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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments


What a busy week! 

I am finding that my new schedule means school all day with my children who are at home, and then just as we are done, I am helping with homework all afternoon until late into the night (10:45!) The baby nurses at 11, 2, 3, and 4 since school started (before that it was 11, 2, and 5), and I have to be up at 4:45 to make sure my two oldest get out the door by 5:20 a.m. for their 6 a.m. class, so I am still not getting much sleep at all and I am awake from 4 a.m. (and often 3 a.m.) on. Finding time to make meals from scratch for 10 people is a challenge, let alone doing laundry and cleaning. I usually start making dinner at 4:00 to eat at 6:30 p.m., and now I am trying to help with homework at that same time and supervise before-dinner chores as well. I had hoped Saturdays would be at least easier, but my children still have a lot of homework.  Consequently, accomplishing all that needs to be done is extremely challenging. I am striving continuously to be more efficient with my time; I'd certainly like us to all get back to getting to bed on time!

To that end, I have been using my solar oven to cook several times this past week. 

While my husband held the baby on Saturday, I cut up an old burgundy sheet of my mom's to make new toddler-sized bibs for my 2-year-old. I used one of my old, worn-out bibs as a pattern. I had previously made them from the pillowcases from the same set and other old pillowcases that she had given to me. I cut out five bibs from a queen-sized fitted sheet, which I hope to sew up this week. I will use buttons from my button jar to close the bibs.

I cooked a quadruple batch of banana bread into mini-muffins to use at breakfast and in lunches this week.

Despite my time being very limited lately, I have had the chance to do one thing for me, which is to read e-books while I am nursing the baby. I started reading a new series of e-books from the library that a reader just recommended to me called The Darling Dahlias. It's a mystery series set in the 1930's that includes gardening, cooking, making do during the depression, and of course, 30's clothing and car descriptions. (It's like this series was made for me!) Recipes are included at the end of each story as well as interesting information about the time. I used to read news and blogs while nursing, but changing to reading stories in e-book form has been really wonderful for me. It's also been easier; this baby tends to kick and squirm while nursing, making it hard to read the computer at my desk, lest he bonk his head or feet on my desk. I can put my phone down on my bed and read it while I sit on my bed to nurse him or put it on my ottoman while I sit on a chair in the living room. I nursed babies 5-8 while often working on my website, but I haven't been able to with this baby, so I am happy to be reading something still.

(A note to those who asked: my older children are already helping, I am making doubles of things (which means cooking for 20), but that is something I already did, and there is not much more that can go; the house has been let go quite a bit but schoolwork cannot be ignored. My husband is helping my children with homework and so am I. They just have a lot of it and the curriculum is different than what they are used to. I like the assignments that I am seeing come home from their teachers, but they are challenging!)

I download a free e-book on growing dahlias. They're a challenge to grow in our climate, as they are prone to being sunburnt, but I grew a few earlier this year (now all fried in the sun, they are attempting to grow back from the tubers) more successfully than past years, as they are in a place with afternoon sun.

I ordered some dresses for my daughters using a 50% off coupon code for the entire order and also got free shipping. My second and third daughters wear the same size, and I really needed more clothing in that size, so now they have a couple of casual dresses in a knit, in a solid color with short sleeves that are also knee-length. Finding dresses that met those specifications this year was no easy feat, as the styles are very different. I found them as uniform dresses from Land's End, and the sales code made the price reasonable. As a bonus, they have pockets, which thrills the girls to no end! I only wish they came in a few more colors. My girls have been loving jeans for a few years (and in that size, my eldest daughter wore jeans all the time) but since Winter has switched to wearing beautiful dresses every day, they all want to wear dresses more often, and as a dress-lover, I couldn't be more thrilled. Since my time has been so limited, I knew I needed to buy something rather than make it right now, so these were perfect. I went through Ebates first to get cash back on the purchase.

I purchased some Aveeno lotion on sale at Sam's Club for around 40% less than I could buy it on sale and with a coupon elsewhere.

I purchased a few pairs of pants, including thin sweat pants/pajama pants for the baby at a used children's clothing store that is next door to my husband's office (so I didn't have to make a special trip).

I set up free Duolingo accounts for my two elementary-school-aged children who are homeschooling with me so that one can learn French and one can learn Spanish. Duolingo is free to use and has lots of language choices from lots of language choices. If you use the classroom option, children who don't have an email address can still have an account (you need to create a classroom for each language).

I continued to open windows between 5 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. to cool the house, making sure to turn off both a/c units while the windows were open. It was 5-7 degrees cooler outside during those hours. It's still quite hot here (106°F/41°C) during the day and I expect to run the air conditioners until at least the middle of October, if not longer, but I am grateful that the mornings are cool for a short while, not reaching 80°F until 8:00 a.m.

I looked over my budget for the rest of the year. It looks like I will need to make some large cuts to the budget (home sales are down all across the country, including here), so I'm evaluating where they can be made. I'm also trying to figure out if there is any way I can find time to make Christmas gifts this year, using what I have on hand. I already have the supplies for several things for my girls, but I have no idea yet how I can find the time to sew those gifts. I am taking every moment I can to organize things at home that have become disorganized since school started in hopes that I will be able to spend less time picking up and more time doing some needed sewing.

My daughter who started school needs black pants for two orchestra performances (which are part of her grade). Rather than purchasing pants for her, I took out a pair of her brothers' outgrown pants in her size from the clothing box, which she can wear for those few hours.

We put up outgrown children's clothing in boxes in my closet.

I harvested green onions, New Zealand Spinach, red noodle beans, basil, and mint from the garden.

I used the water from steaming the beans and collected from the shower while the water was warming to water potted plants in the garden. I also used shower warm-up water to rinse the shower floor after I scrubbed it with borax.

What did you do to save money last week?


Just a note: I would like to thank all of you again for your well-wishes on my new baby. I received a few gifts a few months back but had no way to contact some of the senders. I just want to say thank you.

Also, I appreciate everyone's prayers for me. In addition to having my days change to being much longer than normal lately, I went to the doctor's this past week for a biopsy to see if I have skin cancer. I'll know the results in a couple of weeks; in the meantime, I have stitches and some places of missing skin that are rather large and deep. It's been an interesting learning experience; I was about half the age of the people in the waiting room, but I've since learned that many people develop skin cancer starting in their late thirties and early forties. Last year I learned that a childhood friend of mine, who was a year younger, died a few years ago (in his 30's) of skin cancer just 4 months after being married. I had been putting off having some questionable spots checked, but no longer. This is one cancer that can be removed rather simply if you find out early. Wear sunscreen, wear a hat, wear long-sleeves when you can, and garden in the early-morning hours when the sun isn't yet high in the sky! And please--go to the doctor if something doesn't look right. 

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  • robyn September 10, 2018

    Dear Brandy,
    I will be praying for you in all aspects of your life!!! You are an inspiration to me and I read and re-read so many of your posts. God has blessed you with a beautiful family and will continue to do so. I pray for health and healing for you. God bless you, robyn

  • Reader September 10, 2018

    Good luck! I love you´re honest about your experiences with school. However it will turn out, you´ll have wonderful comparing material out of your own experience and it´s priceless!

    I´ll suggest a novel to everyone: Rosamunde Pilcher "The Shell Seekers". Read it many years ago (I read a lot) and it left a lasting impression.

    Happy week!

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 10, 2018

    I like that book; I have owned it for many years.

  • Jenifer September 10, 2018

    That book is a favorite of mine!

  • Libby September 10, 2018

    I like Rosamunde Pilcher's short story collections even better :) The Blue Bedroom is my favorite collection.

  • Christie September 10, 2018

    I just finished that book! I really enjoyed it.

  • Jeananne Lybbert September 11, 2018

    "Winter Solstice" by Rosamunde Pilcher is another good one and I also love the "Blue Bedroom" short story collection.

  • Reader September 10, 2018

    ... I did one tiny thing I remember on frugal front I remember - saved orange and lemon seeds and dried them - they are said to contain pectin and can be used while making jam (just take them out when jam´s ready - can be in tea sieve etc).

  • Cindi September 10, 2018

    I'm praying for good results on those biopsies. I had one skin cancer removed several years ago (squamous cell, so very curable) and have had other suspicious spots checked over the years -- it can be nerve-wracking, but good for you for getting them checked. Living in the west and being fair-skinned puts us at higher risk.

    I dried celery leaves to use as seasoning.
    The nights are much cooler now (we’ve even had fires in the wood stove a couple of mornings). I harvested the last of the squash, pulled up the plants and planted green peas in their place. I froze several packages of shredded zucchini.
    In addition to the squash, I harvested tomatoes, peppers, celery, chard, mint, carrots, and basil.
    I purchased a half bushel of tomatoes from a farm stand and put up 8 1/2 pints of tomato sauce and 6 ½ pints of picante sauce.
    I attended a conference out of town and took my own food for the meals that weren’t included in the conference.
    I knitted a Christmas gift with yarn a friend gave me.

  • Jennifer September 10, 2018

    Hello Brandy,
    I have been a long time reader of your blog, but I don't believe I've ever commented. I just wanted to wish you peace during this season of so many changes and challenges. Take good care of yourself!

  • Amy S September 10, 2018

    That is an incredibly busy schedule - but wow! You are handling things so well. I love how you are always trying to improve things for yourself and streamline your schedule as much as possible. That can be hard when you have littles (and teenagers). I think you are doing such a lovely job - you are a wonderful wife and mother.

    -I did some small batch canning of tomatoes this past week. It's easier for me to do small batches. I got 4 quart jars of romas. I did see a new way to get the skins off that I might try - cut the tomatoes in half and place on cookie sheet (cut side down), broil for a few minutes, let cool and then the skin comes right off. I haven't tried it yet - but I have another big bowl of tomatoes do can this week. I will try it and see if it is easier than the hot water/ice cold water method I usually do. I hope this idea works because I can fit a lot of tomatoes on a cookie sheet.

    -I made all meals at home. We had a turkey breast (marked down in clearance to $5) with mashed potatoes & gravy, hamburger soup (which was delicious) with homemade bread, quesadillas with fresh garden veggies and fruit, homemade french bread pizza, big salad with lots of hard-boiled eggs, garden veggies and lettuce with homemade bread.

    -Framed my finished cross-stitch myself. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be to get it centered. I'm still not happy with it. I used fabric and thread I already had on hand. I did buy the pattern. But it was wonderful to work on and I love the finished project. It's perfect for Halloween.

    _Was under my grocery budget when I went shopping. I put the extra $$ into savings. There is a case lot sale going on right now at Kroger. I plan on going today to buy just a few cases of things we are out of - but I have the money to use for the items.

    -My daughter attended a birthday party. I made a gift using all items that I had on hand. Didn't buy anything out of pocket. The mother told me that the gift was her daughter's favorite. I love how items that I don't need/want can be such a blessing for someone else.

    Good luck with your skin cancer screenings. I should get things checked out as well. I don't see anything suspicious but one never knows. I hope everything with you is ok.

    Hope everyone has a wonderful frugal week! Thank you for all the wonderful comments and ideas that continue to inspire me!

  • Fiona Chain September 10, 2018

    Hi Amy,
    Can I ask how you make your hamburger soup, it sounds yummy,
    Kind regards

  • Amy S September 11, 2018

    Fiona - I just found the recipe last week on ourbestbites.com. If you go to the site and type in the search engine "Easy Hamburger Vegetable Soup" it should bring up the recipe for it. We really liked it. I ended up using a different vinegar because I didn't have the one the recipe called for. And I didn't add the corn. But everyone liked it at my house. Hope you enjoy it :)

  • Ava September 13, 2018

    Amy, I went to ourbestbites.com and got the recipe, improvising a little to use up some leftovers, and it was really delicious. Thanks!

  • Sandra September 10, 2018

    I am still harvesting zucchini, tomatoes (large and cherry), green beans, green onions, and fresh herbs. The a/c isn't having to come on as often as the temperatures are beginning to drop. I am also getting less water for potted plants from the a/c now. I've started doing garden clean up in some of the boxes and they look so much more tidy.

    Mostly I have been cooking and eating out of the garden, freezer and pantry. Yesterday I cooked up a pot of pinto beans and divided it up into 2 cup freezer containers for future meals. Since I still have a lot of last years canned fruit I have been trying to be creative with it. Last night I made a canned fruit cobbler using some of last year's home canned plums. I've also made a yummy plum chutney to serve with curry and roast meat.

    I continue to make meals and snacks at home, carry my thermal cup with a cold drink when I go out, always shop with a list, and plan my errands and shopping to make the best use of time and gas.

  • Margaret @ApproachingFood September 10, 2018

    I don't know how you do it all, Brandy! Sending you good wishes for the results of your test.

    My frugal accomplishments for the week:
    - I made a double-batch of my Café-Style Broccoli and Feta Pasta Salad (http://approachingfood.com/salads-i-have-known-and-loved-cafe-style-broccoli-and-feta-pasta-salad/). I brought one batch to a potluck BBQ. I also made a macaroni and cheese casserole and baked several dozen peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and gave those, along with the remaining batch of pasta salad, to a friend who lost her mom this week. Except for a few ingredients in the pasta salad, I had all over the ingredients at home already. I did buy a foil container at the dollar store so that my friend didn’t have to worry about returning a dish on top of burying her mum, and for the other containers, I used some large take-out containers that I had traded for months ago.
    - I redeemed Swagbucks for a $15 gift certificate to Old Navy. I had a coupon for $10 off a $15 purchase, so I was able to combine the gift certificate and the coupon to get $25 worth of children’s clothing (a dress and two long-sleeve tops) for $1.27 OOP. I’ve set it aside to give to family friends closer to the holidays.
    - There was a (free) pizza lunch at my work one day, so I saved the lunch I had packed for the next day. Another day a full lunch was provided, so the lunch I packed became my dinner, plus the next day there were enough leftovers at work to have another lunch, and even bring a sandwich and some cake home to my husband. My workplace is pretty great!
    - My sister gave me some green cleaners that she no longer wanted. I was happy to take them – they’ll be nice to have for after the baby is born, so that there aren’t harsh chemical cleaners around for the first few months at least. (I currently use homemade concoctions so I’m not exposed to chemicals while pregnant).
    - My mum gave me a coupon for a free flavoured rice item, so I picked it up at the store today when I went grocery shopping. I’ll serve it alongside a curry this week for dinner.
    - I applied (and got the job) to do free-lance transcriptionist work at Rev.com. I used to do medical transcription prior to grad school so I’m used to transcribing, my colleagues are always commenting on my typing speed, and I thought it might be something to consider during my mat leave. I still have to check out if I can earn money online from a US company while on mat leave in Canada without it affecting my benefits, but it’s nice to know that it’s an option if I ever need to earn money quickly. If you need some extra money, have good English skills, and have a laptop at home, check out the website. They pay weekly and you can work as much or as little as you wish.

    Looking forward to learning from everyone!

  • Libby September 10, 2018

    Thank you for the Rev.com suggestion.

  • Elizabeth M. September 10, 2018

    I've worked for Rev.com for 15 months now. It adds a few hundred dollars a month to my income, and I find the work really interesting.

  • Margaret @ApproachingFood September 10, 2018

    Thanks for letting me know about your positive experience! :)

  • Amanda September 16, 2018

    Hello Elizabeth,
    Do you have to have previous experience as a transcriptionist? I need to earn a little extra income as I am right now a stay at home mom.

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