Monday, April 29, 2013

Craigslist finds

While out in California I enjoyed using my moms juicer to get my daily dose of vegetables.  I knew that I would have to save up to buy one of my own as they are rather expensive.  Can you imagine my delight when I found a used one on craigslist in my budget?  Hubby and I snatched it right up and have been enjoying juicing.  Well, I am enjoying it and hubby is tolerating it...I am sure he will come around to liking them.  One of these days...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

For the love of Red Barns

I love traditional red barns!  There is just something about them.  The neighboring farm to where I nanny has a gorgeous red barn.  How could you not want it to be yours?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie... From Scratch

One of my goals since coming back is to make more of our meals from scratch, along with using home canned goods.  One night last week I made a chicken pot pie.  Chicken was super cheap at the grocery store and I had most of the other ingredients on hand.  Much to my dismay the recipe called for premade pie crusts.  I understand that most times you want to make something in the least amount of time possible, and therefore you would want to use premade pie crusts.  However unless you bought them on sale with a coupon as well, they are not a very frugal addition.  Its incredibly simple (and not too time consuming) to make your own pie crust.  Obviously, judging on the pictures, I still need to work on my pie crust rolling flat abilities.  Other than the patchy looks, the pie crust was super easy and yummy.  I can control the ingredients and know exactly what is in my meal.  Everything was made from scratch, or a whole item (like carrots, celery, chicken).  After putting the pie in the oven I had extra filling.  Not wanting to waste it, I divided the extras into two mason jars.  I then baked the two mason jars along side of the larger pot pie.  We have been eating out of the larger pie, and hubby has been taking the mason jars to work.  One large mason jars supplies him with both his lunch and dinner meal.  I will definitely be looking into baking more meals directly in mason jars.  It was nice not having to pack and wash extra Tupperware!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sock Time

I love knitting socks!  There is just something so simple about making them.  Once you know the basic construction, the possibilities are endless.  Socks are definitely a labor of love.  They take a good amount of time to make.  Especially if you have big feet.  I recently decided that hubby needed a pair of hand knit socks (he doesn't have any...not a one!).  I cast on and began knitting.  I tried making him socks once.  I made the first one and ran out of yarn.  He has size 13 feet.  Which explains why he has never been on the receiving end of my socks-for-everyone quest.  Even making socks for my size 10 feet takes a long time.  Hopefully this sock I am working on now will have a mate.  Otherwise it might turn into a dusting glove like so many single socks before it.  I needed a project that is thoughtless (this is a simple stockinette pattern) and can be thrown in my purse for on the go knitting.  This is also a great project for night time stump burning!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Packing Lunches

Since money is extremely tight we had to cut out all the extras. No more grabbing lunch out. This is easier for me since I am not in town. Hubby however works two jobs. I had to get in the habit of packing two meals for him each night before bed. He leaves around 530 in the morning, so there is no way I am going to pack something then. I have found if I pack his lunch the night before I am more likely to actually do it, and he can grab it and go in the morning. Something I have done to help make packing lunch time easier, is to divide up lunch items as soon as I get home from the grocery store. Before putting snack items away, I divide them into the jelly size mason jars (more on the plastic lids later). It takes more room in the pantry, but its incredibly easy to grab and go. Same principal applies to yogurt in the fridge. That way when I am gathering lunch items, I can spend the least amount of time needed. Typically I will pack two leftover meals (one for lunch and one for dinner) as well as a dairy snack (yogurt with home canned jam or applesauce) and one or two snacky snacks (think pretzel bites, trail mix, etc). I will also fill a mason jar or two with water and crystal light). I hate spending money on individual packages of a larger item because you are mainly paying for the packaging. It takes only a couple minutes extra for me to divide up a larger package when we get home from the store. Packing lunches has saved us soo much money, especially on the double shift days (where hubby goes from one job to another). Before packing lunches, we would just grab something quick $5-10 each meal per person. If hubby works 7 days a week and 4 of those are double days, we would be spending $55-110 on meals a week. There is no way we have that kind of money to throw away on cheap food- not even good quality food, Im talking about fast food here. So not only are we saving money we don't have to waste, but we are eating more healthy home made food. Let me tell you though, it does take dedication and planning. Some nights I just want to fall into bed and sleep but I will remember I need to make his lunch. Yes, he could pack his own, but I think he is already doing so much by working two jobs. My "second' job is to support him in as much as I can. I don't think its fair to make him pack his own lunch at 11 pm when he is getting home. Call it an act of love if you will... Do you pack lunches? Buy food out? Eat at home?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just Ask

Sometimes saving money is as easy as just asking! The other day I was at KMart, and as usual I went to check the canning isle. I have a habit of going to these isles wherever I am to see if they have anything I need on clearance. They had the plastic storage caps (which we use once we divide up snacks for use in the pantry and lunches) in damaged boxes. I needed to buy more of these anyways, so I asked the cashier if there was any discount for damaged boxes. item was fine, but the packaging was all dented. I got 10% off just because I asked. Sometimes you never know until you ask. These boxes were already damaged- in no way am I suggesting you stomp on a box to damage it just to get a discount. That is stealing in my eyes. However, if I see a product that I need and its damaged, I have no problem asking if they give a discount. This applies to many other places as well. The other day at Home Depot, I got mulch for half off just because the bags were ripped. Mulch is mulch to me, and I am just going to throw the bag away anyways. If you are looking to save money and don't mind damaged packaging or torn bags, just ask! You never know.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cherry Blossom Time

One of my favorite things about living on the East Coast, is the seasons. Each one is enjoyable and just long enough to not get sick of it and be able to fully appreciate it. Spring means cherry blossom time. Washington DC is famous for its cherry blossoms and its not hard to see why. The other day I looked out our kitchen window, and all of the sudden the trees had bloomed. The cherry tree is bright pink, the apple and pear trees are white, the forsythia is an incredible yellow and that's just getting started. The daffodils and tulips are sprouting and colorful as well. I love being outside when the scenery is this gorgeous.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Using Home Canned Goods in Everyday Life

One of my homestead goals, is to use the items I have canned on a daily basis.  I don't spend hours and hours canning, just to have a museum of canned goods in my house.  I don't want them to just look pretty on the shelf.  No, I want to use them.  I want to fade out buying goods and introduce more and more home made items.  This week I made meatloaf and used the ketchup I made last year from my grandpa's tomatoes.  For dessert I made a strawberry shortcake.  I macerated the berries in orange juice from my Uncle Al's oranges.  Last week I made an apple pie-crisp from the canned apple pie filling where I used apples from my parents, grandparents and neighbors trees.  Living on the opposite coast from my family doesn't provide many opportunities to have people over for dinner. By using items canned from family's produce its second best to having them here.  When I take a bite of apple pie I can remember whose tree the apples came from.  Its like a tribute to those who gave me produce with every bite.  I honestly believe that food made with home canned goods tastes far better than with store bought goods. 
  I have found that you can sneak in home made substitutes easily but intentionally.  I made mashed potatoes using store bought potatoes, but home canned chicken broth.  Yum!  It puts a smile on my face knowing that more and more of what we are eating is home made.  Not only home made, but with home made ingredients. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So Blessed

God is good!  Less than two weeks since moving back I got a job in my small town doing what I love!  I had been planning on looking for work, and was presented with this opportunity to nanny for a family in my town.  As my mom would say its a "God Thing".  According to the US Census Bureau, there are 975 people in my town.  There is one bank, one stoplight, two restaurants and three liquor stores.  My chances of finding a job in my town were basically nil.   We are about 30 minutes away from any town.  You can drive in 4 different directions to towns, but they are all about half hour.  So working in town I thought was my only option.  The main problem with that, as I found out before, is that my whole paycheck would go to gas.  I had been offered a retail job in town, but at the pay rate, it wouldn't be worth it.  It was hard to turn down a job offer, but knowing that after gas and other working expenses we would only be netting $100-200 for full time employment.  I decided to trust that something better would come along.  I knew that either I needed a good salary for a town job, or something decent yet closer to home.  And that's what I ended up with.  Less than 5 miles from my house is a fun family who needed a nanny.  Full time, four days a week I get to spend quality time with some adorable little tots.  I thank God for providing exactly what I needed.  I don't think I could handle the stress of retail or office work right now.  I know childcare can definitely be stressful and its not all cuddly and cozy.  But God knows that I need down time.  I need to sit on the lawn and blow bubbles.  I need chubby baby army reaching for me.  I need snuggles and hugs, and that's exactly what he gave me.  I am so incredibly glad that I didn't settle for the retail job. My prayer was not that God would give me something specific.  My prayer was that God would show me where I need to be.  And I believe He did.  So my friends, I encourage you to trust that God will provide, even (and most especially) when you don't see how.  He knows just what you want and need, and in time he will provide. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cleaning Up The Place- Free and Naturally

We have been working hard around here to clean everything up.  In the house there is endless work, with the animals there is plenty to do and around the yard there is never ending cleaning needed.  Our property is just under 5 acres.  While the majority of it is woods, the house and yard sit on maybe an acre and a half.  In the yard there are an unusual amount of stumps from where the previous owners took down trees.  These stumps were on our "someday when we have time and money" list.  Meaning that they don't really bother us so they are not a big priority.  We have a farmer for a neighbor who uses our access lane to get to his property.  He generously brought us a burn barrel to take care of our "stump problem".  Not wanting to seem ungrateful, we decided we might as well start working on the stumps while we can.  Nightly we have been burning out our stump (the former tree was huge!) and it is incredibly relaxing to sit in front of a fire after work.  Luckily, our property has an abundance of branches, twigs, leaves and other burnable items.  Not only are we burning the stump, but we are cleaning up the surrounding area as well.  I am always a fan of doing something naturally and free.  We are only burning branches and leaves so we don't need to be concerned about harming the ozone layer. We also don't need to rent a stump grinder to get rid of the stumps.  And if all that wasn't enough, we can throw the ash on the compost pile!  A win all around in my book. 
  Speaking of doing things naturally and free, I thought I would share our lawn mower with you.  We have one of the push reel mowers and man oh man is mowing our lawn a workout!  Before we had a riding mower, which we sold when I moved.  Not having the funds to buy another one, nor wanting to have yet another machine dependent on gas, we bought this used mower.  It works great, except on the hilly portion of our lawn.  Hopefully I will get used to it and mowing wont be so much of a workout.  On the other hand, I can always use a workout...
  Another way we clean naturally and free, is by hanging clothes on our line.  When we bought the house in 2010, we sold our dryer and haven't bought a new one.  We do have a washer but at least we can save on the drying costs.  I love hanging clothes out to dry.  There is something so very simple about hanging wet clothes, and later they are dry.  No electricity used. 
  Not only do we save money by burning yard waste, mowing with a reel mower, and line drying clothes, but we can feel good about our choices environmentally.  So you have time, or if you can make time, I would encourage you to find a way that you too can clean up for free.  These are just three of the ways we personally do.  What do you do to clean?  What could you do to cut out costs in cleaning?  I would love to hear about it!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Let There Be Peeps

They are here!  We got chicks and ducklings this week.  Hubby and I had decided that during this "figuring it all out" period we would try not to get swept away with all the farming possibilities like before.  That said, we did decide to get chickens for now.  We have 14 little chicks of a variety of breeds, and 2 ducklings we couldn't resist.  Can't wait to watch them grow and develop personalities. 
We also started clearing out the garden from last year.  We got some lettuce and rosemary planted thanks to hubby.  I am looking forward to the planting season and having the beds full again.  For now, clearing them out is a definite start!  Whats going on at your place?  Do you garden?  Have chicks?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Amazing Steals at the Grocery Store

One of the downfalls of moving is that you have to restart your pantry from scratch.  I usually try to keep the freezer stocked with sale items so that we are rarely paying full price.  As you can imagine, our freezer is empty.  We had unplugged the fridge when we left so when I say empty I mean it.  With a limited food budget, hubby and I headed to the store.  Stores, really, since we went to multiple grocery stores.
  Many frugal meal planning websites will advise you to build your meal plan around what's on sale, not what you feel like eating.  While I agree with that advise, I also think that if your freezer is stocked with sale items, then when you feel like a certain meal you can just shop your personal store.  When we set out to the grocery store we were not shopping for that night.  We needed to get staples like flour and sugar.  Aside from that, we would pick up whatever was on sale.  At the military commissary, we found pork on sale.  What was usually a cheap cut, we got for even less.  At 97 cents a pound I snatched it up.  The pork is destined for the freezer until we feel like using it.
  Typically this is how I try and keep our grocery costs down.  At Safeway, there was a sale on the Fresh Express Salad mixes.  Usually they are $3+ each (for one of the all inclusive bags).  At that price, there is no way we could afford them.  I would rather buy lettuce and make my own salad for half the cost.  However, Safeway had them for 2/$5 or $2.50 each.  I also had a $.55 coupon for one bag.  Safeway doubles coupons under $.99 so my $.55 became $1.10 off.  I could use one coupon for each bag, which meant I paid $1.40 per bag.  That's over half off the usual price, and something we could afford.  (We also planted lettuce in the garden so hopefully we wont be buying salad mixes for too long)
  What ways do you save money at the grocery store?  Do you plan menus around the sales?  around your freezer?  around what you feel like eating?  I would love to hear how other people shop.

What A Mess!

Just thought I would show everyone what a mess my place is right now.  Trying to unpack and organize at the same time is a challenge!  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

We're Home

We finally made it back to Maryland last Sat.  Such a long drive!  Naively I thought the drive would be the most difficult part, but I was proven wrong.  The drive went smoothly and we got to spend a day visiting hubby's family along the way. 
  By the last day we couldn't wait to be home.  I had expected the house to be a mess (after no one living there for 9 months) and it was.  Our biggest challenge was when we tried turning on the faucet.  no water.  none.  not a drop.  We tried all the usual ways of turning water back on, and once we turned on a pipe connected to the sump pump our water was back on.  It was coming out the faucets like we had hoped.  good.  It was also coming out the pipes in the basement in huge gushes.  not good.  Fast forward a few days and one plumber later, we were never so thrilled to have water. Now hubby is back to work and I am settling in and cleaning.  I will try to be back to normal posting this week.  Have a great weekend!