Spending $1.97 for Sweaters with a $104.00 SRP

A few weeks ago I had received some discount and cash off coupons that Kohls so generously sent my way. I have a tendency to ignore these unless we have a need for something, and that particular week we had some things that we both needed. So off we went to see what we could find. Well, we found plenty, although we were both a little stunned at the cost of hose for me, and socks for him, and we won’t even talk about the cost of underwear. Basically, I was beginning to think they were being custom made in the back room, simply for our needs!

Okay, a little transparency: I do not shop frequently, and when I do everything is on sale and I try to buy things in bulk so that I do not have to return anytime soon. Apparently I was away for far longer than I thought, at least for these type items. Well, we left with the basics, and obviously with no extra’s to stash away for when these items might need to be replaced, but we did leave with a $10 Kohl’s cash coupon. I personally do not enjoy this gimmick to get people to return and spend money, so much so, that I will give them to one of my daughters or someone else if they are in need of something at Kohl’s. In addition, I do not believe in credit cards, yet they can work if you only spend what you have available to spend. The only reason I have a Kohl’s card is for the discounts they send my way.

Well, since that visit, I acquired various coupons along with that Kohls cash.  For some reason Kohl’s decided to send me $10 for the Veteran’s day weekend through the mail and another one (different code) via email. Then another $10 because I willingly said “sure” I’ll be happy to get my bill via email”, and another one for the “yes2you” rewards program. Needless to say, I had $50 that I was having a difficult time saying “no” to. Mind you I was a little bummed that they were not offering any % discounts on top of all this savings, but one must not be greedy while being thankful for what one has.

So tonight I returned to Kohl’s thinking that first I will get a few extra pair of hose, but wanted to check out the dresses and sweaters. I found one sweater dress that looked amazing on me, but even on sale, the “see through winter look” was not the fashion statement I was looking for, and certainly NOT for the $79 sale price. I know, I hear some of you ladies thinking, but it would only net out to $29!!  Okay, sure, a great deal, but I struggled in knowing that this sweater dress was noticeably see through. In addition, I just paid off my Kohl’s card for that previous purchase and I had no intention of adding more to it.

So, I browsed a bit, and finally selected a few classic sweaters and a fashionable cardigan. These will work well with dress pants, jeans, and skirts. Yes, I thought about the full wardrobe benefit before cashing in my FREE money. So three sweaters later, my husband and I walk to the register. The total rings up as $51.97 before the coupons. And yes, you math wizards have calculated my total correctly. I ended up putting $1.97 on my Kohl’s charge, and only because they insist that you use their credit card to utilize some of the discounts. Silly them!!

Don’t you just love it when the cashier looks at the total dollars saved and announces  that “you saved $102.03 on  your order today”. They are so perky that I really hate to disappoint them. Seriously, I saved $50, NOT $102.03, because you see, I would never pay full price knowing that Kohl’s always has things on sale and many times for 40-50% off their regular price.

My husband loves shopping with me, not because he enjoys waiting for me to decide what I will be buying for the lowest price possible, but rather to see how much I will not be spending. As we left this evening with my gleeful giggles, he chuckled and asked if I could find a way to save at BassPro and leave there spending no more than $5.00 for his wish list of a new tree stand, a new pistol for each of us and a rifle. Hmmm…guess I need to do some serious thinking there. So far I have not accumulated much on their reward card, so that could take awhile. Yet, if we win their huge sweepstakes they currently have going on, we could walk away with more than his wish list. Then again, I’m not sure I really want to win considering the tax implications.

Being frugal is not about being cheap, but rather about using your resources wisely.

Laura – Frugal Value Lifestyle

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Feeding the Winter Birds

Feeding our Winter Feathered Friends Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Feeding our Winter Feathered Friends – added our homemade suet to pinecones
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

One of the things I enjoy doing is feeding the birds that frequent our feeders. Today is one of those days that we knew the birds would be seeking extra food with the snowstorm making its way in. Plus, I had some pine cones I wanted to fill with the suet along with some old onion bags I wanted to fill and hang on the trees for them.

This morning, after spending time in the kitchen creating some suet filled pinecones, round suet balls and suet cakes – within minutes we had our first visitor 🙂 Many feathered friends took advantage of their new delicious treat before the storm!

Sometimes one can find suet on sale, but we have found it to be less expensive to make it on our own. Plus, we usually have plenty of the ingredients required already on hand.

Making  your own suet is easy:

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet – some ingredients we use
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
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Your basic recipe is 2:2:1 mix

  • 2 parts melted fat (bacon fat, suet, lard, and you can even use shortening)
  • 2 parts yellow cornmeal (you can also make it with half flour and half cornmeal, although cornmeal is the healthier option)
  • 1 part peanut butter (for some reason no one seems to get to the bottom of the jar of peanut butter prior to opening a new one, so with a rubber spatula, I have been putting the different ones together in one jar, just for this purpose – okay, as you can see, I really do not like to see things wasted.)

We melt the basic ingredients together, so that it can easily be mixed together, then once mixed through, we add berries and seeds. It should be thick enough where one can mold it together into containers such as old suet squares (of previously purchased or gifted suet cakes), tuna cans, made into round balls and hung in used onion bags, etc. Use your imagination.

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
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We have even made wreaths with suet, but we found that the entertainment of squirrels swinging on them, resulted in it becoming more beneficial to the squirrels than the birds. Yes, it landed on the ground in pieces with the squirrels enjoying their party, while the birds were left with nothing.

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

NOTE: I found that the easiest way to make the round balls was to put the mix into a plastic sandwich bag, then mold it. This kept my hands from getting messy with seed and oils.

NOTE: A nice benefit of using cotton string is that the birds will use it for nesting in the spring.

I really enjoy making these treats for the birds. Today was very beneficial for us, because we were able to harden these suet items quickly in the garage, due to the extreme cold outside. Otherwise we would have put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Since we use them mostly in the winter months, we keep them stored in a sealed container (to keep the mice away) in the garage.

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
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Please NOTE some things one needs to understand is that there are some items that should NOT be included in your homemade suet.

  • Bread – it is fine to feed them small quantities of bread yet bread is not really full of the nutritional value they need. Yet, if you decide you want to feed them some bread, be sure it has healthy grains with peanut butter and seeds added – sure, create them a sandwich and cut into small pieces.
  • Junk Food – such as potato chips, cookies, cheese puffs, etc. They have very little nutritional value, and are certainly not designed for animal consumption. Plain popcorn strung with fruit is a much better option.
  • Honey – Although honey is a natural sweetener, it can still harbor bacteria, which makes it a home for mold growth.
  • Raw Meat – these foods can spoil very quickly and should not be given to our flying friends.
  • Old Nectar – again, if it is old, if showing signs of floating objects or is discolored, it is spoiled and now harbors bacteria – TOSS IT!! This is an easy item to make, so you do not even need to purchase it, saving you the concern of it going bad. Here is a recipe for making your own nectar for orioles and hummingbirds – Homemade Hummingbird & Oriole Nectar
  • Pesticides – Be very careful about the seeds and berries you feed your birds. Some are treated with pesticides, herbicides and potentially other toxic chemicals.
Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Feeding our Winter Feather Friends with Homemade Suet
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
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~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Candle Scents Continue Burning

Keep the candle incense burning even when the wick stops burning.  NOTE: Be sure to keep safe from little curious hands. Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Keep the candle incense burning even when the wick stops burning.
NOTE: Be sure to keep safe from little curious hands.
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

If you are one who enjoys the quality candle scents one finds at shops that sell Yankee candles or even the candles sold at Bed and Bath, you are keenly aware that these candles continue to provide a scent much longer than most inexpensive candles.

As the candle continues to burn, yet flickers out with candle left in the jar, one might consider throwing the jar and candle completely away. Personally, since these candles are not inexpensive, I have a hard time tossing what remains.  So instead of tossing, I continue to burn the scent. How might you ask?

1st – you need to remove the candle wax from the glass jar. I do this by putting the cooled candle and jar into the freezer for a day or two. This process makes it easier for you to break the wax apart, allowing you to remove it from its glass container. Sometimes the wax is already cracked for me, yet if not, I take a dull knife and put pressure on the wax until it breaks. Finally removing the chunks of wax.

2nd – place a few of these chunks in an oil burning unit, where you would normally place the oil, then below place your tea light. The tea light warms up the wax, making it liquid, allowing you to continue enjoying your favorite candle scents.

NOTE: The scent in the picture was that of Chocolate Mint, so the chunks look like chocolate chunks…BE SURE to LABEL your container or storage bag and KEEP AWAY from little curious hands.

Now, what about that beautiful glass jar that your candle arrived in?

1st, you need to clean this out, using hot soapy water. Let it sit for a bit if necessary, understanding that you might need to repeat.

Two Options:

  1. Personally, I take the jars and use them as storage units. NEVER for preserving foods, but have used them for gift containers for covered candies. I use them for paper clips, sewing supplies, etc. Once the labels are removed, they are clear containers with lids, that are functional as well as decorative.
  2. Use as gift containers.  NEVER for presenting preserved foods such as jams, jellies, etc. You can never be too sure that you have removed all the wax. I have used them as gift containers for covered candies – consider hiding a gift card within the candles. A sweet treat for any recipient. If you bake cookies (for the larger jars) be sure they are in those cellophane food bags, that not only protect the taste from potential wax residue, but also gives the jar a decorative look as well.
  3. Make new candles – this is an easy craft, but can be dangerous if you are not careful. Instead of using the wax chunks as burning chips, you can save them to reuse in new candles. Use new wax, creating your own candles. Ask friends who typically burn candles if they toss their jars, if so they might provide you the containers to work with. Craft stores provide incense oils that can be added to your wax, along with a variety of supplies. In a future post I will share how I have made candles in the past.

NOTE: For those who decide to make new candles, you might be able to reuse the wick holders that are left if you are careful in removing them from the bottom of your glass container. If not, they are not very expensive and can be found in craft stores.

Laura – Frugal Value Lifestyle

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Taking Natural Birch and Lighting Things Up

 

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch. This is a set of three which I enjoyed displaying together as a unit. Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch.
This is a set of three which I enjoyed displaying together as a unit.
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Other than Oak, one of my favorite trees, regardless of season is that of White Birch.  It has character that shares strength with delicate features. I love the white that is shadowed with black from wounds created by nature.

This past spring I started to look for fallen white birch along my path, yet when I spotted any, it was rotted to the core. My husband and father’n law knew that I wanted this for some project, not quite sure what, but set in hopes to locate some in their travels as well.

Upon a visit my husband made to his dad’s house, he was gifted with some beautiful pieces of birch that had fallen along the paths that my father’n law frequented. He was not sure whether it would work for what I had envisioned, but felt it was worth picking up and carrying home. My husband told his dad that although he did not know what my plans were, he was pretty confident it included some of his help.

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch. This piece fits nicely on a bookcase as one enters into our living room.  Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch.
This piece fits nicely on a bookcase as one enters into our living room.
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

He was correct. There are two gifts that he is working on for me, one which is completed, while the other gift item we are waiting a spell to see how the birch dries. After he completed these two gift items, there was plenty for him to  use his own creative mind to make some projects he felt I would enjoy during this season of holiday decorating.

So, with a little time to set-up, cut, and drill, these candle holders were made. I am thrilled to no end, appreciating his thoughtfulness in making me something out of nature he was sure I would enjoy. He chose to use the battery operated candles, so that I did not have to worry about making sure the candle did not burn too low, plus one would not want to put an actual burning candle in a piece of wood.

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch. This log piece has five candles and my preference was to have it in my window sharing a more natural, flickering display. Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch.
This log piece has five candles and my preference was to have it in my window sharing a more natural, flickering display.
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Using nature with added love, time and talent, a warm and inviting decor has been added to our home.  The only cost was the battery candle lights, that were purchased at a reduced price.

One can purchased fallen, cut birch at Michaels now.  My husband and I were surprised, yet we are grateful that we were able to do this with natural resources that we already have available to us. The battery tea lights can be found at a multiple of craft stores, but use your resources wisely, and take advantage of sales and coupons that your store might offer.

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch. Here I have the set sitting in our kitchen window. Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

One of the different candle holders my husband made using a fallen birch.
Here I have the set sitting in our kitchen window.
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle
www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Laura – Frugal Value Lifestyle

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Outdoor Christmas Swag

Using greens from our backyard pine trees and other items already on hand to create a beautiful Holiday door decoration Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle

Using greens from our backyard pine trees and other items already on hand to create a beautiful Holiday door decoration
Laura of Frugal Value Lifestyle

Part of our Christmas decorating allowed me the luxury of making my own side door decoration. In the past I have used a wreath that I previously decorated and re-used each year, maybe changing the trims a little. This year I wanted something with live greens, yet still wanting to keep our expenses low, meaning that I was not planning on purchasing a wreath or new trims.

  • Holiday Frugality 101a: I never throw away trims that are in great condition from prior year decorations and gifts. I remove them and safely put them away for future decorating use.
  • Holiday Frugality 101b: I never buy new trims at full price, or even at 50% off sales.  Sometimes one can acquire them at 75% off close to the holiday, but better deals can be found when they stores want to seriously make room and sell off items from 75% – 90% off the SRP.
  • Holiday Frugality 101c: If it is something I can do on my own, then why would I pay someone else to do the job? Plus, I love being creative.

As I was placing holiday potpourri, that I let soak in holiday scented oils throughout the year, both my husband and I thought a little greenery would set these little scented containers off quite nicely. Immediately i thought about our side door.

As we continued the decorating, I decided to go through my collection of wreath ornaments and trim. In that stash were blue and silver wreath ornaments, pine cones with bells from a prior year wreath, along with some blue and silver ribbon just waiting for a purpose to be used.

So, taking some of the greenery from our yard along with wreath ornaments and ribbon I already had on hand I made a decorative holiday sway for our side door. With a few minutes of my husbands time in cutting the pieces I used, some twine and time, I had a decorative piece that I was pleased and excited to place on our side door welcoming guests to our home.

This years decoration was minimal in price as the items came from nature, reused from prior year decorations, yet in pricing out what I did spend on the ornaments and ribbon in a prior year, the cost was just under $3.00.

Use what you have while adding a little love and creativity while you enjoy your holiday.  Christmas is not about how much you spend, but rather the joy and love you spread.

Merry Christmas, from my backdoor to you 🙂

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Healthy and Fit for the Frugal Minded

You CAN be healthy and fit!  The decision is a choice.  But you need to eat healthy as well as exercise.  If you choose a Fitness Club, then be sure to use it.  If you do not have the resources to participate in a Fitness Club, then use what is already available to you…for free!!

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When I was younger, I belonged to a fitness club that was on my way to work.  Most mornings I would stop in, workout for an hour, shower then move on to my workday.  I always enjoyed starting my day this way.  Occasionally I would meet my husband after work, where we would do our workouts together.

As time elapsed, and children began entering the picture, the time to utilize the club was becoming inconvenient as well as costly.  Eventually, many of these health club centers closed down in which we lost some of our investment.  Eventually we decided that it was no longer worth the investment due to our lack of time to get there and our need to pick up our girls from daycare.

Fortunately there are some health clubs that remain in business with the goal of meeting the needs within the community, with the added desire to see those who arrive, become and remain fit.

Club memberships are beneficial when you use them.  Look for deals that can work within your budget without ever needing to forgo a mortgage payment.  If you cannot pay your rent (or mortgage), utilities, car payment (if you have one), fuel and groceries, you cannot afford a fitness club membership.

If you can fit the cost of a club membership into your budget, but never use it, then you are wasting money that could be better used elsewhere, such as an investment plan or small savings account.

Personally, the cost of the fitness club can be tempting, but it does not fit within our personal budget at this time.  Between the cost and the expense of fuel to drive there, we are not able to justify this becoming a monthly bill for us at this time.  Then again, I can self motivate myself to exercise at home.

So, what does one do when they do not have the resources to be part of a fitness club or an exercise program at your local community center or job-site, yet you desire to be fit?  Well, lets look at the options:

  1. Walking – this can be done outdoors most days.  Days that I am unable to walk due to the weather, I utilize the stairs in my house, as well as walk within the house.  I realize that this sounds boring, but it works.  And, you can do it anytime of the day, listening to upbeat music, in your jammies if you must (personally I feel motivated being dressed to work-out), but walk!!
  2. Spring, summer and fall you have hiking and biking options.
  3. Another option is to drive to your local mall and walk the halls.  Many people do this and enjoy meeting up with friends as it motivates them.
  4. Take to your stairs in your home or apartment.  Call me crazy, but when I first started this, all I could accomplish was four times.  Now I am up to twelve.  It is harder than you think if you do not do this daily.
  5. Put in some upbeat music and exercise.  There are LOADS of exercises available in magazines, online (check out SparkPeople.com), books at the library and more.  I have a notebook of exercises from ones I’ve collected and tried along with what physical therapists have shared with me.
  6. Add low weights to your exercise program to keep your arms from developing what I call “bat wings”.  I’m still working at this…as we get older it is not so easy to get rid of what we gained.

I am not saying that having a club membership is a bad investment if you have the resources to participate.  There are some facilities that from time to time offer a great deal, which makes the investment worthwhile.  But, be sure to go!!  They have people to train you for their equipment so that you get great results!!

Many who purchase memberships, do so with the intention of making it to the club at least three times a week or more, but life can sometimes get in the way.  See if you can purchase a 1-3 month membership.  If you can stay committed and make it there at least 3 times a week, and can afford the expense, then decide if you can commit for a year.  But, do not throw your money away on a membership that only takes money out of your checkbook.

Personally, throughout the day, I spend 1 ½ – 2 hrs each day exercising at home.  I love my walks outdoors, allowing me at least an hour to see some beautiful sites.  Everyday is different.  I’ve met a number of great people along my way.  The cardio and fresh air are great for you!  But the days I cannot get out, due to weather conditions, I find a way to walk inside.

Focused on a commitment to exercise and eating healthy and balanced meals, I have managed to lose twenty pounds over the summer.  At my age with some joint issues, it has not been easy.  With the determination to take the extra burden off my joints and feel great, it has been worth it.  I am five pounds away from my first goal that I hope to meet within two weeks.  I plan to “maintain” this weight loss during the holiday season then continue on to my final goal of my last ten pounds.

I realize that some might argue that I only had a little weight to lose.  Not really.  At one point in my life I was almost 200 pounds and lost over 50 within 6-7 months.  I felt fabulous.  Then during a stressful year where there was no time to exercise due to constant studying, I gained twenty back.  I’ve now lost that weight gain, with the intent to complete my goals.  I know what it is like to shop for clothes and not find things in “my size” that fit (denial).

No one can make another person exercise or be attentive to what they eat.  It is a personal choice.  There is no magic pill, shake, or weight loss bar that will do it for you.  You have to want to lose it for it to happen.  That is what will motivate you.  Whether you have financial resources to pay for a fitness membership or not, it is up to “YOU” to take action.

For me it was about becoming pain free and feeling great!  Then one day I picked up a ten-pound weight and realized that this amount of weight, times three, was causing stress on my back, joints and bladder.  Sure, my MD’s shared that taking the weight off would take the stress off my joints, but it took my actually picking up that weight to realize how “heavy” the extra baggage was that I was carrying around.  My pain is not completely gone and there are days where it still hurts to walk and exercise, but I’m walking taller and feeling lighter at no cost other than my time, determination and utilization of what I already have available to me.

I hope that many do not wait until the “New Year” to make a resolution.  I hope that people make a choice to be healthy because they want the benefits of feeling better if not great.  Unfortunately, resolutions in our society are broken all the time because no one keeps one accountable.  Making a “choice” to change is a personal decision to take action, also not making someone else responsible for keeping you motivated.  One who makes a choice acknowledges the hurdles, yet gets up when they fall so that they can still reach their destination.

So, how does one take advantage of a frugal fitness regimen?  Use a fitness center that fits within your budget.  Some companies have a fitness center or reduced memberships.  Some insurance companies reimburse you for your participation.  If your time or resources are limited, then make space in your home to exercise, using your hallway to walk, using your stairs to work those glute and core muscles, and putting blankets on the floor to exercise.  Don’t have the resources to purchase small weights (I use 3 and 5 pound ones…still hoping to get back to using my 8 pound ones soon) then consider utilizing what you have such as filling recycled jars with sand with the weight you want to work with, but also include a diet where you eat appropriate portion sizes, healthy food options and drink lots of water.

Also, be aware of your work environment or hobbies (I find that I do a lot of movement when sewing).  How many times do you get in/out of your chair (tighten you stomach/core muscles and work those thigh muscles), swivel in your chair (don’t move quickly, but rather intently focusing on the muscle strength without hurting yourself), with your feet flat on the floor, bring your heels slowly up and down to stretch the calve muscles.  There are many opportunities to exercise at your work station if you take a moment to think about what you can do.  But, also know, this should NOT replace a routine exercise routine.

Enjoy a healthy life at a cost you can afford 🙂

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

PS:  Get rid of all carbonated beverages and trade it for water.  You might be surprised at how much you lose just from that decision.  Then, move toward reducing dessert treats to once a week (keep it portion controlled).

Preserving Apples to Enjoy Throughout the Year

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I love fall!!  In reading any of the blog forums in which I write, you will notice that this is one of my favorite seasons.  I love the colors, the changing winds, the smells of change, and the abundance of the fall harvest that can be found throughout the country side.

“One” of my favorite fruits to preserve are apples.  I use them in pies, jams, applesauce, desserts and meals.  They add a natural, healthy sweetness that makes any meal a treat.

NOTE:  For baking and preserving, I always purchase the drops.  It is cheaper and I have yet to find a batch that has disappointed me.  As a matter of fact, it is rare for me to buy the freshly picked apples, as I have yet to find the drops to be an issue to enjoy as a simple snack.

Did you know that you can freeze apples whole?  Yes you can.  But, I have to admit, I do not like this method, as I find it much easier to peel and prepare the fruit prior to freezing.  This way, when it comes time to utilize them for my baking wants, it saves me that time in preparation when I’m in the mood for baking during the winter and spring months.  Yet, if you go to the apple orchard, bring home a 1/2 bushel or more of this delightful treat, and find you just don’t have time to bake or peel, freezing them whole is an option.

Fugi’s and Gala’s are the best for freezing, yet since our family prefers the taste of Macintosh  over the many other delightful choices in my baking, that is what I purchase in bulk.

Two methods in which I choose to freeze apples:

A.)  Prepare and package them for future apple pies 🙂  This makes making future pies a breeze, leaving me to only spend time creating the crust.  I make the crust and refrigerate for an hour.  Once the crust is in the refrigerator, I remove my prepared apple mix so that it thaws slightly (just to the point where the apples are no longer frozen solid together).  Within the hour of putting my crust in the refrigerator, I remove it to roll out the crust, which at this point the frozen apples are ready to be added to your pie shell.

  1. Cut, core and peel approximately 6-8 cups of apples.  I prefer 8 cups because my husband loves a full pie with fruit 🙂
  2. Put in your freezer/storage bag and add your seasonings:  cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and flour (we use gluten free).  This flavors the apples while also saving you this step when making your pie later.  Some people add lemon juice.
  3. Label and date your freezer/storage bag with instructions on how to use in baking a pie (I include notes like add milk free butter substitute, bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes, etc.)
  4. Place in freezer and lie flat so that you can stack 4-6 bags for winter pies
  5. I prefer to use within 6 months (usually they are gone sooner).  But, you can freeze them up to nine months.  Frugal Value Lifestyle Frozen Apple Pie Filling

NOTE:  If you are short on applesauce, you can always take one of these apple pie bags, empty them and cook up some warm applesauce on a cold winter evening.  Also great for topping your ice cream.

B.)  Freeze in slices for apple crisp, using in meals (such as baked roasts, pork chops, etc.), for a simple snack, muffins, breads or even applesauce.

  1. Cut, core and peel.
  2. Place on cookie sheet between parchment paper (prevents them sticking together) for a few hours.
  3. Remove from cookie sheets and place in a freezer/storage bag for future use
  4. Use before 6-9 months.

By the way, homemade applesauce is the best.  I have shared the recipe on my Gluten and Milk Free blog, but this delightful treat can also be frozen if you do not have the equipment to prepare in canning applesauce.  I personally enjoy having them in hot-packed, sealed jars.

In all the excitement of going to the orchard with your children, be sure to use up what you have in making pies, applesauce or enjoying naturally as a snack.  Be sure to prepare and preserve any that you do not want to go bad.  Fruit that goes bad is a poor investment of resources.

Enjoy being frugal, while enjoying the fruits of the fall harvest 🙂

~ Laura

Laura D. Field
Writer, blogger, freelance writer
Reflective Tapestry of Life

Pumpkins – Many uses – Pies, soups, breads, seeds…

From the fall harvest we acquire pumpkins, squash, apples and so much more.  I try to make the most of this harvest as I possibly can.  As we head off to the apple farm, making 2-4 trips each fall, I pick up bushels of apple seconds, squash and pumpkins when they are not growing in my own garden.  I usually pick up a few squash on each trip and 2-4 pumpkins each year.

Working with pumpkins is not really all that hard.  I think the reason I at first procrastinate is that I love how a pumpkin looks on my fall table setting.  The second reason is in the awkwardness in having to cut it in half in order to bake it for what I use it for, yet once I start, the process runs along smoothly.

This morning, I have baked pumpkin in order to make puree for pies, soups and breads.  In addition I decided to try my hand at making seasoned pumpkin seeds. Usually I just save a few to try planting the following year.

How I prepare my pumpkin for fresh puree to be used in Pies, breads, cookies, soups, etc.:

PUMPKIN PUREE

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degree F.
  2. I cut my pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and strings (saving the seeds for replanting or making roasted pumpkin seeds)
  3. To save my pan from burning, I place aluminum foil on my baking pan (I use my cookie sheets) and curl up the edges so that the juice from the baked pumpkin does not burn or run off the edges
  4. Place my two pumpkin halves cut side down on the aluminum that is over the baking pan,  You can remove the pumpkin stem if you wish, I tend not to.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours

    www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

    www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

  6. Remove from oven and cool.
  7. By cooling, the pumpkin get softer, making it easier to scoop out and work with.
  8. Scoop out the pumpkin from its shell and place in food processor or blender.
  9. Blend until smooth.
  10. Use immediately in recipes or freeze in quart ziploc freezer bags.  Lay flat for better storage.

    www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

    www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

Now, what about those seeds??

Some have made beautiful necklaces out of them, some have shelled them for eating, and some have roasted them in their shells for snacking enjoyment.

There are many recipes online that can share how to make roasted pumpkin seeds.  Since I try not to avoid a high intake of salt, my method does not incorporate salt.  But, if you are one to enjoy salt, consider sea salt as a healthier option.

www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

www.frugalvaluelifestyle.reflectivetapestryoflife.com

CINNAMON COATED PUMPKIN SEEDS

  1. First I sprayed my cookie sheet with coconut oil, made sure it was well covered to prevent the shells from burning and sticking to the cookie sheet.
  2. In a bowl, after rinsing my seeds 4 times, I strained them, then put them in a bowl mixed with cinnamon.  Since I do not measure “how much” I will estimate maybe a 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.
  3. If you decide to use salt, you can use the same amount as the cinnamon, yet no more than double what you used.
  4. Mix the seasonings with your seeds.  Yes, the seeds are still wet from rinsing and draining.
  5. Lay them out in a flat layer on your greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 350 degree F at 5 minute intervals, turning every 5 minutes for no more than 20 minutes.  Twenty minutes was perfect for what I roasted.  Whether it was because I oiled my pan well, or the shells were still moist, might be the reason.  I’ve read a few other places where people have trouble burning their seeds.

OTHER OPTIONS FOR ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Plain roasted sunflower seeds w/salt, same method with 1/2 tsp of salt

Sweetened pumpkin flavored – consider 1/4 – 1/2 sugar w/1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

Sweetened – 1/4 c sugar plus 1/4 c butter (or butter substitute for our family – milk sensitivities)

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Slow Cooking Meals – A Frugal Option

Frugal Value Lifestyle Slow Cooking

Utilizing the Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) – Making great meals for a crowd, the freezer, lunches and meals throughout the week.

One of my favorite methods of cooking, most especially with the fall season now upon us with winter fast approaching, is in utilizing my Slow Cooker.  It saves me valuable time  at the end of the day when the family is hungry.  In addition, depending on family size, meals prepared in this manner can provide additional meals that can either be frozen for later, or eaten throughout the week.

The most valuable cost benefit that I have found is that you can utilize dried beans versus the more costly option of canned, as well as lower priced cuts of meat.  Personally, I still like grass fed meat sources while taking advantage of the lower priced cuts.  Due to personal flavoring along with the slow cooking method, the meat is tenderized and flavored nicely.

The health benefit is that the lower cooking temperature in utilizing a slow cooker is that your nutrients are less likely to be lost as compared to cooking at high temperatures.  In addition, as you add your own fresh ingredients and seasonings, you are aware of the nutritional benefit as you avoid the preservatives so commonly found in foods that you might find pre-made in a can or in the freezer.

Please note: I am not a proponent of pre-made slow cooker seasoning packets.  I found that they contain a great deal of salt that takes away from the natural flavoring along with ingredients I might not otherwise use (nor be able to pronounce).   I would much rather utilize my own personal choice of seasonings and add a little salt (my preference is sea salt).  I tend to salt lightly while cooking.  This allows the individual to determine the amount necessary to satisfy his/her tastebuds.

Many meals can be made in the slow cooker, ranging from soups, stews, roasts, sauces, desserts, breakfasts, and more. As a result, one has the ability to bring something healthy for lunch to work the next day, an easy meal option to be frozen or used for ready-made meal on a busy day within your week.  In addition, when you have unexpected company, a meal prepared in the slow cooker provides the ability to share your meal with others.  Of course, that is dependent upon family size.

When expecting that your day will only get busy with family activities with different schedules, a slow cook meal will keep food hot and healthy for everyone as they arrive home at different intervals.

Personally, what I love most about using a slow cooker, is that once everything is prepped and put into the appliance, I can set and let it cook throughout the day.  It opens up my day to focus on reading, writing, sewing, gardening, spending time with loved ones (okay, maybe some chores as well) without the worry of getting wrapped up in a project to later realize how quickly time flew by while hungry family members begin to “what’s for dinner?” 😉

Slow cooking is a healthy way to feed your family and save money.  From using garden vegetables and herbs to naturally fed sources of meat, one is able to make amazing meals that family and friends will enjoy.  In addition, these meals are perfect for social gatherings, so be sure to keep your appliance clean and looking nice.

I’m beginning to think I need to hint at acquiring a few more for those weekends I am in one of those moods for a cooking marathon. 🙂  Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have a hot meal in one and maybe a peach cobbler or apple dessert in the other?

~ Laura

NOTE: I personally do not like to leave my slow cooker on when I leave the house.  I know that many others do. I just personally find that any appliance that produces heat to be a potential hazard if left unattended.  I tend to utilize my slow cooker on the weekend or days in which I am home.  If I have to run out for an errand, I either let a family member know it is on, or unplug my unit and reset it when I return.

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Trick or Treat? – Have Some Simple Harvest Fun

 

Trick or Treat? - Have Some Simple Harvest Fun

Trick or Treat? – Have Some Simple Harvest Fun

Our daughters are now grown, and although we were never really big on Halloween, if there was a year that they wanted to go trick or treating, we would let them.  In all honesty though, they rarely went.  Many times their preference was to dress up and give things out to the little ones, then be disappointed by the adults who came to the door with their children, with bags of their own.  Yes, it happens, yet fortunately just a fraction of them do this.

So, how does one get through the Halloween excitement when needing to feed their own family on a budget?  Or, how about those who buy ahead of time, eat the treats then have to go purchase  more for the trick or treaters, causing one to overspend and overeat all at the same time?  I am going to share some costume ideas as well as meet the kids at the door ideas.

Fortunately I am able to sew most anything.  And with the cost of disposable costumes (in my opinion) I found it to be most economical to create our own.  One does not need to know how to sew to make a unique costume that your child would enjoy, just a little imagination.

Costumes you can make with what you have on hand:

  • daddy’s flannel shirt – scarecrow – tie a rope around the waist, add some leaves into the shirt, add a cap (what-ever you have) with leaves as well.  Dirty up the face a little, add rosy cheeks and provide a paper bag with handles (I’m sure you have one of those from a gift you received or shopping at a specialty store.
  • pillow case – a ghost…for the little one, just cut a large hole for the face so that they can see well, cut two arm holes, then let it hang freely.
  • old white bedsheet – ghost – if you don’t have one, check out the thrift stores for stained ones..it’s going to get dirty anyway.  Let you child design this.  Provide permanent markers so they can create big eyes, yet cut some holes for them to peer out of.
  • Older siblings clothes make for a great clown costume.  Add a rope belt, or tie an oversized belt.  Add some big patches that do not have to be permanent.  Just attach them with safety pins underneath.  Make sure you let them enjoy wearing the oversized floppy boots.  Ask a grandparent for a wig, you just never know what a grandparent can dig up for your kids.
  • Cowboy/Cowgirl – jeans or denim skirt they already own.  Add a long sleeved shirt, using a long-stitched sewing stitch on  your machine, apply some fringed trim.  A nice fitting belt and to make it look western, use aluminum foil to create a belt buckle.  Possibly a cowboy hat…check w/family and neighbors, as sometimes they have exactly what you need for cheap or to borrow.
  • Pillow cases can be made into almost anything…use your imagination.
  • Have a variety of fabric hanging around that is weird colors?  Do you sew?  A cute little jumper style pattern can be made into a clown costume
  • A 50’s style skirt can easily be made with fabric on hand, an old sheet no one uses.  Add a shirt, white ankle socks and sneakers.
  • A 50’s style greaser kid can roll up his jeans, white ankle socks, sneakers, white t-shirt w/rolled sleeves
  • A geeky kid…pants they outgrew in length, yet still fits at the waist, is perfect!!  Add a slim belt, button down shirt and bow-tie.  White socks and dress shoes (sneakers if you do not have dress shoes)
  • The older kids…well, they might be a little more of a challenge, but we have made pirate costumes, witch costumes, even a Winnie-the-Pooh from some fleece, etc from things we had on hand (or possibly from fabric I had on hand, possibly purchased on clearance or given to us).

Okay…what to give at the door, OR, do you give at the door?

  • pencils, small pads of paper, etc.  (I used to buy these in bulk at the beginning of the school year when they sold them for 10 cents a pkg – trust me, with over 100 children coming to our door each year, it was the most cost effective item).  Believe it or not, the kids loved this idea!!  Even the middle-high school students.  If they are in the middle of testing, it is perfect!
  • Consider large party bags of game style treats…similar to what you give at birthday parties.  You can find these at dollar stores.  Plus, even though they are not made to last long, they do not add to the over consumption of sugar, and gives them some frivolous fun.  Mini card packs are fun for the teens.
  • WAIT until right before Halloween to buy treats on sale (and use coupons) to avoid consuming them yourself.  Toss all extra coupons so you are not tempted to buy extra!!
  • Buy only what you do not like as it will keep your hands from being tempted to participate in the “one for you and one for me” scenario.
  • bring your children to the community Halloween bash/contest events that many community centers and fire stations provide. Some high schools have events as well.  They always need volunteers and chaperones, allowing you to be aware of what is going on.
  • If you do not have the money to feed your family then you should not be spending money on candy you can’t afford to give.  Instead, make some popcorn or cookies, hot cocoa, etc…keep it simple, then pull the shades and turn off the lights and provide some candles safely placed and lit (consider battery operated ones if you have them), then play some fun games by candle light, or watch a spooky movie in the dark.
  • Consider a Halloween party of your own with a few families with the same aged children.  Parents can share in the goodie bags the kids go home with.  Don’t overdo it.  For six to twelve children, each parent can spend $1-$2 dollars at the dollar store for the goodie bags.  Each can either bake a snack or provide a beverage.  Then have the kids play a few games and end the night with a kids movie.
  • Have you thought about asking your children to visit at a retirement home?  Call ahead to see if it is okay, then go over during the day when your kids are at school to drop off some treats for the residents to give out.  OR, find out how many residents there are and have your kids give THEM the treats (possibly homemade cookies).  This generation loves seeing the little ones in costumes.  Consider having your kids put together a little skit that would entertain the residents.  This type of gesture would teach your children about giving of themselves, not only at Christmas but at other times of the year as well.

Although I am not a big Halloween person, as it has never been a big interest of mine, I do enjoy dressing up and seeing the little ones.  We keep things simple and limit what we buy.  But, the years we don’t have the resources, I do not fret about turning the lights out and keeping things simple and quiet at home.

This year is one of those years in which we do not have the funds to share in the fun.  And since it is just my husband and I left at home, we might  not watch a scary Halloween type movie, but maybe hold hands and watch a romantic comedy instead.

May you enjoy your Harvest fun!!

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor