Planning a Frugal Feast

apples

We have a few feasts days around Chez Turnip each year. Naturally, this Thursday is one of them. Unlike some people, I’m not rushing out tomorrow morning to stock up on a bunch of high-priced goodies. I did purchase a few things I normally don’t one my regular shopping trip, but there was no need to expand the budget to fit them in.

Our menu for six looks like this:

Ham

Mashed potatoes

Gravy

Garlic green beans

Roasted brussels sprouts

Sweet potatoes

Rolls

Pumpkin pie

Apple pie

The ham was the priciest at $12, but my mom and I split the costs. All the vegetables are out of my garden, except the sweet potatoes. Gravy and rolls are made from scratch. As are the pies. My picked the apples this past summer at a U-pick orchard and premade a bunch of pies for the freezer. The pumpkin is from our Halloween pumpkins.

Even if I had to buy all the ingredients, it wouldn’t be that pricey. Especially considering the leftovers would feed my men for at least two days, so that would be two days of no cooking!

What are your favorite feast foods?

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Date Nights: A Love/Hate Relationship

1223174_20-sided_dice_3No, it isn’t love/hate with my husband Drew, but rather with the whole silliness of the “date night” concept! For some reason the phrase bugs me. I know, this is my problem. But, it just seems so contrived and forced. Yet, recently I’ve found myself craving a bit more time with him and a bit less of the everyday mundaness of general life.

It hit me like a ton of bricks last Thursday that my kids are 13 and 8 years old. They don’t need a constant caretaker. Brandon is pretty damn responsible and can watch over his brother for a few hours. Aioden is also pretty damn responsible, and a lot more level headed, so he, too, can watch over his brother for a few hours. What are we waiting for?!?!

So, it’s been decided. We can head out of the house once in awhile for a few hours. I’m cheap, so it likely won’t be anything too pricey. Maybe a dollar movie, a trip to a coffee shop, a beer or two at the pub. Even more likely, a visit to the comic book shop, book store or game shop. (Because we’re geeks like that!)

We tried our first foray on Friday night. We went out for coffee, less than two blocks from the house. I’m not sure if the boys even realized we had left! It was fun. It was different. We also both realized we had been harboring the same dorky longing to visit a con (comic/fantasy/sci-fi convention) for a few years. We need to work this stuff into our long term goals.

Although I don’t like to spend money on inessentials, I do need to remember sometimes that the point of all this craziness is to have a bit of fun. I think I can do that!

But we won’t call them date nights. Right now we’re leaning toward calling it the “Council of Mischief and Mayhem Symposium,” but that seems a bit long. Maybe just “Mischief and Mayhem Symposium”– the “MMS?”

Do you have date nights? Do you call them something else? What do you do?

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Making a Gift List

gift planningFor me, November is pretty late in the year to start thinking about holiday gifts. I tend to start in January and collect items and ideas year-round. I’m one of those wacky people with a box in my closet that stores a random assortment of gifts. I also keep a year-round gift list on my computer.

It’s pretty simple, really. I list each gift-giving holiday, then under the holiday I list the recipients. I shop well in advance at thrift stores and garage sales mainly, but I also collect handmade ideas for the recipient so I can collect the supplies at a low cost throughout the year.

We don’t get fancy with gifts for my kids’ friends, either. The younger crowd tends to get books. I find so many wonderful second-hand books that look brand new. I like to look for interactive books, like Dragonology or Piratology. I can find these for less than a couple of dollars — if I shop ahead. The older kids are usually gifted with a handmade card and a $5 bill folded into a neat origami shape. We include a fancy candy bar with the gift (Which I buy for pennies at various sales year-round). $5 and $10 gift cards seem to be the norm with the older kids, so I don’t feel cheap doing this. I know gift culture varies in location and amongst social groups, but it just isn’t in our family’s best interest to buy $15 toys for every birthday party.

Here’s an example of my 2013 gift list:

2013 Gift Guide

Name

Gift

Event

Andrew

Felt heart teddy bear, homemade chocolate strawberries ($0)

Vday

Brandon

Felt heart bag, chocolate strawberries ($0)

Vday

Aioden

Felt heart bag, chocolate strawberries ($0)

Vday

Brandon

Thrifted book ($.50)

Chocolate bunny (.75)

Assorted after-xmas sale chocolate ($1)

Repainted Thrifted kendama ($2)

Easter

Aioden

Thrifted book ($.50)

Chocolate bunny (.75)

Assorted after-xmas sale chocolate ($1)

Thrifted leatherman tool ($3)

Easter

Andrew

Embroidered Jedi emblem ($0)

Bday

nephew #2

Handmade Monster crayon bag ($2)

Bday

nephew #1

Hand drawn TMNT poster ($8)

Bday

Mom

Embroidered butterflies ($0)

Bday

Brandon

BIG GIFT: Cell phone ($50 )

thrifted Clothes ($6)

thrifted Sorry! & Pokemon game ($2)

Bday

Dad

CDA Cruise ($45)

Bday

Sister

Handmade Teacup journal ($0)

Bday

Andrew

DIY PJ Pants ($2)

Reindeer beer ($6)

Asian grocery basket ($3)

PNP game ($0)

xmas

Brandon

BIG GIFT: Laptop($50)

SANTA GIFT: thrifted rock hunter set ($2)

Embroidered pokeball ($1)

DIY PJ Pants ($2)

Asian grocery stocking basket ($3)

DIY homemade board game ($0)

xmas

Aioden

BIG GIFT: Model Rocket Set ($30)

SANTA GIFT: thrifted electronics playground ($2)

Embroidered Saturn ($1)

DIY PJ pants ($2)

Asian grocery stocking basket ($3)

DIY homemade board game ($0)

xmas

Mom

Photo book ($8)

Xmas

Dad

DIY Santa candy jar ($2)

Xmas

Nephew #1

Handmade Ninja turtle hat ($0)

Xmas

Nephew #2

Handmade Quiet book ($2)

Xmas

Neighbor gifts

DIY Cocoa santa jars & oreo elf legs (2 total/$4)

Xmas

Card list

(assorted family, names removed)

Xmas

 I keep track of what I spend on thrifted/handmade gifts to make sure I stay within out budget. For gifts I expect to get new, like the rocket set, I write down the max I’m willing to spend. Also, this year we are trying something new with neighbor gifts. Instead of everyone giving everyone else a gift, we are going to start the “You’ve been jingled” tradition on our block. That means each household only has to give two neighbor gifts. I’ll write a more detailed post, possible with some free printables, when I assemble the basket!

 

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A Few Frugal Things

ornamentsLast week was quite the frugal week around chez Turnip. It was cold and gloomy, so there was no urge to leave the house unless we had to, which always help save a few dollars! Here’s some of things we accomplished over the past seven days:

::: I made the ornaments for the “ornament curtains” I want in my living room this holiday season. (Post coming soon!) I used some sheets of glitter foam that have been hiding in my craft closet for who knows how many years.

::: The Rocket playhouse is still a big hit. Aioden’s planning on rearranging his room this afternoon so we can move it out of the living room.

::: I called our internet company because our bill went up $10 this month. We have the same speed and plan, but they dropped us to a lower price point for the next 12 months, that is going to save us $20 a month! I marked my calendar so I can call them again before the bill goes up.

::: I was invited to a neighborhood bunco party, which was quite fun! I used items in the pantry to make an hors oeuvre to bring, made the boys a pizza, and used a free Redbox code so they guys could have a fun evening in while I went out.

::: I made my sister a journal for her birthday and mailed it in plenty of time so I could use the least expensive shipping option.

::: I made photo holiday cards to mail out this year.

::: We ate at home for every meal, enjoying inexpensive foods made from scratch. I also made the menfolk apple fritter muffins to enjoy for breakfast for the entire week. We also had a delicious tomato-basil soup made from tomatoes and basil we grew, picked and froze over the summer.

::: We visited the library (and turned in the books before they assessed a fee).

::: I worked on handmade holiday gifts.

::: We snuggled a lot, drank lots of cocoa (from bulk purchased ingredients) and gave our thrifted board game collection quite a workout each evening.

How did you save money this week?

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Ebook Release! The Almost-Free Homeschool 7th Grade Curriculum

almost-free 7th gradeI am so excited! The first in my curriculum series is now available on Amazon Kindle — The Almost-Free Homeschool 7th Grade. You don’t even have to own a Kindle device to read the book, just a computer or tablet.

This is a completely secular curriculum using free and low-cost resources. It includes full, daily schedules for math, language arts, science, history, art, and more. It works well for both independent and guided work. It’s the same curriculum I’ve used with my kids. We live in a mandatory testing state, and my children both test well above average and perform above grade level, so I’m confident in the quality of the resources.

The Almost-Free Homeschool is free if you are an Amazon Prime user, otherwise it’s $9.99. Considering you can use it as a full curriculum, that’s a steal!

Purchase Almost-Free Homeschool 7th Grade

I will be releasing the Almost-Free curriculum for grades 1 through 8, along with a preschool and kindergarten guide. You can find the tentative release dates on the curriculum page of my blog.

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The Free Rocket Playhouse!

My (not so) little monkey-man began building himself a fort in the backyard this summer from scrapwood. Well, now it’s winter and the fort is on hiatus until it’s fit to go outside again. He got it into his head yesterday that we should build an Apollo space capsule playhouse for his room instead. Yeah, funky cone shaped thing wasn’t going to happen in an accurate fashion, but we still came up with something. Best of all, we used materials around the house so the final cost was zilch!

rocket1

Now, your kid may have no urge for their own personal rocket, but the method is simple and could transfer to making any sort of house. Princess castle? Check. Circus tent? Why not? Cabin in the woods? Right on!

We used white duct tape, an exacto knife and these weird plastic dog food signs left in our garage by the previous owner. These signs are made of a thick plastic and measure 36 by 24 inches, with advertising on one side and white on the other. I think they are supposed to slide into those advertising lightbox things some stores have along their front walls. We used 6 signs for the bottom, and three signs cut in half for the top. You could substitute cardboard or even wood for the signs.

Construction was simple. We taped six signs together to make the walls (forming a hexagon). Cut a hatch/door in one wall and secured it with the duct tape, kind of like a space doggie door. I cut out six 18-by-24 inch rectangles from the remaining three sheets, then cut these into triangle with an 18 inch base and 24 inch height. Cut out a couple of windows in the roof, then taped them on to form the point. Total time? One hour.

rocket2

Aioden raided is electronic scrap to outfit the inside. He attached a broken computer keyboard to the wall, various LED lights, a compass, and a few other switches and wires. He has only come out for lessons and bathroom breaks, so I think he likes it!

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Crafty Holiday Cheer: DIY Photo Holiday Cards

The boys wanted our cards this year to feature photographs of them. In years past, we did simple kid-made cards and I included a copy of their Santa photo, but both are past the age of wanting to sit on Santa’s lap. They also have no interest in making cards en masse anymore. So I came up with something a bit different!

On the inside we did a pop-up stack of presents, decorated with those little foil star stickers. The outside features a picture of each boy as an “ornament,” hanging from the Happy Holidays Banner.

2013 Holiday Card

Step 1: The Popup insert — I folded a sheet of plain white cardstock in half. Then, I drew the cut lines for the three presents. The photos below show the placement of the lines.(Sorry for the quality, there is no natural light to be found this time of year!) Once cut, fold the flaps for each present back and forth, then pop them forward at the center fold.

Popup Template

Step 2: The photo ornaments — The boys selected the pictures they wanted featured. I sized them down then made a document that held several photos per page. Printed it on cardstock (along with the holiday banner message) and printed it out. Once printed, I cut out each banner and photograph.

card popup

Step 3: Assembly — I glued the popup insert into a slightly larger sheet of red cardstock, which was also folded in half. Decoupage glue would work best, but I just used regular Elmer’s and painted it on thinly with a paintbrush. I positioned and glued the banner and ornaments to the front.

card insert

Step 4: Embellishing — I have a million of those little foil star stickers. They are cheap and pretty, and you get a few hundred for just a dollar or two, so they are my go-to embellishment for birthday cards. I decorated the popup insert with a red marker and the stickers. On the outside, I added a couple more stickers. With a black pen, I drew lines from the stars and ornaments so they looked like they were hanging from the banner.

As for envelopes, you have a few options for homemade cards. In the past, I have made envelopes from construction paper. There are templates online or you can use an existing envelope for a template. Lately, I’ve started using brown paper lunch sacks for envelopes. I was given a package of 500 when my mom was cleaning out her cupboards, but I never pack lunches in them. Instead, I glue down the bottom so the bag remains flat, slide a card inside, then fold the flap over to close it. Stickers, tape or glue seal the flap closed. I like the look of the brown paper, especially when embellished with a few stars!

 

 

 

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Crafty Holiday Cheer: The Master List

Credit: Ekaterina Boym-Medler
Credit: Ekaterina Boym-Medler

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not immune from holiday stress. Although I’m not invested in this season for religious reasons, I do enjoy a good celebration with friends and family. What better time than the gloomy, short days of winter to brighten our homes with colorful decorations, good food, great people and a few gifts? I try not to fall into the trap of striving for impossible perfection.

In that spirit, I’ve honed my merry-making skills over the last decade so I have most things wrapped up by December 1st, that way we can all relax and enjoy the bustle of the season. I don’t always succeed, but it’s a good goal to strive for!

This year, I’m posting my list of holiday projects. I’ll feature each one on the blog through the end of November (and let’s be honest here, probably into December as well)! Maybe you can glean a few ideas to brighten up your Solstice, Yule, Christmas, or whatever-you-celebrate season, too!

1) DIY chocolate countdown/advent calendars for the boys

2) Holiday cards

3) A new tree garland

4) Snowman outdoor decor

5) Glass ball “curtains”

6) New tree topper

7) Ornaments (a traditional gift for my children)

8) Santa jars

9) Fleece hats

10) Handmade games

11)  Holiday baskets

12) PJ pants

…and I’m sure a few other things I’ll add as the inspiration strikes! I may not get everything done, but I’ll definitely update with links as I do.

How do you organize your holiday prep? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

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Credit: Nossirom
Credit: Nossirom

With Halloween behind us, I think it’s safe to mention the upcoming holiday season. I hate “Christmas creep” as much as the next person, but there’s no denying that it’s less than two months away. For those that depend on the department stores for the season, there’s still plenty of time. For those of you like me, that prefer shopping second hand and making a lot of gifts, we are running out of time!

In the spirit of the season, I present my 2013 gift list. Throughout the month of November, I’ll be posting a few how-to’s on some of the gifts. I’ll update this post with links as I post them!

Brandon-Age 13 (a.k.a. The difficult boy)

  • A “new” laptop from the refurb section on Amazon. Cashing in my Swagbucks so it’s only costing $20! (just a heads up: that’s a referral link!)
  • A rock and gem kit – including a field guide and a dig your own gem block. Found new in package for $1.50 when thrifting this past summer.
  • PJ pants, handmade by me. An annual tradition.
  • A homemade print n’ play board game. This site has a ton to choose from!
  • A gift basket of goodies from the Asian grocery.

 

Aioden-Age 8 (The scientist and the easiest one on my list)

  • An Elenco electronics workshop/wiring kit. Found almost new in thrift shop for $1 this summer. Just need to add new wires to it, which we have on hand.
  • A model rocket launch kit. Combining a $10 of coupon with the small business Saturday sale at our local hobby shop, this is only going to run $25. Score!
  • PJ pants
  • Asian grocery gift basket.
  • PNP game

 

Drew-The Husband

  • PJ pants
  • “Reindeer Beer” – a six pack of his favorite craft brew, dressed up with pipe cleaners and red pom-poms to resemble a 6-pack of deer.

 

Stockings:

  • Free Lindt chocolate bars — thanks to the heads up from Frugal Living NW!
  • Various holiday candy purchased at 75% off last year on 12/26
  • A little handmade toy or game, still haven’t decided what it will be.

 

Parents:

  • A Snapfish 20 page photo book featuring photos from the past year of their three grandkids. I received a coupon in one of those value mailers for a free book, so it only cost me $8 in shipping.
  • A homemade Santa jar filled with some sweet treats for my dad.

 

Nephew #1-age 5

  • A fleece Ninja Turtle hat, made from fabric I have on hand.

 

Nephew #2-age 2

  • Not sure yet – maybe a dinosaur themed busy book.

Sister and Brother-in-law:

  • An awesome PNP zombie game that is right up their alley!

Other projects:

  • Two matchbox-style advent calendars. I didn’t snag any on clearance last year, so this will be the year to finally make our own.
  • A yarn garland for the tree.
  • Various decorations — I’m thinking a lightup snowman is in our future — made from cast-offs we have lying around. We shall see…

Then, of course, are cards. I’ve decided upon a design so I’ll post one up once I get to work. We’re also skipping neighbor gifts. Our block is very tight knit, and we have several block parties a year and other neighborhood events. We would have 30 neighbor gifts to throw together! Instead, I’ve decided to try and start a “You’ve Been Jingled (or elved)” tradition. Basically, we anonymously give a small gift basket to two neighbors, then they give two baskets to two other neighbors. You hand a sign on your door once you’ve been “Jingled” so you don’t get hit twice. I think this will go over well with our neighborhood culture, and it will save everyone money and time while keeping the holiday gift spirit alive.

I’ve purchased all my craft supplies that I didn’t have in my stash, so I’m pretty much done shopping except for a visit to the Asian grocery. Total cost for gifts this year (for everyone): a little less than $100. I started shopping a year ago, though, so this wasn’t money spent all at once. I average less than $15 a month on gift buying, including birthdays and other occasions that pop up throughout the year.

What’s on your holiday to-do list this year?

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