Friday, February 21, 2014

Frugal accomplishments for February 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes from my baking book:
The Everything Gluten-Free Baking Cookbook

February's been a pretty good month so far. We've had our challenges, but overall I've enjoyed a lot of things that happened this month. My Dad is back in the hospital and that has been tough, because he was very sick when he went and his recovery has been very slow, but hopefully he is now on the mend.

We've been able to stick with our budget this month, going "cash only" for gas, groceries, and everyday necessities has been the best way to curb my overspending habits. It's definitely an inconvenience at times, but it's also brought about joys that I did not anticipate!

I've always been a quiet person by nature. Extremely introverted and I prefer doing things by myself or with my husband. But being cash only I've had to come out of my shell a bit. When you're looking for a bargain you often have to talk to people! You have to get out of the car. You have to shop in person, not online. Sometimes this is frustrating, but I've also met a lot of really awesome folks and I've learned to smile more. I've learned there is a HUGE difference between needs & wants.

A few frugal accomplishments this month have included: 
  • A frugal Valentine's Day: Because the day was going to be low key financially, Michael and I found really creative ways to have fun and show our love. We made homemade cards, send small emails all day, I made Cheryl's homemade chocolates (for Michael, but I think I ended up eating them! LOL), I also made homemade gluten-free  red velvet cupcakes for a friend and we had a few leftover to celebrate the day. We spent dinner with no screens and just talked and really enjoyed our day. It was a wonderful Valentine's Day!
  • Frugal traveling: With my Dad sick in the hospital we wanted to find frugal ways to visit him over the past few weeks. Thankfully I have some really great friends and we were able to stay with friends on our first visit. A week or so after our first visit Dad was transferred to UVA Medical Center in Charlottesville, VA so  I spent some time researching affordable places we could stay in Charlottesville. We found a truly wonderful resource called Alexander House Inn & Hostel. The facility has both a dorm-type facility (the hostel) where you share the large room for sleeping + a small kitchen area  + a shared bathroom, along with an inn that has several private rooms that you can rent for very reasonable prices. We rented a private room, hubs wasn't quite ready for the more frugal "dorm" option! lol (Not that I can really blame him...) You do share a bathroom with the rest of the inn visitors + all open spaces such as the kitchen area, dining area, and living room area. I LOVED how eco-friendly the inn was and how they encouraged recyclying, composting, and even harvesting rainwater for growing plants. It was an extremely relaxing place to be and was a welcome retreat after visiting with my Dad at the hospital. We met some other people visiting at Alexander House as well, but I never felt uncomfortable, and really enjoyed our private room. And surprisingly enough, it didn't seem strange to share a bathroom with people we didn't know. We never ran into a time when we needed it and it was occupied, so it worked out fine. (Oh admit it, you really wondered about that! lol! Especially if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, bathroom readiness is important! lol) Cute neighborhood as well and very close to the hospital. We also enjoyed the kitchen area and being able to make our own gluten-free meals in the inn. We took all of our food with us. This was incredibly helpful in saving money over the course of our trip.
  • Frugal shopping: Bought 3 books at a used bookstore, will probably sell them on eBay after I'm through reading them. Bought bulk toiletry items from amazon. We won't have to restock on toilet paper or paper towels for months. (Hoping to also cut down on the amount of paper towels we use, would love to stop buying them completely one day.) 
  • Frugal clothing: Patched my favorite pair of jeans in the hopes of getting another year's use out of them! The patches aren't even that noticeable! 
  • Frugal reading: Downloaded an app from my local library to read ebooks. I read one book, but started having issues with the app even after removing it from my phone and reloading it. Will have to let the library know I had issues with it because I would love to use this resource on a regular basis! 
  • Frugal Beauty & Hygiene Products: This month I started something I've wanted to do for a long time. As much as I enjoy using coupons to buy shampoo/conditioner/toothpaste/deodorant, etc... I've always wanted to learn how to make my own and go the "no (sham)poo" route with my hair. So I've made different homemade "lotions & potions" for shampoo, conditioner, and deoderant. I've been doing this about 3 weeks with fairly good results. It definitely takes some experimenting to find the right recipes that will work for your own personal body and hair, so I've learned a lot along the way. I'll share more of these homemade beauty product recipes once I feel confident they have been successful for me. 
  • Frugal gluten-free bread: I found this recipe for gluten-free sourdough bread online and have been experimenting with it for several weeks. I've made 3 batches of bread with really good results. However this week something happened with my starter. It began to smell rather vinegary and not very sourdough-y, so I tossed it just in case it came in contact with some sort of bad bacteria or something. I am starting a new batch this weekend and I hope by next week I'll be able to make gluten-free sourdough again. The best thing about this bread is that if you can make it successfully, you don't need store-bought yeast (the wild yeast rises the bread), eggs, or milk. The bread is naturally vegan, frugal to make, and really delicious! 
  • Frugal probiotics: A few years ago I tried making kombucha on a regular basis. Yeah, I'm kinda hippy dippy like that, and I do believe in the power of probiotics and their role in gut health. However, I just couldn't keep up with kombucha. It's kind of an involved process where you have to brew tea, let it cool to the right temperature, use the right types of sugar and tea and allow the tea to ferment for a week or so and then store it properly... and it's kind of like taking care of a baby... and this is probably a good reason I don't have kids! lol (Cats thankfully are pretty self-sufficient and are more than happy to tell me when they are hungry!) So enter water kefir. I liked the idea of water kefir and was willing to try it. I liked that it wasn't milk/dairy based and it sounded relatively easy to care for. You simply "feed" 1/4 cup of kefir grains about 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Add enough water to fill your jar (I use a quart jar) and allow the kefir grains to ferment for 24-48 hours. (The longer you ferment, the less sweet the finished product will be.) Strain out the kefir grains and voila, you have water kefir. It's kind of like a slighly deflated soda and you can add different flavors such as lemon juice or lime juice or even fresh fruits and allow it to ferment longer to infuse the flavor of the fruits. A personal favorite combination for me is lime juice and ginger. This link will give you easy-to-follow, yet very detailed instructions on how to make water kefir. I bought my grains from amazon (since you really can seemingly buy EVERYTHING on amazon these days.) I've been fermenting the grains for about 3 weeks now and my grains have multiplied beautifully and are producing a very nice tasting water kefir. It sounds kind of strange, but it's a great way to get probiotics at a fraction of the cost of pills. Have you ever tried water kefir? I'll write a more detailed post about it later. 

What have your frugal accomplishments been this month? 

**These posts are inspired by my friend Carrie's monthly frugal accomplishments on her blog, "With all that I've been given" Please check out her wonderful blog and leave her some comment love! **

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