Indoor Seed Starting Time It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year […]
I have been taking a break from the blog the past week or so and just been interacting a little bit on Twitter. I thought I would stop in and talk a little bit about end of life planning. One of my close relatives is […]
We have come to the end of our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and we were pretty successful! We kept to our super low grocery budget, were mindful about our purchases and had some great discussions about where we want our life to head and what we need to do to get us there. Even though we had an expensive month with a hot water heater replacement and unexpected car repairs we were still within budget on the expenses we were focusing on.
One of our main focuses this month was our food. I am sure that if you have been following my posts on Instagram and Twitter displaying some of the meals we have eaten that we tend to eat the same thing over and over again. That is one of the ways we save money. We bought a huge chunk of pork from Costco and my husband broke it down and made several things out of it including breakfast sausage, garlic meatballs, and what we call basic cooked pork which is pork cooked in a pan with salt and pepper. Basic cooked pork is very versatile and you can add it to all sorts of dishes such as salads, burritos, over rice, in sandwiches and anything else you could think of. We also ate much healthier this month with many vegetables and more vegetarian meals which I am proud that our meat-loving family was able to do with very little fuss. Our goal was to spend $500 on groceries for January and we ended up spending $430.36! We did this without creating a large deficit in our pantry either and made sure to stock up on our basics as we ran out of them. Too many people fall into the trap of cutting way back on groceries one month and then over spending the next because they run out of basics. We will probably need to buy a few such as rice, flour and more vegetables next month but we are not out of “everything” so we should still be able to keep within our budget. Yay!
One of the things we also did to be Uber Frugal was to cut back on our outings from the house that cost money. This was pretty easy for us since our kids spent most of the first half of January miserable with colds but it did lead to some mischief making due to antsy children. We did purchase a membership to the Pacific Science Center which we will be using regularly and will give us a discount on summer camps but for us the $140.00 over the course of a year was well spent. Sundays there is free parking and we always pack a lunch so the cost per visit if we go only 6 times this year will be less than $25 for our family of four (oldest will have to use free guest passes when she is in town) which comes out to a little over $5 per person which isn’t bad at all. The more we go the better the deal too!
When we were doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge we noticed that we spent quite a bit of money on clothes last year so part of our focus this month was to reduce that. We were able to score some brand new thick leggings for our daughter and a bunch of clothes for our son in the next size up from our local Buy Nothing group. We also passed on some clothes that our kids have outgrown and other household items that we no longer needed. I am a huge fan of the Buy Nothing Project! We have both given and received some awesome items from the group. Our group has bonded quite a bit and there was even a meetup this month for group members that we missed but I am super excited to make the next one.
Another frugal activity I participated in was walking this month. I have a friend that I walk with pretty regularly but we had gotten out of the groove with the holidays and sick kids. We made an extra effort this month and were able to meet almost weekly for our 2+ mile walk through a nicer neighborhood with plenty of gorgeous views. Fitness is a huge part of being frugal because when you are unhealthy it will cost you more in health expenses. Walking is a great free activity and it also gets you out getting to know your neighborhood.
My biggest takeaway from this month’s challenge was how creative being Uber Frugal made us. We ate some interesting meals and had great fun thinking outside our box with taking the kids for a walk in the rain, reducing our clothing spending and figuring out how to reach our financial goals on paper. We were previously stuck in a spending rut and this month’s challenge was an awesome way for us to get out of it. I am excited for all of our frugalness next month and to see how it will change our spending over the long term.
How did the Uber Frugal Month change your habits?
We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]
I have been asked quite a bit lately where the name Oscoey came from. For some reason it always catches me by surprise and I have to wing a response that is short and somehow makes sense and doesn’t turn into an awkward conversation so […]
Whew. I am a little bit late posting our summary of week three in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge but that is because last week was a whirlwind of expensive things breaking, children being sick and massive amounts of the general craziness that comes from being a family. I did not catch up on my reading but about half way through the week I realized it was ok. We are still being uber frugal with our spending and we are completely on track to make my conservative goal of only spending $500 on groceries this month so we are doing great. We have not spent less than $500 a month on groceries since before we added our four year old to the mix so it is kind of a big deal for us.
When I first started looking at our spending last summer we were spending at least $1000 a month on groceries and many months it was closer to $1300 which is crazy. Part of that was because I did not separate out our non-grocery items as carefully as I have been lately and we were spending a lot on general household items but we were still topping $800 a month on just food which is way too high, especially since we were not eating out. We have chopped our general household items budget to almost nothing and I am trying really hard to keep our groceries down. It is really difficult though because I am gluten-free and the kids are dairy-free and they drink a lot of “milk”. I spend probably $100+ a month on minimal amounts of dairy-free milk, yogurt and cheese just for the kids and we run out of “cheese” all the time. We have been slowly testing them on non-cow milk cheeses to see if they tolerate them since it is way cheaper to go to Costco and buy a gigantic block of goat milk cheese then to buy a tiny pack of vegan cheese on sale for 5, 6 or even 9 dollars (and goat cheese is divine!). My kids would eat one vegan pack of cheese in 1-2 days and it has nowhere near the nutrients we would like so we eat them sparingly. We also have to supplement calcium and vitamin D for them as well and I have definitely noticed that now that we have two kids eating gummy vitamins we are having to buy them more often.
We were really good this week about eating our leftovers and making meals out of what we had. We did have to go to the store and my husband went so I don’t remember the exact break down but we still have about $120 left in our grocery budget for the next week or so and that should be enough. We bought a bunch of basics such as frozen vegetables, meat, toilet paper, fresh blueberries, bananas, grapes, avocados, and milk for the kids. My husband bought pork and made garlic sausage from scratch which is the meat we will be eating this week. He also splurged a bit and bought some fish (which we rarely buy) and he fried it a couple of days in a row and we ate it for dinner and breakfast the next day. The kids loved fish for breakfast and it was a great cheap protein source.
I am proud to say that we threw out no leftovers and we have increased our vegetables quite a bit. Usually our kids eat a huge snack at 3:30 or 4:00 and then are ready for bed at 6:30 which doesn’t leave much room for a late dinner so we squeezed it in at 6:00. This past week we tried giving them a very light snack at 4:00 and eating dinner at 5:00/5:30 and lo and behold our kids are actually eating a huge dinner now including all of their vegetables without fuss. We have decided to keep it up and now our youngest is eating way more vegetables and our four year old is not picking at her food and taking forever to eat.
We did end up using our freezer meal this week on a night my husband was out late and we were low on cooked meals in the house. The kids loved it and I was able to stretch it with some rice and a salad on the side and the one meal lasted for a few grown up meals and several kid meals. We bought the beef, carrot and potato stew meal from Costco. We usually don’t like to buy pre-made meals like that but we bought it last November in anticipation of my husband being out of town for a week on business and we never used it. It was reaching the time when it needed to be used so we brought it out for our Uber Frugal Month and it worked great. I am thinking about making some freezer meals to have on hand but honestly we don’t really eat them unless we make a conscious effort (I’m looking at you leftover lentil soup that has been in my freezer for a couple of months). I am thinking about doing a pantry challenge next month since we seem to have barely made a dent in our pantry/freezer this month even though we have cut way back on our groceries.
One of the great thing that has come out of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge is that my husband is making bread again. Back in the day when we only had one kid and before I became gluten-free my husband used to make the most delicious bread all the time. He stopped because we just weren’t eating it but now that we have more kids and they are able to eat it he has started up again. I hear it is wonderful but I have not tried it. He was able to make it dairy-free for the kids and they have been enjoying it in their lunches with nut butter and our homemade raspberry jam.
I did get around to drying our bananas this week and just in time too! My son polished off the last of our previous batch and quite a bit of the current one before I could get it out of the dehydrator. I tried drying a few apples to see if the kids liked them and they gobbled the apples up so fast I hardly blinked! I will definitely be making more dried apples some time soon!
We splurged a bit this week and bought a membership to the Pacific Science Center. We absolutely love going there and it has been a huge part of our lives. Our oldest daughter even volunteered there a few summers and participated in many of their camps. If you buy the membership you get discounts on IMAX movies, upcoming exhibits and most importantly summer camps. Since I will be going back to work I will need to find some sort of care for our four year old over the summer. Our youngest will be at his daycare but our four year old’s school has summer camps instead of regular school so I will have to be signing her up no matter what. The summer camps at the Pacific Science Center are some of the best in the area and spots fill fast but members can sign up almost two weeks early and they receive a discount so buying the membership is totally worth it. Even if we didn’t send our daughter to camp we would only need to visit the science center three times this year in order to make the membership worth it. Buying a yearly membership to a local museum/science center and then visiting every month or every other month is one of the ways we have enjoyed cheap entertainment over the years. Science Center members also enjoy discounted tickets at sister sites and we have visited the science center in Portland OR in the past while on vacation.
Now on to the expensive part of our week. We did replace our hot water heater and it ended up costing us quite a bit since we have gas and in our county they do not do many rebates for a gas hot water heater but I have really noticed a difference in our hot water. It was such a drastic change that I even got out our meat thermometer to check that it was heating the water correctly to 120 degrees and yup, the water was the correct temperature. I had my first hot and not lukewarm bath yesterday since we moved in two years ago and it was glorious! The old one was not heating the water very quickly and if anyone used hot water after bath time, like say to do the dishes, it took forever for it to reheat. I am really glad we replaced the whole unit and not just the leaky valve at the top.
Another major expense this week was the repairs to my car. It turns out that my car is no longer under warranty since it has joined the 100,000 mile club and it needed a few repairs. We had the oil changed, the alignment fixed and the drive belt replaced. The leak in the sunroof turned out to be clogged drains and that was cleaned out as well. My daughter really liked the loaner car and was very excited for me to keep the “new car”. It turned into a conversation about how I loved my car and we didn’t need another one just because something newer came along. My car is a 2010 and the loaner was the same car but a 2015 so the inside looked much prettier, especially since it had not been well loved by my kids for the past five years. I am not sure how much of the conversation my four year old grasped but I am hoping that by talking about how we don’t need to buy new things all the time or replace cars just because they are older it will lay the foundations for her to have a stable financial future. You have to start somewhere right?
How is your Uber Frugal Month going?
Well dear readers, week 2 of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge went off the rails a little bit. We had a busy week with sick kids and another family member was ill so I have not done the last 4 or 5 daily tasks from […]
A few weeks ago I found the Uber Frugal Month Challenge over at the Frugalwoods and I was immediately hooked. What a great way to start out 2018! I signed my husband and I up and we have spent the last week reading through the daily […]
Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden. We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and this year we will definitely be making some changes. This year is our third year working on the garden and every year we learn a little bit more and improve our garden space.
Some things that worked for us last year were squash, green beans and pumpkins. Our pumpkins took up way too much space though so next year instead of planting four plants I will just stick with two and I am going to put them in the side yard so they can grow all the way down our hill. We loved our green beans and squash but I am embarrassed to say we did not eat all of it in time. Since we didn’t get enough each day to make a meal out of it or to freeze in a decent sized batch, some of our beautiful produce ended up in the compost bin. We still have one pumpkin, two decent sized spaghetti squash, and a few tomatoes that slowly ripened on our window sill left but other than that everything is gone.
My plan for next year is:
1. Organize my garden planning with a garden journal
This has been on my list for the past two years and I just haven’t followed through. I even bought a beautiful notebook and colorful pens to make wonderful drawings of all the plants we will grow but besides a few lists of what we planted (I think) it hasn’t been touched. I am pretty sure I wrote down what I planted at the beginning of the season but my notebook has been collecting dust since last spring so at some point in the next week I will get it out and start recording for this year. This year I want to have some simple diagrams of where we plant things for crop rotation and a better list of what grew where. I absolutely love how organized Annie over at 15acrehomestead is. She has tons of great posts for organizing your homesteading projects. I especially love this one where she lays out how to plan your projects for 2018.
2. Plant enough zucchini, green beans and peas to freeze for the entire year
This one is a little ambitious. We did not plant peas last year so I don’t know how well they will do in our space but I am hoping to find somewhere they do well. We need probably two more zucchini plants for a total of four to grow enough for the winter. I am the only one who eats it so we don’t need a whole lot but the challenge will be getting it processed every day. Last year we got quite a few green beans but the way I planted them made them hard to harvest and we did not inoculate at all (whoops) so I think as long as we get enough plants growing at the right time and I stay on top of picking and processing them we will be able to produce enough green beans to feed us all year. I am really excited about the possibility of green beans from our garden next winter! It turns out they are the only green beans my son will eat and it was a sad day when I cooked the last of them and then he refused the ones I bought at Costco as a replacement.
3. Remove the ivy from all of the trees in our backyard
We got a good start last summer pulling English Ivy off of the trees in our backyard and this year I would love to finish. I would also like to remove all of the ivy off the ground which is doable but it will constantly grow back so it will be an ongoing battle. English Ivy is a horrible invasive species here in the Pacific Northwest and many of the trees in the greenbelt behind our house are covered in it. If we don’t girdle the ivy on the trees near our house at some point the ivy will weaken the trees enough to cause them to topple over in a windstorm. We have frequent windstorms in our area so the possibility is definitely real. Every day I drive down the street behind us and look at these giant trees that are covered past their lower branches with a ring of ivy at least 3 feet thick all the way around. I know some day soon at least one of those trees will fall and completely block the road. I am really hoping that nobody gets hurt when it happens.
4. Continue to replace our high maintenance ornamental bushes with food producing ones
The lady that lived here before us densely planted these gorgeous ornamental bushes that are very pretty but require constant pruning and I am sure fertilizer. They also require a large amount of water in the summer which is pretty wasteful to me. The one thing I love about all of our flowery bushes is the healthy bee population they support. All spring and summer our yard is buzzing with friendly bees that easily pollinate our fruits and vegetables. The amount of pruning and watering they require is too much for us though so we are slowly replacing them with lower maintenance native plants.
5. Continue to keep our berry bushes and fruit trees in top shape
We love our fruit at this house! Last year we planted some raspberries, a pear tree, a blueberry bush and some strawberries in addition to the apple tree and blueberry bushes we already had. At this point we really don’t have room for much else without a major front yard overhaul so our goal is to keep them healthy and producing throughout the summer!
We have really enjoyed having a yard for the kids to play in. The back is pretty steep though and requires some skill to navigate safely so this year will be the first year our son is able to walk around back there on his own. The kids had fun helping me pull ivy last weekend and I introduced them to the cool space I found underneath a bush that could definitely be a fairy hideout. I am looking forward to spring and seeing the yard come alive again. What projects are you working on this year?
Usually this time of year I start looking over our finances for the year, project our income a year ahead and start setting some goals for the year. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I am not great at following through with them but […]