I’m enjoying these 5 Frugal Things posts so much! Thanks My Mothermode for the inspiration! :)

1. Picked up the check for $39.19 we made at the consignment store! :)
2. Made a batch of pinto beans in the pressure cooker, I used some in chili the next day and the rest I froze, so this isn’t just a money saver, but a time saver too.


3. Had myself a little cooking session earlier in the week baking a double batch of cheese muffins and a double batch of flour tortillas.
4. Made some veggie broth with veggie scraps in my pressure cooker and used the  broth to make soup.

Veggies and scraps ready to be made into stock!

5. I’m trying out this homemade version of oxiclean to see if it helps some armpit stains.

Not so frugal:

Bought some green beans and noticed they weren’t so fresh looking, I made a mental note to cook them soon…soon turned into a few days and I ended up tossing over half of them. :( But the rest tasted great sauted up with olive oil, salt and garlic powder!

Took the kids to watch a movie for Little Dude’s birthday, then went to Wendy’s afterwards. Speaking of which did you know Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s was adopted and a portion of the proceeds from Wendy’s goes to help kids available for adoption from foster care? You can read all about the Dave Thomas foundation here.

What are 5 things you’ve done to spend less money this week?

Amy 

Recently I saw Ten Dollar Dinners* at the library and thought I’d check it out.  I loved the pictures and layout of it! My favorite feature was the little tips scattered throughout the book (see photo below).

The one recipe that grabbed my attention the most was a smoothie with beans in it….and no, I’m not referring to vanilla beans, but black beans, so I tried throwing some unseasoned black beans into a smoothie and sure enough it still tasted good, plus added protein and fiber!

While I’m not planning on purchasing the book, as I’m trying to scale down on possessions, and so many recipes can be found online nowadays, it definitely was a fun book to check out from the library, and if you like cooking, particularly without breaking the bank, it could be a good resource. So go to your library and see if they have it, and if they don’t you can always ask about getting it through inter-library loan!

*Amazon affiliate link.

On calmer evenings we like to do a little bit of “homeschooling” with Gracia. She absolutely loves it and is highly disappointed when we don’t do it with her. I hope she always keeps her love of learning!

One night for her homeschooling I grabbed my big glass jar of pinto beans. We used the dry beans for doing some math problems. Dry beans are perfect for math and then you can even put them back in the jar and cook them up to eat later! If you think that sounds unsanitary, remember those beans will be brought to a boil and simmered for a couple of hours, so I’m pretty sure the germs will be killed. :) Using beans is especially good for kids that are hands on or visual learners.

While beans are great for addition and subtraction, they can also be used for art! Simply put glue on some paper and then decorate to your heart’s content! To add variety use various beans, lentils, popcorn kernels or rice.

See Gracia’s creation?

Even though Gracia is only 4 this is a great craft for older kids too, you can go see the creations The Frugal Girl’s kids made.

This post is linked at The Frugal Girls and The Peaceful Mom.

I made this frugal decoration! You’re probably looking at it and thinking, “What’s so exciting about a jar of beans?”….and you’re probably right in your thinking. I’m a very unartistic, uncreative person, so when I actually made a decoration I was very proud of myself! Even if it is just a jar of beans! But it was very frugal!

The jars were my Grandma’s, and the beans were just some that I had in my pantry. The really cool part is that if I ever need to use the beans I can, since dry beans don’t go bad (or if they do, it takes so long I’ve never seen it happen). The other jar has some sunflower seeds, I haven’t decided if I should do the bean thing with that jar too or not.

Even your dog can be frugal with this idea that my friend Lindsee had. She shared it with me on my facebook page. What I love about it is that I think every household in America has an old water bottle and mismatched sock floating around and this gives them a purpose! And I’m sure your dog will love it too! Thanks Lindsee! :)

Great Inexpensive Dog Toy! Very -simple concept. I find a clean empty plastic water bottle and an old sock. It is easy enough to find an empty plastic water bottle around with or without a cap. If you have the cap you can add some dry beans or anything else to the inside of the bottle that will add to the noise factor. I shove the bottle in an old athletic sock (any old sock will do) and tie off the end.

HEB groceries $97.67

Here’s my groceries for the first 2 weeks of July. I went to HEB, Sam’s Club and Albertsons.

How I saved at HEB:

  • Saved $11.41 by buying generic brand
  • Saved $1.36 by buying on sale items
  • Saved $3.75 by using coupons (in store Tabasco coupon,  in store, buy one get one half off make-up brushes, in store, buy Tostitos chips get HEB chips free, and a printed out Newman’s Own coupon)

My total at HEB was $97.67.

My Albertson’s trip I spent $38.20 and saved $31.38!!!! It was all done by buying on sale items. The 2 roasts were buy one get one free (perfect since Cameron requested a roast as his b-day meal). The chicken breasts, whole chicken, grapes, apples and corn were all on sale too.

It seems like HEB’s everyday prices are generally cheaper, but Albertsons has some great sales, especially in meat. So I’m trying to mostly shop at HEB and stop in at Albertsons for any great sales.

Sam's Club and Albertsons Groceries. Saved $31.38 at Albertsons!

And I spent $43.44 at Sam’s club.

My total in food groceries is: $143.50, leaving me with $106.50 for the rest of the month, which I think is do able, especially since I have 1 roast and 1 whole chicken in the freezer that I’m not even planning on using yet, so I can use them later in the month.

My total in non-food items is: $35.81, leaving me $4.19. I bought toilet paper, toothpaste, aluminum foil, laundry detergent and make-up brushes, I don’t think I’ll have to buy much more in this category this month.

Here’s what’s on the menu plan for the next 2 weeks:

Breakfasts: Granola, oatmeal, peanut butter power pucks, toast, smoothies, eggs

Lunches: Leftovers, sandwiches, burritos

Suppers:

  • Roast with carrots, potatoes, gravy and rolls (my mother-in-law brought the rolls). And whole wheat honey carrot cake for dessert. This was Cameron’s birthday meal.
  • Stew or pot pie made from leftover roast and rolls
  • Black bean quesadillas, fresh salsa and chips, grapes
  • Salad with hard boiled or deviled eggs, some sort of fruit
  • Chicken and brown rice made with homemade chicken broth and steamed broccoli
  • Stuffed peppers made with leftover brown rice and black beans, apples and cream cheese dip from Tammy’s Recipes
  • Chicken strips, corn on the cob, millet
  • Ramen noodle stir fry (if there’s any leftover millet, I’ll throw that in too)
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (with slices of tomato in them if there’s any left), veggies and dip, mangoes
  • Chicken burger sandwiches, homemade oven fries, salad
  • Chicken quesadillas (with any leftover chicken), fresh salsa and chips, apples and dip
  • Leftovers

I’m realizing that planning my meals for 2 weeks, I don’t have to come up with 14 different main meals, between leftovers and eating out I don’t usually end up making every meal I plan.

Exercise is a part of being healthy, but so is eating right. I’ve heard so many people say that they can’t afford healthy food. I won’t deny that some healthy foods are expensive, but there’s actually a lot of very affordable healthy foods out there. You may even find that you eat cheaper when you eat healthy.

Here’s a list of a few cheap and healthy foods (this is by no means all of them):

  • Oatmeal – Has iron and fiber. Costs $2.24  for a big thing of it that makes 30 servings! Or if you don’t like eating hot oatmeal you can make granola out of it.
  • Potatoes – Keep the skins on, that’s where most of the nutrients are and nothings wasted.
  • Beans – High in fiber and protein. And they’re not only way cheaper than meat, but also a lot lower in fat!
  • Lentils – These are not only cheap, but easy to cook. Unlike beans they don’t need to be soaked overnight.
  • Raisins – I love dried fruits, but most are expensive and some have added sugar. But raisins don’t have extra sugar and they are the cheapest dried fruit I can find.
  • Fruit and veggies – Buy in season, locally grown and on sale to get the most for your money. I find that things like carrots, bananas and apples seem to pretty much always be cheap.
  • Whole wheat bread – It usually doesn’t cost much, if any more, than white bread, or you can make your own.
  • Brown rice – it only costs a little more than white rice, but it goes a long way.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta – I’ve only cooked with this a few times, but you can get it pretty affordably.

Here’s some other tips:

  • A lot of regular grocery stores are carrying health food items, and it’s probably cheaper there than at a health food store, but compare prices to make sure.
  • You may be able to get some healthy foods cheaper at warehouse stores. The cheapest unit price I’ve found on honey is at Sam’s Club.
  • Eat the right sizes, if you eat too much it not only isn’t healthy, it also makes your grocery bill higher.
  • Skip the unnecessary and completely empty calories like soda and candy. There’s nothing healthy in it and the cost really adds up. Save that money to buy healthy food instead.
  • Cook from scratch. You have more control over what goes in, and don’t have to worry about all the preservatives that are in prepared foods. Plus it’s usually cheaper.

So, this past month has been hard (if you wanna know why click here)and I haven’t kept track of our purchases. And it was very interesting, because when I decided I had other things to worry about other than adding up all our expenses, I started to see myself not caring. I’d think, “it doesn’t matter if I spend a lot on groceries, after all I’m not going to add it all up this month.” What a reminder that it really does help to keep track of where our money goes!

So this month I’m starting all over again, but I’m going to try to a challenge. The lowest I’ve had our grocery bill has been about $250 a month. So I’m going to try to see how low I can get it this month. I really want it to be under $250, and hopefully a lot under! I’m going to keep track of all the food I buy and I’ll keep you posted. This is only for food items and does not count toiletry items or eating out, however I’ll keep track of those things too and maybe show you the results.

Here’s my strategies for keeping our grocery bill low:

  • Buy mostly generic brand.
  • Shop at Sam’s Club (using my price book to make sure what I’m buying there is actually cheaper than other stores).
  • Buy sale items (checking out sales online before hand).
  • Stocking up on good deals that won’t go bad before we can eat them.
  • Going to multiple stores when there’s really good deals.
  • Cooking with cheap ingredients (beans, potatoes, oatmeal, rice, in season produce etc…).
  • Wasting as little food as possible. I’m even thinking of maybe keeping track of all wasted food. A lot of other blogs do that.
  • Going grocery shopping every other week instead of every week (if I plan well enough hopefully I won’t even need to run to the store for milk or produce in between my regular trips).
  • Cook with food I already have (pantry and freezer).
  • Use any coupons I find on internet, get in the mail or see in the store (but only if it’s something I actually use).
  • Cooking from scratch, rather than buying already made meals.
  • Plan, using what I already have, sale items and coupons to help me.

So in conclusion I want to keep our food groceries well under $250. It’s my personal challenge for the month of June. Anyone else want to join me in a grocery budget challenge? How much do you plan on spending for you or your family? How do you plan on keeping under the budget?

My little Gracia turned 3 this weekend! I remember when she was a newborn, everyone told me that the time would go really fast…and boy were they right! Anyways…we tried to do our party without spending too much money, but also make it a worthwhile party. We could have done some things cheaper, like used real plates instead of paper or made my own tea, but that also would have taken more time. So we decided to meet in the middle, we did some things from scratch and some the faster way.

Here’s an estimate of what we spent on the party. Some of the things I didn’t know an exact amount, especially if it was something made from scratch using small amounts of lots of different ingredients, so I just did an estimated guess.

We fed 13 adults and 5 kids. And we only ate about half the food, so we have several meals covered this week!

Here’s the numbers:

  • Swing (our gift to Gracia) $20
  • Drinks (2 jugs of tea, juice pouches, 2-12 packs of soda) $13
  • Bubble necklaces for the kids $2
  • Plates, cups, silverware, napkins and tablecloths  $17
  • Watermelon $4
  • 3 bags of chips $5
  • Cheese $7
  • Ice $6
  • 60 Hot dogs (Oscar Meyer, no artificial stuff, from Sam’s Club) $8
  • Hot dog buns (also from Sam’s) $4
  • Potato salad – the potatoes cost $6, so with all the other ingredients, I’ll just guess it cost about $9
  • Cake – We had 2 cakes, the cupcakes in the butterfly cake, the icing and decorations were free, I’ll explain more in my cake post. The cake for the butterfly wings and the second cake and it’s icing were all homemade so let’s say I spent $3 on that.
  • Chili – the meat was probably $5 worth and the beans just over $1, so we’ll say $8
  • We had onions, ketchup, mustard and pickles, let’s just say we used $3 worth of those.

TOTAL ESTIMATE: $109

Here’s some ways we either just didn’t spend money or spent less than we could have:

  • Our invitations were free, we just sent out a facebook invite.
  • We didn’t do any decorations.
  • I used a gift bag I already had for Gracia’s gift.
  • We spent very little on the cakes. The cake mix, some of the icing and decorations were free (I’ll elaborate in my butterfly cake post). The rest was made from scratch really cheaply. If we had bought an already made b-day cake it would cost at least $20.
  •  The potato salad and chili were made from scratch. Plus I used beans to stretch the meat in the chili.
  • We did it at a park for free, plus it had a brand new playground which was free, but really fun entertainment for the kids.
  • Most of the things I bought for the party were generic brand.
  • I saved receipts in case we didn’t use anything and wanted to return it. Which was good, because one of the sets of cups we didn’t open and I’m going to return them for a savings of $1.50! =)

So all to say, no it was not the cheapest party on earth, but we did find ways to make it cheaper. And when you save in other areas you can afford to splurge a little on special occasions.

I have more to talk about the party. I’m planning a post on how we made our butterfly cake (no purchasing a special cake pan!). I may also share the Wacky Cake recipe (it uses vinegar, and this is after all national vinegar month) and the peanut butter icing recipe. And I might do a post on how we used up our leftovers from the party.

What ways do you like to save or splurge on birthday parties?

So, I think a lot of times un-frugal people look at us tightwads shopping at Goodwill, folding our aluminum foil and putting it back in the drawer and scrubbing our windows with vinegar and think we’re strange.  And on top of that I think a lot of people don’t think we really save that much…after all buying windex doesn’t usually break the bank!

So here I made up a little example of how one might save a big chunk of cash in only one month by using some of those “little” tightwad strategies. I wanted to come up with accurate numbers, so I either used estimates of my personal experience or looked up prices. Obviously not everyone is going to save the same amount, you may have more people in your family or already be doing some of these, and prices vary in different places, but read on and if you’re already  tightwad like me, maybe you can add an “Amen!” to this, and if you’re not, maybe you’ll convert.

The bold numbers are the savings. Where necessary I’m assuming that this is for just 2 people (think of the savings if you’re a big family!).

Buying Generic Brand Rather than Name Brand: $10

Reduced for quick sale meat = $3

Making a meal instead of going out to eat (say you spend $25 on a meal out and only $8 on making a meal) =$17

Renting from Redbox instead of going to the theater ($19 for 2 adults, $1.08 for Redbox, including tax) = $17.92

Playing a game rather than renting a movie (1.08 for movie, do this once a week or four times a month) = $4.32

Not buying a drink at a restaurant ($1.50 per person) =$ 3


Drying clothes on the line (72 cents a load, do this once a week, or 4 times a month) = $2.88

Borrowing a book from the library rather than buying it = $15

Using half as many paper towels (instead of using 2 rolls in a month, you use 1 at 1.30 a roll for the cheaper kind)= $1.30

Buying gas at cheaper station (3.41 or 3.54 and you buy 3o gallons – these were actual prices last week in Midland) = $3.90

Buying less soda (buy one less 12 pack)= $3

Using grocery bags as trash can liners (10 cents per bag, say you use 1 bag a day)= $3

Mowing own lawn instead of hiring someone= $20

Cutting men’s hair (1 cut for 1 man) = $15

Give yourself a manicure ($15 for a manicure at a salon, let’s say instead you spend $3 buying a new nail polish color) = $12

Buy 1 pair of pants at Goodwill instead of new ($20 for new pants, $5 at Goodwill) = $15


Cooking with beans in place of meat (88 cents for 1 bag of beans instead of 2.25 for 1 lb. hamburger meat = $1.37 savings per meal, do this once a week or four times a month) = $5.48

Make a gift for someone instead of buying one ( $15 store bought gift, $5 for supplies to make one) = $10

Total Savings:  $161.80

Remember this is just for ONE month, and is not at all exclusive of all the ways to save, there’s lots others like planning your menu around sales, trading babysitting instead of hiring a sitter, reusing ziplocs ect…

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