Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Resourceful Tip - Loose Buttons

Do you get tired of sewing buttons back on shirts? Or like me, do you just ignore loose buttons because it'll just come loose again and I don't have time to waste sewing on buttons?

How about using dental floss to sew on a button? It would certainly work with the million-ish white cardigan sweaters in my girls' closets. It also is certainly sturder than thread so maybe one of these days I'll give it a try.

I saw this tip in a "Tips for Busy Moms" calendar I have on my desk.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PSE Home Energy Report

I was so excited to receive my PSE Home Energy Report last week. I am a moderately competitive person and was irritated that in the last report I only got a "good" rating. I blamed my mom who was here running the dryer all week after the baby was born, I blamed the fact that we're home all day compared to neighbors who work away from home, I blamed the unusually cold year, and I blamed the amount of laundry I have to do (between 12 and 15 loads a week). But Good News: I've improved! I got a "Great" rating (the highest) and was well below the average of the 'most efficient' neighbors. PSE gets these ratings by classifying homes into similar size categories and similar location. I still use a lot of electricity. The computers are on all the time, lights are accidentally left on, the babies sleep with a fan on all night and at naptimes and I run the dryer up to 15 times a week. I use more electricity than the most efficient neighbors. The gas however made all the difference. We keep our house at 65 during the day and 55 at night. I think that's much lower than most folks. I'm hoping the March/April report shows us doing well again. We've been working on turning our computers off at night and I'll be able to hang clothes to dry again soon. I'm already resisting turning on the heat if the day is supposed to be warm because the house heats up to 65 all by itself if the sun is out. I'll keep you posted. Katie

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moldy Onions?

The other day I was moving my big buckets of bulk food around and pulled a bag or something (I forget - overloaded brain) out of my bin of onions. My first thought was "Please don't be moldy! I need onion for tonight's dinner!" Wouldn't you know it, this is what my four onions looked like. It really does just take one bad onion to rot the whole barrel.

I hate to throw away food and make every effort to waste nothing. My practice when something molds is almost always to salvage what I can. So I thought I'd document it here since it seems to fit the blogs of title of 'A Resourceful Home.'

Two of the onions were really bad. I cut those in half with a 'good side' and a 'bad side'. I peeled one layer of the good side and as many layers as the mold pentrated on the bad side. Then I put them in tupperware and into the fridge. They'll be used in next week's meals. The two remaining onions just had mold smudges on them, basically transfer from contact with the other onions. I just peeled the first layer off each of those, washed & dried my bin, and put the onions back in.

This process seems pretty obvious to me, but I recently had a great conversation with a young woman who is working hard to learn to cook frugally and be thrifty homemaker. This particular woman probably wouldn't know that she doesn't have to throw all the onions away so I thought it was worth posting.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Naomi's Menu Plan

This week Naomi is my kitchen helper and she helped plan the menu. I use the term 'help' loosely here. There is a big difference between 4 and 5 year old girls!

I reviewed dates in the pantry earlier this week and wanted incorporated older things into our menu so I laid out all the things I wanted to use up including carrots, onions, and a turkey from the freezer. It turned out to be a great visual for Naomi as we plotted out how to use everything on the table. True to her personality, she had to move each item into a new pile as we decided how to use it.

Here's what we came up with:

Sunday - Stir Fry & fried rice (using onions, carrots, expired stir fry seasoning and box rice mix)
Monday - Hamburger Helper (using March expiration mix)
Tuesday - Macaroni & Cheese pie (using onions) (Naomi's choice)
Wednesday - Dinner at church
Thursday - Turkey Pot Pie (Mom won't be home for dinner, easy freezer meal for Dad)
Friday - Cheesy Chicken Casserole (using carrots & freezer broccoli)
Saturday - Turkey

Sunday - Ham Sandwiches & Broccoli Soup (expired mix & freezer broccoli)
Monday - Waffles & Applesauce (Naomi's Choice)
Tuesday - Bagels & Pears
Wednesday - Nachos & fruit
Thursday - Box Mac'n'Cheese & apple slices
Friday - Grilled Cheese
Saturday - Leftoovers


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend Shopping - $37.79

Here are photos of this week's shopping: I went back to Fred Meyer for the $1 Tillamook cheese and ended up getting strawberries and eggs, too. I found a bag of spinach for $.75 that day to make a spinach/strawberry salad. I went to Fred Meyer and QFC today. Fred Meyer has 2# bricks of cheddar for $3.50 and I needed sugar and figured Fred Meyer would have the lowest 'regular' price. It was $2.99 for a 5# bag - I really can't stand paying regular prices. I found some great deals at QFC in their clearance bin. A small can of formula was marked down to $6.50 and I had a $5.00 off coupon. I also bought those 3 boxes of Pop-Tarts for $.64 each. I would have gotten them for even less with my $1/3 MC, but the checker wouldn't take it and I didn't want to argue with him. He's the same checker who didn't give me my $11 change last weekend, but then called to tell me that his till was off $11 and I could come down for the cash. Whoo! The 6 packs of Pop-Secret were marked down to $.99 each and those are my favorite deal of the day. Lesson Learned: Don't give coupons to the 5 year old to hold while we shop. One got lost and I ended up returning the item it was for while we were in the checkout line. Katie

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Garage Clean-Up

Getting the garage clean is another of the projects I've been working on as I am trying to focus on being a better homemaker. DH and I did most of the work in one sunny day as the kiddos rode bikes and played in front of the house.

Here's what we did:

  • sorted boxes of stuff into piles to keep, garage sale, or donate
  • recycled a pile of empty boxes (why was I collecting these?)
  • found lots of things to take to a recycling event (more on that next week)
  • sorted canning jars by size and found good boxes to store them
  • rearranged stuff on shelves to allow better access and make more space
  • removed everything from the dining set we're trying to sell and polished it up
  • decided to sell a little table I love but really have no place for
  • put all the strollers/baby gear together
  • put all the bikes/trikes/scooters together
  • cut up a 12 foot plastic pipe (I was sporting some rad safety goggles)
  • took two boxes of books to the local book exchange

Overall I feel great to have things organized and condensed. I also feel great that DH and I actually accomplished a whole project in one day. This is how I want All of our projects to go!

A few photos:

Canning Jars

Dining Set to sell

Little table to sell


Friday, March 25, 2011

Thrift Store Finds

I've got the hang of grocery shopping with all 4 kiddos, but any other visits to retail establishments are mostly avoided because I can't really accomplish anything while also enforcing crowd control.

Today I braved the thrift store with all 4 and it actually went OK. I think the timing was exactly right so the baby got a little nap before we left and we got home before the toddler was starving.

Here's what I found at Children's Hospital Thrift Store in Bellevue (my favorite):

I was really excited to find shirts for DH. He is very tall and thin so I don't often run across dress shirts that actually fit him in the thrift stores. Today I found a black/white plaid, a white Pierre Cardin, and a green Van Heusen that should all work! They are all wrinkle resistant (an absolute must for this wife) and cost $2, $3.75 and $6. Definitely a savings from new!

I also picked up the book What's So Amazing About Grace which is on my list for this year of non-fiction. It was only $2. A cute pink jacket for one of the girls for $1.25 and a complete Madeline puzzle for $1. The older girls have just discovered Madeline so this was a just a fun extra purchase.

If anyone is in the market for furniture - there were some gorgeous Ethan Allen pieces being delivered while we were there this morning. About 10 wood pieces were being unwrapped - my favorites were two folding screens.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

You put the dishes Where?

In my recent quest to be a better homemaker and training up my daughters to be keepers of their own homes one day I have been doing more 'projects' than normal, mostly organizing, sorting, and purging many things that clutter up the house.

One organizing change I made was to move our dishes to a lower cupboard where our girls can reach without a stool or a chair. This is for two reasons: 1) The girls can unload 90% of the dishwasher contents into their proper home instead of making stacks on the counter top with most of the dishes. 2) The girls can set the table independently. The sacrifice I am making, of course, is to bend down low every time I need a dish, but it's an easy enough change to make and worth the benefit of better training my daughters.

Here's how the new cupboards look:

Up High
Down Low next to the Dishwasher

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amazon Fresh

So I have just discovered Amazon Fresh and I've been hanging out on the site and checking prices for various things over the last few days.

Overall the prices are much higher than I would normally pay, but there are a few good deals I've run across, especially in the 'deals' section.

For example:
  • Today in the 'deals' section Amazon Fresh is offering 5 -1 lb frozen, free-range, boneless, skinless, chicken breasts for $9.00. That's only $1.80/lb which is a good price for boneless, skinless chicken breast and much better deal considering it's free-range chicken
  • Today in the 'deals' section there is organic yogurt 6-packs for $2.51. It's a little more than I normally pay for yogurt, but a great price if you regularly buy organic.
  • There are also discounts if you buy a 'case' of something. In many situations, a case is only 3 items.
  • Santitas Corn Chips are $1.99. The best price I can find on a regular basis at grocery stores is $2. Buying 3 bags discounts this price 15% to $1.69. I would happily pay that price.
  • Pirate Booty, white cheddar, is $2.49. If you buy a case of 12, the price is reduced 25% to $1.87 - again a great price.
  • Children's liquid acetaminophen - generic brand - is only $4.49 for a 4 oz bottle and if you buy 3 bottles, the price is reduced by 25% to just $3.15 each.

Those are some of the best deals I've seen the last few days. Does anyone else use Amazon fresh and know about items with good prices?

You have to spend $75 per order for free delivery and they just leave it on your doorstep. If you spend $125 they'll carry it inside and take the delivery bins back (attended delivery). Also, many Amazon items can be included in your Amazon Fresh delivery to bring the total up or to save yourself a shopping trip.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inflating Grocery Prices

Have you noticed grocery prices are up? I'm sure you have, but in particular I am noticing that lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers are really expensive! Those are our salad staples and we usually have salad about 5 nights a week.

I did a little research, and it's just like the signs in the produce department say: that freeze in Mexico last month damaged so many crops that the supply is drastically reduced. Thus prices are up. In addition, I read on the Amazon fresh blog that much of the fruit we're getting now was picked back as the freeze was starting - a sort of salvage effort on the farmers' part - so anything we buy is already old and will go bad much more quickly. The good news is that produce prices are expected to be lower by the end of the month when crops in the U.S. start harvesting.

It's not just produce. I have found it harder and harder to find eggs for $1 a dozen and butter for less than $1.67. I'm happy to pay up to $2 for 18 eggs now and $2 for a pound of butter is a great buy. What else do you notice is getting more expensive?

I saw that eggs were up 74% in this WSJ article! I hope this is not a trend, but am starting to realize how blessed we are in the United States to have such inexpensive food available. In the documentary King Corn it is reported that Americans spent less than 10% of our disposable income on food. This isn't entirely good news because the cheapest foods are the worst for you, but even healthy food, grown locally, is still available at a significantly lower cost (% of income) than most of the world enjoys. Maybe it's one the reasons America is the "land of opportunity."

Maybe next time you're cringing at the cost of produce, you can remember that we have it pretty good and thank God there is even food on the shelves!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Eve's Monday Menu Plan

We are starting a new 'chore' system at our house. Each week one of the older girls is the kitchen helper and the other older girl is the laundry & pick-up helper. This week Eve is the kitchen helper so she helped me plan all our meals. I felt like I was teaching her valuable skills as we talked about what needed to be used up in the fridge, what big thing should we should try to use from the freezer, and which of the dinners we chose would be best to travel with (to eat at Daddy's office). It's not just about what tastes good folks!

We made this list before I did all my grocery shopping yesterday and all the ingredients were available.

Sunday - dinner out
Monday - Sausage soup (to use up old celery, extra carrots, frozen broth & sausage)
Tuesday - Teriyaki chicken (to use 6 months expired (!) teriyaki sauce)
Wednesday - dinner at church
Thursday - Sour cream chicken - Eve's special request
Friday - Ham (to use up something big in the freezer)
Saturday - Turkey pot pie (easy, from freezer, mom won't be home at dinnertime)

Sunday - french chicken/rice (freezer meal swap)
Monday - nachos
Tuesday - pb&j for packed lunch at church (new strawberry freezer jam at Eve's request)
Wednesday - quesadillas (jack cheese at Eve's request)
Thursday - bagels & cream cheese
Friday - Finger food lunch (at Eve's request) - apple slices, cheese, crackers, frozen yogurt tubes
Saturday - ham sandwiches (with leftover ham)


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Today's shopping $42.10 for the week

I shopped for the whole week today and really like that it's all done! I might try to do this Sunday shopping thing again - we'll see. I spent about 40 minutes with Eve, showing her the grocery ads, checking to see if I had additional coupons, et c. and compiling my list. I decided to visit three stores, all close to home, and I was away from home about 2.5 hours. All told, I don't think 3.5 hours-ish is too bad for menu planning, making a list, and going to three stores with a kid in tow.

Here's what I got for $42.10 (child not included):

At Fred Meyer:
2 Farmhouse Rice mix - $.79 each - QFC has Rice-a-Roni for $.75 but I don't mind a few extra cents for the more natural ingredient list.
2-18 eggs - $1.50 each
Sour Cream - $1.50 ($.40 MC) = $1.10
8-8 oz. shredded Tillamook - $1.00 each - For a sale like this I try to buy varieties that aren't often on sale so make the most of this price.
bananas - $.64/lb
syrup - 2.39 regular price
1# strawberries - $1.50
formula - $5.59 ($5.00 coupon) = $.59

At Safeway:
3 Kraft dressing - $.99 each
2 tortillas - $.99 each
2 cottage cheese - $1.50 sale price (50% clearance) = $.75 each
yogurt drinks $1.77 ($1.00 MC) = $.77 for six pack
dino-nuggets - $8.99

Buy 10/Save $5 Sale
4 Ronzoni pasta - $.99 after Buy 10 (2 - $1/2 MC) = $.49 each
5 Annie's Shells & Cheese = $.49 after Buy 10
(also got laundry soap as 10th item)
Dannon yogurt 6 pack - $1.29 clearance
3 Kiwi - 3/$1
Fruity Pebbles - $3.69 (FREE store coupon) = FREE

The good news: I had a gift card to cover $11.34 of these groceries. I also found a coupon for a free bag of Hershey Bliss candies in the coupon exchange basket at Fred Meyer. Yum!

The bad news: I walked away from the register at QFC without my change of $11.00. The cashier and I were discussing what I thought was a penny but was actually a coin from Cypress and I got distracted. I figured it out by the time I got home and called immediately (about 15 minutes after my transaction). They had my shopper card which I also left behind, but not my $11. They are supposed to call if the till is off tonight, but I'm not holding my breath. The cashier could have just pocketed it, then his till wouldn't be off! Rats!

p.s. we have 3 apples, 2 oranges, and canned peaches, pears and applesauce to supplement what you see in the photo. For veggies we're just eating frozen because lettuce, tomato, and cucumber are beyond the budget right now.


First Time Gardening?

Are you considering a garden this year? I say go for it! It costs very little to give it a try and you could save plenty by growing some of your produce yourself.

Some other thoughts:
  • With our short growing season some plants will have to be purchased already started, but many grow quickly and can start as seeds sometime near the start of May. I've had good experience with green beans, snap peas, and lettuce from seeds. They grow so fast I can get two or three 'crops' of these.
  • Pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, tomato, and strawberries I buy plants for. Corn should also be well on it's way by May 1, but I didn't have a lot of luck with corn.
  • I've also tried eggplant, bell peppers, and canteloupe but I just don't think it's hot enough for those to do well.
  • If you don't have a yard you can try growing a few things in a pot placed in a sunny spot. I'd recommend snap peas, lettuce, and/or cherry tomatoes each in it's own pot.
Anyway - there is a great article this week in USA Weekend about getting started gardening. It's called 'Garden of Eating' and worth the quick read.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Albertsons Deals from last weekend

OK - here are my Albertsons deals from last Sunday's double coupons. I didn't get anything super spectacular, but I got the remaining ingredients for my next freezer meal swap so I'm happy about that!

Double Coupon Deals:
Danonino Kids' yogurt - $2.59 regular price ($1.00 MC doubled)= $.59
Colgate ProClinical toothpast - $1.99 clearance ($.75 MC doubled)= $.49
Colgate Total toothepaste - $1.59 clearance ($1.00 MC doubled) = FREE + $.41 Overage
Cover Girl Mascara - $3.99 clearance ($1.00 MC doubled) = $1.99
McCormick Parsley - $2.29 ($1.00 MC doubled) = $.29

Other purchases:
Vegetable Oil- $3.99
Apricot Pineapple Preserves - $3.59 each sale (for meal swap)
Onion Soup Mix - $1.00 each 2-pack on sale (for meal swap)
Tea bags - $1.25 on clearance
Franks hot sauce - FREE with 'try it free' MC
Coffee Creamer - $1.00 clearance
bananas - $.69/lb
oranges - $.68/lb

I bought something else with my 6th double coupon but I have zero recollection of what it was and the receipt for that shopping trip is MIA. Mommy brain strikes again!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Superhero Cape

I just saw a great idea for a 'do-it-yourself' superhero cape.

Using an old dress shirt (either from Dad's closet or a thrift store), cut off the front panels and the sleeves. If you leave the top button, collar, and back panel intact you're left with a kiddo sized cape complete with a closure button.

You could have a lot of fun with it if you found a silk or satin shirt or a longer cape from a "tall" sized shirt.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Alberston's Joy!

Today's Sunday paper has an Albertson's insert with double coupons. I was very pleased to find that my paper had TWO inserts while we were eating lunch today. Woo-hoo!

Hopefully I'll be able to post about the bargains I find - time has been short lately as I'm really making an effort to keep the house tidier (this takes much more time than I thought!).


Friday, March 4, 2011

Last Week's Shopping

Sorry I've been MIA! I was at my folks' for a week, then my aunt's for a couple of days, then had company here at home for a couple of more days. Phew!

My grocery shopping last week was out of town so I didn't buy a whole lot (thanks for feeding us Mom!). I spent $12.94 on:

Costco Romaine $2.99 (six hearts)
Costco Bananas $1.47
Sour Cream $1.45
Organic Squeezable yogurt $3.79 (50% off Clearance) = $1.89
Milk $2.29
Bananas $1.12
Similac liquid $5.99 ($5 coupon) = $.99
Similac liquid $5.49 ($5 coupon) = $.49
Ken's dressing $2.00 ($1.00 MC)($.50 double coupon) = $.49
BEST DEAL: 42 oz cannister of Quaker Oatmeal $2.50 on sale (50% off clearance for damaged lid) ($1.00 MC) ($.50 double coupon) = FREE + $.26 overage!

Lessons this week: Take advantage of Safeway double coupons when in Oregon! Whoo! and Don't leave bananas in the car when it's freezing out - they will freeze.