Welcome to Festival of Frugality #307

The “Why Does Everything Always Break at Once?”Edition.

First thing – an apology. This Festival of Frugality post should have been up yesterday morning, but as always seems to be the way, things went wrong at the worst possible moment. (Although my boychild reminds me, there’s never a good moment for things to break or go wrong.)

My computer decided that Monday evening was a great time to come down with the flu. Or in this case, a nasty virus that had my computer locked up tight for a while. Several hours, and a brand new install of Windows later all seemed to be fine. Back on track I could get the post completed and up by end of day yesterday. Or so I thought. Again, Murphy’s Law laughed at my puny attempts and decided that it was a great time to knock out the cable for nearly 24 hours so that I had no internet. Ok, so I don’t know that it was Murphy – it might have been the construction guys that happen to be replacing the elevators in my building and fixing the roof after the heavy rain this week. And maybe one of those guys is named Murphy. Either way… here we are with a late, but packed-to-the-brim with great stuff, Festival of Frugality #307.





Home Sweet Home

Everything Else

Thanks again to Ryan at Festival of Frugality for giving me the honour of hosting this week!
~ Merlene
photo “Broken Computer” by Tara Hunt used under Creative Commons license.

The One Hour Thanksgiving Dinner

Just because you don’t have time to make an elaborate Thanksgiving Feast doesn’t mean you have to skip Thanksgiving altogether.
If you have to work on Thanksgiving Day and/or other scheduling chaos this little guide should at least give you a little holiday cheer.

The Night Before

  • Do a quick tidy up.
  • Set the table and get out any serving dishes, small appliances and utensils you will need.
  • Arrange a fresh bowl of fruit and nuts (don’t forget the nutcracker!) as a centerpiece on the table.
  • Gather all non-perishable food items you’ll need tomorrow and place somewhere easy to reach but not in the way.
  • Move anything that needs to thaw from the freezer to the fridge.
  • Mix 1 can (16 ounces) whole berry cranberry sauce with 1 well drained can (8 ounces) mandarin oranges and 1 well drained can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple. Cover and refrigerate.

One Hour Before Dinner

  • Heat oven to 350F
  • Into a greased, shallow baking dish empty 2 packages (16 ounces each) of frozen mixed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, brussels sprouts, etc.). Top with a package of seasoned bread crumbs combined with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and dot with butter or margarine. Cover and place in oven.
  • Drain one large (40 ounce) can of yams or sweet potatoes. In a deep, well greased casserole dish, mash the yams with 1/4 cup each maple syrup and orange juice, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and salt. Cover and place in oven.
  • Stack turkey slices cut 1/4 to 1/2 thick from the deli in the middle of a large, well buttered, sheet of foil. Rub some dried sage onto each slice. Wrap well in the buttered foil, place in a shallow baking dish and place in oven.
  • Prepare 1 package of instant mashed potatoes using package directions either on stove top or in microwave.
  • Prepare one package of stove top style stuffing following package directions either on stove or in microwave.
  • Mix and heat 2 cans (12 ounces) of turkey or chicken gravy.
  • Toss 1 package of packaged mixed greens salad with diced fresh tomato, apple and cucumber.

10 Minutes Before Dinner

  • Uncover vegetable dish and return to oven to let brown.
  • Stir finely snipped chives into mashed potatoes.
  • Serve salad along with 2 or 3 bottled salad dressings and bread or rolls.

To Serve Dinner

  • Place cranberry sauce in small dish on table.
  • Spoon the mashed potatoes and the yams into serving bowls and bring to table.
  • Arrange turkey slices in middle of a large platter, spooning any juices from foil over top. Then spoon some gravy over top of turkey. Put remaining gravy in a gravy boat or other serving dish and bring the gravy to the table.
  • Arrange the stuffing on one side of the turkey on the large platter and the vegetables on the other side. Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley and bring to table.
  • Finish off with a pumpkin pie and some iced cream.

    There we are, dinner is served!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Pumpkin Pie image

    photo by SanFranAnnie via Flickr

8 Holiday Knitting Patterns for Christmas Stockings

ball of red wool yarn

photo by simplyla

With only 5 short weeks left until Christmas we sometimes feels as though we don’t have enough time to think let alone knit up a few great gifts. With Thanksgiving just a few days away for most of the Frugal Family Life readers, the air is crackling with a mixture of excitement, stress, fun and panic is equal portions. Holiday music is playing in the malls. Many folks have their holidays lights up and will begin trimming the Christmas trees over the holiday weekend.

As I looked through my own holiday decorations the other day, I realized that some of our Christmas stockings are getting a bit tattered looking and it might be time to get some new ones. Which led me to dig through my yarn stash and do a search for free Christmas Stocking patterns. I’m going to attempt to get 2 matching stockings knit this year. Below are 8 free Christmas stocking patterns I’ve found online this week but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. I love the simplicity and old fashioned feeling of the Striped Christmas Stocking. The Fisherman (or Aran) Stocking is so elegant in that creamy wool. Nicky Epstein’s Stocking is so fun and lively. My yarn stash has yield nothing that would be suitable for Christmas Stockings so I have a hunch that I’ll be leaving the final stocking decision until I’m in the yarn shop tomorrow to choose.

In the meantime, here are 8 lovely free Christmas Stocking patterns to knit that range from very basic to intermediate knitting levels.
I’ll share some photos of my stocking progress soon.

Christmas Stockings to Knit

Knit Christmas Stocking Pattern Books

There are some great knitting books with just Christmas Stocking patterns out there as well!

Amazon.com Widgets

17 Free Books You Can Sink Your Teeth Into: Halloween & Horror Books for Kindle

This week I found a bunch of free Halloween books as well as some mystery, supernatural and horror fiction for Kindle. I make no guarantee that these items will remain free on Amazon, nor do I guarantee the quality of the books or that they will be suitable for family reading. I have not read all of these but I do have them all downloaded and waiting in my unread folder.

If you don’t have an actual Kindle ebook reader you can download a free Kindle application that will work on your PC as well as for most tablets and smartphones.

Other Free Kindle book posts you might enjoy:

Featured image “Snow White’s Scary Adventures Spell Book” by funnyboy73 use under Creative Commons license.

10 Free Classic Tales of Horror and Mystery for the Kindle

I’m always on the look out for the Kindle freebies that pop up. This week I found a bunch of free classic tales of horror and mystery for Kindle including Frankenstein, Dracula and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I make no guarantee that these items will remain free on Amazon, nor have I read all of these books (but they’re waiting in my unread folder) and it’s up to you to decide if these books are suitable for your family.

Happy reading!

If you don’t have an actual Kindle ebook reader you can download a free Kindle application that will work on your PC as well as for most tablets and smartphones.

Other Free Kindle book posts you might enjoy:

Featured image “Night of the Raven” by AlicePopkorn used under Creative Commons license.

17 Free Cookbooks for Kindle

I bought myself a Kindle ebook reader last November and I often wonder what I ever did before I got it! In addition to buying ebooks for Kindle (often at a much lower price than the physical books would cost – without taking up space) I’m always on the look out for the Kindle freebies that pop up. This week I found a bunch of free cookbooks for Kindle. I make no guarantee that these items will remain free on Amazon, nor do I guarantee the quality of the books or recipes, but it’s always fun to see what you can find with the Kindle freebies.

If you don’t have an actual Kindle ebook reader you can download a free Kindle application that will work on your PC as well as for most tablets and smartphones.

Why Are You Frugal?

This morning one of my posts, Keep the Cold Out and the Warm In This Winter, is featured on the 301st Festival of Frugality hosted on Funny About Money and it got me thinking about why I’m living a frugal life and wondering why others are.

For me, frugality was part of my upbringing. My parents were born in 1930 and 1934 – right in the midst of the Great Depression. Their childhoods were defined by the Great Depression and the war years. By economic problems not just in their village, but in their province and their country. By food rationing. (My Mom still has her food ration booklet from when she was a child.) These were the years when you made do with what you had. If you broke something you fixed it. You knew the difference between a want and a need. You cherished family, friends, laughter, and simple things. Children had a few cherished toys, not “playrooms” filled with them. When you asked my parents about their childhoods they tell happy stories and talk about good memories. They never complained about not having a new outfit for every party or the newest toy or game.

By the time I came along in 1969 my parents had been married 18 years, the economy was doing well, and even with 3 older children nearing college age, my family was living a nice middle to upper-middle class life. But even in those days of consumerism and plenty a thread of frugality ran through my home. My mother loved yard sales, auctions, most of my clothes were from thrift shops. She would rinse out plastic bags, wash aluminum foil, save empty jars and even pieces of string to use for something. New towels, bedding or household items that were received as gifts often got put away for “good” or for “company”, while we continued to use the old shabby towels, the faded bedding, and the chipped dishes. “There’s still lots of good left in these”, she’d say when I’d complain about a pair of scuffed up shoes or a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee. Meals out at restaurant was a rare treat – maybe once per year – and fast food at the local “car hop” was maybe once every 2 or 3 months. An ice cream on a hot summer day from Dairy Queen was one of the ultimate treats. Because it happened so rarely it was cherished.

I was middle school age, my siblings were all adults and out on their own, when the recession of the 1980s hit us. We lost our family business. We lost our home. The local economy was so bad that my father went across the country to find work and months later Mom and I joined him. A van filled with a few pieces of furniture, books, and personal belongings. We spent my teen years living in a city in a rental. Quite a change after growing up in a big modern, custom built home in a rural area.

I married my high school sweetheart in 1989, at the age of 20, and our daughter was born shortly after that. My husband had a good income and we decided that we’d prefer that I be a stay at home mom rather than work and again the frugality had to kick in. We rented for the first 6 years while we saved up to buy a house. We had one car. We didn’t take vacations, go out to eat, buy much for ourselves, and although we did spoil our daughter with toys and clothes, we also “spoiled” her with time and attention. 5 years later our son was born and soon after we bought a lovely home in a nice, quiet family neighbourhood. It wasn’t a big house by the standards of many, but it was more than enough for our little family.

Home ownership was another exercise in frugality. We hadn’t thought beyond the mortgage payments. Taxes, utilities, insurance, maintenance, and even lawn and garden upkeep didn’t enter our figuring. Still, we decided to remain a single income family, and “do without” a new car, a second car, vacations, dining out, etc.

In May of 2003 I came home from grocery shopping with the kids late one afternoon to see one of my worst nightmares happening. My house was engulfed in flames, surrounded by firetrucks and spectators. Flames were shooting out of the roof, the bedroom windows, everything we had was gone. Destroyed by fire, smoke and water. My family was safe though. And as my kids, 13 and 8 at the time, quickly learned. Stuff is just stuff. THINGS can be replaced.

We had insurance but it took 6 months before we had our home rebuilt and another 8 months after that before we had our final payout from the insurance company. My family lived in a very small furnished rental for 6 months during the rebuild process. We had some clothing and a few personal items when we moved back into the newly rebuilt house. It was so empty. No furniture. No knick-knacks. No stuff. By the time we sold the house 5 years later when my husband and I decided to part ways, the house was full of stuff again. It’s amazing how “stuff” will expand to fill space.

After selling the house my kids and I moved into a rental apartment. We have about 1/3 the space for “stuff” and we’ve all had to scale down our personal belongings and furnishings in order for it to work. I’m now working full time as an internet marketer, freelance writer and blog consultant from home and living on significantly less income than we once were. And yet my family survives.

So after a long-winded tale… I’ve come to the conclusion that frugality has always been part of my life. During the lean times it’s by necessity but in the good years it’s still bred in the bone somehow. Yes, I’ve had times when I’ve shopped and I’ve splurged but those days are few and far between. I can always see the difference between the needs and the wants. And having seen my family lose everything when I was barely a teen, having lost everything I own to a fire, and later having to downsize my life to fit into a rental apartment and a reduced income – I can safely say that my needs have always been met. The rest is just gravy.

So tell me. Why are YOU frugal? Are you frugal as a result of a lifetime of frugality? As the result of recent economic problems? A feeling that there’s more to life than mindless consumerism? A desire to set an example for your kids? Are you concerned about the environmental impact of “stuff”?

Image “Great Depression” by buckle1535 used under Creative Commons.

Keep the Cold Out and the Warm In this Winter

Why Do I Have Icicles On My House?

Icicles often give a pretty wintery feel to houses along roof-lines and windows. Why do houses get icicles? Rather than a Currier and Ives holiday picture, icicles on your house mean that your home is losing heat. Icicles form when heat escapes from your roof or around your windows.

Remember the saying “Close the door! We’re not heating the outdoors!”? If you have icicles, that’s just what you’ve been doing. Heating the outdoors.

What Can I Do To Keep My House From Losing Heat In Winter – Long Term Solutions

  • Have a professional energy audit done on your home. While a professional audit can cost thousands of dollars initially, you can save the amount of your energy audit over only one or two winters if you follow the advice the auditor gives you along with the results.
  • Check for Government grants and rebates in your area for home renovations. I know here in Canada there are several thousand dollars in grant money available to homeowners who get an energy audit and make improvements to their homes to make them more energy efficient. These grants can cover much of the cost of improvements such as new energy efficient roof, windows, insulation, siding, furnaces and more. Do a little research to find out what grants or rebates your national and state governments are offering home owners.

By completing a home energy audit and the renovations required to your home to cut heat loss and energy consumption you can easily save enough to pay for that investment over the next 5 years. If you can find Government grants and rebates in your area you could see enough savings to pay for the initial investment in renovations and improvements to your home in as little as a year. A bonus is that your house will increase in value as a result of your investment as well.

What Can I Do To Keep My House From Losing Heat in Winter – Short Term and DIY Solutions

We know now that investing a few thousand dollars on an energy audit and home improvements can end up paying for itself in energy savings over only a few years but what if you just don’t have the money to get started?

  • Let the sun in. During the day keep the blinds and drapes wide open during those few brief hours of daylight. Sunshine, which is basically solar energy, can heat your home up by several degrees. So let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
  • Turn down the thermostat. Especially when you’re not at home or you’re snug as a bug under your blankets at night. By turning the temperature back by 10-15 degrees for 10 hours per day can save you 10% on your energy bill. Programmable thermostats work best – you can set different temperatures for day while you’re working, at night while you’re sleeping and even for weekends when you’re home. For as little as $25 you pick up a programmable thermostat at your local hardware store and get started. Of course you can always manually turn the temperature lower and higher if you don’t have a programmable one.
  • Use your ceiling fans. Most, if not all, ceiling fans have a switch on the base of the fan to reverse their rotation. In the winter, by reversing or resetting your fan, you’ll be pushing the heat near the ceiling down toward the floor.
  • Use caulking or weather stripping around exterior windows and doors. When I was a kid I remember my parents taking a light candle and slowly moving it along the frames of the windows and doors to find drafts. The areas where the candle flickered crazily were the areas that got a bead of caulking or weather stripping applied.
  • Close off unused areas of your house. Close the door and shut off the heat to any room you don’t use daily, such as a spare room or enclosed sun room. Close and cover the ducts/vents and if the room has it’s own temperature control turn it off. If you need the room again you can always turn the heat back on and it will be warm in an hour or two.
  • Wrap your pipes. Pipes that carry water need to be insulated from below-freezing temperatures. If you have a crawl space under your home or a basement that’s not insulated, wrap your pipes with fiberglass insulation or use pre-molded foam rubber sleeves that you can pick up at most home improvement stores.
  • Bundle up! Wear a comfy sweater, some cozy thick socks, slippers, and curl up under an afghan. By bundling up a little more and keeping the temperature set even 5 degrees lower than your “comfort” level when you’re home you can save up to 5% of your heating bill. There’s something very cozy about curling up in a sweater, wrapped in a throw or afghan while sipping cocoa with your loved ones.

These are just a few ways to keep things warm this winter, and save a little money in the process. A trip to your local hardware store or big box home improvement center can help you get started and the staff at those stores will be on top of the newest products to help you keep your home energy efficient and warm. Home improvement and hardware stores often schedule free “how to” seminars so check with your local stores for dates and times.

A List of Resources to Help Keep the Warm In this Winter:

This post is part of the 301st Festival of Frugality hosted by Funny About Money on October 7, 2011.

Only 12 Weeks (That’s 84 Days!) ’til Christmas!

Santa Run
Did your heart just start racing at the thought of Christmas?

Are you one of those people who plans and prepares months in advance or are you one of those people that seem to get caught by surprise when December rolls around?

Do you set and stick to a Holiday spending budget or do you spend the 6 months after the Christmas Holidays paying off the debt you racked up on gifts?

Do you spend the Christmas Holidays enjoying friends, family, and the holiday season or do you wind up feeling tired, frazzled, overwhelmed, anxious and stressed?

I’ve definitely been the frazzled, tired, stressed and overwhelmed Mom during the holidays and I’ve had my share of years spending months paying off my credit cards after the holidays and it’s sucked the holiday spirit out of my home many times.

On the other hand, I’ve had Christmas Holidays that went smoothly. Gifts were all purchased (or made) and wrapped up months in advance. No last minute running to the malls. No pressure or stress. And believe me, those Christmas Holidays were wonderful and filled with Holiday spirit.

Over the next 12 weeks we’re going to bring you lots of ways to take the stress out of the Christmas Holidays including:

  • frugal gifts you can make
  • frugal decorations you can make
  • holiday party ideas
  • holiday recipes
  • holiday budgeting tips
  • holiday calendar planning
  • much, much more

If you have any tips, suggestions, or questions please contact us. We’re always happy to hear from you :)