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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 April 2009 for this blog.
Grocery Shopping Twice A Month
Thursday, April 30, 2009

My family is trying to take charge of our finances, across the board.  One of the hardest areas to track is grocery shopping and meals.  We don't eat out a lot but we like to get the occasional Starbucks or pizza slice.  It feels like we go to the store every few days for something or other that we need.  Or we will have the opposite problem and have way too much to eat through before it goes bad.  This happens often with onions and potatoes.  So my new plan is to go grocery shopping after every paycheck. I'm going to make a monthly Costco run for specific things, like dog food and laundry detergent,  that I can save money buying in bulk. And I'm going to hit the farmer's market every weekend, for fresh fruits and veggies.

A problem with the bi monthly shopping trip is that you have to plan ahead. This is trickier than you might imagine.  This week (our first full week), I realized that we were entirely out of TP.  My husband cashed in the cans and bottles we had been gathering in the garage to pay for that extra trip.  I also had him get lemons for tabouli because I am no good at following rules, even my own. But I'm trying!

I also forgot to plan for Cinco de Mayo, which is next Tuesday.  Normally we would go to a local Mexican restaurant, because it is a fun holiday and I love Mexican food. Or, if we were feeling less flush, we would make fajitas and margaritas at home.  But this year, I have no fajita meat, no peppers, no tequila; so no way to make my own Cinco de Mayo feast. The saddest thing (to me) is that we just had tacos for dinner this week and I could have certainly rearranged meals to accomodate this.  I have an enchilada casserole in the freezer from some leftover Mexican food earlier in the year so I will defrost that and it will have to do.

One week to go before I can stock up again. Perhaps doing without will sharpen my planning and help me appreciate what I have, when I have it.

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Eating Locally
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It is a really interesting account of how the family challenged themselves to eat locally for a year, mostly with what they grew themselves.  She is the author of The Bean Trees and Pigs In Heaven, some of my favorite novels, and has a gift for expressing herself.  The chapters are broken up in months and each includes recipes with seasonal ingredients and information about the social impacts of eating locally vs buying food that had been transported thousands of miles.  It starts in April, with the first asparagus, which is just what time it was when I started reading it. At first, I thought it would be fun to read each section throughout the year, but I couldn't wait to find out what happened.  It really made me think about local and seasonal food in a different way.

I have a garden, visit my farmer's market and have organic produce delivered every other week.  I don't use a lot of convienece food in my cooking and we don't eat out much, especially not for fast food. Still, I buy bananas for my boys (flown from around the Equator), buy Italian olive oil, coffee (which grows nowhere near Oregon) and tons of produce from California.  I haven't really stopped to think about my carbon footprint, from that traveling alone.  Plus, I would like my money to stay here, in my community. I like to think about buying something directly from the farmer. And fruits and veggies have to be fresher if they were grown here.

When I was in college, I saw a video about the tomato harvest and how they pick them green and then spray them with a chemical to turn them red.  Red, not ripe.  I have always preferred homegrown tomatoes and grow them every summer, with varying results. Last year, I could barely keep up with the tomatoes before they got mushy, especially the cherry tomatoes.  Animal, Vegetable, Mineral has some good instructions for preserving tomatoes by canning them and drying them.  I'm going to try both ways and see if I can use all my Classico jars that I have resisted recycling to good use.

Another thing I might try to preserve is berries. You get these beautiful baskets of berries at the Farmers Market, they are better than candy.  But we always seem to overbuy and then can't use them up in time.  I'm going to try freezing some and drying some.  We have a cherry tree that is covered with blossoms, a peach tree which is doing better than last year and an apple tree that suggests applesauce is in my future.

I love the spring, everything is full of potential.

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The Easter Bunny Is Coming
Friday, April 10, 2009

Well, it is that time of the year again. I have to plan out an Easter basket, traditionally filled with candy and toys.  Feels like we just barely got done with Christmas and I think I still have some Halloween candy that I have hidden from my boys last fall.

For the last few years, I have given gardening themed baskets to both my boys. One year I found a small gardening bag, that had child sized tools and gloves. I added seeds and cute watering cans and, of course, candy!  Last year, I did a similarly themed basket but with different tools and some little pots.  I felt that this was a good way to celebrate spring.

I saw a very cute idea on ThriftyFun recently to do a summer fun basket, with all the stuff kids need to enjoy the hot weather.  Theme baskets are also very good if you are giving to a teenager or adult.  And the "basket" can be whatever you want it to be. One wedding shower I went to was a starter kit for the couple and their first apartment together. It had all the kitchen basics: dish soap, scrubbers, drying rack, towels; and some general cleaning stuff: laundry detergent, bleach, windex, etc.. I think there were some food staples: like baking soda, flour and sugar.  It was all presented in a large laundry basket, heaping with all these good and useful things.

This year, I'm stealing an idea from my friend and giving a movie themed basket. My boys want to see Monsters vs Aliens very badly. It just came out recently and they are always quoting funny parts from the trailers they have seen on TV.  I'll add in some movie sized candy, and money for popcorn and arcade games. Afterwards, we will go out to dinner, saving me from cooking as MY Easter present.  I'll probably put in some Peeps and jellybeans, or a Cadberry Cream Egg.  Just wouldn't be Easter without it.

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Author:
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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