Saving Money–Week Ending January 17

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This week I got some help from the girls in my quest for frugality.  Lovana cooked dinner on Thursday for the family.  This kept us from having to get fast food.  She made white bean-sausage soup.  This is pretty close to what she did.

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups chicken broth

3 potatoes, peeled and diced

3 cans white beans

1 package turkey kielbasa sausage, sliced

1 teaspoon thyme

1 bay leaf (remove before eating soup)

salt and pepper to taste

Salute the onion, carrots and garlic in a little bit of oil.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Cook until carrots and potatoes are soft, and the flavors are blended, 30 minutes minimum.  This soup can be simmered for much longer than that and the flavor gets better.

We ate this soup for dinner that night, and different family members had a bowl for  leftovers several times.

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She also made a chocolate-banana cake with some of the bananas we received. She also made home-made Caesar salad, including the dressing.

Last week, we were given a 40-lb box of bananas, plus a plastic grocery bag full.  The box was in really good condition, and the bag needed to be used immediately.  Although this was given to us last Friday, we spent a great deal of time dealing with it this week as something needed to be done to preserve all of the bananas that were in the box.

We ended up making chocolate-covered bananas, frozen bananas (over 5 gallons), dried bananas–both plain and with spices and brown sugar sprinkled on them, and ate a ton of bananas.  We joke that we are going to turn yellow!

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I did Ja’Ana’s hair.  I saved quite a bit of money doing it myself.  I’m not sure exactly how much I saved, but I know some people who pay between $65 and $100 to get their African-American children’s hair braided. I made sure to use extra conditioner, and to get her scalp  well-oiled.   This time of year, her scalp can get itchy and uncomfortable and the hair lotions help a lot.

Ja’Ana helped with the banana project.

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This sounds really strange, but Rob was able to return one of the baby pigs and get another one in exchange.  One of them turned out to  not be properly fixed and the lady that we bought it from traded it for a new one.  A non-fixed male pig does not grow up to be good pork, and we have no plans to breed pigs, so it would have been useless to us.  The new pig is much smaller, so we did lose some money on that, but we are still really happy that she exchanged this one.  Rob had a friend come over to help catch the one that was going back, and they had no trouble catching it with a lot of scraps I had saved for that purpose.

Ja’Ana was able to go on a retreat.  She had earned about 1/2 of the money needed, selling pies as a fund-raiser.

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The chickens started to lay again, after taking a mid-winter break!

I helped my niece figure out how to shorten a skirt she wanted to make more stylish.  She has a plan now, after consultation with 2 aunties and a cousin at our family lunch today, and she will bring it back next Sunday if she has any problems.

My husband and I were able to have a date last evening.  We were able to use Foster Parent’s Night Out for babysitting.  We used a gift card, and although it did not cover the entire cost of the meal, it helped tremendously.

 

 

 

 

My January Use-It-Up Project–Update on January 17

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This week, I was really busy, but I still managed to use up a few items that needed to be used.  I got some help from the girls.

I used some cauliflower that I preserved in the fall.  I used some green beans from 2014.  I always have a carry-over and use the oldest jars first.  When all of the ’14’s are used, we will start on the ’15’s.  My husband thawed some lunchmeat of undetermined age and we ate it.  I used some home-canned grape juice from 2009.  It was great.  I found a few more jars down there in the basement, where I keep my canning, that will be used soon.

One daughter used 2 containers of gluten-free pizza crust I had bought quite a while ago at Grocery Outlet.  They were expired, but were still fine.  We used the rest of the personal-sized pizza bread rounds that had been purchased as a school fund-raiser, as well as the rest of the little packets of sauce, pepperoni and cheese that came with that kit.  There were some really, really old packages of sliced salami buried in the freezer–like 3 years old or older.  I wasn’t sure if they would be eatable, but they were.

My older daughter used the croutons I had made a couple of weeks ago in a salad.  She made Caesar Salad with homemade dressing.  She also used some bananas in a chocolate-banana cake and used a 1/2 package of milk chocolate chips as well as some of that huge box of bananas we were given.  She also made a white-bean, sausage soup that used some canned white beans we’ve had for ages.  Some of the garden carrots from last summer were used in that soup as well.  She informed me that the remaining carrots are not in good shape, which makes sense–they’ve been in there for months, so I’d better put them on the list to sort this week.

I have a very large amount of food storage.  I save a lot of money and we eat very well.  I have a basement full of home-canned items.  I have a garage with shelves of food, and several freezers.   Right now, those freezers are stuffed with home-grown turkey, turkey burger, and chickens, as well as fruits and vegetables from the summer.  Each year, we buy 1/2 beef, and we have most of that right now.  I also store loaves of bread and other baked goods in the freezer.  That way, I can cook from scratch when I have time, and use it up on days when I’m busy.

I buy in bulk and when things are on sale.  It is not uncommon for us to buy 25 pound bags of things like beans, sugar, or rice.  I have many plastic ice cream buckets I have saved over the years that I fill with these bulk items.  I also use old tins, Tupperwares, and plastic zip-top bags, and anything else I can find.    I also buy cases of things like canned mushrooms or mandarin oranges if I find an excellent deal.

We grow a huge garden.  Right now, I still have carrots and cabbage in the fridge in cold storage from that garden.  I still have squash and onions that are keeping fine at room temperature in the garage, shop and front room.  The rest of the garden I preserve or eat fresh.  It is normal for me to can 100 quarts or more of green beans alone.  That is only 2 jars per week and we regularly eat that amount.  Canned peaches, pears and applesauce are a regular part of our meals around here.

So, as you can imagine, it is easy for something to “get lost” in that amount of food storage. I work pretty hard at not letting that happen, but sometimes a few things get away from me.   I am very happy with the amount of things we are using up this month, and can’t wait to see what else I can clear out during the rest of the month.  Since I preserve so much, it is a natural thing to have an overabundance in the fall, and makes sense for me to bring that amount down to a smaller amount during the winter.  After all, that’s what it’s for!

 

 

Eggs Again

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I am delighted that the chickens have decided to lay again!  They took a little break during the darkest time of the year, which is normal, but recently have been cranking out a few eggs a day.

Every day when Rob brings in the eggs,they are placed on the counter in a bowl.  When I get ready to wash the eggs, I place the bowl in the sink and run tepid water on them so they can soak.  Many sources say to not wash your eggs because they keep better unwashed.  Mine have chicken droppings on them, so I choose to wash them off.  Some sources say that if you are going to wash them, use lukewarm water so that the pores are not opened with hot water, impurities don’t enter, and the cold water doesn’t close the pores, trapping in the impurities.  I have no idea if that’s true, but it sounds sensible, so I use lukewarm water.

I have an old toothbrush that I use for egg washing, only.  I just gently scrub each soaked egg while holding it under a small stream of tepid water. Sometimes stains remain.  I’m fine with that.  I air-dry them on a towel and then put into cartons in the garage fridge, or into the egg keeper in the refrigerator in the kitchen.

We had to buy one 5-dozen package of eggs from Costco this winter when the chickens were not laying.  I didn’t even get them finished before they started up again, so I probably  could have survived without buying any, but we had no way of telling when they would start again.  They are very light sensitive, the days are getting longer again, and this batch of hens is less than 1 year old, so we knew they would lay some more, we just didn’t know when exactly.

Since we have been paying for feed all along, I am delighted to be entering that time of year when I have all the eggs I want.  I also give them away when I have an overabundance, so my sister is happy, too.

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Bananas Everywhere!

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I was delighted when we were given 40 pounds of bananas.  It was a whole box, and there were a lot of bananas in it.  They were in excellent condition.  They were even organic!  What a blessing.  There were also a few bunches in a bag that were not quite as nice, but could still be used.  So, I think I had about 50 or more pounds to work with.  Here’s what I did with them.

  1.  We have been eating bananas at every opportunity.
  2. I took some bunches to share with my family.
  3. I had the 4H dry some and they will use them at the next meeting.IMG_2022
  4. I tried another recipe that was suggested on The Prudent Homemaker blog.  I cut strips and sprinkled them with brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger and they are drying now.FullSizeRender.jpg
  5. Ja’Ana dipped some in chocolate and froze them for yummy snacks.FullSizeRender
  6. I froze quite a few gallon-sized bags.  I cut the bananas, put them in the bags, then squirted a squirt of lemon juice in the bag and worked it around with my hands to prevent browning.  We use those frozen chunks for smoothies, and they can also be used for baking, if desired.  They just need to be defrosted and smashed.FullSizeRender
  7. Last, but not least, I made banana pudding.  This was also a suggestion from The Prudent Homemaker Blog. I made a simple cornstarch vanilla pudding and added bananas.  We ate some, but I put too many bananas in it and it broke down and became runny.  So, I froze the rest for smoothies or milkshakes.FullSizeRender
  8. We still have 4-5 bunches left over for eating and further creativity. It took most of the day yesterday, but I’m delighted to say I’m fully stocked up on bananas right now.  What a blessing!

A Simple Birthday Party

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We had such a fun birthday party Sunday!  Alissa, Jake, and Rob always have a party together.  He and Alissa have celebrated together for the last 15 years.  They have had parties at homes, in Seaside, Oregon, and at pizza parlors and arcades. This year, my sister offered to host the party at her house.   This simple paper plate sign was a product of Alissa, I believe.  My brother-in-law set the tables with paper plates with a bowl on top and silverware over brightly colored tablecloths.  Rob and I got to her house an hour before she did on Sunday after church and helped organize the parts and pieces and set everything out.  Other family members joined us as soon as they could get there from their churches.

Everyone brought food.  Potato soup, turkey rice soup, French Dip Au Jus, Make-your-own sub sandwiches and French Dips, fruit, veggies, and a cake from Safeway.

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Alissa picked out a cake that little brother would love, and he did!  She and Uncle Rob got to share it.  He couldn’t wait for the little car that was on top.

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After the candles were blown out, the birthday boys and girl got some presents.  It was a simple, but extremely fun afternoon.  We can’t believe Alissa is 15 now, and Jake is 8.  Rob–well, we can’t believe that either, but I’ll leave the details sketchy on that score.  We are so thankful for these precious children that we have been privileged to have in our lives.   I have 2 sisters.  Between the 3 of us, we have 14 children.  11 are adopted.   So, you could safely say we have chosen to have a lot of birthday parties.  We do not take children for granted.   They have all brought immense blessings to us, each in their own way.  We were delighted that our son who has Asperger’s Syndrome agreed to come to this party.  He is sometimes so much in his own world that he prefers not to attend gatherings.  We enjoyed his company on Sunday.  He had a good time, but was ready for Rob to take him home by mid-afternoon.

 

Saving Money–week ending January 10

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We were given 40 pounds of bananas.  I started drying, freezing and eating them immediately.  We had the 4H club dry some for a project next month in their outdoors class.  Rob is going to have them make flavored oatmeal packets to take camping.

Our Toyota Rav4 had some recalls to be taken care of.  We took it in for those a few weeks ago.  At that time, they sealed the motor and we had to drive it for a specific amount of miles–I think 1,200-1,400(it escapes me right now)–and then return the car to see if it was burning too much oil.  It was, as Rob knew by the amount of oil he has been putting in there, and so they are going to re-build the motor to correct the problem.  There are over 100,000 miles on this car, so we are excited that it will get a fresh start on the next 100,000.

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I roasted some hazelnuts for snacking on.  My mom gets them for me for free, so we enjoy them frequently.

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One of our 4H members gave a speech on fruit and cookie bouquets and gave us the bouquet she made during the demonstration.  We enjoyed it very much.

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I enjoyed this sunrise very much.

Much of my energy this past week was used in preparation for our monthly 4H meeting.  We have many other parents who teach classes during our all-day session.  I teach 3 cooking classes, using a total of 8 different recipes, and Rob teaches one outdoor cooking class (2 recipes per class) and one class titled, Outdoors, where he teaches activities dealing with nature, wildlife, outdoor cooking, camping, survival techniques, etc.  Because he was doing some extra cooking during his class, his class required the food drying project in the kitchen, and pots of oil to fry Navajo Fry Bread in outside on the deck.  He has almost 20 kids in that class.  Need I say more?  It was a whirlwind of a day.  We were very happy with how it all turned out.  Everyone was safe, happy, and excited for the fun they had.

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One of the recipes he made with the kids in his class was baked potatoes in a Dutch oven.  The other pot has a recipe of Western Beans in it.

I try very hard to use my pantry items that I have purchased for the lowest possible prices, and then buy the rest of the needed items for all of those recipes, so it’s a fair amount of work.  This keeps the cost way down, though.  I also try to choose a mix between very inexpensive foods, such as the potatoes, and more expensive foods, such as the fish nuggets we made with one of the teams.

We had our family birthday party at my sister’s house instead of eating out as we sometimes do.  We were offered free accommodations in Mexico and thanked them, because it was awfully nice of them, but declined because we need to save our pennies and airfare, food, etc. would still add up to quite a bit.

 

 

 

 

My January Use-It-Up Project–Update on Jan. 10

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I’m still on a mission to use up things that need to be used up, instead of buying more.  These dried bananas have been in the cupboard since 2014.  They were still great.  I put them out for the kids to try at 4H and then showed them how to make more.

I used some quinoa that expired last summer–finished up the package.  I made a salad with it, using the leftover dressing Patsy tried out for me the other day.  I also used some feta that had been languishing in the fridge for a couple of months in that salad.

I used some crusts of gluten-free bread to make croutons.  I will probably grind them into crumbs for cooking.

I used some millet flour, sorghum flour, and cornmeal and had the 4H to make some gluten-free waffles.  This was in addition to the batch I made earlier in the week when I was testing the recipe.  I also finished up a very old package of flax meal from the fridge.  I was able to remove another package from the freezer and start using it.  It had been in there for at least 3 years.

My carrot-coconut bread turned out terrible.  It was dry, crumbly, and fell to pieces before we could eat it.  We ate a bit of it by squishing up a bunch of crumbs between our fingers and stuffing that ball of crumbs into our mouths.  We finally decided that sometimes you win–sometimes you lose–and we gave up and fed it to the pigs.  At least those ingredients went to some good use.

I pulled some lemon bread out of the freezer and served it.

I also got out a bunch of fish, tried out a recipe for some fish nuggets and had the 4H make it.  It was swai fish, which was very inexpensive, and ended up working well for the recipe.  I’m not familiar with this fish, but got the entire 2 lb bag for only $5 a while back, which is a pretty good price for fish.  It also used some corn flake crumbs I crushed up several months ago and have stored in a jar in the pantry.  It included home-made tartar sauce, which used some of the pickles from 2014.  They were a dill pickle, but had a little sugar in them, which we ended up not liking as well as our tried and true recipe, but they worked well in this sauce.

I took some bread and butter pickles from 2012 to a birthday party today, and they were devoured.  Home-canned foods last for much longer than 1 year, but I always use the oldest first, as they are nicer when they are fresher.

 

Menu Plan for January 10, 2016

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This week has started with a bang! It’s going to be a busy one.  I decided I’d better jump in and get some menus planned right away to make it flow more smoothly.

Today we spent the entire day going to church and at my sister’s house, having a family birthday party with Rob (my husband), Alissa and Jake (niece and nephew).  Rob and Alissa have celebrated together for the last 15 years, without missing a year.  He has been dragged to Chuckie Cheese, an arcade, and many other memorable places by this little girl  he adores.  Even though she just turned 15, it was very touching when she started asking around to make sure she still got her birthday party with Uncle Rob.  One year, my sister got them a Beauty and the Beast cake.  One end had Beauty (for Alissa) and the other end had the Beast (for Rob).

8 years ago, little brother unexpectedly showed up at the group birthday party.  Our niece’s birth mom had given birth to a little baby boy, and he needed a place to live.  So, surprise!  I still remember the looks of surprise and amazement as my sister and her husband came rushing into Chuckie Cheese and plunked Jake in the middle of the table in his carseat they had hastily purchased and introduced him to the family.  So, there were now 3 birthdays to celebrate in January.

Today, we opted to celebrate at their house.  We kept the same menu that we had before we postponed the party from last week, due to icy roads.  It was a very nice day.

Here’s what we plan to eat:IMG_1695

Sunday:  Sub sandwiches, French dip, soups, veggie tray, chips, and cake  I brought gluten-free buns, and a platter of things like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc.

Monday:  Roast in crock pot, potatoes, carrots

Tuesday:  Pizza (make double–lots of pepperoni sent home with us today.) green beans, salad

Wednesday:  French dip (with leftover dip from today and leftover meat from Monday), other sandwiches if not enough, cooked cauliflower or broccoli

Thursday:  Leftover pizza from Tuesday after dance class

Friday:  Soup in crock pot

Saturday:  Foster Parents’ Night Out.  They will give Patsy dinner and Rob and I get to go on a date for 3 hours.  Ja’Ana will be gone for the weekend on a retreat, and Lovana can use leftovers.  Rob and I will eat out and have a date.  I can’t wait!

My January Use-It-Up Project

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The first week of January is a good time to reflect on what goals and projects I want to accomplish in the new year.  I didn’t want to decide what I wanted to do for a whole year.  Life around here is always changing, so any plans I make now for months into the future would probably be changed anyway.  A bout of winter weather kept me home for a couple of extra days after the holidays and I was able to decide what I wanted to do as my January project.

I decided that I wanted to use up as many odds and ends as I could, especially from my food storage.  It really bothers me to store foods and then have them go bad because I didn’t use them.  It really, really bothers me to think that foods I’ve preserved might go bad, since it is a lot of work to can, dry and freeze food.

So, I set myself a challenge to use at least 31 food items up that are odd, getting older, unusual, etc., an average of 1 per day. I am especially  looking for things that might go bad if not used promptly.  I don’t anticipate working on this project on days that I work, instead, I’ll double up on my days off.  I expect to actually use far more items than that.

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I started by going out to the garage, where the bulk of my food storage is.  I grabbed a gluten-free flour mixture Ja’Ana had mixed up for a recipe last summer.  I also grabbed quite a few other gluten-free flours that needed to be used. I grabbed some dried cherries that had been there for a long time.  Patsy and I made sweet cherry biscuits yesterday.  Today,  Ja’Ana decided to make a cake with the remains of her flour mix.  I mixed up some waffles and froze them for easy breakfasts.  I also am trying a carrot bread recipe I found.

So, for January so far, I’ve used:

some dried cherries,  sorghum flour I was given quite a while ago, millet flour, oatmeal, carrots from our garden that have been in the fridge since September, the rest of the flour mix Ja’Ana made months ago, some jam I canned several years ago, emptied 2 mustard containers from the fridge, and a bottle of Diet Coke that has been in the garage for WAY over a year.  That’s already 10 items and it’s only the 5th!  (I only listed things that had been there a long time)

How about you?  Are you putting any of the grocery money you’ve previously spent to good use in January?  I plan to put any extra money I save by doing this project away for future purchases to restock.

 

 

Saving Money–Week Ending January 3, 2015

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Ja’Ana’s dresses were the most frugal things we bought this week.  While camping at the beach, we visited the outlet stores in Lincoln City, Oregon. Old Navy was clearing out many items and these dresses were each 37cents.  She also got some jeans for 67cents.  In fact, she got a whole bag of things for about $5.  It helps that she is so thin–she got the very last pair of jeans that existed of that style, the sales clerk explained.  We got a few other items for low prices, such as coats for $10, dresses for $5, etc. at Old Navy, and other stores, for myself and the girls.  Now, of course, that was AFTER we visited Goodwill and bought each girl a pair of  jeans for $8 and $10.  To make myself feel better, I reminded myself that I didn’t find the smashing bargain for jeans for Patsy, and she needed them badly.  I also got her a pair of stretch jeggings (like jeans/stretch pants combined) for $3.50.  at Goodwill.  I was surprised at the high prices there for the jeans, but figured it was less than the $25-$30 I expected to pay at the stores.

We ended up staying home all day today.  We had a skiff of snow, but the real problem was that they were predicting freezing rain.  My family is an hour from here, and we decided not to risk it.  We were glad we did stay home, because it did end up coating things with that dreaded thin layer of ice.  It looks like school will be delayed in the morning and I won’t work until later in the day.  So, we saved quite a bit of gas today.  We were also able to keep the fire going and the house is very warm, with wood instead of the heater.  On super cold nights, Rob gets up every 2 hours to stoke the stove so no one is cold.  He did that last night.  Our heater is really expensive to run, so we don’t run it while we are home unless we cannot heat the house with our stove.

We’ve eaten at home since we returned from camping.  For the last couple of days,  I planned menus for the week.   I embroidered a dish towel.  I made soup.  Rob made barbecued pork.  I watched a lot of shows on my Kindle on Amazon Prime.

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We spent a few days camping at the beach.  We have a camper, and we have a free pass for camping at any Oregon State Park because we have foster and adopted children.  (You have to take the child with you to use it). We had a mix of torrential rain, extreme wind, and then sunny, clear, windy and cold weather.  We did lots of hunkering down in the camper, drives along the coast, shopping at the outlet mall, playing games, reading books we downloaded onto the Kindles, etc.  We slept a lot.

We used a Christmas gift to go watch Star Wars.  The friend who gave it to us wanted us to go watch it and even included enough for popcorn.  We saved it for the beach because we had unexpected overnight company right before we left and wanted to enjoy their company and not leave for the movie.  They actually stayed at our house an extra night after we left, which was also nice because they build a fire in the stove, which saved on the heat we had to leave on while we were gone.   They are very close friends.   We were delighted to see them. (When we came back it was the “toasty” 58 we had set it for). We had another friend watch and feed our animals.  He did it for free, which was very nice.

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I baked gluten-free sandwich buns for a family gathering that got cancelled due to the bad weather.  I will freeze them for next week, or whenever we  reschedule.  I made a lot so I could use them for sandwiches for myself.  GF sandwich buns are usually from $1-$1.25 each.  It is much less to make them, especially since I have all the flours on hand.  I received several Bob’s Red Mill gift cards for Christmas, so can re-stock when needed.  I appreciate that people were thinking so kindly and practically of me this Christmas.

Rob did a big food run, getting the best prices at Cash and Carry, Costco, and Fred Meyers for  things we needed. He got large bags of lettuce, large containers of salad dressing, 5 doz. eggs (our chickens have stopped laying), milk for 99c -1/2 gal., and some other things. He bought about 11 lbs.of pork for $1.27/lb and we cut it up for 4 meals.  I am still looking for butter at $2/lb, but had to settle for getting a few at $2.50/lb since they haven’t gone down to that for several months around here.  With these things he got, plus my pantry/freezers, etc., I won’t need much for the rest of the month.

Making My Home A Haven

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