Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Frugal ~ Cut it Out

     Some things were easier than others when it came to cutting expenses.
     Deciding to not renew any magazine and newspaper subscriptions was an easy decision. Removing ourselves from anything that had membership fees wasn't hard either, but reassessing where every penny went and trying to cut back on some of those expenses was a little more painful at times.
      Having a dishwasher when we had moved into our new to us home, was great. Washing dishes had never been a favorite chore, and this made it so much easier. In an attempt to save money on our electric bill, I decided to go back to hand washing the dishes. Our electric bill dropped by $30. a month which made that decision much easier to continue. And even now, I'm not willing to pay that much per month to have my dishes washed.
     We also realized it is entirely possible to live without a closet stuffed with clothes. That it is okay to wear the same outfit to church every single Sunday for as long as that outfit remains in good condition. And when it is necessary to buy more clothes, that thrift shops have plenty of options.
     Being brutally honest when it came to deciding if something was a need or a want was a huge help in becoming as frugal as we needed to be.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Verse

     "I'll have to buy a new Bible," Kenneth announced when he came home from church. 
      "What happened with yours?" I asked.
      "There's this young man who has been attending church for the past few weeks, and when he told me he doesn't own a Bible, I gave him mine."
       Part of me felt happy that he would cheerfully part with the Bible he had treasured for years already, while a selfish part of me felt sad that he would give away his good Bible we had given him.
      So this week, I went Bible shopping and bought him a new one. It doesn't have the same memories attached, but the words are the same, and I pray he will continue loving the word of God, and growing in his faith and walk with Christ.
      The Bible he had given away was the one I had mentioned in a post on my now closed, second blog.
     Here's an excerpt from that post:
    When our oldest son had a good grip on reading he could be found with his nose in a history book or the Bible. He didn't care much for fiction books even though we had shelves filled with books I had hoped he would enjoy someday.
     When he was eight we got him his first quality Bible and he was thrilled. For the next several months when ever someone stopped by our house he would wait for an opportunity and proudly show them his Bible, and then read his favorite verse to them. Proverbs 7:27 Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
     The first time he read that verse to someone I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. When it didn't I simply pasted a weak smile on my face and managed to steer the conversation to more pleasant paths.
     I wrestled with what I should do. How do I tell my son not to have that as his favorite verse? And why did he choose that one to begin with? I decided not to address the specific verse and instead try to get him to appreciate some more appropriate verses as his favorite. I didn't want to in any way put the thought into his head that part of the Bible is not good.
     Fast forward seven years. He still loves reading his Bible, and last night when my husband and I were heading to bed, we paused for a moment outside our boys bedroom door where I listened to our fifteen year old son read a few chapters of the Bible to his three year old brother., and then explain what he had read. I had to blink back tears of joy as I heard our three year old say, "More, read more!" when his brother announced it was time to sleep.
    Seeing them love God's Word makes this Mama's heart glad. And so happy that I didn't squash his love of the Bible back when the verse he loved the most embarrassed me to no end.
     My prayers are that, that Bible will bless the young man who owns it now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Reading ... in the Bible I'm making my way slowly through the book of Ezekiel. It's more of a hard read for me, and I'm having to read chapters from the Psalms and the New Testament as I wade my way through the heaviness of Ezekiel.

I have a stack of library books here that I'm working my way through. I'm almost done with Hands Free Mama (great book) and am looking forward to some light fiction next.

There is also a big stack of children's books that I read to Steven. He's leaning more and more toward independent reading, but as long as he still enjoys having me read to him, I'm going to continue.

Listening ... to the roar of the waterfall. We've been having a lot of rain the past few days and the waterfall increased in volume, both in water and noise. 

Cooking ... we'll be have tuna cakes and coleslaw for supper tonight. It's actually a lot better than it sounds.

Thinking ... how blessed we are with caring friends. On Friday evening Sharon fell and broke her wrist. Seeing everyone rally around her was so touching!

On the phone ... one of my Amish brothers is calling quite regularly. He is working on an invention and since he doesn't have a computer he will call and ask me to do all his online searches for him. The things he has me search for and read to him go right over my head. It's painfully boring! 

Later today ... I will be working on preparing the portfolios that I need to show to our home school evaluator for our children's upcoming end of the school year evaluations. I'm always glad when that is done for another year!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Frugal ~ God's Provisions

    We had come home from our weekly grocery run, and LV left for work. As the children and I put everything away they noticed that we had forgotten to buy milk.
    We always made a gallon of milk last a week, but it was a pretty important item on our grocery list every time.
    "We'll just have to find a way to do without milk for a week," I told them.
    "God could send us milk," Kenneth said, "if we prayed for it."
     And so we knelt in our dining room, and Kenneth led us in a simple prayer. "Dear God, Mom forgot to buy milk so could you send us a gallon? Thank you, and Amen." We all added our Amens and got up to continue our day.
    Only a few minutes later the phone rang. I answered. It was our next door neighbor. "I don't know what I was thinking," she said, "but several days ago I stopped at the grocery store and bought a gallon of milk, I don't even like milk! I hate throwing it away, and thought I'd see if you could use it. You don't have to take it ..."
     "We'd be happy to take the milk," I told her.
      A few minutes later she was at the door apologizing for bothering us, but happy that we accepted the milk.
     She left, and the house was filled with rejoicing at the speedy answer of prayer, and we marveled how God knew we would pray for milk and He had her buy it several days before we prayed for it and waited to give it until we did.
     All the careful budgeting, the scrimping, the saving wasn't helping much at the moment. The weather had been bad, the trees hadn't been the best quality, and the past few logging checks had reflected that. We were now faced with all the monthly payments due and we knew there was absolutely no way we could possibly pay them.
     Again, we prayed, thanking Him for His provision and care for us, and presented our problem to Him and how we didn't have the money to take care of that month's bills.
     We had no idea how He would answer, but trusted that one way or the other we would be okay.
     That evening one of the local farmers came driving in with his cattle trailer. In the back he had twin calves; a boy and a girl. "These are so small, they're not even worth taking to the sale barn," he said. "Every one will know they're twins." (For cows, a girl/boy twin, the girl will most likely never be able to have a calf.) "I thought you might like them for your children, or do with them what you want. Sell them if you like, you might get enough to buy them each some candy." He laughed heartily.
     We accepted them, and the next morning LV and Kenneth took them to the sale barn. We didn't expect much, but at this point every dollar counted.The auctioneer sold them as a pair of twins. The bidding started and kept going and going. After commission was figured off the final price and the check was in our hands we couldn't keep from praising God. It was exactly what we needed to cover our payments.
     It was fall and time to get our winter's supply of coal to heat the house. Once again we simply did not have the funds to buy coal.
     As we were eating supper one evening there was a knock at the door. LV answered it and greeted the old man who was standing there.
     "Sorry to bother you," he said. "I have this big pile of coal in my basement, but I'm getting too old to walk up and down the basement stairs to fire a coal furnace. I have intalled an oil furnace, and am looking for someone who could remove the coal. You can have it in return for cleaning my basement."
     We accepted his offer, and spent several evenings scooping coal into buckets, dumping it on the back of our pick up and unloading it into our coal bin, and then cleaning up his basement.
     We were warm and toasty all winter, and so thankful for the way God met another need.
     I could continue with many more stories of the wonderful ways God provided for us, but this post is getting too long.
     Those years of living in extreme frugality were good for us. They taught us so much, and seeing prayers answered and God's provision were so faith building.
     It's not that our life was sitting back, doing nothing, and expecting God would keep us fed, clothed, and warm. He did, but there were also months where we eked by, without any miraculous things happening. We learned to praise Him in everything. EVERYTHING. I really can't stress that enough. Praise God in everything! Even when it makes no sense, continue praising. In Hebrews 13 we are told to continually offer sacrifices of praise to God. If we only praise Him when we think something good happened, how is that a sacrifice? God is good all the time, and worthy of our praise ... all the time!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Frugal ~ Hosting on a Budget

    Even the simplest fare is made special when served on pretty dishes.
    Those words from my mother ran through my mind as I hung up the phone. Some out of state friends were coming to our area and asked if they could stop in for dinner that night.
     Left over ground beef gravy and the little bit  of rice we still had would not make a meal I wanted to serve guests. Even pretty dishes wouldn't be able to do much to make that seem special.
     Saying a quick prayer for inspiration I surveyed the options I had on hand. Digging into the back of my pantry cupboard I was pleased to find about half a cup of raisins that had somehow managed to escape my notice until now. I put them in soak and prepared to make Mom's "Poor Man's Bars" While nothing fancy, I knew they were delicious and would have to do for our dessert.
     The flour I had left over after I made those bars was only enough for one loaf of bread, and knowing the amount of people I'd have to serve I knew one loaf was not going to be enough. I went ahead and made the bread dough, but then instead of forming it into a loaf I rolled it out in a long narrow rectangle. I chopped up some garlic I had grown in our garden and sprinkled it over the dough and followed it with some dried parsley. I rolled it up and cut it into thin slices and popped them in the oven. They came out as beautiful golden brown bite sized bread pinwheels.
     With that done I went to retrieve the last piece of meat I had been hanging onto for a long time already. By now it was freezer burnt, but I hoped with some love and care and quite a bit of time in the slow cooker the roast would turn into something presentable. I didn't have a lot of option when surveying my shelves filled with canned goods from our garden, but finally decided to try pouring a can of tomato soup over it and hope for the best.
     We were out of potatoes, and didn't have enough rice, so I decided to simply serve two kinds of vegetables instead. Sweet corn and green beans would have to work.
     By the time the guests arrived I had the table set with my prettiest dishes. And was ready to heat the vegetables. "We brought several five gallon pails of potatoes along," the lady said. "We have so many that we won't get them all eaten by spring, could you use them?"
     I was happy to accept them and quickly set about preparing some for dinner.
     Somehow as we gathered around the table to eat it looked like a company dinner. No one would have guessed the pretty bread bites were born out of desperation, and every one talked, laughed, and ate. Taking seconds and thirds of those bread bites and even asking for the recipe. The freezer burnt roast was tender and delicious in its tomato soup sauce, and the pretty dishes, well they did exactly what they were supposed to. They gave the meal that touch that made it all seem extra special.

     During those lean years we never quit inviting people to our home for meals, though I learned to accept the offers to bring something along when someone asked. I would often say a simple salad will be just fine. It was a treat for us to have a salad and everyone always seemed pleased to bring something that simple.
     Somehow saving anything I possibly could from our grocery budget to then be able to buy ingredients to bake something for guests never felt burdensome.
     And through it all the pretty dishes worked like a charm to make even simple meals seem special.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Frugal ~ Grocery

    Having been thrust into an extreme frugal life, our weekly grocery budget was reduced to $20 -$25 a week for everything.
    Knowing that is all that was available made me completely redo the way we ate.
    A single pound of hamburger had to last for a week. I would fry it up in a cast iron skillet and then add water and thicken it to make a gravy. I carefully doled out that gravy onto rice or potatoes to give our meal that little bit of extra it needed to feel more complete. That little bit of meat seemed to work to keep us all feeling that we weren't deprived.
    I kept some sugar on hand to be able to make dessert when we had guests, but otherwise we no longer ate desserts. That was huge, coming from our Amish background where no meal, including breakfast was complete without dessert.
    Some kind of hot cereal for breakfast was much more economical than serving cold cereal.
    I switched from butter, to the much cheaper option of margarine for all the cooking and baking. We still used butter for our bread, but really cut back on the amount of bread we used as well.
     Anything other than the absolute most basic of essentials was cut, which included cheese which I happened to love. I discovered it is quite possible to live without it, though I missed it a lot.
    We had a garden, which meant that we always had an abundance of vegetables, both fresh and canned during the summer, and only canned for the rest of the year. That really helped us even as the fresh produce aisle used to beckon to me and I resolutely ignored it. We ate so many canned green beans during those lean years that by now when ever I taste them it transports me back to those days.
     We saved every bit of leftover food and found ways to either incorporate them into our next meal or simple reheat them. But nothing was allowed to go to waste.
     Paper products ... paper towels and napkins were out. Using reusable rags for cleaning up messes worked great in place of paper towels, and fabric napkins replaced the paper ones. As far as toilet paper, we were happy to find the Always Save brand 4 packs were less than a dollar.
     Vinegar replaced all my various cleaning soaps and cleaners, and the laundry detergent was switched to the cheapest option I could find.
      I always started our weekly grocery shopping with twenty five dollars in my wallet, and kept careful track of the exact amount I was going to have to pay as I added items to my grocery cart. It was always a good feeling when I had a dollar or two left over. I'd squirrel it away to be used when ever we had guests and needed a little something.
      I'll talk more about how I made special meals on a budget, later.

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Frugal Life ~ The Beginning

    Living frugally can look vastly different to different people. This isn't the most comfortable topic for me to write about, but it's part of our story. If someone can glean a little something from it, great! But if not, well, it's simply our story.
    I was raised in a thrifty household. Our mantra: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. That background came in useful when seven years into our marriage we were forced to make every penny last as long as possible.
    Growing up, as normal for Amish families, neither LV or I received an allowance. Any money we may have earned was given to our parents until either you turned twenty one, or you got married. I won't go into my thoughts about that now, except to wonder how I could possibly have been so thrilled to have a whopping eighty dollars to my name when we got married.
     We got married and took over LV's family farm. Bit by bit we squirreled away money, saving up a healthy nest egg. 
      Things started changing when we moved to Missouri. We wanted to continue farming out there, but that first year was hard. For some mysterious reason our calves would be healthy and happy until they reached around 400 pounds and then they'd get sick and many of them died. It was a blow to our nest egg, but we finally figured out what was causing them to get sick and we were able to make the changes we needed. 
     But a year later the real blow came. We had left the Amish, which meant we lost our Amish health "insurance".  I became deathly ill from a ruptured gall bladder and required a lengthy hospital stay.
    Thankful to have survived and our happy little family still intact, we now faced the impossible task of paying all the doctor and hospital bills. After we were wiped clean … down to thirty-six cents in our bank account, the hospital and doctors were willing to set up a payment plan to get our remaining medical bills paid off over the next twenty years. 
     Having already been living what we thought was a frugal life, we were about to take frugal living to a whole new level.
    To be continued  … in a series of blogposts of ways we made our pennies stretch and what living frugally looked like for us.     

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Spring Flowers

    I love wildflowers, and when I had the opportunity recently to go on a hike with LV one afternoon I grabbed my camera and we were off.
     The amount of wildflowers we saw did not disappoint.
      Here are a few of my favorites from that day.