Greetings from the world’s most inconsistent blogger

Hey friends (all three of you) how are you holding up? This whole Covid-19 situation is really starting to wear me out, how about you? I’m exhausted. I ache. I want to hug people. This sucks. That’s really all there is to say about it.

People are dying at such incredible rates, and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing it down. Luckily, my parents have gotten their first dose of the vaccine and they get their second shots today! I am so grateful that they managed to get on that list, my heart rests a little easier now.

Alright so let’s see, what frugal things have we been up to lately?

I have been really good about using up the food in the house and not going to the store. This is good for a multitude of reasons: I am saving money by eating what I already have, I am not wasting food, I am not buying random goodies that always manage to get snuck into the cart, I am not around people who could potentially have covid, I am not able to spread the often invisible illness to my community. Among others!

I used some of the MANY carrots that were languishing in the produce drawer to make carrot cake cupcakes (my favorite) because obviously we couldn’t very well let the carrots NOT be made into cake. Right? Right.

I have been outsmarted by my thermostat. I have a Nest installed that allows me to schedule the temperature to go up or down at a set time of day. It’s wonderful. Well normally I have it set at 68 during the day ant 66 at night (during the cold and wet winters here in the PNW) but the other morning I noted just how chilly it was. Turns out, my thermostat had restarted and gone into “money saving mode” or whatever it was called. The house had gone down to 62 overnight and was set to 64 during the day. Oof, let me tell you, that’s too chilly for me. And my dogs, let’s blame it partially on the dogs. So I did adjust it but not by much: 66 during the day and 62 overnight. The dogs sleep in sweaters (don’t judge me they have short hair!) the cat sleeps under the covers with me and I generally wear a sweatshirt to bed. During the day we bundle under blankets and generally I am happy with this temperature setting. For now. And hopefully this will save us some money!

I have been getting take out from a local Mexican restaurant once a week in an effort to help them keep the business afloat. There have definitely been days during the week where I am tired and just want to push the easy button and order food. But I remind myself that I am making a conscious decision with how I want to spend my money, and supporting Rocio’s is where I currently am focused in that regard. I have plenty to eat and when Saturday evening rolls around it feels like a treat to have take out.

I read my favorite blogs daily. Reading blogs about how other people maintain their frugal ways, even during all this craziness, helps keep me on track. It reminds me that I am not alone in this, and every little bit helps. Sometimes it is hard to see the positive, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, but I can do this. And so can you friends.

Sending you my love.

Frugal things

That gorgeous friend up there isn’t necessarily related to my frugal activities lately, but darn isn’t she a beauty!!

So now, let’s see, what frugal things have I been up to lately?

  • Tonight for dinner I made a “chickn” sandwich using odds and ends I had in the fridge/freezer. I find myself often not really interested in eating, which is a bit of a problem. I definitely feel worse if I don’t eat anything. So I pulled out some “chickn” from the freezer and popped it in the oven. Toasted up a frozen hamburger bun (only one left now!) sliced up a fresh pickle and got out the last lil bit of vegan fry sauce. I sliced the “chickn” and put it on the bun with sauce and pickles and LET ME TELL YOU, yum. It was delicious, cheap (I already had the ingredients on hand), and frugal because it managed to save a couple of items that could potentially have gone to waste. win/win/win!
  • I stayed with my parents this weekend. In these Covid times, no one is traveling (at least I certainly am not). Going out of town to see friends isn’t an option. Heck, having dinner with friends isn’t an option. And that has quite frankly been really bumming me out lately. So when it was forecasted to be over 100 degrees all weekend (eww, that is WAY too hot for Oregon) my mom invited the dogs and I to come stay the weekend. Let me tell you, it was fantastic for my mental health. My mom and I made popsicles, ate too much cheese, sat in 3 inches of water in the inflatable pool, read lots, and just generally enjoyed out time together. I adore my mom and we are really close so this pandemic has been particularly stressful for me. I just want to hug her all the time. So we decided me staying the weekend was a safe risk to take for our own sanity. It also gave me some time away from my roommates, and gave them the weekend with the house to themselves. Win/Win!
  • I did not go grocery shopping last week. I did stop into New Seasons on Saturday to pick up some Burrata to go with my mom’s tomatoes but that was it. I ate food I already had in the house and didn’t make any little trips to pick anything up. It was great to skip a week of grocery buying!
  • I am slowly and intentionally trying to stock up on things that are important in my life while not taking up too much space. I am eyeing the sales and shopping accordingly. I just have a feeling that in a month or so, once everyone is “back” to school and fall weather hits that we are in for a walloping flu/covid season. Best start preparing now!
  • In preparation for moving eventually, I went through my books and culled probably 80 books! I filled up grocery bags with them and stuck them in my truck. This weekend I drove around and deposited them in little free libraries all over the city. The books brought me joy at one point but I didn’t need them anymore so I hope they will bring joy to someone else!
  • I shared/swapped food with a friend. I LOVE this part of the pandemic. It has brought out the sharing/trading community and I am here for it. My friend made scones and homemade pudding (drool) and in return I shared potatoes and stock. We both feel it was a winning trade so we are both happy!

What about you? What frugal things have you accomplished lately?

A few more frugal things. Because what else are we doing these days?

Anyone else starting to get quarantine fatigue? Same. I miss my people. I miss grocery shopping. I miss silly things like going for a margarita with friends. That being said, I am completely good with staying home for as long as it takes to keep my loved ones (and all the other idiots out there) safe.

So here are some frugal things I have been up to lately!

  • I’ve been making some slightly unconventional meals in order to use up the food in my fridge. Today for example, I needed to use 3 celery stalks and an avocado. So I whipped up a tuna salad with canned tuna, celery and smashed avocado. Actually this is one of my favorites so it’s really not weird to me!
  • I took Holden to have a couple of lumps checked. This in itself isn’t frugal (it cost close to $400). However, knowing that they are benign instead of cancerous tumors that are growing free reign all over him is really a peace of mind that I am willing to pay for.
  • While at the vet he also got his rabies vaccine required by the county. I did this on time so I will not have to pay any fees!
  • Libraries here in Portland are still closed for the foreseeable future. le sigh. I read A LOT. So this has been a huge bummer. Luckily my mom is also quite the avid reader so I have still managed to maintain a supply of new to me books to read. They might be different than what I would have automatically reached for, but I am really enjoying trying something new!
  • Almost every weekend my parents go to their local farmer’s market and buy a flat of strawberries. I then always end up with a pint or so. I love strawberries, but my tummy doesn’t like me to eat copious amounts of them. So I’ve made quick jam just about every week. It’s just berries, sugar and lemon juice. And we eat it on toast and it’s gone within the week or so. Saves on wasting the fruit and making sure it doesn’t go bad!
The ever elusive Holden. Rarely pictured because a) he rarely sits still b) he doesn’t always photograph well!

How the corona virus is affecting my finances

mmmm…….bread

Like basically everyone on the internet, I decided to learn to make bread this weekend. A coworker offered to teach me over video chat, and it was such a cool experience!

I have literally never made bread before. And not that I need to be buying fresh bread every week, I LOVE bread. So I thought having this skill in my arsenal wouldn’t be a bad thing. We spent the better part of the day (6 hours) prepping, resting, rolling, folding, and finally baking the bread. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Was it delicious? Oh you bet your butt.

Let’s see, what else? I have been in a grocery store twice in the past 8 weeks, and this has definitely lowered my grocery bill. I am working my way through everything on hand and finding new things to use up daily. I am not going for coffee or drinks with friends, but once a week I am ordering take out from a favorite local spot. So this line item of my budget is also considerably lower. I do get an Imperfect Foods box weekly (mostly produce) so this allows me to have fresh fruits and veggies, and requires that I actually plan accordingly to eat it all.

I will admit, that the first few weeks of home quarantine I definitely spent way more money than I needed to. I was worried about all my favorite local businesses, and my favorite animal rescues, and basically threw money at them all. I don’t regret it. I feel like I’ve contributed, and I ended up with some really cool swag. (I have enough sweatshirts for all of eternity, please don’t let me buy anymore. ever.) I bought a few gifts and pre-paid for a haircut with my friend. She needs the money now and will happily cut my hair when it’s safe to do so again.

On top of that, I’m not driving regularly, and not parking downtown. This is saving me heaps of money as it costs $18 a day downtown, and I typically put gas in my car about every 10 days. Now it’s more like every 40 days. And since I am working from home I don’t need to pay for any transportation or parking costs.

All in all, I think I am probably coming in about even, maybe saving a little money. I think the longer this continues, the more I will save, balancing out the money I spent initially. How about you? How are you handling your finances through this?

Covid 19 Frugal Five

1) I’ve been eating meals on repeat so as to not waste anything. I don’t mind eating the same meal day after day. It’s actually nice not having to think about it.

2) I’ve been using up what I have, since going to the store isn’t an option. Today for lunch I had purple potatoes, broccoli and egg. Random, but it worked! And I didn’t waste those random bits of food.

3) Because I am driving so infrequently, I filled up my tank of gas this week for the first time in 5 weeks. While I typically don’t drive a ton, rarely does a tank last a month.

4) I baked blueberry muffins. My mom’s muffin recipe is amazeballs. And buying a dozen muffins anywhere would certainly cost more than the ingredients I used to make them (including frozen berries I picked last summer)

5) I traded with a friend. I offered up two quarts of chicken stock, plus a quart of chicken soup and half a dozen carrot cake cupcakes. She shared home made gnocchi and scones. It was such a lovely way to show that we care for one another, while still remaining apart. And let me tell you, that human knows what they are doing in the kitchen and I will now need to learn to make gnocchi.

What about you? What have you been up to lately?

Five Frugal Things

  1. Today I took my sweet pup to his follow up oncologist appointment. Though this may not seem frugal in and of itself, but by keeping up on his medication and his blood work I can plan for his medication without any unpleasant surprises. He gets his blood count checked regularly to be sure we are giving him the proper dosage of his medication, ultimately keeping our costs lower.
  2. Yesterday I bought a $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco. First I stripped all the meet off the bones, then I put the bones into the crock pot with some veggies I had hanging around in the freezer. (I keep a bag for any odds and ends like tops of carrots bits of celery and onion, etc.) The stock went into a huge pot and I made chicken soup with the meat. I added some potatoes I already had on hand, as well as some extra veggies. The whole thing cost only the cost of the chicken and made probably 10 to 12 servings of soup. I will freeze most of it for evenings when I’m not feeling like cooking or am under the weather (because no one wants to cook when they’re sick!)
  3. I borrowed a Harry Potter book from a friend/neighbor. I have been re-reading the books and loving every minute of it. My mom has the whole set, so I just swing by every weekend to grab the next one. This week however I was too quick and found myself finished with book 3 (Prisoner of Azkaban) without a copy of book 4 (Goblet of Fire). Desperate, I thought of all the possible ways I could get my hand on the book in the next 12 hours. Then I realized that a friend who lives less than a hundred yards away ALSO has all the books. A quick text and he said of course I could borrow his copy. No money spent, and got to have a quick visit with a friend. Win Win!
  4. Speaking of Costco, I bought only exactly what I needed yesterday while I was there: one rotisserie chicken and one 40 pound bag of dog food (this will last my two dogs about a month). Costco has really reasonably priced dog food and it’s gentle on my boys’ sensitive stomachs.
  5. Tomorrow will be my first day in the office in a week (bonus points: working from home means no temptation to eat out or grab coffee because I’m bored) and I have my lunch/snacks packed, iced coffee ready to go in the thermos tomorrow morning. I will be at work from 12-8pm so I have enough food to cover two meals and a few snacks in between. I will have no reason to purchase any food or drinks.

Frugality isn’t necessarily huge things. It’s little things, day after day, that help us achieve other goals in life. What frugal things have you been up to lately?

Charleston, completely unrelated, but ridiculously adorable

How I am choosing to spend Cyber Monday

How was your Thanksgiving everyone? Mine was lovely: quiet, with family, chill. I didn’t have to travel out of town, I didn’t have to cook a whole big meal, so I would say it was a huge success. My mom did cook most of the meal, and I was responsible for the mashed potatoes (that I think I can handle.) It was tasty and fun and nothing major happened. Just the way I like it.

please enjoy this picture of the adorable Charleston, which has absolutely nothing to do with frugality

Skip ahead to black Friday and SHOCKER, I stayed in and addressed holiday cards. I am sure there were deals in abundance out in the world, but I chose to stay in. Even if something is 60% off, that’s still money I don’t need to be spending right now. Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

I, like many people, am working on paying off some pretty hefty bills at the moment (I was in a car accident recently, and my dog had major surgery) so I have lots of bills and not exactly a lot of additional money coming in. So while it would be easy to spend money on things that I don’t need just because they are on sale, I decided to stay home. And the same goes for today, Cyber Monday. I opted to simply go to work. I took the train. I picked up books at the library. I drank the coffee provided at work. I packed my lunch. Nothing terribly exciting. And yet, all things getting me ever so slightly closer to my goal.

I will admit that I spent a decent chunk of change this weekend on a 70th birthday gift for my mother, but it was purely coincidence that it happened the weekend after Thanksgiving. I had been searching for MONTHS for the perfect gift, and it impossible to find the right thing. My brothers and I decided to go in on the gift together, so that we could get her something nicer, that she would really appreciate and wear on a regular basis. So after visiting basically every local jewelry shop in Portland (support small businesses people!) I finally found the right necklace. It suits her personality, her style, and it’s timeless. I think she will love it. And because we split the cost three ways, none of us were really hurting with this purchase.

What about you? Are you going to shop today or stay home?

Reading: my favorite frugal activity

My dad will tell you that I am the most well read individual he knows. Personally I highly doubt this to be true. But I will admit to being a voracious reader. I have a list of to-read books a mile long, and a stack next to my bed to match. I read at lunch, before bed, on public transit. I read every single day.

I like to read books recommended by friends or family, I read books mentioned in blogs or news articles, books by favorite authors, or simply books I happen upon. So ya, I read A LOT.

Most of the books I read come from the library. I update my “books on hold” list weekly, so that I have a constant supply of books available to me. Sometimes I have to wait months for a book I want to come in, but that’s part of the fun! It means I get to randomly read the new one by Murakami (one of my favorite authors) when I happen to be in picking up another book on my list.

You’ll see from the photo above it’s a “Lucky Day!” selection. These are books that typically have a waiting list a mile long. The library keeps a small number of them available so if you happen to be lucky and get to the library the day it’s available, you can check it out without the long wait! Needless to say I was VERY excited about this one.

There are still of course a few books I will always buy. Murakami tends to fall into that category. However, the last book of his to come out I was less than impressed with sadly. So I wanted to read it first to determine if I was willing to shell out the hefty price of a new hardback book. Even if I waited until it was out in paperback, it’s still close to 800 pages, so I knew it wouldn’t come cheap.

Any who, back to the library. For someone who reads as much as I do, it is a total game changer. I average anywhere from one to three books a week. Even buying used that would be a minimum of $5 a week, times 52 weeks a year. That’s a minimum of $260 a year. Even though that isn’t a huge expense, it certainly would impact anyone’s budget. If I bought a new hardback book weekly, they average close to $20! $1,040 a year! I definitely could put that money to good use elsewhere.

So I turn to the library. Our library system has branches all over town, including one just a few blocks from my parents’ house. I use this opportunity weekly to pick up my books and spend an hour or so catching up with my family. More often than not, my mom and I end up on the porch reading (I got it from my mama). And it is truly one of the best parts of my week. Sometimes I’ll also have it so that I can pick a book up from the location on my train route to work. It allows me to pick them up on my commute without having to drive anywhere. I call that a definitely win-win.

Reading calms me, centers me, reminds me of all the things that are good in this world. It allows me an escape from daily life and shows me all that life CAN be. The fact that I can get books for FREE from the library is one of my very favorite things in the world. And it happens to be super frugal to boot!

So tell me, read anything good lately?

When owning too much stuff, encourages you to own more stuff

Do you have “that pile” of paperwork, mail, and other miscellaneous things near your front door? Maybe on your kitchen counter, in the mud room, or on top of the microwave? Ours is on our bar counter (at the top of our stairs when you enter the house). It’s an easy place to drop the main, the receipts from my purse, the magazine I keep meaning to read.

……And there it all sits for an indefinite amount of time. Until weeks later, it gets tall enough that I go through it, throw most of it away, and always inevitably tell myself “I should really get a basket here to catch this stuff”. ┬áSo the question is: should be buy more stuff to organize our stuff? I have also heard this argument regarding storage totes and fancy boxes. Should we get pretty boxes to store our stuff? Or should we maybe get rid of some of the stuff? I vote for the latter.

Maybe, instead of organizing all the random crap in the closet, pull it all out and see what you really, actually need. Do I need that tennis racket from when I swore I was going to take up tennis lessons? (the answer is clearly no, I never took a single lesson!) Do I need 3 sets of sheets? When one set is “just the back up because I never really liked the pattern and they’re scratchy”? GET RID OF THE SHEETS!! We have too much crap!

I am not saying go full minimalist on me if that’s not your jam. But be mindful. Pick one area of your house, I recommend the junk drawer, and go through it. Decide what you really need. And get rid of what you don’t. You can donate it, trash it, re-home it, repurpose it. So many people would love to make good use of your excess stuff.

I recommend trying apps like Next Door or Rooster for these things. That way they can find their way into the hands of your neighbors who will actually use them! I love it! Then, when I actually need a wine opener one day, I will go on Next Door and see if someone might be offering one up. I just love the idea. cleaning out my house and helping others. It’s a community event! How cool! It’s about keeping what you need, not buying more to organize the stuff you don’t.

So, now I think I’ll go tackle that pile of stuff on my counter. Wish me luck!

I’m taking a temporary break from social media

Today is Day One of my social media break. I am initially planning a week, to test the waters. Why am I doing this? I’m glad you asked!

First of all I want to make one thing clear, I think social media can be fantastic and has it’s place in society. It allows us to find long lost friends and relatives, track down items we might otherwise struggle to find, see the far corners of the world, and so many other things. Through social media I can watch my friends’ kids grow up across the country. I can have an authentic Moroccan tagine sent to my house. I can order out of print records from the UK in the 70s. It would be far more difficult to do those things without social media. (I realize the internet is a big part of all those things, but I tend to go in Instagram or Facebook for things before searching Google.)

But there is also a side of social media that I don’t love. It puts a microscope lens on the lives of strangers. We see carefully curated images designed to sell us products, lifestyles and more. Even minimalist instagram accounts make me want to buy things. It makes me think my house is too cluttered, my kitchen too messy, my wardrobe outdated. It makes me feel like I don’t travel enough, I don’t read enough, I don’t know enough about anything. And are those things true? No! I like my life, and though I can certainly take inspiration from the images I see, I don’t need to adapt my life to fit those ideals.

The main thing I want to work on is spending associated with social media. Between videos of Pudge the Pit and pictures of foster kittens, I always manage to see products that I’d love to have in my home. Streamlined kitchen cabinets. Rose wine for the picnic in the park. Plaid shirts and overalls. Even sweaters for my dog! I see these beautiful images and can’t help but think how those products would benefit me in some way. And am I guilty of giving into that temptation? Of course! Jethro has 2 winter sweaters if that is any indicator.

Do I need the pretty things I see on social media? Probably not. But they are beautiful and perfect and curated to make me want to buy them. It’s called being an Influencer (yep, it’s a real job!) And because of this (ok it’s one of the reasons, but not the only reason) I have decided to take a break from social media. I’m going to take a week off. Anytime I am bored and find myself trying to scroll through pretty pictures, I will read some of my book. I have a book on me at all times anyway! Might as well read more. If nothing else I will make a dent in my reading list. I am already starting to realize what a time suck it is!

So for now I have uninstalled Facebook and Instagram on my phone. I am halfway through a book today alone! And I am VERY self aware as to how much time I spend on my phone. I am going to actually connect with people. I’ll call, text, email, get together with people. I may not be getting rid of technology all together, but a baby step is a start! And I’m sure it will be enlightening.

I will keep you updated this week as to how it’s going!