Food Stuffs and Stuffs

It’s that time of year when, among other things, I start nesting for the winter. The drapes are up on the kitchen windows and in the living room. Afghans are on sofas, warm comforters are on beds, and rugs have been rearranged to be sure the oak floor in the front hall is protected from slush and ice-melt.

My winterizing includes making sure there is enough food in the house to get us through the bleakness of coming months. It’s not that we can’t get out to the nearby grocery stores in inclement weather. Heck, we could even walk to one if these suburban roads were that bad (and they have been). It’s about managing the budget, and being ready for planned shortfalls.

My periodic freezer and pantry inventory is underway. I plan to make do except for festive Christmas and New Year’s dinners. Then I’ll be taking advantage of the usual January stock-up sales. No, I won’t be stockpiling for the zombie apocalypse, but I will be filling in my inventory with helpful ingredients from which to create healthy and delicious dinners.

Over the years, my style of feeding my family has surely changed. When we had four, including two growing tween/teens, and when I was working to pay Christian school tuition, freezer meals were essential. These days, it’s usually two, and we sometimes have DS#2, but only know weekly if and when that will be, because of his work situation. So I’ve been keeping more unprepared ingredients on hand, packaged and/or frozen in a variety of ready-to-use portion sizes.

Last year I found these bins at the Dollar Tree store, for, y’know, a buck. These are great because they are the perfect size to fit two on a shelf in my upright freezer, and one-up the side-by-side. I got white ones to blend in with the appliances. They are so helpful in keeping my FoodSavered items organized. Chicken in one, ground beef in another, etc. In the kitchen freezer, one is just for frozen fruit for smoothies (and when fresh things start to look a little old, they get prepped and popped in the bin). They also hold bags of pasta and other loose or opened things very well in the pantry.

freezerbins

In the basement I have a “pantry” which is really just one of these (similar) next to the freezer. I got it at Home Depot about 17 years ago, and just one is used for all my non-perishable food stock (well, I use kitchen cupboards, too). Any ventilated, sturdy shelf will do, of course. I got the sturdiest I could afford, and they have held heavy cans and jars with ease.

pantryshelves

My FoodSaver is a terrific tool for stashing away food. I have a very old one, from at least 15 years ago, which is quite basic and not made anymore. A month ago I searched for a new fancy one for my Christmas wish list, but couldn’t find anything I thought affordable that was compelling enough to upgrade. There’s something to be said for an appliance made sturdy and right, lasting years and years. If you find a FoodSaver at a thrift store where they have tried electrics to be sure they work, you should consider getting it. I get my bags on sale, using Kohl’s cash and percent-off discounts, to save 30-40%. I have occasionally found them on clearance locally, too, for about 50% off, when canning stuff goes on clearance.

My break from inventory is over. Time to straighten things up, plan some meals, and rest secure in the fact that we are so incredibly blessed with daily bread….for weeks.

I have thought of doing a pantry challenge, but that just isn’t going to work for me. I will probably be doing that in February, when I am tired of going out in the horrible weather, and am up for a creative project.

How are you preparing for the coming of winter weather?

 

More Frugal Projects

As I’ve said, “The work never ends.” And we’re still plugging along, but on a much smaller scale.

Landscaping this fall has had most of my focus, because we can do it ourselves right now. A bush bed in the back corner was desperately overdue for trimming. I cut and DH bundled. We had about 12 bundles of branches at the curb that week, plus four bags of smaller yard debris. My shoulders hurt for about three days. But the bushes will come in shorter and fuller next year.

Another bush/flower bed got similar treatment. But I didn’t trim the bushes down so much. I cut significant amounts away from the neighbor’s fence (which the bushes were pushing against), all the way to the ground. So if they grow back, they will be much more manageable, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. (evil grin) I left most of the branches (some 10 ft. long, I kid you not) between the bushes and the fence, or at the front of the bed after clearing out more plants. DH will have to bundle those up.

There were tons of annuals at the front of the bed that always get lanky, and I pulled those, too. The stems get so brittle, they’re easy to break in two or three to fit in yard waste bags. Weeds, of course, hosta remnants, leaves. I ended up with four bags.

The first fall of leaves was mowed with the last lawn cuttings and put in the compost bin. After most of them fell, we tried two things. We tried sucking up maple leaves in the blower. Emptying the bag was a pain in the patootie, though. We filled two yard waste bags with the chopped up leaves, which would easily have taken four if the leaves weren’t chopped. We couldn’t add them to the compost bin because we didn’t have anymore green to balance the dry. Since it was such a pain, and it aggravated our allergies, we decided to just rake and bag the next time. It went much easier, but it took two bags. So six of one, half a dozen of another.

Cost for the yardwork = cost of yard waste bags, so about $6. Plus $2 for twine for bundling.

I actually put away the Halloween decorations within a few days of Halloween this year. My decorations were pretty minimal this year, anyway, but I am impressed with myself for that. The fall decorations stayed up (pumpkins and a lovely wreath), and when we do the Christmas decorations, those will go away. We did buy two rotating snowflake projection lights at Home Depot for the side of the house that faces the main street, but that’s all the new stuff for the year. We’ll be making do with what we have, which includes large lit snowflakes for the long side fence (see the theme?), gutter lights, the NOEL sign, and the lit animated deer. And a little this and that from which to select. That will be another post.

Inside, I’ve been cleaning. I’m surprising myself, even. Nothing exciting, except finally getting up the mystery stains from my teen son’s carpet. Ooh, and I got him a new mattress. It fit perfectly in my SUV, so I didn’t have to pay the $90 delivery fee to Nebraska Furniture Mart. Thanks, nice bed saleslady, for convincing me I should at least try to make it fit. Mattress $110.

Also, I learned that it is important to the life of a mattress to rotate the box spring/foundation alternating with turning the mattress. I never knew that! Now that most mattresses are no longer flippable, this comes into play even more. $0

Back to the mattress, I did pay more than I wanted. All I needed was the mattress, so there was no “deal” to be made. But I was able to get a flippable one, so we should be able to use it for guests for a long time after #2 moves out. #2 said it was great to sleep on. Plus, the advice from the saleslady was worth it. I could have gotten a brand new one at Goodwill for around $60, but I’m glad I did what I did. I got a gel memory foam mattress topper at Kohl’s for around $25 (on terrific sale, less Kohl’s Cash, less 30% discount). He has wanted one for a very long time, and this is also supposed to extend the life of the mattress.

His previous setup was two mattresses stacked, on top of a bunky board. The mattresses were about 16 years old, but were clean, even if floppy. I listed them on craigslist.com free for the hauling, and they are pending pickup. If they decide they don’t want them, I have other takers lined up, and if none of them want the things, I’ll call Moody’s Hauling again.

For about $4, I highly recommend this:

woolite

It does a fantastic job on chocolate stains (was not me!). It also got out the mystery carpet stains, which may also have been chocolate. And it worked wonders on the old sofa in the family room (I will not sit on that sofa unless I absolutely have to, but it is much more bearable now). I will use this on the sofa again in about three months, and I will still have much of it left.

The winter drapes are up on one living room window, and I plan to add the very heavy, very tall ones on the other windows this weekend. The mild and record-setting temps are going away, and typical November weather is on the way. I also reversed the fans and that really helps with the air comfort, as well as electric and gas bills. I will also be returning the dark slipcover to the living room loveseat. $0

Every year, I purchase my own humidifier evaporator pad (online because it’s cheaper and I know where it will be in stock), and install it myself. Takes two minutes, and there’s minimal mess because I put it immediately into a trash bag. I get it at GeneralAireParts.com, and mine is $18 plus shipping. Sure, I could have a furnace checker company replace it, at a cost of $36, and would have to clean up their even bigger mess. But I choose frugality.

I’ve been “layering” the beds with blankets, so that we can adjust for individual comfort during the night. I usually have the winter bedding on by this point. But the temperatures here have been unseasonably warm. Yesterday, November 16, it was 70 degrees. Seriously. The front that is coming in, though, could bring snowflakes. Yes, that’s two days apart! The night temperatures have not been consistent, so I did the blanket layering, and it has worked pretty well. I can toss one or two layers on, and remove as needed if I get too warm. Once the cold is staunchly entrenched, I’ll get back to the regular winter bedding. $0

One other practice we’ve been doing is hanging more items to dry instead of using the dryer, which saves electricity. #2 is working at a pizza place, with uniform shirts that show dirt from the ovens, etc. Because they have to be soaked and washed after one use, and because he doesn’t want them to wear out fast, we hang them to dry.  I taught him the magic stain remover recipe, and he puts that in the washing machine with the shirts (and is supposed to add other items, as well), hits the “soak” feature with hot water, and let’s that do the work. In the morning, he runs it as a regular load. Since I’m usually home, I take them out and hang the uniform shirts, which take just a couple hours to dry. Anything else that can dry that way, will get hung. Bad Mom discovered that the bottoms can’t hang dry as quickly, so those go in the dryer now, with other heavy things. So on any given day, I have one or two uniform shirts, my jeans, a few of my items, and maybe one or two of DH’s shirts, hanging to dry. Here’s my setup on a very light drying day:

laundryroom
Yes, this time there is really orange.

Using what we have = $0. The stain recipe is about $15 for enough to last about four months. Used in moderation, prepared only as needed.

These days we’re just keeping up with the change of seasons, I guess. What are you doing to stay frugal this season?

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