Tag Archives: frugal

What My Nana Knew

After I posted my WFMW entry last night, I got to thinking.

I was super lucky to have my great-grandma, my Nana, until my late teens, and my grandma (her daughter) until my mid-20s. They were my mother’s grandmother and mother.

I had another grandma, of course. She was a Rosie the Riveter.

My Nana was raising her children during the Great Depression. My grandmother’s were Depression babies.

These were amazing women who were so…capable. Capable in a way that many people, myself included, just aren’t anymore. They were innovative, creative women who knew how to figure out solutions to problems. None of them were country/farm women, but they all knew how to grow a Victory garden. They could sew, stretch a meal for four to feed eight, and make do or do without.

So I’ve decided to start a monthly series. I want to spend some time exploring what my Nana and grandmas knew, and figuring out how to live in this scary economy. I believe that whatever is coming will hit us harder than the Great Depression hit our grandparents and great-grandparents because we don’t know what they did.

Or if we do, we know it in the abstract.

We know that we can make our own candles and soap. We just don’t have the experience, except maybe with little pour and mold kits from Michaels. But making our own as a practical matter?

We know that it’s possible to stay warm without electricity. The Eskimos did it, right? But are we prepared to do so?

We know that Laura Ingalls probably had a pantry filled with home canned foods. But how many of us own a pressure canner?

I went and picked up 80 pounds of apples this morning. I’m going to send Kevin down for one more 40 pound box. And then I’m going to do some research about what my Nana must have known about preserving 120 pounds of apples.

Check back in the next day or two for the first real installment of What My Nana Knew, and find out what happens to those apples. If I can figure out MckLinky, I’ll even post one of those so that you all can share what your Nana’s knew.

More ideas here.

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Thursday Challenge: Free For All (and some thoughts on money)

Thursday Challenge is having two weeks of free-for-all. Any favorite picture. Here is one of mine. It’s a picture of some stores in Tahoe taken through an Amtrak window. It represents my greatest adventure.

Two summers ago, I sold my first fiction story. It was just a short story, and I sold it to an obscure online publisher that was so new mine was the first story it published. But still. I. Sold. A. Story. I was an author. Approximately 10 people have bought and read my story!

That was in June 2008. I found out that the ginormous Romance Writer’s of American conference was in San Francisco that year. San Francisco is about 500 miles from my house. Not super close, but when you realize that the nearest city to me is 250 miles away, really it isn’t that far. There would be 10,000 other writers there, dozens and dozens of agents and publishers. I was a writer! I had to go! Never mind that it was in four weeks.

Somehow I managed to convince the RWA to take my money, even though their registration was closed. Somehow I came up with the $500 registration in the first place. I went online and found a forum where people post for roommates and connected with the most wonderful woman who needed another roomie. We’re so far from an airport, that by the time I got to one I’d be half-way to San Francisco. I was on the verge of just driving the whole way, when I found out that I could take an Amtrak for $100 round trip. If you think back to what gas cost in summer 2008 (it was over $4 a gallon here) you’ll realize this was a steal.

So I went on an adventure. It was as far from frugal as I’ve ever been in my life. I paid a premium for the registration, I stayed in the conference hotel which cost $500 for the week just for my quarter of the cost (but I DID get to ride in the elevator with Christine Feehan!), and eating out three meals a day in San Francisco in a swanky hotel just isn’t frugal no matter how you cut it (but I did get to eat Indian food for the first time and fell in love.) I wouldn’t trade one minute of that week for anything. It was absolutely worth the money.  Every single penny.

Here is my thought on frugality. I don’t think it’s the end-all. I think it’s the means to an end. Not spending everything we earn every single week on crap means we have money when an opportunity to have an adventure comes up. That trip, silly as it sounds, made me a real writer. I pitched a novel I had written to every agent who stood still long enough and to the head publisher of Kensington. I met and formed relationships with a handful of New York Times bestselling authors. I rode in the elevator with Christine Feehan (yes, that deserves two mentions), heard Nora Roberts talk about her success, spent five minutes standing shoulder to shoulder with Jayne Ann Krentz, and ended up shipping my clothes home so that I could stuff my suitcase with the eleventy billion books they gave away at the conference.

That conference was a defining moment for me.

It was the moment that I realized that “real authors” are no different than me. Nora Roberts started out writing Harlequin Romances to stay sane as a single mom. Every author I met started out where I was–unsure if all the bazillions of words and hours writing those words would ever pay off. Unsure if they were good enough for anyone to notice. The only thing they did that got them where they are today is to keep writing, keep trying, until they were good enough to be published. They didn’t give up.

And neither will I.

This lesson comes to you in a very round about way via frugality. Being frugal today means you have the money to take advantage of opportunities later.

More Thursday Challenge here.

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Turn five for $40

My little girl turned five yesterday. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. It hardly seems possible. Her getting older has a different affect on me than when Adrienne and Nick were babies. Maybe because I’m older. I look at how fast the last five years flew by, and think of how old I will be in five more. Maybe because I know that I will likely not have another four-year-old again. So it’s a little bit sad to watch my baby grow up. But it’s also exhilerating, because this girl–this girl is so amazing. Yes, yes I am biased. But that’s okay.

Okay…enough sappiness. I want to share with you how we celebrated Ruby’s fifth birthday.

First, we signed up a long time ago for a free bithday cake from the local grocery store. Every place I’ve ever lived, at least one grocery store offered this. It’s just a small, round cake that they usually write something on. Ruby requested chocolate on the inside and white on the outside. The girl is obsessed with writing (awww…the apple didn’t fall far from the tree did it?), especially her own name. In every medium known to man. So I figured, why not icing? For less than $5 I was able to get a box of four different colors of icing with writing tips. I ordered the cake plain with sprinkles (another request…lots of sprinkles) and let Ruby write her own name on it. She also drew clouds and flowers.

She also requested hats and balloons. I got both from the dollar aisle at the grocery store. Also some little party horns. She was beside herself with happiness. Here’s the thing about December birthdays. The house is already decorated. Kevin has complained before that he never got distinct birthday decorations, or even wrapping paper on his presents (always Christmas paper) because his birthday is on the 23rd. I did get a roll of the cutest ever birthday wrapping paper for $1.15, but we kind of go all out decorating inside for Christmas and birthday stuff on top of it would have been a little much.

The $10 easel was the best birthday present in the history of birthday presents. For those who don’t remember or didn’t read that post–I bought Ruby an easel at the local toy store for about $30. When we got it home, we found it was missing a screw and had a dinged up corner. Kevin returned it, and was told he could have it for $10. Otherwise it would have been destroyed. This made me happy on two fronts. One, I really really wanted to give Ruby an easel and was having a hard time finding a good deal on one. Can’t beat $10. And two, knowing that the thing would have gone to the local landfill made me feel less guilty about buying a plastic toy. It was made in the US as well, which eased that guilt some since it didn’t have to be shipped over seas. So there you go–a $10, guilt-reduced birthday present.

I also picked up some crayons, markers, water paints, a big pad of 9X12  drawing paper, and a pack of 20 HUGE Snow White coloring pages all for about $15. Yes. I do see the irony that the implements were more than the gift itself. The coloring pages were really too expensive (about half that budget), but I couldn’t resist them. And seeing Ruby’s little face light up when she saw them was well worth the money.

Lastly, she got the most adorable white Pound Puppy. I couldn’t resist it…which might be why they sell toys from the 80s 25 years later. I had a Pound Puppy when I was a kid. Ruby named her’s Dee. Dee cost about $7.

When I was at Family Dollar shopping for the wrapping paper, I found a pair of footed pajamas in her size. It’s super rare for me to find these big enough for my tall little girl. I never ever find them at the thrift stores. I went ahead and bought them, and since it was her birthday I wrapped them up so she could have the joy of opening them. But I would have bought them no matter the date, so I’m not counting the price toward the cost of her birthday party.

In my family growing up, everyone got to have their favorite dinner on their birthday. I always, ALWAYS picked my grandma’s Shepard’s Pie. I’ll have to post the recipe sometime. Scrumptious. Ruby wanted bacon and eggs. So we had bacon and eggs. I made the yummiest ever egg and potato casserole that everyone loved. I’ll make sure to post that recipe this week. And also some gluten-free chocolate chip–well the recipe called them scones. Believe it or not, scones are a regional food in Northern Nevada…and these just so were NOT scones. More like a cross between a pancake and a cookie. I used the Gluten-free Pantry  muffin and scone mix. The taste wasn’t bad. I’d make them again. My gluten-eating kids loved them. The box had a recipe for making pancakes, with I’ll try next time.

Okay…so there you have it. How to celebrate turning five on…well, let’s figure it out:

  • icing, $4
  • cake, free
  • bacon and eggs dinner, part of food budget for the week
  • present with huge impact, $25
  • present with a little bit of nostalgia, $7
  • birthday hats, balloons, and blowers, $4

Total: $40

Pictures to come a little later–I’m late for work!

Check here for more Wednesday Works for Me…

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Good thing this was a practice month

Last weekend I spent $78.00 at the grocery store, which left $22.00 for the week. I sent Kevin to the store last night for bread, because the store was not stocked when I was there. Four loaves of whole wheat bread is about $6.00. He spent $35.00. But it’s okay. In the month of December we’ve spent $113.00 on food, by this time we would normally have spent at least $200. Maybe more. So we’re good. And this is a practice month!

This is going to be confusing. Yesterday’s menu plan was for this week. Our grocery store flyer came yesterday in the mail, so I’m posting next week’s shopping plan. Okay, so not all that confusing. lol

  • 80 oz chicken leg quarters, $3.95 (I have a rain check, they were out last week) X 2
  • Bacon $1.47 X 2
  • Two pounds cheddar cheese $4.95 (another rain check)
  • Cream cheese $1.25
  • Milk $2.50
  • Sour Cream $1.00
  • Rice Chex $1.16 X 4 ($5.00 off 4 boxes coupon. Gluten free!)
  • Chocolate chips $1.38 X 4
  • Corn tortillas $2.00
  • 10 lbs four $2.85
  • Tortilla chips $.99 X 2
  • Brownie mix $.88 X 4
  • Lemon Sandwich cookies $.79 X 2
  • Red potatoes $.69/lb X 4
  • Fresh Green Beans $1.39/lb X 1
  • Avocados $.59/ea X 4
  • Apples $.99 X 5
  • Grapefruit $.39/ea X 6
  • Cranberries $1.50 X 2
  • Baby carrots $1.29
  • Onions $2.00
  • Toothpaste $.78 X 2
  • Tooth brushes $.78 X 5
  • Deoderant $.78 X 2
  • Chapstick $.78

Total: $69.37 plus a little tax for the non-food items.

I know that I’ll need a few things that weren’t in the ad. But $70-ish gives some lee-way. We’ll see what the weekend brings!

Check out here for more shopping plans.

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