Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Purge of 2015

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Friday whizzed by so quickly I failed to have the time for a post on our efforts to purge 2,015 items from our home in 2015.  To date we have sold, donated or tossed 134 items.  Not that great considering it is the last day of January.  An epic head cold, the demands of parents, and the little thing known as work delayed my efforts.  But there is a plan, at least for one area of the house.

Having cleared away a nice part of the kitchen, a vision of in-fill emerged.  Tucked into one corner I plan to empty and organize the drawers, then fill in with the items from our household desk.  The counter, not the desk, will hold my computer (sleek laptop) and serve as a "standing desk" without buying a standing desk.  Once complete the desk now in our bedroom will be listed on Craigslist. There is the plan, all I need is the health and time to execute.

A highlight from the most recent purges -- selling a 4x6 foot area rug bought in 2008 with the birth of our older child.  After a quick wash in the machine it was photographed and posted on Craigslist. Within a few days it had a new home, we had one fewer item in the house, and$15 in our wallet. Why the rug? It was very neutral in color, but it was less a style issue than a practical issue.  With a recent asthma diagnosis we are working to eliminate unnecessary items that may collect dust, etc., contributing to allergy and asthma issues.

So that is us, how are you doing on your new years resolutions my frugal friends?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Craigslist Saves the Show

We'd bought the tickets months in advance, splurging for great seats to see Neil deGrasse Tyson up close at Madison's Overture Center. My mother-in-law, who resides in the Sunshine State asked "how can you make plans now (it was September) for January......January in Wisconsin, what if it snows?"  It did not snow this past Monday, just a bit of freezing drizzle. Nothing to keep Wisconsites home.  A virus however did.  Yes, starting last Thursday a nasty little virus invaded our home, uprooting our routines.  First it was the older child, then the younger, and on Sunday it took aim at yours truly.  We had to admit, we were too sick to attend the show.  What to do with the $158 tickets?  Sell them!

Within 2 hours of posting them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Craiglist they were gone.  Another couple was set to see the one and only Neil deGrasee Tyson.  The funniest part of this story -- another hour later a friend posted on my Facebook page that Madison is small world. The buyer of those tickets turned out to be a friend of hers; she made the connection when the friend came to visit and gushed about getting tickets to the sold-out event.

With money set aside, we'll find another event.  What event?  We have no idea, and realize the we need to be a little more last-minute.  Life with young children makes planning long-term just a slight challenge.

While many love Craigslist as a source of good buys, we currently love it as a selling place.  It saved the money from the show, and is playing a key part in selling or giving away items to met our 2015 pledge to purge 2,015 items from our home.  What is your favorite Craigslist story?  Leave a comment and share!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Living Frugal Thanks to Amazon

First there was Amazon Prime.  For $99 a year we have access to a nice selection of streaming movies and tv shows.  Just enough to offer variety for our minimal use of screen time family.   The real draw is the 2-day free shipping for items marked Prime on the Amazon web site.  From office supplies to cat litter to books to kids Halloween costumes, it is my first destination when a need arises.  I find that ordering just what we need cuts down on impulse buys that go with trips to a brick-and-mortar store.

And now there is the Amazon credit card! Loyal readers know our frugal home is not big on credit. We pay our cards off each and every month, and as business owners we know their use drives up prices.  When we can, we pay cash/check.  That comes in hand with locally-owned business, such as our gym.  But when it comes to Amazon credit is the option.  And now we earn 3% back on purchases made with our Amazon cards.  Yes, that is 3% on Amazon purchases, 2% on gasoline, pharmacies or restaurants, and 1% on everything else.  Quicken, your card is taking a backseat in our wallet now.  Once used for that same 2% discount, we are shifting to the Amazon card.  Quicken will remain, but just for Quicken purchases, which pay us 5% back.  And as a thank-you for signing up gift, we receive $70 in credit.  I used $15 for a book I wanted, the rest is waiting for our next needed item.

Those are a lot of numbers to juggle, and it is more of a game that pays us back than anything else. Our primary focus is on maximizing time at our professions (his is engineering, mine is law), while not sacrificing family time.  Of all the commodities, time is the most precious.  But when we can play the credit card companies game and win, we do.  2014 cash back rewards equaled the cost of a domestic airline ticket.  And with cash back, there are no hoops to jump through and we can use it wherever cash is accepted.  Nice move for a frugal homestead.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Oatmeal Cookies

Sick kids result in many days spent in the solitude of home.  With naps and low energy from the littlest in the family, I had extra time to ponder the cabinets.  What can we use up?  My husband put in a half-joking request for chocolate chip cookies.  Soon discovered to be a no-go -- no chocolate chips.  However, we did have coco powder and peanut butter chips.  Modified into a Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie recipe, here was the result.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coco
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 egg
1 and 1/2 cup oats
1 cup flour

Mix the dry, then mix the wet ingredients, then mix them all together.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Delicious treat!  We are having fun working our way through the cabinets.  Continued illness today by our kindergartener means he'll be home from school tomorrow.  Home with his frugal Mama.  I'll be spending some time in the kitchen.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Smothered Turkey

In parallel with our 2,015 purge another current frugal goal is to use up most of our consumables. The time is now, in the middle of a Wisconsin winter.  Clear the cabinets, fridge and freezer before the emergence of a new growing season and farmers' markets.

A recent creation merged leftover turkey with leftover Alfredo sauce from a jar.  Just meat and sauce, no pasta.  Quite tasty and prepared in less than 2 minutes.  What's in your cabinets?  Use up what is on hand and you'll save money by not letting the expiration date pass, eat at home which is nearly always healthier than a restaurant meal, and minimizes waste for the planet.   A win-win-win. Thanks for reading, and I love reading your comments with suggestions, ideas or support.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Purging 2,015 Item in 2015 - An Update

Friday has arrived, and our house is missing a few more items.  To date we have donated, sold or toss out a total of 115 items since the New Year began.  It was a week of easy pickings, mainly due to yet another virus making its way through the house.  Elementary school kids bring home copious amounts of artwork, and germs.  A future agenda will include opening cabinet by cabinet, drawer by drawer, just not this week.

Notable items include:

  • Lego set my son sold on Amazon Prime, for 2x what a store would have given us credit for;
  • an extra pencil sharpener....really one is enough; and
  • a stack of blank greeting cards that I put at my office to use for Thank You notes.
115 items gone, 1900 to go!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chilly Weather Chili

Are you a creature of habit?  I am.  Some good habits, some not so good, and always seekingto add or adjust a habit, especially around the new year time.  Over the past few weeks I have taken to cooking up a storm over the weekend.  We are home more, there is extra time to prepare slower-cooked meals and quite honestly I have the time to think about what to make.  Our weekdays run rather intense at the end of the day.  There is pick-up at our preschool, then pick up at the elementary school, both kids are tired and more often than not, starved. It is not uncommon for us to literally fall in the door from the garage.  Landing in the kitchen, thoughts immediately turn to dinner.  But dinner at 4:45 or 5pm? Yes....and the faster the better.

A staple of my weekend cookahtons is roasted meat, usually chicken or turkey, sometimes a slow-cooker pork.  We have a warm meal with veggies, then I cut up pieces for sandwiches or chicken salad for the my lunch over the week.  And there is always plenty to make a chili.  Onions, garlic, olive oil, chili powder, a few cans of tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, meat from the roasting project, and then random, on-hand veggies such as corn or spinach.

That huge pot of chili provides many easy, frugal and healthy meals in the week that follows.  Take tonight for example.  With one child battling another virus, the kids wanted buttered toast, fruit, yogurt and for our son, his current staple.....a bowl of Special Kay Protein cereal.  My meal was a heated bowl of chili with cheese sprinkled on top.  The perfect quick meal for a gray day here in Madison, one that offered up various stages of freezing, chunky rain.  Chili -- oh I am so glad I whipped up a pot last Sunday!

What is a staple frugal meal in your kitchen?  As the seasons change, so do our staple dishes.  While we are creatures of habit, we do enjoy trying something new sometime, so please leave a comment if you have a suggestion.