Friday, February 27, 2009

Couponing at Randalls

Now that its the end of the month, I can tally my grocery spending and see that $100 per week was a lofty goal for the way we want to eat. Since February is exactly 4 weeks, I should have spent $400 but came closer to $450. Now, this is much better than the $600 + last month and the $6-700 per month of the past, but I think I can do better. I'm going to give it another try.

My strategy for February was to try to buy just what I needed each week, and to learn to make as much as I could homemade-- in batches for convenience. I also stocked up when I found great deals on things I regularly buy, such as organic milk, eggs and cheese. One thing I didn't think about was that we drastically cut back on our meals out, and that hubby would be home and I'd be cooking more lunches. I also did alot more baking, and found myself running out of things like flour and oil mid-week because I'd underestimated what I'd need.

For March, I'll reintroduce coupons and the "shop in anticipation of need" strategy and see how well that works. There are very few coupons out there for the things we regularly buy, but there are some. The ones we can use the best are store coupons and promotions, especially in combination with MFR coupons. I hadn't been taking the time to work out those deals, so I'm going to put some effort back into that.

My first effort at this new strategy was at Randalls today. I normally don't shop there because they are so overpriced, but today they had a coupon to save $10 off a $50 purchase. I happen to know that the $10 comes off the pre-coupon total, so if they take off $10, THEN subtract the coupons, one can do pretty well. They don't have all the organic things we buy, but I was happy to see that the small list of things we buy non-organic were on sale, AND I had coupons for them. They also had some good prices on pot roasts and chicken breasts. These weren't organic, but we go about 50/50 on that. If I find them on sale organic I buy them. Otherwise, we eat non-organic and it might as well be as cheap as possible--LOL.

So here's what I got:
25.5 oz box Kelloggs Raisin Bran
2 boxes Triscuits
1 2-liter bottle diet 7-Up (was free, so I got it for my daughter's birthday party in a couple of weeks)
1 bottle Joy dishwashing liquid
1 lb real butter
3 loaves 100% whole wheat bread
2 pot roasts, 4 lb each
2 pkg boneless, skinless chicken breast, 2.5 lb each
2 lb broccoli crowns
2 lb roma tomatoes
2 lb zucchini squash
4 lb bananas
3 lb organic onions

I spent a total of $35.52 after coupons. The total before discounts was $100.04. Considering this includes 13 pounds of meat (!!) I was satisfied.
This may seem a little lopsided for a grocery list, but we are stocked up on milk, eggs and cheese. We have 6 pounds of organic apples in the fridge left from a good sale, and a new bag of organic flour for baking. We were also fortunate enough last week to get garden produce from my parents, avid organic gardeners, so we have lots of lettuce and some bags of frozen yellow squash and swiss chard. I made a new batch of yogurt with our bargain milk, and we have some salmon and a few other meats in the freezer.

Monday is my usual grocery shopping day, and this Monday I will go into it not needing anything. At that point, I can stock up at my leisure and at the lowest prices I find, putting us that much further ahead for the following week. Its my hope that the snowball effect will keep the grocery bill down without compromising the quality of our diets.

We'll see how March works out!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


One of the message boards I like to frequent posted a quote from this book, which I'd never heard of. I immediately did a search on "Affluenza" and found all kinds of fascinating topics and opinions on the subject. I connect so fully with this way of thinking, and am so glad to have this now as part of my vocabulary and way of filing opinions and ideas in my mind.

There is a PBS special by this title, and the website defines "affluenza" as this:
1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
Of course, it goes on to prescribe the cure to be living a simpler life with less consumption and less stuff.

After much, much thinking the last couple of months, I've been able to pinpoint why our new house (of 4 years) never really brought us the happiness we thought it would. When we moved here, my husband had gotten a new job with a bit of a raise, and we had made a little money on our old house. Like most people 4 years ago, we were able to buy a much nicer and larger house than we'd thought. We liked the neighborhood for its sidewalks, parks, ponds, pool, and sense of community. The houses are all new, nice and huge. We liked what it had to offer our kids, but we didn't think about what little it had to offer our spiritual growth and sense of self. We quickly learned that despite all the parks and all the childrens play equipment in the backyards, actual children were never home. They were at day care and their parents were at work. The kids we met at the park were with nannies. The few stay-at-home moms I met took great pride in making sure I understood that they were "never home". They had full calendars of Gymboree, swim lessons, dance lessons, and lunch every day at McDonalds. Nonetheless, we made friends and joined groups and got on with our lives.
But as we got to know people, I found that I didn't really connect with anyone in the neighborhood. I felt stuck between feeling like I should try to fit in, and not really wanting to. This accounts for all the things halfway done in the house-the decorating, the landscaping, the organizing. I've been caught between what made us happy and what I thought I was "supposed" to do. And ironically, the more money my husband made, the less happy I became, because there became less and less of a reason for our family to forgo what everyone else has. I would simply look around and wonder what was wrong with me that I didn't want those things.
I'm glad we never jumped on the spending bandwagon, but I do wish I'd been bold enough to lead my family in the way I felt best a long time ago. Once we made the decision to get off the merry-go-round in a drastic way, by not buying anything new for a year, I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. Our whole family was free to do what we always felt was best. Moreover, we were free to have fun with it. Our "affluenza" was cured! And looking back over the weeks since, I see how it unlocked everything for us. We decorated, organized, rearranged and did everything the way we thought it should have been done in the first place. We found more time for each other and for rediscovering the things that make us happy. We all feel more connected to to each other and the to the lives we live than ever before.
So I'm wondering--much the way second-hand smoke affects the lungs, was this a case of second-hand affluenza?? LOL

Some other facts I found in my searching (I'd love to give the credit but can't remember the website):
1. Americans spend more for trash bags each year than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend on everything.
2. More people in the US file for bankruptcy each year than graduate from college
3. The average rate of saving has fallen from 10% in 1980 to ZERO in 2000.

Today I feel like once and for all, I can push the Joneses aside and not only enjoy the way we live, but know deep down that its the best way and that we can be proud of it. And I'd like to thank everyone who visits this blog for your affirmations and support and for leading me to the place I have finally found!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Swagbucks and a shameless plea

I tend not to like promotions in blogs and want to stay away from them myself, but I discovered a new source of free gift cards and want to give it a go. Hopefully, we can all help each other because others out there might want to do this too. Have you ever heard of Swagbucks? I heard about it just the other day from a reputable source. She's already gotten a $5 Starbucks card after 1 week, so I figured I'd look into it. Swagbucks is a search engine that you can use instead of Google or whatever. You sign up (all you need is name and e-mail, no street address) and start earning points for using the search engine. You redeem the points for prizes, one of which is gift cards. For 50 points, you get a $5 Starbucks card. I've got my eye on the $20 Target card for 220 points, which I will use at the nearby SuperTarget for groceries.

The points are randomly awarded as you search. You don't get something every time, and its not always the same number of points. The person I know got 50 points in a week. I signed up about 3 days ago, have used it about 5 times, and have 16 points. I figure its really no big effort on my part, and if every few months I can get a $20 Target gift card, what the heck!!

Okay, for the shameless plea. If people sign up thru your link, you get a point to match every one of theirs. I LOVE that! So if someone uses my link to sign up, I get one point for every point they get. And they can go on to give the link to others, and get matching points for those people. So if you are at all inclined to sign up, please do it thru me! I'd encourage you to go tot he website on your own and check it out. If you like it and want to try it, I would be eternally thrilled if you come back to my blog and sign up thru my link. Every little bit helps!

There is also a section detailing how you can get points for sending in old cell phones, MP3 players, video consoles and games, etc. We don't have anything like that around, but for those who do it might be of interest to check out. You can also do other things like internet shopping thru their links to get points, but we don't shop so we won't be doing that one either.

Thanks for reading my shameless plea and best of luck if you decide to give Swagbucks a shot!

Here's the referral link:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Clutter vs. stuff

"Junk is the stuff we throw away. Stuff is the junk we keep."

Our garage sale success the other day got me thinking--it seems I am constantly switching things out--clearing out one closet and getting rid of clutter, then bringing someone else's unwanted stuff and putting it right back in the closet. And though it sounds like it would be a counterproductive idea, its been very helpful. How could that be?
Well, last night, in light of our current temporary state of being a no-income family, I got out my trusty Tightwad Gazette. This was my constant companion throughout the 1990s and is the reason for the financial stability we have today. But anyway, a quote in there really caught my attention--
"Junk is the stuff we throw away. Stuff is the junk we keep."
Isn't that the truth?? All the "stuff" I'm keeping is stuff that will have a use, if not now, then later on. Having it now, for cheap or free, will save us money when we need it. This goes for things like wrapping paper and greeting cards, clothes a size or two too big for the kids, toys and games in a box in the closet to bring out when the kids are climbing the walls and need something "new". Junk, on the other hand, has no conceivable use to us. Empty peanut jars, princess dress-up clothes that my daughter wouldn't be caught wearing and my son shouldn't be caught wearing, books we've already read and nobody wants to read again, movies and games nobody likes, etc etc. Its interesting to me that no matter what one person's junk is, it could always be someone else's stuff. Thank goodness for Freecycle, Craigslist, thrift stores, and all the other places that put these still-useful-to-someone items into the hands of those who can use them instead of in the landfill. And thank goodness my family has no issues with hand-me-downs and second hand items, because who knows how much we have saved over the years this way.
I haven't always been in love with being thrifty, but I'd say 90% of the time I've been content with it. The other 10% has generally come on when I've spent too much time with people who have homes decorated like magazine covers, the most expensive car they can buy, designer labels on every item they or their kids own, etc. Sometimes I'll come home and look around and think "We could live like that. Why don't we?" The answer always comes to me when I come back down to reality. And these days, I've never more grateful for those thrifty days before and the thrifty days now. When hubby got laid off, and we could sit back and genuinely say--"We'll be fine. No worries" and go on about our business. I can't imagine anything I could have owned or bought or experienced with our money that could equal that feeling of relief. And in that way, this experience has been very good for us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrating Valentine's Day

At this point in our lives, my husband and I have given in to the fact that Valentine's Day is a family affair. Not that we don't celebrate it as a couple as well, but we most certainly don't have the kind of evenings we did before the kids came along. And that's fine, because our love created this family and it is wonderful to celebrate it as such. This year, we had the challenge of creating a fun and memorable day without buying anything new, and so far I'd say its been a wonderful success.

I awoke today to a dozen roses (from the grocery store--this is a gray area, hubby thinks they don't count as something new and I'm in no position to disagree!) and the most delicious cup of coffee I've ever had. He bought me 2 pounds of organic gourmet coffee as well as the organic beeswax moisturizer I've been wanting but won't buy myself. I'm not sure if this is what all wives want, but my wants are simpler these days and I was absolutely thrilled. My daughter handed out the valentines she made for us in computer class at school, and we put them on the fridge for all to see. As a fun treat, we decided to go visit some garage sales and I told the kids they could each pick put a present from me. My daughter brought her own money, and decided she'd like to buy gifts for us as well. Luckily, the only two garage sales we saw happened to be treasure troves--for us, anyway. At the first, my daughter found the 4 National Lampoon Vacation movies, which happen to be hubby and my favorite movies of all time. She bought them for us at 25 cents each, for a grand total of $1.00. While she was at it, she found 3 Caillou videos, which happens to be our son's favorite show, so she bought those as well for a total of 75 cents. For the $1.75 she spent, she made everyone happy! We bought my son a pair of like-new Nike sandals for 50 cents and a Caillou coloring book and Barney puzzle for 35 cents. He was very happy with his gifts! At the next garage sale, we found a Baskin Robbins smoothie maker that my daughter went nuts over. They were asking $3 but accepted $2, and our outing was complete. All in all, I think our $2.85 was well spent. :) And the smoothie maker will be make wonderful use of all the homemade yogurt and bargain organic milk we have in the fridge.
On the way home, we stopped at a charity's donation box and dropped of two bags of clothing and household items we've cleared out, so I believe more went out than came in.

Now that we're home, the kids are happily drinking smoothies and playing with their "new" stuff. I have a special dinner planned--chicken cacciatore with whole wheat pasta (one of hubby's favorites) with green beans. I will make some sugar-free brownies for dessert, and my daughter and I will melt down a few of the chocolate candies she got at her class party yesterday to make chocolate-dipped strawberries. We always have fun decorating for dinner and making a big to-do of it. Hubby and I plan to make popcorn and enjoy our new "vacation" movies tonight. And for the grand finale--last year on clearance I picked up the most hilarious red grass skirt with matching heart-shaped cococut bra. Enough said, and everyone will be grateful to know that there will be no pictures posted of this one......

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Organic grocery bargains and homemade food

I have really had to struggle to keep the grocery budget goal of $100 per week while still eating a healthy diet. I'm committed to organic foods, and what we eat is mostly fresh--fresh fruits, veggies, meat, dairy products. Very little is processed or precooked. I went shopping this morning, and as of today we've spent $217. This should take us to the 18th or 19th of February before I have to do another major shopping trip, so I guess I'm about on target.
I was overjoyed today to find markdowns on 2 of the most expesive things I buy on a regular basis. Horizon Organic milk was reduced to $2 per gallon for containers with a sell-by date 4 days from now, and Organic Valley Organic egg whites were marked $1 per carton. (each carton is the equivelent of 8 eggs) I snapped up 5 gallons of milk and all 6 cartons of egg whites, no questions asked!! The egg whites have about a week before they expire, so I left one carton out and froze the remainder. I did some batch cooking with the milk and froze the rest of it. (did you know you can freeze milk??) This will save me quite a bit on future shopping trips!!
Once I got home with the groceries, I spent the day cooking. I made hummus from garbanzo beans cooked from scratch (recipe in the ehow section), then cut up carrots, celery and cucumbers to serve with it. I also made pimento cheese spread with shredded cheese (sale), a jar of pimentos (free after coupon) and mayonnaise. This spread is wonderful on celery! I put on a batch of yogurt using 8 cups of milk and some starter from my last batch. I use a crock pot recipe I found on another blog that is easy and works well every time. Tomorrow, when the yogurt is done I will make frozen yogurt treats for the freezer. (I'll post a recipe tomorrow) Last, I made a double batch of homemade whole wheat waffles (recipe in the ehow section) and froze them for breakfasts. The kids just love these! We will be having waffles, sugar free syrup, fresh strawberries ($1.77 a container) and milk for breakfast quite a bit this week! Tomorrow I plan to make blueberry muffins from the sale blueberries, and some sugar-free peanut butter cookies. All this cooking should keep us supplied in breakfasts, snacks and treats for the week. Since the 3 of us at home will be eating leftovers for lunch and only my daughter needs a packed lunch, I hope to only have to spend time on dinner for the rest of the week.
Today was my husband's first day at home since the layoff news. His employer had given him 2 weeks of notice, during which he had to work, and yesterday was his last day. I enjoyed having him home today and it was wonderful to have two sets of hands to entertain the little one --that's how I managed to get so much done! We are trying our hardest to make the most of his time at home, and to keep it as stress-free as possible. When we look back on this time in our lives, we don't want to wonder why we didn't make more of it, or to wish we hadn't spent the whole time stressed and missing out on the joy in life. We want to look back and say "Boy, that was fun!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Like mother, like daughter

I mentioned a few posts back that lately, as soon as I've determined that I need something, a source for it seems to appear. I guess the same holds true for my daughter. She and I have been talking this week about what she'd like to do for valentines for her class party. She's perfectly happy to make them herself, but thus far less than thrilled with her choices of craft materials. I had a few boxes of clearance valentines from years past (3-D bugs and Cartoon Network) but none were really her cup of tea. We have construction paper, but not alot of pink and red. Nonetheless, we were brainstorming and planning to get to work tomorrow night on our best option.

Well, today she went to a friend's house to play, and the mother brought out valentine craft materials to keep the kids busy. To any other child, this is just a fun activity. To my daughter, it was a dream come true!! She got to work and made a valentine for every child in her class and one for each teacher. She was beaming when she arrived home--SO proud to have contributed a solution to our family pact not to buy anything new.

I'm not sure what the other mother thought when my daughter turned her craft project into an assembly line, but I will call her tomorrow and thank her for her patience. Our kids frequently do craft projects together, so I'm sure she found it amusing and was glad the kids stayed entertained for so long!

Monday, February 9, 2009

More "Free-decorating"

We finally found time this weekend to paint and organize my daughter's room. We should have done it a long time ago--the room needed painting when we moved in--but every time I thought about it, I'd get so carried away with ideas and thoughts and Pottery Barn catalogues that I'd end up too frustrated to even start. I don't know why I thought we needed a major re-do into a magazine quality room, when all my daughter wanted was colors she liked and some space to organize her things. Once I looked through what we actually had, we had all the makings of a wonderful room, and to top it all off, my daughter already LIKED it. The only things she asked for were a desk, a bulletin board and a place to get away from her little brother. We already had the bunk beds (great deal from Pier 1 Kids a few years back) and all the matching linens, curtains, rug and accessories (Ikea a few years back). We just needed to pull it together--without buying anything.

First, we painted the room using the last of the green paint we got on Freecycle back in January. We mixed it with some white paint both to lighten it and to make sure there was enough to do the whole room. We fashioned a desk out of the two night stands she wasn't using with a shelf board across the top, and used a chair from the attic. (we're going to paint it) We found a shelf in the closet that had been in her room in our old house, and hung it over the desk for her treasures. I painted the edges of a bulletin board and covered it with fabric from a pillow case that matched her linens (casualty of a nocturnal nosebleed last year) and hung it under the shelf. We took the lamp from her brother's room (note to self--never leave a 2-year-old in a room with a lamp that you don't want broken--LOL) and put it on her desk. On the opposite wall, we hung the white-framed full length mirror that was in my way in my closet, and repurpose our wicker laundry basket for her stuffed animals. We got two old easter baskets, a pink one and a white one, and put them on the "desk" shelves for storage, along with some boxes she already had that matched her linens. She decided what would go in each box, we labelled them, and she organized her things. I made it clear that nothing without a place to go was coming back into the room, so she chose carefully and left a small pile of "stuff" behind, which will go to charity.

We took the wooden letters that spell her name--we had bought them and let her paint them several years ago, then forgotten about them---and painted them white and hung them over her top bunk. We also hung two flower lamps over her top bunk and a wall-mounted reading lamp over her bottom bunk, both bought at Ikea some time back with good intentions but never used. Last, we took her fluffy pink blanket and wrapped it around the lime-green body pillow that no longer matched, and placed it along the top bunk to give it a sofa-like feel. We made sure not to put the ladder back, so that she can go up there to read and hang out and have one private place where little brother can't bother her. (though I'm sure he'll try :)

I've never seen my daughter so excited. She has never complained about her room and always been grateful when she's gotten something new for it, but she was overjoyed to arrange her shelves, organize her desk and decorate her bulletin board just the way she wanted it. Last night, she voluntarily went to bed 30 minutes early! And today, she had a friend over to play and painstakingly cleaned her room without being asked after her friend left. (no easy task after 2 hours of playing rock star-veterinarian-fashion models!)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ask and ye shall receive

I find myself constantly surprised so far that as soon as I start thinking of an item that I need but can't buy, a source of the item seems to appear. I don't know how or why this is, but most likely its simply because I'm looking for it now, whereas before I would have just gone out and bought it. My two most recent identified needs were towels and greeting cards.
My husband was getting a card ready to mail to his mother for her birthday this week, and I noticed that our stock of greeting cards was very low--basically down to the stuff that doesn't really suit anyone we know. Now, I'm a big fan of homemade cards, especially for kids' birthday parties and for people like grandparents who get a kick out of them. Otherwise, I'm not that crafty and would really need to do some learning (and come across some second-hand materials) to pull off nice cards for adult friends and such. We were also out of envelopes, and had to scrape to find one to mail a bill. So I had my thinking cap on, but wasn't coming up with much.
The second need I had identified was towels. When we moved into our house 4 years ago, we not only needed towels but lost some to various purposes during the move. We redecorated the kids bathroom and bought new towels to match, but have yet to redecorate the master bath and are still using the 3 or 4 ratty towels that remained. We've always intended to buy some, but have been waiting until we redid the bathroom. After drying off with a hand towel for the hundredth time, I finally decided I needed to find a source of second-hand towels, and I wasn't sure how excited I was about that.
Well, lo and behold, I was helping a friend unload some things from her car when I saw a box brimming with brightly colored towels. I aksed her about them, and she said the box of stuff had more or less been pushed on her by a family member clearing out clutter, and she took it to be polite but didn't want it. She nearly jumped for joy when told her I'd take it. The towels were clean and in good shape, and also contained a new-in-package bundle of washcloths. The bright colors work in the kids bathroom, so hubby and I will be using their towels in our bathroom. Problem solved! I forgot to take a picture before I washed them and put them away, so everyone gets to enjoy a view of the kids' bathroom cabinet--LOL.
The crown jewel to it all was what I found in the bottom of the box--a grocery bag full of over a hundred greeting cards and envelopes for every occasion! I was very surprised and couldn't believe two such hard-to-find items were taken off my list with one fortuitous glance into the back of a friends car. My daughter immediately confiscated the box, since I have a birthday coming up. I happened to notice that when she returned it to me, the Mother's Day card I had seen in it had dissappeared too. :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

More "Free-decorating"

I mentioned earlier this week that I've been keeping myself busy rearranging downstairs, trying to make the house into just what I want without buying anything new. Earlier in the week I finally got the idea to move our oversized contemporary furniture out of the family room, where it never really fit, and move our more traditional formal living room furniture in. I absolutely love the results, and have been happy every day since. That left me with our burdensome rejects in the formal living room, where we began to question the function of that room and whether we even needed that furniture at all. Well, after quite a bit of thinking and deciding I dreaded all the "craigslisting" that would be required to buy and sell things for the room, I panicked and called a friend. Luckily, she's a good friend and has been for years, and also has a business "remixing" people's homes to redecorate at minimal expense. And luckily, we do favors for each other all the time so she was glad to come over and check out my situation, and even brought a friend. I heaved a sigh of relief when she looked at the furniture and said "Oh sure, this can work". We spent the afternoon moving pictures, mirrors, plants and other items from room to room so that the formal living room got what it needed and no room was left lacking. I am able to use the large pieces of furniture, and have a only a coffee table and end tables along with a piece of contemporary art to put on Craigslist. I LOVE the result, and it didn't cost a cent!

We also managed to find time to rework the formal dining room adjacent to the living room. We removed the small mirror that was over the buffet and relocated it to the space above the office desk. We replaced it with a much larger and more dramatic antique mirror that my parents had given me when they moved. I don't have table linens other than holiday, so my friend grabbed one of the long sheer scarves from the window swag and fashioned something out of that, topping it with my breadbasket and some silk ivy that had been on a shelf. We pilfered buffet lamps from my breakfast room (where they never really looked right) and added height with a few books. And for the grand finale, my friend remembered a rug she had stored away unused and offerred it to me, since she was moving and didn't plan to take it with her. It just so happened to coordinate perfectly. Now I love the room!! I"m beginning to feel like I have a new house!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shopping at home for groceries

I'm so glad I spent the month of January learning to resist the temptation of sale ads and make do with things I have at home whenever I need something (or think I need it--LOL) because I am now using the concept to try to cut our grocery bill while still eating a healthy diet. At one time, I was a coupon queen--one of those people who can walk out of a grocery store with a hundred dollars in groceries for free. Over time, our budgets and diets and health needs have changed, and I have become pretty picky about what I bring into the house, and pretty laid-back about what I pay for it. And since I never really LOVED to cook, I've gotten a little lazy. But in looking at what we spent on groceries in January ($633), I decided I needed to put a little effort into trimming that back. My goal for February is to cut back to $100 per week. I realize there are people out there who can feed their families on $100 per month or less, but my family has its particular set of challenges. We have, among other things, an egg allergy, lactose intolerance, hypoglycemia, reflux, and a sensitivity to food additives and coloring. Two people in the family have to follow a low-carb diet, so I can't base meals on pasta or other starches or even serve too many of them in one meal. It is quite difficult to put a meal on the table that everybody can eat, so I try to stick with what works. For the most part, our household is 100 % sugar-free (with a tablespoon or so of honey used in baking) and about 80% organic. I don't buy many prepackaged or processed foods, and try not to buy anything individually wrapped.

I've had to stop looking at the grocery sale ads and coupons, because what I am tempted to buy right now is nothing we should eat. I mentioned in my last post that when I feel a little stressed, I love to bargain-hunt because it brings me a measure of control. Well, I've had to stop myself more than once from getting out the coupons and making my list of all the foods I can get for cheap or free, because once I got them home I'd spend all my time keeping the kids out of them. Crazy, huh? So here's what I did--I shopped at home first. I looked through everything I had on hand and decided to go ahead and use it as long as I can to avoid having to buy anything. I spent a day cooking, and made a quadruple batch of pumpkin muffins using a large can of pumpkin still hanging around from the holidays. We all love these, and they make good breakfasts, snacks and lunch-box fillers. I also made 2 loaves of very easy whole wheat bread, a double batch of homemade whole wheat waffles for the freezer, and a double batch of frozen yogurt treats . I cooked down a chicken carcass and froze a couple of quarts of broth, then used all the leftover odds and ends of vegetables in the fridge to make soup. (which I froze in individual containers for lunches). I made homemade popsicles with the juice drained from a can of pineapple and also with some leftover yogurt. And over the last couple of days I've been cooking dried beans as I have the time and getting them into the freezer so that we can stretch the meat that I put into our entrees. We've even been using all those hotel packets of coffee in the morning, just to use them up. So all in all, these things stretched our groceries out for several days past when I normally would have decided we were "out" of food. And luckily, since we had so many extra homemade things around, I was able to pare the grocery bill down to $91 while still buying everything organic.

My sister and I were discussing the other day how ironic it is that when you "simplify" your diet, it becomes more complicated. There is nothing easier about baking a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread when you could simply rip open a bag and be done with it. But there is nothing quite like those times--the kids "helping" at the counter, the little one climbing on a chair and sneaking his chubby fingers into the bowl for a taste of whatever he can get, the smell of baking permeating the house. Opening a box or bag robs you of all of that. So in a way its easier, but look at what you've missed. The camraderie in the kitchen and the wonderful smells of food are things that make a house a warm and loving home. I'm glad to have these times!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Freetail Therapy

With my husband out interviewing for jobs and the idea of unemployment still settling in, I learned somethng about myself--this is when I normally shop. And its not for the reasons that others might seek retail therapy--I'm not looking to spend money or buy some wonderful thing that will make me feel good about myself. This is when I go into super-bargain-hunting mode, because when I find that incredible deal or two I feel like I've regained a measure of control. Well, I'm glad for the opportunity to understand that part of myself, but it still didn't keep my hands busy while hubby was interviewing and the little one was napping. So I focused my attention on something in the house that has always bothered me--our family room. This room is not terrible, but it has never been what we want. Its a hodgepodge of styles--the traditional style entertainment center that had gone so well in a different house, the oversized contemporary furniture and art that we bought when we moved in and were trying out a different style that we turned out not to like--LOL. So the room isn't awful, but its always been "off" and its always bugged me. What we really needed in there was some smaller furniture, like what's in the formal living room. And something traditional, like what's in the formal living room. So finally, after 4 years, I got the brilliant idea--why don't I just move what's in the formal living room into here?? So move I did. And I'm finally, finally happy with that room. As I seem to be continually saying since I started this blog and this new way of "shopping at home", I don't know why I didn't do this a long time ago! My daughter came home and said she felt like she was in a completely different house. And somehow, that's how I wanted it to feel. Its too bad the pictures don't show the extent of the change! And after moving the other furniture into the formal living room, hubby and I were struck with a thought--why do we even have a formal living room, anyway? We never use it. We don't want to mess it up! It is a large area of our home devoted to no actual purpose. So we started thinking of better uses for it. The ideal thing would be to make it into a library. We are a family of avid readers with tons of books and no space devoted to them, so this would make the space usable and create efficient storage of the books that are currently all over the house. We can accomplish this by culling furniture and other items from throughout the house, so we can actually just put that oversized furniture that never worked for us on craigslist and be done with it. So we'll get working on that next.
Again, why didn't we do this a long time ago??