Monday, January 28, 2013

Saving Money: Portion control with Drinks

We were going through lots of milk and tea.  I was in the habit of buying at least 5 gallons of milk every two weeks. My kids love to drink these things, but it is a killer on the budget!   Water is better for them ayway.  So I bought us each a water bottle and wrote our names on it with a Sharpie marker.  I don't know why, but there is something psychological about having a water bottle. You are more likely to drink water.  Who knows what is behind that?

They are allowed 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of juice, and 1 cup of tea per day.  That accounts for their three meals.  In between meals they are only allowed water.   I now only buy 3 gallons of milk every two weeks, and Michael has some tea available to him when he gets home from work instead of an empty container!  It works for us.

Hanging Laundry

I have always enjoyed line drying our laundry, but I haven't had much of an opportunity except for drying a little here and there over the doors or occasionally using the shower curtain rod in the bathroom.

Our dog is in the back yard with the clothesline, and until he is moved, there won't be any laundry hung out there with him.  I have imagined some interesting visuals of him running through the yard with specific pieces of clothing. 

I saw a comment on a blog post about frugality where a girl said that her mother hung an extra long shower rod over her washer and dryer.  I was thrilled to read that because I had never thought about doing that.  Laundry hanging problem solved, and I can do it rain or shine!  Plus, if I use hangers, it will save time for those things that I would already hang up anyway.

Why I think it's a good idea to hang laundry as much as possible:

  • Less wear and tear on clothes
  • Less wear and tear on the dryer
  • Saves money on the electricity bill

I ordered my shower rod from  Click here for the link.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spicy Beans and Rice

Spicy Beans and Rice.

Note: I used garden ingredients, but I wrote the recipe for someone who might used canned or frozen items.


1/4 tsp real garlic (I use the kind that is already chopped and comes in little glass containers)
About 1/2 cup of chopped or diced onions
about 1/4 cup of peppers (or canned diced green chiles)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of beans (whatever kind you like)
1 1/2 cup of dry rice (fix according to package directions.  I use the old fashioned kind)
1 lb hb meat, italian sausage, or chicken. (optional)
Either a couple of tablespoons of chili powder or cajun powder to taste.
(To stretch the dish, corn could also be added as well as a small can of tomato sauce).

Brown and drain meat.  Cook rice according to package.  Saute' garlic, onion, and peppers (unless they are canned, then wait) in oil. After the peppers are soft, add the canned items, meat, and rice.  Mix well.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Time savers & frugal tips: Baking & Cooking ahead

In an effort to make mealtimes easier & cut down on the cost of convenience foods, I try to have a cooking/baking day occasionally.  Mondays is my assigned day.  I feel that by assigning myself a specific day to do it, I am more likely to actually do it.  Some ladies do once-a-month cooking, and I think that is great.  However for me, just having a baking/cooking day allows me to not feel so overwhelmed.  I try to do it every two weeks.

My cooking & baking day usually consists of making some breakfast foods for the freezer, cooking a few pounds of hamburger meat, and cooking a whole chicken and freezing it into meal-sized portions.  Sometimes I fix a large pot of beef stew or something similar and freeze into portions so that we can have some easy & healthy lunches. 

Here are a few ideas for breakfast.  Click highlighted words for a link to the recipes:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

This is such an easy and delicious recipe!

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

  • 1 qt. white vinegar
  • 2 qt. water
  • 2/3 c. canning salt
  • cut cloves of garlic (I usually slice a clove into several pieces and put 2 pieces in the bottom of the jar)
  • dill sprigs (I use 3 in the larger jars)
  • 2" - 4" sliced cucumbers (quarter and remove ends)
  • Dissolve salt in water
  • add vinegar
  • place garlic and dill sprigs into the bottom of the jar
  • pack sliced cucumbers tightly into the jar
  • cover with liquid solution
  • cover with a paper towel & secure with a rubber band
  • let jars set for 3-4 days
  • refrigerate

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Menu Planning: More practical ideas

Sometimes while planning menus, I get really inspired and it is quick and easy. Other times I am stumped.

But one thing that has helped is to categorize each meal by type in my mind.

1. Chicken
2. Beef/Venison
3. Seafood or Fish
4. Vegetarian (I try to do 2 per week)
5. Pork
6. Turkey
the list could go on....

Or you can categorize this way:
1. American/ Home-style
2. Mexican
3. Oriental
4. Italian
or any other style/type of dish

You don't want to leave out the fact that you need: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, & Drinks.

Thinking in these categories when I start to plan always gets my brain rolling. If I can't think, I usually go to the internet and type, for example, "oriental recipes".
Or you could type "oriental vegetarian" to be more specific, or even go further than that and type "frugal oriental vegetarian recipes". The possibilities are endless.

Another idea is to flip through cookbooks or magazines. One thing I have done in the past and still do sometimes is to get a new cookbook from the library each time I go. I love getting vegetarian cookbooks. Vegetarian isn't as hard or weird as it seems. This seems like a "no-brainer", but you easily turn just about any recipe into a vegetarian meal by just leaving out the meat. I did that very thing with the recipe mentioned below. Michael and the kids love it!

You can categorize this one : "Meatless Mexican" (by the way... Mexican is easy to do meatless! Think... bean burritos, etc). It is good either way but I almost always leave out the hb meat.

Click below to go to the recipe:
Tortilla Chip Pie

She has a lot of great recipes.

I always keep the spices mentioned in her recipe stocked in my cabinets. So usually all I have to buy for this is cheese, beans, tomato sauce and chips. I try to cook all the dry beans asap after grocery day and freeze them into portions so that I can fix these types of dishes quickly.

P.S. I hardly ever add ham hocks or meat to my beans. They just don't require it. Most of the time, I only add 1/4 cup each of dry garlic, onion, and a couple tbsp of salt or bullion cubes and they are always good.

Frugal Living: Practical Ideas for Menu Planning

Menu planning is a big deal to me. In the past, I would just go to the grocery store clue-less. I would spend too much money and leave without knowing if I had everything I needed. Yes, I would usually do some kind of list but it still really didn't help me as much as I needed.

Without menu planning, I would buy convenience foods because if you don't plan what you are going to eat, you don't know what goes into those recipes.

As forgetful as I am, that is not a good thing. Even these days with all the preparation that I take before going to the grocery store, I still occasionally forget to write something down or didn't see it on my list.

I'll give an example of what happened a couple of weeks ago. I did not take my own advice to check my pantry and refrigerator before menu & list planning. I just made my menu and list and went to the store. When I came home, I had realized that I had purchased at least 2 items that we already had! I could have kicked myself! One of them is something we only buy once a year! Grrr... oh well, next year we will have it huh. I told Michael I could take it back but it wasn't really expensive or worth wasting the gas.I am all for buying in bulk, but I don't like buying something unless we need it. I guess that's why I am not a big coupon user.

Coupons are usually for convenience items that I can make way cheaper from scratch, or get an even cheaper generic brand. Therefore I am not really saving money using them. Some people play coupon games and enjoy it. Nothing wrong with that; it's just not me.

Another thing I do just to stay organized and make sure I am getting everything on my list is to write my grocery list by the aisle. I use Aldi which has very few aisles so it is very easy to remember where things are. I get a piece of regular notebook paper and divide it into sections the way the store is laid out. As I am writing out my actual menu, I write what I need for each meal onto my list in the actual location it is at the store. I used to write the approximate cost beside the item as I listed it (and sometimes still do if I'm not sure), and then added it up at the end of my planning to make sure I stayed in budget. Then as I would be shopping, I would write it again as I was buying my groceries (because they raise and lower prices!).

Here is a rough drawing of a grocery list sample by the aisle. I just added a few items to the list and where they are approximately located. I made this in excel, so when I copied it to this blog the lines disappeared so I apologize for that, but I think it gives you a general idea.


3 blks cheese pkg salad 1 box of butter 2 ct eggs, 1 sour cream 4 gallons milk {dairy} {case}

aisle 5 aisle 4 aisle 3 aisle 2 aisle 1
1 loaf oat bread
2 bags apples

1 bag bananas

1 bag potatoes

5 cans of diced tomatoes cereal

1pkg broccoli

2 pkg carrotts

4 cans green beans 1 pkg choc chips

peanut butter

1 bag dry rice oats

1 bag dry beans 1 ea brown sugar. plain sugar

5 cans mushrooms


tortilla chips
1 bag frozen peas

corn chips


If you don't have an ALDI and you use another grocery store, you could write your list for the first time in the best order you know. Then as you are checking off the items on your list you could write the aisle number and price. Keep that used list, so that next time you will have a better layout of the store. There are probably other better ways but that was what popped into my head. :-)

I hope these ideas help and I will hopefully add some menu ideas soon!