Frugal Living, Homesteading

I Know How To Can

I decided that it was time to check another thing off of my 2020 goals list and taught myself how to can last weekend.  I learned that it is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be and not nearly as scary.  It happens to be very easy and the final result was tasty jam and jelly.

I decided to start with a free product.  So, I picked the dandelions in my front yard and made the number one thing that I see pop up this time of year on the facebook homesteading blogs I follow, dandelion jelly.  The final product was a delicious jelly that tastes a lot like honey.  I will probably never make it again.  It’s very labor intensive because the dandelions have to be picked and then the petals pulled off.  It took a very long time.   It did give me a valuable learning experience though.  I was able to teach myself, without the fear of ruining perfectly good food, like strawberries.

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Dandelion jelly.  I know that the rings are rusty, I bought new ones.

Yesterday, I went to a coworkers house and picked rhubarb that she was giving away.  I decided that would provide another valuable learning experience without much of a financial investment.  This was very easy jam to make, as it took a fraction of the time the dandelion took.  That includes that commute time halfway across Milwaukee and back for the rhubarb.   The result is delicious.  I hear it tastes great with cheese, I can’t wait to find out.

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With strawberry season coming up, I plan on making a big batch of strawberry jam.  At that point, I should be ready to preserve that garden bounty.  Fingers crossed that we have a better garden season this year than we did last year.  Have you acquired new skills or hobbies during your time at home?

Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Is it just me or the weeks flying by faster then ever?  I don’t get it, it seems like they should be crawling along.  Here is our frugal round up for this week.

  1. Our auto insurance premium went down 15% for May.  With things opening up, I predict that by June we will be paying our regular premium.
  2. We made a lot of homemade food this week.  On the list was hummus, yogurt, bread,  bread crumbs, rhubarb crisp, salad dressing and soup.  I have all the ingredients for homemade corn tortillas.  I plan on trying to make a batch this weekend.  We have reached a point where no food can go to waste.  We have plenty and I know, grocery stores remain open.  But, the reality is that the food supply chain is going to have some problems.  We all need to be aware and get back to from scratch cooking, if possible.
  3. We have garden fresh asparagus!
  4. I signed up for another audiobook service through the library.  It’s called Hoopla.  Check to see if your library has it.  You can get books, movies and music for free.  The books are recent and no wait.
  5. The 2020 bees have arrived.  We will have two hives this year.  As always, we hope for lots of honey.  But the real reason Eric cares for the bees is to save them.  Now more than ever, they are at risk.  News of the murder hornet could have been saved until the plague subsided.

It is important for me to note that while I continue to try to save where possible, I have been spending more than I normally do at local businesses.  They need us now.  While we have not done take out, I have purchased in other areas.  Those businesses include a local soap maker, a local olive oil store, a distillery, florist, bakery, pretzel company, ice cream store (2), grocery co-op, a CSA, spring roll store, yarn store, book store and local artisans.  This money stays in my community and helps my neighbors.  Sure, I have also done a fair share of spending on Amazon (which I know is terrible) and Chewy.com, this spending proves that I have work to do on keeping my dollars local.  I will continue to do what I can.  I know that this will be over and while life will likely never return to the normal that we are used to, it might turn out to be better than what we had.

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

I went back to work for a couple hours yesterday!  It was so nice to be able to interact with people, six feet apart and with masks on, for those precious hours.  The normalcy of it felt it great.  The library is offering curbside pickup now.  Of course with guidelines in place that limit how many people can gather and having an excellent director who cares about our health, only a few of us can be in the building at the same time.  Our hours together are limited.

I missed a couple Fridays, but that’s okay!  I didn’t have a lot to say and feared becoming redundant.  But, I have some frugal wins this week.

  1. Our living room is in desperate need of new furniture.  With a puppy in the house, that is not going to happen.  Instead, I bought some slip covers to put over the dated and truly ugly furniture.  I also bought a cute, but cheap rug.  Everything will arrive in a week.  I plan on spending next Friday redecorating the space with these inexpensive and let’s face it, temporary fixes.  In a couple years, when I have golden retrievers that are older I plan to make a permanent change.  Total cost for all, $110.
  2. I drove to work yesterday and noticed that my tank stubbornly sits at 3/4 full.  Last time I filled up was March 16th.  I am going to top the tank off this weekend because gas is still so low.
  3. My daughter’s college sent us a small, but unexpected refund check for a class she has.  Since she is online now, it was a fee for something that would have been used for an in person class.  It was a small, but nice surprise.
  4. Speaking of that daughter and college.  She was awarded a scholarship!  She is an education major and applied for it in December.  This was off my radar so I completely forgot about it until she told me last night that she won.  Scholarships exist for those already in college.
  5. Our utility bill saw a nice decrease this month.  With warmer days ahead, the heat will be able to be turned off and we will see even bigger savings.

How did you save some cash this week?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Another week at home.  The days are really starting to get long.  There are times that I am not actually sure what day it is.  My husband and I both thought that yesterday was Wednesday.  Our governor ordered that our safer at home guidelines be extended through May.  It appears that maybe the state will begin the process of opening up in the summer.  The library will be able to offer curbside service in a couple weeks, that is a step in the right direction.  It will be nice to be able to work again, even if it is only limited hours.  School is cancelled though, which means my daughter’s high school graduation is also cancelled.  That one really hurts.

According to a website, my family is saving about $1,800 per month due to being quarantined.  I am not so sure that is correct.  The site took into account going to bars (which we never do) and eating out (which we rarely do).  But, my husband has a commute to work that is about 20 miles a day as does my daughter.  My commute is 4 miles a day, round trip.  I haven’t filled my tank since March 16th and it is still full.  Eric filled his last week and gas was $1.10/gallon.  As of yesterday, gas was .99/gallon.  The last time I saw .99/gallon I was 21 and searching for quarters under the seats to come up with $5.00 to fill my tank.  My how times have changed.

Here is our list of money saving activities for the week.  Honestly, it’s getting really hard to find savings.

  1. I had to take the dog to the vet for an ear infection (don’t worry, curbside vet care).  I had those nails trimmed while she was there and had enough credits for a free trim.  Savings was $25.
  2. We got our stimulus payment from the Orange Cheeto.  We used it to help a local business by buying a share in a CSA.  We decided to supplement our produce this year just in case the garden is not abundant.  I am also hearing that it is possible that the food supply will be impacted by the virus.  Because of this, we want to make sure we have enough.
  3. This one is actually a major heartbreaker.  After 2+ years of Maeghan working and having money taken out of her checking account for a trip to Europe this summer, it was cancelled.  She will be getting a very nice reimbursement into her checking account in a couple weeks.  Honestly, this just breaks my heart.   This trip has been on the horizon since she was a sophomore.  She paid for it with her own money and knew that with hard work, planning and saving, she could see the world.  I hope that some day, she can have another opportunity like this one.
  4. This is my birthday month.  The coupons and offers from merchants are starting to arrive.  My favorite one is always the $25 for Pottery Barn.  I always use it for a reed diffuser.  This year’s diffuser is lavender and was FREE!
  5. After 15 years of paying a violin teacher, monthly, for my daughters, this month was our final payment.  May 1 Maeghan will be done taking lessons.  This is bittersweet, but it’s time.

What did you do to save money while practicing social distancing?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

I missed last week’s Frugal Friday because I was pretty hard pressed to come up with anything since I haven’t actually gone anywhere.  But this week, I had some wins.

  1. Our auto insurance company lowered our premium by 25% for April.  That is actually a really nice savings for us, given we have 4 people on our policy, one being a teenager.
  2. I taught myself how to make a sourdough starter.  I am going to make a loaf of bread today, wish me luck.
  3. I used the rinds and other bits to attempt to make pineapple vinegar.  I was bored and wanted to try something new.  I am actually not sure what I will do with the final product.
  4. I am almost out of actual books from the library, so I have decided to take advantage of the free trial for Kindle Unlimited.  The free trial is 30 days, I am hopeful I will only need it for that long.
  5. I have been using Zoom, a lot, to keep in contact with friends and family.  In fact last night was the first meeting of a virtual book club that I started in response to our state’s safer at home order.  It was two hours of laughter and wine drinking.  We meet again in three weeks.  I can’t wait.  Zoom is free to use.

What you have been doing these past several weeks to save money, while being at home?

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Family Life, Frugal Living

Meal Plan March 29 – April 4

Well, here I am a couple days late again with my meal plan.  Unlike last week, my tardiness is due to me actually doing stuff around the house.  Notice, we are eating more meat than we normally do.  I have found that during these weeks, I have wanted to make more comfort foods.  So often, those meals include meat.  I am being gentle with myself these days as we get through this.

Sunday March 29 – pasta with sausage, salad and bread

Monday March 30 – grilled steak, asparagus, baked potato and salad

Tuesday March 31 – vegetable pot pie

Wednesday April 1 – vegetable fried rice

Thursday April 2 – minestrone soup and bread

Friday April 3 – fish, potatoes and salad

Saturday April 4 – chicken noodle soup

What is on your list for the week?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Below is the list of things we did this week to save money.

  1. I signed up for The Great Courses.  It’s an online library of classes that includes everything from history to professional development.  Cost for 30 days is $0.  If I chose to keep it after 30 days, it will be $10/quarter.
  2. I took advantage of one month free on audible to download a couple books that I can’t get on the library’s online option.
  3. I literally haven’t gone anywhere, so I spent $0 on gas.  I filled up my tank two weeks ago and it remains full.  I will need to drive it a little bit this weekend to keep my battery happy.
  4. I have used up food that I was holding onto in the pantry that I thought I would eventually throw away.  One thing about being in isolation, you learn to make do with what you have on hand.
  5. I started a batch of salad sprouts!  I used to do this more regularly.  I realized that I had a bag of seeds for sprouts and decided to give it another go.  They started slow, but started to take off.

What did you do to save money as the majority of the world is trapped at home?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

I know you are all shocked to read that this was an incredibly frugal week.  We barely spent any money.  Crazy how being trapped at home helps save money.

  1. On Saturday, when I was running last minute errands to prepare for life at home, I needed to pick up chicken food and wild bird food.  I had $20 in rewards at our local pet food store.  I paid $9 for $30 worth of food.
  2. I went through all of our monthly expenses and was able to shave off $369.  Most of these will be temporary, but will be helpful.  I am currently at home from work, paid.  But, things are forever fluid and I feel like it’s best to plan for the worst.
  3. Eric was able to get our garden started with lettuce, spinach and kale.  The chickens have also started to lay again.
  4. Have you seen those gas prices?  Both cars have been filled with gas.  I honestly don’t know when we will need to fill them again.
  5. We have at least 6-8 weeks worth of food.  When things in China got bad, my husband knew it would get here and we would be in lockdown.  Here we are and he prepared us.  So, if you are reading this Eric, I am sorry for all the times we laughed at you and told you were crazy.  Your thoughtful planning has proven to be a relief.  However, I am the one who made sure that we have enough toilet paper.

What did you do this week to save money.

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Family Life, Frugal Living

Saturday Stuff

This morning my daughter and I took a walk in our county park.  The fresh air was a much needed start to both our day and our weekend.  Getting out of the house was certainly something that we both needed.

I set up a corner in our living room with a table and lamp for board games and puzzles.  I used items I had on hand.  An old card table, a pretty tablecloth and dining room chairs.  It might not be pretty, but it is doing exactly what I need it to do.  Provide a space for free entertainment.  My daughter is already busy putting together a puzzle and eating some snacks.  Like her mother, she ran before I could get a photo of her.  But, this is our little area to keep ourselves entertained.

Have a good Saturday!

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Here is our list of things that we did this week to save some cash.

  1. My husband is making a batch of home brew with the ingredients he has on hand.  This should be interesting.  Below is a picture of something that has to do with the brewing.  To be honest, I am not sure what this is all about.                                                                                                       IMG_0629
  2. We have driven very little this week and the savings is obvious in our checkbook.
  3. Does the fact that at my parents party, my daughter’s boyfriend won the centerpiece and he gave it to me?  Free flowers always make me happy.                                              IMG_0624 (1)
  4. Home brew isn’t the only thing that was started in this house this week.  Wine making is on the list.  Very hopeful that this batch doesn’t taste like the piss water that the last batch tasted like.  It was a chardonnay.  I made a lot of risotto to use it up so that it wasn’t just dumped out.
  5. Someone at work left a brand new box of Yankee Candle lavender candles in the free to a good home spot.  This made me very happy!                                                          IMG_0630

That’s it for this week, what did you do to save money?