Apr 202014
 

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

 

Breakfasts:

  1. Traveling
  2. Traveling
  3. Eggs, toast, fruit
  4. Cinnamon Loaf
  5. Shakes
  6. Oatmeal
  7. Eggs, hash-browns, toast, fruit, meat

Lunch:

  1. Traveling
  2. Traveling
  3. Beef Bourguignon
  4. Chipotle-Chocolate Chili, cornbread muffins
  5. Pulled-pork burritos
  6. Superfast Salisbury Steak, rice, peas
  7. Pizza

Supper:

  1. Traveling
  2. Breakfast for Supper
  3. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  4. Curried chickpeas, rice
  5. Tomato Soup
  6. Pulled Pork Egg Rolls
  7. Leftovers

large pot of water on stove

Cooking large batches of something usually sounds like a good idea.  When I tried it with rice, though … not so much.

brown rice uncooked

I found myself with 4.5 lbs of brown rice in my pantry.  While I like brown rice, I do not always like how much longer it takes to cook than any of the white rices.

This is where the idea came of cooking it up ahead of time.  I had done this before on smaller batches and it worked well.  I would freeze the cooked rice, needing only to reheat it with a tablespoon or so of water for a few minutes in the microwave when I needed it for a meal.

large pot of rice cooking

At the point of having added 3 pounds of rice to the pot I realized I had misjudged exactly how big of a pot I needed.

large pot cooked brown rice 3

Thankfully all the rice cooked up fine … but then it came time to cool it off and bag it up for the freezer.  Once the pot was cool enough to divide up the rice, the middle of the batch had become to difficult to spoon out. The rice at the bottom was soggy. It would have actually saved time to do this in smaller batches, perhaps 1 pound at a time.  My husband actually would not eat the rice.  I had to use it over a few months, mainly when it was the kids and me or when I had something else planned for him to eat.

Lesson learned.

 

Linked up with OrgJunkie.

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner.

Also check out Confessions of a Homeschooler’s  April’s Monthly Meal Plan.

This post contains affiliate links.

Apr 192014
 

dd

clematis vine on trellis

clematis vine growing on hydrangea bushTo say this clematis is an active grower would be an understatement.  Every year I cut it back aggressively, and every year it come back, plus more. I no longer worry about being careful in trimming during the summers.  It gets trimmed when and where needed.  This is not necessarily a delicate plant.

While the seeds and petals make a mess, the vine itself makes a great privacy screen during the summer.  It becomes covered in small white flowers which insects seem to like.  This would make a great screen, cover or addition to your garden if you have the room or are willing to trim it weekly.

Not all clematis flowers are the same color.  Here is a great collection of varieties.

Apr 182014
 

trench in garden for onions

We have had several warm days of late – 60′s and 70′s.  The evenings have been cool, but usually above freezing.  Usually.

row to plant onion sets

A month or so ago a local farm store has onions sets on sale for $.99 per pound.  I picked up about 2 lbs.  Now, 2 pounds may not seem like a lot, but onion sets are not large.  This equated to a few hundred.

I knew it was too early to plant them, but I also knew that if the weather warmed up before most people thought it would then I would be ready.  If these were planted too early and didn’t come up, then I was only out $2.  It was worth the risk for me.

planted row of onion sets

Saturday of last week was a nice day, in the 70′s.  The day before I had put the fencing up around the beds and sprinkled Deer Scram around, to help keep out rabbits and possibly squirrels.

I had a few minutes to do something with the garden, so chose to plant the onions sets.

It was a little early, I knew I was running a risk of still having cold weather.  The tipping point was knowing that if I didn’t do something with these, they would mold in the bag and I would lose them all anyway.  At least if they were planted, I had some chance of getting a return.

In the end, over 400 were planted.  (I lost count after 350, but know that I planted more than 50 after that.)

Sunday it rained, nice summer-ish type showers.  Still warm.

Monday it rained and was cooling off.

Monday night … it snowed.

We are not talking feet of snow, but enough to still be on the roof tops the next morning and put a layer of precipitation to be removed when I got in the car to leave.

The cold lasted at least one more day.

Will these survive to come up or will they have frozen into onion-set-popsicles?  Only time will tell.

I knew I was being antsy planting so early, but I knew the risk and was willing to take it.  Sometimes it pays off, and others become lessons to remember in the future.

******************

On a more positive note, the strawberry plants are looking good.  I only lost one, and that was to a squirrel last fall I think.  Pesky rodents like to plant buckeyes in my raised beds.  The more I get to know them, the less I like them.  (Squirrels that is, not necessarily buckeye trees.)

Apr 172014
 

calendar coffee computer

Last week I talked about organizing your seeds and keeping track of your seed starts once you have actually accomplished that task.

“But I haven’t even started those.  I am so far behind!” you might be saying.

Well, today is better than never.  While it may be too late to start tomato or parsley seeds, in most Zones it is not too late to begin planning your garden.  Where I am, our last frost date has not even occurred.  If you are wanting to garden this year, but already feel behind this post is for you.

If you are brand-new to gardening I would suggest you start small, with a few of the easier to grow plants.  Take your time to research and ask around, find what grows best in your area.  The extra time will pay off in the long run with better results.

list of plants for garden seed transplant

First, you will need to grab a pen and paper.

Secondly, list all the plants you would ideally like to grow in your garden.

garden plan and cilatro seed packet

Thirdly, draw up a layout of your garden.  This does not have to be fancy or to scale.  The layout  in above was when I was expanding my boxes and trying to lay it out better.  I took more time in making it.  The year after I picked up a scrap of paper, drew rough shapes and listed things in columns rather than squares.  I understood the column meant those plants were going in that order.  Do what work for you.  You can take time later to make it pretty.

weeks before first frost seed starting

Last Frost Date marked on calendar

Next, grab your calendar and mark the average last frost date.

First Frost Date Marked on Calendar

first frost date and 2 weeks before on calendar

Now mark the average last frost date.

After those two are done, go back to the list of plants you wrote out earlier and note when each needs to be started (weeks before last frost).  If there are any you still have time, and want, to start put a note beside the name.  If you will need to buy a transplant, note it.  I used ‘S’ and ‘T’ respectively – seed and transplant.

There you have it, you have now planned your garden.  It may not be 100% perfect.  It may not be pretty enough to brag about on Pinterest, but that was not the goal.  The goal was to plan it out.

seedling list 2014

Now for the fun part, getting your hands dirty.

Does your garden need to be marked off?  Tilled?  Amended?  Make notes of those needs also at the bottom of your list.

Do you need to start seeds now?  Make a list of what it is you will need, then go get it.

If you are already feeling behind, this is your chance to jump back on the wagon and enjoy the rest of the ride.  Don’t put off longer the things you need to do or else you will find yourself too far behind to catch up this year.

Enjoy gardening!

c

 

 

Apr 162014
 

Today I’m taking a break from looking down and am going to look up – to the sky. Sunday afternoon, while looking for skip counting songs on YouTube, I clicked on a video about our solar system.  No, it had nothing to do with skip counting and everything to do with a young one who is into space right now. That particular youth was at my elbow and wanted “my turn”, so solar system here we come.

After a few videos I came across one about learning the planets names.  That video led to a few more, which ended with me seeing this video. The initial appeal was that it included Pluto, then the term ‘dwarf planet’ created a curiosity that my mouse clicking finger just could not resist. Off on a learning adventure we went. (Other might call it a rabbit trail, but it was very much worth while so I decided it was an Unintended Adventure.)

Since the YouTube video above was posted in 2010, there have been new discoveries.  From PRI’s Science Friday on April 9, 2014 - The discovery of a new ‘dwarf planet’ expands our view of the solar system

What?! There are more?

So what is a ‘dwarf planet’?  If these things are out there and I never knew of them, I need to start learning.  NASA gives us 10 Need-to-Know Things About Dwarf Planets.  On the same site, different tab, they also say:

“According to the International Astronomical Union, which sets definitions for planetary science, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that:

  • Orbits the sun.
  • Has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape.
  • Has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
  • Is not a moon.”

There are currently 5 recognized ‘dwarf planets’, one of which is Pluto.  Well, at least I no longer feel bad about leaving Pluto out of the list of planets.  Seems he has other friends with which to socialize.

Diagram of the solar system showing Pluto and Eris' eccentric orbits.

Scientists expect to find more dwarf planets beyond the orbit of Neptune. – image from NASA.gov

And in case you are thinking that ‘dwarf planets’ are a new thing, let me clarify that the first one was found in 1801.  How is it just now that I’m hearing about these?  Why were these never mentioned in school?  Yet another thing I have found that did not make the cut.  Though it does support the saying that you should never stop learning.

I really enjoyed the drawing showing the ‘old solar system’ and the ‘new solar system’.  It is not the solar system which has changed, but our view. Breaking News Alert: The World Is No Longer Flat!!

NASA Supported Research Helps Redefine Solar System’s Edge - here is a NASA article from March 26, 2014 talking about the newest found member, 2012 VP113.  The nickname of this new potential ‘dwarf plantet’ is “Biden” after our current Vice President.  It appears that those at NASA does not think the few ‘dwarf planets’ found so far are unique, only that these are the ones so far observed.

At this point I had to stop because my 30 minutes of computer time ended 3 hours ago, though most was spent on YouTube looking for educational videos.  The links I included have so much information, if you do nothing else I encourage you to click and read them.  I won’t take 3 hours I promise.

 

While some may be tempted to trumpet the accomplishments of mankind, and I am by no means belittling the hard work and many hours put in my those who made these discoveries or those who made the equipment which allows us now to make these observations, what this really makes me realize is how BIG and GREAT our God is, how pompous we humans can be to think we have it all figured out.

Apr 122014
 

sorted seed packs labeled according weeks

When it was time to write up last week’s garden update I couldn’t find any of the pictures to go with the  post.  I search and searched, though both my blog’s pictures and my computer.  I looked on my phone, on my desktop, on … well, there wasn’t anywhere else to look.  I searched every folder on my computer, the one I use to usually write blog posts.  In the end, I gave up, assuming they were lost forever in digital-land.

Wednesday night, while looking to create another collage for a completely unrelated post, I noticed an oddly named folder within my blog pictures folder.  Guess what I found.  Yup.  They were right there in a folder that was created, but shouldn’t have been, and named with a few misplaced keystrokes.  {sigh}  At least this reassures me that I do not have photos missing from my blog.

Starting my own garden plants is something I started doing 7 or 8 years ago.  At first I focused on tomato plants, starting about 10 of them.  I had just learned about heirloom plants and was interested to try a few, but did not want to pay the higher cost of buying transplants.  The set up was not fancy – a pan with some small pots of soil in a sunny window.  The new adventure was a success, in my book, and I was hooked.

Each year since, my seed starting adventures have looked a bit different than the years before.  I learn from previous years, take into account what life is doing at that time, and what my garden will look like.

This year I was determined to not get behind.  I also wanted to use up the seeds I already owned and not buy more.  In January, I did a quick look through the pile, noting there were several seed packets for tomato and pepper plants.  These were the two plants I really wanted to start, and they needed to be started 8 weeks before our last frost date.

When February came and it was time to start those early seeds, I knew they were there.  I sorted through the pile, putting the ones I wanted on top.  A quick sort resulted in a pile that was in a rough order of what needed started first, second, third, etc.

Somewhere around the third time of looking through the pile, I knew this system of organizing was not going to work this year.  There were too many seed packets of various sizes and bulks to keep it all straight.  I was spending too much time looking through the pile, making sure I hadn’t missed anything, finding things I had missed, and feeling like I was not prepared.  So I grabbed a pen and paper and made a list.  On two different pieces of paper I put the headings (weeks before last frost) – 8+ weeks before, 6-8 weeks before, 4-6 weeks before, 3-4 weeks before, 1-2 weeks before, and in ground after frost.  Under each heading I wrote when each particular plant needed be started.  (Some packets said on the back of them when to start the seeds.  Others I had to look up in a book I own.)  In all this activity took me less than 10 minutes.  It would have gone quicker, except I started daydreaming about gardening – after all, there was about 6 inches of snow outside at this time.

To each heading I also added the date range for my planting zone.  With one quick glance I now was able to see what needed to be started and when.

List of when to plant (

List of when to start seeds 2

While the list made me feel more organized, it didn’t actually do anything for the pile of seed packets I had in the drawer.  I still had to search for what I was looking for.  The first round of seeds had been started when I found some tomato seed packets I had missed.  My organization needed to take on another step.

There was a stack of old ice cream buckets sitting on the end of the counter were my seeds were being started.  I grabbed the stack and began sorting.  When I found the need for more containers, I picked up some baskets that were nearby.  While this will never win any awards for beauty or style, it keeps the packets organized and can be stacked to take up less room on the counter.

Into each container I put seed packets that were to be started at the same time.  Each container was then labeled, either on a tall packet or on a sign taped to an edge.

Basket of seeds 2

Basket of seeds 3

Basket of Seeds 4

Basket of seeds

I now had a quick way to find which seeds needed to be started.  The current bucket was on top of the pile.  When I went to start the next set of seeds, I would grab the bucket on top and get to work.  No more need for sorting packets and referring to the calendar.

When it came time to actually start the second round of seeds I new I needed a way to label each row.  After all, most varieties of tomatoes look the same until they start to put on fruit.  I again took the most basic of approaches – pen and paper.  I’ve tired other methods in the past, but have found wooded sticks to mold and fall off, signs to get knocked onto the floor, containers labeled with permanent marker to be used for other plants, and by memory to just not work.  If I was growing one variety of everything, then labeling would not be needed.  That is not the case this year, so I needed to label my plants.

On the side of each tray, I wrote a  number.  This corresponds to the number on the pieces of paper.  Each line on the paper represents one row of seeds in the container.

I made sure to not have the patter of seeds started in the flat look like another.  This means I did not start a tray full of tomato seeds, where I could not tell which end was which.  So one flat has chives at one end but not another, while no other tray has chives on the end.  Again, this isn’t fancy but it does the job well.  I am able to move the trays without worrying about their order or orientation.

Seed starting charts

View of seedling table

How do you organize your seeds and seed starts?  Do you use a different method which you have found works for you?

Apr 112014
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell thing funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Apr 092014
 

Matthew 6 26

My husband and I love numbers.  We may not always view them, literally, the same way but we both like them.  They are fun.  Okay, so not everyone agrees.  We don’t even agree that the other spouse is viewing them the right way. :)  I’m not a fan of philosophical debates which  makes it a good thing there are people in the world who love that kind of thing.  Otherwise who knows what kind of world we would be living in.  We can’t do it all, so thankfully God divided up the responsibilities.  

So, money.  In an all too common conversation the other day we were talking about the amount of money we spend each month.  This was not an argument, we actually enjoy looking and analyzing our cash flow. I remember fondly the times, as a new married couple, where we would sit down to enter our expenditures and income, then look over the progress we made or didn’t make.  We would then talk about ways we could achieve the goal we wanted.  I loved seeing the pay-off-time for our debts shorten as we payed more on our debts than was required.  Even if it was only shortened by a few days or weeks, that meant less money going to someone else and the sooner we would actually own our stuff, instead of the bank owning it.  Yes, we may be slightly not-normal in this case, but I’m okay with that.

 

The recent conversation was the result of a Wall Street Journal article about a spending limit placed on former USB trader Tom Heyes.  The limit was set to $400 a week.  My first thought was, “Poor rich guy.  Only $400 a week. Life is tough.”  Then I wondered how much that was per day?  per month?  I began to view this number differently.  What exactly is $400 a week?

  • $57.14 per day
  • $1,732 per month (assuming 4.33 weeks per month)
  • $20,800 per year

grocery store food

Well, now the numbers look a bit different.  $400 is nothing to sneeze at my any means, but it may not go as far as you would think. While you can get a lot of $1 items from the local dollar store for $400, it doesn’t always stretch that far in other areas:

  • Assuming gas is $3 per gallon (which it isn’t here), if your car’s tank  holds 15 gallons it will cost you $45 to fill, leaving you with $12.14 to spend the rest of the day.
  • $400 is about half of what it costs for my auto insurance (more than one vehicle), then let’s not forget home insurance (if you own one), life insurance (if you have a policy), etc.  I just lost more than a month of the $400/week limit.
  • A new set of tires cost me $354 last year (one tire blew out so we replaced two of them.  A week or so later one of the ‘old’ tires got a nail in it.  It would have saved us money to buy a full set, but we weren’t looking to buy a new full set all at one time.  This year we had issues with the tires, due to alignment or such and had to replace them.  There was a prorated refund because they didn’t last very long, so that was another $$ bill to pay.  Yes, you can save by not owning a car or just owning one instead of multiple.)
  • Eating at home, we average around $20/person/week on groceries and $13.5/person/week eating out, bringing the act of eating to about $33.4/person/week.  (Okay, WOW.  I didn’t realize it was so high.  We have lowered our eating out costs this year by $174 per person, but the cost of groceries has increased.  Still, I see an area where we/I can improve in the upcoming year.)
  • We pay the local teenager $20 to mow our yard, which he does about one time per week during the summer bringing the monthly total to $80.  Family pool pass for the summer is $90, or $22.50 per month.  Netflix is $18/month.  These are all things that cost the same, whether you are single or have a family of many.  The total?  $188, or almost half on one week’s $400 allotment.

See how the view changes the amount?  What else can $400 do:

  • Sponsor a Compassion International child for 10.5 months.
  • Give the gift of 1 water buffalo and 2 sheep, or the gift of clean water AND a bountiful harvest gift basket through Heifer International.
  • Support a teen in your community, or through donation, to a program like Missionaries Across America.
  • Put together several backpacks with school supplies for students at your local school who many not be able to afford them.  (This could go even further if you strategically shop the back to school sales.)

calendar assortment

After mentioning to my husband the article and how much Mr. Heyes was restricted/allowed to spend, he mentioned how much we spend each month on average. This is not a new number too me, so it wasn’t initially surprised by  his comment.  It did not seem like a lot for our family, until I broke it down into rough weekly and daily numbers.  The both of us were a bit surprised.  While we may not spend $50/$70/$90 each day, it does average out over the course of a year.  The auto insurance gets paid in a lump sum, making that month’s numbers higher.  Another month the home insurance is due.  We may not need tires this year, but may have the water line to the house break, the furnace go out, know a young couple just starting out who would really be blessed by a monetary gift, or decide to take that extra trip to see a family member whom we don’t get to see often.  It could even been as simple as taking advantage of promotions on gift cards at the beginning of the year, a sale on meat another time (and not keeping an eye on the grocery budget, though I would never be guilty of that … see spending note above), eating at the nicer restaurant instead of the cheaper but just as delicious one, having to spend $20 on a new pair of shoes rather than $5 for a still-good second hand pair for the growing feet in the family, or paying for a babysitter so we can go on a date or to a function the kids can’t come to (or pet sitter for the pet in your home).

library book sale 2

Taking a difference stance, seeing things from a different view (yearly/month/weekly/daily/hourly) can shine a different light on numbers, giving them a new meaning.

  • When we were paying off school debt I looked at things in the per month format – how many months are left and  how many did we cut off from the length by paying the extra $5/$10/$20/$100/$1000 this month?
  • My favorite way to look at our retirement savings is on a per-day view.  How many days of retirement are being saved towards for every day of working?  This puts a very in-the-future, abstract number into a more manageable and immediate view.
  • How many hours does my husband/myself have to work in order to make the money for this purchase? (This was a huge motivator for me not to eat out when I was in school or working outside the home.)

I would like to challenge all of you to take a step back today and think about one area of your financial life in a different way.  Then come back and leave a comment about what you learned or saw differently.  Did viewing it per year/month/week/day give you a different feeling about the numbers?

 

Apr 082014
 
Botanical Garden Fountain
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

 

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

 

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

you  husband will appreciate your gardening efforts if you include items and varieties he likes.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

playing in the dirt is actually called “working”.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

it is okay to not grow everything. instead go to the produce auction or farmer’s market if there are things you want but can’t grow due to time or space.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
you don’t have to do it all yourself, hire help as needed. different stages in life call for different things.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

gardening … need I say more?

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

pulling weeds … and weeds … there are more? Didn’t I just pull those?!? (not such an issue with raised beds, but we did have to haul in dirt and build the boxes)

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

endless nights of canning, because you still have so much yet to do.  meanwhile, the next crop is ripe and ready to be put up.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

have you ever “blessed” someone with a random bag of zucchini?

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

all the canning and preserving serves a valuable purpose during the colder months. (or when a new child in the home meant not being able to shop as much for two months, those stores were very much a blessing.)

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

when not in the garden, you are allowed to do non-gardening related crafts.  even better if it is something useful.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

our gardening habits will also reflect upon the rest of our household.  let it be a good reflection upon them.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

otherwise known as running a produce stand, listing extras on Craigslist, trading for other items or services, selling at a local store, etc.  

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

all that planning means rejoicing when the first vegetable or bloom appears in the garden.  it wasn’t all for naught.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

learn from those who have done it for more seasons than you, and share kindly with the new gardener just starting out.  you were there once too.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

while it would be great to sit and watch the flowers and birds (or hand out on the favorite social media site), we can’t do this all day.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

gardening should not make you grumpy, short tempered, annoyed, or isolated.  instead it should add happiness to your home. if it doesn’t, then you need to sit down and redo you gardening plan.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

your house may be perfect; your garden beds weed free, organic and trimmed; and you may even be one of those gardeners who can work outside for an hour in the humidity without a hair coming out of place or breaking a nail.  If your heart is not in the right place, though, it doesn’t mean a thing.  

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

enjoy what you have worked to make happen.  now would be the time to get that cup of tea (or peppermint cappuccino) and enjoy the flowers and birds, knowing that you have worked hard and blessed others … till it is time to go weed again or put the next load of jars in the canner.

PROVERBS 31: 10-31 (KJV)

Vase of roses in window

Bible passage taken from KingJamesBibleOnline

growinghomemakers link-up banner Modest Mom blog button copy

Apr 072014
 

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

 

Breakfasts:

  1. Cereal
  2. Cereal
  3. Eggs, toast, fruit
  4. Zucchini Bread Muffins
  5. Shakes
  6. Oatmeal
  7. Eggs, hash-browns, toast, fruit, meat

Lunch:

  1. Eat Out
  2. Pizza, pepperoni and ground chicken
  3. Chinese Style BBQ Pork, rice, beets
  4. Caribbean Pork Chops with Mango Salsa, side salad
  5. Eat out (with gift card)
  6. Sweet-n-tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin, carrot salad
  7. Spaghetti and Meatballs

Supper:

  1. Russian pancakes, scrambled eggs, grilled salami
  2. Domino’s Pizza (using rewards code)
  3. Tangy Black Bean Soup, corn bread
  4. Curried chickpeas, rice
  5. Grilled Peaches and Pork, side salad
  6. Veggie and Cilantro Hummus Sandwiches, chips
  7. Tomato soup, peanut butter and honey sandwiches

 Tangy Black Bean Soup in bowl

A few years back you would have found me shopping with a coupon binder full of coupons.  It was so full I ran out of room to add more baseball card holder sheets, which is how I organized my coupons.  I was often able to save about 50% at the grocery store.  This was also a time when I was working outside the home, which allowed me a lunch hour to sort the coupons.  It was also pre-kids and in a different location than we live now.

I think I have mentioned before how I don’t coupon now like I did previously.  For one, I don’t work outside the home and therefore don’t drive past as many stores.  I have to make trips just to go shopping, or convince my husband to stop after church.  While that may make sense gas wise, we end up spending more.  My #1 savings strategy is to not take my husband along.  I found it just works better for us that way.  So, unless I need milk or something quick so he can stay in the car with the kids, I don’t like going after church.

Secondly, we no longer live in a major metropolitan areas, so the choice of stores is limited.  We have one store in Small Town, though 8 or 9 in Big Town or Other Big Town if I want to drive 30-40 minutes. There is also another store In The Country if I want to drive 20 minutes in the other direction from either of the Big Towns.

One of the biggest factors to me not couponing as much as I used to is that the coupons just are as good.  The values are lower, the cost of a newspaper is higher, and there number of coupons are greatly reduced in this area compared to where we used to live.

So what have I done to help keep the cost of our grocery spending down?  I have begun using different methods.  While my coupons do not look like they used to, I still use them.  One of the ways is to get money back for buying a product.  Rather than saving on the front end (at the cash register) I am saving on the back end of the purchase (after it has been completed).

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www.ibotta.com

Ibotta was the first grocery savings app I used when we switched phones a new months ago.  I do not have time for “complicated” and this app fit the bill as far as my needs.  Each week they list various offers for stores near you.  You purchase the product, do the required activities on Ibotta (takes less than a minute), then submit a copy of your receipt (take a picture with your phone).  Usually within 24 hours Ibotta will process your receipt and the appropriate funds will be added to your account.  When you reach $5 or $10 you can redeem for cash or a gift card.  A very simple process that requires no cutting or sorting.

The process to reach $10 (my goal) was a bit faster than I thought it would be.  We don’t use a lot of processed foods.  Okay, the photo below does not help sustain that statement.  I guess it should be more like “We don’t use as many processed foods as we used to use.”  For this reason I didn’t think the total would add up that quickly.  Even using one or two offers a week, I reached and surpassed my goal in two months.

You are able to combines sales, manufactures coupons and the Ibotta rebate.  I look at the offers before going to the store, see if there are any that line up with what I am buying, then check again for any that may make an item a good deal.  Using this method I have been able to redeem rebates for:

  • milk
  • bread
  • eggs
  • coconut milk
  • almond milk
  • gummy, fruit flavored snacks – the kids loved this one
  • body wash
  • cereal
  • two local restaurants
  • frozen fruit juice

I love the variety of categories and the selection which updates weekly.  The one downside is that each rebate can be submitted only once per week.

small town reduced price grocery shopping

Another way I save money is by shopping lower priced grocery stores or clearance sections at our regular stores.  I was able to find 10 lbs of dried black bean yesterday for $.50 a pound at GFS.  This is the second time I have done so.  This time however I will NOT be cooking up all 10 lbs at once.  That is a lot of beans to have in the freezer.  :)  You  never know what you will find, so a quick walk-past may well be worth the time.

This past week I even found several great deals at the Small Town grocery in their reduced section. The photo above shows my shopping trip.  Turns out my husband likes the $.20 bag of chips I picked up … though he may never get to eat them again.  That is one of the downfalls of shopping this way.

I was also able to find breakfast shakes to go, 4 for $1.20.  These will be great for when the kids and I have to leave early, need a snack to take along, or are just short on time.  I also found:

  • laundry detergent gel pack ($.05 per load)
  • snack mix ($.50/bag)
  • un-iced Pop-tarts to send for snacks at school ($.30/box) – I was actually needing a snack to send with my kid anyway so this worked out nicely.  I don’t think I have bought Pop-tarts since …. yeah, my one kid didn’t even know what they were.  Very unlike how I grew up.
  • salad dressing ($.35/bottle)
  • peppermint cappuccino coffee mix ($.50)
  • lotion ($0.50) – this will be used as part of a gift.
  • reduced bread ($.70/loaf) – I made these into cinnamon bread for future breakfasts.

While these items may not be “must-haves” on our list, they do make life a bit more enjoyable.  Being frugal is not about self-sacrifice, but about saving money while you enjoy life.  I would not pay $4 for the coffee mix, but will greatly enjoy knowing that it will cost me less than $.10 for a cup one evening.

In all my “extras” cost just less than $15 extra to my shopping trip.  As I was already below what I had meant to spend this amount was within my spending goal.

pantry restock shopping trip

This particular trip above shows results from two different scratch-n-dent or salvage grocery stores at the beginning of last month. I have learned which items from these stores I like and which I avoid, due to “best by dates” or packaging mishaps.

  • I LOVE the Nescafe Momentos and don’t care if they are past their “best by date” a bit or the corner of the box is dented – it is coffee after all.  In the store these cost about $6 a box.  At a coffee shop, these would be $3 or $4 a cup.  I am able to get them for just under $2 at these stores ($.25 per cup), and buy all theyhave when I happen upon them.  You never know if they will be there the next time you go.
  • The bread in the picture is Pepperidge Farm, but only cost me $1.09 per loaf as opposed to $3.xx at Small Town grocery store.
  • The shelf stable Organic milk was $.25 per carton, verses $1 each.
  • The salad dressing is one thing I have to really pay attention to as far as dates.  It is easy to forget to look, as the dressings look fine for quite some time.  These can be found for $.50-$.75 per bottle.  Not a huge savings over some sales you may be able to catch.  I can’t always get to those sales, so this gives me a way to stock up between times.
  • The Pull-ups are one item that I am sure are always past their “best by date”.  I haven’t noticed any changes in them, though diapers may loose some of their stickiness on the tabs over time.  It has not been an issue if I don’t try to undo and redo the tabs or sides.

My husband loves that I find new “favorites” for us at a lower price, but doesn’t like that I can’t always be consistent in finding them here.  I tell him that he needs to learn to be patient, as well as enjoy what he has right now and learn to deal with disappointment when it comes.  He does not enjoy my “encouragement” at those times.  :)

 

Linked up with OrgJunkie.

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner.

Also check out Confessions of a Homeschooler’s  April’s Monthly Meal Plan.

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