This Week’s Frugal Accomplishments

Today I am launching a new set of *hopefully* regular posts entitled “Frugal Accomplishments.”

If you know me in real life, you may have picked up on the fact that I like to live fairly frugally. I don’t think I was always this way, but as our family grew, I have learned to run this house in a frugal and practical way. Sure, I think we live modestly as far as the “big things” are concerned–we both drive older vehicles, our house is not big and fancy, etc, etc. However, I like to think that saving and living simply with the “small things” do add up in the long run. I am very inspired by other people who make things work by raising families on a modest income and LOVE to hear the little ways they save. So, in turn, hopefully I can perhaps inspire you in some small way by sharing what I do on a weekly basis to save us some cash.

(I totally copied this idea from The Prudent Homemaker, who does this as a weekly post. I love reading what she does for her family.)

Here’s a few things that I did last week:

*With some nice sunny days I was able to line dry many loads of laundry and not run our dryer.

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(Weird but true fact about me: I rather enjoy doing laundry and love hanging it out to dry. It makes my heart happy.)

*I sold a few items on Ebay. An old Michael Jordan jersey, which I found in a bag of free-to-us boy clothes, brought way more than I expected. Sweet!!

*I went to a couple of yard sales on Friday. I scored a pair of kid snow pants for next year, a dressy shirt for Andrew, and a hooded sweatshirt for Heidi for a couple bucks. I also got a pair of knitting needles and some vintage quilt squares for free. I was just asking what the price was and the lady very much insisted that I just take them!

*Though it wasn’t directly for my own kids, I was able to easily alter a couple dresses for my brother’s girls so they can wear them this summer.

*Instead of doing a store run, I hit up my closet “gift stash” to provide a birthday gift for a party my daughter attended.

*We watched a few things on Netflix.

*With some coupon dollars, I was able to save a whopping $20 on a new backpack for my latest birthday boy. We have always bought LL Bean brand packs and they hold up for MANY years. He has had the same one all through elementary school and is now in 6th grade. This is the one he picked out–here’s to hoping it lasts through the next 6 years!!

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*We planted part of our garden on Saturday. That day we did 3 types of potatoes, green beans, and a little bit of sweet corn. Peas, onions, and a couple of other things had already been planted.

*I cut some early spring flowers from our beds outside the house and used them for decoration inside. There’s just something about fresh flowers!

Well, that was a sampling of some of the things I do. Stay tuned for more!

Have a blessed week.

Rachel

Canvas & Doily Art

Hey all.

I have a quick, easy, and eye-catching little project to share for the week.

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All you need is a basic white canvas, old doilies or lace, and a can of spray paint.

I did not document the process portion of these with pictures, but it’s fairly easy to explain.

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If you want one of the colors in your artwork to be white, just let your canvas alone as a base.

However, if you want a different color as a base color, paint over the entire canvas with that hue and allow to dry.

Then you can lay out old lace doilies in a design that appeals to you and make sure they are lying flat on the canvas ( no curled edges).

Take a can of spray paint in a contrasting color (in this case, navy blue) and spray on a nice layer of paint.

If you need to, allow that to dry without removing doilies and spray on another layer to get a saturated color.

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Once everything is dry, pull off the doilies and admire your new artwork!

As you can see, I made a couple of these and placed them above the headboard of my bed. Actually, I may make another just because I think a trio would look better.

This is a semi-cheap project to make because plain white canvases can be purchased relatively inexpensively at Wal Mart or a craft store. Old doilies or lace can be scooped up at thrift shops or even yard sales. They can also be reused for this type of project.

Laying a piece of old lace over the entire canvas makes for a neat look too.

I used spray paint because it goes in all those little holes better than a brush-on paint ever would.

Love my new wall art!

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Thanks for stopping by,

Rachel

Handmade Christmas 2014: Glitter Magnets

If I’ve seemed rather sparkly lately, there’s a clear explanation for it.

(No, for those of you who tell me I need another baby, I am NOT pregnant!!)

I have been testing out a few Christmas projects that involve glitter.

Inevitably, no matter how careful I am, I always sparkle for the rest of the day. Glitter ends up on my face, in my hair, and on my clothes.

This is one of the projects I really have had fun making.

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They are a snap to make and end up looking downright amazing.

The process is such that you could knock out a bunch of these in one sitting.

For starters, you need to purchase the flat backed glass gems that come in mesh bags. I usually get mine at the Dollar Tree.

You also need Mod Podge, a foam brush, and different colors of glitter!

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Lay out the glass gems so that the flat side is up. I like to glitter over pieces of scrap paper so I can salvage unused glitter back into its container (and so my table doesn’t end up looking like a sparkly mess).

Brush the entire flat side with Mod Podge, then sprinkle heavily with glitter while it’s still wet. This is where you can do a bunch of one color at a time. Give it a few minutes, then tap off the excess and lay glass onto another sheet of paper. Funnel the first paper into your glitter jar so all that extra good stuff gets saved for another use.

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Now is the time to fire up your hot glue gun. I buy packs of round magnets at Wal Mart or the craft store to glue on the back.

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When all are dry and ready, flip them over so that the rounded top is up.

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The result? The sparkliness is magnified and looks really cool.

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This is a great project for kids to help with–or at least to shake on the glitter.

I have packaged these in groups of 4-5 stuck to a canning lid, then bagged in a cello bag with ribbon. They would be a cute, easy, and inexpensive little Christmas gift.

Shine on!

Rachel

Some Tips for Line-Drying Laundry

This is an article from my archives which I wrote a little over 2 years ago. Since we have a really beautiful day for line-drying here, I thought I would do a re-post of it.

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Today’s post is all about laundry. In the past, I have shared how I’ve saved a bundle making my own laundry detergent and how I enjoy hanging mine out to dry instead of using my dryer. Today I’ll give you some reasons why line-drying is beneficial as well as some useful tips for those of you who line-dry your clothes, or would like to try it out.


Reasons to Line Dry Your Laundry
1. Saves Energy– Hanging out your wash is a simple and green way to reduce energy waste.
2. Saves Money-Not using your dryer regularly can make a nice reduction in your electric bill.
3. Reduces Wear on Clothes– Do you ever notice how much lint is collected after running your dryer? That’s all stuff being worn off of the fabric of your clothing. Allowing your clothes to air dry will lengthen the lifespan of most clothing items.
4. Kills Germs– Sunshine can be a wonderful thing. When it comes to laundry, it has antibacterial qualities, effectively killing off germs.
5. Freshness– There’s nothing like the smell of laundry that has been blowing out in the breeze and sunshine all day. As far as I’m concerned, no store-bought product can really mimic it.
6. Physical Activity– Sure, it’s not like going for some intense running or training session, but hanging everything out does use up some muscle and energy. Hey, every little bit counts, right?
7. Soothing– You may think this sounds weird, but I find hanging out laundry to be very soothing and almost relaxing. I’m usually able to at least sort of tune out my family during the time it takes to do this. Believe me, being out in the fresh air and sunshine is good for people too!!


Tips For Line-Drying Laundry
Shake your clothing pieces out right before hanging. This will help reduce wrinkles.
Hang shirts by their bottom hem. Doing so keeps them from getting pulled out and weird-looking at the shoulders.
Avoid overlapping items. Try to hang everything so it’s just a single thickness, if possible.
-For larger or heavier items, use more than 2 clothespins to keep it from sagging. Or from blowing off if it is a really windy day!
Watch the weather. Believe me, it is so frustrating to hang everything out only to have it not dry properly or have them rained on! Before hanging, make sure the whole day looks decent for hanging.
Start your wash early. If you plan on hanging multiple loads in a day, start washing early enough so you can get everything out in good time. This is especially important if you have somewhere to go in the morning. Get it out before leaving the house!
Plan wash on fair weather days. I have actually been doing this a lot lately. I’ve been saving up my loads for good clothes-drying days to reduce my dryer use.
Fluff in the dryer-If you do not like that “crispy” feel air-drying can give jeans or towels, just throw them in the dryer for maybe 5 minutes to fluff them.
Pair socks as you hang– This may save you time later. Pair them up and hang both by one corner with a clothespin.
Hang in order– This is one I made up, but I swear it saves me time! If I’m being thoughtful about it, I hang the clothing out in age order. For example, I hang all my husband’s clothes, then mine, then our oldest son’s, and so on.
Fold as you take down– If I follow the step above, I fold as I go and it’s already sorted and ready to put away!!

10 Earthy Ways to Decorate for Fall

Just in case you’re finally pulling together some fall decorations, or want to spruce up your current look, I rounded up some ideas that take minimal materials. By scrounging around your home, yard, and surrounding area, it’s likely that you may have most of the supplies for these pretty decor ideas already on hand.

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A pumpkin turned vase for mums–I have actually done this idea before, and it looks beautiful. Some great step by step directions are available on Kojo Designs.

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If this one looks familiar, it’s because I made it on my blog last fall! No, they’re not “all natural,” but I had to throw it in the list. Mine used canning bands, rolled burlap, and a little felt for an accent leaf.

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I love the beachy vibe of these linen and driftwood pumpkins. Find the easy picture tutorial over here. (Bet you can’t guess what is under those linen strips!)

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These acorn luminaries take very few materials to make and look great.

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Isn’t this basket of white pumpkins gorgeous? I especially love the burlap chevron ribbon that dresses it up! Check out this blog for more details.

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This burlap no-sew table runner, wheat centerpiece, and white pumpkins are from my cousin Leslie’s blog. (Go check her out!)

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This layered hurricane vase contains popcorn kernels, dried red beans, and lentils.

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I think these sheaves of wheat tied to the stair spindles are unique and elegant in their own way.

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This acorn wreath is simple and beautiful. A great tutorial for it is found right here.

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And while we’re on the subject of wreaths, I absolutely adore this one made out of a wood slice. So stinking cool, and great for fall or winter. Check out East Coast Creative for the step by step on how to make it. This idea is one I’ve already shown my better half–just so he has a heads up in case I need to get my hands on a wood slice one of these days! (Yes, according to him, I am the Queen of Not-So Subtle Hints sometimes. Shocking, right?)

Once a Month Grocery Shopping (Part 2)

I’m back…..this time with tips for making once a month grocery shopping work for you and your family. Again, I am not claiming to be some kind of expert in this area, just someone who’s tried it and liked it. I have lots of fine tuning to do yet, but I believe there is a real learning curve with this concept. With that being said, here are my personal tips for once a month grocery shopping:

*Go alone. Yes, I realize this isn’t too feasible for some of you. However, if you can snatch a few hours to yourself, take advantage. I am not one of those people who claim to just love hauling their kids with them everywhere. Knowing myself, I have realized that I shop much smarter and can focus more if I am by my lonesome. You can get it done so much faster too!

*Time it well. While shopping just once a month for a majority of your groceries does save money, you do have to lay out more $$$ in one go. Time it so you’re not going on a week where your finances feel extremely slim.

*Know what you use. Have a good idea of what your family goes through in one month. I did a little experiment this summer to see how much of certain items we use in a month. Am I a big nerd? Yes I am, but I also got a good feel for what we consume  in a month’s time.

*Keep a master list. Post it on your fridge, bulletin board, wherever. Keep a running list of what you’ve run out of, than add to it what you anticipate using this next month. Literally go through every pantry shelf, freezer, refrigerator,  and see what needs replenished. I also stock up on our paper goods, trash bags, etc on my grocery run, so take a look at those as well.

*Meal plan. I have never done a post on meal planning, but this is something I’ve really depended on as my kids get bigger and busier. Granted, I don’t plan out for the whole month, which would be even more helpful. (I usually do a week at a time.) Looking ahead for the whole month would really help with amounts of what’s needed.

*Buy in bulk. Large amounts don’t always yield the best deal, but sometimes they truly are a good deal–especially if it’s something you know you’ll use. Last month I went ahead and bought a huge bag of flour just because I knew I’d be baking more often this fall.

*Do your homework. Have your coupons ready with possible match-ups for the stores you want to hit. Know what’s on sale that week and any loss-leader items you may want to stock up on.

*Hit multiple stores. I don’t get all crazy with this and usually just go to two. It all depends on where you live and your store preferences.

*Unload and put away the same day. No, you may not feel like it. However, when you get home, just get it over with and put everything away where it belongs. If anything needs divided up into smaller packages or cut up, now is the time.

And last but certainly not least….

*Go easy on yourself. As I mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve with this and it takes time to fine-tune what works for your own family. I still do a “milk run” and have ended up going for a couple things that I thought we truly needed before my next grocery run. (Like butter–this family wasn’t going to do without real butter! We’re not that hard core.) Maybe you want to even start by going to the store every other week and work from there.

Homemade Fabric Softener

I can’t believe I haven’t tried this out before. As some of you already may have read here before, I’ve made my own laundry detergent and haven’t had to buy any for the past 2 years. I honestly still get a bit of sticker shock whenever I happen to see detergent at a store and peek at the price. However, another thing sometimes gives me sticker shock as well–the price of fabric softeners. I hadn’t bought any in some time and had a coupon for one of the newer kinds. Once I got to the store, I priced it out and discovered it was still way more than I was willing to pay for what would be probably a month’s worth of laundry loads for our family. So, I thought the DIY version was worth a try, especially to the tune of @$1 a pop.

The recipe really is super easy and took me maybe 5 minutes or so to whip up.

All you need is the following ingredients: 6 cups of hot water, 3 cups of white vinegar, and 2 cups of hair conditioner.

I got out a big mixing bowl and added the hot water first. Then I squirted the conditioner in, mixing it until well dissolved. Lastly I added the vinegar and mixed that in well too.

Place in a bottle or recycled container of some sort. (I ended up putting mine in a washed out milk jug.) This ends up making well over half a gallon of fabric softener!

To make this even more cost-effective, use a cheap conditioner, just make sure you pick one that smells good to you.

A Tightwad Experiment

Have you ever heard of or read The Tightwad Gazette? I have to admit that it was never even on my radar until a couple of months ago. After coming across mentions of it on other blogs, I was intrigued and finally picked up a copy of the The Complete Tightwad Gazette via amazon. It is basically a compilation of publications that came out in the early 90’s written by a woman named Amy Dacyczyn. The complete edition is an over 900 page book chock full of money saving advice and is well worth the read.

I didn’t read every article word for word, but I did read most of it in a pretty short time frame, mainly because I found it fascinating. (I did mention in my last post that I was a big nerd, didn’t I?) In it Dacyczyn has sections devoted to reader tips that were sent in, as well as little experiments where she does the math on whether or not certain things are worth doing to save money or not. One that was near and dear to my heart was where she broke down the cost of both parents working full-time and whether or not it benefits the family that much (by the way, her conclusion was that it really doesn’t). In light of my fondness for this book, I decided to do a little experiment of my own. For the entire month of May, I recorded our family’s use of certain household items which I felt like I was constantly buying and/or replacing. I kept the list on the side of our fridge and made a tally mark each time I had to replace something. For example, every time I got a new loaf of bread out of the freezer, I would put a tally mark on the “bread” section of my list. Now that May is over, I added up everything and here are the results:

Paper Towels-3 rolls

Toilet Paper-13 rolls

Bread-12 loaves

Milk-11 Gallons

Butter-10 sticks

Peanut Butter-4 jars

Cold Cereal-5 boxes

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Looking back, I wish I had put other things on my list. Things like dozens of eggs, pounds of flour, pounds of pasta, and so forth would probably also be useful. I may actually do this again another month to get an even better picture of how we use up different items. Now that my kids are almost done school and will be home full-time, we will most likely consume more of some items! The value I see in conducting this experiment is that should I ever go to the once-a-month shopping mode, I would pretty much know how much to stock up on for the month.

How about you? Have you ever read The Tightwad Gazette? Also, what would you put on your list?

10 Fun Uses for Pool Noodles

Pool noodles are everywhere this time of year and are usually sold pretty cheaply. Here’s a list of fun and creative ways you can use pool noodles outside of the pool this summer:

Use coordinating colors to make a fun headboard for a kids’ room.
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This is a cheaper alternative to buying wreath forms–bend pool noodles into a circle and tape securely. From tatteredandinked.blogspot.com.
Cut slices of pool noodles to make big beads for little ones to lace. From bluegrassmamas.com.
Use slices for painting pictures. From playcreateexplore.com.
Tape a bunch of circled pool noodles together for a backyard obstacle course. From parents.com.
My little boys would love this idea since they already use noodles as pretend swords–fashion light sabers out of lengths of noodle. From muddybootsblog.blogspot.com.
A fun idea for a summer party! Give each child a noodle and set them loose with a number of balloons to try and get into a goal or basket.
This is one of my favorite ideas. Cut noodles in half lengthwise and make racetracks for matchbox cars and such. Found at ramblingsfromutopia.com.
Use chunks of noodle along with toothpicks or golf tees to make your own silly creatures. Idea from 4herreras.blogspot.com.
Set up as arches in your yard as hurdles, to kick balls through, or as a giant croquet game. Also from parents.com.