Monday, October 20, 2014

Old School Pumpkin Bread

This is my recipe for pumpkin bread, retrieved from one of my great-grandmother's recipe book.  I make substitutions based on what I have on hand, or my mood that day.  The original recipe called for three cups of granulated sugar, but it was too sweet for us. Feel free to add more if you like. The recipe is really forgiving.


  • 3C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1C granulated sugar
  • 1C brown sugar
  • 1C butter, room temp or softer
  • 3 large eggs
  • 16-24 oz of pumpkin puree (16oz is a normal can size. I add more when I am using fresh because I love pumpkin)
  • 1/2C chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray two loaf pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the first seven ingredients- flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a stand mixer, cream warm butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy. Add pumpkin puree and mix well.
  4. In three batches, add the dry ingredients and mix gently just until incorporated. Scrap the sides of the bowl after each batch. 
  5. Pour half the batter in each pan. Bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Freezes well.

For the bread above, I used 1/2C of butter and 1/2C of applesauce, and it turned out great!  With butter priced at $5/lb right now, I was happy to make the substitution.  I just finished canning a lot of applesauce so I could use it as a substitution in recipes. It adds nutrition and costs less- win, win!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

No Spend October

After I last blogged about only purchasing enough food for six weeks during a sale, I went to the grocery store yesterday and hit the motherlode of meat markdowns.  Apparently, this particular grocery store had a lot of meat expiring at the beginning of the month and marked down at least 30% of their stock.

I purchased two packs of chicken thighs for 0.53/lb, steak for $2/lb, organic grass-fed ground beef for $2.19/lb and I also picked up two gallons of milk for $2.00/each.  My one caveat to purchasing a large quantity of food is if it's under your price book minimums, and these prices were definitely below that line.  So needless to say, my end-of-month spending is not going to look great, but the savings will add up long-term.

This has also inspired me to do my first no-buy month. Since we are stocked on meat, and I normally keep a small stockpile of basic groceries, I think we should be able to go through October without purchasing many groceries. I will use fresh produce as my one exception since I go to my local farmer's market every Friday. For that, I will budget $15/week, so I am going to try and keep our grocery budget to $60.00 this month. Anyone care to join?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pantry Stockpile

When a couple of friends came over last week, they asked if they could see what I put in my pantry stockpile.  I had mentioned in passing that I thought that having a well-stocked pantry was a great way to save money on groceries.  However, I had never said much about what I actually buy to help stock my pantry. Super unhelpful, as knowledge is in the specifics!

My pantry is stocked according to sales cycles. Most products go on sale every six weeks.  The goal of my pantry is to have it stocked with enough canned and dry goods to last through the next time the item will go on sale. The exception to that is if the product is on sale and I have coupons for it.  If the sale makes the item ridiculously inexpensive (according to my personal price book), I buy as many items as I have coupons.

The one warning I would give is- don't become a hoarder!  If you find that you have enough food for a year, or if there are boxes of pasta under your bed.... you might not want to buy anything else for a long time. Every item goes on sale again. A good test- if you have enough stockpile to go on a reality show, you have gone too far.  :)

So here is a look at what is in my pantry...

Basics: all purpose flour, bread flour, salt, white and/or brown rice, granulated sugar, brown sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and rolled oats.

When I am currently using the stock, I store them in plastic jugs that are from my son's animal crackers. They are 5lb and 3lb containers, so they are perfect for fitting in my pantry.

When I am storing the excess, they are stored the unfinished part of my basement in storage bins. A better alternative for storing flour and sugar would be in the freezer, but I don't have the room in my freezer.

In February, my local grocery store had a great sale on a lot of dry items. I stocked up on lots of lunch and dinner items. This is a typical pantry stockpile for my family: Pasta sauce, alfredo sauce, dry pasta, peanut butter...

Egg noodles, cereal, canned vegetables including carrots, corn, creamed corn, beets, green beans, spinach, peas, diced tomatoes...

Condiments such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce. Olive oil, coconut oil, spray oil and shortening are used in all of my cooking and baking. All of the macaroni and cheese, stuffing and gravy is from when my local Aldi clearanced it all after Christmas- everything was 25 cents. And the flavored water was a free-with-purchase find from another local store.

Spread throughout, I also have dried beans, crackers, pretzels, dried potatoes, popcorn, onion soup mix, canned fruit and pumpkin, canned beans, cake mixes, pickles, white and apple cider vinegar, tomato sauce, apple juice, beef and chicken bouillon cubes, spices, jam, instant pudding mix, tuna, coffee and tea, soy and coconut milk, evaporated and sweetened condensed milk, honey and extracts.

Every pantry is obviously different based upon the preferences of the family, but most of these are basics that every family would use.  I have mostly basic items since that is the least expensive way to cook, but I also have items for a quick dinner if I don't feel up to cooking from scratch.  This is a very small stockpile compared to some, and a large stockpile compared to others (most specifically, my city friends!).  

If you want to start your own stockpile, start it week-by-week. Choose one thing that is on sale, and buy enough for six weeks.  It will only take a few weeks before you see your weekly shopping list get smaller, and your savings get larger.  You never know when a medical emergency or job loss will hit either, so it's always good to have some pasta in the closet for a rainy day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Saving Points From Corporations

One of the silly, easy things I do to save money is saving "points" from different companies.  A lot of big corporations try to instill loyalty in their consumers with a points program. Coca-Cola has "My Coke Rewards", Pampers has "Pampers Village", etc.  It may seem pointless to save these codes, but they do add up in a couple of different ways.

1. Double Points Promotions- I save codes from Coca-Cola and Kellogg products.  I usually only get name-brand products when coupons make it even cheaper than generic brands. Several times a year, these companies will set double-points weeks. I save my codes until one of the promotions, and then I will get double the points for the same amount of codes. They usually cap it at around 100 points per week (or 200 during the doubles week), but since I usually have less than that anyway, it really works out for me.

2. Holiday Promotions- I always wait for Christmas to spend my Coca-Cola rewards points. The last couple of years, there has been a holiday program where there are daily prizes that are at least half-off the normal points price. Last year, I redeemed a couple of McDonald's, Home Depot and Best Buy gift cards. I remember that the $5 McDonald's gift cards came in handy when Benji was pleading for a Happy Meal, and it only set me back 30 points. (The equivalent of 5 bottle caps during the doubles week.)

3. School Funding- While it doesn't help save me money personally, I also save the Box Tops for a friend's school.  They receive 10 cents per box top, and it makes no sense to just throw that away. Again, my small stack of box tops is not going to make a huge difference, but I would save a found dime, so why not a found box top?

Offhand, I know that Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg, Pampers and Huggies all have these programs, because I have personally used them all.  I am saving my Pamper's points to redeem towards a ticket to Sesame Place. Saving $50 using codes I already have makes me a happy frugalista.

Friday, July 18, 2014


My mom has been visiting from Virginia since right before Benji's 3rd birthday.  Since we live so far away from each other now, we don't get to visit often, but the visits are long so it kinda makes up for the infrequency.  I cannot for a second pretend her visit was completely frugal, but it was F-U-N!  When I got our tax refund this year, I thought a lot about how we should break it down.  It's the last refund from when I was working, and it might be the last time we get a bulk check.  Most of it went towards savings, but I also set aside some for summer fun.  A summer is meant for exploring and traveling, and we definitely have been on the roll with that this year. We did lots of frugal things but we mixed it up with not-so-frugal adventures too. This is what we have been up to in the last month:

1. Manasquan Reservoir is a big water source near our town that has a visitors center, paddle boats, playground, hiking and biking trails, and fishing.  Benji loves the playground, so we went a couple times to let him run out some energy.  All it takes is bubbles and a slide to keep him occupied for a long time.  We also had lunch at the visitor's center that overlooks the lake.  My mom wanted to try the paddle boats but we never got to that- next time!

2. Adventure Aquarium is the state aquarium of New Jersey, and it was one of our non-frugal activities.  The admission was $25/per person, though I purchased $28 tickets online that included a lunch of pizza, fries and a soda.  I debated spending even the $3 since you could bring your own food, but it ended up being a GREAT decision.  Without the pass, a soda cost $3 by itself, and I haven't fully adapted to water only when I am out and about. Plus, Benji got his first slushee type drink, and he was mightily impressed.  The aquarium was fascinating, and I have wanted to go since we moved here.  My favorite exhibits were for the hippos and jellyfish.  My mom hates jellyfish because she was stung a lot growing up in Florida, but I think they are too beautiful to be that hated.

The top floor of the aquarium was for kids, and there were lots of places to play, and touch the stingrays and baby sharks.  My mom got a kick out of Benji grabbing my hand, and telling me to hop on the stingray!  It WAS big... but let's not get crazy.

3. Popcorn Zoo is a sanctuary for rescued animals including elderly wildlife, exotic and farm animals, and birds.  This was one of our frugal adventures since it only cost $5 for entry, and $2.50 for a box of popcorn from which to feed the animals.  Benji shared his popcorn with the birds- as in, one nibble for you, and then I will eat it.  Germaphobes beware.  :)  Our zoo day was relaxed and fun. Benji got to feed the animals, eat loads of popcorn, chase the peacocks and talk to the pigs.

4. Storybook Land was probably the most fun trip of the summer so far, but I'm not sure if I should categorize it as frugal or not. The friend that recommended it thought it was expensive. It's $25/per person, and if Benji didn't end up riding much, I could see how it could be considered expensive.  But Benji LOVED it.  The park was only about 45mins away, which is a big plus in my book, and consists completely of toddler rides.  He rode most rides twice, and I think there were only 2 that he took one look at, and said no way.  There was a tram that went all the way around the park, and a train that went another route around the park.

The theme is nursery rhymes, so we spent time with Mother Goose, Mary and her lamb, Jack and Jill... you get the picture. Since we ended up spending ALL day there, which is almost unheard of for Benji, I really feel like it is a frugal alternative to that big Florida theme park for a couple years.  That fact makes it EXTREMELY frugal for us!
We also planned it for the last week that kids were still in school- so there was never a line, no crowds in the shaded areas, and lots of room for Benji to run and play without worry of losing him in a crowd.  There was also a house that Santa lived in, and a barn with all of his reindeer, so I imagine this would be a lot of fun at Christmastime as well.

Benji and grandma

5. July 4th! Free fireworks in town. Now, that's a lotta frugal.

As for the rest of her visit, we did a lot of this:

We ran out of time before we ran out of fun things to do.  New Jersey really is a great place to have kids. Although, people probably think that about their town too!  Keepin' it frugal.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Frugal Appliances: Slow Cooker

During the summer months, I try to keep the heat down in the house any way I can do so.  One of my tricks is to use a slow cooker.  A slow cooker will heat your house only a fraction of what an oven would do, and it also costs less to operate.  (When researching the cost savings, there seems to be an argument about how much of a savings it is between a slow cooker and oven.  It apparently goes by size, and whether or not you are cooking more than one thing at once in the oven.)  But I take it one step further.  The slow cooker in the photo above?  It's sitting on a TV tray in our sun room.  I set it up outside, then shut the door on the heat.  :)  In a few hours, our dinner will be ready and the house will have remained cool the whole time.

It's the end of June now, and we had our air conditioner on yesterday. The humidity was wretched, and I decided saving the money wasn't worth being that uncomfortable.  That was the 3rd time we turned the air on since the weather started turning warmer.  Luckily, our house is surrounded by very old, tall trees and the resulting shade saves us money on heating in the summer.  We also have ceiling fans in every bedroom, and lots of windows for cross-breezes.  Of course in the fall when the ENTIRE half-acre is covered in leaves?  I don't feel quite so grateful.

Hope you are keeping it cool wherever you are!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Frugal Habits: Clothesline Drying

It is officially too hot to garden outside during Benji's naptime.  All of a sudden, time has opened back up to get back to blogging.  Works for me!  The spring is such an important time for my garden to get started that I pretty much devote every free moment to it.  I have strawberries sprouting, tomatoes growing and flowers aplenty.  The cantaloupe and cucumbers seem to be taking their sweet time, and the quick change from spring to summer killed the remaining lettuce and cabbage instantly.  I hope to have a lot of fresh produce to show for all this work in the coming months.  Only time will tell on that front.

In the meantime, we are officially in the high 80s and love 90s temperature-wise, so my fair skin has taken a needed break from afternoon gardening.  Not to mention that I hate the heat.  I seriously should have been born and raised in Maine.  Benji came out with me this morning and only lasted about 30 mins before asking "to go home."  I am really surprised since he has spent the last few months crying to go outside, and banging on the sun room door.  It looks like he isn't moving to Florida anytime soon either.

Since it is flaming hot, I washed a lot of Benji's clothes this morning, and put them out on the line to dry.  The easiest way to save money in regards to laundry is to line dry your clothes. In the winter, we have to use drying racks and the clothes can take a while to dry.  In the summer, we have a line that runs from the deck to a nearby tree, and these clothes will be dry within the hour, no doubt.  Since many people do not line dry their clothing, I came up with a list of reasons you might want to try it out. So...

Here are 5 reasons to line dry your clothing:

1.  It saves money.  

Have you seen the energy efficient dryers?  No?  That's because they don't really exist.  It takes a tremendous amount of energy to dry clothes, and they are very expensive to run.  A clothes dryer accounts for 12% of electricity use for a typical household.  At a sample rate of $0.15/kwh and 7.5 loads per week, you can save $196.00 a year by line drying your clothes.

2.  It keeps your house cooler.  

The heat from the dryer is now warming your house, and I certainly don't appreciate that with these temperatures.  Even if your laundry is in a basement, it will still add to the feeling of warmth in your house.  Keeping the clothes dryer off not only saves money from the dryer itself, but also the money it takes to cool your house back down.

3.  Your clothes will last longer.

That lint in your dryer used to be part of your clothing.  The more the clothing gets put in the dryer, the shorter its life span.  If you are worried about stiffness, you can use vinegar in your washer where you would normally use fabric softener.  The only fabrics that still remain stiff are towels.  I just call them our loofahs in the summer. :)

4.  It uses fewer chemicals.

We no longer have to use bleach, even with a toddler in the house.  The sun's natural bleaching capacity is enough to keep our whites white, and nothing smells better than line-dried clothing.  A lot of my friends who use cloth diapers swear by the line-drying as the way to keep the diapers looking bright white.

5.  It eliminates static cling.

I do not know the science behind this, but I always had static cling with my work clothing before I started line drying.  Immediately after- gone.  This also plays into the fewer chemicals point, because it eliminates the need to dryer sheets.  And since those are filled with a crazy amount of chemicals, good riddance.


Some other random tips for line drying clothing is to always use clothespins rather than folding them over the line, and be sure to use the vinegar in your rinse cycle to help with softness.

And as a bonus- it kept Benji occupied outside for an extra 10 mins today.  He enjoys handing me each clothespin.  May that never grow old.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gardening: Newspaper Seedling Pots

Since we just had snow this week (craziness!!), my garden is getting a late start.  My husband and I spent last weekend cutting down a tree that is in my future garden plot.  Normally I would be against cutting down trees, but it had taken quite a hit from Hurricane Sandy, and didn't seem to be coming back.  Oh well, now at least I have a sunny plot for the garden.

My first prep work is to make my seedling pots.  You can buy seedling pots from just about any store, but you can also make your own using newspaper.  I like to make my own because it's extremely cost efficient, takes about 20 minutes to knock out around 50 or so pots, and I never have to buy anything new each year.  I use a pot-maker that I bought for $6.00 a few years ago. This is the one I use:

However, I have heard that you can also use a soup can pressed into a tuna can if you want to use what you might have lying around.

Here is a quick tutorial:

Measure strips of newspaper into approximately 3.5" x 11.5" strips.  I use double-ply newspaper so it won't break down too quickly to easily transplant the seedlings.

Then wrap the strip around the cylinder of the pot maker...

And fold the ends under.

Press the bottom into the pot maker and give it a little twist...

And voila, your DIY seedling pot!

I made about 50 of them in one sitting, and I probably need 50 or so more.  I put them all into baking pans so that they can lean against each other as they grow.  As they get bigger, the roots will grow out from the bottom, and you just plant the entire pot in your garden.

I am going to start this year with a smaller garden, and see how the soil/sun works in the area I picked out.  Now I just need to plan the garden, buy the seeds and till the plot... so I guess I will be busy in the next few weeks!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Home Haircuts

My son has really beautiful, wavy, blonde hair.  I don't know what genes we have to thank for that, but I'm a definite fan.  However, it also grows really quickly.  The ringlets are adorable, but since they tend to fall in his eyes, and make him hot, I knew it was time for a haircut.  Even though this is always fun:

I think he spent an hour dancing in front of the mirror with his mile-high ponytail topper.  These pictures are going to be so much fun in his later years!

When it was time for his last haircut, I went to the local kid-friendly shop in the mall.  He got to sit in a firetruck seat and laugh at himself in the mirror, and he was having a great time- until the scissors came to the front.  Then it was screams, and trying to jump out of the chair while the hairdresser held a pair of scissors a half inch from his eyes.  I felt so bad for the lady, that in the end, I had to tip her 50% on top of the price of the haircut.  So I walked out with a bawling child with a crooked haircut, and $20.00 poorer.

Thanks but no thanks.  So I just pulled out my husband's clippers and 10 minutes later...

Swag. Major swag.

It's still crooked, and he didn't like the sound of the clippers, but I kept my $20.  All in a day's work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Frugal Fun: Lowe's Build & Grow

Weekends can prove to be the best time for creating family memories, but sometimes they can also drain your wallets.  Since Benji is two years old right now, it sometimes becomes tough looking for new activities that he can sit through, especially with this never-ending cold weather.

This weekend we tried Lowe's Build & Grow program for the first time.  I signed us up thinking that it was worth a shot, though I really didn't think the odds were good that he would sit through the session.  I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

When you first enter Lowe's, the activity is already set up for everyone.  We walked up to three long tables, with aprons, safety goggles and hammers laid out.  I went to the desk to check in, and received the bird house kit.  Daddy started reading the instructions while Benji waited patiently... while banging the hammer, of course!

I think he could have just banged on the wood with the hammer all afternoon.

The kit was really simple, and contained blunt nails and pre-drilled holes for them which struck me as really thoughtful.  Since it was such an easy project, we could let Benji bang away at the pieces, and they just started to form the house.

He was very enthralled with the mechanics of the bird house.  We put a couple pieces on backwards since we were letting Benji take so much of the lead, but we quickly popped them out and put them together correctly while he was distracted with another piece of wood.  When he showed the birdhouse to the employee manning the desk, they gave him a certificate and a patch for his apron.

I am going to let him paint the birdhouse and then we will nail it to the tree right outside our bay window.  In the summer, Benji likes to climb in that window and watch the birds.

Cost: $0
Smiles: Infinite  :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Couponing Extravaganza

My local grocery store has been running their Dollar Days promotion this week, and there have been a lot of great coupons this month.

This haul included free ice cream, rice steamers, wax melts, pasta sauce, rice sides and salad dressing.  I paid $28.00 for this order, but also received $15.00 back for the dollar promo.  There are 8 boxes of fruit packs stacked there- that will last a long time, and it my usual bribe to the kiddo.  I did these deals four times in total so I could really stock up our pantry.  We use the sauce on our homemade pizzas too, so we should be set for a while.

I just ran in to grab this stuff really quick this morning.  The store has all their Gorton's frozen fish half off, which works with coupons for a really good buy. I spent $5.87, and got $3.00 back for the dollar promo.  There are great coupons available now for the turkey bacon, snickers, cookies and P3 packs.  I thought the P3 packs would be a waste but the coupon made them free.  However, they are a nice addition to a salad, so I am glad I picked them up again.  The cookies were finally clearanced from Valentine's Day, so I picked up all the Pillsbury they had left since they matched up with my coupons.  The eggs, P3 packs, cookies, snickers, cleaner, tissues and hair products were all free or better than free with coupons.  I found the hair products on clearance, and I have coupons worth more than their current price.

You will notice that I don't purchase a lot of produce or meat.  The reason that I don't buy produce is that I garden from the spring through the fall.  It is by far the most fun way to stretch your grocery budget.  When I started this, we lived about 45mins away from NYC so we had a 10x10' plot in a community garden.  I canned 50 jars of sauce, and ate countless salads, cucumbers and melons from that tiny space.  I will write more about gardening when I am not looking at snow outside the window.

I only buy meat in bulk, or on a manager's special.  My husband and I tried out a vegan diet a couple years ago, and after not eating meat for twelve months, we just don't eat as much as we used to.  So I buy bulk packages at Sam's and split them up into dinner size portions, and then freeze everything.  When luck is with me, I find those on manager's special.  Since I always freeze everything immediately, it doesn't make much difference when it is expiring.  Our deep freezer has become my best friend in this endeavor.

Be sure to check all the popular sites for coupons as least once a week:, and are great places to start.  My grocer allows me to stack those coupons with store coupons, so I can get some pretty great deals.  Become familiar with your store's coupon policy, and if you don't know the rules- you better ask somebody.  :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DIY: Household Cleaner

One way to save money is to make common household items rather than buy them in a store.  An easy start is to make a cleaner that can be used on countertops, sinks, tables, floors, etc.  There really is no end to it's uses because it is just vinegar and citrus peels.  It is non-toxic and all natural, and literally costs pennies to make.  I realized I was running low this morning, and I think I last made this before we moved last summer.

There are lots of recipes online, but I use the most basic.  A couple of weeks ago, Aldi had small bags of limes for $0.49.  There were five small limes in the bag.  I used one for margaritas one night (ahem), and then the other four I peeled into a large mason jar, and then juiced into a different small mason jar.  I filled the large mason jar with plain white vinegar, put a lid on it, and I can forget about it for the next three weeks or so.  I store it in our basement overstock since it's a cool, dark space.  I don't recommend storing it near strong sunlight since it might interfere with the citrus peels.  After that time, you strain the peels, dilute the mixture and put it in any old spray bottle.  I prefer to use a 50/50 dilution, and the resulting mixture will last for many months.  You can use orange, lemon or lime peels- whatever floats your boat.  The mixture will kill germs on any surface, but test a small area first if you are using it on something valuable.  It cleans our entire kitchen with minimal effort, and you are only left with the faint scent of citrus.

Since we are in a waste-not, want-not household, the juice will also go to use.  I am thinking Tequila Lime Chicken for dinner tomorrow.  In case you feel like doing that as well, here is the recipe:

4 limes
1 C tequila
1/4 C olive oil
2 T salt
5 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, sliced
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
12 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 C grated Monterey Jack Cheese

Squeeze the juice from the limes into the food processor, and add the tequila, olive oil, salt, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro.  Blend well, then add the mixture to a plastic bag with the chicken, and marinate overnight. Cook the chicken breast over medium high temperature for about 4-5 mins on each side.  Then melt the cheese over the chicken breasts.

This is a great recipe for cooking in bulk, and you can easily set up a freezer dinner for later.  Keep in mind that chicken breasts are insanely large these days.  When I buy a big pack of chicken breasts at Sams, I take a sharp knife and cut the breast in half width-wise.  If you push it flat on your cutting board, the knife will slide right through.  That way you aren't overeating since no one needs that much chicken in one sitting.

And in the end, what is left of the limes go into the compost pile, and we are only left with a jar of cleaner and a big pan of chicken!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Free Cereal

One of the reasons I didn't have as many high-value coupons for my Dollar Days Deals was because I had already used them to snag some free cereal at Stop and Shop.  In this case, the store was giving an automatic $6.00 back when you bought four specific cereals.  Since I happened to have coupons for all of the boxes, I walked out with a $0.00 balance. Yay, free cereal!

Sunday Morning Couponing

This is a typical grocery store coupon run for me.  I love Sunday mornings!  This week, my local grocer is running a promotion called "Dollar Days." For this promotion, if you buy a certain number of products, you get a dollar amount back on a catalina and a free store bag.  I did 3 of these promotions on Sunday, and I plan to do some again on Wednesday when they run their 4-day specials if I receive my coupons in the mail on time.  This is the breakdown:

(4) Kelloggs Krave S'mores Cereal - $2.49
(2) Kellogs Mini Wheat Touch of Fruit Cereal - $2.99
(4) Honey Nut Cheerios Cereal - $1.99
(2) Chocolate Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal - $2.49
(6) Stoneyfield Organic Greek Yogurt - $1.00
(1) Stoneyfield Organic Greek Yogurt Quart -$3.69
(4) Betty Crocker Cake Mix - $1.25
(2) Knorr Rice Sides - $1.00
(2) Ragu Pasta Sauce - $1.39
(2) Wishbone Salad Dressing - $1.69
(4) Minute Rice Steamers - $0.99
(4) McCormick Mild Taco Seasoning 2/$1.00
(4) Superpretzel Cheese Bites - $0.88
(1) Dole Smoothie Shaker - $1.99
(1) Barber Foods Stuffed Chicken Breast- $2.99
(3) Shopping Bags - $0.99
Totals: $69.16

(1) .75/2 Betty Crocker Cake Mixes Store e-Coupon
(2) .75/2 Betty Crocker Cake Mixes Internet Coupon (doubles)
(1) .75/2 Betty Crocker Cake Mixes SavingStar Deposit
(1) 1.25/1 Dole Smoothie Store e-Coupon
(1) .75/1 Dole Smoothie Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(2) Buy 2 Get 1 Free Stoneyfield Yogurt Newspaper Coupon
(1) .80/1 Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt Quart Store e-Coupon
(1) .80/1 Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt Quart Internet coupon (doubles)
(1) $1.00 Barber Chicken Newspaper Coupon
(2) .50/2 McCormick Taco Seasonings Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(4) .50/1 Superpretzel Product (doubles up to $0.88 since it is the cost of the product)
(4) .50/1 Minute Rice Package Newspaper Coupon (doubles up to $0.99 since it is the cost of the product)
(1) $1.00/2 Ragu Sauce Store e-Coupon
(1) .75/2 Ragu Sauce Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(1) .50/2 Knorr Sides Store e-Coupon
(1) .50/2 Knorr Sides Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(2) .70/1 Wishbone Salad Dressing Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(1) $1.00/2 Cheerios Store e-Coupon
(1) .75/1 Chocolate Cinnamon Toast Crunch Store e-Coupon
(2) .75/1 Chocolate Cinnamon Toast Crunch Internet Coupon (doubles)
(1) .75/1 Chocolate Cinnamon Toast Crunch SavingStar Deposit
(2) $1.00/2 Cheerios Newspaper Coupon
(4) .70/1 Kelloggs Kraves Cereal Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(2) .70/1 Kelloggs Mini Wheats Touch of Fruit Newspaper Coupon (doubles)
(1) $1.00/1 Kellogs Mini-Wheats Checkout51 Deposit
(3) Free Shopping Bags with Dollar Days Deal
Total after Coupons: $21.86

$3.00 Unilever Dollar Days Deal
$5.00 General Mills Dollar Days Deal
$5.00 Kelloggs Dollar Days Deal
Total after Catalinas: $8.86


So that is a typical couponing morning for me.  There were better deals to be had- higher coupon values on different cereal, more newspaper coupons that I had already used, etc.  But I try to make it a practice not to buy food that we won't eat even if it's a great deal.  A great deal is a terrible deal if the food goes to waste.  I use the high-sugar cereals to make dessert bars a la Rice Krispy treats so I can use all the free cereals for snacks instead.  I am going to put out a breakdown of how I coupon this week, but I hope this at least gives you a starter idea!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How I Save Hundreds of Dollars Buying in Bulk

One of the biggest ways to save money on groceries is to cook everything from scratch.  This process can be time-consuming, so it doesn't work for everyone.  However, if you have more time than money, there are lots of ways to be an efficient from-scratch chef, and the savings are insane.

It's the beginning of a new month, and I needed to buy some groceries in bulk today.  I wanted to take this opportunity to compare bulk shopping to shopping at my local grocery store.  For comparison purposes, I used the store brand or, if the store brand was not available, the least expensive option.  I bought 14 items today, and this is a breakdown of the savings at the size I bought today:

Item                Sam's Club     Grocer       Savings
White Rice       0.39/lb            0.80/lb      $10.25
Bread Flour      0.35/lb           0.78/lb       $10.75
AP Flour          0.35/lb           0.51/lb       $4.00
Apple Juice      0.02/oz           0.04/oz      $7.84
Parm Cheese    $5.86/lb         $9.60/lb     $5.00
Chicken Breast $1.77/lb         $1.99        $1.33
Cheddar           $2.57/lb         $4.00/lb    $7.15
1% Milk           $3.19            $4.59         $2.80
Whole Milk      $3.46            $4.59         $2.26
Diced Tomatoes  0.78/can     0.99/can     $1.68
Bananas            0.49/lb          0.54/lb       $0.15
Totals               $88.08          $141.29     $53.21

If you wanted to do the simplest calculation, over the course of a year, you could save over $600.00!  Obviously, there are a lot of variables here.  There are items that are big savings, and other items that aren't really much different.  But the biggest savings are in the most basic items: flour, rice, oil, sugar, etc.  If you use these more, and can buy them in bulk, you could really save a bundle on your yearly groceries.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Facebook Sharers

I wish some Facebook posts came with warnings.  The new trend is for people to share news on Facebook.  Since I am curious to all things, I usually click on them.  With the understanding that if it's interesting to my friends, it will probably be interesting to me.  That does not seem to be the case lately.  The news of late seems extraordinarily depressing.  Today, a friend of high school posted a video with the only comment from her being "wow."  Innocently enough, I clicked on the video.  The video was apparently a clip from someone's nanny-cam depicting an older woman abusing a child that looked no older than a year old- persistently slapping the child in the head because she was crying, throwing her in the bouncer face-down, and throwing a blanket over her head, and then slapping her again when she tried to remove it from her head.  I understand that people need to know of abuse of children.  I completely agree!  But why did I need to see a video of this happening?  It really broke my heart, and had me in tears within seconds.  Who would do this, and why are we watching it?  Whether the parents were able to prosecute this "child-carer" and remove the child from her care, and I hope they were able to do both immediately, the child was still abused.  It didn't mean it didn't happen.  She will not be subjected to further abuse from this person, but she was already abused.  Plus, for someone like me who is deeply affected by videos that depict these actions, it makes me even more weary of leaving my child with anyone.  My son is almost two, and we have yet to hire a babysitter.  The only people who have watched him were immediate family that I completely trust.  I wouldn't even say that I would trust his care to ANY family, because we all know abuse is common amongst family members.  This post has no real point.  I just wanted to put it out there in the world in the the hope that people will either post warnings when sharing this types of videos, or better yet, not share them at all.  The abuse of children is not entertainment, and this child's personal abuse was not necessary to showcase just to make the point that abuse happens.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Budgeting is Crazy Difficult Sometimes

When my husband and I first talked about making a budget, it seemed like a good idea.  In theory.  Of course, we should work it out so that we spend less than we make.  It will be a great idea to make sure we put money in savings each moth.  We will make a budget, stick to it, and reap all the benefits of being fiscally responsible adults by next month!  Ehhh... not so much.  We tried to do overall-idea-budgets at the end of 2013.  We overspent by about $800 each month.  Yeah.  That's a LOT.  So last month, heady with new year resolutions and good intentions, we sat down and did an item-by-item budget.  And we worked out the figures this month- and we only went $150.00 over budget.  Which, while not a clear victory, is quite a momentous feat in one month.  For the three of us, I only spent $282 in groceries last month.  And the numbers included a trip that I am taking with my friend in March where I fronted the money for both of us and told her she could pay me back later.  Technically, that probably shouldn't count, but since I have a bad habit of just spending the money people give me back in those situations, I will just count it as it is.

One of the big changes last month was that grocery figure.  We were spending about $800/mth on food last year.  And that number was after I quit.  Before that, we spent a MASSIVE amount of my salary on take-out and convenience foods since neither of us had time to cook or do dishes.  So, I basically went from $800/mth to $300/mth.  One of the big changes for me was buying in bulk, and making things completely from scratch.  I posted my pizza dough recipe yesterday, and that is a really good example.  We used to get take-out for pizza.  During the week, our favorite pizza place has large pizzas for $9.00.  We would get two large pies, and with tax, spend a little under $20.00.  I used to think homemade pizza meant buying the dough, and then putting on the sauce and toppings.  That way will cost about $5.00/pie if you buy refrigerated dough.  When I make my own pizza from scratch, I am using flour, yeast, and cheese that I buy in bulk.  I then use whatever leftovers we have for toppings.  This week it was bbq ham.  Since I only pay $1 for the block of cheese I use, pennies for the flour and yeast, and leftovers for the toppings, I can make two large pizzas for around $2.00 total.  That's an amazing amount of savings if you make them once a week.  And even better, they are REALLY good!  I don't mind exchanging out the take-out in the least, and I feel like I am winning the budget wars, so it's great for my frugal self-esteem.

So next month, I am aiming to be even better.  I am going to do a full inventory of the fridge, freezers and pantry, and figure out what I am lacking from what we normally use.  And my ultimate goal is to create a monthly meal plan so that I can buy everything I need at the beginning of the month (maybe not produce though), and eliminate lots of grocery store trips and wasted food.  Impulse buys can account for some of our grocery bill, and I want that to stop pronto.

Does anyone have any tips for other ways to cut a grocery bill?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Pizza Dough

On my quest to become more frugal, I have started making a lot more meals from scratch.  One of my new favorites is pizza.  Who doesn't love pizza?  Well, probably some people, but for the others, this is a great pizza dough recipe.  It makes 2 large pizzas if you spread it out pretty thin.  We make one barbecue ham pizza with barbecue sauce instead of marinara, and one cheese pizza.  Since I can usually find the cheese for $1.00/block with coupons, it only costs about $2.00 to make these two pizzas.  Between my two-year-old, my husband and I, we usually take down a full pizza for dinner, and then split the other one up for lunches and leftovers.  It's a great way to stretch a dollar!

Frugal and Easy Pizza Crust

3C bread flour
3 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T oil
1 1/4 warm water, between 80 and 110 degrees

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and knead for 5 minutes.  You can also do this in a KitchenAid mixer if you have one.  Form into a ball, spray with a little oil and cover with a towel to rest for 10mins.  Split the dough in half, and press out your two pizzas.  Voila!  After you build your pizza, just cook at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, and you are all set.  I usually wait until its almost done, and then take the pizza from the pan to the oven rack so the dough gets a little more crispy.

Bad Attitude Day

I am having a bad day.  At least I thought I wad having a bad day.  Now I think I am having a bad attitude day.  Let me explain.

This morning, I woke up in a fine mood. However, the first things I noticed were my husband's lunchbox on the table and the overflowing trash can. This tells me two things:  he didn't pack his lunch nor did he take out the trash as requested.  Whatever, no big deal.

Except that we are on a really tight budget.  Like insane tight.  And neither one of us is really doing that we should with adhering to that budget.  Which means that he is going to spend at least $10 today that we really don't have since we are ALREADY over budget for the month. Sigh.

But the trash I will take out.  So I pulled out the bag, tied it and set it aside.  Then I got a new bag, and when I leaned over to put it in the trashcan, I saw water at the bottom of the can.  Gross.  I HATE it when trash bags fail at their one job of containing gross stuff.  But whatever, I went to get a towel to clean it up.  And then I realized, if there is liquid at the bottom of the trash can, what about the bag?  And yep, when I dashed over to where I had placed the bag, it was sitting in a pool of gross liquid too.  Great.  So I had to double-bag that (and that bag ripped too- grr!), wash all the dishes in the sink so that I could then take the trash can to the sink and clean it out, clean and disinfect the trash can, dry it out, clean and disinfect the sink and counter, and then take the trash out.  It was an hour-long process that took place while my two-year-old was audibly jumping on the couch.  And it served to put me in a really bad mood.  Unfortunately, my husband called in the middle of it, and I gave him an earful of irritation before he could get away.

It took a couple hours for my irritation to calm down.  But then I thought, this is ridiculous.  I am sitting in my very nice home, with my happy and healthy child, while my husband works at a job that he loves.  I realized I was having a bad attitude day, which was really a result of my frustration at not being able to balance the budget in the way that I want.  And taking that frustration out on the trash can or my husband isn't going to make things any better.  It's going to take some grit, but I am resolved to get a handle on this budget situation.  I am going to gorge on Pinterest and budget sites until I come up with a legit plan!