Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fixing Up the Shack

Lately I've been working a lot outside in our yard in a desperate attempt to make our house look more like a home and less like a run down shack. A lot of things have been languishing because we just haven't had the money to have them repaired. We still don't, honestly.

Last year we removed our back deck because it was rotting, causing water damage to the house, and no longer safe. We also removed the back stairs coming from our entryway because of a pesky paper wasp infestation (NASTY buggers!). The deck has now been replaced with a small set of stairs, and the other steps were rebuilt, but there was damage left to the house from where the old structures once were. This is what the area around our back stairs looked like after the new steps were put in:

We have exactly $0 available for repairs right now, so I had to get creative and come up with a solution using what we already had on hand. We had some boards left from the old deck that were still in usable condition, so I cut them down and used them to cover the exposed areas of the house. Bonus: they were already painted to match the house.

It's not perfect, but it's much better than before. I had originally planned to put a large planter in that space next to the stairs, but I found that the kids' sandbox fits nicely instead.

As for where the old deck was? There is currently a barren patch of dirt there instead. I scattered some grass seed in the hopes of having it blend in with our existing lawn, but it remains to be seen if it will grow. Heck, as long as SOMETHING green grows there, I don't even care if it's grass. I'll just be glad it's not mud anymore.

The veggie garden has been improved, too. We rented a rototiller and hubby used it to vanquish all the weeds that had taken over. I have most of our veggies planted now. This year I'm growing zucchini, bell peppers, onions, and a boatload of green beans. I'm also trying out something new to me this year- growing potatoes in trash barrels. I'm excited to eat all the yummy veggies we grow this summer!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hanging Out

Now that the weather is steadily above freezing I have been able to hang my laundry outside in the fresh air once again. I know it may sound silly, but I LOVE the smell of laundry that has been dried on the clothesline, especially sheets. Hanging our clothes also saves a bunch of money off our electric bill. Our clothesline is located in a small area between the rear of our house and our shed.

A few weeks ago I finally got around to changing out our old clothesline because it was very worn out. I added more lines too so I can easily hang 2 full loads of laundry at the same time. I do a LOT of laundry so this has been quite a timesaver.

When I took down the old clothesline, I decided to reuse it rather than throwing it away. I had a beautiful bright blue yarn just waiting in my stash for a cool project, so I crocheted a couple small baskets using the yarn and old clothesline. I'm quite happy with how these turned out! They'll probably come in handy for storing small toys.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I've been working on a few projects around the house lately. I'll be sharing more of them later as I finish them, but I wanted to show you a quick and cheap update we did in our upstairs bathroom.

We recently got a new TV and stand, so our old entertainment stand was dismantled and stuffed in the basement. When we were taking the old one apart, I noticed that a couple pieces had a nice beveled edge on them that I really liked. I decided to repurpose those pieces and turn them in to shelves for the bathroom.

Here they are:

The only thing we had to buy for them was the brackets to mount them on the wall, which were $1 a piece. Everything else (shelves, paint, screws, etc.) we had on hand. Yay for cheap home improvements!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Homemade laundry detergent

We just recently ran out of my homemade laundry detergent, so I figured I'd share how I make it while cooking up a new batch. I have tried a few different recipes for detergent, and this one is definitely my favorite. It works just as well as commercial laundry soap, but costs WAY less. i can make enough detergent to last us a year for about $15. Our family of 7 does a lot of laundry so this is a huge money saver for us!

I found the original recipe HERE, but use a little less Borax and Washing Soda than called for.

1 bar Zote laundry soap
2 1/2 cups Borax
2 1/2 cups Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
5 gallon bucket

1) Grate the bar of Zote with a cheese grater

2) Put the grated soap in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover it. Heat the saucepan on medium until all the soap has melted, stirring occasionally

3) While the soap is melting, fill the 5 gallon bucket about halfway with hot water. Add the Borax and Washing Soda to the bucket and stir until it dissolves completely.

4) Once the soap has melted, add it to the bucket. Fill the bucket the rest of the way with hot water and stir.

5) Cover the bucket and let it sit overnight to cool. It will thicken as it cools and look like a giant blob of pink Jello. Stir it around until it looks like the pink slime from Ghostbusters 2. Shake or stir before using (it is normal for it to separate a little).

That's it! I use 1/4 cup per load in my HE washing machine. For regular washers, use 1/2 cup per load. It usually takes me about 20 minutes to cook up a batch of this detergent- that's less time than it takes for me to go to the store and buy laundry detergent!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring at last!

This past winter was LONG! And cold. And long. This past week we have finally been having warmer temperatures so the last of the snow has melted away revealing a big mess that was once a garden. I admit I neglected the yard and garden quite a bit last summer because we had a new baby to tend to instead. I missed having a veggie garden though, more than I expected. I am really excited to restart my garden this year, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. Because I let it go wild, my veggie garden currently looks like this:
It is full of crabgrass, thistle, and so many weeds that I will need to start over completely. Thankfully the weather this week is supposed to be pretty nice, so I have a chance to clear things out.

This morning I decided to start a little outdoor spring cleaning before tackling the garden. Our side door where everyone enters the house was dirty and run down. Leaves had blown everywhere and it had become a dumping ground for shovels, brooms, gas cans, and our snowthrower.

After a little sweeping, cleaning, and putting things away in the shed, it now looks much more presentable. Cozy, yes?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A new life for leftovers

So I've been doing my best to keep making inexpensive dinners for the family, and have been mostly successful. Ok, we did cheat and eat at McDonald's last night, but kept it to the dollar menu at least. We can't all be perfect. One of the ways I try to keep food costs down is to make sure we don't waste a lot of food. That means eating leftovers rather than tossing them in the trash, as well as buying only what we will eat. The kids usually love it when we have leftovers for dinner. Sometimes it can get boring eating the same thing over and over though, so I try to get creative with what we have in the fridge. Just a couple days ago I made up some fried rice using nothing but leftovers. 
It's super easy- just toss some cooked white rice with whatever leftover meats and veggies you have in a pan with a little soy sauce. It's really yummy, and best of all really cheap! This meal was essentially free!!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Turn it off!

The kids are home from school today because of yet another snow storm that is blowing around outside. I am determined to continue my thrifty ways even with all the miniature money-suckers around though. I have spent a good portion of the day following them around and instructing them to TURN OFF THE LIGHTS, especially when I find them on in nearly every room of the house during the daytime when lights are not necessary. Sigh. 

I did catch myself using some unnecessary electricity as well. With so many people living here, our dishwasher gets used OFTEN. I usually have to run it twice a day, sometimes more such as holidays or weekends. One thing I was doing without even thinking about it was using the "heated dry" cycle to dry the dishes faster. Honestly, this is really not necessary and uses quite a bit of electricity. So I simply turned that off and leave the door cracked open to allow the dishes to air dry. I suppose if I was feeling like Martha Stewart I could towel dry the dishes, but I seriously don't have time for that. 

Dinner was nice and cheap today. We had tacos with yellow rice and corn- yummy! The ground beef for the tacos was purchased on sale a while ago and has been waiting patiently in the freezer for me to cook it up. The taco kit I used was less than $1 after coupons, and the corn was bought on sale as well. The rice was FREE thanks to coupons (my favorite price). Our dinner cost just under $5 total for the 7 of us. Not too shabby. 

Hubby also did something frugal today- he cleaned! He went through the giant pile-o-crap on our desk and found a couple gift cards that we had completely forgotten about. He decided to use them to buy himself a treat (some DVDs from Best Buy). I don't even know where the gift cards came from in the first place, but it's always fun to find things like that. I wonder what I'll find when I do the laundry...