Frugal Friday

How did your week go? I have a few things to report in the frugality department, but nothing hugely earth-shattering.

  • I went grocery shopping on Tuesday with a list and a menu plan, so my shopping was fairly thorough.
  • I found 10-lb ‘chubs’ of ground beef at Walmart marked down to $20 each, so I bought two. Then I came home and made hamburger patties and meatloaf.
  • I made chili for dinner one evening, enough to serve for another meal also.  We had enough from a couple other meals for several lunches during the week, and as usual I tucked some leftovers away in plastic containers in the freezer to be used as my husband’s work lunches.
  • I found apples for 88 cents a pound, so I bought quite a few.  Also in the produce section I resisted the urge to buy strawberries (sigh) and stuck with the fruit that’s most affordable now, my typical stand-bys:  apples, oranges, bananas.  I just last week overheard a produce lady in Fred Meyers tell a customer that most grocery stores take a loss on bananas, milk, and eggs, because they know customers will go elsewhere if their prices aren’t competitive.
  • I bought quite a few things in bulk on my big shopping trip, including beans and oats.  I store that type of thing in large 2-quart canning jars in the pantry, and when I empty out the sacks from the bulk department, I always shake out the crumbs and save the bags to be used again.
  • As usual, we washed clothing with our homemade laundry soap.  Emily made another batch this week.  Also as usual, we dried
    Soap making

    Making soap

    large and heavy items (jeans, towels, blankets) on the long bars that we have in our laundry room.  This decreases the wear on the dryer and allows smaller things get done in the dryer more quickly.

  • Whenever the power bill comes, I compare this month this year to this month last year, and was pleased that this year we used quite a bit less power than last year, probably because January was such a warm month.  We mostly heat with wood, but in the middle of the night on very cold nights, the furnace goes on for awhile. But this January was so warm that I don’t think that happened often.  John reports that the wood pile is much bigger than he expected for this time of year.
  • I decided to go with just the jacket and jeans from yesterday’s Stitch Fix.  That’s what I had enough credits to buy, and those were the only two pieces I truly loved anyway.  And since I did like the grey tee, I’ll keep an eye out for something similar at a lower price.
  • I found some nice duffel bags with wheels at for $14 each.  They are HUGE, and should be really great for packing lots of clothing.


Related to the duffels, but on a decidedly NOT frugal note, we just bought 5 plane tickets for Ethiopia for this summer.  I’ll be taking our 4 Ethiopian daughters for a homeland visit.  We’re meeting my sister Sophie there, and will be gone for two weeks. So very exciting! It seems like most of our not-frugal things are related to travel–I guess you could look at that either as our Achilles heel or as the reason we do all the frugal things.  We’ll need to update passports soon too.  Three are expired and two of the kids have never had them.  So that will be a pretty penny.  At least we know far enough ahead to avoid rush shipping.

That’s all I can think of for today.  I’d love to hear what you did this week that helped your budget!

PS– If you buy Practical Homeschooling (my latest e-book) and would like the 5-page bonus pack that contains additional info and transcript writing samples, just email me, and I will head it your way.  I’d also LOVE it if you’d share on facebook and tell your friends about the book– proceeds from this book are going to our Ethiopia travel fund.  🙂  And remember, if you’re not quite sure this book is for you, zip over to amazon and read the first few pages for free.  It ended up being an 85 page book and is loaded with info, a fair bit of which could easily translate to enrichment ideas and homework helps for kids in traditional school.

Frugal, Not So Frugal

I cannot figure out how the days fly by so quickly!  I look at the calendar and see very few appointments, and yet the week still seems to roar by in a flurry of school, writing, laundry, errands…. and before I know it, it’s the weekend again.

I skipped Frugal Friday last week– I just had to get my e-book done. It ended up being 85 pages– no wonder it took me so long.  You have til Monday  to grab it at the sale price of $3.49. Then, if you’re game to share about it on facebook and shoot me an email, I’ll send you a bonus pack with 5 more pages about high school transcripts. Altogether that’s 90 pages of homeschooling info for $3.49.  A frugal bargain, right?

On the not frugal side last week, and also part of the reason I hardly blogged– we took a super quick 3 day trip to the beach.  Only 3 of the kids could come with us, so we got by with one hotel room that we got on (breakfast included). We packed food too, only ate out once a day, and gas prices are good right now.  We had so much fun.



It felt odd to be traveling with only three kids, but the three that could come love the beach as much as we do, so we had a blast.  And sunshine….oh, the sunshine.  It was 66 degrees in Newport, which is crazy-unusual. We felt so blessed. The beach is definitely my happy place.  And by the pictures, you can probably tell the girls feel the same way.

Silly Sisters


So, on to THIS week!

SweaterFRUGAL: We did a good job of eating leftovers out of the fridge this week– didn’t waste anything, and got a couple of nice lunches with zero extra effort.  Always a win.

NOT SO FRUGAL:  I went and got my hair done.  I added a little red this time, which I think turned out fun.  Spendy, but I usually get away with doing it only 3-4 times a year, so I guess it could be worse.

FRUGAL:  Found a cute J.Jill poncho/sweater at a thrift store.

NOT SO FRUGAL: It was $14, practically highway robbery in thrift store terms.  But it was so cute! And comfy!  Like a sweatshirt, but the teensiest bit more pulled together.  And  it would have been a lot spendier at J. Jill, right?  (I’ve never been there, so I actually have no idea.)

FRUGAL:  I found a couple birthday gifts on deep, deep clearance at Fred Meyer’s.  My gift stash is practically non-existent since Christmas, so it’s nice to be building it up again.

FRUGAL:  Took the girls to the library, which delighted them.  Sometimes I don’t get around to it.

NOT SO FRUGAL: Got a notice after returning the books that someone damaged a book.  Bah. The ups and downs of being a library patron.

So how did your week go?  Successes?  Fails?  I want to hear it all.

PS–Before I forget– I’ve started sending out a little newsletter/update every week or two, just telling highlights of what’s been going on around here.  If you’d like to keep up with what’s happening (or if you don’t always get here to the blog) just type your email address into the little widget on the right at the top where it says, ‘Let’s be email friends.’  That’ll get you included in those updates too.







Frugal Friday

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It’s Frugal Friday again, time to talk about what went well (and not-so-well) in the finance department around here.

On my couch this week

This week I made a concerted effort to use what’s in the freezer. At the moment both of our outside freezers are plugged in and two thirds  full.  I’d like to get things cleaned out a bit so I can defrost one of the freezers and turn it off for awhile– at least until it’s time to butcher the cow this spring.  In the freezers I have lots of on-sale butter, as well as ground beef and chicken that I’ve bought on sale in the past few months.  But the biggest space hogs were definitely the turkeys– two of them.  So Saturday evening we had turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner.  On Sunday I made a turkey soup with Thai flavorings and coconut milk that was quite good.  Then Monday we had turkey sandwiches for lunch, and that about finished off that turkey.

GF noodles Another time this week for dinner I jazzed up ramen noodle soup  for the kids by adding meatballs and chopped spinach.  Since I try to limit my own intake of wheat and didn’t happen to have any GF noodles at the moment, in my version of the soup I added broken-up sheets of spring roll wrappers, the kind made from rice flour.   The rice wraps cooked practically instantly in the hot broth and acted a lot like egg noodles in my soup.  Quick and yummy.  I am writing the idea here hoping that I will remember it for another day.  It was so easy and good.

Had an odd thing happen with bananas this past week.  I bought a bunch quite green, because there wasn’t much selection in the grocery store at the moment, and they never ripened.  Not a bit.  How can that happen?  I was going to return them to the store to get my money back, but ended up being too lazy to go, and just threw them away.  Ah well.

I feel like I almost always focus on food in my frugality efforts– or at least when I write here.  I’m going to try to think more about what I do to save money that doesn’t involve food. I had several days this week that I went nowhere.  Which I love.  Monday I almost hit the clothing clearance sales at Fred Meyers — hello, 50% off lowest-marked prices.  But then I realized we didn’t truly NEED anything clothing-wise, so I opted to stay home –and save 100% instead.  Yay, me!  Staying home bores some of the kids, but thankfully the quickest-bored ones now have their own licenses and vehicles, so now they can drive themselves places (and waste their own gas.)

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.I requested a book from this week instead of automatically going to amazon.  In case you don’t know, lets you list books, send them to others for credit, and then use those credits to request other books.  Sometimes you have to wait awhile to get newer books, and they don’t have every book.  But when I’ve got a few credits built up, it’s a great way to lay my hands on other books that I want for just the cost of shipping.  Speaking of credit, if you sign up and list 10 books, mark me (owlhaven) down as the person who referred you, and I will get a credit.  Then if you like the service, you can refer other friends and earn credits that way too.


How did your frugality efforts go this week?  I’d love to hear about them!



during this the last week before school starts again

I can’t think of one frugal thing that I did this week. I did do a lot of other things, however. So I guess I’ll just tell you about all those things instead. Sunday was our Zeytuna’s 17th birthday party and Wednesday John and I took her out to dinner and a movie, which is a tradition at our house. We saw The Maze Runner, which was kinda violent, but had (I thought) an intriguing story line. We enjoyed it.

Monday I took Emily and Julianna out to pick out paint and new bedspreads for their room.They’d been begging for new paint in their room for a good long time as there were lots of chips and they were itching to try out some new colors in the room. They had Christmas money to spend, which purchased the bedspreads– hooray!!– and I bought two colors of paint and a new shade for their window.  Here’s how it looked a few days ago, with Julianna buzzing with excitement and John busily installing the shade.

RoomPaint (3)

Here’s Emily washing baseboards and laying down blue tape at the edges.


And here’s Julianna painting away.   She and Emily were both thrilled to help out with this project.

RoomPaint (1)

Tuesday was spent first moving beds, then cleaning up all the stuff we’d unearthed from under the beds, and then finally painting. Whew. What a job. It actually stretched partway into Wednesday, and I was very grateful that John painted the white trim for us, since I was sick of painting by then.  As you can see, it turned out really cute.  It’s a delight to peek into their room now!


RoomPaint (5)

They especially love their poster wall, installed strategically across from the beds so that they can both see them all.  Lots of fun!

RoomPaint (4)

On Wednesday, John got my new baby gate painted and mounted on hinges at the bottom of the stairs. We opted to distress the white paint, and then added a layer of poly for extra protection.  As you can see, it sits snug against the wall when it’s not needed.



And here it is, swung shut. I think it turned out really cute, and it’ll be nice to have a permanently mounted gate that we can easily shut when we don’t want the little kids climbing the stairs.

Gate (1)

On Thursday I went over to Amanda’s house, and helped her sort and organize baby clothes into bins by size. With baby #3 coming in April, she is working to make space and keep the house functioning well with another little one added into the mix. Very fun. On Thursday I also got some new shades from amazon to go in my bedroom. They are pleated shades that have no strings– so neat and easy. It was very nice to throw away my dusty beat up old ones and replace them with something crisp and new.

Then today I began the day by taking Emily and Julianna to the rec center to meet Amanda and Erika and all the grandbabies for a swim. They’re the only people in the world that I’d don a swimsuit in January for, that’s for sure.  We had lots of fun, and ended with lunch at Panda Express.

Monday starts school again, though I don’t think any of us are quite ready for Christmas break to be done.  How did your week go?  Feel free to comment below and tell me how your frugality efforts went — hopefully a lot better than mine!

Why Pinterest works for me

I’ve heard a lot of people groaning over Pinterest because it makes them dissatisfied with what they have.  I understand that feeling–I’m most likely to be tempted when it comes to cute clothes. But in general I use Pinterest simply as a tool.  I think it excels as a springboard for creative thinking. Whether I’m trying to find a new use for chicken breasts, or a way to accessorize a jacket that I already own, or am seeking just the right paint color for a bedroom, Pinterest is there with tons of beautiful photos and brilliant ideas for doing the very thing that I’m attempting.

endless dish soap

Thanks to Pinterest, I know the very best GF banana bread recipe.  As of a few weeks ago, I am the happy owner of an almost-bottomless dish soap dispenser. I’ve got some great smoothie recipes. My hubby made me a great permanently-mounted baby gate for the bottom of my stairs–I’ll get you a photo once it’s painted. And what girl wouldn’t love this sparkly use for those Christmas lights that we  all just peeled off our Christmas trees?

What do you think?  Have you found it possible to use Pinterest for good, or do you avoid it to keep your longings in check?


Frugal Friday: Going Green

Frozen AvocadoDid you figure out what’s in the mystery photo? Read on and all will be explained.


I brought home the bones from our Christmas prime rib.  They went into a big pot of water where they simmered overnight into a nice bone broth.  I then used that broth to make beef and barley soup that we served Sunday after church.


On Monday I spotted avocados at Costco — 6 in a mesh bag for $3. I’d signed up to bring guacamole to a New Years party at church, so this was a great find. The avocados were so soft that a man looking at them beside me said, ‘These’ll need to be used about 20 minutes from now.’ But thanks to Pinterest, I knew that avocados can be halved and frozen without going brown. I took a chance, and picked four of the mesh 6-pack bags– 24 avocados in all. Even if I had to throw away three or four, I figured it was still a good deal. At home when I sorted them out, 9 were still quite firm and will last just fine til Wednesday. The rest I peeled and stuck into ziplock bags in the freezer.  Avocados freeze beautifully with NO browning if you peel them and remove the pit first.  As you can see in the photo, the frozen avocados are almost as green as my front door!


When we made too much pizza dough one night, we tossed the extra into a bag in the fridge to be the start of a quick meal a different night.  Our youngest two had a good time making pizza all on their own that night.


Each Christmas eve my mom serves clam chowder in bread bowls.  This year there were lots left over, and so I brought them home and stuck them in the freezer.  Some I will use for stuffed french toast casserole.  I might make some of the rest of it into croutons for soup or salad.  Then anything we don’t use will go out to the chickens.  Almost every day our chickens end up eating leftovers from our kitchen, whether that be fried rice that’s beyond its prime, vegetable scraps, or stale bread.  Not much goes to waste around here!


(Can you tell I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts?) Thursday dinner this week was chili, made with tomatoes I’d canned from our garden and ground beef that I got on sale several weeks ago.  I love making soups and stews in the winter time, and I routinely double the recipes so that we can get two meals from one meals’ worth of effort.


It’s been cold here and we’ve kept the wood stove roaring for warmth.  We harvest wood for free each summer on John’s mom’s property in the mountains. Our furnace is electric, and it can easily cost $350 or more to heat the house in the winter for a month, and so as much as possible we try to keep the house warm with the wood stove, and limit the furnace use to the week hours of the morning when it is very cold and the fire burns down.  We also pile blankets on the beds and turn on a fan in the hall to blow heat toward the bedrooms. In general it works pretty well.


What did you do in the frugality department this week?  I’d love to hear about it.  And as always, my cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week is on amazon if you happen to need some inspiration in the cooking/ grocery spending department.

Frugal Friday

Lotsa candles!

Lotsa candles!

It’s almost Christmas! I’ve been wrapping like crazy and still have a tiny dab of shopping to do for a few folks that I’m feeling clueless about, but I’m getting there. We also got another birthday celebrated — hard to believe, but our oldest son is now 23.  Happy birthday, Jared!

Here are some quick frugal highlights this week.

  • I returned something that we’ve never used and got a nice chunk of store credit to help with Christmas shopping.
  • I used a $10 off $10 or more coupon from JCPenney to help with more Christmas shopping.
  • I’ve been wrapping all our gifts with wrapping paper that I bought last year on fabulous sales. I’m nearing the end of wrapping and still have lots of paper left.  I’ve also been using bags that we saved from other years.  Every bit helps!
  • I stocked up on butter since it is currently on pretty decent Christmas-baking sales.  Ditto on chocolate chips.  And potatoes.  Hooray for sales.
  • I bought a bunch of dry goods in bulk at Winco and after emptying the various flours, etc, into proper containers, I saved all the bags to use for other purposes.
  • I’m working hard to use up a Costco size bag of spinach so it won’t go to waste.  Might need to puree and freeze a bit of it so we can add it to smoothies later– that bag is huge, and I think the last time I bought one that size, we were feeding more people on a regular basis!
  • Lidya got a mega-ham as a Christmas gift from her employer— 18 pounds!  She promptly gifted it to me, and I’ve so far made at least 3 meals from it– one ham dinner for everyone, a ham and split pea soup, and a stir fry with ham and veggies.  The last of the ham went in the freezer to use a bit later.  What a nice gift.
  • I’ve been enjoying filling up the gas tanks on the vehicles with the lower gas prices.  Perfect timing with all the Christmas erranding.  It would sure be nice if those prices stayed down for awhile.

I’ll check in next week to share our Christmas photo, but other than that you may not hear much from me til after the new year.  Hope your Christmas is wonderful!

Frugality this week

This week I’ve been Christmas shopping, which tends to lead to feelings of non-frugality. But I felt good about overall resisting the siren call of Black Friday shopping, which often seems to end up with me impulse-buying a fair number of random items.  I did buy a few carefully chose items online for excellent prices.  It’s always fun when the UPS man comes bearing goodies.

I opted not to renew amazon prime this year.  Yes, the free shipping is nice.  But I find that when I have prime, I am much quicker to impulse-buy on amazon.  Amazon is already my budget’s Achille’s heel. I just shop smarter if I put an item in my cart and then force myself to wait til I have $35 worth of merchandise (to get the free shipping) before hitting that ‘buy’ button.  Half the time when I wait, I end up deciding is not as important as I first thought to own that particular item.

At Wal-Mart this week I happened upon 10-lb logs of ground beef marked down to $2o each.  It has been probably half a year since I’ve been able to find ground beef for less than $3 a pound, so I bought 40 pounds.  Seemed extreme to spend $80 on ground beef in one trip, but who knows when I’ll see the price that low again.  I probably actually should have bought more than that.

Table sparkleI bought 40 pounds of potatoes for 99 cents/10 pounds.  That’s a LOT of food for $4.

I copied a Pinterest idea for some sparkle on the dining room table using items I already had.  Looking at the photo I think I’ll remove the natural items and redo it with all glass balls, but it is fun the way it is too. The tiered tray is something I made a few years ago using gorilla glue and thrift store candlesticks and plates in different sizes.  Originally it was used to serve cupcakes at our oldest daughter’s wedding.

Our Christmas tree is getting very old and tired. I think we got it in 1999 for $70, so I think we’ve gotten our money’s worth from it. I was sorely tempted to take advantage of Black Friday sales to buy a new one.  But instead I opted to use it for (at least) one more year.  Once decorated, it didn’t look half bad.  And even on a good sale, the type of tree I had in mind would have been $100.  So it’s just as well that I waited.

I wanted to support a brand new Ethiopian restaurant called Kibrom’s in Boise, but didn’t have much in the eating-out budget.  So instead of bringing everyone and getting a full meal, we stopped in and bought injera plus a triple batch of our favorite entree (doro wat) and asked them to package it up for take-out.  They got some business, and we all had a taste of yumminess at a lower price.  Another time we’ll bring everyone there to eat, but this was a nice compromise.

That’s all I can think of for now.  On Monday I’ll share my latest Stitch Fix goodies.  I’d love to hear how your frugality efforts are going this month, especially related to holiday expenses.



Books, frugality, birthdays, and an awesome pencil sharpener (do these topics actually go together?)

My birthday girl, a few years ago...time flies!Life has been nutty around here.  Wednesday alone I had three different interviews for Forever Mom.  By the end of the day both of my phones had dead batteries and I felt certain I had lost all ability to construct a complete sentence.  Whew!  What’s really cool is that people are interested in Forever Mom–here’s a review on (By the way, if you go read it, will you also share it on facebook so more people can see it?  Thank you so much!)  I am so humbled and so grateful that folks are appreciating the message of the book.  And also relieved.  Because, honestly, my heart went right out there in every page. I’ve never felt so trembly-kneed when sending something out there.  So thanks for all your support.

I don’t have many frugal thoughts this week– it was kind of a fish sticks and corn dogs and cereal kind of week around here with all busyness. I did bookmark this great-looking blog post sharing 52 Meatless Meals so that I can intersperse all the rich holiday food with some frugal and good-tasting meatless dinners. I also earned a free turkey at Winco.  (They have a promo where if you spend  $100, you get a free turkey– yeehaw!)  The man in line behind me looked in my heaping cart and told me I should have gone through the line twice and gotten two turkeys.  He was right.  I actually ended up spending $300 on groceries yesterday– apparently I’ve skipped shopping lately too, because we were out of so many things.  So I could have gotten THREE free turkeys, but ah well. Now we are stocked up and I hope that I remembered most of what I’ll need for the next couple weeks.  Potatoes were on a screaming good sale 99 cents for 10 pounds– so we currently have about 4o pounds in the pantry, and I am signed up to bring mashed potatoes to every Thanksgiving gathering we’re attending.  (That reminds me– I still need to buy sour cream.  Because in my opinion, mashed potatoes reach greatness through butter and sour cream.  And maybe garlic.  But I’m aware that not everyone agrees about the garlic.)


For those of you who asked, I am in the process of getting an email subscribe feature added to my blog.  I should have done it a long, long time ago but somehow never got around to it.  I will let you know when it is up and running, since I know a lot of people prefer to read blogs in email form.  Thanks to those of you who emailed me lately and encouraged me to get it together.  🙂


Finally, I have meaning for awhile to tell you about a REALLY neat pencil sharpener. Let me tell you, as a homeschooling mom of many, I have bought SO many pencil sharpeners over the years– from the old fashioned manual kind that you mount on the wall to the really nice electric kind.  I don’t know if it is just a function of having a lot of kids, but every sharpener I’ve ever owned til now has always ended up disappointing me. So when I heard about this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies, I was all attention.  This sharpener is different in that it holds the pencil for you, which I think makes it much more likely that the pencil will enter the machine straight and be sharpened properly. (Watch the video to see what I mean– it’s a little different.)  I also need to disclose that I was given a sharpener for free in exchange for a review. The bottom line is we’ve been using this sharpener for several months, and we really like it a lot.  It makes pencils SO sharp! The only thing I don’t love is that the clamp that is supposed to hook it to a counter is a little chintzy– we can’t make it stay. But since the sharpener holds the pencil for you, it’s not a big deal to just hold the sharpener steady with one hand while turning the handle with the other.  I am working on getting a freebie to give away here on my blog, but I don’t have it yet. I will keep you posted.

Anyway, we are off to homeschool craft day and then we are celebrating my BABY’s tenth birthday– oh be still my heart!! There she is above several years ago with a PENCIL in her hand, which is my very best attempt at making this post actually hang together.  Pencils.  Birthday girl.  Books. You get it?  OK,  that’s all I have for you today. But as usual, I’d love to hear about your frugal successes for the week! So comment away!

Frugal holiday beauty

This weekend I have the fun of attending the Joy for the Journey adoptive mom retreat in Lancaster, PA. So instead of my usual frugality post, I thought I’d share some fun and frugal ways to decorate for the upcoming holidays.


 This silver and white decor could be lovely for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.



Christmas ball decor

Lots of pretty ideas for Christmas balls– A big box of glass Christmas balls is $10 at Target or Walmart.


Here are a couple of affordable and pretty ways to decorate pine cones.

Dip a pine cone in glue and dust with Epsom salts for snow-sparkled pine cones.sparkly pinecones


Or gather a bunch of pine cones with some red ribbon for a lovely alternative to a wreath.pinecone-cluster-collage

Did you know that you can slip ping pong balls over LED lights to make these lovely globe lights?


Then finally here’s a sweet craft you can make with some wood rounds and an etching tool.



Before you buy decor items at full price, be sure to look at your local thrift stores and craft stores. Often thrift stores seem to be the depository for half-done craft projects, which makes them a great place to look for ribbon, yarn, silk flowers, and many other craft and decor items such as knitting needles, beads, crochet hooks, baskets, tins, and wreaths.

If you have more ideas for affordable Thanksgiving and Christmas decor, I’d love to hear them!