Simply Saving Saturday

I can't say that we had a particularly frugal week.  My husband was on vacation this week and we took the kids to the beach and to the Wildlife Park which both have entrance fees, not to mention the gas that we spent for the trips.  We did bring our own snacks, drinks and meals to make our trips a little more frugal.



One of the boys' favorite places is the beach.  They asked us all winter when they could go to the beach and I had to keep reminding them that we would go this summer.  They were really excited to spend a day at Popham Beach.


Our older son loves the water.  The ice cold water made our toes ache, but it didn't seem to bother him at all.


Our younger son playing in the sand.



My favorite thing to do at the beach is read.  I brought along a book from the library, One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix by Jane Kirkpatrick.



We also visited the Maine Wildlife Park.  The Park provides a permanent home for injured, orphaned or human dependent native Maine animals--and peacocks.  The highlight of our time there was seeing a peacock fan his feathers.

Some of our savings for this week:

Made Cinnamon Stove Top Granola.

I thinned the zucchini and transplanted the plants to another part of the garden.  So far they are thriving though they are smaller than the other plants.

When I went to pull some weeds around the squash plants, I noticed a few slugs.  I put crushed eggshells around the plants to hopefully keep slugs from having a nice meal on the leaves.  If it gets to be a big problem, I might try Sluggo.

My children begged me to make them a tape road this week.  So I got out the masking tape and they had fun with their cars on the kitchen floor for a few hours.

I made a fruit fly trap with a piece of paper and a glass bottle I had saved.

We found some dice and took pennies, nickels, and dimes from our change jar to play the Penny, Nickel, Dime Exchange game that my son learned to play at school.  It's a great way to practice addition facts and review money values.

The boys were so excited when their dad put their beds together to make a bunk bed.  The bunk bed has  supplied the boys with hours of imaginative play, but we are also hoping to see our electric bill go down a little since we won't have as many fans and night lights running at night.

In my mailbox: cat food sample, free magazine, energizer and unilever coupons.

Our on-going savings:

**Save eggshells for the garden.

**Follow a weekly meal plan.

**Earn Swag Bucks for Amazon gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.



Note: Some of the links in this post are referral links. When a new member signs up using my referral link, I receive bonus points for that referral.

The Garden Project 2013: How Does Our Garden Grow?

I think I can be considered an official putterer.  I can be found puttering in the garden no less than 2 or 3 times a day to check on progress and pull a weed or two.  It has surprisingly become one of my favorite hobbies.

We have had some disappointments in the garden.  Only a few bean and peas came up.  I think this may have something to do with my planting technique.  The squash seedlings that we planted also don't seem to be doing well.  One plant died and the others haven't grown much at all.

We have had some success though!


We have grown tomatoes in containers for several years now, but these are the healthiest plants we have had so far and the earliest we have ever seen blossoms.  In my gardening research I found some very helpful tips for growing tomatoes that I have tried this year with really good results:

1.  Tomatoes do not need a lot of water, just moist soil.  In years past I was drowning my tomato plants by watering them every day.  Yes, every day.  I've also learned that this was why our tomatoes always had ugly cracks in them.  Now, I check the soil for moistness before watering.

2.  Water the soil, not the leaves.  This prevents the leaves from getting scorched and also makes sure the water gets to where it's needed--the roots.

3.  Use mulch.  This year I used grass clippings as a mulch.  It keeps moisture in the soil longer and also helps protect the soil while I am watering.  Watering without mulch disturbed the soil and caused the roots to become uncovered.  What a difference the mulch has made!

4.  Prune.  By removing the suckers that grow between the stems and branches, the tomato plants are able to put more energy into producing more fruit.



We also have lettuce.  A lot of lettuce.  I think I may have planted just a little bit too much lettuce.  It's not growing as fast as I thought it would and I think I need to thin it a little bit more so that it has more room to grow.


I planted a lot of zucchini.  It is a vegetable that we very rarely are able to enjoy and I'm hoping for a big harvest.  I can't wait to make zucchini muffins and zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, Vegetable Tian, or throw them in a stir-fry.  So far I think they're looking good.  I had to thin the zucchini and I tried transplanting them instead of just tossing them.  I really hope the transplants survive and produce, but only time will tell.

What I have learned:
  1. Next year I will do successive plantings of lettuce instead of planting a whole row all at the same time. If the lettuce does well, we will have too much lettuce all at one time. 
  2. Weeds grow faster than the plants.
  3. It is really hard to take good pictures of the garden.



Other posts in this series: 

Meal Plan Monday - June 24




My husband is on vacation this week!  I always look forward to vacation weeks and try to plan simple meals that don't take a lot of time to prepare.  Wednesday is also our anniversary and instead of eating out to celebrate, I'll be making one of his favorite meals.

Breakfast
Cereal, Bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets
Pancake Dippers, Scrambled Eggs
Cinnamon Stove Top Granola

Lunch
Tossed Salad
Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Apple Slices, Carrot Sticks
Rice & Bean Burritos with Corn & Salsa, Apple Slices
English Muffin Pizzas, Grapes
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Ham Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Applesauce

Tuesday:
     Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken, Super Easy Whole Wheat Biscuits, Green Beans

Wednesday:
    Mexican Steak Fajitas, Roasted Tarragon Potatoes, Tossed Salad

Thursday:
    Meatless Meatball Heros (we did not get to try these last week.)

Friday:
   Leftover Night

Saturday:
   Roasted Hot Dogs, Ranch Style Baked Beans, Lemon Parmesan Broccoli, Old-Fashioned Frozen Lemon Cheesecake

Sunday:
    Meatless Hash, Leftover Biscuits


Get more menu planning ideas at Menu Plan Monday


Simply Saving Saturday

It was a crazy busy week for us.  After such a busy week, I am even more thankful for our quiet, simple lifestyle.  I especially missed our normal routine and will be very happy to get back to our normal schedule next week.


We celebrated Father's Day this year with a practical gift and a few of my husband's favorite things.  The boys made sure that they got to pick out a Father's Day balloon.  They love picking out balloons from the Dollar Tree on special occasions.  I think they like playing with them more then giving them.



The boys went with their dad to hike Bald Mountain.  They had quite a celebration when they reached the top.

We signed up for the free summer reading program at the library.  They had a wonderful opening night with an entertainer who did several magic tricks for the kids.  They had a great time.

I raked up more grass clippings for the garden.

I was very excited to get my first free issue of All You magazine that I ordered with Recyclebank Points.

I bought bread at the bread store for $.67 per loaf and used coupons to get shampoo for $.54.


A nearby town hosted a summer celebration and one of the local businesses sponsored a free petting zoo and pony rides.  Our older son enjoyed his first ride on a pony.

Our on-going savings:

**Follow a weekly meal plan.

**Earn Swag Bucks for Amazon gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Note: Some of the links in this post are referral links. When a new member signs up using my referral link, I receive bonus points for that referral.

Summer Favorites: Tuna Macaroni Salad




I love summer salads and this is one of my favorites.  It's a simple salad, but what makes it stand out from the rest is the creamy dressing that gets a boost of flavor from the Italian dressing.  With the tomatoes and celery adding color and texture, it's the perfect summer salad.  The recipe is one of my go-to recipes for a large summer potluck, but just half the recipe would work well for a family barbecue.




Tuna Macaroni Salad

1 (16 oz.) pkg. macaroni
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
    (or 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped)
2 (5 oz.) cans tuna, drained
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise or creamy salad dressing (Miracle Whip)
1 tbs. Italian salad dressing
1 tbs. sugar
pinch of black pepper

1.  Cook pasta just until al dente and rinse under cold water; drain well.
2.  In a large bowl combine the pasta, tomatoes, celery and tuna.
3.  Prepare dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise (or creamy salad dressing), Italian dressing, sugar and pepper.
4.  Mix 1 cup of dressing into pasta mixture and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Refrigerate remaining dressing.
5.  Just before serving, stir reserved dressing into pasta.


Meal Plan Monday - June 17



The Cinnamon Stove Top Granola was a huge hit at our house last week!  I didn't add any of the brown sugar that the recipe called for since I thought it would be plenty sweet enough with the honey.  It turned out to be a chewy granola that our whole family loved.

I've also started looking for more meatless meals to try and save a bit more on our grocery costs.  Last week I made Chicken Fried Steak which really isn't chicken or steak (don't tell my husband)!  I was completely surprised by the texture and how filling the meal was.

If you are looking for meatless meal ideas, I've started a new Pinterest board just for meatless meals.  Also if you have any favorite meatless meals, please share them in the comments!



Our menu for this week:

Breakfast
Cereal, Bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets
Scrambled Eggs, Toast
Cinnamon Stove Top Granola

Lunch
Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks
Mac&Cheese with Peas
English Muffin Pizzas, Grapes
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Baked Ravioli, Green Beans

Tuesday:
     Meatloaf Patties cooked under the broiler, Lemon Parmesan Broccoli 

Wednesday:
    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

Thursday:
    Meatless Meatball Heros

Friday:
    Wedding Reception

Saturday:
   Lemon Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Sunday:
   Breakfast Pizza w/bacon 


Get more menu planning ideas at Menu Plan Monday


Simply Saving Saturday



A frog hopped onto our front step this week.  The little guy got lots of attention from the boys. They didn't want to touch him, but they figured out that if they put a finger close enough to him it would make him jump.  I'm not so sure he appreciated all the attention very much.

We've been keeping track of how much gas we put in the second vehicle that I use.  I had to fill up again this week--exactly three weeks since the last time!

I was able to add more grass clippings to our garden after my husband mowed the lawn this week.  We are also saving egg shells for the garden.

I cashed in Swagbucks for two $5 Amazon gift cards.  So far this year we have earned $40 in gift cards that we have saved for birthday and Christmas gifts.  Most things that I buy from Amazon can shipped for free with a $25 order.  It has been a huge blessing!

I earned $3 for taking a survey through Pinecone Research.  Since my application was accepted 2 months ago I have earned $18 with this company!  I'm not sure if they are accepting applications right now, but if you are interested, there are sign up links on this post by Crystal at Money Saving Mom.

We signed up for a special offer for the newspaper.  We are now getting 4 newspapers delivered to our door for $.08 more per week than what we were spending to buy one newspaper at the convenience store.  It is a 12 week offer that automatically renews at the regular rate, so I wrote a reminder on the calendar to call and cancel.

This week I made homemade pizza crust, Cinnamon Stove Top Granola and two meatless meals.

In my mailbox: a free magazine and Kotex samples with a coupon.

Used shampoo and conditioner samples.

Our on-going savings:

**Follow a weekly meal plan.

**Earn Swag Bucks for Amazon gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

**Save bread ends for the freezer.



Note: Some of the links in this post are referral links. When a new member signs up using my referral link, I receive bonus points for that referral.

Stay Organized This Summer With A Summer Routine




This is a very exciting week for us since it is the last week of school and summer officially begins at our house!  Our three months of summer here in northern New England always goes by very quickly.  As our children get older, each year goes by faster than the last, and hard as I try, it seems impossible to make each moment count.

I've been thinking a lot over the past few months about what I want to accomplish this summer and I came to the conclusion that the best way to get everything done is to create a summer routine in order to help me stay organized this summer.

This is what our summer routine looks like:

5:45 - Mom up, get ready for the day
6:00 - 6:30 - Boys wake up 
Breakfast/Bible
Get Dressed
Chores
Gardening
Outside Play
11:30 - Lunch
Read aloud to children
Inside/outside play, reading, games, fun and frugal activities*, playground, academic projects and/or games**
Computer work, crafting (me)
4:30 - Start dinner
Quick pick up
5:30 - Dinner

Notice that there are a lot of gaps in our routine.  I don't want every hour of every day scheduled, but I think this will be a great tool to help me to stay focused and get things done.  I'm also always open to making changes to our routine as needed.



*Here are some of the fun and frugal activities I am planning on trying with the boys this summer:

Super Bubble Fun
Soda Bottle Water Toy & Sponge Bombs
DIY Lava Lamps
Bee Buzzer
Campfire Cones
Paper Plate Sun Catcher

**Summer is definitely supposed to be fun, but there are also a few academic areas that I want to work on with the boys a few days each week.  Here are some of the free resources and inexpensive ideas that I really like:

Preschool Site Words
DIY Write and Wipe Preschool Worksheets
Paper Plate Clock
Penny, Nickel, Dime Exchange Game
Ten Commandments Writing Practice
1st Grade Book Report Printables
Weather Graphing Printable



What are some of your favorite summer activities?  Will you be trying something new this summer?




{photo credit}

Meal Plan Monday - June 10



Our meal plan this week:

Breakfast
Cereal, Bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets
Scrambled Eggs, Toast
Cinnamon Stove Top Granola (I'm going to leave out the brown sugar)

Lunch
Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks
Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks
English Muffin Pizzas, Mandarin Oranges
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Crock Pot Pizza Casserole, Vegetables

Tuesday:
    Chicken Fried Steak, Salad

Wednesday:
    Spaghetti

Thursday:
    Tuna Noodle Casserole

Friday:
    Leftover Night

Saturday:
    Stir-fry

Sunday:
    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas


Get more menu planning ideas at Menu Plan Monday


Simply Saving Saturday

This past Sunday the children and I went to church early with my husband instead of using extra gas to take a second vehicle to church.

We planted bean seedlings that our son grew at school and we planted squash seedlings in our second garden.

I saved yogurt cups that have covers and used them to store our leftover vegetable seeds.

I raked up grass clippings to use as mulch in the garden to (hopefully) help with weed control.  I also put some around the tomato plants which I've read helps keep moisture in the soil.



While I was making banana bread this week, I realized that I was out of eggs.  Instead of running to the store, I did a quick internet search.  I used 1/3 cup of applesauce and 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water to replace 2 eggs in the recipe.  It worked really well!

I made strawberry popsicles with apple juice that I bought on sale instead of grape juice.

We saved a quick $84/year by removing the protection plan from our Dish account.  According to a lady I talked to in customer service, the protection plan covers most of the cost of a technician coming to our home to fix an issue with our satellite reception.  The ironic part is, according to the person I spoke with, when a technician comes out they will ask if we want the protection plan. It makes me wonder how many people are needlessly paying for the protection plan.

I haven't shopped at Rite Aid for quite a few months, but I went in to get the Stayfree deal and was surprised to see that the brand of milk that we have been buying is over $.50 cheaper there!  Rite Aid is a little bit out of our way, but when I can, I will plan to buy milk there.

We borrowed several books from the library, including a recipe book of meatless meals.  My husband jokingly told me that I couldn't read that book. :)  We also borrowed a DVD for our family night.

I price-matched at Walmart to save time and gas.

Earned $3 for taking a survey.

In my mailbox: Fiber One sample

I cut both children's hair.

Our on-going savings:

**Follow a weekly meal plan.

**Earn Swag Bucks for Amazon gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

**Save bread ends for the freezer.



Note: Some of the links in this post are referral links. When a new member signs up using my referral link, I receive bonus points for that referral.

The Garden Project 2013: Peas, Beans, Lettuce, Tomatoes and What I've Learned So Far

I never would have thought that I would be planting a vegetable garden.  As I've mentioned before, we haven't had much luck growing things, but I was inspired by Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker to give a garden a try this year.  We have a pretty short growing season, but hopefully by the end of the summer we will have lots of fresh vegetables.  We are hoping to at least get back what we have spent in supplies.


We originally had planned to build a raised bed garden, but my father-in-law offered to till a garden spot for us with his tractor.  We will have lots of weeding to do this summer, but we were happy to save money on supplies to build a raised bed.  We actually have two garden spots now--one close to the house and one on the far side of our property where I will be getting some exercise trying to keep everything watered.


I planted 50 pea seeds that we soaked overnight to help them sprout faster.  I think I planted the pea seeds a little too late in the season and I'm not sure if we'll get very many this year.

Our 4-year old was very excited to help plant the seeds.

I raked each row into small mounds.  I remember my grandfather planted this way and since he had a beautiful garden every year, I decided to follow his example.  I made two rows of hills fairly close together and planted half of each row with peas and the other half with beans.  Our plan is to put wire between these rows as a trellis for both the peas and beans to grow on.  I also planted a whole row of leaf lettuce.  Lots of salads may be in our future.

We have some squash seedlings that we are going to plant in the far garden this week and in a couple weeks when the weather is a little warmer we will plant a row of zucchini.


Since we don't have a lot of garden space, we planted 18 tomato seedlings in buckets as we have been doing for several years now.  We drilled a hole on the side of each bucket for drainage.  

I have had a lot to learn and still have a lot more that I need to know.  Here's what I've learned so far (the hard way):
  1. Flip flops do not make good garden shoes.
  2. Digging a shallow furrow is the way to plant instead of digging individual holes.
  3. I didn't take into account that some seeds may not germinate, so we could have a lot of bare spots in the garden this year.


I have found some very helpful resources that have made this process less overwhelming.  My favorites are One Hundred Dollars A Month and Vegetable Gardner.  I am also currently reading Great Green book of Garden Secrets by Jerry Baker and have found his nontraditional approach to gardening very interesting.  Of course the best way to learn is by doing!


If you have some experience with gardening, feel free to leave your tips and advice in the comments.  I can use all the help I can get!




For more ideas on how to live simply, visit Simple Lives Thursday.

Meal Plan Monday - June 3



Since we had some very hot weather last week and I decided not to turn on the oven, last week's menu didn't go exactly as planned.  Instead of eating out though, I was able to use things that we had on hand to get us through the week without turning the oven on.  It was a good reminder that I need to take into account the weather this summer while making a meal plan!

Here's our meal plan for this week:

Breakfast
Cereal, Bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets
Scrambled Eggs, Toast
Whole Wheat Banana Muffins


Lunch
Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks
Roasted Veggie Bites, Applesauce
English Muffin Pizzas, Mandarin Oranges
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Lemon Chicken (one of our favorite chicken recipes!), Rice, Green Beans

Tuesday:
    Twice Baked Taco Potatoes, Corn

Wednesday:
    Baked Teriyaki Chicken (I am going to try this recipe with 1/2 the amount of sugar),  Super Easy Whole Wheat BiscuitsMixed Veggies

Thursday:
    Spaghetti, Tossed Salad

Friday:
    Leftover Night

Saturday:
    Mini Pizzas with Super Easy Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Sunday:
    California Pilaf, Corn


Get more menu planning ideas at Menu Plan Monday