A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: buy nothing

A Not So Brief Hiatus

A Not So Brief Hiatus

About eight months ago I took a break from blogging. There were many reasons, the most pressing being a complete utter lack of time while trying to maintain balance with both Mr. Oscoey and I working full-time with small kids. To say it was difficult […]

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

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 […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

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 about how we spent our money. Last week was a rough one for us and the entire week seemed against us but it did not effect our spending and we are on track with our grocery spending for the month. Yay!

 

Tacos made with canned refried beans, leftover pork, feta, olives and corn tortillas with salad.

 

We dug into our pantry a bit this week and used up some cans including olives, refried beans, tomatoes and a can of chicken. My kids love the cans of Costco chicken made into chicken salad and it is one of the few things I can send in their lunches that they will actually eat. I have tried making it from scratch chicken but even though I love it my kids are iffy on it.  We also used up some of the corn tortillas I found in our freezer. There are still quite a few in there though! Here are a couple of our other meals:

 

Salad, leftover refried beans, frozen corn and what we call “basic” cooked pork.

 

Homemade meatballs, homemade spaghetti sauce, gluten-free noodles, steamed carrots and salad.

 

As you can see a simple green salad with sunflower seeds has become a staple in our house.  I have always loved salads and try to eat at least one a day but I fell out of that habit while I was pregnant with our son. For some reason any sort of fresh fruit or vegetables made me sick and nearly two years later I am still trying to recover from it. Have you ever had a weird food aversion like that? Thankfully I can now eat salad again but I am still working on fruit. It just isn’t appealing to me any more even though I used to love it. I am hoping this summer when we are out picking fresh fruit it will spark my interest again! Our kids are not super fond of salad although they will eat a piece or two of lettuce sometimes when we ask them to try it so we always offer another vegetable and give them a choice of what they want. In the summer when we have lettuce growing in the garden the kids eat it all day long so apparently lettuce is only tasty to them straight from the garden? I may have to finally try growing some indoors and see if they will eat it.

 

Homemade English muffin, homemade pork sausage and vegan cheese.

 

One of the things my husband did for the kids this week was make homemade English muffins and make them breakfast sandwiches in the morning. They absolutely loved them and my son ate a whole one by himself which is crazy! Other days they ate them with peanut butter or even some of our homemade jam. We have ground our own meat for many years and my husband makes the most delicious garlic sausage. He made it this week and we have been eating it all week. I love garlic so it has been wonderful!

 

Homemade kettle corn.

 

The other food we have been munching on quite a bit lately is popcorn.  My husband loves his spicy but the kids and I love his dairy-free kettle corn made with coconut oil. We have been making it so much that we wore out his stove-top popcorn maker.  A new one is on our list of high priority household items to buy in the next couple of months. We use it several times a week for a cheap and easy snack!

 

A very windy and rainy day walk.

 

We had more than a little bit of cabin fever this week. Our kids were finally getting over two months of back to back colds and needed to get out and do something. Since we are being frugal we tried to find things for them to do at home but there reached a point last week when we had about 30 minutes to take them outside in the windy and very wet weather to jump in puddles to burn off some energy. It ended up being tons of fun! We went on the trail through the woods that I have been hearing about since we moved in but never gotten around to walking on and it was a pretty trail to walk on. We ended up doing a 3/4 (2yo and I) and 1 mile (4yo and Mr. Oscoey) loop and both kids walked the whole way and jumped in as many puddles as they could.  We will probably start doing more family walks around the neighborhood like that, especially since our son didn’t need to be carried. It is a great free activity for the family to do and it is important that our kids know the layout of the neighborhood for when they are older.

 

Water color finger painting.

 

Another boredom buster we did was to break out the paint. I realized we stopped doing our afternoon art because we got busy with the holidays. We have started it up again and the kids picked painting this time and had a blast. We cut up some sponges I bought a couple of years ago to paint with and our son wanted water colors so he practiced his painting skills and blending colors. They did make quite a bit of mess and we had to talk about how we behave while we paint but overall it was a success.

 

Puppy damage…

 

One unexpected thing that came up this week was some damage our puppy did to our wall. My husband patched and repainted this spot masterfully a couple of weeks ago but our puppy, being the crazy dog that he is, ran into the wall again and dented it with his gigantic bony elbow.  He is incredibly observant and noticed right away that the wall was slightly different so he investigated it and discovered he could peel back a section to chew on. Seriously. He did this while I was dealing with a kid “emergency” and he was not the least bit remorseful. In fact he tore another chunk off as soon as I wasn’t looking. I am really thankful that my husband is able to repair minor drywall damage and we do not have to pay someone to do it.  We have saved so much money doing small repairs ourselves and Mr. Oscoey has gotten better over the years and now you can barely tell that it was repaired. I highly recommend that you learn how to do minor house repairs like this so that you aren’t paying big bucks to have it fixed.

 

Overall the week was super frugal and we hardly bought anything besides necessary groceries like milk, fruit and some small key ingredients for recipes. I am excited to write up our end of the month recap later this week so look for it on the blog!

 

The Uber Frugal Month Challenge is almost over but how are you being frugal in your every day life?

 

 

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 3

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 3

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 […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

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 […]

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our friends she was quite the center of attention. It was quite a shock for me just how many presents one child could receive and how insistent people would be that they buy her something every time she sneezed. Things got worse once we started having a “family” party separate from the “kid” party and we suddenly had twice the presents, many of which were small plastic pieces that soon got lost. Once we had a second, and then third child the gifting got completely out of control. Suddenly everyone needed a present at everyone else’s birthday even though my kids are not upset by others getting presents and everyone started getting gifts randomly even though there was no actual reason. It was a waterfall of gifts people. Many more than my kids ever needed and these same people that were giving all of these gifts, sometimes one a month, were very critical of how many things we had for the kids.  My constant pointing out of the excess that others had bought them fell on deaf ears and I began to get really frustrated. A solution had to be found!

 

Cake from our daughter’s third birthday.

 

I have spent many years trying to reign people in and insisting that we did not need more clothes, toys or whatever random things were suggested and I was largely ignored. Family members “needed” to buy the kids many things and parents of friends would tell me their kid really wanted to buy something.  We tried small wish lists on Amazon. That resulted in gifts cards of various degrees of usefulness. We tried explaining about how we were cutting back and didn’t need any more stuff. This sort of worked but mostly resulted in a smaller number of gifts at holidays and then random giving all year round. We also tried doing a white elephant party at one of our daughter’s birthdays but the kids had such a diverse set of interests it didn’t really work.

 

This year I decided we have had enough. We are trying to cut back on our “stuff” and reduce our waste and all of this random gift giving was not helping. We started the seeds of change early, at our youngest’s first birthday with a very firm we prefer no gifts but if you insist on buying something stick to the wishlist (which mostly contained diapers and a couple of toys both kids could share). It worked out pretty well. He still got a lot of gifts, but nowhere near the amount the first two kids did and we had more people at the party since we invited a bunch of friends too. I also took every opportunity I could to point out cute clothing items the kids were wearing that we had received from our Buy Nothing group and to firmly state that the children did not need clothes. Thankfully people started asking me if the kids needed anything and actually listening and the number of random gifts started to slowly decline.

 

The best part of my son’s first birthday party was the car wash we created in the hallway out of leftover streamers from previous parties.

 

The true test of our reduced gift receiving strategy was the middle child’s 4th birthday. She has a lot of friends and started at a new school this year so I wanted to invite everybody in her class.  We ended up doing separate family and kid parties since there would be so many kids invited. For the family party I set up a small wish list on Amazon with things she actually wanted (mostly Legos) and a couple of clothing items to satisfy those that always buy clothes for her.  I made sure to tell everybody that we really wanted to see everyone but to keep the gift giving to a minimum since our kids have way too much stuff and you know what? It actually worked this time! Our daughter got presents, but this was the first year that she didn’t seem to get way too many. People only bought her one or two items instead of four or five and about half of the items were Lego sets which took us a whole month to put together so she didn’t experience present burnout after a few days. I am really glad we stuck to our guns!

 

Lately our kids have been into making hybrid lego/block trains.

 

The kid party was a little trickier since we didn’t know a lot of the families as well.  We invited about 25 kids plus their siblings and had it at a local gymnastics place where the kids got to run around for an hour then have cake.  Since I haven’t had luck telling friends not to buy gifts I decided to see if people were willing to donate a gift to a local charity called Holly House for Kids instead. We asked our daughter’s friends to make her a card or draw her a picture since she loves receiving art from her friends and to donate a gift to a charity in our area that buys Christmas gifts for kids instead of buying her a present. It worked out really well! A few parents didn’t read the part on the invitation about gifts but almost everyone else brought her a piece of artwork and many people donated gifts to our charity. Holly House for Kids has an Amazon wishlist where all gifts can be sent directly to the charity so I didn’t even have to drop donations off afterwards! It was an amazing experience to have most of the families donate to kids that may go without.  We also took the opportunity to talk with our 4yo about how some kids don’t get presents at Christmas time and that she had gotten lots of gifts at her family party and didn’t need anything else.  Honestly though, she was so busy having fun with her friends that she didn’t really notice that she didn’t have a bunch of presents until we got home. She really enjoyed reading her cards and looking over her art work over the next few days.  It was really cool to see what the other kids had made and our daughter loves art. She was very excited that the kids had made something for her which was really sweet to see.

 

My daughter drew this for a family member as a gift.

 

We will definitely do the donation instead of a present idea at the next birthday party.  I am really glad our kids are young enough that they won’t remember getting tons of presents at every birthday party and hopefully they will grow up with the expectation that spending time with friends is more important than receiving a large number of presents.

 

What have you done to reduce the amount of presents given to your household?

 

 

 

 

 

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our […]

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending

A little while ago I wrote about how we have been working on our budget and how I use Quicken to track our finances.  I love the Savings Goals category and it has helped us tremendously the last few months to keep track of how […]

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part One: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part One: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer

To say we’ve had a lot of change over the past two years is an understatement. We bought a house, added a child, added a new driver, got a puppy, discovered our older dachshund has some chronic health issues (lots of vet bills), have one child starting college this fall and two starting different preschools and to top it off my husband just started a new job with a completely different type of pay schedule.  Needless to say our budget has undergone so many changes over the past couple of years I am having a hard time reaching a new normal.  As soon as I get everything calculated and rearranged something new pops up and I have to do it all over again and it is getting a more than a little frustrating. I am determined this time, with the new pay schedule to figure things out once and for all (or at least until another major change ha ha!).  My goal is to find a system that works for us and has lots of flexibility for those months when everything seems to happen at once.

 

I started doing my research on a new way of budgeting a few months ago. I looked at several websites, talked with my posse of like minded budget gurus, read some of my favorite budget books and a few new ones, and browsed Pinterest boards to see what was trending because just like diet fads, budgeting methods seem to follow trends too. What spoke to me the most was adopting a more frugal lifestyle and building up our “buffer” for those months that seem to have every expense on earth scheduled.  I have used Quicken to track my expenses for over a decade and it has been the best resource I have tried. This year the “Savings Goals” tool has become my absolute favorite. It has really helped me stash away money for big expenses in my regular checking account without having to stash it in several different accounts for each category as many budgeting gurus suggest.  Keeping track of multiple accounts can get challenging and simplifying budgeting makes it way easier to stay on track!

 

 

The way the savings goals work is you “move” the money into a separate account so it is not available in your checking/savings account.  It is a great way to keep track of how much money you have available in your account for any given expense.  In the past I would try to accomplish this in a spreadsheet but that got complicated with trying to remember which amounts I had moved around. For example lets say you have some money set aside for home improvements. Let’s say you have $2000.00 total and you have some minor home improvements you want to complete that will cost about $1000.00 but will take you a few months to complete.  You would transfer the $2000.00 into the Home Improvement savings goal in Quicken so it would not show up in your checking account register but if you look at your balance at your bank online it will still be there. Let’s say the first weekend you tackle the pantry needing to be fixed (here’s our pantry story) but you only have time to buy paint and that costs $60. The next weekend you go out and buy shelves, bins and the accompanying hardware and that costs another $150. So your total for the pantry project is $210. You could either “move” the money from your Home Improvement savings goal to your checking account after each transaction or after the next time you balance your checkbook. There is no need to worry about being short in your checking account or remembering to transfer money from savings to cover it because the money is already there. Once you move the money your balance in your Home Improvement account would be $2000.00 – 210.00 for a total of $1790.00.

 

Let me tell you, it is amazing! I am a total budget to the penny kind of girl and I don’t like leaving unnecessary money in the checking account in case I forget which money that particular amount is to be used for (believe me with the craziness going on in our house it is bound to happen every once in a while) but now I have it separated out without having to transfer anything in my actual bank account. I don’t really have to think about it beyond I have about X amount saved for projects around the house. I have set up several different categories this way including a buffer, money for our twice yearly car insurance payments, home improvements and for vet bills. And the major bonus is that if something unexpected comes up like an emergency vet visit when you have exhausted your “vet bills” account you can avoid the worry of paying for the visit and shuffle money between the categories to cover it.

 

The best way to use this tool is to automatically transfer money into your categories at regular intervals.  I put money in the buffer every pay check and the rest of the categories monthly after our second pay check of the month. This will make saving the money for your categories a habit and after a couple of months you won’t even notice that you are “missing” the money from your checking account.  It is really important that if you use this method to focus on the balance in your checking account register in Quicken and not what your bank says you have otherwise you will be tempted to over spend.

 

The absolutely most important part of this method is that it eliminates the need for you to put anything on a credit card that you don’t immediately pay off. 

 

Let me repeat that. If you have enough money in your checking account to cover both expected and unexpected expenses you will never need to put money on your credit cards that you are not able to pay off immediately. The best uses of credit cards are to rack up points/miles for a discount on services you already use, for an extended warranty, fraud protection (although some debit cards offer something like this) and to build up your cashback bonuses. Any interest you pay on credit cards will immediately void the value of any rewards you receive from the credit cards.  1% cashback is way less than paying 10% in interest and the credit card companies come out on top any time you are paying interest.

 

I have been really happy with our new budget so far! Automatically transferring the money has really saved a lot of the guesswork out of the budget and now it takes me about half the time to balance everything every couple of weeks or so.  Stay tuned for my next installment where I cover some of the methods we have used to be more frugal around the house!

 

Happy budgeting everyone!

 

Garden Update April 23, 2017

Garden Update April 23, 2017

We have finally been able to make some progress on our garden this week.  Our pumpkin and sunflower seedlings are growing well and are almost ready for hardening off and transplant.  I checked this morning and the watermelon seedlings are just starting to peek through […]