Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Here's what the front of our house looked like for the main event. We get lots of comments every year about all the pumpkins - everyone gets a real kick out of them. The Spongebob jack-o-lantern (my hubby's creation) was the big hit this year.

Our Halloween was very frugal - we purchased two large pumpkins on sale for 1.49 each, and the rest were from the Night Hike (see my earlier post if you don't know what I'm talking about!) The boys both reused favourite costumes from last year, and I bought about 150 treats on sale (I got the best per treat deal I could find) - we had to turn our lights off early as we were cleared right out!! All the other decorations were either homemade or reused from previous years.

How was your frugal Halloween?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sew Inspired

Today I spent some time surfing around the Little Brown Dress website. I am totally intrigued by this project, and it's inspired me to work towards creating a more "recycled" wardrobe. I've been meaning to improve my sewing skills for ages but have never gotten around to it - it looks like now is finally the time! I put a bunch of sewing books on hold at the library so we'll see how it goes. I did sew for a bit in my teens (a pair of pants, some shorts and a couple of other things), and come to think of it, I made a very nice shower curtain about 12 years ago (that's still in use and looking great today!) so it's not like I've never done it - it just seems *so* long ago and I feel like I'm back to absolute total beginner status again!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Frugal Halloween Fun

We've been busy having some free family fun! On Friday night, we went on what's known in our neighbourhood as "The Night Hike". This is a free event that has been going on for quite a few years and is a much anticipated event in our household! The local school decorates a wooded nature trail with jack-o-lanterns made by the kids. It is *very* cool to hike through a forest full of glowing jack-o-lanterns, even if, like this year, it's freezing cold and pouring rain. The event is so popular that there were still crowds of people participating, despite the abysmal weather. A frugal aspect of The Night Hike (besides that it's free) is that since my hubby always volunteers to help clear all the pumpkins from the trail at the end, he gets to bring home as many "unclaimed" jack-o-lanterns as he wants (usually somewhere around a dozen). So, we always have a *very* spooky looking house on Halloween night, despite the fact that we usually only purchase two pumpkins of our own.

On Saturday night (despite a distinct lack of improvement in the weather), we attended the Haunted Halloween event at Westfield Heritage Village. Again, lots of fun (in this case, spooky old-fashioned creepy kinds of fun). We had bundled up well, but were still eager to make hot chocolate and popcorn when we got home!! Of course, the popcorn was air-popped and the hot chocolate was of the cocoa-and-sugar-in-hot-milk variety (which I think tastes a lot better than anything out of the expensive little packages anyways).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hundred Dollar Holiday?

I finally sat down and started putting some of my Christmas plans in writing (they've just been floating around in my head thus far). My goal this year (inspired both by Bill McKibben's book and financial constraints) is to achieve a "Hundred Dollar Holiday" for Christmas this year. Yup. A fine challenge I assure you! Granted, I am limiting myself to $100 of cold, hard cash, but also allowing myself to use other resources to make the cash go further. At this point, I have a $15 gift certificate from Sears and about $27 in Canadian Tire money to add to the cause. I also got a survey in the mail yesterday that I will receive $25 for if I complete it. And I also got a few free Christmas cards as a gift from a charity (instead of the usual address labels). Also at my disposable are my knitting and cooking skills. Most of the adults in my life are receiving a combination of knitted and food gifts this year (the yarn has been in my stash for long enough that I don't need to count the cost in my Christmas expenses, and the food gifts are coming out of the food budget). I have a lot of knitting to do in the next few weeks. I also need to sit down and figure out what type of food gifts I'm making this year so I can get started on some of those too - I hate having to do everything at the last minute.

Hopefully I will manage to pace myself better than I have in other years to avoid that holiday burnout feeling!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekend Doings

After a fairly hectic week, I spent most of the weekend relaxing, so not a lot of frugal activity to note. I did spend a fair amount of time working on knitted gift projects. Other than that, not much to report! One thing I started doing last week (that I forgot to mention in previous posts) was to experiment with not shampooing my hair every day. I've read in quite a few places over the years that it's actually healthier for your scalp *not* to wash your hair every day, but for most of my life, my hair was quite long, thick and tangly, so I always washed and conditioned every day. I've had short hair for a couple of years now, and I thought it was about time that I tried washing my hair less. I'm going to try cutting down to three times a week and see how it goes (I've already cut down to conditioning only once a week or so since I made the switch to a short hairstyle).

This weekend's menu:


Breakfast: Puffy pancake with apples (this recipe is in the Tightwad Gazette), orange juice, coffee

Lunch: leftover quiche and cooked carrots

Supper: Perogie casserole, peas (from frozen), gingersnaps, milk, coffee


Brunch: "Puffy Muffins" (this has been a Sunday special at our house for years - it's basically eggs mixed with cheese and seasonings piled on an english muffin half and baked in the oven - almost like a mini-quiche!), coffee, orange juice

Snack: apple, gingersnap, coffee

Supper: my dad took us all out to Red Lobster for dinner (this was to mark the first anniversary of my mom passing away Oct 21/05). We made sure to get doggy bags to enjoy tomorrow!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Frugal-Fest!

I've got to be honest - today I wore myself right out! I'm sitting here typing this in my pjs, ready to head straight for bed when I'm finished. The boys amused themselves with a variety of projects for most of the day, and I woke up feeling energetic, so I took advantage of that and did quite a few little tasks that needed to be done:

-sliced up about 1 1/2 dozen green peppers and put them in the freezer (in reused large freezer bags)

-made some homemade pancake syrup (I tried a new recipe from one I used previously that I wasn't happy with, this one seems thicker and more "syrupy", less runny)

-took a bunch of bread heels out of the freezer and made breadcrumbs

-baked a loaf of bread (this one was pretty effortless, I had already made refrigerator bread dough earlier in the week and just had to shape it, let it rise and bake it)

-baked a bunch of winter squash and pureed it for the freezer (I got about 5 cups total; I froze it in reused milk bags - the inner bags that the milk is actually in, not the larger outer bag!)

-baked a batch of gingersnap cookies for the boys

-did some more mending (still not finished yet - two boys and a too-long-neglected mending pile)

-continued working on my knitted gift project

I'm still working away at my re-read of the Complete Tightwad Gazette as well.

Today's eats:

Breakfast: muffin and coffee

Lunch: leftover pasta with peanut sauce, apple, glass of milk

Supper: quiche (the ultimate way to use up little bits of stuff lurking around in the fridge - in this case some Swiss Chard I had given to me by a friend and a bit of leftover broccoli went in the mix - it turned out very tasty) slice of homemade bread, tossed salad, coffee

That's it for today - time for me to go to sleep!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Grocery Goof

Today's frugal doings:

-worked on a knitted gift
-mended clothes while watching TV
-started rereading The Complete Tightwad Gazette (not sure how many times I've read it now!) for some creative thrifty inspiration

Frugal Foods:

Breakfast: muffin, orange juice, coffee

Lunch: chicken sandwich (made with a leftover chicken thigh from last night) on homemade bread, leftover sweet potato fries, glass of chocolate milk (on sale for cheaper than white milk!)

Supper: Spicy Peanut Pasta (a peanut and coconut milk-based sauce, sounds weird but very yummy!), broccoli, carrots, glass of milk

Today was also grocery shopping day. I spent $110.56 CDN. This was on the high side (I'm trying to keep it under $85/week). We were all out of a lot of staples like sugar and mustard. I also grabbed some extra bread, bagels, and cream cheese because they were on sale. The last couple of weeks I've spent above average; there have been a lot of really good sale prices on foods we use a lot. My freezer is almost full to the top and that hasn't happened for a while. My second fridge in the basement is almost full too! I don't think I will need to buy much for the next couple of weeks except milk and fruit. I'm also annoyed at myself for making a really novice sale-shopping mistake. I knew a particular brand of flour tortillas was on sale but I couldn't remember the price (I forgot to note it on my shopping list!), and it wasn't marked on the display. I only grabbed one since they only had one package of whole wheat. As it turns out the deal was 2 for $4, and you only got the sale price if you bought two. I realized this when I was double-checking my receipt in the parking lot - I probably could have gone back and gotten another one, but at that point I just decided to cut my losses and go home (I was really annoyed that I ended up paying $3.59 for *one* pack of tortillas though!)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

10 Things I Do Every Day to Save Money

Welcome to yet another frugality blog! I decided to start my own to keep track of all the many different things I do to save money, in the hopes that it will give me a bit of satisfaction to keep track of all my efforts, and provide some inspiration when the going gets tough. We have some pretty aggressive financial goals we want to achieve in the next year, so I need to stay motivated.

I've been reading a lot of different frugality blogs lately, and many people have been doing a "25 Things I Do to Save Money" list (started, I believe, by Dawn over at Frugal for Life). Since I'm going to be writing out a list of all (or at least most) of my frugal activities every day, I thought I'd start off by doing a list of 10 Things I Do Every Day to Save Money so I don't have to keep writing them out every day. A few of these are so ingrained in my daily habits, I had to thing for quite a while before they occurred to me!

So, here goes:

1. Walk/bike instead of driving, about 90% of the time (possibly even more). As we live in a very walkable neighbourhood (one of Canada's first "planned communities") this is actually pretty easy, and it also allows us to keep only one car for our family of four. We were previously car-free for 3 years, but due to hubby's career change it's now pretty much impossible for us to be totally without a vehicle.

2. Cook at home, using inexpensive (and healthy) unprocessed/minimally-processed foods. We eat out so infrequently, I can probably count the number of times we've done so in 2006 on one hand (that includes take out and fast food, too).

3. Only eat until I'm full, not stuffed (cuts down on both food expenses and my waistline!)

4. Keep the thermostat set as low as we can tolerate in the colder months (18 degrees Celsius daytime, 15 degrees Celsius at night) and use fans/shades/windows to cool during the warmer months.

5. Exercise at home or outdoors instead of going to a gym.

6. Don't throw my clothes in the hamper until they are actually dirty and/or smelly (less wear on the clothes, less laundry soap and water used).

7. Wash baggies - yup, I admit it, I'm a fanatical baggie washer. I buy the more expensive name-brand freezer bags, as I found they withstand much more wear and tear and I can get a lot more uses out of each bag. If I wasn't a baggie-washer, I'd buy generic.

8. Keep lights turned OFF as much as possible (although the kids seem dead-set on foiling me on this one!)

9. Read books and magazines from the library, instead of buying them. Most of the DVDs we watch come from the library as well, and when I'm in the mood for some new music, I'll check out their CD collection too.

10. Express gratitude for everything I *do* have (even though, I admit there are some days when there are some things on my "wish list"). I do appreciate that I have much more than most others in the world, and I am truly thankful for that.

I'm sure there are some other things I do every day, but can't think of right now!

On to today's frugal happenings...

-I blanched three heads of cauliflower (from our local CSA) and froze them for later use.
-dh baked muffins for breakfast
-I started thinking about Christmas gift possibilities involving a free $25 gift certificate from Chapters (which I am going to redeem airmiles to get!) and the almost $30 in Canadian Tire money we have accumulated (someone on my list might get a wrench for Christmas, lol!) I want to stretch these out as much as possible, so I might use them towards some of the kids' gifts as I already have a lot of almost-free or food gift ideas for the adults in my life

I can't think of anything else "noteworthy" at the moment.

Today's meals:

Breakfast: High Fibre Carrot Muffins (tried and true standby from Anne Lindsay's Light Kitchen), coffee

Lunch: leftover lentil and sausage stew (a great way to feed four people with only 2 sausages!), leftover cornbread, glass of orange juice

Supper: barbecued lime-garlic chicken thighs, sweet potato fries, broccoli, glass of white wine (leftover from a bottle brought by company; we have a stash of brew-your-own as well), coffee

That's it for today!
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