frugal living

Simple Pleasures of Winter

5 January 2010

There are so many things that compete for our attention – work, finances, chores – that inevitably we lose sight of all the precious moments and wondrous beauty that fill our lives on a daily basis.  So, as I snuggle in to dream about plum fairies, I recall with great joy some of my favorite winter blessings.

Photo: Corin@ 2008

The Beauty of Winter

  • The glistening of icicles delicately dangling from the rooftops.
  • The peaceful beauty of new-fallen snow.
  • The view of little ones enveloped in cuddly, footed jammies.
  • The crackling fire flickering its soft, brilliant light in the fireplace.
  • The tracks left in the snow by wildlife reminding us that we share this special place and time with other creatures.

Photo: Tiffany Washko

The Joy of the Cold

  • Watching the kids play… and play… and play… in the snow until we force them to come in to warm themselves with delicious hot cocoa and mini-marshmallows.
  • The warmth of my favorite mug warming my hands while sipping steaming hot cocoa.
  • Cuddling on the couch with my husband to watch a movie after our children are asleep.
  • The crispness in the air and the crunch of snow under your feet as you traverse through a world where the ice and snow have changed the landscape and life seems new.
  • Snuggling with the little ones while discovering new worlds and revisiting beloved ones through the pages of marvelous books.
  • The warm kitchen with the scrumptious smell of brownies baking in the oven wafting through the house.

Photo:  Michael Wade

Self-Indulgences

  • The excuse that it is simply too cold to go outside allowing me to pursue my indoor pleasures while enjoying the beauty of the outdoors through the windows sheltering me from the frigid temperatures outside.
  • My familiar, old, flannel nightgown protecting me from the chill of the cold, dark night.
  • Thick, soft, warm socks caressing my feet and keeping my tootsies toasty.
  • Being curled up in a cozy cocoon of my favorite throw while reading a great book.

Some of these pleasures are available year-round while others are truly wintry treats.  Even when our funds are scant, our hearts can be overflowing with joy and love as we delight in the wonders and beauty of the season without spending any money.

What do you enjoy during the special time of winter?

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday and Frugal Fridays.

Make a Difference in a Child’s Life

23 May 2009

Today, more than 12 million children in the United States do not know when their next meal will come.  Unfortunately, this number continues to rise as these difficult economic times times are leaving more and more people jobless, without homes, and unable to provide food for their families.  What can you do?

1. Sign-up to host a bake sale: http://www.GreatAmericanBakeSale.org/vgabs
2. Buy the virtual Great American Bake Sale eBook: http://StolenMomentsCooking.com/virtual-gabs
3. Post a ChipIn widget or banner on your blog: http://www.GreatAmericanBakeSale.org/bloggers

Make a difference in a child’s life by signing up and purchasing a virtual cookbook today! 100% of the proceeds from this eBook will benefit Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, which is a national effort that encourages Americans to host bake sales in their communities to help end childhood hunger.  Funds raised support summer and after-school feeding programs in your community that thousands of kids depend on.

Once you have purchased your virtual Great American Bake Sale cookbook, double your impact and use the recipes to host your own Great American Bake Sale! Hosting a Bake Sale is a fun and easy way to make a big impact!  To register your Bake Sale or for more information, please visit http://GreatAmericanBakeSale.org

10 Free Fun Family Activities

20 March 2009

We all want to have fun, but we shouldn’t have to spend tons of money to enjoy ourselves.  Here are ten ways to have fun as a family that are free:

  1. Play a game in the backyard such as catch, tag football, soccer, Frisbee, croquet.  Getting out and running around together really helps to bond families.  The exercise is great for everyone!  The laughs and giggles are even better!
  2. Go on an discovery hunt. Decide what you want to look for – triangles, green items, things that look out of place in their surroundings, frogs, different types of flowers, etc.   Then, take a leisurely walk in your neighborhood to see what treasures you can find.  It is amazing all of the beautiful items that surround us that we never take the time to notice.  Sharing such discoveries with your family is great way to support an appreciate of the world around us.
  3. Swing at the local park. You are never too old to swing – I know I still enjoy swinging on a strong swing set!
  4. Create your own Movie Night at home. Put in your favorite family movie or borrow one that you haven’t seen from your library or a good friend.  Then, pop some popcorn and turn down the lights.  Not only is this frugal, you can stop the movie for potty breaks and can control the calorie content of the popcorn and snacks!  Something you can’t do at the theater!
  5. Camp out in your living room. Pretend that you are camping out while still enjoying the conveniences of home by setting up camp in the living room.  Pull out the sleeping bags.  Turn off the lights and pull out the flashlights.  Take turns telling stories and signing campfire songs.  And, if your children are still small, let them sleep in their “play tent.”
  6. Make a meal together. Does your clan love pizza?  Or maybe your family prefers a more gourmet meals?  Decide on the menu and make the meal together as a family.  It is fun to create something as a family, and if you are able to eat it afterward, even better!!
  7. Host a Game Night. What could be more fun than game night?  Maybe game night with another family!  Invite another family to join in the fun and have fun sharing your favorite board or card games.
  8. Participate in a library program together. Check with your local library to see if they offer any activities that you can participate in as a family.  Our library hosts all kinds of wonderful programs such trained dogs who perform and Family Story Time.
  9. Build something together. There are so many mediums that you can use to build things together: wood, metal, clay, material (as in sewing), food, paper, play dough, blocks, cardboard, just to name a few!   Here are some ideas to start you thinking: a keepsake box for your child’s treasures, a washer game, a bird house, a gingerbread house (you don’t have to wait for Christmas!), a sculpture, a scrapbook, an apron & chef hat, an outfit for the Barbie or baby doll, a cape for your little super hero (yes, boys can sew too!), a planting box, a ramp to drive their trucks down, a skate ramp (for older kids!), and sock puppets.
  10. Listen to a story together. You can either take turns reading aloud or listen to audiobooks.  Most libraries carry a good selection of audiobooks or you can download free audiobooks.  You can even take turns making up your own stories to share with each other.

No matter what you choose to do as a family remember that being together and enjoying each other’s company is what is important, not the activity that you are participating it.  Even grocery shopping can be fun if done together as a game!  Now, go and enjoy your family!!

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You can find other frugal ideas at Frugal Fridays hosted by Life as Mom and Frugal Family Fun hosted by Cents to Get Debt-Free.

Reduce Your Grocery Budget

13 March 2009

Would you like to be able to reduce your grocery budget?  How about avoid the grocery store?  Well, there is a wonderful non-profit organization called Angel Food Ministries who can help you do just this!

Here is a Angel Food Ministries description of their program:

What is Angel Food Ministries?

Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing grocery relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. The program began in 1994 with 34 families in Monroe, Georgia (between Atlanta and Athens), and has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of families every month across 35 states. Angel Food Ministries crosses denominational lines and has spread the good news of the gospel of Christ through salvation tracts that are placed in each food order.

Everyone Qualifies!

There are no qualifications, minimums, income restrictions, or applications.

Everyone is encouraged to participate.  Some churches even encourage participants to apply the money they saved to help someone else in need.

Blessings by the Box

Angel Food is available in a quantity that can fit into a medium-sized box at $30 per unit. Each month’s menu is different than the previous month and consists of both fresh and frozen items with an average retail value of approximately $60. Comparison shopping has been done across the country in various communities using a wide range of retail grocery stores and has resulted in the same food items costing from between $42 and $78.

Generally, one unit of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for almost a month. The food is all the same high quality one could purchase at a grocery store. There are no second-hand items, no damaged or out-dated goods, no dented cans without labels, no day-old breads and no produce that is almost too ripe.

Also offered are specialty boxes such as steaks, chicken and pork. Many participants in this bonus program appreciate the expanded choices. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of units or bonus foods an individual can receive, and there are no applications to complete or qualifications to which participants must adhere. Angel Food Ministries also participates in the U.S. Food Stamp program, using the Off-Line Food Stamp Voucher system.

It’s both a Bargain and a Blessing!

Sample Menu:
(this month’s menu can be viewed here)

  • 4 lb. IQF Leg Quarters
  • 4 oz. Beef Back Ribs
  • 1 lb. 80/20 Lean Ground Beef
  • 2 lb. Breaded Chicken Tenders
  • 1.5 lb. Bone in Pork Chops (4 x 6oz.)
  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 18 oz. Stuffed Manicotti (Cheese)
  • 12 oz. Smoked Sausage
  • Betty Crocker Seasoned Potatoes
  • 7 oz. Cheeseburger Dinner
  • 16 oz. Green Beans
  • 16 oz. Baby Carrots
  • 2 lb. Onions
  • 1 lb. Pinto Beans
  • 1 lb. Rice
  • 7 oz. Blueberry Muffin Mix
  • 10 ct. Homestyle Waffles
  • Dessert Item

Visit the Angel Food Ministries website to see if they have a distribution location near you!  Most distribution locations even offer online ordering (you can even use your credit or debit card!).

You can find other ideas for reducing your budget with Frugal Fridays hosted by Life as Mom.

Win $150 Worth of Fashion Office Line Products!

12 March 2009

Would you like to win $150 worth of fashion office line products?

eye-candy

Do you love polka-dots and stripes? If so, you might enjoy “Eye Candy.”

Or would you prefer “Simply Chic” with its black-and-white with splashes of color?

simply-chic1

The winner will win his or her choice of the two! Lori at Just Pure Lovely is hosting this terrific giveaway.  For your chance to win one of these two beautiful lines of fashion office products, visit Just Pure Lovely and follow Lori’s directions to be able to enter the drawing four separate times!  Good luck!

The Homeschool Freebie of the Day

16 February 2009

I have been very blessed to have found several different sites that offer free homeschooling resources. (Lori at Freely Educate has been my greatest source of free homeschooling information and referred me to this terrific resource!) One of my favorites is the Homeschool Freebie of the Day. I have it set as my home page so that I don’t miss a single resource!

The Homeschool Freebie of the Day provides a different homeschooling resource to download every week day for free! The resources are only available on the day that they are posted, so stop by every day to download your free resource! And, if you sign up for their weekly reminder, you receive an additional free resource to download every week. This week they are featuring:

Monday, Feb 16th:
Great President’s Day Resource Links! (links)
Want to make the most of President’s Day? Check out these Lesson Plans, virtual tours, poetry & the actual papers of presidents Washington & Lincoln! You have to check out the Highlight’s link as it has 10 ebooks to download free!

Tuesday, Feb 17th:
A Chinese Wonder Book (PDF ebook)
This fascinating collection of Chinese stories and legends, edited by Maggie Hogan of Bright Ideas Press, is a great literature-based introduction to the rich history and culture of China. Includes a read-aloud guide.

Wednesday, Feb 18th:
“Harriet Tubman & the Railway to Freedom” (MP3 audio)
A classic old time radio dramatization of the story of Harriet Tubman and the activities of the “underground railroad” during slave years.

Thursday, Feb 19th:
Blessed Is The Man: High School Unit Study Sampler (PDF ebook)
“Blessed is the Man” is a wonderful High School Unit Study geared to Christian young men, and based on Psalm 1. Thursday’s resource is this extensive 74 page preview of the complete four year curriculum – normally $10 on the publisher’s website – but yours to download today! If you have growing boys in your household, DON’T MISS THIS!

Friday, Feb 20th:
Creatively Simple: How to Make Butter in the Blender (PDF ebook)
Learning to make butter is something everyone should do at least once. This simple ebook by Penny Raine can teach you how, using items you probably already have in your kitchen. Detailed instructions and lots of pictures.

Remember, to go every week day to enjoy the most benefit from this great free homeschooling resource. All of these are free on their respective days at www.HomeschoolFreebieOfTheDay.com

Saved from Spoiling!

12 February 2009

I am blessed at being able to find good deals. (Now, I am not able to find may free items or pay only pennies for items, but I usually save about 40% on our household/grocery shopping.) This is balanced by the fact that I tend to procrastinate and forget about the *deals* that needed to be repackaged for freezing as their expiration dates near – and sometimes (more often than I would like!) pass – before being tended to. Yesterday, I was able to rescue several packages from going to waste and thus ruining my grocery budget. Here is what was lurking in our extra refrigerator waiting to become science experiments:

12 packages of 1.5 lbs. hamburger meat
1 chuck roast

Luckily, I “discovered” them just in time before they spoiled. The chuck roast and a celery bunch that was wilting in the bottom of the refrigerator were put into my sanity-saving crockpot to become a savory roast with carrots and potatoes for lunches and a dinner later in the week (reheated). Four of the hamburger meat packages were lazily placed as-is in the deep freeze’. I browned five packages and repackaged them into one pound packages and refroze to be used in later dishes. The three remaining packages were transformed into 8 mini-meatloaves and frozen for another day and 1 regular meatloaf to be reheated Friday night. I did retain one pound of the browned hamburger to be combined with the kidney beans (and seasonings) that needed to be used up to make chili for supper last night and made cornbread to go with it. So, what was about to have to be rubbish is now prepared meals for the next couple of days and for those days that I don’t feel like cooking in the future.

Do you frequently get that sick-to-your-stomach feeling as you open your refrigerator to find that *deal* that you purchased and had such great intentions for has spoiled? Does it break your heart see your hard-earned money being thrown away because you procrastinated and forgot? You are not alone! I am going to try harder to prepare items as I bring them into my house for longer term storage instead of allowing them to be wasted. This will take much discipline, but it is my job as homemaker to make our resources stretch as far as possible – and throwing away food because I didn’t feel like dealing with taking care of it properly earlier is a poor way to run a household.

Yesterday, I was able to turn my laziness into a blessing. Not only was I able to save our investment, but I also have some ready-made meals for later! Quite a feat for me!

Frugal Living for Me

9 January 2009

I am trying very hard to be as frugal as possible. It is a fun game for me! I love saving money! The problem has been not buying just because it is a “deal.” So far, so good. I am trying to plan out our meals and only buy what we need for our plan – or what I KNOW that I can integrate into our plan in upcoming weeks. I have also unsubscribed to all email “ads” and have removed all catalogs from the house. It is much easier when you are not tempted by the cute items that you can get so inexpensively. But, it isn’t about how much money I can save when I buy something but how much money that have left over to pay down our debt with! I am trying to remind myself of this and push forward. Not a hard goal as it is one that I am pursuing strongly and am in great desire to fulfill. My best strategy? Going to the store as little as possible! The less often I am there, the less money that I spend. This is what works best for me.