Time to tighten up

Some unexpected household expenses are about to leave me feeling pretty poor. Things could always be worse but it is apparent that my frugal self really needs to reduce expenses or increase income soon.

It looks like increasing income is an option as the newspaper where I freelance is allowing me to do more work. So there’s a little good news.

But it seems cutting expenses may be a challenge since I already attempt to live as frugally as possible. No cable or satellite and just a basic phone line for my dial-up internet because that is all I can access here in the country. My mortgage and insurances are reasonably low and I keep the electric bill as low as possible. Almost everything that plugs into the wall is on a power strip so I’m never wasting electric on a tv or radio that isn’t being used.  I keep the thermostat low in the winter and high in the summer and no burning light is left behind.

I do spend a lot on gas because my home is 10 miles from the nearest village and 30 minutes from the nearest larger town. Mr Wonderful lives 90 minutes away and I put a lot of miles on the car visiting him. Because I travel a lot I did break down and buy a Hyundai Accent  this spring but the fuel savings is remarkable so that doesn’t hurt so much. But I organize errands and trips as efficiently as possible so I’m not backtracking or making special trips.

I’m not a wasteful person and am not prone to buying a lot of stuff I don’t need. Thrift stores and antique malls call my name but I try to keep my splurges in those places to a minimum. The one area I could probably improve is in the food department. I struggle to find the balance between eating a balanced, nutritional diet and saving money. My real weakness? Fresh produce. I love to keep it on hand and I love to have a variety. I just can’t seem to tell myself no.

But I already avoid eating out as much as possible and tend to bring leftovers for lunch every day. I do some batch cooking and try to be proactive about using up what I have or at least freezing what I can’t use today.

Things haven’t been so great this week. With the air out I haven’t really wanted to cook at home so I’ve been relying more on Lean Cuisines (purchased with a coupon, or course) and even a few fast food meals. Sigh.

My one shame is a small amount of credit card debt and a student loan that I alternate between paying down like a mad person and just throwing extra money at when I remember.

Anyway, I will begin my audit of home expenses tonight and see what I come up with.  What are your favorite ways to save money at home? Would you like if I start posting lists of ways to save in various areas of the home?

One of those days

Ever have a day when nothing goes right and you’re not sure if mishaps are caused by your bad attitude or the other way around? It’s been one of those days.

I’m trying hard to stay upbeat, but man, I could use a break today!

Something happened at my house a few days ago that caused wiring in the furnace to melt and rendered the heat pump unusable. The furnace door was blackened on the inside.  I should be thankful to still have a house.

So the house is unbearably hot and my poor little cat is suffering while I eat lunch here in my air conditioned workplace. The repairman has to work me in and I shudder to think what this will cost.

I have all that running in the back of my mind while I struggle to do my job. Would love to go home for a nap but I have no one to run my office today and it would be way too hot to sleep. Meanwhile I’m just crabby and ill tempered. Nothing is going right. Someone needs a timeout!

The thing about being single that no one ever mentions is how expensive it can be, how difficult it can be to operate a house on one income. Owning the house – insuring, paying the mortgage and all that jazz is already a challenge. The real problem though is in maintenance. Last summer it was $3,500 for a heat pump. I’ve needed a new front porch for a while and countless other little projects have been begging for attention for months or longer.

It makes me question the sense in hanging on to a house that I can hardly afford to maintain.

I guess for today I will focus on gratitude that the house didn’t burn to the ground and hope that tomorrow will be better.

 

Today

Today I will be as happy as a bird with a french fry because I choose to be happy and because the world is brimming with joy. You just have to look for it. Happy Friday!

This poster comes from “Painting My World,” a great blog dedicated to one woman’s journey with pastels. Click the pic to check out more of her work.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Looking for a quick and easy meal tonight? I’m always on the lookout for ways to stretch a buck or to cut corners in making a meal. One of my favorite ingredients is rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. In fact, my favorite Kroger often marks down their chickens to about $3 and I sometimes have coupons that bring the price down to around $2. It’s great to buy these cheap chickens to shred and freeze for a later meal.

I also really like the Philly Cooking Cream that’s used here. It can be a bit pricey but there are normally coupons available so I try to keep it on hand.

This recipe is a great example of how handy it is to have shredded chicken on hand. It goes together super quick and you have plenty of time to toss a nice salad while it cooks. If you like this recipe, click on the picture to visit the Philly Cooking Cream website for other recipes. By the way, I’m not really endorsing the product so much as telling you that it’s a quick fix for weeknight meals and they do have some tasty recipes.

Find more easy recipes from Philly Cream Cheese by clicking on the picture.

1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp. oil
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts
1 can  (14.5 oz.) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
1 tub  (10 oz.) Philadelphia Santa Fe Blend Cooking Creme, divided
1/2 cup Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese
8 flour tortillas (6 inch)

Heat oven to 350°F.
Cook and stir onions in hot oil in large skillet on medium heat four to five minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, 3/4 cup cooking creme and shredded cheese. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place in 13×9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with remaining cooking creme. Cover. Bake 15 to 20 min. or until heated through.

It’s that easy! What are your go-to ingredients or kitchen secrets?