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Blog: Balancing Thrifty And Fun

This blog will ramble on about raising two boys while working full time as an editor for ThriftyFun. I'm really lucky in so many ways. I have a loving, hardworking husband, a not too heavily mortgaged home, and two healthy and bright boys. But it is still hard, despite my blessings. I thought I'd share my challenges and my techniques (or lack thereof) for staying ahead of the wave of chores, responsibilities and financial problems.

Showing 3 posts from March 2009 for this blog.
Spring Break
Monday, March 23, 2009

Well, it is that time of year again.  Spring Break, which is 6 1/2 days off from school this year.  I have my two boys here watching cartoons while I get my Monday morning work done.  I don't want to have them just watch TV and play video games the entire week, so I need to plan some frugal activities to keep them occupied.

Today, we are going grocery shopping. I usually go by myself or with my kindergartner but this week we will all go together. I hope to encourage them to cook with me this week. The weather isn't too great, so I plan to do some baking, maybe cookies, maybe bread.  All these things are relatively inexpensive and I can give the surplus away to friends to avoid blowing my diet.

Last Thursday, we went to the library and they both picked out books to read.  My 3rd grader is to read and report on a book every day of spring break.  They both now have their own library cards and I plan to go again later in the week.  The trick is keeping all the books together so we don't have fines, especially on the one movie I let them pick out. It costs $1 a day it is late, so it adds up very fast.

If the weather clears up, we will walk to the park or the school to play most afternoons.  I'll bring our dog and walk while they swing and slide. We also will probably go swimming at least once as we have a yearly membership, courtesy of my husband's job.  We have a zoo membership too, so that is a good outing for later in the week, almost free if I pack a picnic lunch.

And, I'm sure, they will get some video game time mixed in there. I will try to limit that and also encourage them to play the more active games, like Wii Fit.  Heck, maybe I will get in some exercise during the day too.  I also have plans to plant some seeds and starts in our garden bed so we can look forward to fresh produce all summer long. Kids love to garden.  The Easter Bunny knows this and always brings gardening things in their baskets, but that is a couple weeks away yet.

I have a friend that will watch them for an afternoon so I can have lunch with my husband, probably toward the end of the week.  We will probably go and have lunch one day with the entire family too, maybe even today.  The week will be over before we all know it.

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Almost Free Trees
Friday, March 13, 2009

Hey, I was looking into replacing a dogwood tree that we planted a couple of years ago. I think the frost killed it off last year and there are no shoots coming from the bottom.  So there was $70.00 down the drain.

I was looking for cheaper alternatives to nursery or garden center prices when I found the site for the Arbor Day Foundation.

If you become a member, they will GIVE you 10 trees, including dogwoods.  And the individual prices on trees, even if you aren't a member are very reasonable. I was looking at a dogwood for about $16.


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Cleaning Out The Freezer
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Since the first of the year, I have been trying to eat our way through all the random stuff I have frozen.  I want to be able to start fresh when it is time for summer berries and cookouts.  I have been surprised at two things:  how much I have kept and how poorly it was packaged and marked.  Sometimes I have had to defrost the item to find out if it is spagetti sauce, chili or some other tomato based item. Still, you can put about anything in a soup and make it taste good, even if it is has a little freezer burn.

I have taken to planning the week's meals on a chalkboard near my kitchen.  First I look through the fridge and freezer to see what needs to be eaten.  If a meal suggested itself (like if I have ground beef, sour cream and salsa, I might plan to make tacos), I write it down. If there are leftovers or items that don't lend themselves to obvious meals, I just write those items.  For example, I have a lot of frozen pumpkin that I saved out around Thanksgiving.  So I plan to make some pumpkin muffins for my boys soon.

I try to go to the store only once a week, after I do my fridge clean out. Sometimes I need an item or two for a planned meal. I get organic produce delivered every other week. It is $33.00 for a large box of seasonal fruits and veggies.  This week I got a leek, rainbow chard, an orange cauliflower, lettuce, garlic, onions, mushrooms, apples, pears . . . It is like a present every time.  However, it is hard to eat my way through all of it in two weeks, sometimes.  This has encouraged me to plan my meals from the veggie out. 

Here is an example: I had a bunch of ruby chard that needed to be eaten. I often make a sausage and potato soup (like the Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana) with chard but I didn't have sausage or potatoes and we had been eating a lot of soup lately. So I decided to saute the chard in a bit of oil and garlic.  This left me the middle ribs to use up.  I cut them up like celery and used them in much the same way in a mushroom stroganoff over rice.  The kids turned their noses up at the "yucky green stuff" but didn't even notice the reddish bits in their stroganoff.

I am planning on using my freezer more wisely this year. I'm going to keep track of what I freeze better and utilize it more in my weekly menu planning. I also think that I need to invest in a food saver as ziplocks and tupperware don't seem to be cutting it. I don't want my freezer to be like a black hole where food goes in, only to be thrown out in months to come.  I keep a pretty well stocked pantry of canned and dried goods, like pasta, beans, canned tomatoes.  This is where I can go if I am out of food. I will use my freezer as an extension of my fridge, for food to be eaten within weeks, not months.

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jess (Contact)
Hillsboro, OR USA
About Me:

I'm a 39 year old . . . what? Mother, college graduate, housewife with a full time job, mostly unpublished writer, the list just goes on. I'm spiritual, but not religious; lazily liberal; frugal but with a love of pretty, shiny things. My mother, Susan, was the founder of ThriftyFun and scrimped all her life to have enough for her kids. I try to do her proud but sometimes stumble along the way.

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