significantly overestimated my abilities to move through a spring cleaning plan on a schedule of one room per day. I am still committed to working through room by room, but am accepting 3 or 4 days per room is OK! I am pregnant with 3 littles already underfoot after all.

So far I've only finished the playroom. I ended up with a big box of toys to get rid of and the girls agreed they were all toys they could let go. A huge accomplishment all by itself!

Here are before and after pictures.

I washed the window inside, dusted and used furniture polish on the wooden claw couch feet and the wood trim. I vacuumed and moved all the furniture. I haven't washed the curtain yet, but I'll do that with the kitchen curtain on another day when I decide to make time to iron.

Next up the pantry!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cloth wipes

I have been cloth diapering for 4 1/2 years with a small, glorious break of about two months between by 2nd & 3rd children.

I hadn't heard of cloth wipes until about two year ago. How did I miss this? I thought it was a great idea and immediately emailed two of my fellow cloth diapering friends. They both responded with an email that basically said "Duh" very nicely. Hm.

Well, in my typical style, it's taken me two years to figure out how to make cloth wipes work along with my diapers when it should have taken me two days.

I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on this project so I got resourceful. I am using an old disposable wipes tub to soak the wipes each day. The wipes are the old baby washcloths I had in the kitchen for my first two kids. I didn't buy any ingredients to figure this out, so don't feel like you have to.

I tried 3 different solutions:

  1. Plain, hot water - A friend of mine uses plain water for her wipes. She is very conscious of protecting her expensive cloth diapers and the directions on them indicate that no oils should come into contact with the diaper. So she just uses water and finds it works just fine. This is likely the most simple and least expensive solution. I found it also worked just fine, though I liked method #2 a little better.
  2. Water with tea tree oil - Another friend uses a solution of of 1 c. water, 2 drops tea tree oil, 4 drops lavendar oil, 4 drops vitamin E, 2 drops California Baby baby wash. I didn't have lavendar, vitamin E, or baby wash so I just went with about 8 drops of tea tree oil. This friend also says a big and lovely side effect of her solution is that the wipes keep her diaper pail smelling like lavendar and tea tree oil instead of soiled diapers. I also noticed an immediate difference when I used the tea tree oil. I couldn't say I smelled the oil, specifically, but I definitely noticed there was less diaper smell.
  3. Wipe Beans - Someone gave me a sample of Sammy's Wipe Beans to try in Cranberry Fig scent. Basically you just dissolve a bean in 1 cup of hot water and you have a wipe solution. I loved that this was super easy. I didn't love the smell. I might liked it more in another scent. You can check out the beans I used here.
So for now I'll stick with the water & tea tree oil, but if I find lavendar oil somewhere at a good price I'll sure give it a try, too. Please let me know if you have a good source for that.

Here are some other tips from my friend, Cheryl, with my editorial comments:
  • Try to find pure, essential oils for your solution - not synthetics. This is going on your baby's bum, after all.
  • If you have a wipe warmer, go ahead and use it to keep your solution warm.
  • You can make up several days' solution at a time and just use what you need each morning when you're changing your first diaper.
  • A day's worth of wipes for Cheryl's baby is 6-8. A week for my kiddo has been more like 3, 3, 10, 10, 10, 3, 3. It all averages out.
  • You don't need special washcloths. Use what you have and figure out what you prefer.
Sorry this post was a long time coming. It took much longer than I thought to try out all these methods. I am so thankful for you readers, though. I know that my two year intention could easily have stretched into "never-got-around-to-it" if I wasn't aware of and motivated to tell you my experiences in this area. So thanks for reading!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meal Swap - Pineapple Sirloin Skewers

Last night I had my meal swap again. I am so excited that we now have 8 members again! One gal sat this round out, but I still came home with 6 meals which makes all the effort of producing meals in bulk more worthwhile than the last two time when we only got 4 meals.
This time I purchased my ingredients because my freezer is so low on supplies. I looked through the grocery ads and decided to make Pineapple Sirloin Skewers because both pineapple and sirloin were on sale at Fred Meyer. I also had to buy skewers, soy sauce, and fresh garlic. Here is the recipe:
1 8 oz can of pineapple chunks
6 T. soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. vegetable oil
1 t. ground ginger
2 t. minced garlic
1/2 t. pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless sirlong steak, cut into 1 # cubes.

Drain pineapple, reserve juice. In a small bowl combine juice and all other ingredients not including meat. Reserve at least 1/2 cup marinade for basting & serving.

Pour remaining marinade in a large, resealable bag and add beef cubes. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and discard marinade from beef. On metal or soaked skewers, alternately thread beef and pineapple chunks. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side or broil 4-6 inches from heat source, basting frequently, until beef reaches desired doneness. Serve over rice with remaining marinade.

This recipe was a challenge for me in the mathematical sense. I was making 7 meals to include 8 skewers each. I knew I needed to put at least 4 chunks of meat and pineapple on each skewer. I had to be sure I was preparing enough chunks overall, so I figured out I needed 4 per skewer x 8 skewers x 7 meals. That's 224 chunks of each. Can you imagine me counting out food bits in my kitchen?
I started with the meat. I had purchased the biggest package of petite sirloin I could find. It included 8 steaks. I quickly calculated that I needed each steak to make at least 28 chunks of meat. The steaks were of varying sizes, but I decided rather than try to make everything the same size from all the steaks I would just keep my sanity and make sure each ended up in 28 chunks.

Next I started on the pineapple. I purchased whole pineapples, sure that at the $2 sale price it would be less expensive than cans. You can imagine my horror when I saw (the same night I had purchased the pineapples) that 8 ounce cans were only $1 each. I could have purchased 7 cans for $7 instead of 5 pineapples and a separate can of juice totaling over $12. Worse I had all the labor involved with cutting up the pineapples. Can you say "kicking yourself?" Yeah.
I had never cut up a pineapple before, but watched my SIL cut one while we were in Hawaii. I started by cutting off the ends:

Then I 'shaved' the sides vertically to get a skinless pinapple.

I tried two ways to slice it. The first was in horizontal rings, then chunked from there.

The seconds was to further slice it vertically.

I had to call my aunt to ask about the core and if it was supposed to be cut up, too. After her istructions to leave the core out, I decided the vertical slices were easier to both remove the core and count chunks. Vertical slicing makes 8 symetrical pieces that are easy to multiply.
Then I threaded the pieces onto the skewers and voila! Pineapple Sirloin Skewers.

Well, not quite voila. These were supposed to be packaged for the freezer meal swap, but the gallon sized Ziploc bags I used would only fit about 5 skewers before they wouldn't close anymore. My not-so-brilliant solutation was to just poke the pointy end of the skewers out of the bag so 8 would fit. There wasn't excess marinade so they weren't too drippy. Oh well.
The total price for these came to about $4.60 for each meal.
Meat: $12
Pineapple: $10
Pineapple juice: $2
Soy Sauce: $3
Other spices: $2 total
Skewers: $3
Total: $32ish or $4.6o each for 7 meals.

e n

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Menu Plan

I need to use some chicken stock up this week and I'll be getting 6 new freezer meals tonight so I need to be mindful of my freezer space, too. Here's the plan:

Monday - Italian Sausage soup, salad, bread - sausage, beans, chicken stock, bread from freezer
Tuesday - Pork Chops, veggies, rice (didn't end up making this last week)
Wednesday - Basalmic Chicken, potatoes, salad - freezer meal
Thursday - Lasagna, salad, garlic bread - freezer meal & bread from freezer
Friday - Chicken in sour cream sauce over rice, veggies - chicken and chicken stock from freezer
Saturday - Beefy green chili enchilada casserole - freezer meal
Sunday - Chicken Cordon Bleu - freezer meal

Lunches are tricky still because I am out of so many staples
Monday - leftover taco soup
Tuesday - hot dogs (packed lunch)
Wednesday - grilled cheese
Thursday - pb&j (packed lunch)
Friday - leftovers
Saturday - pancakes
Sunday - TBD

Menu planning has made such a big difference in the time I spend cooking & shopping. Very rarely do I have last minute trips to the store or get stressed about what to make. I just follow the plan and save myself time and worry. Give it a try!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Resourceful way to label sippy cups

Have you seen these personalized bands for sippy cups? I have seen band labels like this before and think they are a clever idea. They are $13 for a 4-pack so not too expensive, but definitely an extra in our budget.
A few weeks back in the church nursery I saw a resourceful take on this idea (Cheryl's idea). I decided to try it out. It's certainly narrow and not as sturdy as the thick store-bought band, but it does the trick and my kiddo's little fingers didn't dislodge it. Pretty slick for a produce rubber band and a ballpoint pen.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Spring Cleaning Plan

Okay - time to stop procrasinating! I told you in a previous post how terrible I am about keeping up with the housework and that I had a plan to Spring Clean. I am finally going to do it. EEK!

Here's the plan, room by room. I tried to assign the room with many task to days we'll be home as opposed to 'lighter' days when we might be out for the morning. I am also listing the tasks in priority order.

For each room I will complete a list of tasks including washing the curtains and/or blinds, washing the window, dusting, using wood polish on wood furniture, vacuum moving all furniture, touch up paint, wipe down trim, outlet covers, and knobs, spot clean the carpet, and keep a trash can and garage sale box handy for whatever comes my way.

Day 1: Outside Windows

Day 2: Playroom (afternoon)

Day 3: Kitchen (home all day) Empty and wipe out upper cabinets, dust above cabinets, move fridge to vacuum behind & under it, Empty and wipe out pantry shelves. Think about what I'm putting back into the cupboards - do I need it and/or have I used it in the last 12 months?

Day 4: Dusting/Living Room (afternoon) Cobwebs in the whole house, including vaulted ceiling in living room, dust china cabinet & clean glass shelves, clean out table drawers, hall closet, and if time, update framed photos.

Day 5: Kitchen (home all day) Empty and wipe out lower cabinets, wipe down all cabinets (myself on upper, kids on lower), wipe down pantry doors, move microwave and scrub underneath it, and clean out track for sliding glass door (gross!). I have already cleaned the oven, defrosted the freezer, and run the dishwasher with vinegar.

Day 6: Eve & Naomi's room (afternoon)

Day 7: Joanna's room (afternoon)

Day 8: Master (most of the day at home) Clean off dresser and both nightstands, if time clean out dresser and nightstands. Vacuum under bed & in closets.

Day 9: Bathrooms (afternoon) Clean ceilings & light fixtures, empty & wipe out cabinets & trash cans, wash shower curtains.

Day 10: Laundry room (afternoon) Move dryer to vacuum around hose, ask DH to check hot air vent in crawl space, empty & wipe out cabinets, go through ironing basket

Day 11: Linen closet (afternoon) Empty & wipe shelves, organize

Day 12: Hall closet & kitchen (home all day) Empty and organize closet shelves, scrub kitchen chairs & barstools on the deck if the weather is nice (supposed to be rainy the first 2 kitchen days).

Day x: With DH whenever he can do it. Tidy garage, clear off dining set, seal deck, fertilize lawn, change furnance filters.

Phew! It's going to be a crazy couple of weeks. I'll do my best to keep you posted with honest photos and hopefully, my progress.


Blog Update: Recipes and Resourceful Tips

Just to let you know, the links at the top of the page go to pages that give you more information about the blog or a bit more of a table of contents to browse.

Specifically, I've updated the Recipes and Resourceful Tips pages that act as a bit of a table of contents. Speaking of recipes...

Check them out:


Wednesday, May 12, 2010 deal - Today Only!

There's a good deal running at I wanted to share. I don't have personal experience with the site, but my parents have used it with success.

Here's how it usually works:

You buy a 'certificate' on the website for $10. The certificate entitles you to $25 off your bill. What's the catch? You have to spend at least $35, usually. You also have to print the certificate out after purchase so be sure your printer has ink and is set up to print!

Here's the deal:

Through May 13 only, if you use the code ENJOY at checkout, you get an 80% discount on many restaurants. That means only $2 for the $25 certificate.

A word of caution:

Choose well-established restaurants. If they go out of business, you're out of luck. Also, be sure your printer is ready to go!


Fred Meyer Founder's Day Sale

I've had two people remind me about the Seventh Generation products on Sale at Fred Meyer this week, so I'll go ahead and post about the good deals this week.

The Founder's Day Sale is sort of a summer kick-off every year with major sales in almost every department. This year is no exception. I usually check out the Fabulessly Frugal blog for the Fred Meyer deals, and these are my favorites this week including some from that site:

Sale Prices

Mangos & Medium Avocados $.50 each

Whole Pineapple $2.00 each

Pink Lady Apples $.98/lb.

Refrigerated Dressing BOGO Free
$1.00/1 Marie's Coupon if you sign up for the mailing list here
$1.00/2 Lighthouse Coupon if you sign up for the mailing list here

Sirloin Steak, 93% Extra Lean Ground Beef & Boneless, Skinless Fryer Breasts $1.99/lb.
*Safeway has frozen bags of boneless, skinless chicken breast this weekend for $1.69/lb.

Kellogg's Cereal $1.67
$1.50/2 coupon here

Seventh Generation products 50% off
$1.00-$2.00 off coupons here

Coupons in the ad:

Barilla Pasta & Hunt's Pasta Sauce $.75 each

Tree Top Juice $1.50 each
$1/1 Tree Top coupon from 4/18 SS
or $1/2 Tree Top printable

Other Deals:

Vegetable Plants in 4" Pots $1.25 (My cucumbers didn't take, so I'll try again)

Coupon: Free Cover Girl Mascara with purchase of another Cover Girl product (I need eyeliner, so this a good time to buy & pair with a manufacturer's coupon)

All Barbie Dolls BOGO Free

Happy Shopping!


Monday, May 10, 2010

Menu Plan

We've just arrived home from our trip and our refrigerator is pretty bare. However our inside freezer and pantry are still pretty full. I am going to focus on freezer meals this week for two reasons:
  1. My meal swap is coming up again soon and I'll need room in the freezer to put my own meals when I make them and to put the arriving meals after the swap.
  2. I am focusing on some financial projects this week and don't want to spend significant time in meal preparation or shopping.
Last night - breakfast for dinner
Monday - meatloaf & red potatoes/salad
Tuesday - garlic parmesan chicken/salad
Wednesday - beefy enchilada casserole/salad
Thursday - bbq beef sandwiches/fruit
Friday - leftovers
Saturday - chicken enchiladas/salad
Sunday - pork chops/rice/veggies

This makes my shopping list pretty lean. I'll need to buy lettuce, bananas, whatever veggies are on sale to top the salad, whatever fruit is on sale, and milk. I'll check the adds to see if there are any screaming deals I shouldn't pass up, too.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Resourceful Traveling - Food

Another financial challenge while traveling is the cost of food. No matter where or how you travel, food is a necessity!

We try to employ three basic rules of thumb regarding food when we travel:
• Take as much food as we can
• Buy groceries instead of eating out
• Find places to eat out that give us the most 'bang for our buck'

Our least expensive trips in regards to food are trips to visit family in their homes, particularly our parents. Both sets of parents generally plan on feeding us and have already purchased groceries by the time we arrive. We try to help out by bringing foods we know our kids will require (like baby formula, jar food, kid snacks, etc.) because we don't want our families to buy special, specific to us food. We also don't want to have to pay full price for this kid food when we already have it at home in our stockpile and we got a great sale price on it. If we are driving to visit family we will bring along a cooler with things from our fridge to contribute the week’s groceries, too.

Our favorite way to vacation is in a timeshare condo unit where we have a full kitchen. We can significantly reduce our food expense when we have a kitchen to prepare meals for eating in instead of having to pay for a restaurant. We plan ahead, packing as many non-perishable groceries as we can in our suitcases, and buy other meal ingredients at a grocery store when we arrive. My family travels this way all the time and we take it step further and bring our own meat & cheese along in soft-sided coolers. If the meat is frozen solid it usually is still frozen when we reach our destination, even if it’s a six hour flight with airport time on either end.

In January DH and I took our daughters to Disneyland. We stayed in a timeshare with a full kitchen and brought almost all our food. I packed and checked a duffel bag with diapers, crackers, pasta, spices, box dinners, baby food, cereal, peanut butter, jelly in a plastic squeeze bottle, salad dressing etc. I also used lunch-sized soft-sided cooler to bring along 3# of ground beef, a brick of cheese, 1# butter, 1# bacon and a package of hot dogs. We purchased yogurt, bread, produce, and milk when we arrived. We had some friends join us and they brought groceries, too. All told that week DH and I only spent $22 on groceries. Our duffel bag was empty on the way home so we didn’t have to check it and the lunch-sized cooler we used every day for our lunches in Disneyland – which mostly consisted of sandwiches, crackers, & fruit.

The most expensive trips related to food are when we have to stay in a hotel. The first thing we look for in a hotel is obviously price, but a quick second is a complimentary continental breakfast. One meal included in the price of the hotel room is a great way to save on food cost. We also look for a fridge or fridge/microwave unit. This allows us to buy a few groceries including microwave dinners which are much cheaper than eating dinner out! We also find out where the nearest fast food restaurants are and which have $1 menus. If we have to eat in a traditional, dining restaurant we try to share a meal or take home half of our meal to reheat in the microwave. Many times we can find a good restaurant deal or coupons at the hotel or by contacting the Chamber of Commerce ahead of our trip.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bread Week - Breakfast Casserole

I was able to use one final loaf of bread in this breakfast casserole:

15 beaten eggs
1 pound breakfast sausage, cooked (I used one big loop of turkey sausage)
1/2 pound shredded cheddar
10 slices of a small loaf of white bread (recipe calls for 7 standard slices, I subbed 10 of these smaller slices)
I also added 1/4 cup of green onions and bacon bits since I had them in the fridge & needed to use them up.

Preheat oven to 350
Pour beaten eggs into lightly greased 9 x 13 baking pan
Combine cooked sausage, bread, and 3/4 of the cheese in a separate bowl

Pour mixture into the pan with the eggs
Top with remaining 1/4 cheese
Bake covered at 350 for 20 minutes, then 20 more minutes uncovered until the egg is solid in the center.

I wasn't home when this caserole finished baking and I forgot to take a picture prior to putting it in the oven, so I took a picture of it cooking. Overall it was pretty tasty, though I'd recommend using salt & pepper to taste as the recipe doesn't call for any spices. If you're using a spicier sausage no additional spice may be needed.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Bread Week - Bake Your Own

My friend Meredith has been baking her own bread for over a year. She doesn't use a bread maker machine, but just bakes loaves in her oven. Meredith says it's really fast and takes her less than five minutes to get it into the oven each night. She is able to get a sweet deal on bread flour bought in bulk and her husband figured out that it costs them only $0.15 per loaf to make!

The recipe she uses makes a big batch that you store in the fridge for weeks and make individual loaves as needed by pulling dough off the mass in the fridge.

Here is what Meredith says about the recipe:

"Don't let the instructions scare you as they are so long and detailed, it really is easy! Instead of 6 1/4 cups bread flour, I use 1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour and 5 c. bread flour plus the other ingredients. I finally got a big enough container so last week I doubled the recipe yielding 6 loaves. I am sure it mntions it, but the dough last 2 weeks in the fridge, but it will never last that long without being made into bread, at least not in my house! This is one of those things that once you do it, it will totally make sense." She also mentions that while she now has a pizza stone, a cookie sheet worked just fine, too.

I haven't tried this yet, but I am definitely planning on it! How could I not try out something that could potentially only be $0.15 for a loaf of bread?


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bread Week - Olive Crostini

Olive Crostini is an extended family favorite and both Eve & I love it. We were able to use two full baguettes with a double recipe, too, so it's a tasty treat while using up the bread overload.

Olive Crostini:
- Makes approximately 24 toast
1/2 c. black olives
1/2 c. green olives w/pimento
2-4 cloves medium garlic
1/2 c. grated parmesan
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsely
4 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. grated montery jack cheese
1 baguette (sour dough, sliced at angle, day old is best)

Chop olives coarsely in a food processor. Transfer to medium bowl.
With machine running, drop garlic through tube and mince. Add parmesan, butter, & olive oil.
Process into paste. Add butter mixture to bowl with olives.

Fold in monterey jack cheese and parsley. Mix well.

Lay out bread slices on a baking sheet.
Spread each slice generously with olive mixture.
Cook under broiler until bubbly & light brown.

To double just use a full jar of green olives and a full can of black olives. You'll have about two cups together, though not exactly half of each. You can freeze whatever portion of the olive mixture you don't use.
Give it a try - you won't be disappointed!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bread Week - Bread Crumbs

Another way we used up bread recently was to make bread crumbs. I make several recipes that call for bread crumbs, either to line a pan or to sprinkle on top of a casserole. If I make one of those recipes for a meal swap I use a lot of bread crumbs so I thought it would be worthwhile to use some of the bread in this way.

I did a little research and found out there were two types of bread crumbs. "Fresh" bread crumbs are from fresh bread that has been food processed into crumbs. These add a lot of texture to dishes depending on size. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

There are also "dry" bread crumbs. These are the type you buy at the store. They are very small and fine. If you want to make these type of bread crumbs you bake slices of bread at 300 until they're very dry, then you process them into very fine crumbs.

I went for the "fresh" bread crumbs.

I used the whole wheat loaves since I found out they don't make great croutons. First I cut them into chunks of 1" or less. My friend Sarah recommends 3/4" or less.

I processed them up in the food processor until they were a reasonable bread crumb size.

Then I put them in Ziploc Gallon bag so they store flat and don't take up much room.

Voila! Bread Crumbs!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Resourceful Traveling - On the Flight

DH and I always try to economize while traveling. One of the challenges with air travel in recent years are all the new fees and all the cost-cutting measures airlines have implemented. Meals and/or snack boxes are an additional cost on board and headphones and/or individual movie players have hefty rental fees. The biggest challenge for us is baggage which I talked about yesterday, but keeping our "extra" spending down at the airport & on the flight can also be a challenge.

We always bring empty water bottles and sippy cups through security. Once we're cleared we stop at a water fountain and fill everyone's bottle so we have something to drink on board. We bring plenty of activities and snacks as well so we're not tempted to shop at the airport convenience stores or restaurants. Once in awhile I'll treat myself to an airport latte, but the line is usually long and the cost inflated so it's a rare indulgence.

On our flight this trip the snack boxes were $6 each and the hot meal offering, pulled pork over rice, was also $6. Both were small and for DH and I, definitely not worth the money. We were on a six hour flight with all of our daughters aged 4, 3, and 11 months so we definitely needed to feed them. We also had the challenge of flying from about 4:30 to 10:30 PM PST so it was right through the dinner hour. We opted to pack a variety of snacks in large quantities instead of trying to pack a real "dinner." The girls did great with something new to snack on every hour or so. Goldfish crackers, Ritz crackers, baby carrots, cheese, pecans, and the airline provided cookies did the trick. Our older girls were also delighted to get to receive juice and in one case, a Sprite, from the flight attendant. Both beverages are rare treats at our home. Our arrival in Hawaii was planned for 7:30 local time so we thought we'd get $1 hamburgers or chicken nuggets as soon as we left the airport. This would have the added benefit of helping the girls acclimate to Hawaii time. Things didn't go as planned though and the girls fell right to sleep when we got in the car so we skipped the fast food and got them to bed.

The entertainment on our flight was offered in the form of individual media players at a cost of $12 each. My seatmates ordered one and said it had seven movies available and a few TV shows. They were able to get an extra set of headphones at no charge and enjoyed two movies together during the flight. DH and I knew we didn't have $12 to spend on entertainment so we skipped this one, too. Instead we brought along several toys for the girls that were quiet and time-consuming. DH and I handled most of these activities while I sat across the aisle with a very tired baby on my lap who refused to sleep. A big thank you to DH who patiently supervised a learning time with Eve where she practiced letters on her small Magna Doodle and Naomi busied herself with magnetic paper dolls. We also brought along rarely seen coloring books and a box of crayons that is easily shared. Thanks to Grandma Janet for this great box that holds 16 crayons that snap into place. The box splits right down the middle so it's easy for the girls to share and the crayons don't go rolling all over the place. We had some small books, puppets, flashcards and a few baby toys. Many trips to the bathroom and a forced quiet rest helped pass time, too.

I will be honest though and admit it was a long flight. When the captain announced we were halfway there I was so disappointed! Only half-way. But we survived and only left one item on the plane which we were able to retrieve - phew!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Resourceful Traveling - Baggage

We don't live near family so we frequently travel to spend time with them. Often that travel includes flying and packing suitcases for both long and short visits. Over time the airlines have created more stringent baggage policies and we have made adjustments to keep costs low.

When we were first married each ticket holder was allowed 2 checked bags, 2 carry on bags, and one personal item. The only fee was for a bag over 50 pounds or additional checked bags. At that time we could also buy a seat at half price for a child under age 2. We also frequently were able to use an empty seat for an infant car seat if the flight wasn't full.

Now we aren't allowed any checked bags without a fee, and can carry on only one small bag and one personal item. We also have to pay full price for any seat, so small children remain lap babies for us until their second birthday. There are almost never empty seats on flights anymore, so lap babies are truly lap babies.

We try to travel without checking any bags. Because we buy four seats, we take four carry on bags and four personal items onto the plane. Most airlines don't charge to check car seats and strollers so that is a big relief for us! At the beginning of this year we only had one bag that was small enough to be considered a carry on. My aunt gave us a small suitcase that was in her garage sale pile and we borrowed two from my folks that gave us a total of 4 bags. Since then both of those borrowed bags have been given to our family so we have 4 of our own carry on sized bags. Praise the Lord for providing for our needs!

Here's how we divide up the luggage:
  • Bag 1 - Eve's clothes & shoes in half and Joanna's clothes & shoes in the other half.
  • Bag 2 - Naomi's clothes & shoes in half and toys, games, and kid gear in the other half.
  • Bag 3 - DH & my clothes. Shoes if they fit.
  • Bag 4 - Books, food, toiletries, and anything else that doesn't fit in the other bags.
  • Stroller & carseats checked for free - Use any pockets to tuck additional items.

Carry on bags:

  • Bag 1 - Eve's backpack with toys & snacks for the airplane and the girls' sippy cups
  • Bag 2 - Naomi's much smaller backpack with a few toys for the airplane
  • Bag 3 - Ed's laptop backpack (his most useful Microsoft team gift) with his and my reading material.
  • Bag 4 - Baby backpack with all baby gear, changes of clothes, and yet more toys & snacks.

Carry-on bags are tricky because security keeps you from taking many items in the cabin of the plane. That's where the car seats & stroller come in handy. Nail clippers and DH's beard scissors aren't allowed through security. Liquids over 3 oz aren't allowed through security. For this trip we put our sunscreens, hair products, medicines, and clippers & scissors in the pack'n'play bag. Another great option is to tuck those items into any stroller pockets (ours velcro closed) or a small ziploc with shampoo or sunscreen can be attached to a car seat. The car seats & strollers usually go in those big plastic bags so if anything comes loose it'll still be contained in the bags. Using your car seat and/or stroller is a great strategy to avoid buying sunscreen & shampoos when you arrive at your destination.

We used to travel with a lot of baby gear, but that is no longer possible. We check with the hotel or timeshare where we plan to stay about borrowing or renting cribs and/or high chairs. We also ask about laundry facilities either on site or nearby. On this trip we found out that a crib could be rented for one week at a cost of $25. The timeshare provides a highchair and laundry facilities at no additional cost. Alaska, our usual airline, charges $15 for a checked bag each way. We decided to spend the additional $5 and take our pack'n'play. This allowed us to tuck some additional things into the side pocket of the pack'n'play bag and gave us peace of mind knowing Joanna would be in a familiar, safe bed and not trusting our luck that the timeshare would provide a safe, clean, & reliable bed. Imagine our delight when the baggage agent told us there was no charge for a pack'n'play! We may end up paying on the way home, but still a big Praise God for a saved $15 at least.

Sometimes it makes sense to check one bag. My brother, for example, has two kids and a wife who has a hard time packing light. They have one huge bag that they pack to capacity and work hard to keep the weight just at 50 pounds. Then they carry on other bags. Different airlines have different fees for checked bags, but most are $25 or less. On United you can check-in online and pre-pay for checked baggage with a $2 discount per bag. When we used to travel with a huge bag we could fit a collapsible booster seat and would take much larger toys with us (like a collapsed baby gym). If you just can't pack light because of kids or because you won't have access to laundry facilities, consider checking one really big bag. Borrow one from a friend or use a duffel.

Here's how we get through the airport:

  • Eve - Carries her backpack and wears her tennis shoes and coat (so they don't have to fit in carry on bags)
  • Naomi - Carries her backpack and wears her tennis shoes and coat
  • Joanna - Gets a ride in the big stroller with the smallest carry on tucked underneath. All 3 girls' baby blankets also get draped on the stroller.
  • Myself - Carries baby backpack & purse. Pushes Joanna's stroller and pulls a carry on. Sometimes one of the big girls will pull the carry on for me. Wearing jacket & tennis shoes. Gate check Joanna's stroller.
  • DH - Carries laptop backpack and pulls two carry ons. Wearing jacket & tennis shoes.

We check the car seats immediately when we walk in so we don't have to lug those far. This also goes for the big girls' stroller and a pack'n'play if we're taking those items.

When we get to the plane we always try to get early boarding. DH hurries on board with the big girls and two carry on bags & his laptop. I wait in the gangway with Joanna, the stroller, and two other carry ons. DH quickly stows the two carry ons he has, seats the girls, and hurries back out. Hopefully there aren't tons of other people getting on yet. Meanwhile I have sent the blankets with the big girls, removed the smaller carry on from the stroller, and collapsed the stroller for its gate check. DH then take the last two carry ons and I follow him onto the plane with the baby, the backpack, and my purse. We get settled and stow things under the seat while other passengers are boarding. We do not take the car seats on the plane - it's just too much work to get them through the airport and the girls do better if they can move around.

Do you have any other tips for keeping baggage costs down? Or other tricks for packing light? I am always looking for new ways to pack more efficiently.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Planting the Garden

We got our garden in the ground the last week of April. The picture doesn't show much, but it's all there! Tomato are in the right two rows in the back and bell peppers in front. The two rows in the center include beans, broccoli, cucumber, & zucchini. The big flat space to the left of center is all the lettuce and the flat space on the far left, front, are peas & carrots. The mounds in the back left corner are pumkin, giant pumpkin, and strawberries.

First we had to get the dirt ready. Last year, our first year of gardening, I gardened with my friend, Ruth. We rented a rototiller from Home Depot and ours husbands did the heavy labor, tilling up the grass and making workable soil. Ruth mixed in some chemical-free glass clippings and steer manure to act as fertilizer. This year our soil was already pretty easy to turn & work, and being resourceful, DH & and I just went out there with shovels and turn it all over. I also bought 5 cubic feet of steer manure to put more nutrition into the soil.

Next we headed to the store to buy some plants. I had some good zucchini. pumpkin, & broccoli starts, but that was about it. Note: Don't buy Dollar Store seed packets, even if they say packaged for 2010. We bought 6 tomato plants, 3 bell peppers, a six-pack of strawberries, and 2 cucumbers.

At home I plotted out the garden, looking at seed packets to see what needed rows or hills and how far things needed to be spaced. I was proud of my little map! The most interesting thing I noted was that green beans shouldn't be planted in the same place year after year. Ruth had also recommended moving the tomatoes next year because they get so big and ended up shading many other plants that like lots of sun.
When I headed outside I started to build up rows into long mounds. I quickly realized the dirt wasn't fine enough for seeds, but would be OK for the established plants with a bit more work. I worked at the soil some more to make it more fine and friendlier for the plants then I transplanted all the store-bought plants and the zucchini and pumpkin I had started. DH continued to work at those sections of the garden intended for seeds, making the dirt more and more fine.

Another day I went out and worked those "seed" areas even more, making the soil as fine as I could in the time I had. Then I planted beans, peas, salad greens, spinach, romaine, and carrots. One fun thing we planted were giant pumpkins. The seed package indicates these can grow up to 6 feet across! I'll definitely watch this plant closely and if it starts to go crazy I'll trim it up so only one pumpkin grows. Seriously, what am I going to do with one huge pumpkin, much less more? DH & I just thought it would delight the girls to have a huge pumpkin in the yard.

Now that we're out of town Ruth has agreed to come and water the fledging garden for me - Thanks Ruth! I hope these plants feel at home and start to flourish under my not-so-green-thumbed care.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Resourceful Traveling - Getting to & from the airport

We're headed to Hawaii today! My sweet dad treats his wife, 6 six kids, our spouses & children on a vacation together every year or two. It's a huge group and such a pleasure to spend a whole week together. We probably wouldn't all get together as often since there are so many of us and so many schedules, but it's hard to turn down a free vacation to Hawaii!

DH and I try keep traveling costs low as a rule. In this case our airfare, timeshare, car rental, and most of the food will be covered. Yahoo! All the big stuff is covered. We don't get to drive one of the minivans my dad rented, but beggars can't be choosers and we'll be happy passengers.

In an effort to save money and for convenience we always try to get a ride to the airport. We also frequently take people to the airport because we hate to watch our friends pay for airport parking or worse, pay for shuttle trips. I really can't stand that radio commercial that says, "Friends don't ask friends for rides to the airport." My emphatic response to that is, "Yes they do! That's what friends are for!" We have tried a couple of different things instead of asking for a ride.

Once we stayed the night at an airport hotel when we had a 6AM flight the next morning. It was about $85 and we got to park our car at the hotel for a week. Overall it was a pain finding the hotel, getting the kids settled and then waking them up super early to get the hotel shuttle to the airport. It was worse when we arrived back in Seattle and had to find the shuttle pick up spot, call the hotel, and wait in the cold parking garage with babies for 40 minutes. Our laptop was also stolen somewhere between the shuttle and the curb that trip so we just have negative feelings all around.

Another time we tried paying for parking at a lot near the airport. It was only about $10/day, but again it was difficult to unload the kids, bags, stroller, carseats and drag them to the shuttle stop, load everything on the shuttle, ride to the airport (kids out of carseats), then drag everything into the airport. Oh, we tipped the driver in both cases, too.

We have just found it's easier to ask a willing friend to come to our house, hop in our Suburban, and drive us to the airport. The carseats are already strapped in, we only have to unload once, right at the curb, and we thank God for our friend who just made our life so easy. The friend then drives back to our house, leaves the Suburban, and drives off in their own car.

We also try to coordinate a similar pick-up where a friend picks up the Suburban at our house, then picks us up & takes us home, etc.

This trip we have the blessing of a friend who is taking us both to and from the airport. We are driving our Suburban to their home which is much closer to the airport than ours. Then they can just drive us to and from their house which is great because it cuts their travel time significantly. Our Suburban will just be parked outside of their house all week.

Things are pretty lean just now, but in the past we have said thank you with a note and a small Starbucks gift card. I'll have to check with DH and see if we can do that again. In any case we save a significant sum, are blessed by friend, and hopefully get to bless them in return with a gift or their own trip to the airport or just the opportunity to serve.


April Wrap-Up

I am realizing with these end-of-month updates that I am not great at sticking with the goals I set. I am OK with this, and I recognize that's part of my personality. So I guess I want those of you readers who are more focused than I am to know that I am fully aware that I don't usually meet the goals. I use more of that "aim for the moon and you'll land among the stars" approach.

For example, this month I spent $119 on groceries. My goal was $100, but $119 is pretty awesome, and I never would have kept it that low if I hadn't been aiming at $100.

Another goal was to list 5 things on ebay . . . hm.

We did receive our tax refund just this week so we were able to cover some all those expenses we used our credit card for in March. We were also able to pay the property taxes on time - Yahoo!

I had several posts I wanted to get on this blog as well and those are finished or nearly so in most cases. You'll see posts about drugstore deals, cloth wipes, making your own bread and how I grocery shop in May. I did manage to post about putting together your own freezer meal swap, so that's one off the list anyway.

I am proud to report that I did get the freezer defrosted! My inside freezer absorbed those few items that still needed a home, and I was able to organize those shelves, too. I have a meat drawer, a shelf for pre-made dinners, a frozen veggies & fruit shelf, and a misc. shelf. I made a list of what's on each shelf and used a magnet to stick it to the outside door so nothing gets "lost."
Here's what my freezer looked like after we emptied out lots of ice:

Here is what it looked like when all the ice melted. We only found one thing buried in the ice: a very welcome container of 4 cups of diced tomato.

I am hoping to leave this freezer unplugged for several months to save energy. I'll have to use it again when the garden starts producing. I read that the refrigerator and clothes dryer are the biggest users of engery in an average household, so I'm hoping having this old tank unplugged and using the clothesline will make a big difference this summer.

Goals for May:
  • $100 on groceries again - we'll be gone for a full week and now that the freezer is low I'll focus on the pantry - I hope.
  • List 5 things on ebay - I really ought to be able to do this, I just never make it a priority
  • Spring Cleaning
  • Blog posts regarding: Cloth wipes, making your own bread, drugstore deals, hopefully one about keeping chickens, and at least start a series on how I grocery shop.
  • Use the dryer less than 5 times.
I'll keep you posted!