A newer tradition in my family has been to visit the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle during the holidays for Wild Lights, and we went again this past weekend. Last year was rainy and windy, so still fun, but it made us really appreciate this year with relatively nice weather. The temperature was in the low forties / high thirties but calm and dry, so we stayed for almost two hours, walking around the zoo, looking at all of the intricate Christmas lights and designs.

Just like last year, the kiddo’s favorite part was the Dickens carolers singing Christmas songs while we stood in line waiting to get in (and then they walked around singing throughout the evening). I absolutely love the holiday season, and it’s traditions like Zoo Lights that I love best; laid back time with family that involves no planning other than showing up. Christmas traditions don’t have to be ones filled with stuff to be wonderful.

The trip does cost a little bit of money (again, we aren’t looking for our budget to get to the absolute bare bones), but it’s considerably cheaper than a normal trip to the zoo, and we still did get to see some of the nocturnal animals up and about (and an adorable pile of prairie dogs snoozing together in a pile).

Porcupine animal ambassador at the zoo

Friday’s Frugal Five

1. My father went out fishing and again came home with a bunch of salmon and sent one home with us. I don’t – and have never – been one to eat salmon, but both my husband and son love it, so they’re both excited when they have a fresh caught fish to grill up and eat. On those nights, I usually just make myself a bowl of cereal and don’t worry about cooking a full meal. It also means we have very few dishes to clean up, which is definitely appreciated on a work night.

2. I deposited my quarterly Ebates check (this time for $30) and immediately transferred that amount into savings so the money was actually realized instead of getting used up on something else instead. It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally learning that the money I “save” from doing any number of things only counts if it’s actually saved. Pretty basic, I know, but that lesson has been slow coming.

If you’ve never used Ebates before, I would definitely recommend it. When you go online to make a purchase, you just go through the Ebates portal, and if the purchase is on their list of rebate sites, then you get somewhere usually in the 2-5% cash back. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s worth it for things I would be buying anyway.

Of course, just like with anything else, I would not recommend Ebates if you know you’re likely to more spend money just to earn the “reward.” It’s only a tool to save money if it’s only used for your regular purchases. If Ebates is new to you, use this link to get $10 toward your first rebate check (referral link for me as well). It’s not going to make you big money, but every little bit adds up – as long as it actually goes to savings.

3. We’ve been reading Christmas books every evening that we got from library a couple of weeks ago. The kiddo has been all about learning and reading about the different holidays as they occur, so we just went through Thanksgiving and Halloween in the last few months. He’s also been asking about Hanukkah lately, so I’ll be picking up a few of those as well.

Just a few of the many Christmas books we’ve been reading lately

The best past about them being library books for the most part is that once the holiday is over for the year, we return them and don’t have books sitting our home that we won’t read the rest of the year. Plus, as he gets older the nature of the stories change, so he may not even want the same holiday books in subsequent years. And of course, the library is free (other than the eight dollars in overdue fines that I still need to pay…)

4. There were a bunch of potatoes left unused from Thanksgiving, so they got sent home with us to use, and I finally cooked them this week. I made a potato corn chowder and tossed in a bit of leftover steak and breakfast sausage as well, so it was somewhat of a kitchen sink type meal.

I also used a head of garlic out of the garden, but it wasn’t very noticeable, so I probably could have used two. There isn’t a whole lot to harvest fresh out of the garden this time of year, so I get extra pleasure out of cooking with homegrown garlic this time of year. It will be a good three or four months until we’ll have spring garlic again, but we have a good number of heads of garlic, so hopefully I won’t have to buy any “fresh” garlic at all this winter.

Homegrown garlic!

5. The Keurig at work has been struggling to use my reusable k-cup lately, so I decided to bring my French press to work to make my coffee. The coffee it makes tastes so much better, and now I’m wondering why I ever even bothered with the reusable Keurig pod instead, other than the fact it maybe saves me sixty seconds. Not worth it for a subpar cup of coffee.

I also brought in a bottle of peppermint mocha creamer, and that combined with some great locally roasted, freshly ground beans makes a darn good cup of coffee. I’m a sucker for going out for coffee as is, and the holiday season makes it that much more tempting, so making fancy coffee at work really helps me to not give in to that temptation. If I do go out to coffee these days, I want it to be a special occasion, rather than just grabbing a quick cup on my way somewhere because it’s easy and a habit.

Since tracking my trash a few months ago, I’ve gotten to be much more aware of the waste I produce at work, especially the bits that would normally go in the yard waste at home, but end up in the garbage there because there isn’t compost set up there. I take banana peels home with me at the end of the day since they get to be pretty strong smelling, but I’ve taken a canning jar to my office to fill with coffee grounds. When the jar is full, I bring it home and use the grounds to fertilize my blueberry bushes. These reusable canning jar lids are my favorite for a wide range of things, and now to keep the used grounds in my office.

French press & used grounds destined for the garden

Running Update

Since I realized it’s not too awkward to “run” on the elliptical in normal clothes, I’ve been finding short snippets of time (10 – 20 minutes) to hop on the machine at work before I head home for the day. I managed to do so last Friday, as well as Wednesday (extra long work day so a short break in between meetings) and Thursday.

Monday I got to the gym for a full workout of running, lifting, and stretching. I used to be much better about stretching – and going to yoga – but it’s been something I’ve ignored over the last year or so. Rectifying that now. Tuesday was also a short run, so thanks to the new routine of elliptical time without even changing into workout clothes, I managed a minimum of ten minutes of real workouts five days over the past week, and it feels so good.

Ps. I was featured in Marketwatch this week – with one caveat – my husband and I have made it to the six figure mark combined, not below, as mentioned. Which still puts us solidly in Middleton category for our area 🙂

How was your week? Any great frugal wins to share or special holiday traditions?

18 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (2018 – Week 49)

  1. I saw the tweet about the MarketWatch article that Tanja shared but haven’t read, headed their now 🙂
    Myself I skipped French Press and now just do pour over coffee and have for the last year. I grind the beans before each cup of coffee and mmmmmm heaven.

    1. I have to admit, pour overs are my absolute favorite. I’ll get one someday, but I do want one that doesn’t require disposable filters, even if they are compostable.

      1. I may be about to change your life. Are you ready??
        On Friday I’m doing a post on the cost of making coffee at home. I use an Aeropress, which comes with”enough paper filters to last a year.”
        But what if you wash the filter after each use and keep re-using it?
        Now I have enough filters to last me for YEARS – if not a decade…
        Go buy that Aeropress! As a bonus, it’s much easier to harvest the coffee grounds from, too.

  2. Ok, that garlic looks pretty badass. We’ve not ever had a lot of luck with garlic, but that could be user error. We got a ton of rain this week so threw a bunch of greens seed in the garden area (it’s been resting for a bit) and I’m hoping we will be able to go outside and cut our greens when we want them like we did last year and the year prior. It’s not a huge cost savings but it tastes so good! Planted some cauliflower and broccoli as well, which tends to be a crapshoot with us.

    What kind of composter do you use? We’ve been composting for a long time and finally decided that the spinner one sucks and we will be disposing of it shortly. The stuff simply stays too wet inside it and at times smells terrible, which I know isn’t a good thing. I’ve had it for 10 years and it’s frustrated me that entire time. I bought a different style one though still a spinner (it has a much larger diameter) on Craigslist 4-5 years ago and that one works great so I think I’ll search for another one there.

    My goal for 2019 is to reduce my footprint further! I have to get over being embarrassed and slowing things down at the grocery when I use my glass jars for bulk items. I use my mesh produce bags all the time, but I have been inconsistent with the bulk items. Happy Holidays Angela!

    1. I wish I could give you better gardening advice, but as I learned the hard way, there’s a big difference in climates and the growing seasons are so totally different.

      Other than the things like coffee grounds and eggshells that go directly on the garden, we have industrial compost pick up with our garbage service, and so have just done that so far. Budget Epicurean and Kiwi and Keweenaw both are big composers though 🙂

  3. i only got in 2 work runs this week but they’re getting easier and faster for 3 miles. i’ll take what i can get at this point. we walked to get our christmas tree last weekend and walked it home about 5 blocks. mrs. smidlap wasn’t happy about her role in the transport but we didn’t get any sap or needles in the trunk.

    you cook soups and stews like me: this might be on the edge of spoiling so it’s going in!

    1. Ha yep, we’ve walked our tree home in past years about 3 blocks, so I feel her pain. There’s something seriously rewarding about getting the tree to your house without the need of a vehicle though.

  4. Thanks for the link to Ebates, which I’ve just researched & joined! Hoping that the little I spend will benefit both of us! I was delighted to see that Swanson was on the list of stores with Ebates!! It’s the store that I wait until Black Friday to purchase my health products in bulk! I just missed out on that being included in the Ebate cashback! Oh well….. next year! Blessings. Kerryn

    1. Excellent! It’s totally worth the extra thirty seconds to go through the Ebates portal in my opinion 🙂

  5. “It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally learning that the money I “save” from doing any number of things only counts if it’s actually saved.”

    This is sooooo true. I have been trying to be intentional this year with these types of small mental savings. You know what, I even have a separate savings machine just for this purpose. Every time I “save” I immediately move the money over to this special savings account with Vanguard. If the money lingers in my checking account it mixes with regular money and dissapears.

    Thanks Angela, for a great Saturday morning read.

    1. I don’t have a separate savings account for that sort of thing, but it sure would be interesting to track how much it adds up to in a year!

  6. I intentionally take stairs at work now! And get off the subway one stop early. Though it should’ve been easy to do that every weeknight, this week was killer so it was a mixed success.

    We no longer have assigned desks at work. It’s a multi use environment, so you sit at different spots during the day based on activity (quiet, normal, collaboration, meetings, calls). And with that, we now get free coffee! And I’ve enjoyed it, except so many packets are used…. So I feel a little culpable after reading this. A work french press may be in my future….

    1. No assigned desks at work?? That seems kind of strange, but maybe nice in some ways. Do you not end up with the massive amounts of paper that I do then 😂

  7. Interesting approach on the elliptical. I do push ups that way at work. They have the effect of making a lot of chores easier; not least of all picking up my son as he grows ever bigger. My main work outs these days are 1/2 mile run, strength training, and then another half mile run. My foot injury seems finally behind me.

    I like ebates. We used it for a while some time ago. Then our credit card offered the same service with a slightly better rare on average. Then we forgot about after we bought our house. I think its time to get back to it.

    1. I keep thinking about getting back to regular push ups, but I am so wildly out of shape in that regard it’s been a bit daunting to get started.

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