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Tag: frugal living

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 […]

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 […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

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.

 

Spaghetti Squash!

 

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.

 

End of season harvest.

 

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.

 

English Ivy climbing our tree.

 

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.

 

Ornamental plants in the front yard.

 

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.

 

Blueberries on our bushes.

 

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?

 

 

 

A List of Sort of Financial Goals for 2018

A List of Sort of Financial Goals for 2018

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 […]

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 […]

Using AARP’s New Tool to Plan Your Retirement

I was given the opportunity this week to check out a new retirement planning tool by AceYourRetirement.org and although I was not paid for this article it does contain promotional material. I would never post about something I have not tried myself and I always give my honest opinion about any product I recommend.

 

One of our biggest goals over the past 10 years as a couple has been to maximize the amount we are able to put into retirement savings.  It is really easy for families to get sidetracked with everyday expenses and short-term goals such as upcoming vacations or maybe the kids have extra-curricular activities that need paying for and lose sight of the bigger picture. We have been focusing on retirement and ever so slowly our small nest egg has begun to grow. I am really glad we have been focusing on retirement too because my parents did not and now they are struggling to find ways to support themselves after some medical issues popped up.  I do not want to put my children through the same kind of stress so by maximizing our retirement savings I am hoping to prevent it. 

 

 

The fact that 2 out of 5 households do not save for retirement is very worrying.  Even small savings steps can pay off in the long run. Our family went from struggling to save 4% to get our full employee match eight years ago to reaching our goal of 10% this year and I am super proud of us.  It took a lot of hard work, determination and some aggressive debt repayment but I am finally feeling a little bit more secure about our future.  Some of our savings tips can be found here on the blog:

 

  1. A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer
  2. A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending
  3. A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

 

Understanding your exact retirement needs can be confusing sometimes since there are so many ideas on what is the best approach. Here are some simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. We follow many of these steps and I found a few more great ideas when I went through the AceYourRetirement.org website. It only took a few minutes too!

 

5 things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.

 

  1. Minimize debt – but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
  2. Don’t rely solely on Social Security – in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
  3. Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
  4. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  5. If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
  6. Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
  7. Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.

 

This time of year can often get pretty hectic with all financial goals flying out the window. Winter clothes, Christmas presents, and so on. But this year I’m already looking ahead at next year’s goals. The retirement calculator and tool at AceYourRetirement.org was great for personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart my retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family.  Now that we have hit our goal of saving 10% we are looking to increase our retirement savings by 1% every year and try and eventually maximize our contributions. One of the ideas that AceYourRetirement.org mentioned for us was for me to start working again to maximize our Social Security benefits.  I have been thinking of going back to work part-time and this has motivated me to start looking for a job! I also love that they recommend you find a hobby to earn extra income during retirement. Just because you retire doesn’t mean you can’t earn extra income! 

 

 

Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. Many times families save for their kids’ college and leave nothing for themselves to retire on.  This puts extra pressure on the kids to support their parents later on in life, something that many young adults may not be prepared both financially and emotionally to do.  More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better about our retirement path after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. You should check it out and see what easy steps they have for you!

 

 

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 […]

Dried Banana Chips

Dried Banana Chips

One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]

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 much we have available for our bigger expenses that happen a few times a year. Another way we have been trying to wrangle our budget is by cutting back on our food spending.  We rarely eat out. We stopped many years ago when we first started looking at our budget and now that we have food allergies it is nearly impossible to find something that works for everyone. Mr. Oscoey is also an excellent cook and usually when we eat out we are left with the feeling that the money was not worth eating food that we could have made better at home so now we just eat out maybe 5 or six times a year for special occasions.

 

When we first started looking at our expenses many years ago about the time of the recession of 2008 we did what most people were typically doing around that time. All of our focus went towards paying down debt and getting ahead in our careers. We cut out many things. All of our remodeling plans were on indefinite hold, vacations had to be done on the cheap and we brought our own food for lunch, new clothing was something that required great discussion and personal reflection as to whether it was necessary and we rarely spent money on family activities. We kept our grocery budget tight and managed to spend about $400 for three people and two small dogs. Our food got a little predictable but we got really good at making meals out of whatever was in the fridge. We followed these simple rules to keep our grocery budget in check.

 

Frugal Food Spending Basics

  1. Eating out should be saved for a few special occasions a year. (Birthdays do not necessarily count)
  2. Shop sales and buy frequently used items in bulk.
  3. Plan you meals around what you have in the house.
  4. Buy produce that is in season and buy a lot of it to can, freeze or dehydrate.
  5. Buy meat that has not been cut into convenience sized pieces and cut it yourself.  (whole pork loin, pork shoulder, bone-in/skin on chicken thighs)
  6. Spend a limited amount of money on junk food and cook/bake the rest.
  7. Going out for coffee counts as one of your rare “eating out” times and should be avoided if at all possible.
  8. Learn how to cook your own food, believe me it is worth it!
  9. Keep portion sizes under control.
  10. Pack your lunch every day.
  11. Planned leftover dinner nights help prevent food waste.

 

Pork loin sandwich with Grandma’s Fruit Salad.

 

I look back on that time with my husband with fondness. We really worked together as a family to make things work. Our oldest daughter swam competitively and we spent our family time in the cheapest hotel room we could find wherever her competitions were located. The three of us spent a lot of time hanging out at home and going on walks with the dogs. Life was pretty simple and even though we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room with our finances we still had a bunch of fun.

 

Everything changed when we had our second daughter. Our grocery budget doubled when she started solid foods and we were still buying whatever was on sale, mostly non-organic foods that were not processed.  Slowly our super tight budget began to slip as our expenses grew. We moved a couple of years ago and then promptly had our son who was super high needs as a baby. Let me tell you when you are up all night with a screaming child and then trying to stay awake all day with kids that do not nap (even your six month old) it is really easy to give in and buy whatever you can microwave for the kids to eat. By the time dinner rolled around I was too exhausted to cook and since our kids needed to eat before Mr. Oscoey came home from work he could not cook dinner either. Needless to say our grocery budget went out the window and one day after the one year old started sleeping through the night I looked over our budget and was shocked by how much we were spending.

 

The first thing I did was to focus on what we were eating and when we were buying our food. It turned out that we were not really paying attention at all to what we actually needed but buying things willy-nilly when we were in the mood for them which resulted in a lot of uneaten food and things being buried in the back of the pantry.  We were going to the grocery store almost every day to pick up one or two items and ending up with a basket of food.  This my friends is not a good way to keep your grocery budget in check!

 

Daiya Dairy-free, Gluten-free macaroni and cheese served with green beans and spaghetti squash grown in the garden.

 

Once I figured out why we were spending so much I started to try and figure out how to fix it.  I spent some time on Pinterest building up my Frugal Living board where I got some great tips, started paying attention to prices when I went to the store and started working on a grocery list every week.  We buy most of our groceries at Costco so I when I pre-entered my scheduled transactions every month in Quicken I started adding my weekly grocery budget in there as well.  This way I had a rough idea of how much we could spend every week and I definitely adjust it based on the previous week. Some weeks we only buy meat and a starch and others we stock up on most of our basics so it really varies but it is ok as long as we stay within our monthly budget.

 

What has worked for us so far is to have a rough idea of what we are eating for dinner that week and I try to buy as little as possible and make it work.  If something is on sale I will stock up and most of our grocery money will go towards that item. We are mostly dairy and gluten free and the kids can’t have nuts packed in their school lunches so it gets a little tricky when I am trying to figure out what to send. I am required to send milk with the littlest one and he will only drink chocolate soy milk so I have been watching the prices on the individual Silk Soy Milk cartons and when they are below $1.00 each I buy as many as possible.  Fred Meyers had them on sale a few weeks ago for $4.49 for a pack of 6 when you bought four so I bought four of them and got an excellent deal! I would have bought another four but I bought the last four they had.  We also base what we are going to eat off of what is on sale. This week we bought a whole pork loin at Costco because they had them on coupon. It is much cheaper to buy the whole loin and cut it up yourself than to buy the pre-cut pieces.  We have done this for many years and it is a great way to save money on meat!

 

Once I figured where our money was going I spent a couple of more months slowly building up our pantry so that we had items on hand when we could not go to the store due to either time constraints or when we had reached the end of our budget.  This readily available stash of basics also serves as our emergency food supply. Everyone should have a couple of weeks worth of necessities stocked up! Here in the Pacific Northwest we worry about earthquakes and windstorms primarily but your emergency food supply can also be used in times of financial stress such as if you lose your job or are injured and paying large amounts of money for medical care. I buy one or two items a week to add to the pantry for leaner times.  This week we bought some pre-made Spanish rice packets on clearance at Target. They were about $1.50 each and we bought three of them so our total was about $5.00. We also bought some sardines on sale at Costco which my husband and kids love to eat for lunch with avocados. To stock up we just bought two packs instead of one. They should last until the next sale and we can use them if the power ever goes out for a quick meal. It is really important that you stock your emergency food supply with items you will actually eat in every day life otherwise you will end up with a lot of food you will never eat.  If we happen to buy something that we don’t end up eating I usually donate it to the local food bank or to someone in need on our Buy Nothing group.

 

When figuring out our monthly food budget I also looked at what type of things we were eating and tried to add more cheap carbs such as potatoes, cereal, beans and rice to make our dollar stretch farther.  We now do a vegetarian/low meat meal at least once a week and usually it consists of a soup (lentil, bean, or noodle based) with vegetables that are needing to be eaten and home made chicken broth from leftover chicken bones, spaghetti with leftover meat and extra veggies added to the sauce or burritos made with rice, beans and leftover meat. I try and have the kids eat cereal or oatmeal a few times a week and they eat eggs almost every day for breakfast as well. We stopped buying junk food and are all eating healthier as a result.

 

Oatmeal made with unsweetened coconut milk, a homegrown apple and cinnamon.

 

Another way we tried to save money on our grocery bill was to grow a garden.  This year was our first year so we had to buy a lot of gardening supplies such as plant boxes, soil, trellises and hoses so we definitely spent more than we saved but I think over time our costs will go down and we may begin to save a little money. It was well worth it for us to see the magic in our kids eyes when they eat the food they helped grow and we are eating more organic foods because we do not use pesticides.  Every day my kids ask to pick ground cherries and that is their afternoon snack. All of our ground cherry plants are freeloaders that sprouted from last year’s $3.00 plant sale find so that was definitely money well spent!  We haven’t really had to buy vegetables for a few weeks and we are overrun with tomatoes at the moment so I have really been enjoying the savings on our grocery bill! I would recommend starting out small if you haven’t ever grown a garden before and be mindful of how much water you will be using since that is a hidden cost of gardening.

 

Overall our quest to reduce our groceries has mostly been about awareness and working on not overspending.  Every time we go to the store we ask ourselves if we really need whatever item or if we could just use something on hand.  We are really working hard at not wasting our food and building our weekly shopping trip off of what we already have, not what we would fancy at the moment. Our bill has gone down a little and we still need to work on that but we are headed in the right direction and now that we are more aware it is becoming so much easier to keep track! My focus over the next few months is to reduce our grocery bill by about 25% which is a lot going though the holiday season. We host Thanksgiving, birthdays and events for our friends over the next few months so not going overboard with the cooking will be a welcomed challenge.

 

How are you cutting back on your grocery bill?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 […]