Wednesday, February 12, 2014

~ How Do YOU Save? ~

Okay...First, I'm showing all of the photos on this post in the 'xlarge' option because it's cold outside, and it's February 12th, and at least in Pennsylvania, winter should be letting go of it's tight grip by now, but that hasn't happened yet, so, extra large summery pictures to tie in with 'How do you save'! I'l touch on a few things I do at the farm in this post to save money and put healthy food on our table.  In future posts, I'll focus on specific money saving tips and ways I've found to stretch a dollar, but this post is a 'memory post', something to look forward to in the months to come!

Cosmos growing my my garden at our family farm.

This might be one of my biggest long term goals:getting myself back to the country full time!  I grew up on this farm, and love it, country life is in my blood.  In order to make this possible, I have to get very serious about saving money and paying down debt, and make a lifestyle of frugal living.  That will involve several steps, and I think sometimes that can seem overwhelming, but taken one at a time, with a short term AND long term goal in mind I think will help to keep me focused.  The short term goal to set up and achieve to have small successes along the way to keep my focused and going and moving towards my long term goals.

These are 'Ruth's Perfect' heirloom tomatoes from my garden.  They are a beautifully, almost perfectly round slicing tomato is both delicious and a good keeper.  A very good choice for the garden.  I ordered this variety because it shares my Mom's name.

Growing a lot of the food my family eats in my garden, preserving and freezing enough to last through the winter is both short and long term success.  It's actually a lifestyle, much like some of the other things I'll learn as I strive for financial health that is easy for me since I've gardened all of my life.  Just like gardening, discipline with spending, spending responsibly, and the wonderful habit of saving will become my lifestyle too.  They will be automatic, and I look forward to that so much!

Mason jars that I use for canning...some very old, some new.  All contain fresh garden goodness from my garden!

I love mason jars as much as the contents I fill them with!  I have mason jars that were my Mom's and the other ladies of the house at our family farm.  When we moved in in the mid 1970's, there were many jars on the shelves in the basement.  I still use them today, holding them is like reconnecting with the former ladies of the house, who amazingly we were in close contact with until their deaths years ago, those ladies taught me so much.  A farm wife is a frugal and resourceful woman. Mason jars can be found pretty easily at garage and estate sales, for a cheaper price than the grocery stores or online.  Some great deals are to be found at those places, but I have the best luck on Saturdays while wandering around!  Actually, this Saturday, my Valentine's Day gift will be heading to an auction near here that is advertising 30 dozen canning jars!  My kind of present!!

You can put all sorts of things in a canning jar too.  The apples pictured above are from trees my Mom planted years ago and were almost forgotten. While my Mom was alive, most of my time was focused on her care and taking care of my kids, since her death, I have been able to visit and in the process of resurrecting these wonderful trees!  After all these years, they still produce wonderful and delicious apples!  We made 10 pints of applesauce this past fall, my first attempt, and it was a huge success!  Homemade applesauce is wonderful, and I control how much sugar is added...if any!  We ended up with delicious sweet/tart applesauce.  We'll double our canning goal for this year too.  I use applesauce not just for snacking, but we add an equal amount in place of oil in cakes and quick breads...less fat, healthier option, and a fraction of the cost of oil.  The taste is wonderful too, you'll never know the difference, except that your cake will be more moist!

I don't really have any reason for showing this picture above, except that it's green and lush!  This is the view of the woods behind our house from the backyard.  It's wonderfully peaceful back here any time of day, but the sun hits a special way in the late afternoon.  That's a good time to reflect on my day, to figure out what  I accomplished, and what the next day holds.  I guess it's a good thinking spot for assessing short term goals. This is how I relax and think the best.  I guess to keep a clear mind is crucial in keeping goals and keeping discipline in order.  So make a point of finding time to relax.  That's sometimes the best time to think and assess how your life plan is going, taking time to breathe, allow your mind and body to rest, can do a world of good for you and those around you too.  I already feel relaxed just looking at this picture and imagining myself sitting on the swing listening to the birds in the trees.  Ahhhhh.  :)

'Til next time...have a wonderful day, dream of the future, and your place in it.  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

~ Weekly Grocery Shopping Trip Totals ~

 So this is real life.  I'm trying to make the most of my household budget.  I'm already a pretty thrifty shopper, so sometimes I wonder where on earth am I going to cut back to make my family's hard earned dollars stretch farther?  That's where taking a picture of what I'm buying will help, with any luck.  We all buy unnecessary stuff.  We all buy things we should have passed on, and should quit all together, I guess that's were being totally honest with your spending and keeping things in balance comes into play.  I hope I can get better!

First off, this picture is from two weeks ago, the week BEFORE Superbowl Sunday, the deals were pretty good.  The week of the Superbowl, not so much... didn't really buy much last week and my hubby and kids put the groceries away immediately mostly since it was perishables, so I didn't get a picture, but it was mostly meat from our local packing house which is always a great buy!  I don't always feel as though I'm saving $$/lb. there, but the quality is unmatched, and it's local beef, pork, and chicken, and bought from a small business. And I'm buying a larger quantity of meat, often times two or three months worth.   Their prices are still much cheaper than the grocery store though, so buying quality meat in bulk is a good deal for me.

Now, two weeks ago, there was a pretty good deal on boneless center cut pork loins at our local grocery store, Giant Eagle, $2/lb., and I had them cut a smaller loin into all chops.  Aldi had the $5 off hams again, and still had some of the hams at about 10 lbs., so I picked up two more for the freezer, ham can last for months, so I'm not worried at all about this purchase, and at about 50 cents/lb. for ham, that I will slice for sandwiches and omelets...I can't go wrong there when deli ham is usually about $5/lb. on average!  Aldi also always has a good price on frozen ground beef and pepperoni for our homemade pizzas.  Homemade pizza can't be beat, and is SO much cheaper than buying or ordering take out!

When I get home from making a bulk purchase, I package into smaller portions immediately if possible, it's so much easier that way.  You can see from the picture will all of my purchases, I bought freezer bags for obvious reasons!  We typically eat about five pork chops for our family of four, so that's how I package them.  It's wonderful to be able to pull out just enough for a meal.  I don't mind leftovers at all, but my hubby seems to have an aversion to leftovers for dinner since sometimes he takes leftovers for lunch, so I try to plan on no leftovers if possible on meat unless it's planned.  Even then it doesn't work out so great because my hubby has considered a NY Strip steak a 'snack' at 10 pm before!  Crazy, but making just enough saves me money in the long run!

My deal of the week!!  Our local Giant Eagle had Sunbelt Bakery Granola Bars on sale for $2.50/box.  I had three 75 cents off coupons, so doubled, I got $1.50 off each box!!  These also happen to be my family's favorite store bought granola bars so getting them for $1/box was like hitting the jackpot!!  Great, and going into the 3rd week, we still have about four granola bars left!  They are huge in this house; soccer, snack for my kids to eat going to or from school, they throw one in their book bags, my hubby loves the fudge dipped coconut bars for his snack at work!

And it was a huge week for coupons!  I had coupons for the Dial Soap (we buy the glycerin bars, they don't leave that soap scum behind like regular bars), Swiss Miss which my youngest daughter is addicted, the Sunbelt Granola Bars, the Knorr Pasta Sides (which I buy for my brothers), the Wishbone Italian Dressings, and a few more...all doubled!!  And being the end of January, start of February, I feel the pressure of Old Man Winter like anyone else.  I try and try and try to keep up with muck, mud, and ice from getting into the house, but it gets the best of me sometimes!  I use a regular mop and small towels on the end of my Swiffer to keep up with the mess on our hardwood and tile floors, but sometimes I need sanity, and break down and use the convenience of a Swiffer type cloth, this one is from Bottom Dollar, and costs about $1 less than Swiffer's do.  I usually use a water/vinegar/ammonia/essential oil solution for the tile floors, and a water/essential oil solution for the hardwood, but this time of year, sometimes I need some sanity too.  :)  And of course...the cat needs to eat!

So I have to pull out my receipts from two weeks ago for my totals, and I will, but I did manage to keep close to my $100 mark.  This included five gallons of milk for the week...we went over and bought seven...I know...lots of milk is consumed in this house!!  Healthy bones!!

Till next time...have a great day!!  :)