|The Dawn of a New Year|
My goals are just the usual to save money, lose weight, exercise more. I also have some for spiritual growth and some silly personal ones, such as, learn to do something with my hair. How I approach my goals is to start a notebook or journal for each of them. I keep a very precise notebook for expenditures that lists where every dollar goes. I can already see that our pets are costing us a lot more money than expected. We will have to find cheaper alternatives for their food. One year I discovered that we spent around $30 a month on postage, what with children and grandchildren living in other states, and mailing of Christmas packages. That was an expense, that we hadn't even budgeted for, but there it was, equivalent to our heating bill! We now cut down on sending little packages throughout the year, and we send a card with money in it in lieu of a present, which I suspect thrills them more anyhow.
To keep me on track for dieting I write out a week's menu with all the calorie counts for everything. These days with the internet, it's easy enough to figure out the calories in food. Sometimes the menu needs to be juggled, as it did this week because we needed to use the mushrooms before they went bad, but overall having a plan helps to keep me on track. I also write down a daily checklist of exercise and my health regime. Just having to write it down, keeps me more mindful of it. I also make a chart for weight loss. Seeing the graph slope down is all the incentive I need. I'll do anything to keep it from going up! Although there are some long flat lines on that chart! Ha!
Another goal for the year is to be more mindful of our grocery expenditures. I set a budget of $150 a month for us three adults. Right of the bat, I'm going to say, that please do not compare your budget to my budget. Everyone is different. I happen to have a large garden and can all year round, you may not. On the other hand, you might live in an area where you can garden for a longer growing season, than I, so you have access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the Winter. I am not opposed to using canned, dried, frozen and root cellared vegetables when the fresh ones run out at the end of the month, you might think a daily serving of nine fresh vegetables is a must. You might have a special dietary needs or a husband that demands meat at every meal. :) Or will morally only eat free-range meat and eggs. Just to say, comparing yourselves to others, when it comes to budgeting just results in feeling discouraged. The goal is to set a realistic budget and stick to it. Here's my big haul for the month:
sprouts to the greens. We have a lot of citrus left over from Christmas and our own apples for fruit plus plenty of our own berries and peaches canned and frozen.
Wise grocery shopping takes time and I allow myself a day for it. It is worthwhile for us to drive the forty-five miles to a bulk food store and the Amish discount.
BTW, a note on discount stores: not all the food is out of date, sometimes it's just unusual things that don't sell (like the tuna packed in it's own oil that had a 2019 expiration date) and sometimes it's because the package gets crushed, (I do not buy any dented cans), and other times the expiration date makes little difference to us (I defy anyone to tell that the K-cups were one month past their freshness date).
After I get back home, I prep the foods to make it convenient to use throughout the month, by browning the sausage and hamburg, separating larger quantities into smaller freezer bags, washing the fruits, etc. Obviously, if you look at the picture, you will see things that are unnecessary, after all, we really don't need those K-cups ($2.50/ dozen), and the cookies were in lieu of a birthday cake. I always buy Jamie a small coconut cream pie for a special treat. All in all, I'd say there were about $30 in purchases that weren't really a necessity, but are bought just to make life nicer. On the other hand, some of the meat purchases will be not only for this month but for the next one also. The had a great sale on Hillshire smoked sausages at $2.99 for three one-pound rings. We are not going to eat that much sausage in one month, but they will be used to make soup and baked beans for both January and February. The bulk food store was having a sale on their deli meats, which meant they had a good selection of deli ends and pieces , which they sell for $1.49/ lb. I searched through the bags and found one with a good chunk of corned beef and other salami-type meats. It ended up being over a pound of corned beef, which I cubed up and froze for hash or cream of Rueben soup. The salami was cut into cracker sized pieces for our Friday night card parties. We make up a relish tray with sausages, cheese, dips and crudites on Friday and play card and board games. It makes it more special, and it's a lot cheaper than going out. All in all, I bought over twenty pounds of meat this month. We have one of those vacuum sealers that we use for freezing and storing. An investment that I found to be worth the money if you shop the sales like I do. So there's some food for thought on grocery shopping!
AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES
I love the after-Christmas sales and budget for them. I didn't need or want any wrapping paper, but usually I buy one roll that doesn't look too Christmasy for wrapping birthday and other gifts. The plain metallic ones are good for that. I bought some Christmas candy at half-price. They had cherry cordial Hershey's Kisses in pink wrappers that will be perfect for Valentines Day. We love to fill our candy dishes throughout the year (it's a grammy thing). Did you know that hard candies can be put into vacuum sealed bags and they last indefinitely? That's what we do. I also buy beauty products that had been packaged in Christmas containers. What do I care if my emery boards have snowflakes on them? We buy nuts too. The packaged tins of nuts are taken out of their packages, vacuumed sealed, and taken out as needed. Stored in a cool dry place they last quite a while this way. And those special gourmet foods can be a deal at the half-off sales. We bought a boxed set of four specialty mustards for $3 and some fancy olives for a couple of dollars. After we eat them, we put cheap canned olives in the brine and get another few month of good olives from it. So be sure to check out the grocery stores too. We also buy candles and books to be stored for gifts for next year. I even buy myself a holidayesque t-shirt and a pair of Christmas socks at 75% off and pack them away for the following year's festivities. It's always fun to rediscover the goodies come December.
Ran had a sweater that was looking kind of scruffy, but I loved the Fair Isle pattern, so I cut out the good pieces and made this wide headband.
here's a very good tutorial on how to make mittens from the sleeves, which is a popular re-purposing project. You can get a lot of mileage from an old sweater.
RECIPE FROM THE PANTRY
I hadn't made tuna casserole in years, and I won't make it very often because I'm concerned about the radiation in the Pacific from Fukushima, but every once in a great while I like to gamble with my health. Ha! Tuna casserole used to be a menu staple when the boys were growing up, because most of the ingredients can be found right on the pantry shelf or fridge. You can even substitute cans of evaporated milk and mushrooms if you don't normally have those things fresh on hand. Also, you can substitute cans of chicken for the tuna and use whatever crackers you have on hand for the topping.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
8 oz. noodles of your choice (I use seashells because they're cute)
3 tbsp. butter
1 C. chopped mushrooms
2 tbsp. chopped celery
2 tbsp. chopped onions
3 tbsp. flour
2 C. chicken broth
1 1/4 C. milk
2 6oz. cans tuna, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C crushed potato chips
1/2 C. grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 C. fine bread crumbs
Prepare noodle. Drain. Keep warm.
Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2 qt. casserole dish.
Melt butter; add mushrooms, celery and onions and cook until tender.
Stir in flour. Gradually add broth and milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until thickened.
Pour into saucepan with noodle. Add tuna,salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into casserole.
Combine, chips, cheese and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over casserole.
Bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
After trying on every pair of frames at the eye doctors and not finding a single pair flattering, I tried on a pair at the thrift store and Ran said I looked cute in them (Jamie said I looked nice), so I had the eye doctor put my prescription in them. It cost $90 for a new pair of lenses (I bought a special non-glare type that is supposedly good for astigmatisms) and they charge $10 for putting them into my frames. The frames cost $1, so for $101, I got new glasses.
We used a gift certificate combined with a rebate to purchase some luxuries for ourselves; gourmet olives, the chocolate chips that we love, some fancy mustard (an after Christmas special) and some of Jamie's Maple Sleigh coffee. The store also had a 11% rebate on all purchases and a $3 rebate on the coffee.
Another thing we budget for, is the annual sales at the thrift stores. The Salvation Army had all their clothes for 99 cents. What I like about their sale is that you don't get the left overs. They continuously bring out racks of new items throughout the sale. (more next week on how I manage and organize my wardrobe)
We gathered wood from the neighborhood to use in our wood stove.
We heated our home mainly with wood. Our heating bill (which includes the gas for hot water) for December was $24.
Instead of going out to celebrate the New Year, we stayed home and played some board games.
Well, I'm sure there was plenty more thrifty things, but I have a bad memory! My goal for this blog is always the same. Just to be in some small way helpful and encouraging in saving you money. If I've helped anyone save one dime this year, then I'm a success. Also, to encourage others to see that money doesn't buy happiness, the world is too wonderful a place to let something like money keep you from enjoying it. Happy New Year from the old Zempel boarding house, may it be the best one ever!