Second, I've been preparing for the holidays and a two-week trip we have coming up. Some of the "accomplishments" below weren't necessarily frugal (as in, they cost money), but I thought I'd share anyway. So, here goes!
1. Groceries: November and December and FANTASTIC months for grocery shopping. I've tried to stay under budget, but I don't mind spending a bit more this time of year because of all the wonderful sales. Since last month I made two stops at Kroger; I spent $33.94 the first time, and $9.97 the second time (total: $43.91). Since our monthly budget is $130.00, and we're almost halfway through the month, I think we're doing pretty good.
Between shopping sales and using coupons, I was able to get the following prices: herbal tea for $1.29 per box (bought 2), pasta for $0.42 per box (14) , cereal for $0.99 per box (5) and canned goods (corn, tomatoes and cream of mushroom soup) for $0.49 per can (22). On the second trip (see photo above) I was able to get "cream of" soup for $0.39 per can, cheese for $2.00 per pound, pasta for $0.33 per box, Chex cereal for $1.50 per box, free M&Ms, free sausage, a tube of toothpaste for $0.04 (not uncommon for Kroger, if you use coupons), and a packet of cocoa for $0.15. Unfortunately the cashier double-swiped the cocoa and I didn't notice, so my $0.15 cocoa ended up being $0.90. I guess that's what I get for not checking the receipt before leaving the store.
The Chex cereal wasn't a smashing good deal, but I needed two more participating items to make the other deals work, plus it was on my list of things to get for Christmas baking. I can also sell the Box Tops for Education on Ebay.
2. Other shopping: I was able to get 3- and 5-packs of Handifoil pans for $1.00 per package at Kroger. I use these for meals for new moms, people who are sick, etc., so that was a great find. Normally they can be quite expensive. I also found plant food, deet-free mosquito spray and citronella candles at an extreme markdown at Walmart. I got orchid and African violet food, rose and flower food, and two different bags of all-purpose plant food; all were $1.00 per bag/bottle, except one larger bag was $2.00 and the citronella candles were about $0.63 each. I also saved $1.25 on batteries by using a coupon.
3. Ebay: I sold two items on Ebay for a profit of about $20.00 after fees and shipping.
4. Cooking and baking: I've designated Friday as baking day at our house. I don't get around to doing a new project every week, but most of the time I can. Since the last post, I made two different batches of puff pastry; one with butter and the other with animal fat. The animal fat batch turned out like pie crust, which wasn't a total waste. I froze the puff pastry dough and half of the pie crust dough to use later. I also experimented with two new cookie recipes; gingerbread cookies and "Holland Almond Wafers". Both were recipes from an old cookie cookbook that I trash-picked by the side of the road several weeks ago. The gingerbread cookies were okay. They rolled nice and were good for decorating, though the taste and texture weren't my favorite. I ended up freezing half the dough to make a gingerbread house in December. 🙂
The almond wafers were "refrigerator cookies", which I've never had the patience to try before (you have to refrigerate the dough before baking). They reminded me of the refrigerated cookie dough that you can buy at the store, but the flavor was FAR superior and the cost lower. The almond wafers in particular were very good. They tasted a lot like windmill cookies, which are one of my favorite types of cookie. I've included some pictures below.
Lastly, I began a sourdough starter. I tried making sourdough bread many years ago, but it didn't work out. Recently a friend recommend the book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa. I ordered it from the library interloan system and have been reading it. Already I can see some of the mistakes I made years ago, and perhaps why things didn't work out. I hope the new starter will work better. Sourdough bread can be cheaper to make than regular yeast bread, because you don't have to use yeast or oil.
5. Christmas and Thanksgiving prep: As mentioned before, I froze some puff pastry, pie and cookie dough. I made a lined pencil case and toiletry bag for our Operation Christmas Child shoe box, with supplies that I already had. I'll admit, the second bag looked a lot prettier than the first. I learned that it's a lot easier to make bags with slightly rounded corners so the zipper doesn't bulge at the corners.
OCC now has a "Follow Your Box" feature, where you can see where your shoe box ends up. While we were printing out the label, Hubs also read that they have a virtual "build a box" option for $25.00, where you can pick out different items, upload a photo of yourself and greeting (if you want to), and send the box from the comfort of your own home; no shopping required. Personally, I like the idea of sending a real box better, but I realized that we spent a lot more than $25.00 on our box. Next year I'm going to see if we can put together two boxes for the amount that we spent on one this year. If you set your budget at $25.00 for a box, minus the $9.00 shipping fee, that leaves $16.00 to spend on toys, personal hygiene, and school supplies. This year I adapted a list from the Prudent Homemaker website** to chose what would go in our box. Brandy is a lot more frugal than I am; she split a lot of the items (for example, bought one package of pencils and divided it between two boxes), made more of her gifts from scratch and bought things from the dollar store. We just went to Walmart and bought most of the things at full price.
Giving, like eating out, is one area we choose not to economize on. Of course I'm always up for a deal when it comes to gifts, or getting more value for the money, but if an expensive item has more value, we don't mind spending extra money on it. For example, we bought Crayola colored pencils instead of Rose Art colored pencils for the shoe box. I feel like that is worth the money, since it is a gift and we can afford the upgrade. That being said, I could have bought the same colored pencils back in August for half the price, so... with a little planning, I think the shoe box money could go twice as far.
I also made and ordered Christmas cards for us. Instead of printing regular Christmas cards, I just put our family photo, with a Christmas greeting, on a Vistaprint "business" postcard. These are quite a bit cheaper than regular photo cards, plus they are less expensive to mail ($0.35 for a postcard stamp, as opposed to $0.50 for a letter stamp).
6. Cleaning and organizing: Finally, I spent some time decluttering and rearranging our home to increase efficiency. Cleaning out my spice collection, for example, allowed me to move the baking ingredients in a cabinet beneath the Kitchen Aid mixer, instead of having them on the other side of the room. I also cleaned and decluttered the sewing area, and organized half-finished projects in plastic baggies, where I could see them. I hope the time spent making these changes will help me get more done in the coming months.
I think that's about all for today!
Til next time,
**Be sure to check the Operation Christmas Child guidelines before packing your box. Since Brandy wrote her post, the ministry has chosen not to allow things like candy or toothpaste to be sent in the boxes.