Thursday, May 31, 2007

The desire for hunger or when you want less than you have.

I am blessed abundantly. Besides the happy home and family life with reasonably healthy fammily members (Thank you God) I have everything I need and most of what I want.

Lately I've been thinking to myself that we have too much. Too much DTV and tivo. Too many toys. Bills that get autopaid without anyone taking note of it because we don't need to. And while I am vastly thankful for the ease and comfort that my husband's job provides for us.. I can't help thinking maybe it would do me good to feel what it's like to have less. We got ourselves out of 25 K debt in our twenties but it's been awhile since I've had a real need to be frugal. Oh, I admit that I prefer to be frugal but there's something missing it from it that you don't get when you -have to- watch your money. Is it a sense of purpose perhaps?

My husband have running discussions of late on whether or not we should get rid of our dtv/tivo. We didn't always have cable. When we were first married we lived happily without it because we could see the basic channels ok. That is until we moved into a house with almost no reception. Enter DTV and tivo. Oh, how I love tivo. That tells you how much tv we watch. Too much. And while I do love Noggin and TLC.. I think I am ready to give them up. There really isn't enough time in the day to watch all the DR. Phil's and CSI's and Losts. And is that really how I want to be spending my time. (ok, the answer is yes when it comes to Lost.)

Our house selling surplus is still sitting in our account... we are slowly using it to redo bits of our house so we don't have to finance or put anything on a credit card. So, now we have a new roof and have had our trees thinned and cut out. And next week our front porch and driveway are getting re-done. (well, this wasn't in our plans but apparently the county thinks our sunken driveway is a hazard so now we must comply). So, in a few months (give or take a fence and perhaps a play area for the kiddos) we will be able to sock a lot of it away in CDs. And fly without our money cushion. I'm looking forward to once again hearing my husband say, "We've only got three hundred dollars to spend for the rest of the month." Am I crazy?
I am looking forward to once again have goals and a direct number in my head of where we're at financially.

I've been thinking it's time to re-enter the cash/envelope shopping system. Does anyone else do this?
This week I was going to try to do a $20.00 grocery limit but, I've already messed that up. Never take a toddler and pre-k'r grocery shopping when you are all hungry and tired. 43.00 and a cart partially full of convenience junk (but the cinnamon raisin loaf looked so good).
But dinner got rave reviews from hubby and DD cleaned her plate. I made taco bake with crunched up tostada shells, can of black beans, taco sauce, sauteed onions, garlic and veggie burger, cheddar cheese and topped the baked product with chopped tomatoes, sour cream and bagged salad. I served it with a side of brown rice. For dessert we had chunked pound cake (got free after rebate), sliced strawberries and leftover vanilla pudding. Hubby's got leftovers to take to work tomorrow. And I get the satisfaction of knowing that I made my family and nutritious and tasty meal.

Right now my dear husband and children are outside hunting for lightning bugs to put in DD's new bug collecting kit he bought her from The Dollar Tree. She's been playing with it for a week. Sometimes those dollar toys really are worth a dollar.

But, it's time for me to go get them and ready them for bed.
Good night, All.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My not so secret spendthrift shame & new shoes & PBS reality shows and discount pancakes

My husbands job requires him to travel quite often for a few days here and there. I readily admit that I am not cut out to be a single mother. I am also lucky enough to be married to man that shares 50% of the parenting chores when he's home. And I am used to that so when he's not here I go into survival mode. I don't really cook unless it's really quick like malt o meal or mac and cheese. And I do things that I don't normally do like order delivery pizza, ppv movies, and buy junky food. I don't know if I'm appeasing my children or myself. I think I should probably come up with a better plan for when he's gone.. but, I just haven't yet.
And then there's the Shrek 3 toys at McDonalds. I love Shrek. So does my 4 year old. We havent' gone to see the movie yet because we're waiting for the cheap theater. But, I have made it a quest to get all of the Shrek characters. So we order a cheeseburger happy meal (sans the burger patty) once or twice a week. I always ask what the toy is and have even made the pick up window person sort through happy meal boxes to find the wanted toy. I am shameless. I have two toys tucked away secretly that I'm going to put in her Christmas stocking. I'm hoping the dvd is out by Christmas. We have collected: Shrek, donkey, one of the babies, Fiona, Puss (hidden for stocking) and the Prince (hidden also). I still need Dragon, Gingerbread man, and the two babies.

Yesterday was a lazy day. We relaxed and just enjoyed being together since my husband had just gotten home from his trip late the night before. We have a big list of tasks to accomplish this weekend but, got almost none of it done except to buy mulch for the front yard. But, I took my chance and had my sweetie drop me and 4 year old at TJMax to look around while he got the oil in my car changed. Oh TJMax has some of the cutest kids dresses. I came so close to buying dresses for Julia. But, I couldn't justify it. Today I'm going through her closet and checking it out. I just may go back and buy one of them. It's 12.00. Hmm.... do we need it? I did find a cute pair of turquoise birkenstock like shoes on clearance for 12.00 that I've been wearing since yesterday. They are so comfortable and cute. I really need a pedicure.
After TJMax we took a quick spin through the Petsmart to look at the creatures. Of all the cute and furry animals in there she tried to talk me into a pet snake.
Um, no. I have been considering a pet guinea pig in a year or so but no snake. Well, I was considering a pet guinea pig. Petsmart wanted 32.00 for one. No, thank you. Not when I can get a feeder mouse for less than 2.00.

We ended the evening with watching Texas Ranch House on a library dvd and eating microwaved popcorn in the basement play room. I love the PBS series like Frontier House and Colonial House. So, this is like candy for me. We are starting the second dvd tonight. Is it totally lame that I am excited about that?

This morning I made a yummy batch of pancakes out of mashed brown bananas and clearance buttermilk from Save a Lot. I found a half gallon jug of buttermilk for .39 there. So, I divied it up into pancake recipe portions and am freezing it for later use. I make pancakes almost every weekend. Most of the time I use the Aldi baking mix and it's pretty good. Last weekend I used the recipe out of Miserly Moms. And it wasn't too bad.

I'm still looking for a great pizza dough recipe. I bought pizza dough from the local Italian deli yesterday for 2.29. I just want to see how much better it is than the dry mix from Save A Lot for .29. For 2 dollars more I hope it's really good. But, no matter what I know it will be tastier and healhier than delivery pizza.

And now I must get started whittling away on the to-do list.

(as of August 2008 the Save-A-Lot pizza crust is now .49 cents. Ouch! I'll be making scratch from now on)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Garage Sale Finds & other Misc.

My little family spent a nice sunny Saturday morning cruising a nearby upscale neighborhood. We did find some good stuff. Hubby bought two decent sized rugs in really good shape for 8 bucks total. They are going into our unfinished basement aka bachelor pinball pad and extra play area. It's nice that he occasionally goes downstairs with the kids in tow so I can clean up after dinner in peace. The rugs will make a nice cushion for our little man to play and fall when he's chasing after his big sister.
The problem with 'nice' house neighborhoods is that people sometimes think their junk is worth more than it really is. But, there were enough people willing to make a deal that we got some nice stuff. I found a moret unitard for .75 for our daughter to wear to gymnastics. Sonoma tennis shoes for her in very good condition for .50 and two shirts she'll grow into for .50 apiece.
I gave her one dollar to spend and told her that when it was gone she was done shopping. She's only four so we're still working out the money value thing but I think making her responsible for spending her own money is a good start. And she's learning the value of a dollar so maybe she'll begin to equate garage sale merchandise as a good value and retail shopping will seem ridiculous. So with her one dollar she bought 4 little pet toys and a new in package toy story fishing game. She's been playing with them ever since.
I also found a new in package painting set (with retail sticker from Linens and Things of 14.99) for two dollars. She'll find it under the tree at Christmas. I love finding new stuff to give as gifts. I am able to give much nicer gifts too.
My mom is getting a New York Laundry sweatshirt that I for .10 and I bought another puzzle to save for my mother in law for .25.

After garage sales we went to Cicis for a pizza buffet. We had a coupon for a .99 kids buffet. So, for 11.50 for the four of us we had a nice relaxing meal before we were off to a thrift store.
We tried out a new thrift store that we'd never been to. I found a coupon for 20% off any purchase. The store we went into was loaded with used and new furniture. Some of it was nice but we just didn't need it. What we do want (not really need) is a king sized headboard. They had a full bedroom set with a king sized headboard for 450... 360 after coupon. But, we're still debating because we really don't need a full set and some of it is not in the best shape.

And then everyone was tired out but I had one more stop on the way home... a grocery store that doubles coupons and had good sales. Here's what I bought:

36 ounce Hunt's Ketchup on sale for 1.50 (used .25 coupon/doubled... price 1.00)
Pillsbury brownie dough (.55 coupon plus free after I send in rebate)
Prego spaghetti sauce (Free after rebate I sent off for)
Snyders of Hanover Pretzels (on sale for 1.50 and used .75 coupon)
Malt-o-meal hot cereal (used a coupon for a free product from the company)
Ajax grapefruit dish detergent (.20 coupon/doubled on sale for .69... price .29)

I can't remember what else but you get the point. We also are getting ten free digital prints with a deal we saw in the grocery circular. I'll pick them up next time I go.

And today is a yard work/house pick up day until Grandma and Grandpa get here and then we're all going to Cosco.
I still debate with myself if Cosco is really a frugal choice but, I can't get decent prices for Organic milk or veggie burgers anywhere else. You also can't beat their bakery prices unless you bake from scratch. And I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not the most gifted in decorating cakes.
So, I was more than pleased to take a huge sheet cake decorated with a princes and a frog to our daughters 4th birthday party for fifteen bucks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Refrigerator Clean-out Menu. Save-A-Lot Produce

I've been pretty disappointed by our take out dinners and eating out lately. The food hasn't tasted as good as my own cooking and everything seems so greasy. Add that to the final bill after tip... up to 30.00 last weekend for a pizza, one pop and a appetizer.. and I just would rather cook.

I think it goes hand in hand with having the house in order too. Now, if you came to my house right now you might think it's messy.... kids toys here and there, a few bills and coupons scattered and other miscellaneous bits that need to find their way home.. but, it's clean. We've had visitors and house guests that precipitated a big clean.. and I've been managing to keep it up fairly well. I just scrubbed the bathroom and wiped up bits of dumped food from the floor underneath the high chair. I think I need to have the house managed before I feel like cooking. So, now I'm cooking.

Last night I made veggie 'meat'loaf, real mashed potatoes, gravy (from a packet), fresh rolls and salad with the leftover veggies from a McDonald's salad and from Grandma's garden produce she had brought us. And for dessert we polished off the cake that daughter and I made for mother's day.
It was good.

Tonight we're having veggie lettuce wraps (don't have a recipe. I'm flying by my pants). Last week I found a head of lettuce in good shape for .29 in the Save A Lot clearance bin. So, I'm using it up tonight with half a pack of tofu (not on sale but, cheap for .99 at Trader Joes), some peanuts (bought for one dollar after coupon/sale), some lime juice (fresh from sale limes from save a lot), our favorite soy sauce bought from the Chinese Grocery in Kansas City, and the last slices of clearance zuchini from Save A Lot (three medium zuch's for .29). I'm also making a side of rice in our very expensive Zojirushi rice maker that husband insisted I have when our old cheap one died. That is a whole 'nother blog but the thing actually sings Twinkle Twinkle little star to you when the rice is done. Silly!
I've also made a banana cream pie from a box of Nilla Wafers (bought on clearance from Big Lots for .99), a box of Sugar Free Vanilla pudding (.39 Save A Lot), two old bananas (not on sale at .45 per lb.) and a packet of dream whip on top. Yum!
I've also made my husband a loaf of banana walnut bread (recipe taken from the back of the baking mix at Aldi's.. that stuff is better than Bisquick) to take to work for "Food Day."

Tomorrow we're having spinach and mushroom lasagna (the spinach was free from Grandma's garden and the mushrooms were .29 on clearance at Save A Lot) with a side of asparagus from Grandma's garden.
Thursday I'm making a big calzone from any leftover mushrooms, spinach and ricotta with a healthy coating of Aldi's shredded mozzie.

I have been trying to get the pantry cleaned out more but, it seems like I keep finding good deals on stuff. Husband brought me home (along with my Mother's Day 2.00 rose bushes) cans of garbanzo and black beans for .35 a piece. It's about time I made another pot of beans from scratch and re-frozen them for quick dinners of beans and rice.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Silence and the smell of bleach

My in-laws are coming tonight for a visit. It's a great opportunity to spend the day cleaning my much soiled house. Alone.
I don't mind cleaning. I really don't. Well, ok... I admit that I really don't like sweeping and mopping.. but, I already got that part out of the way. But, I really prefer to clean when no one else is home. I can't stop mid-dusting without getting grouchy. I need to accomplish my tasks in a timely fashion. And oh, how I am savoring the silence of our usually boisterous house. Add the smell of bleach from the freshly cleaned countertops and floor in the kitchen.... what a heady combination. I think the fumes are doing a little something to me.
Dear husband took the day off to visit the dentist and ferry the children to their gymnastics class, the bank, and to the health center to get reduced cost immunizations (our insurance doesn't pay for immi's or well child visits). His numbing shot from the dentist finally wore off which is too bad because he totally had the cutest pronounciations. The word assume became 'atchume'. This from my totally eloquent enunciating husband... highly amusing.
So, I'm savoring the moments. Thinking about the next task on the list:
vacuuming the family room. Then the living room... Cleaning off the kitchen table. Putting the linens back on the guest bed. Giving the upstairs a going over with the vacuum. Putting away the last load of laundry.
I can't decide whether or not I want to re-clean the toy room or whether I should clean up my 4 years old's toy mess in her room. I already made her bed and put away her laundry. Isn't that enough? Shouldn't she be old enough to pick up some of her own messes?
That is another blog unto itself. How do you make your children aware that Mom isn't a slave?

Well, I just took a short break to check my email and to look for freebies on wal-mart's site. I love Wal-Mart freebies.
So, I'm gonna put the laptop away and put the soundtrack to the Saint back on and get to vacuuming and dusting with my Flylady duster while I'm still alone. Alone with my bottle of bleach.
I feel invincible. I feel silly. That's the power of bleach.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mother's Day Gifts

Baby and I took a quick spin through Dollar Tree after we dropped off his sister at preschool.
I managed to finish shopping for my mother-in-law's mother's day present.
It's not as cheap as it probably could have been, but, I did a slightly bigger present this year than I would do normally. She's been a big help to us in the past year by staying with our daughter when our son was born and then helping us in our move across the state. So, she deserved it this year for sure.

I bought a an elongated plastic flower pot instead of a basket because I did not like the selection of baskets and I knew she could use the pot.
Here's what I put in the flower pot:

An oven mitt and matching pot holders (1 dollar each- Dollar Tree)
A pretty kitchen towel to match the holders and mitt (1 dollar- Dollar Tree)
1 wool trivet that matches the other kitchen stuff (.33 Dollar Tree)
A box of raisinets (.80.. Walgreens)
Celestial Seasonings Decaf Green Tea with Mandarin (1.50 with sale/coupon)
A Charles Wysocki puzzle (bought used but in good condition at garage sale 1.00)
Super Sudoku puzzle book (1 dollar- Dollar Tree)
A package of marigold seeds (.25 Dollar General)
A nice card (.50 Dollar Tree)

So, for less than ten dollars I think I assembled a rather nice gift that I think she'll like and use.

I spent more on my own mom but I knew what she needed and what she didn't. That plus my mom never spends money on herself so she's easy for me to buy for.

I bought a small round metal tin on clearance at Dollar General for 1.25.
Inside of it I put Borghese Foundation and matching concealer bought on sale at Costco for 15.00.
A bag of Riesen Chocolates (1 dollar-- Dollar General)
A box of Goobers (.80 Walgreens)
Packet of Zinnia seads (.25 Dollar General)
Mothers Day card (1 dollar-- Dollar Tree)

Total is 19.05. I probably could have spent less but I knew she'd never buy herself the expensive make up and I know she'll love it.

I like the cards from Dollar General better than Dollar Tree but, in a pinch Dollar Tree has pretty nice cards too. There really is no reason to spend more than .50 on a greeting card. I don't know what Hallmark is thinking.
Although I admit I always look at the back of greeting cards and if I see Tender thoughts instead of Hallmark then I know... fellow tightwad.