HAPPENINGS AROUND HERE TODAY:
- Happy St. Patrick's Day if you're Irish! We're not so it was just a regular day for us.
- I haven't had a good night's sleep since getting sunburned over a week ago and last night was more of the same. My skin (although mostly healed) was feeling like my nerve ends were being stimulated all over and I couldn't settle down when I went to bed. We have a pedestal fan on in the room at night since it's a little stuffy up there, even with the AC, and usually that lulls me to sleep but this past week it's what's been preventing me from sleeping. I wake up in physical pain several times a night and it feels like a phantom pain because I can't pinpoint what it is exactly that "hurts". So I'm exhausted in the mornings. I ended up going to sleep on the couch last night, so Greg wouldn't be bothered, and although I was wide awake for the first 20 minutes, then I slept OK. I think I might need to turn down the AC a couple of degrees so the upstairs feels cooler without us having to use the fan. This isn't good news for our electric bill and it's only March!
- Speaking of electric bill, I received our latest bill this morning in my email and it's about $85 higher than last month, undoubtedly because we have had to run the AC non-stop over a couple of weeks now... plus we had that problem with the duct, which might have been undetected longer than we thought. We're still under budget for the month by $85, but that's only because I have kept the same utility budget as we had several years ago before we replaced both AC units with more efficient models. It gives us a little bit of a cushion and since the energy prices had been rising, I figured we should play it safe. I report the money that we don't spend to the next month's budgeted utility bill and whatever we didn't spend at the end of the year goes toward our vacation budget. Last year's overage is helping pay for our trip to Europe this summer.
- Today is trash pick-up day and they also pick up yard waste so I dragged 3 large trashcans full of raked oak leaves and weeds to the kerb (I never know how to spell that word so I'm settling on this spelling, which is the weirdest, I think). Years ago we used to use large trash bags for our leaves and it was a major pain to carry them all to the kerb without them breaking, especially when we collected dozens of them (without lying) each week because we had so many trees around our house back then. Sadly, we've had to cut down several of them due to disease and age but we still get a ton of leaves. Using the trashcans has saved us a lot of money in trash bags, plastic in the landfills, and effort for us too, but the trucks have taken their tolls on the trashcans and I probably need to replace them all this year at some point.
- Our regular trashcan was less than half full and I was feeling pretty smug about it until I realized that I'm comparing that to years when 8 of us lived at home... and now we're down to just 3-4 depending on the weeks. It does make a huge difference without even trying to throw away less things!
- We definitely recycle more, though. This week again I have a full bin to put out tomorrow morning and I also have last week's bin that hadn't been collected. We don't have any bulk stores here so being mindful of the packaging while still trying to keep our expenses low just isn't an option. I envy people who are able to store 25 lbs of flour, etc. but in our humid climate, I just don't see how it would be possible. Buying huge freezers to keep all of that isn't really environmentally friendly either. We do our part in trying to upcycle a lot of things that would ordinarily be thrown away or recycled, though, like when I use cat litter jugs to make plant labels, funnels and watering trays, or when I keep them for storing rainwater for the garden. Or when Greg uses a milk jug to fashion himself a paint container for when he's painting on the ladder. Or when we reuse glass jars and plastic containers for other projects. I have reached the point, however, where my "Tupperware" container is once again full with those darn deli meat plastic containers and I need to pare down since not all of them are the same shape and finding a matching cover is a hassle these days. So most of those will end up in the recycling bin (or the thrift store donation box as maybe other people could use them?) since I've been buying more Pyrex dishes to store the leftovers anyway. I wish Aldi would sell their whole Black Forest Ham again so I could use my meat slicer and avoid those darn plastic containers!
- We had made an appointment for someone from Home Depot to come measure the windows that we want to replace this year and I foolishly agreed to them coming at 5:30 p.m., knowing that it would take a couple of hours. What was I thinking?! I usually start cooking dinner at about 6:30! I was thinking that I would get Greg to pick up a pizza on his way home but this morning I "remembered" that crockpots were invented just for this reason so I put a couple of chicken breasts to defrost and I made Southwestern Chicken Stew in the crockpot and defrosted some jalapeño corn bread to go with it. Easy and "free".
- The Home Depot rep actually came a little earlier. It took a couple of hours for him to measure our windows and give us the quote. Originally we were going to replace only the rest of the upstairs windows and wait a few years to do the downstairs, but we decided to go ahead and have all remaining windows replaced... that is 26 windows. The cost is pretty darn high but we got 10% off so that helps a little bit. They offer financing for 24 months at 0% but we're charging it to our credit card and will pay if off from our emergency fund (and hope that Greg gets a good bonus this year!). They're double-paned windows with full screens and a sunscreen in them so much more energy efficient than the very old single pane windows that they'll be replacing, and they swing in for easy cleaning (not that I ever wash our windows, but that's beside the point) and have a great warranty. Plus Home Depot has really good customer service. I had to call them once because one of the ones we had replaced 3 years ago was giving me a problem and they came right away and explained to me what I had done wrong without making me feel dumb :) Anyhoo, hopefully the house will get less warm, especially upstairs. The installation will probably take 3 days and we're hoping it will be done by the end of April.
- Redbox emailed me a "Rent 1, Get 1 Free" code and I have yet to try those codes to see if it's true that I can actually just get 1 DVD for free with them. It won't be this week, again, as we are actually planning on watching the first episode of the new season of "Community" on Yahoo! Screens tonight after our Home Depot appointment. I've installed the app on our Roku so there won't be a need to hook up the laptop to the TV. There are changes in cast this year again so that makes me sad, but I hope the show remains as good as it's been so far. Who would have thought it would last 6 seasons?! It's really a favorite of ours even though we just started watching it last year.
- Will you be getting Apple TV in order to watch the HBO shows? There was an announcement yesterday that ABC, CBS and other channels will also be streaming on Apple TV and speculations that pricing will be around $40 a month for about 25 channels. I'm not sure how much better this is than straight cable, but it still sounds like an awful lot of money to me. The only reason we would get it is if Greg could watch more football games with it than he can with our OTA antenna (which he probably could...) and if we could only subscribe during football season. These days we only have the TV on to watch blu-rays/DVDs that we own or from the library, or to watch OTA channels that broadcast older TV shows that we like... or to listen to Pandora or I Heart Radio via our Roku. I only use Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant when I'm on the recumbent bike and these days it's not very often as I have fallen off the wagon. So spending $40 a month to watch shows that I have no need for watching right now doesn't sound like a deal to me. Plus we'd have to buy the equipment and we already have 3 Rokus. We can wait a year to watch Season 5 of Game of Thrones on Blu-Rays. We won't die. Well, I hope we won't and if we do, we won't care about GoT anyway :) So this goes under the "Refuse What You Don't Need" category :)
- I had borrowed 2 books from the library yesterday and told myself that I would read them over several days. However, The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins was so engrossing that I finished it in one afternoon! I thought the writing was very good. The story was somewhat predictable (I mean, I had guessed who the killer was pretty early on in the story) but it was interesting nonetheless. I completely disagree with the people comparing it to "Gone, Girl" because there is no comparison between the protagonists at all, IMO. Also, I didn't like "Gone, Girl" so much (although I loved Gillian Flynn's other books). I probably should watch the movie to see if I would like it better than the book. It's rarely the case... the only movie that I can recall liking much better than the book was "The Hunger Games" because I didn't really like the book and I didn't even read the next 2.
- One of my "vices" is to read the "Dear Abby" column every day. It's very voyeuristic and has almost no value, not even entertainment, but today it actually contains something that might be useful to people:
2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember telephone number that, where available, connects people to information about critical, free or low-cost health and human services in their community. 2-1-1 reaches about 270 million people (90 percent of the U.S. population), covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada. It is a free, confidential resource.Similar to dialing 9-1-1 for emergencies, calling 2-1-1 helps people seeking training, employment, food pantries, shelter, assistance for aging parents, addiction prevention programs for teens, affordable housing options and support groups. It provides a one-stop service for community referrals.
- One reason why I hate cleaning is that is never ends. As soon as I finish cleaning something, I have to start all over again! Case in point: I had just finished cleaning the kitchen this morning, including doing the dishes, when I had to re-dirty it all over again by making chicken broth, peanut butter and jelly granola bars, reheating leftovers for my lunch, and putting dinner in the crockpot for tonight. I'm back to zero, I have a huge headache, and Greg will think all I did today was sit around and watch TV. Grrr. I need a maid.
- Since I decided to keep the plastic and wooden cutting boards that Greg brought back from his parents' RV, I put all my plastic cutting boards in the donation box for the thrift store.
- I packed a lunch for Greg to take to work and our son packed his lunch to take to school.
- There was 1/2 a cup of coffee left in the pot from yesterday so I nuked it and drank it before brewing a new pot.
- I signed up for the "Healthy Offer of the Week" on SavingStar, which is for 20% off loose pears this week. I usually don't use those offers since I get 99.9% of produce at Aldi or Save A Lot and they don't participate in the program but since Publix came on board last week and they sometimes have sales that aren't too bad (and their produce is much nicer!), I might be able to use it this week! I'll have to go back and check the sales circular to see how much they're charging for pears nowadays. My son likes them and it's a nice change from the apples/grapes rut.
- I earned 50 KFR bonus points by entering bonus code LUCKYLEPRECHAUNS and 100 KFR bonus points by entering bonus code POINTSFORREWARDS into my Kellogg's Family Rewards account (thanks for the heads-ups, Slickdeals!).
- We finished a gallon of milk this morning at breakfast so I texted Greg to find out whether he wanted me to keep the jug for him to reuse when he's painting this weekend. He said yes. One more item that will see more use before rejoining the landfill.
- I needed to spray some bleach in my shower and on the shower liner but my spray bottle was almost empty. I used cheap bleach from Aldi to refill my "Mildew Remover" spray bottle from Publix. I've been using bleach in it for several years and it works great for the shower. I put a reminder on my Google calendar to take down the shower liner and wash it on Thursday since it's time anyway and I should have several washing cloths to wash with it by then.
- I used 2 chicken breasts (bought at $1.49/lb at Save A Lot several weeks ago), 2 cans of black beans ($0.59 each at Aldi), 1 can of no salt added corn kernels (Save A Lot, about $0.50, I think) and a jar of Chi Chi's salsa (bought on BOGO with coupons at Publix several weeks ago, about $0.80 a jar, I think) to make Southwestern Chicken Stew in the crockpot for dinner. I froze the chicken bones to make chicken stock at a later date.
- But before doing all this, since my bag of chicken bones was full, I emptied it in a large stockpot, along with a quart-size bag of veggie peels and ends, some oregano, thyme, and bay leaves, and I cooked a huge pot of chicken stock that I will freeze tomorrow.
- For my son's after school snack, I made Peanut Butter & Jelly Granola bars. I found the recipe in a free downloadable cookbook called "Good & Cheap, Eat Well on $4 a Day" by Leanne Brown (page 25). I used 2 cups of rolled oats and a cup of Rice Krispies cereal. Hmmm, my unopened box of Rice Krispies had an expiration date of 2012! Apparently this was before the Kelloggs Family Reward program was started as there wasn't a code on the box. I also used the last of some Winn Dixie organic peanut butter that the kids weren't finishing along with some Skippy peanut butter, and some Welch's grape jam. I hope they turn out good. It was very easy to make and will allow me to use up those darn Rice Krispy cereal boxes (I have 2) without introducing marshmallows to my tummy. errr, pantry. I refrigerated them after they cooled off so they would be easier to cut into bars. They're still pretty crumbly so I think I'll keep them in the fridge. Also: kind of bland. I'd probably double the amount of grape jelly/jam that gets spread on top of them if I were to make them again. Or add mini chocolate chips :) However, Greg and our son like them the way they are.
- I had leftovers for lunch.
- I refolded a length of aluminum foil that I had already reused several times to cover several dishes, so I can continue reusing it.
- I washed 2 plastic freezer/storage bags in order to reuse them.
- I noticed that the new containers of Millville Old-Fashioned Oats from Aldi no longer have a plastic ring around the top. This might lead to less plastic in the landfill, but to more food waste in my house as it makes it easier for the bugs to find their way into the container as the flimsy cardboard rim is very easy to dent. So I emptied my newly opened container into my old container and recycled the new one instead of recycling the old one. Change isn't always for the best.
- I also used 2 plastic containers to rehouse a box of Honey Nut Cheerios that the kids had opened but never finished (no bugs in it... yet) and the Rice Krispies that I had just opened for the granola bars. The original packaging went into the recycling bin.
- I was going to throw away a flour tortilla that is so old that it's almost fossilized, but remembered that I put taco salad on the menu for next week, so I will break it and use it in the taco salad instead.
- My daughter keeps on using PAM in my frying pan despite my asking her not to (it gunks up the pan) so I decided to donate the cans of Pam that remain in my pantry (I have been using a Misto for a year). I found 3 of them. I might put them on the kerb and post about it on Craig's List.
- An easy way to earn Swagbucks: print your Coupons.com coupons through them! For each coupon that you printed from Swagbucks and that you redeem, you will earn 10 SB. It takes up to 12 weeks to get the credit, though, so be patient. I received 30 SB today and 20 SB a few days ago for coupons that I had redeemed :) On top of that, if you print just 10 coupons this month (all at once, I believe), then you will get a 25 SB credit next month.
- I reached 500 SB today so I ordered a $5 Amazon gift card. I find that I'm more motivated to earn SB when I'm trying to reach 500 SB than if I'm trying to each higher amounts.
- I used rainwater that I had stored into the cat litter jugs to water some of my herbs, the plum and lemon trees, and the blueberries. I watered everything else that needed to be watered with the hose, though.
- After dinner, we watched the first 2 episodes of Community, Season 6, on Yahoo! Screens via our Roku (free) with our son and had a good time. I think this will be Family Movie Night for this week since I don't have anything else lined up.
- I sold another book on Half.com! It's only a $4 book but better than not getting anything for it if I donated it to someone :) I reused a bubble mailer to ship it.
- Greg had to get gas for his truck and I took the survey on the receipt and earned another survey reward code for a free bakery item.
HOWEVER, WE FAILED IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS, BUT LEARNED SOME LESSONS:
- I don't think getting energy-efficient windows to replace our very old, crappy, single-pane window is a frugal failure, but it's another huge expense for us this month (after our tax bill) and it's eroding our emergency fund. We do have other repairs/maintenance/updates that we have to do on the house in the coming years, and we will have to budget for them.
Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!
Thanks for stopping by!