I enjoy cooking to save money.

You wanna know what I hate most about frugality? It’s the idea that tightwaddery is looked at as a boring, hard, miserable thing that’s only for really poor people or greedy people who just want to selfishly hoard their money.

People have hobbies. Some play instruments (I’m totally not musical), some do artistic type things (the only art I do is stick figures), some play sports (I was usually one of the last ones picked). My hobby is frugality! I love reading books about how to spend less money (I’m re-reading the Complete Tightwad Gazette right now). I read blogs about saving money, hoping to find something I’d never heard before, and when I do…I get very excited! I enjoy trying new frugal things (although not all of them pan out as I plan). Trying to lower our food bill and electric bill is like playing a game to me, and I want to win!

You may think I’m weird, except for the few of you that also consider frugality a hobby. For the rest of you I want to encourage you that frugality can be fun! If you’re new to it, I encourage you to take small steps. If you go from eating out daily, disposable everything, and never budgeting to vowing to never go through the drive though again, cloth everything, and recording every penny, you may get

I like cooking with beans.

overwhelmed, quit and…have a bad taste in your mouth towards the frugal life.

If you can, make those first baby steps ones that you really enjoy. Do you enjoy gardening, canning, making crafts from things around the house, sewing, cooking, couponing or redoing old furniture? You’ll be much more likely to stick with things you enjoy. A perfect example is my crocheting. I really love crocheting, so I often make baby blankets as gifts. I can make a baby blanket for about $6, but that isn’t that much of a savings compared to a blanket bought at Wal-mart. It takes me many hours of work to make that blanket, with very little savings, so why do I do it? Because I LOVE it! If I hated it, I wouldn’t spend that much time on something with so little savings.

I also enjoy cooking (most days). I really like menu planning and writing out my grocery list, it’s fun to me and it saves us a lot of money. I love getting freebies in my mail box and finding a good deal at Goodwill. Those are just a couple of examples.

Now that’s not to say we never need to do some of the frugal things that aren’t so fun. For example, I don’t like sewing up holey clothes, but it doesn’t take much time to hand stitch a loose seam, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new article of clothing. But a lot of the things I do to save money I really enjoy.

What frugal activities do you find fun?

Taco Meat - My New Favorite Baked Potato Topping

You may have noticed on my menu that I have baked potatoes with taco meat as a meal. Usually when we have baked potatoes we top them with chili, but I decided to try it with some taco meat I froze and cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. So that’s what we had a couple of nights ago, and I really liked it, in fact I think I liked it more than chili. And it makes for a very frugal meal, as potatoes are really cheap and so is my stretched taco meat! :)

What’s your favorite baked potato topping?

And on a different note, you may have noticed the books from Amazon on the right side of the screen. Those are books that I have read and highly recommend. I want to put some more up soon, but I plan on only recommending books that I have actually read and really do like. Here’s a little summary of the books:

  • The Tightwad Gazette – I own the first one, but like borrowing the complete one from our library. It has all kinds of frugal ideas, recipes, and concepts. If you read my blog much, you’ll see I really like Amy Dacyczyn!
  • Miserly Moms – This book is full of money saving tips and I really enjoyed reading it.
  • More with Less Cookbook – This cookbook was put together by the Mennonites. It has lots of great recipes, but also has info on things like eating healthy.
  • Shepherding a Child’s Heart – This isn’t about frugality or anything, but I recommend it to any parent! I’ve read it twice (and I almost never read books more than once). It goes deeper than just getting your kids to act right, but it focuses on the right heart attitude. And it’s very Biblical.

 

I mentioned that I’ve been wanting to make and use my own postcards, and now I’ve FINALLY done it!

Making your own postcards can save you money in 2 ways:

  1. They’re a cheap alternative to a card. Even if you already make  your own cards, postcards use half the amount of paper, and no envelopes necessary.
  2. They’re cheaper to mail. It costs $.44 to mail a regular letter, and only $.29 to mail a postcard, saving you $.15. That’s not a lot of difference, but if you mail out a lot of letters it can add up.

When I made my postcards I just used a regular postcard I already had to see how big to cut mine. I used card stock  paper, so it would be thick enough. And of course leave the back blank for writing your note and the address. And if you’re more creative and patient than me, your postcards can look way cuter than mine!

If you want to save even more, Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette recommends cutting the front picture part off of old cards you’ve received and using that as a post card.

If you were to ask people if they were wanting to save money, most would say, “yes.” But if you were to look into their bank accounts and see how much they’ve actually saved in the last month or two, it may not reflect that. I think the problem is we WANT to save, but we don’t decide HOW we’ll save. So several months ago I can up with some personal strategies that I wanted to try to save money. They were all either things I wasn’t doing, or wasn’t doing as faithfully as I wanted. Most of them are really small ways of saving, but every little bit counts! I thought I’d share them with you and also update you on how I’ve actually been doing on them.

  • Make a price book- I have it started, but haven’t finished it. The information I’ve already gathered has proved to be very helpful though!

    My jeans and belt and Gracia's jacket were all Goodwill purchases.

  • Shop more at thrift shops – I have been doing this more! And I’ve gotten some good, but cheap purchases!
  • Cook more with cheap ingredients – The only way I can think of that I’ve increased the amount of cheap ingredients we use, is that we eat oatmeal a lot for breakfast (and when I say “we” I really mean my husband and daughter. I only eat it about once a week, I prefer toast or a smoothie). A big container of oatmeal makes for some really frugal breakfasts, but since Cameron and Gracia are the ones that eat it the most, I guess they should get the credit! =)
  • Use up 99% of leftovers – Yeah, I think this is the area that I’ve failed the most in. Just yesterday I threw out a bunch of bad smelling beans from the fridge. =(
  • Learn how to not waste food “scraps”- This sounds similar to the last one, but what I mean by it is trying to come up with ways to use up things like veggie peelings and things that I normally toss without any thought. I keep the skins on potatoes for most recipes and the other day I cooked a whole chicken and made broth from it, and the only veggies I used were “scrap” pieces! I may post about it. I also made

    Cook with cheap ingredients

    some stir fry a couple days ago and decided to just scrub the carrots instead of peeling them.

  • Make and use postcards – Post cards can be fairly cheap to buy and are cheap to mail. I read in the Tightwad Gazette that you can even make your own using the front side of old cards. I’ve been really scared they wouldn’t let me mail a homemade postcard, but I finally asked the lady at the post office and she said I can. Just need to make sure it’s the right size and the picture can only be on one side….but I haven’t done it yet…
  • Make more gifts and buy less – I feel like I’ve done pretty good in this area. I still buy most of the gifts I give, but I have made several. I made 3 hats as Christmas gifts last year and recently made a baby blanket for my cousin’s new baby. Making gifts isn’t always cheaper, you have to be careful. But, for example, I’ve found a kind of yarn that is inexpensive, but still soft and comes in pretty colors for baby blankets, so I can make a baby blanket as a gift for about $6. It does take a lot of time, but I don’t mind that since I enjoy crocheting.
  • Save butter wrappers to grease baking pans- I’ve been doing this! When I use up a stick of butter I just fold the wrapper up and stick

    Homemade Salad Dressing

    it in the butter drawer until I need it! Works great!

  • Do more from scratch  (like: salad dressing, yogurt, dip, Bisquick, Worcestershire sauce) – I have made salad dressing, but have bought some too. I’ve only made yogurt once and that was quite a while ago. I’ve started making my own veggie dip with sour cream and it’s super easy, I need to share the recipe. I’ve made a Bisquick mix, but I haven’t attempted Worcestershire sauce and don’t know if I will. And me and hubby made some energy bars this weekend.
  • Buy no gift wrapping materials – I feel very successful in this area. The other day I was trying to remember when I last bought wrapping paper or gift bags, and I can’t remember. It’s probably been about a year. I reuse gift bags and tissue paper (or if I don’t have any tissue paper I just skip it).  And I still have wrapping paper from the last time I bought it. I’ve also used an old flight map to wrap a present.
  • Reuse aluminum foil – I’ve always reused ziploc bags, but only recently started reusing aluminum foil. If it’s a piece that’s small, torn or really hard to clean I toss it, but other than that I wipe it down, fold it up, and tuck it away for next time.
  • Rent less from Redbox – I’m a big fan of Redbox, it’s way cheaper than movie rental stores, but I figure we have plenty of other ways to entertain ourselves right now(netflix, games, hulu.com, etc…) . We used to go about 2-3 times a month, now it’s more like once.

NEW STRATEGIES (I thought I’d add to my money saving strategies)

  • Start trying to let Gracia take her naps without a diaper – Gracia wears 2 diapers a day (unless we’re traveling or something). She wears one at nap time and one at night. I’m gonna try to see if she can make it through nap time without one, she’s done it a few times and so far so good. This will cut our diaper use in half and at about 25 cents per diaper we could save $7.50 a month.
  • See how low I can get our grocery bill – This has it’s own strategies in and of it’s self. You can check out this post for them. And follow along on my grocery journey.

Homemade Bread Crumbs

Making your own bread crumbs is a money saver in two ways:

  1. When you make your own, you don’t have to buy bread crumbs from the store.
  2. It’s a great way to use up bread instead of wasting it.

I keep a bag in the freezer of bread crumbs and am always adding to it. If I have a slice of bread that’s gotten stale, a hamburger bun that fell apart, the leftover cracker crumbs in the bottom of the bag or even on those rare occasions if I make homemade bread sometimes I’ll save the crumbs when I slice it. It’s super easy to make them. Just put the bread in a bag in the freezer, and once the bread is frozen hard take it out and finely grate it. Some people use a food processor, which is probably a lot faster, especailly if you’re making a lot. For cracker crumbs I just just crumple up the crackers in a bag with a rolling pin or mallet.

My favorite ways to use bread crumbs is for meatloaf and breading chicken fingers, but you can also use them as a pasta or casserole topper, or even in cookies! The Tightwad Gazette had a bread crumb cookie recipe, but I haven’t tried it yet.

This is another Amy Dacyczyn idea, but I tried it for the first time today.

I made some oatmeal cookies and I burnt a couple. I take partial blame, but in my defense my oven cooks very hot in the middle, and I can’t really move the cookie sheets around any (it’s a really small oven).

Anyways…I hate to waste a couple of cookies, so I tried something I read in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. I simply used a grater to scrape off the black. And as you can see in the pictures, it worked! Now I probably still wouldn’t serve a grated-off burnt cookie to company, but just for us it works! Waste not want not!

Before

After

Here’s some blogs, websites and books that I really like. Pretty much everything I know I got from someone else.

Books:

  • The Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn. I’ve already mentioned this book, but I HIGHLY recommend it. I bought it at a used book store and just happened by it! Right now I have The Complete Tightwad Gazette, from the library. It’s the first book plus book #2 and #3 all put together! It’s amazing! Sadly I’m almost done with it. =( It has a huge variety of tips and not just little tips, but overall ideas and attitudes towards saving.
  • Miserly Moms, by Jonni McCoy. I looked through this a while back, and can’t remember too much about it, so I think I’m gonna check it out from the library again. (www.miserlymoms.com)
  • 1001 Ways to Cut Your Expenses, by Jonathan D Pond. I just finished looking through this one. It’s not my favorite, but has lots of ideas and is very easy reading.

Blogs and Sites:

  • Tiphero.com - I get an email weekly from them. They’re my favorite money tip site. And if you answer the question of the week you might win a $20 Amazon gift card (I won one right before Christmas and bought my hubby a book).
  • Frugalliving.about.com – I get emails from this site too, good practical stuff
  • www.stretcher.com – I get emails from these guys too. And they do a $100 giveaway every month for tips sent in.
  • tammysrecipes.com – I LOVE her recipes, cheap from scratch recipes, she also has some good articles on housewife things
  • thefrugalgirl.com - If you check out this blog, you’re never gonna want to come back to my cheesy pictures again! lol But seriously, she posts baking recipes, goodwill finds and pictures from her everyday life.

So what are some of your favorite books or sites? Please share!

First of all, I LOVE cooking with beans and here’ s why:

  1. Dry beans are DIRT cheap! Especially when you use them as a protein in place of meat or in addition to meat to stretch it. They’re definitely a cheap form of protein (on a side note to make them a COMPLETE protein just pair with some sort of grain, which most recipes do anyways)
  2. Dry beans are healthy. As I just mentioned they have protein, but they also have fiber and iron (at least in some types of beans). But wait…it gets better, they’re low in fat! And I find them very filling.
  3. Yummy…okay so a lot of people think of beans as plain and boring, but you can make so many different ways and there’s a big variety of shapes, colors and sizes in beans.

So…Now to make cooking with them easy. Going with dry beans is going to be your cheapest route, but may not be as convenient as canned beans, so to make your own convenience food, just cook and freeze  dry beans. And then the next time your recipe calls for beans, you don’t even have to get out the can opener!

  1. Pour the beans (I usually do 2, 1 lb. bags at a time) in a colander and rinse off in the sink. While doing this look for small pebbles or freaky looking beans (which by the way I rarely find).
  2. Put the beans in a pot and cover generously with water.
  3. This is the easiest step…go to bed, or do whatever, while your beans soak overnight.
  4. Rinse beans in calender again and return to pot. Cover generously with water and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for a couple hours or until beans are soft. I can’t tell you an exact time as it depends on the beans and how many you’re cooking. Just make sure they’re the softness you like before adding any ingredients as things like salt can make it hard for them to soften. I usually try a few beans, in case they didn’t cook evenly. Also I’ve cooked beans in a crock-pot, it takes longer obviously, but works well.
  5. Let beans cool, then bag em up and throw them in the freezer. When I first started this I would freeze them with the bean water, but have decided I prefer to freeze them without it, as I usually ended up draining it off before using anyways. If you want you can add salt and seasoning before freezing or do that later depending on how you’re going to use them.

I’ve done cooking and freezing with pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans and great northern beans all successfully.

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