Saving Money and Weekly Update–October 15, 2017

 

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It was my sister’s birthday, so I made gluten-free double chocolate loaf cake with chocolate candy.  (Can you tell she likes chocolate?)  We all enjoyed it with taco bar at Family Sunday Dinner.

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She had plenty of help blowing out the candles.

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It was a beautiful day on the river, and I saw a group of kayakers paddle by while I was getting the finishing touches on the meal at my sister’s house.

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We took Patsy and Jake to a pond to see ducks.  They had a great time.  Some kind soul had put peanuts on the railing and they cracked some of them out for the ducks and left the rest for squirrels.

I took Michaela and Patsy to the YMCA pool to swim, using our membership.

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We spent several hours cleaning in the shop on Saturday.  I took a few minutes to enjoy looking at all the canning we have done.  We are doing very well using several jars of canned items each week.  I am also using several freezer items each week.  The freezers are crammed full with all the produce from summer and other items.  As much as I enjoy looking at it and knowing I have so much food at my fingertips, I really enjoy using it!  After all, I can make more next summer, and it helps me get good food on the table fast and inexpensively all winter.

I found several pictures while cleaning the shop and Rob hung up the ones I wanted in the house.  We put the rest of them in a pile to donate, along with a few other boxes of items we do not need any more.

I was able to get all the things I wanted and needed from Costco and stay within the budget I had set.  I am still searching for butter at a low price, but $3/lb is the best I’ve found at the regular store, and they were 4 boxes for around $11 at Costco, which is $2.75/lb.  So, I can live with that for now.

Rob fixed the broken part on our wood stove and we heated with wood for one day this week.  Then the weather warmed up.  It’s all ready to go for the next cold day, though.  Fall has arrived and we have had a few rainy days, then sunny ones, but always cooler, and the nights are getting very cold. We even had a light frost one morning. There are still a few items in the garden, but their days are numbered, for sure.

We went to a rummage sale, but only found a very few small items we wanted.  We will try again another less-rainy day.  I have a few things I’m looking out for.

 

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What Did We Eat? October 13, 2017

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One day, I filled 2 Crock Pots.  The night before, I had soaked a bowl of pinto beans and I divided them between the 2 pots.  In one, I made chili.  Along with the beans,  I used hamburger, celery, peppers from the garden, canned tomatoes, water, onions, 1 pint beef broth, and chili powder, salt and pepper.  In the other pot, I put beans, water, onions, peppers, salt and pepper to make refried beans.  I cooked both pots all day.  In the evening, we ate chili for dinner with cheese and onions on top, along with cornbread.  The beans were pureed and frozen for Family Sunday Dinner. They were a little thin, so I did cook them down some more until they thickened.  I will make more soon, as the kids love them so much.

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I pulled 2 packages of pork chops out of the freezer.  They had been in there for quite a while, and I’m targeting older items.  I made an apple sauce with apples, dried cranberries, green onion and apple juice.  It was a recipe I found in a gluten-free cookbook, and it was marvelous with the pork.  I opened 1 can of corn and 1 can of pickled beets Rob had found for so inexpensively a while back and we had 2 or 3 meals out of that combination.

I made quite a bit of white rice last week, and we have had it several times this week.  Wednesday, Rob made Teriyaki chicken, rice and green salad.  I marinated the chicken in the fridge, the rice was pre-cooked and he just had to cook the chicken, warm the rice, and toss the salad, while I was away at an appointment with one of the children.

I did a large pot of chicken noodle soup today.  I just made it very simply–frozen broth and frozen chicken from a couple of weeks ago, 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 onion, some poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and gluten-free egg noodles.  We had it tonight, and it was great.

Alissa made broccoli soup for Wednesday lunch and used broccoli from the garden.  Those 5 bushes are still sending out some side shoots every few days.  It was very strong when it was so hot, but with all this rain, it’s very mild and tasty again.  Ja’Ana made another batch of cornbread, her second this week. She really likes cornbread, as we all do, because we’ve eaten 2 batches almost all the way up!

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I finally got the lasagna made, and it is almost all gone!  There was extra filling left and I froze it for another day.

There are just a few odds and ends of most leftovers left for tomorrow, and a lot of soup.  I hope to cook a few items tomorrow for next week.

We had oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, cereal and fruit for breakfasts.  We had these meals for dinners and lunches during the week.  We made a lot of caramel corn and ate it for snacks, along with some krispie treats.

I feel really good about the fact that I worked on or used up several partial packages of things that had been on the shelves for quite a while and also pulled several items from the freezers and canning cupboards.  I also finally bought 2 boxes of butter for $3/box (fuss, fuss–above my price point) and the kids promptly made a lot of caramel corn with most of it (yum, yum!–so it was worth it)  So, it’s back to the butter search:)

I did do some grocery shopping at last, and spent about $75.  I got my big box of coffee for $20 for 80 coffee pods.  That makes them 25c each and that is a good price for those.  The rest was for things like the butter, dairy products, a head of lettuce, celery, drinks for Rob’s lunch, odds and ends, etc. I still need to do a small Costco run, and will need milk again soon, even though my sister gave me an extra gallon she had.  You just never know around here.  We can go for an entire week on 1 gallon of milk, then go through 2-3 the next week.

Happy eating at your house!

 

Saving Money and Weekly Update–October 8, 2017

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One of the highlights of this week was visiting the library, where a model train club had set up a large track and a couple of small ones for the viewing pleasure of anyone who came, all for free.  Michaela loves trains.  When she was little, she often would watch a video called “Trains Across America” that Rob got at a garage sale and has been very focused on trains for all of her life.  She had a blast! The retired gentlemen were very patient and eager to answer all of her many, many questions.  Some let her even carefully touch certain trains, and more than one of them was trying to work out a way that she could have her own set-up.  I simply said it was up to her parents:)

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They set up a couple of smaller sets, too.  There were a few interactive train sets.  Jake and Michaela loved them!

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The kids’ big sister, Caitlyn, met Ja’Ana and I at the library and we all enjoyed the exhibit.    Jake and Michaela had to be pried away after almost 2 hours.  Caitlyn had already ran out and added money to her meter, and mine was running out, so we finally went back to my house.  I am not sure how long the kids could have stayed, maybe forever, but Caitlyn was going to take Michaela to her horse riding and so Jake hung at our house while they did that.

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Another day, I took them to the library after school.  I keep their library books in my car, or at my house and they enjoy them when they are riding around or visiting me.  That way, they don’t get mixed up with books at their house.  Rob took Patsy to the library on a different night.

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I picked and froze more raspberries this week.  I cut off most of my basil and turned it into a simple pesto.  Mine has basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and a small amount of Parmesan cheese.  I froze it in ice cube trays, popped the cubes out, and froze the cubes in a bag.  If the bushes grow more, I’ll make more, but this amount makes me very happy.  I use it in salad dressing and on pasta.  I also occasionally spread it on bread for sandwiches.  It’s nice on chicken, too, and is very economical since I don’t use any nuts in it, and only a small amount of cheese.

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This week, we emptied quite a few jars of home-canned goodness.  It’s nice to start using what I worked so hard on.  I have been bringing a few jars of fruit at a time into the kitchen and chilling them in the fridge to make the fruit more tempting.  I also had some cottage cheese and it goes nicely with peaches or pears, so some got used that way, too.

I have not gone grocery shopping in October, yet.  One reason is that I stocked up so well in September that I haven’t needed anything, yet.  The other reason is that I caught a cold, and was not in the mood to shop.  Since I’ve budgeted $50/week, plus a small Costco run, I will now have $100 to spend this week.  What I generally do in a case like this (well stocked up, don’t really need much) is just keep the money in an envelope and wait until I see a basic ingredient that is on sale for a very good price (like butter for $2 or cheese for $5 for 2 lbs) and then stock up on a bunch of it.  That way I am always using ingredients I bought for the lowest possible price and my food is getting used and rotated.  I will also need a few things, like milk, in a few days.  Since I’m not the only one who doesn’t feel tip-top, no one is eating much, so things are holding out longer than usual and there’s always applesauce…..

Someone accidentally spilled something in the fridge, and I discovered it.  What I thought was going to be a quick wipe-up turned out to be a big fridge cleaning.  The silver lining is that I was able to get it organized and cleaned.  Now I know what’s in there and will use the odds and ends up, got rid of quite a few questionable items, and have no more odd odor and dried-on ??? on the bottom.   I was ruthless and did not even entertain the idea of keeping a few things that had been in there for a long time.  I finally made the lasagna I wanted to make, so that will be in there once it cools enough.  There is some rice and orange chicken from the other day, even though we ate it again last night.  So, one of my next jobs will be deciding on a couple more things to cook for the week ahead, since that will only take care of tonight and tomorrow.  Once I do cook them, there will be plenty of space in the fridge to put them!  That’s always a good feeling for me:)

Is there anything lurking in your fridge that needs to go?  Or any meals you want to put in there for the week ahead?

 

What Did We Eat? October 6, 2017

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Last weekend, I cooked so much food!  I roasted 2 chickens and made broth, which I canned most of.  I also had leftover roast beef and a few other things still in the fridge and was able to pick a few things from the garden.  My main focus this week was to use that up since I had gone to all the work of cooking it.

Monday:  Each person chose leftovers for dinner.  I had roast beef and veggies.

Tuesday:  Chicken-noodle casserole.  I used cooked chicken, carrots, celery, onion, noodles, and a home-made white sauce.  I used rice flour to thicken it, and gluten-free noodles.  I topped it with cheese.  I picked a few peas from the garden.  There weren’t enough to serve as a side dish, but enough to give this casserole some color.

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Wednesday:  We had sandwiches.  I had a package of lunchmeat, and we used that.  I made pesto that day, so for mine, I used a toasted, gluten-free bun spread with pesto, piled with lunchmeat, tomato and topped with cheese and baked in the oven until the cheese melted.

For lunch that day, my mom and aunt come over and Alissa made cheesy-potato soup and Ja’Ana made coconut shrimp with peach-lime dipping sauce.  We have enough frozen shrimp for her to make it one more time and so I froze her coatings.  There was a lot left and as long as no one eats them raw (who would eat bread crumbs or coconut and crumbs anyway around here?), and they are kept frozen, they can be finished up with the rest of the shrimp.  She will just need to crack another egg.  I had purchased this bag of frozen shrimp at Grocery Outlet a while back and it was a really good deal.  ($5/lb) Sadly, when I went back for another bag, they were gone.  I’ll keep looking.  I like to have some around for the holidays or other special occasions, but it doesn’t last long, and I have to get a really good deal to feel like buying it very often.

Thursday:  Orange chicken.  The recipe I found used snow peas, and I’m getting more of those right now from the garden so wanted to use them.  The sauce was basically  cornstarch-thickened orange juice with soy sauce and ginger, and I juiced 2 oranges I got in a reduced bag with 2 grapefruits at Fred Meyers–they needed to be used.  I used other juice to make up the cup I needed, as I don’t have any orange juice on hand right now.  I added some Manderin oranges to it.  I made and ate it at lunch time, left it in the fridge, and then realized that Rob ate potato soup for dinner instead.  Works for me:)

Friday:  Baked potatoes with toppings.  Rob made this.  He had shredded cheese, ham bits, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper as choices.  I made a lot of white rice in my Instant Pot this morning, so that’s in the fridge for tomorrow, minus the small amount that was eaten for breakfast.

Saturday:  I plan to serve the rest of that orange chicken with the rice.  I also may do tacos for the other meal.  There is still some casserole left and more potato soup.

For breakfasts and lunches we have had refried beans, cheese and chips, rice, cereal and leftovers.  It was an extremely low-budget week, when everything was averaged out, and I have not had to buy a single thing in the month of October yet.  I’m going to check the store flyers on line and see if there’s anything that’s on a great sale that I want, otherwise, I won’t need to go for a few days anyway.

I’m fighting with a cold that we have generously passed around from family member to family member, so haven’t felt like cooking much the past couple of days.  I will figure out a few things to cook tomorrow and Sunday for the week ahead, as I am on the mend. I have frozen spaghetti sauce, STILL, and want to make lasagna, STILL.  Maybe this week:)  I’ve said that for the past several weeks!

 

Saving Money and Weekly Update–October 1, 2017

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I picked a bouquet from the garden and yard.  Even though things are starting to wind down around here, with the advent of fall, there are still nice flowers to be had.  They seem to be perking up a bit since it started raining.

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I did a bit of late-night canning.  Thankfully, the covered porch has a really good light!  I am hoping to finish up what I want to can soon, so we can thoroughly clean this area up.  It’s on the “targeted” list!

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I had wanted to try plum sauce this year, and I love how pretty it looks in the jar.  It used the last of the Italian prunes, and has hot peppers in it, but they didn’t give much of a “kick” to it, so I added some red pepper flakes.  It still isn’t very spicy, but is good.  It’s more like a barbeque sauce than a jam, and Rob plans to use it for that.  If we like it, we will make more next year.

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I bought 2 chickens for 88c/lb.  I roasted them both, then Rob made a huge kettle of broth from the bones.  In the end, for around $10, we got several quart-sized bags of frozen chicken meat, 7 quarts of broth and 6 pints.  I canned the broth.  I do freeze broth as well, but sometimes, I like the convenience of canned broth and the fact that it is shelf-stable, so I always have some on hand.  I also have pretty full freezers at this point, with all the fruit, meat, and reduced-priced bread I have them stuffed with.

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I took the 1-2 cups of raspberries and strawberries (mixed) that I picked on Friday and thickened them up into a sauce, using sugar, white grape juice and cornstarch.  Then, I made a recipe for some cake-like bars I used to make, converting them to gluten-free.  They were perfect for my contribution to family Sunday dinner.

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I poured the thickened berry sauce on top of the cake-like batter and baked.  After it was done, I made some cinnamon-spiced buttercream frosting and thinned it out with milk until it was the right consistency to drizzle onto the cooled bars.  They turned out great!

Rob stopped by a cannery that is in our area.  He found slightly dented cans of various items, with no labels, for $2.50 per case.  For smaller cans, there were 24 in a case, and the large cans (pumpkin), were 12 to a case.  So, the cans were around 10c or 20c a can, according to size.  He got a few cases, some for us, and some to share.  I was especially happy to get the pumpkin since I grew neither pumpkin or squash successfully this year, and he bought himself pickled beets.  Even though I made a few jars, he can eat them every day, if they are available, and has downed 2 cans already.  I made a pumpkin pie, pumpkin custard, and pumpkin cookies–all from the one can I opened.  It held about 3 cups of pumpkin.

I picked purple beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, raspberries, a few strawberries, and zucchini this week from the garden.

I cooked too much food:)  I had to freeze some of it.  This week, I will be working on using some of those frozen meals, and other items I have stuffed in every corner of the freezers, such as the 59c/loaf bread I got a while back.

 

Menu Plan–Week of Sept. 24, 2017

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I have been wanting to make a menu plan for a few weeks, but haven’t had time.  I’ve been too busy gathering, canning, and preserving for winter.  I will assure you, we have been eating never-the-less!  Now, it’s time to plan meals that use my preserved food.  I am not one to can/freeze food and then want to hoard it.  I figure I’ve gone to all that work, now I want to use it up!

I usually plan one meal for each evening, and plan the leftovers for lunches and perhaps one night later in the week.  This week, I’m trying something a little different.

When I plan menus, it saves me time, money and stress.  Since I get home at 6:30, 3 nights a week, the rest of the family gets hungry before I get there most of the time.  Last week, I made chicken breast, drumsticks and turkey meatloaf on the weekend, and put them in the fridge.  Then, it was easy for Rob to grab what he wanted, make a couple of side dishes, and serve dinner.  The girls clean up the dishes, since it’s their chore, and they save me a plate.  Except for the night they didn’t, but that’s another story:)

I asked him how it worked, and he said it helped him a lot.  When he gets home from his job, he is tired, but has been trying to do at least 1 extra job around the house or shop each evening.  I’m all for that!! So, if dinner is cooked or in the Crock pot, it makes that do-able for him.  Because I have appointments for the girls both Wednesday afternoon and Friday afternoon, I will make sure the meals are pre-cooked those days, as well, or in the Crock Pot.

Sunday: We had ham and scalloped potatoes for our family Sunday dinner.  My sister hosted this week, and I made a small broccoli salad, marinated cucumber salad, and lettuce salad.  I used garden produce in all 3 salads, with only a few purchased items.  The garden is coming to an end, but there are still items out there, and I want to use them.

Food for Rob to choose from for the next few days and lunches for himself and the girls.  I will also use some for lunches during the week:

I cooked a roast in the crock pot while I was gone today.  He can serve it as meat on a plate, or take it in his lunch, or make a sandwich.

Spaghetti sauce:  I will make this and use it for lasagna one day, and spaghetti another.  I have a quart of tomatoes that did not seal and needs using up.  I also have zucchini from the garden, and I may make part of the noodles in the lasagna out of them.  I usually put a little chard in the sauce, too.

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I am cooking up some taco meat right now.  If people are hungry after evening youth group, they can have tacos, if not, it will be a choice in the fridge.

I want to do a beef stew with carrots, since I have 4 gallon Ziplocks left from what we dug up.  I also have some garden potatoes and onions.

You may notice a lot of beef-based meals.  Let’s just say we had a LOT of chicken last week:)

I want to do either potato soup or clam chowder.

I have a loaf of rosemary potato bread I got from the day-old section when I visited Bob’s Red Mill.  We had some for lunch today, but will add the rest to meals during the week.  The non gluten-free ones in the family love having a treat that has wheat in it occasionally.  Since I don’t even keep a speck of all-purpose flour in the house, I don’t mind buying them things when I can.  I always have whole wheat bread for their sandwiches, but I don’t make it anymore.

I plan to make gluten-free foccocia bread.  I have a recipe that has zucchini and parmesan on top.  It’s good.  I will also make cornbread, as Rob is hungry for that.  If there is time, a batch of muffins would be great for breakfasts.  Of course, I can make any other baked item that comes to mind, if I have time.

In the garden, we still have purple beans, lettuce for salads, cucumbers marinading in the fridge, snow peas and raspberries.  The cherry and pear tomatoes are still producing well, but the larger tomatoes are not very prolific any more.  Still, I may get a few.  The basil and cilantro are great from the last planting I did.  There is chard and kale, and a few zucchini and peppers.  I have 1 head of lettuce from the store to mix with my limited supply of leaf lettuce, and can start buying a few veggies, if needed.  I think there will be plenty for this week in the garden, though.  We should use some of the preserved green beans if we run low on fresh produce.  There are an AWFUL lot of them out there in the shop:)  It’s so fun to look back on our summer’s labor, and just settle down to start eating it up!

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Now, I will get busy cooking.  I will do a couple of things tonight, and likely the rest tomorrow.   I will continue searching this week for a great deal on Rob’s coffee pods, and butter for a price I like:)  Otherwise, I think we are set for a while.

 

 

 

Saving Money and Weekly Update–Sept. 23, 2017

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I enjoyed this gorgeous cloudscape one evening as I was heading home from work.  The late-day rays of light were glorifying the edges of the clouds.  That’s about all the sun we saw all week!  Thankfully, we got a good week of solid, soaking rain, just what we needed to soak everything well, including the forest, where so many fires are raging.  They aren’t all out, yet, but the firefighters are making progress now.  I can’t even imagine how much money rain saves!  Even more than money, I am hopeful that lives and the forests will be saved.

Our week was filled with normal, everyday activities like school, work and church.  There was just a lot to do, as we were trying to do some extra cleaning on some evenings. We ate a lot of chicken, since I cooked a little too much last weekend.  It was nice to have meals to just warm up.  I did add in a meatloaf and one night, we just had sandwiches, as we were super busy that evening.  On another, it was chili dogs with canned chili and warmed up turkey dogs.  It is always cheaper to make my own chili, but it is always cheaper to open a can then to go out to dinner.  So, once in a while,  I do that.

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The big girls enjoyed a good tickle-fest with their little friend, Danait, who was “fixing” them up with her doctor kit when we went to visit this week.  We accomplished some important errands, and had a good visit. Of course this always includes the wonderful coffee Harnet makes.  She roasts the beans on the spot, grinds them, and makes the coffee.  I am not a coffee drinker, but what she makes is so good, I always enjoy having some.  It sure perks me up, no matter how tired I am:)  We were also treated with more genuine Eritrean food–red lentils cooked with peppers and tomatoes, beef stew with vegetables and spicy peppers, yellow rice, and injera bread for the girls.  Ja’Ana really likes that injera bread.

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This dresser/desk had only 2 knobs.  Harnet could not get the drawers open without a great deal of trouble.   It was so hard to open them that she was not able to use the drawers except for seldem-used items.  She thought she would have to go to Goodwill and get a new one, not knowing it was possible to simply replace the knobs.  Rob got new knobs for very little, and provided me with the proper screwdrivers and instructions on how to fasten them on.  I, with a little help from Danait, removed the 2 remaining knobs, and put the new knobs on.  Harnet is so, so happy with how it looks, and so am I.  She was absolutely delighted to not have to purchase another one, and kept saying it was just like having a new one.  I agree.  The knobs make it much prettier than it was before.

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The garden perked up from the rain.  The zucchini and peppers look much better, although still not great.  I used 1 of my 5 gallon bags of carrots this week.  I targeted the smallest ones, peeled them and cut them into carrot sticks.  Some were pretty tiny so I didn’t have to cut them much.  I sauted them in a little butter, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of brown sugar.  I made carrot sticks with the rest.

I picked more lettuce, snow peas, cucumbers, zucchini, cherry and pear tomatoes, broccoli and purple beans.  I got 3 quarts of raspberries to freeze.  The garden is winding down, but I picked enough to both eat, and share this week.

Ja’Ana had a friend over to spend the night Friday night.  Patsy had an all-night party at church and Lovana was gone as well, with friends.  So, the 2 girls wanted to go roller skating,  There is a place that J’s friend knew about that is a basketball court most days, but they have skating on Friday nights for only $5.  They had a blast.

I am nearing the end of my project of re-stocking my pantry.  I recently read a post by another blogger about various ways people did pantry challenges.  Apparently, some people let their pantries go down to almost empty before they re-stock them.  I do it differently.  If I used absolutely everything up, I cannot imagine how much it would cost to replace it all, and I would no longer have a stockpile. I use up the oldest items that have been hanging around for a while, ends of packages that were opened at some point, things that are close to expiring, vegetables from the garden, freezer, etc.  I force myself to be creative with those targeted items and use them instead of new groceries, but I always re-stock things I run out of as soon as I can.  I like to buy things at the lowest prices possible, so have been doing a lot of buying on sale the last 3 weeks, going from store to store to get the best prices, and visiting specialty stores for items that can be bought no where else (such as some gluten-free items and the sunthenine-melatonin tablets Patsy takes before bed to help her sleep).  I also sent Rob to Costco, which I do every couple of months and he got the things I get there, such as Ziplock bags, t.p., and some other things.   I was able to get up to Bob’s Red Mill on Saturday, and got some things there.  Their bulk bins are reasonable for the 1-1 gluten-free flour (almost $1/lb cheaper than in a package around here), but it is quite far from my house, so I only go if I am going to be in the area for another reason.  There are still a few items left to get, such as more coffee and butter, but I’m waiting until I find some for a good price.  Then, I’ll be good to go for a while again without spending so much time and money at the store.

It has become almost comical how almost daily someone is letting me know we are out of another item.  Toilet paper, razors, deodorant, 1-1 gluten free flour, pasta, sugar, mayo, dish soap, laundry soap, and lots more are now back in stock, at least for now.  I wonder what they will tell me I need tomorrow:) Months like this make me glad I have a nice stockpile.  Without it, I would be buying all of these things PLUS our daily groceries.

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I enjoyed it so much when this happy little girl’s mama dressed her up for me in her full African regalia.  She was so proud to show me, and I loved it, too!  A while back her mama had asked me to mend a small tear in the scarf, which I gladly took home to work on, and she wanted me to see how the whole outfit looked, when I returned the mended scarf this week.