Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuning into Reality: A Look at TV Families

Yesterday while surfing the net I came across a story about a well-known TV family who had purchased a reported $1 million home for their brood. Having watched this family for a few years, noting their tips for living on a budget, I felt somewhat cheated. This whole time I thought they were "just getting by". But who am I to look down on people doing good for themselves right? Well, I felt like the image that this TV network portrayed was one of an average American family just trying to make ends meet. And here they were, living in an estate! I just couldn't shake it, knowing that all this time I felt inadequate thinking "well if they can manage to feed that whole family for $xx.xx and healthy, why can't I do it for two?" Then, it hit me. DUH! It's TV! It is not "reality"! These people are paid to do a program so that in itself makes them different from the average family.

There are other TV families that many Americans have become enthralled with. We watch their shows, follow their stories, and learn from their experiences. But we have to remember that it is just TV: no two families or situations are the same. Frugality for some of the nation has become the new fad, but television is a tricky business where not everything is as it seems.

Monday, January 26, 2009

For Today..January 26, 2009

Outside my window...the sun is shining and the air is warm, but give it a few days and it will be freezing again

I am thinking...about how I would like to cook dinner tonight

I am thankful husband and how each day I can't wait for the next

From the kitchen...dishes that never seem to end!

I am wearing...jeans and a t-shirt and my favorite Reef flip flops

I am creating...a baby blanket for my niece who will be born any day now! MUST KNIT FASTER!

I am use my free Redbox code tonight to rent a movie

I am reading...I Love a Cop as part of the "spouse requirement"

I am hoping...that we have a successful garage sale next weekend

I am hearing...Gilmore Girls in the living room!

Around the house...the cats are napping way too much, they should get jobs, and the curtains are blowing!

One of my favorite things...our new fuel efficient car!

A few plans for the rest of the week... census bureau numerator test, birthdays, garage sale, super bowl!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...
My beautiful sister Athena

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Anatomy of our Pantry

When we first stepped into the house that we currently own, we were overwhelmed at how perfect is was for us. It was cute and quaint and big enough to start a family. It wasn't until we were given the keys that we realized it had NO PANTRY SPACE! What were we to do?

Our dining room was formerly a 4th bedroom, so now it contains some oddly placed elements like a second light fixture, a window at the end of the wall, and a closet. We turned this closet into a pantry so we could store all of the food in one place and not sacrifice cabinets. We built shelves out of 3/4" plywood with supports. The closet is deep enough that we can fit practically anything in there.

I keep sugar, flour, and other large quantity staples in food-safe storage buckets. This allows for easy scooping into my smaller countertop jars. I also keep grain products such as rice and pasta stored in bins to keep them away from pesky weevils.

A shoe organizer hangs on the inside of the door for smaller items like gravy mix, puddings, snacks, and oatmeal packets. This makes it easy to see and I don't have piles on the shelves. I found this organizer at the Goodwill Oulet for 99 cents.

All of the canned goods are separated, with the first expiring towards the front.

I try to put most things in glass jars to keep away from pantry bugs. I SAVE ALL GLASS JARS from food because 1) they can't be recycled here and 2) they are effective and look pretty! I label the jars with name and expiration date, usually on the bottom.

So there is a peek into my pantry. I find that the more space I have to move things around, the less I forget about the items left in the back. Our pantry is quite sparse during these tough times for us, but we have enough staples and there are always new meals to be invented!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today, January 19, 2009
Outside my window...the chill in the air is pleasant but I know it will be gone tomorrow morning when it hits 80 degrees

I am thinking...that tomorrow is a very busy day and I hope I can hold up

I am thankful for...meeting someone today who knows Dave Ramsey, it gave me hope

From the learning rooms...hubby is learning the Texas penal code, and by default so am I

From the kitchen...came a batch of pumpkin muffins and strawberry cupcakes for my meeting with the police chaplain tomorrow

I am wearing...a shirt that says duct tape won't fix the world; a lot of people don't get it, go figure

I am creating...a nursery for wishful thinking

I am be very tired in the morning and will need coffee

I am reading...nothing right now; my goal is to pick out a new book tonight

I am hoping...that will power can work wonders

I am hearing...the sound of my I Love Lucy clock ticking away, drives me nuts

Around the house...its dead quiet because the kittens have knocked out finally

One of my favorite new waffle maker we got for Christmas; I make a bunch and freeze them

A few plans for the rest of the week...inauguration!!!; meeting the police chaplain; having a garage sale

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...
This is a baby shower cake I made for a friend last week. Its supposed to be a Care Bear....yea right

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pulled Pork

We had this for dinner last night. I tend to buy what meats are on sale and pork roast was only 89 cents a pound. Figured I had to try it. It was my first time cooking with Boston Butt so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I doctored it my way and it came out great. This recipe is for a smaller cut because there's only two of us, so adjust the recipe to accomodate a larger cut. Try it!

1-2 lbs. Boston Butt pork roast
1/2 large onion, cut as desired
1/2 bottle barbecue sauce
Spices - I used salt, oregano, basil, pepper, garlic powder
Olive oil

Turn Crock Pot on HIGH and add onion and enough water to cover meat (you can always add more later).

Rinse meat under cold water. Coat both sides lightly with olive oil. Rub in desired spices and broil each side for 5 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Place meat into Crock Pot. Make sure the water is covering the meat. Cook on HIGH for 1 1/2 hours then turn to LOW for 4 hours, or cook on low for 8 hours. The longer is cooks on low the more tender the meat will be.

* 1-2 hours before serving, scoop out most of the water and leave only half the meat exposed. Add half a bottle of barbecue sauce and mix. Let finish simmering, while turning the meat every now and then.

To serve, shred meat and serve on hamburger buns with sauce mixture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Becoming a 9-5 Family

So we are half way through Week 2 of our new lifestyle, and boy has it been a rollercoaster ride. We are still adjusting to this new schedule that we have never experienced before. Like I said in my earlier post, hubby is home EVERY DAY now. This means we can actually start buying fruit that won't go to waste, and that a whole loaf of bread (sometimes two!) gets eaten without wasting any. It means getting to eat at home every day and packing lunches. Very, very new to me. It seems as if things are getting more expensive right at the time that Murphy is visiting our house. After taking a long, hard look at the bank accounts today, I was slapped with reality and my frugal genes (yes, I have more than one!) kicked into TURBO POWER! or was it TURTLE POWER! ....anyway...

A few posts ago I showed off my 99 cent organic loot. In that lot was a bunch of flour, so I decided that I am done with buying ready-made bread. I actually made a list today and baking bread was on it. I had success thanks to a candy thermometer and the Good Housekeeping Cookbook from the 70s. That thing has never failed me, and if my Mom thinks she is getting it back, well she's just nutty. And because the job market here has been reduced to only two columns of non-nursing jobs, I will be baking all of our bread.

Another thing that I have been doing more of lately is hanging laundry in the house. Thanks to the crazy Arctic air sweeping the nation, I haven't really wanted to be outside handling cold wet clothes. I've been hanging them in open closets and the shower. My Mom started doing this when I was a teenager; we lived in an apartment and running the dryer meant skipping a meal.
I sometimes run the little heater in the bathroom to get things started. I usually leave the clothes overnight and fluff them in the morning.

Sometimes I kick myself for not doing these things all the time, thinking "Just imagine how much we could have saved!", but I've been trying to stay sane about it. I've realized that the ultimate way to be frugal would be living in an eco-village off of the grid somewhere peeing on our plants (I'm not knocking those that do). The rest of us are just doing our best with the mental capacity God gave us that allows for multitasking. Everyday I am trying to do better and realize my own strength,
and that's all I can do, is try. It's all any of us can do.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Frugal Bit from Paul Harvey

I'm not sure what Paul Harvey's reasoning was for this piece, but it is definitely applicable to frugality here. Enjoy!

We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, Id like better.
I'd really like for them to know about hand-me down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meat loaf sandwiches.
I really would hope you learn humility by being humiliated and that you learn honesty by being cheated.
I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car. And I hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen.
It would be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your dog put to sleep.
I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.
I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it's all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he's scared, I hope you let him.
When you see a movie and your little sister wants to tag along, I hope you let her.
I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town were you can do it safely. I
f you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one.
I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books.
When you learn how to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.
I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap tastes like.
May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove, and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole.
I dont care if you try a beer once, but I hope you dont like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend.
I sure hope you make time to sit on the porch with your Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle.
May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holiday.
These things I wish for you- tough times and disappointments, hard work and happiness. To me its the only way to appreciate life.
Good Day!

Paul Harvey

An Alternative to Composting..for Now

Well I have been daydreaming of starting a compost bin for the past few weeks. I had a compost pile once, but in my sand trap of a backyard, it was hard to march over there at night to drop scraps into it; not to mention I didn't feel like pitchforking that thing with Texas-sized critters running around. So after I saw Frugal Babe's Worm Composting article, I decided that this was a better solution because I can keep it in the garage or close to the back door. Unfortunately, these magical ideas land in my lap right when things are taking a turn for the worse. I just can't afford to get the supplies at this time. So I have been sticking to my can't-really-compost-but-I-don't-want-to-throw-it-away method: I just toss the stuff in the backyard.

Now this may seem icky to some people who actually don't want to share their backyard with "visitors", but not us. Our backyard needs an overhaulin', and since we can't afford to do that either, we only go out there to hang up the laundry. So whenever I have scraps I just open the back door and practice my baseball arm. And to show that this method works, and it makes me feel like I am part of the circle of life, here's a few pictures...

There he or she is..just a friendly neighborhood squirrel trying to carry some stale homemade bread up the tree. (You may wonder why I didn't make bread crumbs out of it, but hey, baby steps here.) I watched this squirrel for about a half hour trying to chew his way little by little to make the bread light enough to carry. When he finally achieved victory, he got to the top, got spooked and dropped the bread. Whoever says that squirrels can't look like "Oh crap!", they're lying. I left him alone and later that day the bread was gone. So yes I may not be inviting the best creatures into my yard, and I may have more luck with the worms, but this is working for now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blow Out Sales

Today I was shopping at Sun Harvest for some fruits and veggies when I came across a table of baking goods that has been displayed at the front since Thanksgiving. There it was..a magical sign that said "99 cents Everything on Bake Table". YAHOO! Check out my loot!

I got all organic items for less than non-organic items. I was thrilled! This is why it is sometimes ok to shop without a definite list. I needed everything that I bought, but it wasn't a priority. At these rock bottom prices I just couldn't pass it up. So always keep at eye out for deep discounted items because they vary by region and store.

I also used a free Redbox code that I found over at Saving Sherry to get a free movie!

So thats my frugal day! Hope everyone else had one too :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Switching to Less Pay?!?

Today was my hubby's first day in the police academy. This is the first time that he has been home everyday in the four years that we have been together. It is taking some adjusting to our new found lifestyle, and it made me think about the pros and cons of his old job versus his new job, which is a list that we made before he decided to take it. Before the academy, it was the oilfield. Anyone who knows about that area understands me when I say that it is rough on the body, mind, and relationship. I don't want to lecture anyone on their career and family choices, but this is how we see it:

1. He will be home every day. We will get to see each other, eat dinner together, lean on each other, and stop our marriage over the cell phone! He can go back to college and get on a normal schedule. He won't have to miss big things like birthdays, first steps, and first day of kindergarten.

2. Even though the overall pay is less, he won't have to spend money for travel, doctor's appointments for work-related injuries, and extra wear on the car.

3. Within 14 months, he will be making more than he was at his previous job. In the grand scheme of things, 14 months is not long of a sacrifice to make.

4. This job has a better benefits package.

5. This job does not lay people off!

6. And the point that I am most excited and most nervous about: sometimes you have to get dragged through the mud together and come out on the other side to see what you two are capable of. I think that in the end we will be stronger and have more love for doing it TOGETHER.

So that's my little rant and justification. Keep your fingers crossed!

10 Guilty Pleasures

I took this idea from Denise over at Sunflowers, Chocolate, and Little Boys, who claims she took the idea from someone else also. If it weren't for "copying", no good ideas would ever get spread around would they?
My 10 Guilty Pleasures
1. Ice can make any day better and you can always find a new flavor
2. Books...especially Harry Potter, Nicholas Sparks, and now Stephenie Meyer; I can get lost for hours and deny myself sleep over books
3. Frugality...I have to say that I am addicted to finding ways to save; the internet and library have becomes my drugs of choice when it comes to researching tips and recipes
4. Twister, Day After Tomorrow, Juno, and Superbad...movies that I HAVE TO WATCH if they are on, even though I can repeat them verbatim
5. favorite tracks can take me back to the time when I first heard them; I have found that the only way to "choose my feelings" is to put on certain music
6. My husband...this doesn't mean that he is 6th in my life, but no matter how crazy he makes me I always can't wait til he gets home to make me a little crazier
7. Crafts...I love to collect odds and ends and write down all kinds of crazy projects ideas in a huge notebook, then when I'm bored I pick one out!
8. Meteorology...I have wanted to be a research meteorologist since I was a little girl, and after applying to OU 3 times and getting turned down, I left that professional dream behind; I might be a quitter with that, but it doesn't stop me from running outside at the slightest hint of rain
9. Animals...We have found that going to the animal shelter when you're bored always ends up in a kitten or puppy that was just too cute and needy-looking to pass up
10. Babies...most people say that when I have my own they won't seem so awesome to me, but I highly doubt it