Monday, July 24, 2017

Composting Again!


Unearthed!  And back to composting we go at our frugal home.  Vines cut down, a small tree sawed and hauled to the curb.  Throw down and old rug (from says when an elder cat had litter box challenges), and there you go.  We can compost again.

Our garden experiment has gone better than expected.  Sited on a slight sloped along the side our house, the recent downpours have not caused flooding.  Harvested so far: 2 hand fulls for green beans, 3 zucchini, and 1 cucumber.  Peppers are not doing well, but we may have a record number of tomatoes along with pumpkins.  All in all the garden is a reason to go outside and putter after a week at the office.  There are small toads and other wonders to greet me after a hectic week of client meetings and transporting kids to summer camp.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Compost Confession


I compost.....most of the time.  Yes, one can compost but take breaks in the daily chore when preserving one's sanity takes priority over preserving the Earth.  Oddly I often find it easier to put my scraps and peels in the heap out back during the fall, winter and spring.  Summer is busy, especially this summer.  Toss in a compost heap buried under the jungle that is my backyard, and well I'm pausing in my compost efforts.  One day I'll have down time to clear cut the jungle and return to my favorite frugal habit.  But not today.  My point with this confession is to underscore that a frugal path has bends and turns, sometimes you are more frugal than other times and that is okay.  It is better to be frugal when you can than never at all.  Adjust your speed to meet you where you need to be and sustain the frugal way.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daydreaming -- Frugal International Travel



Later this summer my frugal family will explore Iceland.  Why Iceland?  Simply, it is a short flight, approximately 6 hours from Minneapolis (we are driving to MN to fly out, not risking a connection). When you are both self-employed you know the cost of not working, and long travel times add up in cost.  Other than that, Iceland is not an inexpensive place to travel.  We have done a nice job on keeping costs low.  We fly out on a Tuesday and return on a Wednesday, which saved us hundreds of dollars according to the flight matrix we used.  We've rented a "hotel" that is a room with a kitchen, located across the street for a grocery store.  When the cost for two to eat out is $100/meal and you are a couple with 2 kids, eating in is the obvious choice.

We love to travel and plan to do an international trip a year, but after looking at the costs of Iceland we want our 2018 international trip to be to a local that is relatively easy to access, but easier on the pocketbook.  Above is a picture of library books I brought home to examine, seeking ideas.  But advice from actual travelers is always best.  So, my fellow frugalista, what would your recommendation be for a frugal 2018 adventure?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Walking The Frugal Path At My Local Hy-Vee


Frugal means getting the best quality for the best price, it does not mean "cheap".  That philosophy follows me to the grocery store, where we aim for quality foods and reasonable prices purchased with relative ease.  Convenience is far more important than spending time and gas to track down the lowest price or buying food that has a shelf-life long enough to see my 2nd and 3rd graders off to college.  Quality, ease, and decent price, that is what is in my mind when we need to re-stock the fridge and cabinets.

Recently my go-to for shopping has been our local Hy-Vee.  It is walkable (rarely do I have that kind of free time), bikeable, and on my driving route to both our gym as well as summer camp.  Toss in a cafe where I can get a coffee fix and a postal window, and this place wins convenient hands down. Hy-vee's prices are not the lowest, but I use a few steps to make our dollars go as far as possible:


  1. Fuel savers card -- weekly promotions ad up on $0.05 cents off here and $0.10 off here.  If you buy an item it is added to your fuel card at the point of purchase.  Your cents accumulate and if you visit a participating gas station, those cents are deducted from each gallon of gas.  Points do expire after 30 days.  In the past few months the store ran some great promotions, such as $0.45 off a gallon with a $100 purchase.  Ease for us to hit the $100 mark with a family of 4 and a preference for organic.  On two separated occasions we earned $2.25 off per gallon.  We basically filled up my car, and my spouse's for free....we did pay the gas tax that came to about $0.16 for nearly 30 gallons of gas;
  2. I shop on Wednesdays when I can because organic and "health" section items are 10% off;
  3. When applicable I use the store coupons that come in the mail.  Today I used a $10 rebate card I received from a recent contact purchase; and
  4. At the register I use my Amazon credit card, which reimburses us 1% back (5% back for Amazon purchases).  We let this built up all year and then request the rebate monies in January to deposit into our travel savings -- far easier to use than frequent flier miles, etc. 



What is your secret to getting quality food for the best prices without spending hours traveling all around time?  Our food budget is equal to our just higher than our mortgage, so if I can shave off some cost I'd be delighted.  Leave a comment with any ideas!


Monday, June 26, 2017

Frozen Fruit Smoothies

So one can have plans to use up the food in the freezer and cabinets AND to then blog about said use.  And then life happens: sick kids, impulse day at the beach, etc.  I can say that when you find frozen fruit way back in the fridge and you want to use it up add it to about 1.5 cups of plain whole milk kefir, add and avocado you might have, then toss in the fruit.   Blend and enjoy.  Beyond that we had a lot of simple meals connected with pasta, grilled cheese of good ol' PB&J.

Following me on the frugal path.  My posts are not predictable, but my frugal decisions are.  Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Frugal Staycation -- On the Beach, In the Kitchen

Empty beach!

Pure summer fun in the sun.


Monday was the first official weekday of my staycation.  The plan had been to pack up the car and drive to Governor Dodge State Park for a day at the beach.  The forecast of afternoon storms combined with a nasty dose of insomnia took that drive out of the running.  In its place was a shorter drive to Governor Nelson State Park, only 15 minutes away by car.   We arrived just after 10am and were surprised to learn then 2017 annual vehicle pass was $28, not the $36 my budget anticipated. We were further surprised to walk onto an empty beach; we found blue skies, clean sand, relatively clean water, and a turtle paddling through the designated swim area.  Where was everyone?   Most likely at work/summer camp or the ever so popular "neighborhood pool".  We savored the quite and soothing calm of nature.  Eventually two other groups with kids joined us, but for the most part we had the place to ourselves.  It was bliss.

Evening brought me into the kitchen to tackle my personal challenge to turning random frozen or canned food into something, anything, in an effort to clear out the storage.  First up, zucchini bread. Thanks to the solid recipe in Betty Crocker's Cookbook with an added dash of unsweetened coco along with a handful of chocolate chips, two zucchini were saved from withering on the counter and transformed into something for the breakfast plates.

Next up, a container of frozen leftover beef tenderloin.  This one was easy.  Defrost, chop, add to a bowl of rice with salsa and black beans.  Scoop into tortillas with shredded cheese, role, fold in tin foil, and freeze.  Instant lunches for my frugal husband for the next 5 to 7 days. My supply of rice mixture exceeded my supply of tortillas, so those were portioned into plastic containers (ones I keep and rewash from Chinese take-out at our neighborhood store) -- the homemade version of a "naked burrito."

Not a bad effort for the day, but that freezer seems deeper and the cupboards higher now that I have challenged myself to dig in and turn the supplies into edible food.  If anyone has summer ideas for frozen cranberries, please share!!!!!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Stay-cation in the Kitchen

Nothing related to the post, just my favorite summer bloom.
Summer stay-cation!  I am taking off from work at the office from June 9th through the 18th, returning to a schedule of summer camp for the kids and work for me on the 19th.  During that time we plan to enjoy local and State Parks, volunteer, read, sleep late, and cook!  Many frugal minded people use the Spring to clear out freezers and pantries, making room for a new season of stored locally-sourced food.  I love this idea, but Spring never meshes for me. Spring is a very chaotic time for me at the office, school events are in high energy mode, and I lack the most critical ingredient of cooking to use up the pantry, time.

But now I have time, lots of it.  Time to look through the stacks of cans and packages.  Time to ponder what to make with those beans I bought on a whim or the cherries I froze last summer.  Time to run to the store to turn a few random things into a meal with an added ingredient or two.  Time to simply putter around the kitchen.

So are the temperatures here in Madison soar into the low 90s, I will likely have the oven going to make some muffins and breads with all those frozen fruits in the fridge.  And my guess is more than one dinner will consist of traditional breakfast foods.

Stay tuned for a week of frugal cooking thoughts as I work to use it up and keep that grocery bill low.