Tag Archives: Homemaking

Speaking Up – Part of Frugality

From the children’s book “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Ben Franklin”

One aspect of frugality is determining whether I am getting value for my money.  When a product falls short, I honor my finances by speaking up about it.  Today, it is easier than ever to reach out to companies.

Last week we had a bag of baked chips, and something was not right with them.  Some of the chips were extremely hard – in a break your tooth kind of way (thank goodness no one did!)  Perhaps the “dough” for the chips was rolled too thick, but it certainly delivered a sensation of ‘what’s in my mouth?!’  I wrote to the company using their website contact form and included all pertinent information from the package so they could pinpoint which factory these came from.  They will be mailing me a few free product coupons.

Solving a Mystery

Many years ago we used to purchase Silk soy milk in the shelf stable packaging.  We bought it frequently and starting having problems with it being gloppy.  It wasn’t expired, and it is shelf stable so refrigeration wasn’t a factor.  I wrote to the company.  They were concerned and wanted all of the information they could get.  Of course they also sent coupons for free product.  Some time went by and I received a letter from the company founder, Steve Demos!  He explained they had pinpointed and solved the problem, which had to do with how the package was being affected in shipping.  There were more coupons, and even a $10.00 bill from Mr. Demos’ own pocket!  I thought it was pretty neat that they took a real interest and responded in such a personal way.

Being Fair

I am normally an easy-going person who doesn’t like to make waves, but I know that when I use our money  to purchase something that is completely not acceptable, I honor the effort it takes to earn money by speaking up.  On the flip side, I honor other people’s work by not complaining just to get free stuff.  The consumer always pays in the end, so complaining that your Lucky Charms cereal didn’t have enough “purple hearts and yellow stars” costs us all.

Do you have any great stories about dealing with an unsatisfactory product?

Saving and Homemaking 5/20

Hello frugal friends.  The photo above is a nod to my friend Becky’s blog, who featured almost the same photo this week.  Great minds and all!

Saving

  • A local grocer had 20% off all fresh and packaged meat, sausages, bacon etc.  I don’t buy a lot of meat, but I did get some items for upcoming cookouts and ground turkey for spaghetti which I cooked and froze for a later date.
  • Got a free bag of candy from my grocery store’s item of the week and redeemed a coupon the store mailed me for a free bag of chocolate chips.
  • Received a coupon from Walgreens for 20X points on in their Balance Rewards program.  Used that on some of the good deals at Walgreens this past week including free M&Ms, canned almonds — 2 cans for 3.00 after coupon, and flour 1.99.  I am close to earning a $10.00 reward from Walgreens.
  • Received free Taste of Home magazines from my local village’s Nextdoor private online community. I hope my daughter and I can make some recipes from them this summer.

I have about 40 new to me magazines!

Cooking

  • Daughter baked Toll House cookie bars for her Dad to take as a birthday treat to work. His office is large and bringing a treat from a store gets expensive.  People asked for the recipe!  I had to “LOL” because it’s just the recipe on the back of the chocolate chips.
  • We ate at home most nights but also took advantage of a BOGO at Noodles and a birthday coupon for a date night dinner out.

    Trillium

Free Fun

  • Went hiking at a nature preserve for birthday/Mother’s Day.  We were treated to seeing thousands of trillium in bloom.  In many states and provinces it is illegal to damage trillium because they do not recover if damaged.  We have a few trillium in our back lot, but I have never seen them in this quantity.
  • The whole family volunteered at our church’s service day.  It was an early morning but we enjoyed coffee and snacks before starting. DD and I worked on the Operation Christmas Child initiative while my husband worked a plant sale to raise money for Tanzanian scholarships at the university level.

Hope your week was nice and you are recharging for the week ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

Saving and Homemaking 5/13

Happy Mother’s Day to the terrific Moms, Aunties, and Grandmothers out there.  Our week was a little crazy.  My husband and I were both sick, and the week was jam-packed with school events.  We got through, but it was one of those weeks where you are just making do until you can do better.

Saving

  • At my daughter’s band concert I had an opportunity to reclaim unused school supplies from her locker.  I returned them to my plastic storage container for school supplies.  On another school visit, I took back the massive stock of glue sticks.  How many glue sticks does a middle schooler need?!
  • I went to CVS with a 2.00 ECB they mailed me in a Mother’s Day promotion which expired 5/13.  Used it just in time.  Bought the 3 L’Oreal Shampoo in last weeks’ advertisement plus 1 Colgate 360 toothbrush and paid 4.77 and got 3.00 in ECB.
  • Used a free Starbucks birthday drink coupon (DH birthday) and we brought home a Venti and split it.
  • Used a coupon for a free Papa Murphy’s pizza (Teacher Appreciation) and it was very appreciated on a ballet night!
  • DH went to a discount grocer and checked their online ad before leaving.  He scored a BIC grill lighter for .49 after coupon.  I always need one of those for the summer.  Other good prices were had there as well.
  • Used a Walgreens’ photo 30% off coupon to make a photo collage for DH’s birthday with pictures of fun things we have done the past 6 mo or so.  It turned out nice and he will enjoy that in his office.

Minimizing

  • I returned 2 kitchen towels to Sur la Table that were attached to a Teacher Appreciation Gift.  They were very cute but I knew I wouldn’t have a use for this type of towel.  I exchanged them for items I can “use up” — pretty cake sprinkles and pre-cut parchment circles for cakes.  I will be grateful to have those every time I bake because my cake circles are always a sorry affair.

Cooking

  • Humble fare this week due to illnesses and school events.  Pumpkin pancakes, hot dogs and pea soup, etc.  I will make a pumpkin bread for the freezer with the leftover canned pumpkin.
  • DD made a gorgeous chocolate malted birthday cake.  It turned out a tad dry as chocolate cakes can be when they have melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder in them.  We found it much tastier with a teaspoon of coffee drizzled on top of the cake slices.  Many bakeries do soak cakes to keep them moist.

Cleaning

  • got the hats and mittens stored away and washed daughter’s winter coat.  Hopefully we can put that away?
  • hoping with better health this week I can get to the bathroom blinds and some detailed dusting.

What’s new in your home and garden? Any great coupon deals this past week?

 

 

 

 

 

Too Busy to Bother?

Stock-Images-Vintage-Plate-GraphicsFairy-blu2I am reading a new young adult fiction book called “American Street” about a girl named Fabiola from Haiti who comes to visit relatives in urban Detroit. Her plans do not include returning to Haiti.

One aspect of the book (no spoilers I promise) that greatly affected me is the contrast between the sense of home and gracious hospitality in Haiti and the utter lack thereof at her relatives’ house in Detroit.

There is no celebration for my arrival; no meal is cooked, no neighbors are invited to welcome me . . .  I open the fridge to find bottles of soda and ketchup and hot sauce and mayonnaise. . . . In the freezer are boxes of pizza and waffles and frozen meat wrapped in plastic. . . .  I grab a slice of orange cheese wrapped in plastic. . .  . I can’t believe this is the first thing I eat in America.  It tastes like a mix of glue, chalk, and salt.

This may be a work of fiction, but the scenario doesn’t feel all that fictitious to me.  I recognize the cultural trend in America that says, I’m too busy to host– I don’t want to deal with the stress– or – We’ll just grab a pizza.  Trust me, the reason this the theme spoke to me is because I have thought, and said, all of those things myself!

When I think about my own childhood, though, so many of the happy memories of family celebrations are centered around the special meals people took time to make.  My Grandma’s ever present Nesco roaster .  . . My mom’s fantastic Thanksgiving meals, including homemade cranberry sherbet . . . my Aunt’s rosettes (a fiddly Scandinavian cookie).

Sometimes I think Martha Stewart just wrecked us all.  The standards are so high that if you aren’t weaving your own tablecloth you might as well just buy your Christmas dinner at Boston Market and call it a day.

For me, the vision portrayed in “American Street” solidifies the importance of hospitality for friends and family.  These gestures say “You’re special” and have long reaching effects that most of us won’t ever realize.  I don’t have to weave my own tablecloth for a fancy dinner; a simple recipe prepared at home or flowers from the garden are ways to share love and create memories.

What are your thoughts on the state of hospitality in western life?  What are some ways you like to show you care even though it seems like “a bother”?

Saving and Homemaking 5/7

IMG_2208Planting

DH ordered a huge pile of mulch and has been spreading that in all of our garden beds.  We are still having frost and even freeze warnings at night, so we haven’t even gotten the peas planted yet.  We keep saying, ‘Maybe this coming week . . .’  Meanwhile, the lawn is growing like mad despite the cold temps.

Saving

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week and I won a gift certificate to Sur la Table and also a cutting board and knives.  I am very appreciative for the gift and the nice snacks and meals the parents provided for us.

DH happened upon a 50% off haircut at our local walk-in salon.

I used $ 4.00 in Extra Cash at CVS to purchase two jars of peanut butter.  The Extra Cash was just about to expire.  It’s maddening when an ECB escapes only to be found after expiring.  #Cvsproblems  I also took advantage of the extra cash given for Colgate toothbrushes and Kleenex.  Generally I only play “the CVS game” when it is an item we will use and the price is a good deal.

IMG_4055-private_fotorCooking

I found a nice size bag of frozen broccoli florets for 1.98 at Trader Joes.  This should hold us until fresh prices come back down.  Speaking of produce prices, garlic is also in short supply right now.  The produce report said, “Concerning Chinese imports, in February US Customs placed a hefty import duty ($4.71/Kg) on one of the few Chinese shippers who historically had little to no duty. The 2016 Chinese crop was already less than normal. This additional factor has further lessened the amount of Chinese product available in the US market.”  California garlic is a few months away from being ready.

We have been pretty diligent with eating meals at home for the last few weeks, so much so it feels like I have made every meal so recently.  I look forward to summer to have time to try some new recipes.  For the week ahead, we are going to have to roll with it because suddenly so much is going on with ballet, school concerts, and the like.  On Sunday I made some hard boiled eggs which can always work into a salad meal or to accompany tuna salad.

Cleaning

Better than anticipated!  I moved a few couches to vacuum, moved an end table to wash under it, and detail dusted some accent tables that are usually ignored.  My lofty goals for the week include putting away the mittens and hats and detail dusting the bathroom blinds.

Reading

f79668a8-2d69-44e7-b36d-168f8f745093.jpg

“American Street” by Ibi Zoboi, about a young Haitian immigrant.  I’m having many thoughts about this book related to the state of American homelife, which I will share in a separate post.

I hope your week was good and that if you are busy with soccer, baseball, recitals, and spring concerts, know that quieter days are ahead and enjoy the madness while you can.

 

 

 

 

Saving and Homemaking 4/29

IMG_3458-private

 

Planting

Last week I planted dill and basil in pots inside and the seedlings are up!  Fingers crossed they get enough sun to grow into sturdy plants.  It’s under 40 degrees F here, so no planting outside yet.  I have pea seeds ready to go.

Saving

A good week!  I found eggs on sale for .39 cents/dozen and purchased two dozen.  That same store had their deli meat on sale for 50% off, which may sound scary but both were loss-leaders to celebrate the opening of a new store location.

At another store I found a “save $4.00 when you purchase 4 items” promotion.  Did the $4.00 come off my receipt?  No, of course not.  I went to the service desk and they gave me me the 4.00 in cash.  I noticed when I signed for the refund the person on the form ahead of me had also sought a refund for the same promotion.  Must watch receipts.

DH is tracking the cost of flights to England so we will have a better idea of the price of flights if we are able to afford a trip next year.  He is using a simple notebook for this, going back to our roots when we were first married and our weekly budget was in a spiral notebook!

At the end of the week we had cash left over which we put towards upcoming birthday and Mother’s Day expenses, and also vacation this summer.

Watching

90DD and I are enthralled with the show “When Calls the Heart” on Netflix.  We are only at the beginning of the first season so don’t spoil it for us!  We are scheming to watch episodes whenever we can.  If you are a fan of Little House, Dear America/Dear Canada books, or historical fiction, you must check into it.

Cooking

fullsizeoutput_5ef9

We ate at home this week, and rather frugally.  I made a quiche with the .39 cent eggs.  I had bacon in the freezer, leftover cooked mini yukon potatoes and also chives from my garden to add to it.  Today we had “make your own taco salad” for lunch, which was an opportunity to use up ingredients from when we had tacos earlier in the week.

We used the deli meat for a quick sandwich dinner on ballet night, saving the cost of a take-out meal.

Cleaning

I didn’t accomplish anything too far outside of routine cleaning.  I was too busy watching “When Calls the Heart.”  I did get some wet cloth dusting done, which I do with Dr. Bronner’s soap mixed with water and a microfiber cloth.

Reading

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 7.55.00 PM

“Lucky Broken Girl” by Ruth Behar, a middle–grade novel about the author’s experience as a Cuban-Jewish girl whose family flees Castro’s Cuba for New York City in the 1960s.  I am trying to read kid lit this year about kids and young adults who come from racial/gender/disability/cultural/religious backgrounds other than my own.  DD said this book should be moved to the top of my to be read list.

How was your week?  Any great grocery finds?  What are you reading and watching?

 

 

 

My Kingdom… for Some Broccoli

vegiscabbage-graphicsfairy009Last week I read “The War the Saved My Life”, a historical fiction book by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley set in Kent, England, during World War II. The book gave me a deeper understanding of the dire situation facing a country cut off from their food supply. During WWII, German submarines circled the waters around England.

This was a big problem . . .  because England didn’t grow enough food.  Most of the food that English people ate was shipped in from other countries (p. 164)

The book reminded me of the current precarious relationship between the US and Mexico over “The Wall”, and also concerns about deportation of migrant workers who farm and pick produce all over the United States.  Prices of meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit can all be impacted by the current political climate.  Even staffing levels at US/Mexico border crossings affect the price of produce as it travels to el Norte.

We had to queue for groceries every day now.  Meat was on ration and a lot of other things were hard to find.  Onions were so scarce they might as well have been solid gold.  No one had realized that all England’s onions were imported until they couldn’t be imported anymore, and onions took a long time to grow from seed (p. 248).

I found myself thinking about how temporary or long-term weather pattern changes can also affect food availability.  April has been a rough month for produce.  Have you seen the broccoli prices?  I am seeing $3.40/pound for broccoli crowns and $2.60 for broccoli with stalks.  Avocados were affected a few months ago by Mexican labor issues and weather.  All California lettuces are currently considered “extreme shortage” right now due to growing conditions.

Could weather, global warming, or political instability affect our food supply to the extent experienced during WWII?  I sure hope not, but the book made me understand how rapidly things can change.

Have you changed your produce buying habits due to the current supply issues from flooding in California?  I plan to plant some snap peas soon because they are Ok to start in cold weather and mature rapidly.  I have my herbs started inside, and the other veg seeds will have to wait until we are frost-free.  I am looking for some better-priced frozen options for berries and broccoli.  I can live without romaine and red leaf lettuces, because mixed greens and spinach that are grown in greenhouses remain at a lower price.  Broccoli was always my “go-to” vegetable for dinner, so the high prices are causing me to try out some other options.