Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free Organic Fruits and Vegetables

I wanted to share some of the free food items I've scored over the past season.

Through a  local email group I'd joined, I got invited to pick some free veggies from a gentleman who had hurt his knee and wouldn't be able to harvest the stuff he'd planted. Perhaps you remember me mentioning it this post. Here's my portion of the bounty we picked:

Turnips, turnip greens, kale, sweet potatoes, cabbage, leeks and arugula

A couple weeks before that I had a friend offer me some free organic pears

I bought the bushel of apples for $13.50 but the pears were free!
We had pear pancakes, pear cornbread, pear fruit crisp and pear bread! All of the recipes I got from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I substitute 1/4 cup of pureed fruit for every egg. Then I cut the sugar and oil in half. This is something I generally do with all baked goods recipes to make them healthier and more moist.

Pear bread

Anyone else get some great fall deals or freebies?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A sign from above

Mr. Bushman was sitting on the sofa when one of the blades on the ceiling fan in our living just fell off. No one touched it or anything. Since we've had a stack of new light fixtures (shown here) sitting around since we moved in two months ago, I told my husband I thought this might be a sign that it was time to install them.

Living Room BEFORE

Living Room AFTER

All of the old light fixtures in our house were so ugly and smoke stained I was glad to be rid of them. In our kitchen there was this particularly yucky ceiling fan.

Kitchen BEFORE

Kitchen AFTER

Son's room BEFORE

Son's room AFTER

The new light fixtures really make the place look crisper and more modern. Best of all, we got them (except the ceiling fan) for only $6 each at Menards!

As usual, we're not done yet. We've got several fixtures left to install. Additionally some of our ceilings still have water stains and need to be repaired and painted. Stay tuned as we continue to improve our home . . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How low can you go?

Something I love about budgeting is pushing myself to do things more cheaply or efficiently. I think part of the reason I agreed to move to the middle of nowhere was to see how just cheaply we could live!

As I've said before, the Bushmans haven't always been so cheap. It has a been a process--a journey of thrift.

Take heating our home for example. Long, long ago we (like normal people) used to keep our house thermostat set at a comfortable 74 degrees. Sometimes, when I got cold, I would even turn it up beyond that! Imagine!

When we decided we wanted to start cutting back financially, we turned the thermostat down to 70 degrees, then moved quickly down to 68 degrees. We held at 68 as our standard temperature for a couple of winters. Then three Christmases ago everyone got sweatshirts and sweaters as gifts (used, of course) and we baby stepped our way down to 60 degrees. That was our standard winter temperature setting until we moved mainly because, well, our thermostat was a digital one and literally wouldn't allow us to set it any lower.

When we moved to our current home we found it has one of those old non-digital thermostats. Here's a picture of it:

I was SO excited for two reasons.
1. We don't need batteries to make the thermostat work (unlike the digital thermostat in our old house) which means money saved on batteries and less battery changing hassle.
2. Our new thermostat goes down to 50 degrees!

So, of course, our new standard has been 50 degrees! Its so exciting! Think of all we'll save! I know you are thinking: 50 degrees, that's crazy! And you are probably right. However, it doesn't really feel too bad to us because our house is so much smaller and also because we baby stepped our way here. Also, the weather is not so cold yet and our house has been naturally hovering around 60 degrees except at night when we are tucked snugly into bed (at which point it drops closer to 50).

I'm not suggesting that you keep your house at 50 degrees, but I challenge you to put on an extra layer of clothes and turn down your thermostat a couple of degrees this winter. You may be surprised at how much you save AND how little it really affects you after you get used to it.

By the way, this 50 degree extreme is quite temporary as we will soon be getting a NEW WOOD STOVE!!!! I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Free table, free makeover

I love offering to help people move or spring clean. This is because I have found that people who are moving or spring cleaning love to give me stuff! I've received lots of clothes, household items and furniture this way. One of the items I got for helping a friend move is our current kitchen table. It is a totally cool table that my friend made even cooler by painting faux titles on the top. The problem with the faux tiles is that they had started peeling off. After my recent kitchen renovation I decided it was time to spruce up our kitchen table as well. Here's what the kitchen table top looked like when we got it about a year ago:

Here's what it looked like after we owned it for a year:

I found some red paint in our garage and decided to start scraping off the faux tiles so I could get down to the original wood, sand it and then repaint it. Once I scraped down to the wood, I really liked the way it looked. I figured if it was all in this good of condition, I wouldn't need to repaint it after all.

The scraping took a while. Here's my progress after one hour of work:

I had to go pick some vegetables so I left Mr. Bushman to finish the job. Here's what it looked like when I got back with my bounty of veggies:

I was a bit disappointed because a pink table is not exactly what I was hoping for. The table had been painted many times and apparently the first time it was painted a bright fuchsia color, which was hesitant to come off completely. Luckily, all it needed was some warm soapy water and a little scrubbing.

Wow! I really like the look of the table now. Even better, I like how easily the table can be wiped down! To complete the kitchen table makeover, I still want to reupholster the chairs. I found the fabric I'm going to use. All I need is a staple gun. Ours has been MIA since the move. Once it is located, then I will have a whole "new" dinette set to show you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

30 minute kitchen renovation

To make room for the bedroom wall, the fake wall above the kitchen cabinets had to start coming down.

I was anxious to clean above the cabinets and start storing things in to cutesy baskets. At first my husband was clearly not buying that this was a high priority job in his long list of things to do. However, I did finally convince Mr. Bushman that it would be practical to remove the fake rock above the cabinets, as it would add valuable storage space. Here's some pictures of it before (when only a bit had been removed to make room for the bedroom wall):

We decided now would be a good time to go ahead and tear down ALL the ugly fake rock, even the stuff put up as a back splash. Here's a close-up of it:

I pried off the back splash board, while Mr. Bushman removed the false wall above the cabinets:

Guess what I found behind the ugly rock back splash? That's right! Ugly wallpaper. So I got to work scraping this stuff:

Here's the finished kitchen. As usual, there is still more work to do like removing the ceiling fan and light fixtures, painting, etc. But, I think it is still a BIG improvement. Especially considering it took no money and only 30 minutes of team effort!

So, what do you think? Did we make it better?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Although it was great to have a bedroom wall, I still was looking forward to getting an actual door.

In talking to some neighbors we found that they had a garage full of old interior doors. They said we were welcome to come over and dig through them. We did and found a 30 inch door in great shape! We thanked them profusely as we had already priced doors and knew that this free door had saved us $67 dollars plus tax! Also, it saved us the headache of hauling a door in our car since we could simply carry the free door right on home!

The existing door opening was a bit too narrow so Mr. Bushman had to build it out a bit with a board before installing the frame.

Then he could hang it on the hinges:

The  door didn't have a knob hole, so one had to be cut.

I don't know if I've mentioned before that my dear husband has very little experience with renovating and fixing things. In our former lives he was a health care worker who only did mild home repairs like laying laminate flooring and installing light fixtures. His inexperience makes it sort-of magical every time he successfully executes a home repair task in our new life.

I was amazed at the final result.

And, of course, the best part of having a bedroom door:

Ahhh . . .the privacy!

If you think us getting the door for free is just plain lucky, I might have to agree with you. On the other hand, I have noticed that just letting other people know about my needs and wants often produces this sort of luck. Our neighbors in our old town helped us out with countless items including giving us a free deep freeze once!

So, I challenge you to let others know what you need. You'll be surprised with the results. And don't forget to share your abundance with others as well!

Who else has a great story of generosity occurring just when you needed it?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eatin' Out of a Bucket

When I gave you the Bushman's grocery shopping tips, I told you that I prefer to buy in bulk. Here's a picture of what I previously considered my bulk foods stash:

This month we decided to take it to another level.

We bought 50 lbs of flour, 25 lbs of green lentils, 25 lbs of quick oats and 25 lbs of pintos from We spent $122 (including taxes and fees) and let me tell you it was hard to drop that much cash on groceries at once. I had some serious cold feet, but Mr. Bushman helped me to focus on the positives:
  • We'll have an emergency supply of food
  • Its all organic
  • Its not wrapped in plastic which saves lots of packaging
  • It means less trips to the store

Going in . . .

Adding screw down lids to our food grade buckets

It all fit into five buckets. Those screw down lids make them rodent proof!
We put the label maker to work. (Notice the flour sort-of got everywhere.)

The buckets are showcased against our beautiful new bedroom wall!
The buckets will soon be moved out into the garage since there is no real room for them inside. When I run out of my inside stash, I will go out and fill up. I like having the security of 125 lbs of dry food around so I'm already planning my next bulk order: black beans, chickpeas, sugar and rice.  
Anyone else thinking of taking the mega bulk foods plunge? If you did, what item is your must-have?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The three buck reupholstery job

I have two leather couches that I love. They are the only pieces of furniture that I've both bought new and owned for many years. A couple of months ago my daughter accidentally tore a whole in one of the cushions. I took the cushion to the store to see if I could send off for a new leather cover only to be told that the couch had been discontinued and thus I couldn't order any replacement parts. This wasn't really a big surprise to me since I had picked up the couch on sale at Big Lots.

I wrapped a blanket around the cushion and that was my solution until recently. Here's a picture of my camouflaged torn-up cushion:

The one on the far end stayed covered with a green throw.

My mother was really encouraging me to try to find some matching fake leather material and sew a new cover for it. I had other ideas, though. I had seen in a knitting book once where someone had dumpster dived an old leather couch and then knitted new covers for its cushions.

I didn't really want to take the time to knit or crochet something, but I did have a curtain I'd picked up at the thrift store for $3.00! Best of all, the fabric matched the green accent pillows I already had in the living room.

After a good hour of hand stitching, I had a new cushion cover. 

Now all I had to do was slip it into place.

I am so happy with the result! I think it adds lots of personality to the couch. The best thing is that I used materials I already owned and did it myself.

What do you think? Do you love furniture make-overs as much as I do?
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