thethriftyhausfrau: (Come on in)
Thrift is a now somewhat obsolete notion, which is both sad and has long-reaching consequences for, well, pretty much everybody.

The Random House dictionary defines thrift as "economical management; economy; frugality." The word arises from Middle English, somewhere around about the year 1200, which in turn borrowed it from Old Norse, where it meant "well being, prosperity, to thrive."

To thrive. Isn't that a wonderful word? I think so.

In April 2014, I temporarily walked from a job that pays actual wages to be a full-time homemaker. Even with having to shepherd every penny, there's been a million times less stress in our lives. In truth, I was cut out to put my homelife first. However, unless one has small children, that job title gets you some really odd looks, like they think it actually means "lazy ass slacker." So I tell people I'm a "thrifty hausfrau." Maybe it's "hausfrau" or the use of the archaic word "thrifty" that throws 'em, but that look goes away.

After 10 months of full-time hausfrauing, I was offered a part-time job at the company I had left, with a schedule aimed at maintaining the home-work balance and giving me time to continue our very frugal lifestyle.

Because I've always been thrifty, this blog is a place to talk about thrift and frugality, to share strategies, help each other, and have fun.

Living a thrifty life is a process and it's an enjoyable one most of the time. So let's enjoy it together.
thethriftyhausfrau: (woman with a letter)
 photo Marigold.jpg.jpg

Her name is Marigold. She's a dachshund-something mix, now weighs 9 pounds, and is 17 weeks old. She's sweet, goofy, and one of the smartest puppies we've ever had. She came from the same rescue as our other two dogs. It's a small rural rescue started by an older couple. They've saved over 2,000 dogs from high-kill shelters.

I love dogs and love this rescue, so we are delighted to have one of their babies as our new baby.
thethriftyhausfrau: (clean my kitchen)
As of today, I've been sick for a month with a chain of ailments that started with allergies (this has been a marvelous autumn for ragweed), followed by a virus, followed by a stubborn sinus infection that thus far has involved two doctor's visits and a bagful of prescriptions. To make matters worse, I was trying to work -- more about that later -- and take care of three other sick family members.

A number of my frugal routines have suffered as a result. While running a fever and staggering around the grocery store, it's pretty easy to say "Oh, forget about it" when faced with the raw ingredients for items you can grab off the shelf in finished form for a couple of dollars more.

So for about two weeks, our grocery total hit record highs. I said, "Oh, forget about it" and blew my nose a few thousand more times while being grateful that a sale+coupons had allowed me to fortuitously stock up on boxes of tissues before being hit by the snot fest.

Last weekend, though, I was able to resist the lure cheap Thai take-out -- beloved here during colds for the medicinal properties of hot chilies and lime -- and made a big pot of spicy homemade chili and corn muffins. Our bellies were full and our heads temporarily unblocked: total win. :-D

About work: Happy little part-time gig has morphed into full-time. Although the money is nice, the work hours and massive amount of responsibility are not, and I'm feeling the strain here. I have managed to keep up the daily frugal activities that are pretty much bred into my bones by now: packing lunch and drinks from home; wearing cute thrifted outfits, which sometimes include bra, shoes and handbag in addition to blouse, slacks and sweater; driving with a light foot; keeping up with some coupons for essentials; using our laundry room drying rack for heavier items that take longer to dry.

Unfortunately, the more intensive frugal things like making bread every week and making homemade wet food for our Allergy Dog have gone by the wayside. We are stockpiling our fave bread from Aldi in the freezer and I scouted out a great deal on canned limited-ingredient food for the dog, but it's hard not to feel like a little bit of a failure.

However, I have to keep reminding myself that we do keep our household expenses low, our food expenditure is still very low, and right now we're doing the best we can. And that's all anyone can do.
thethriftyhausfrau: (clean my kitchen)
1. Packed my work lunch and cold drinks from home every day but one, in which there was a tiny splurge when I took a friend out to lunch.

2. Wore every day some cute thrifted item. Right now I have 20 summer shirts that all came from the thrift shop, at a cost of $1 to $3 each, so chances are good I'll wear at least one and often two or more (shoes, dresses, handbag) super-frugal thrifted items.

3. Cut my son's hair, thus saving him $15 at the cheap salon. He has super-thick, super-curly hair, and I'm one of the few people who can cut it to suit him.

4. When plantar fasciitis reared its ugly head again and began making my heels hurt, I bought a pair of men's Dr. Scholl's spongey insoles and cut out several sets of heel pads. Bonus points for buying the insoles with a coupon and buying the men's version because it's bigger for the same price.

5. Used a GoodRx card at the pharmacy for dog and cat medication. One of our dogs has arthritis and sometimes needs Tramadol for the pain when she's having a flare-up. Our vet wrote a prescription for it to be filled at the pharmacy and I used our GoodRX discount card to save about half off her prescription. Same for our ancient cat, who was prescribed Gabapentin, a people drug.

6. Did a dozen little frugal things every day: turn bottles upside down to get out the last of the lotion, dish detergent, toothpaste, catsup, whatever; keep the lights off in rooms not in use; deliberately drive under the speed limit and with a light foot on the brake for better gas mileage; wash all the laundry in cold water and on delicate -- we don't work in a coal mine, so the short delicate wash gets our clothes clean; hung laundry on the drying rack to dry overnight; and on and on. The key to frugality is persistence. You have to keep on keeping on until it becomes second nature.
thethriftyhausfrau: (woman at cafe table)
It's been five months since I went back to work and the better part of a month since my job status was changed to full-time, although I'm still without benefits, which is a story for another day.

Despite losing most of the free time in a week to Ze Job, I've been frugaling as much as possible. Some stuff has slipped away: I ordered canned food for the dogs again instead of making allergy-free food for them because there's barely enough time to cook for the humans. I also threw up my hands last weekend in despair because the kitchen was as hot as Vulcan's forge and preparing lunches for the week was out of the question. After a week of pricey frozen meals for lunch, I did get myself together this weekend and create a chicken chili and tacos for the freezer out of leftovers and other yummy odds and ends.

The chicken chili made almost entirely out of frozen leftovers: the frozen leg quarter from a rotisserie chicken*, frozen sliced red onion, sliced ginger, celery, green pepper, and about a cup of frozen quinoa leftover from another meal. All the frozen stuff went into a saucepan with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of seasoned salt and a dribble of water. As everything was thawing and melding, I added half a can of semi-drained red kidney beans. The rest of the beans were bagged up and put in the freezer with the remainder of the frozen chicken and quinoa.

It was awesome. There are no photos, dear readers, because I ate a serving for supper and packaged the rest up for this week's lunches.

*Because my husband and I don't eat a lot of meat at one sitting, one $4.99 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store makes about eight servings for us. We eat well for a couple or three days and then put the rest in the freezer. Yum.
thethriftyhausfrau: (woman at a well)
It's been sixteen years since I last had to use a coin laundry. That episode was a couple of trips in the spring of 2000, when our neighborhood was hit by a tornado and lost power for five days, but the shopping center about a mile away was unaffected. So I hauled our laundry over there at the beginning of the five days and again a few days later for washing, then took it home and hung it on the clothesline to dry.

The trips cost very little and I got to watch lots of Spanish language TV while waiting on the clothes to finish washing.

Recently our faithful washing machine began making strange beeping noises and shutting off with a drum filled with wet clothes. We did as all modern frugal people do and consulted Google and YouTube, then hauled out the tool kit and gave a home repair a go. Got the door unlocked, the water drained out, the pump filter cleaned, and still there was no joy.

So we called a repair service and the Thrifty Mister volunteered to take all the buckets of wet clothes and the rest of the laundry to a nearby coin laundry. Fourteen dollars later, we had four loads of clean clothes to run through the dryer.

FOUR-TEEN-BUCKS, people. For something that cost about $3 the last time I did it.

As the Mister put it, "This is another example of how being poor is expensive." But basically, washing your clothes is expensive: A decent washing machine is a pretty sizeable little investment of around $400, plus you have to pay to have it delivered and maybe set up, if you're not able to do so yourself. And washing machines simply don't hold up like they did in decades past. They're going to need repairs that often are as expensive as buying a new machine.

Ultimately, we had have the repair guy come out twice to work on the washer. Because we bought a home warranty that covers the appliances, we had a $65 co-pay for the first visit and none for the second. In those two visits, the repairman did $365 worth of work on the washer.

So if you're doing the math, that was essentially the cost of a new washer to get the old one fixed. And also just about the cost of the annual home warranty, which costs in the neighborhood of $400 every year.

At this point, I realized why there's a thriving market for rent-to-own washers and second-hand appliances people take a chance on. Any of those would be cheaper upfront than a repair or a warranty.

The poor tax truly sucks.
thethriftyhausfrau: (Default)
The mere mention of owning a Keurig coffee brewer makes hard-core frugalists hiss and invoke the holy grail of owning a French press.

However, there are several reasons why I prefer my little red Keurig Mini over a traditional coffee maker. First of all, it's red, so it matches the kitchen decor. Secondly, it's little, and will fit under the low-hung cabinets in our kitchen without taking up much space on the scanty amount of counter top we have. And lastly, I drink only two cups of coffee a day and cannot find a coffee maker, not even a 4-cup Mr. Coffee Junior, that makes that small of a pot taste good. Also, I do not like French press coffee, as I've yet to have a cup of it that didn't have sludge in the bottom.

Plus, the kitchen has granite counter tops and a slate floor. A glass coffee carafe lasts about two months tops in my kitchen before I drop it and it shatters to kingdom come. So a Keurig it is for me.

At the risk of having my membership in the frugal living club revoked, here's how to make owning a Keurig or other single-cup brewer more economical and less environmentally horrible. Read more... )
thethriftyhausfrau: (sewing lady)
The Thrifty Mister, as I call my darling husband, had his annual evaluation at work. He scored well on it, but was above average on professional attire. Here's the secret: I buy his dress shirts, all far better makers than we could afford to buy new, at the local Humane Society thrift store.

Because he scored well on his evaluation, he received a $500 increase in his pay. I'd like to think the beautiful shirts, bought for $2-$4 each, helped put his scores over the top. :-D
thethriftyhausfrau: (Default)
 photo Bread for Goldilocks.jpg

This homemade bread costs just under 76 cents a loaf to make. It has a tender crust and the perfect crumb. It makes amazing sandwiches and toast, and when it gets a bit stale, it makes wonderful croutons, bread crumbs for adding to meat loaf, and is excellent for making bread pudding.

The recipe started life as the recipe for Oatmeal Bread in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook's 1986 edition. I made the recipe a few times and it was good, but it was a bit heavier than desired. The Thrifty Mister is a huge bread fan, and we'd previously been spending $4-$5 a week on a loaf of bakery bread for his lunches, so I had the incentive of saving around $200 a year to come up with a great homemade bread recipe.
Read more... )
thethriftyhausfrau: (the lace maker)
This could also be subtitled: Why it's important to maintain work friendships after you've moved on.

A few weeks ago, my good friend from my previous job made me an offer I couldn't refuse, to work part-time for him in his department. The pay is modest, but the working environment is awesome and I'm able to set a schedule that allows me to take care of my family and continue our very frugal way of living.

Frankly, it could not have come at a better time, as we'd just been socked with nearly $1,000 in veterinary bills, $1,000 paid out in an auto insurance deductible after Mister Thrifty's car was creamed by a hit and run driver, and my looming need for expensive eye care, which costs about $1,000. We do have an emergency fund, but it absolutely took a beating in a very short time. Our very tight budget needed a larger belt to let out a few notches, so this is pretty much perfect.

Which brings me to the subject of balance in life and why that's important. Back when I was working full-time for this same company, I became very unhappy because the long hours meant things were going to hell in a hand basket at home. Although our house was never cluttered, it was not clean and the griminess had become actively distressing to me. We were also spending a huge amount of money at the supermarket because we had only a couple of hours on Saturday morning to devote to shopping and paid a premium price for not having much time.

So this time around, we have a bit of money coming in to soften the blows of the unexpected, and balancing a good family life is foremost in our minds. In preparation for returning to work, I made up a detailed list of what household chores get done when and by whom. It's been in action for going on three weeks and it's working out great. Built into this list is Sunday off for me and Mister Thrifty, so that we get to enjoy a day with only the most basic of chores (scooping the litter box and feeding the critters) and have time to spend with each other.

Balance is a beautiful thing! :)
thethriftyhausfrau: (sewing lady)
A few years ago, my husband bought me a pair of Behringer headphones that I like very much and use a lot. Our house is small, and the only way to listen to music or videos in peace is to use headphones.

Unfortunately, the vinyl-coated fabric on the ear pads and inside the head strap began peeling with age/use, and I wound up covered in tiny flecks of deteriorating black plastic every time I wore the head phones. I tried cleaning all the plastic off, but it's tenacious stuff. A long time searching on the internet for replacement pads came up fruitless. These are made for more expensive headphones, but not ones like mine.

Fortunately, I can sew. So I recovered the pads and strap with some fabric from my big tub of sewing goodies:


All this took was eyeballing how much fabric would be needed for each section, cutting it out and hand-stitching it to the original seams on each section. It was a little tedious, but the result works fine and is fun to look at. Plus, nobody ever picks up my head phones by mistake.

The fabric is the remains of a large remnant bought for $1 a yard. Some of it I used to make a cover for any tempting items in the hatchback of my car. After a few years, that fabric was recycled into a dog bed. The little bit that was left over became the ear phone cover.
thethriftyhausfrau: (fine dining oysters and wine)
I can't tell you how many batches of homemade salad I've thrown out uneaten/going bad in the past 30 years of cooking for a family. It's reached the point where salad has become something I eat only when in a restaurant, because it's too time-consuming and ultimately unappealing at home.

But the other night, while enjoying a chicken taco at our favorite neighborhood cheap Mexican restaurant, I realized something about salad:

It's time to deconstruct it, and rebuild it only with the parts I enjoy. What I like about the tacos is that they consist of a flour tortilla, some chopped-up grilled chicken, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and a sprinkle of cheese. That's it: essentially a chicken roll-up with a little salad inside. All the flavors could be tasted and enjoyed.

So today I took the leftover iceberg lettuce (shhh! don't tell the food cops!) and a ripe Roma tomato from last night's hamburgers made at home, and turned those two ingredients into a salad. I added a sprinkle of grated cheese leftover from last Sunday's homemade pizza, and made a simple dressing of two teaspoons of mayo beaten with an equal amount of water. It was just enough moisture to hold the cheese to the lettuce, more or less. Then I topped it with four large homemade croutons, made from the heel of a loaf of homemade oatmeal bread that was getting too dry.

It was filling, delicious, not fattening, and I enjoyed every crunchy, flavorful bite. Nothing new had to be bought to make it and it was constructed in just a few minutes. This is how salad is going to be from here on out. Yum!
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