Saturday, January 26, 2013

Frugal Living in January

Here's hoping that everyone survived the past fall and holidays and is still having a blessed New Year!

I for one though am ready for February to be here! January has been rough financially, between the shrinking size of the paychecks this month to unexpected doctor and car repair bills, we are definitely feeling "the pinch" around here.  Just as the one country song sings, we "had too much month at the end of the money."

Since my blog is suppose to also be about frugal living, I thought I would post some of the things that we have done this month to try to help the budget. None of them are rocket science-you probably already do some of them yourself, but I know that I receive inspiration from several blogs that regularly post about frugality so I list these to help anyone who may need encouragement today!

1) Meal Planning, Shopping List, Leftover List, Snack List and Frozen Meal List

We even use scrap paper to write the lists on!:) Since the front of our fridge is not magnetic we use scotch tape to attach them. I have done a weekly meal and shopping list for over13 years now (and like many of us I pay the "extra" price for any weeks that we fall off the bandwagon.) New to our lifestyle starting this fall though is that we now post a "leftover/snack" list and a frozen meal list. We were blessed with so many meals when I was on bedrest again last fall that we had to freeze some of them (or at least half of a meal when we didn't finish them.) We used up quite a bit over November and December when I was working full time at the store. We will definitely try to freeze extra meals next fall to help prepare us for our busy holiday time at our store! It's nice to be able to see what leftovers/ready made meals/sides we still have on hand each week so that when the schedule goes haywire I know what I can prepare quickly for the family without stopping for fast food. (For instance: we forgot to prepare our crock pot meal for Tuesday night, so Jason bought frozen pizzas on his way home with the kids and supplemented with other sides/fruit.) We also started listing snacks for the kids as well because I got so tired of the kids asking me what they could eat. Some weeks I even list breakfast ideas since we stopped buying boxed cereal last summer. Boxed cereal has now become a birthday/holiday treat. It was just killing the food budget since each kid would eat 2-3 bowls and still be hungry again within 2 hours. Since we are Byzantine we eat meatless every Wednesday and Friday. We also try to do one to two leftover supper nights per week (unless the kids and I have finished the leftovers for lunches. Then I have to improvise of course.)

#2: Curtain door/Not heating every room in the house

Back in August 2011 we moved our bedroom into what used to be the office/library room and the adjoining music room. It was our way of making a "bedroom suite" where one hadn't existed before in the old part of our 1860's built farmhouse. The bonus: the office room has an adjoining bathroom. (Jason had this "epiphany" idea after listening to me complain/"dream" for the six months of my first bedrest for the wall to be knocked down so I wouldn't have to walk so far to the bathroom. Plus, Jason literally only had 4 inches of space to be able to walk around the bed to get to his side of the bed from the doorway. When we made the new suite, we moved the door that had been between the formal dining room and the kitchen to be used as our new bedroom door. Since our house is so old you can't just buy a "standard" size door to replace an item. All the doors to the house have to be specially made since they are all smaller/bigger than today's standard size....which means it's a small fortune to replace a door. Last winter we put up with the cold draft from the formal dining room, but this year is colder, so we bought this gorgeous kitchen and curtain rod while Christmas shopping back in November and finally hung it up this month. (Budget Item: bought them at Wal-Mart.) The kitchen is warm again! Jason did manage to hang up two curtains we already owned as a doorway blocker between the two rooms of the master suite back in November. That helps in two ways: when he gets up between 4:30-5:00 in the morning, he can turn on the light in the other room without disturbing me or the babies. It also helps with heat right now because we are not heating that part of the suite. So, what rooms are we heating? Kitchen, living room and the 3 bedrooms. The master bath heater gets turned on periodically when the bathroom is being used for showers and extended use. Our second bathroom doesn't actually have a heater, so we usually just try to leave the door open during the day for the living room wood stove to heat it up. That means we are not heating the following spaces: front entryway, office, formal dining room, previously mentioned bathrooms and second room of the master suite, and the guest room/homeschool room (unless someone is staying there overnight or the kids need privacy. Lately though they have just been homeschooling in front of the kitchen heater, the living room or their bedrooms.)

#3: Pigs have been made into bacon

We had purchased 3 pigs this past August.

Miss Priss (weighing in at 400 plus pounds) was purchased when we bought some other livestock. We had been told that she was expecting piglets, but unfortunately the breeding didn't take. She was too old to get bacon or ham, but we got tons of bratwurst, sausage and ground pork from her. We had friends that offered us their open spot for butchering since they had unfortunately lost two piglets, so we go her butchered in December. Jason had quite the adventure to get her loaded and keep her on the trailer when they tried to load our friend's piglet.

Even though our two piglets were only at about 230 pounds (you usually want them to be closer to 250 pounds) we took them to market this past week so we wouldn't have to purchase anymore corn. We had subzero weather and since pigs don't have any fur they have to consumer A TON of food to keep their body temperature up. We cut our losses and look forward to having Easter ham and bacon. We also began selling off some of the extra meat from Miss Priss to help make room in the freezer and for some extra moolah.

#4 We didn't place a food co-op order and we are canceling another automatic shipment order.

We belong to a food co-op and since we had to pay for the extra doctor and car repair bills somehow, we dipped into the food shopping expenses. We are eating out of our freezer and pantry this month. I have resisted all those "sale signs" and have only bought fresh milk, eggs, orange juice, bread/bagels/english muffins, lunch meat/cheese, fruit/veggies and cat litter/cat and dog food. Some of the meals are starting to be very creative, but that's how it works when shopping from one's pantry. We have also decided to cancel our automatic monthly shipments from another company. We will use up what we have stored from them and then decide how to proceed: do we restart monthly shipments or buy from somewhere else? Decisions, decisions, decisions....

#5: Potty Training

Since we will be mostly at home for the next 10 days, I have decided to "bite the bullet" and get serious about potty training Anna. She showed all the signs of being ready to potty train at the end of the summer/during my bedrest and my friend Barbara did start trying while she was here. It was just too much to continue after she left, so we restarted this week. Of course, I didn't realize that the water line had frozen to my washing machine out in the garage before I started, so I am already behind in washing...sigh....Lowe's was all sold out of the heat tape from other people having this same problem with the subzero temperatures. Thankfully Jason remembered that he had bought some tape after we had this same problem four years ago during the last deep freeze. He managed to find it so hopefully I'll have water soon. If not, I'll be digging out one of our extra space heaters to blow on the pipes as well. I'm praying that Anna catches on soon and that I will have more patience than I had on the first day. (Though the lack of patience probably had more to do with not feeling the best and the kids all acting crazy.) It will be nice to have that extra $20-40 back in the food budget rather than spending it on disposable pull-ups. I already had the cloth training pants from Katie, though I may need to order more plastic covers to have on hand. Thankfully I also have Libby still to potty train so it's an investment that I will still get my money out of in the long run.

#6: Food as Presents/Souvenirs

I don't know how this rates on the frugal list, but I wanted to throw this idea out there for other parents. Jason and I had non-refundable reservations for our annual night away from the kids earlier this month. Even though Jason was really sick we still went. We had already been blessed with a Christmas present gift certificate to a winery in the Ohio Amish area we were visiting that day, so we got to restock our wine selections. (Thank you Aunt Donna!) Since it was Epiphany weekend we decided to stash the presents we had already purchased to give the kids for Epiphany and save them for birthdays/other events. Rather than bring home even more toys as souvenirs we came home with the flavored Amish cheese they love (chocolate, peanut butter, sherbert, and mint.) The kids were so excited and we weren't bringing anymore toys into the house after they had been extra blessed at Christmas time. I was actually surprised because NONE of the kids asked for their Epiphany toys/presents. (I had been internally preparing myself for the question.) Jason and I have both started requesting food presents for our birthdays over the past few years. Date nights via restaurant gift cards and unexpected sweets are always greatly appreciated!:)

Feel free to leave a comment about what different ways you have been saving money this month! It's always great to hear from you!

If you want more frugal inspirations (with way more beautiful pictures than mine) please visit the following blogs that I regularly get inspiration from:

Wishing you the satisfaction of a penny saved being a penny earned, from the Sweetness of our home to yours-May you stay warm this winter!