Friday, August 25, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 25, 2023

    It was a gardening week here at the cottage.  After getting my squash in last week, I moved on to various types of lettuces and greens.  We have been eating a lot of these, so I am going to be glad when we start harvesting and I don't have to buy them any more.  They are one of the easiest things for me to grow, so it pains me that they are so expensive at the store.

    After I got these in, Colton told me that we were expecting rain on Tuesday.  Rain is so rare and precious where I live, so this sent me into gardening overdrive.  I planted green beans, radishes, beets, carrots, cabbage, and parsnips.  John planted corn and zinnias.  I covered my rows with more wood chips (we are really running out but I think the Lord must have multiplied them for me like the loaves and fishes because I had enough with some left over!) and spread more hay in between.  Ginger helped, obviously.

    Inside, I started my tomato seeds and herb seeds.  I should've done this sooner, but better late than never (I hope).

    What I didn't know was that we weren't just expecting rain- it was a tropical storm!  Not sure how I missed that memo (actually it's because I don't watch/read the news or socialize very often), or I probably wouldn't have planted!  I'm glad I did, though, as we ended up getting a steady, gentle rain that totaled three inches by the time it was over.  This is what I found the next morning:

    That's my squash!  And some of the greens coming up:

    I set out buckets and caught lots of rainwater.  I'm using it for my seedlings and fruit trees, which are still in pots.  Two of our peach trees were completely stripped of their leaves overnight by leafcutter ants, so I'm having to haul them into the shed at night and back outside in the morning until Colton can find the ant colony and poison them.  They are nearly impossible to fight.  All the websites basically say "good luck".  We'll try.

    With all of the planting I did, I thought I should really keep a better record than I have in years past, so I created a gardening journal using one of the binders I bought over the tax-free weekend.  I used free printables from JES (here and here) and these, which I found on Pinterest from The Fairy Printsess.  There are so many free options to choose from that I was able to customize it and get exactly what I wanted. 

    Some of the pages:

    I also included print-outs from my local nursery on planting times for our area and care guides for some of the trees and plants I have.

    While I was at it, I made a weekly/monthly planner using free printables from Shining Mom, which I also found on Pinterest (just type in "free planner printables" and you will get loads of results).  The planner I have used in the past is wonderful but expensive, so this time I am opting for "free".  I was able to get the pages that will fit my needs, and they are pretty!

    I do so much better with lists because it means less for me to remember!  Getting things onto paper means getting them out of my brain, which means less stress about all the to-do's.  I can keep track of my Fly Lady schedule this way too.

    This week I tackled a big task and organized and inventoried the freezers (we have three if you count the one in the fridge).  Now I can see what all we have, what we need to buy, and what we need to use.  Sometimes I open them just to admire my work!  I added the inventory sheets to the back of my planner, along with a master list of meal ideas that we eat and like so that I can meal plan and rotate my stock.

    It was a no-spend week, except for buying apples, which I could not pass up.  There is a discount produce store in the city where Colton works and I always check their Facebook page for deals.  Once we bought a 40lb box of bananas for $5!  We shared them, ate them, froze them, baked with them, and my dad freeze dried heaps for us to eat as snacks.  This time it was organic apples for $1 per pound!  I bought 18lbs of Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Fuji varieties.  This coming week I will process them into apple butter, applesauce, juice, and dried slices.  Because they are organic, I can also use the peels for making jelly and/or vinegar.

    I am still working on my wardrobe.  I had ordered some clothes online during tax-free weekend (are you tired of hearing about "tax-free weekend" yet??) when the boys had their shopping spree.  Most of them came in this week, so I was able to try everything on and see what worked and what didn't.  Most of it didn't, which I expected, but that's ok.  I've become very picky about my clothes because I don't want a closet full of things that I avoid wearing for one reason or another.  I'd rather have the money for things I feel good in, so I will keep the pieces I really like and get a nice refund for the ones I don't.  

    This was the view out my window as I tried things on during all the rain: 

    Could there be a cozier scene? 

    Meanwhile, I've been putting more effort into my every day attire with the purpose of looking nice for my family.  I had fallen into the comfy t-shirt and worn out denim skirt trap, and it wasn't pretty!  Here is an example of my recent efforts:

Top: Goodwill
Skirt: made by me about 15 years ago!

    It isn't anything fancy, but I think it's lovely anyway.  Lovely is the goal.

    How was your week?  I'd love to hear!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Thrifty Thursday #14 ~ Would You Rather...?

    Last week, the boys tagged along with me to the thrift store.  I let them take some of their spending money so they could have a little fun doing their own shopping.  James, who is two, has been especially eager to "go buy sumpin'" with the pocket change his grandpa gave him.  He settled on two toy cars for fifty cents.

    He was so excited over his finds and happily took them to the register, but when it came time to pay, he didn't want to give up his money- he wanted both!  I tried in vain to explain to him that when we want something in a store, we have to pay for it.  We give them our money, and they let us take our desired object.  He clung tightly to his coffee can of change (maybe he inherited my frugal gene), equally insistent on having the cars.  I offered to pay for them as I knew he might be too young to understand, but in true toddler fashion, he wanted to do it himself.  Eventually, the kind and patient thrift store volunteer got through to him and said, "If you give me one of your coins, I'll give you a car."  Reluctantly, he gave her a quarter.  She handed him a car, and the process was repeated.  By the time we left, he was happily carrying his cars and still had plenty of change left over in his jar.

    This got me thinking about what it really means to buy something.  Truthfully, I didn't want to give the nice lady my money either, but it happened that I wanted the items I chose more than the money that they required, so I handed it over (without any theatrics) and made the exchange. 

    Every potential transaction is an act of choosing one thing over another.  Most of the time, we cannot have our cake and eat it, too.  We have to ask ourselves, "Would I rather have the money or the item?"  Our decision is based on what we deem more valuable.  We are weighing the use and pleasure of the object against the time it took to earn the money, as well as other things the money could be potentially spent on.  Which is worth more? 

    Maybe you already know you are willing to part with the money, but you have only a certain amount in your budget and have to choose between two items.  I think we have all had to do this, and the same principle applies.  Naturally you are going to choose which item you want or need more.  

    My Shopping Book has really helped me with this.  I know what my personal allowance is each month, and I'm already willing to spend it, so when I see something I like in a store, I will think, "Would I rather have this item, or an item on my wish list?"  I find this helps me avoid impulse purchases.  The items in my shopping book have already been carefully planned out, and I know for sure that I want them.  Buying something else means putting those other items on hold for another month or more, so I have to make a choice!

    I find perspective plays such a huge role in saving and spending.  Taking this view when shopping is just another tool in our money-saving arsenal.  Do you think weighing your purchases this way would help you save money?

Friday, August 18, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 18, 2023

    This week flew by so quickly that I didn't once pause to write things down!  Colton started back at his school job, so we have been adjusting to the new routines.  So far, all is going well. 

    I took a trip to our local thrift store to make a donation and, of course, I looked around while I was there.  The boys went with me and took some of their spending money.  Colton's dad gives them pocket change occasionally, and James has been itching to "go buy sumpin'" so I let him take his little coffee can of coins to pick something out.  He settled on two toy trucks for $0.50.  I let John take $3 from his own coffee can (we have very sophisticated piggy banks, don't we?) so that he could pick something out too.  He bought a puzzle, a book, and a caddy for some of his art supplies.  I am thankful that our thrift store has not gone up on their prices as most places.

    I found some things, too:

    The green velvet fabric underneath my finds was also a purchase from the same trip.  It looks to be about a yard and a half of material.  My plan is to sew some throw pillow covers with it.  

    There is a larger Fido jar not pictured, as well as a few books, and a lamp.  I have been looking for a lamp for nearly a year and I finally found one I like for $10.  I plan to make over the shade once I find some fabric I like.  Waiting for just the right thing to come along means I am a slow decorator, but I end up with things I truly like and I save money in the process.

    We also took a big trip to the city for Tax Free Weekend, as planned.  I packed all our food for the day so that we wouldn't have to buy any. 


    This was a concoction using what I had on hand that was diet-compliant for me and Colton.  It is sort of a combo of egg, turkey, and pea salads using homemade mayonnaise.  We ate it on a bed of lettuce and it ended up being very tasty, with the correct balance of protein, fats, non-starchy vegetables, and carbs.  We liked it so well that I repeated it later in the week!  I also packed strawberries for snacks, and sandwiches, appleasauce, pretzels, and cookies for the boys.  Our travel cups plus an extra thermos of ice water kept us all hydrated.

    The stores were not nearly as crowded as I had expected, but it was clear that the rush had happened the day before (Friday), as things were pretty disheveled and picked over.  We were still able to find what we needed.  Colton was able to get work slacks, jeans, and dress shirts in his new size.  He also got a new belt and a new pair of boots.  The boys got some new clothes, too.  It was all tax free and combined with sales, so the day was a success.

    I feel like much of my week was getting everything washed, ironed, and squirreled away in its new home.  I cleaned, culled, and organized as I went.  I started working on my own closet, too, but I still have a way to go.  I do hope to write about it soon, as it has been on my heart lately to prioritize dressing up at home and looking nice for my family.  The desire is there, but putting outfits together does not come naturally for me, so it is a work in progress.

    I finally got something planted in the garden: squash!  We were unexpectedly blessed with rain on Wednesday, so Thursday when the ground was soft, I went out at first light (the only time it isn't a million degrees) and made some rows in the garden.  I got one row of yellow squash and one row of zucchini planted.

    We are low on wood chips and our wood chipper is in for repairs (is it normal for a wood chipper, a washing machine, a water heater, a well pump, and an A/C to all go out in the span of two months, right after having to replace the tires on both vehicles???), so I used what little we had left to top the rows.

    I noticed that my sister-in-law, who is our neighbor, has a big pile of old hay near her house that the animals will no longer eat.   I asked her if I could have some and she said I could take all I wanted.

    The boys and I drove over and loaded up what I could haul and I put that in between my rows.  This will keep the ground from drying out and baking.

    My little chicks are getting bigger.  They are in that awkward stage of getting their feathers and not looking so cute.  I still have six, but half were camera shy.

    My bigger chickens during the morning feeding frenzy:

    Can you spot the two guineas?

    We got ahead in many ways this week, but I think that with the shopping and unexpected expenses we've had over the last couple months, it is going to very much be a "use what you have and make do" period as we replenish what has been spent.  I am fine with this, as I am happy and content to stay busy at home.  I certainly have plenty to do!

    I hope everyone has a lovely weekend...

Friday, August 11, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 11, 2023

    A little cloud of sorrow hung over my week, as my beloved twelve-year-old cat, Button, died.  Colton got him for me a month after we married, so he was with us right from the start.  He is greatly missed.

    I am very glad to have Ginger following me around the way Button used to.  No, she isn't Button, but her antics amuse and delight me.  She is a good little companion, getting in the middle of everything I do.  I trimmed my mint this week and set some of the clippings in jars in hopes of propagating them.  We'll see how that goes- I think I need younger, more tender cuttings.  Here she is getting a refreshing drink of mint water.

    I also got my last remaining rose bush weeded.  Hopefully I can get that flourishing again.  Ginger thought to help, but she was on the other side of the fence in the garden.  I managed to capture the exact moment that she realized she could no longer fit through the fence like she used to.

    Our A/C went out this week.  It had been making some funny sounds, and finally it quit working.  Colton called my dad, who came over and helped troubleshoot.  He brought a bag of beef for us that he picked up on his way!  And he included some little treats for the boys.  Just pure kindness and generosity. 

    He and Colton were able to figure out the issue but needed a part, which the local A/C repair man didn't have, but he kindly let us borrow a part from his scrap pile to get us by until we could get what we needed (different size).  My dad made some phone calls and arranged for us to be able to get the part wholesale, saving us about $100, and who knows how much by doing it all ourselves.  When we return the borrowed part, I will send cookies as a "thank you".

    I've done a little clothes shopping this week.  I had intended to wait for the Tax Free Weekend, but as I was searching online to see what sales would coincide with it, I saw that one of the children's clothing stores (The Children's Place) was running a good sale, with an extra 25% off when you sign up for their emails.  As a bonus, they were having an early tax-free special for Texas shoppers.  I ended up getting the boys several shirts in their next size up for about $4.50 each.  Shipping was free and I didn't have to fight the crowds!  I also earned some coupons for $10 off my next $20 purchase, so I am very pleased with all of that.  We still plan to go to the brick-and-mortar stores tomorrow, as Colton needs some new clothes and will have to try them on.  I'm hoping it won't be a madhouse, but I expect it will.

    I ventured into town to get some grocery specials.  We usually do our grocery shopping in the next town over, which is thirty minutes away, because our town's grocery store is so expensive.  However, they do run some good sales, so I always check the flyer.  This week, I got a ten pound bag of potatoes for $3, bananas for $0.33/lb, and a pound of ground beef for $0.99 with a coupon.  I may or may not have bought two cartons of Blue Bell ice-cream that were half off.  See?  I do buy convenience foods and treats sometimes ;)  

    Fun fact: We visited the Blue Bell (a Texas company) factory in June with some friends!  I don't have too many pictures without us in them, but here are a few:

A display case in the Blue Bell Museum

Looking out the Museum window at an old ice-cream delivery truck replica

Display case in the ice-cream parlor above the factory

    Photos were not allowed in the actual factory part.  Top secret, you know.  But we did get to see them make the ice-cream and package it from the upstairs observation deck.  The flavor that day was Cookies 'n Cream.  A good time (and ice-cream) was had by all.

    Ice-cream is certainly not part of the gut-healing program I am on right now, so my recent purchases are waiting in the freezer.  Once I finish the program, I am allowed to maintain an 80/20 balance of healthy/not-so-healthy, and boy have I been dreaming of that 20%!  I'm almost there.  This is week 8 out of 13, and I have seen so much improvement.  I had a little setback over a food that didn't agree with me and that reminder of what I used to feel like is enough to keep me from falling off the wagon once the program is over.  I've had a taste of health and energy and I'm not giving that up!  Moderation, Kelsey.  Moderation. 

    I've been saving the supplement bottles from the program since the pills came in glass amber jars.  This week I took the labels off and washed them up.  A tip for getting sticky label residue off is to coat the surface in peanut butter or almond butter and let it sit for a bit before wiping it off.  The oil in the butter is what makes it work, so you might be able to get away with just olive or vegetable oil.

    I think I will store dried herbs in the bigger ones and maybe homemade vanilla in the smaller ones.  What would you store in them?  I'm looking for some ideas.

    I want to show you how big my grocery store lettuce grew in a week's time.  I can't believe it!

    Over the last couple weeks, I have been freezing bananas that get overripe before the boys can eat them.  I flash freeze them on a pan and then put them into a bag in the freezer for smoothies.  Really this goes for any fruit that is past its prime but still good.  The boys love smoothies in the summertime and I feel good about the ingredients and no waste, so it's a win/win/win.  To the blender I add:

    -2 frozen bananas 
    -A few handfuls of frozen fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or peaches
    -A few generous spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt, for probiotics and creaminess
    -Milk, to cover

    I don't add any sweetener because the bananas are sweet enough.  I also add Amazing Grass green powder if I have it, which has two full servings of vegetables per scoop.  Hidden in the smoothie, the boys can't taste it.  

    I made extra one day and froze it into popsicle molds.  The boys thought this was the best treat ever!

    Hmmm...maybe I should do a cost breakdown and comparison for homemade smoothies for a Grocery Savings post...

    Upstairs in the loft, I started a few craft projects, but didn't get any finished enough for pictures.  I did get some tidying done up there, which will make completing those projects much easier and enjoyable.  I also got caught up on my ironing, finally.

    I did more deep cleaning in my bedroom, too.  I got rid of the clutter piles that had built up, dusted the rest of the furniture, washed the walls and baseboards, and laundered the bedspread.  One good thing about this heat is that my bedspread dried on the line in no time!

    Everything looks and smells so nice and fresh.  My bedroom feels like a restful retreat again.

    This cabinet holds our bedroom blankets and linens: 

    The frame on top holds a sign that my friend hand-lettered for me.  It says:

"Let the wife make the husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave." 

- Martin Luther

    The wooden box was made by Colton's great-grandfather, and the vase belonged to his grandmother.  The vase holds dried baby's breath from a friend's wedding.  The hat, clock, and doily were thrifted.  The vast majority of d├ęcor in my home- if not all- has been acquired very inexpensively.

    There are still a few more things I'd like to do in my room, but it is mostly done.  I want to implement the Fly Lady system again, as it worked well for me when I did it before.  Colton starts back at his school nurse job on Tuesday, and John will be starting homeschool in September, so getting a good routine down is going to be crucial for keeping everything running smoothly.  

    I will be taking the week off from blogging as we adjust to our new schedules, but I will be back again on Friday!  I am also going to continue Thrifty Thursday and my Grocery Savings series on Mondays, but they will be on alternating weeks.  I have a few extra posts planned, so this will allow me to squeeze those in, as well.  I do love sharing in this space and appreciate you taking the time to read what I have written.

    I hope you have a wonderful week to come.  Happy homemaking, ladies!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Thrifty Thursday #13 ~ Double Check

    Today's post is a simple reminder to double check your receipts and statements.

    I am very careful about planning my shopping around sales and coupons to ensure my money goes as far as it can.  It is equally important to make sure all of my purchases ring up accurately!

    Sale items won't ring up correctly if they haven't already been entered into the computer.  Sometimes the reduced price needs to be entered manually, and this can be missed if the cashier isn't aware of a sale or doesn't see the discount sticker on a product.  Other times, a cashier might accidentally scan the same item twice!  This happened to me the other day with an item that was on clearance.  The price was right but the cashier had accidentally charged me for two instead of one.  I was watching so I was able to catch it and politely asked if she could check, which she did.  I am one of those shoppers who watches the total as I am checking out just to make sure!  Sometimes I miss a mistake, but if the total seems off, I know to check my receipt to make sure everything is accurate and that any coupons I used went through.

    The same thing goes for looking over bank or credit card statements to make sure there are no fraudulent charges or discrepancies.  I have saved literally hundreds of dollars this way.  Once I found a charge for $600 for an Airbnb in Georgia, which very obviously was not ours.  That was the biggest one, but there have been smaller charges too.  The sooner you are aware of them, the sooner they can be stopped.  Fortunately in our experiences, both the bank and the businesses involved were good about removing the charges and getting us our money back.

    Even things that might not be fraudulent need to be checked.  For example, if a subscription service renews because you forgot to cancel it, it will show up on your statement as a reminder.  Or if you have cancelled and keep getting charged, you will know and can take action.  The same goes for any fees or service charges you may not have been aware of when you signed up for something.  You'll never know if you don't double check!

    What are some of the ways you have saved money by double checking your receipts and statements?  Do you find mistakes often?

Monday, August 07, 2023

Grocery Savings ~ Buying and Storing Produce for Homemade Salads

    We all know that food waste is detrimental to the grocery budget, but sometimes it can be difficult to use up produce before it goes bad.  Learning how to prepare it and store it properly can both extend its life and ensure that we are more likely to use it.

    Today we are looking at some common salad ingredients, starting with lettuce.  I usually opt for romaine, as opposed to something like iceberg, because of its higher nutrient content.  Buying it already cut comes with a hefty price tag, so I buy whole romaine hearts and prep them myself.  I've been using this method for years with great success. 

    First, I cut up the lettuce into bite-sized pieces.

    Then I put it in a wash pan filled with water and a splash of vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes to make sure any dirt, bugs, or any type of pesticide or other residue is washed off.

    I rinse it in a colander and run it through my salad spinner.  

    To get any extra moisture out, I empty the lettuce onto a towel and toss and scrunch it gently.  It is important to get the lettuce as dry as you can.

    Finally, I transfer it to a Mason jar and store it in the fridge (shown below is a half gallon jar).  This keeps the lettuce fresh and easy to use.  

    You can see that I put a paper towel in the bottom of my jar above.  This is to absorb any extra moisture.  I've also packed the lettuce in fairly tight.  The less air and moisture, the better.

    If I have a lot of lettuce, or I know I won't use it quickly, I use the jar attachment on my vacuum sealer to remove all the air before storing.  I've had prepped lettuce last weeks and weeks this way!

    Now for the cost comparison, based on prices at my local grocery store:

    A bag of 3, whole romaine hearts (18oz) = $2.74, or $0.15/ounce

    A bag of pre-cut, chopped romaine hearts (10oz) = $2.98, or $0.30/ounce.  That's twice the cost of the whole hearts!  

    Granted, you do remove some of the weight when you cut off the bases, but not much.  With that kind of price difference, you still come out ahead when you buy the lettuce in its whole form.  You also get the benefit of versatility.  Save some leaves whole for sandwiches, burgers, or wraps.  

    Did you know you can plant the bases and grow more lettuce from them?  I tried it years ago and it worked!  I tried it again when I cut up the lettuce for this post, and it worked again.  I just put the bottoms in a little dish of water and set it on my kitchen windowsill.  This is how much it grew after just 3 days!

    Now for another common salad ingredient: carrots.  I usually buy a big bag of whole carrots and they last a long time in the refrigerator without any special steps, but for convenience I sometimes take a few out and prepare them so that they are ready to eat or cook right away.  I wash and peel them, then trim off the ends and cut them to the desired size.  Then I transfer them to a leak-proof container, cover them with water, and store them in the fridge, changing out the water every few days.  This keeps the carrots good and crisp.  The same method works for celery and cucumbers.  

{Daisy Creek Farms on YouTube has a video that shows even more vegetables that can be stored this way, as well as how to use the water that they are kept in so that nothing goes to waste!  He has a video on storing fruit and another, more extensive one on storing vegetables.}

    For the cost comparison on carrots:

    2lb bag of whole carrots = $1.68, or $0.05/ounce

    2, 1lb bags of mini cut carrots = $1.96 ($0.98 each), or $0.06/ounce

    Savings: $0.28

    I will admit that that's not much of a savings and you do end up sacrificing some of the weight when you peel and trim the whole carrots.  However, that extra $0.28 in savings is enough to upgrade to a 2lb bag of organic, whole carrots at my grocery store.  Some of the other varieties of pre-cut, chopped, and shredded carrots were WAY more expensive, like 3.5 ounces of chopped carrots for $1.98.  That's $0.57/ounce vs. $0.05/ounce for the bag of whole carrots!

    As with the lettuce, buying the whole carrots also has the advantage of versatility.  The mini cut carrots would be much harder to shred or grate, for example.  As for the peels and trimmings, those can go into a bag in the freezer for making broth (another savings which we will explore in a future post).  For that, I definitely prefer the organic.

    Now we look at pre-bagged salads.  The cheapest one I could find with romaine lettuce also contained shredded carrots and red cabbage slivers.  It was a 10oz bag for $3.28, or $0.33/ounce.  Since we already know our lettuce and carrot prices, let's look at the price of cabbage:

    An 8oz bag of pre-shredded cabbage (red and green mixed) = $1.68, or $0.21/ounce.  

    In comparison:

    A whole green cabbage (appx 2.75lbs) = $1.87, or $0.04/ounce.

    A whole red cabbage (appx 2.95lbs) = $2.89, or $0.07/ounce.

    The whole green and red cabbages are about 1/5th and 1/3rd of the cost of the bags of shredded cabbage, respectively.  That is a HUGE difference!  It would take over 5 bags of shredded cabbage ($8.40) to equal one head of green cabbage ($1.87).  That is a savings of $6.53, which is enough to buy a small jar of mayonnaise and a 2lb bag of carrots to put towards a batch of coleslaw.  Or a pound of ground beef and a pound of rice to put towards stuffed cabbage rolls.

    If we made our own salad with the whole ingredients that we prepped ourselves:

    8oz romaine lettuce: $1.20
    1oz carrots: $0.05
    1oz red cabbage: $0.07
    Total: $1.32 

    Compared to the (10oz) pre-mixed bag of romaine, cabbage, and carrots for $3.28, that is a savings of $1.96.  That would buy extra toppings like tomatoes, celery, or an avocado.  It would also buy a dozen eggs, which you could hard-boil and add to the salad for extra protein.  

    Because the prices and sizes of the packages vary so widely, I put together two hypothetical grocery lists- based on the ingredients we've covered- in which the total costs come out about the same.  This is so you can see how much food you get for almost the same amount of money.


    2, 10oz bags of salad mix: $6.56
    2, 8oz bags of shredded cabbage: $3.36
    Total: $9.92 for 2.25lbs of food

    Prep it Yourself:

    3 heads romaine (18oz): $2.74
    2lb bag organic carrots: $1.96
    1 head green cabbage (2.75lbs): $1.87
    1 head red cabbage (2.95lbs): $2.89

    Total: $9.46 for 8.8lbs of food

    That is a lot of food!!! You could make lots of salads, wraps, coleslaw, and cabbage rolls with all of that.   

    Ideas for salad toppings to buy with your savings:

  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Cheeses
  • Onions
  • Peppers (fresh or pickled)
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Fresh broccoli
  • Black or pinto beans
  • Corn
  • Eggs, to hard-boil
  • Bacon
  • Chicken, grilled or fried
  • Canned tuna or salmon
  • Ground beef, seasoned like chili meat
  • Fajitas 
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Dressings (or make your own!)
  • Croutons (or make your own!)
    All sorts of combinations can be made from these ingredients: cobb salad, Caesar salad, taco salad, grilled chicken salad, etc.  Or make tuna salad, chicken salad, or egg salad and serve over a bed of lettuce instead of on bread for a low carb, gluten-free option.  

    You can get creative with dressings, too.  I usually just use olive oil and sea salt to top my salads, but below I made my own dressing using Greek yogurt, thinned with a little milk and seasoned with garlic, salt, and lemon juice.  It paired nicely with the canned salmon I put on top of the lettuce.  I've also made my own ranch dressing, which can double as a dip for fresh veggies.

    One of the restaurants we used to go to had a cilantro lime dressing, which I want to try to replicate.  It was served on a salad made of lettuce, black beans, tomatoes, corn, shredded cheddar, chili-seasoned ground beef, and avocado.  A side of sour cream and salsa made it a delicious meal.  I've made honey mustard to go on a salad topped with leftover chicken.  Whatever your favorite is- I bet you can find a copycat recipe and replicate it for less.   

     As a side or turned into a main dish, salads can be a frugal option when you take a few extra steps to prepare them yourself.  What is your favorite salad/dressing/topping?  Have you ever tried a copycat recipe that you liked?

Friday, August 04, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 4, 2023

    This post might end up to be somewhat lengthy, as it was a very full week here at the cottage!  Overall it was a good one, except for one trial, which I am happy to report is finally over. 

    A couple weeks ago, John came to me in tears.  "Heidi pulled up all my flowers out of the pot!" he cried.  I looked out the window and, sure enough, one of our dogs had pulled up the flowers that he bought and planted as his own little project using some of the money he had saved.  I quickly went to try and salvage them, seeing that two still had roots.  When I got outside, I saw all the bushes I had just planted strewn all over the yard in bits.

    Truthfully, Heidi had been getting into trouble almost since she got here.  She chased our chickens (even killed a couple) and barked and ran at the livestock when they came near our fence, which is an obvious problem on a ranch.  I hate to confess, as I know this won't sit well with many, but I had been considering rehoming her for some time.  Her friendliness was a redeeming quality, but she was so overwhelmingly full of energy that the boys didn't even want to play in the yard because she would be all over them.  This really didn't seem fair to the boys or to Heidi, both of whom just wanted to play!  When the boys played outside of the yard, riding their bikes and scooters, she barked at them the whole time.  We got her to be a good family guard dog, but she loved strangers and hid from snakes- the complete opposite of what we wanted.  

    I never liked the idea of rehoming a pet, and I kept thinking she'd eventually outgrow some of her habits, as she was still very young.  Throwing in the towel just didn't seem fair to her, even though it increasingly felt like she wasn't a good fit for our family.  "I'll just give her another chance," I kept saying.  I felt as though it was more my fault than hers for not knowing how to train her or funnel her energy, and I really felt sorry for her for that.

    Then this week, "Mom, Heidi pulled up my flowers again!  And Daddy's fern!"  Then a few mornings later, "Mom, Heidi pulled up your lantanas and another pot of flowers!"  By this point I had really had enough.  I decided that for all our sakes, including Heidi's, she needed to go to a home where she would be loved and appreciated, not just tolerated and put up with.  I advertised her, and within about three hours, someone wanted her and arranged to pick her up the next day.  Immediately, I felt a weight lifted, but I still wondered if it was the right thing to do.  I prayed that the deal would fall through if it was God's will for us to keep her.  

    The next morning, Heidi's new owner messaged me to say that he was so excited to get her and that his little boy was going to love her!  He asked if she liked canned food because that's what his older dog likes.  She never got anything like that at our house!  So really I'm just overjoyed that she is with someone who is going to give her the love and attention she needs, and she will have a better, happier life with them than she would have with us.  It was a bittersweet ending to a stressful situation.

    Besides all of that, our week was full of good things.  One day, we took a trip to the next town over to do some shopping and run some errands.  I packed drinks and snacks for the children, as I knew we were going to make a day of it.  Buying those types of foods when you are out and about is getting too expensive!  

    First we went to the grocery store, as all of their school and office supplies were on sale, plus I had a coupon for $5 off of $25 for items in those categories.  I got lots of things we needed for the year and beyond, with a total savings of $8.  I still lack a few things (I was trying to get my total as close to $25 as I could), but those things are on sale at Walmart too, so I will wait until Tax Free Weekend to pick those up.  Of course we bought groceries there, as well.  I saved $11.47 on food by shopping the sales and using coupons.

    Out in the parking lot, there was a pallet of clearance plants.  A closer look revealed that some of them were Texas everbearing fig trees!  I bought two of them.  They looked a little poorly from being in the parking lot in 100+°F, but with a little TLC they perked back up.  See the fresh growth?

    The real excitement came at our next stop.  We needed to go to Tractor Supply to pick up some dog food, and when we got inside, we heard chicks!  The Tractor Supply in our town only gets chicks in the spring and fall, so this was a surprise.  Colton and I had just discussed getting more, as many of ours are getting older and none of our hens went broody this year (which was odd).

    "Can we please get some chicks?" John pleaded.  The answer was an easy "yes".  We decided on six Salmon Faverolle pullets (females).  I had never heard of them before, but when I Googled them and saw that they were a specialty French breed on the "watch" list, I knew I wanted them.  They grow to look so fluffy and beautiful and are supposedly one of the most docile breeds.  Here they are on their way to their new home:

    This particular Tractor Supply also has a garden center, and all of their plants were 50% off!  I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I got another rosemary plant, several bushes, and three peach trees.  We are well on our way to getting a little orchard set up.  All of these plants had been struggling too, but I've nursed them back to health.  Some of the bushes now have blooms.

    Once we got back home and unloaded everything, Colton and I decided to see if our local Tractor Supply was running any sales.  There were no plants, but we found gopher traps and bait in the clearance section (we are still fighting that war), as well as a shirt in Colton's new size and a hummingbird feeder that I will save for next year.  We even found some stain blocking primer in the brand we need for the inside of our garden shed, which is something else we had just talked about.  It was half price.

    Up in the loft, I got some crafting done.  The boys have been wanting some handkerchiefs like Colton's, so I made them some out of James's old crib sheets.   John used these sheets too, so by now they are nice and soft, gentle enough for little noses.  Cut into twelve inch squares, I ended up with eleven of them.  I serged the edges to keep it simple.

    I made some "un-paper" towels in the same way using some flannel I had.  The sticker shock the last time I purchased paper towels was motivation enough for me to make my own.  So far I only have fourteen, but I plan to make more.  I keep them in a basket on the kitchen counter.  

    John watched me as I sewed and got the giggles.  I asked him what was so funny, and he said it looked like the needle on the machine was dancing!  Wouldn't it do us a heap of good if we looked at the world through children's eyes sometimes?

    The new construction sheets I had bought for the boys' beds came in cloth bags made out of the same fabric.  They were awkwardly shaped with huge tags sewn onto the fronts and backs, so I couldn't use them as is, but because we use every part of the buffalo in this household, I took them apart and salvaged what I could.  I got two sets of velcro strips and several construction vehicles cut out.  I can use the construction vehicles as appliques, patches, or in paper crafting.  I played around with some ideas: 

    A plain gift bag embellished with a dump truck and tied with a strip of thrifted curtain "ribbon"...

    ...or a brown Kraft package tied up with twine and a dump truck gift tag for a little boy gift.

    Which is your favorite?  I think I like the tag the best.

    With all of the stress surrounding the Heidi situation this week, I got some deep cleaning done in the bedroom.  Setting things in order and taming the chaos in the form of cleaning is what I tend to do when "I am quite put out", as Lady Catherine would say.  I feel much more calm in tidy spaces and it gives me a productive way to use my energy.  I made up some dusting spray, which is similar to the wood polish I make, but diluted with water.  Most of the recipes for this online were about the same, so I just combined what I had to make my own version.

DIY Dusting Spray

1 cup distilled water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
*10 - 15 drops essential oil of choice (orange, lemon, lavender, tea tree, and lemongrass are good choices for scent and cleaning ability)

Combine all the ingredients into a spray bottle and give it a good shake before spraying onto wood surfaces.  Wipe clean with a soft cloth.

*If you don't have essential oils, you can submerge orange or lemon peels in white vinegar and store in a dark place for a couple weeks to make infused, scented vinegar with extra cleaning properties.  Just give the jar a good shake every few days.

    I used 15 drops of orange and 5 drops of cinnamon (yes, I used some extra drops) for a fall-scented spray.  I don't usually jump ahead to seasons before they get here, but this summer's heat and humidity have been so brutal, I needed just a taste of my favorite season!  I used a label from JES at Mistress of the House on Etsy.  My dusting cloth was one of James's old, plain white crib sheets cut into large squares.

    I put on Homemaker's Radio and tackled my nightstand first, which is really a little bookshelf that holds all of my "girly books"- the ones on homemaking, decorating, motherhood, biblical womanhood, and marriage.  My ever-growing collection had gotten out of hand, with books piled on top and stacked sideways in the gaps.  I took everything off the shelves, dusted, and put back my favorites.  The rest will be moved to other bookshelves in the home. 

    Some of my favorites:

    The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace

    The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

    The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith (I have her set of three and like them all!)

    My collection of Emilie Barnes books

    Cottage style decorating books, mostly vintage, but including my new Hill House Vintage by Paula Sutton.  I used to follow her when I was active on Instagram and it fed my inner cottage-loving, Anglophile heart.

    There are others that I still haven't read, but I am working on that!  I recently enjoyed both of Dana K. White's books: Decluttering at the Speed of Life and How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.  Her advice was practical and she wrote with such humor (if you can't tell by her titles) that I laughed out loud several times.

    I limited the top of my nightstand to my one current read so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed by that "silent to-do list", as the Minimal Mom calls it.  I've chosen Mother Culture for a Happy Homeschool by Karen Andreola. 

    Have you read any of these books?  What are your recommendations in the homemaking/biblical womanhood genre?

    By the end of my cleaning spree, I had cleaned my books and nightstand, swept underneath it and behind, laundered the curtains, cleaned the inside of the windows, and wiped down the walls and baseboards on either side of the bed.  It smelled wonderful and fresh.  I didn't finish the entire room, but there is always next week.

    How was your week?  As always, I hope you enjoy a lovely weekend.