Monday, October 31, 2011

Tip: Don't Shortchange Change

A really painless way to save:

Save all the change you're given. Set it aside and watch it grow.

Here's how it works ...
Purchase $5.05
Pay $6.00 (not $5.05 ... you want to get change back)
Change $.95, which gets tossed into your purse and then into your change jar at the end of the day

It's amazing how fast that change adds up, especially when you keep all of it. While you may be setting aside a couple bucks every few days it's "just change" ... you'll never notice it missing.

Menu Plan Monday 10/31/11

Each Monday I shall post our dinner menu plan for the current week.

The kids feed themselves for breakfast and lunch (usually lots of fruit, pasta, sandwiches, or leftovers) so I will only be posting the dinner menu, as that's what I cook.

Please link to your weekly menu in the comments if you are inclined. I'm always looking for new ideas.


Sunday - Country Frittata, salad

Monday - Chicken Tacos (somehow this has become a Halloween pre-trick-or-treating tradition)
Tuesday - Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken, salad, steamed carrots
Wednesday - Fried Rice, fruit salad
Thursday -Faux Chick Fil A Nuggets (didn't make last week due to change in schedule), salad
Friday - Jennie-O Turkey Burgers on Rolls, egg salad, tossed salad
Saturday - dinner event planned

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shopping Plan Sunday 10/30/11

Each Sunday I will post my shopping plan for the week ahead.

I'm asked how I get by with a very tiny grocery budget. It's not easy, that's for sure, but there are some little tips and tricks that ease the challenge and, when it comes down to it, it's exciting to watch the grand total go down, down, down.

There are great blogs out there that will guide one through grocery and drug store deals. I use them and couldn't do without them. Because those blogs are so thorough I'm not going to repeat their information here, at least not in total, and will just post what I plan to buy.


Please link to your shopping plan in the comments, if you're inclined.


Publix
Post Select Great Grains Cereal BOGO $4.65 
Jennie O Turkey Burgers BOGO $7.99
Pears $.99 lb
*I don't have coupons for any of these items, but won't be going to the store without searching for some!


CVS
Listerine Mouthwash or Reach Toothbrush $3.99 (get $2 ECBs) Limit 2
$1 Reach July All You Magazine
= $.99 after ECBs

Crest ProHealth or Complete Toothpaste $2.99 (Get $1 ECBs wyb 1) Limit 1
$.75 P&G 10/16
$2 SS 9/11
= FREE - $1.24

Aveeno Products $3.59 and up (get $7 ECBs wyb 2)
B2G1 Aveeno Postively Nourishing printable 
$3/2 Aveeno Active Naturals SS 9/11
= As low as $.18 for 2 or $.09 each
 
Possible Aveeno deal
Aveeno Moisturizing Lotion or Cream, 0.5-18 oz
*Get $7 ECB wyb 2 (Limit 1)
Buy [2] Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, 1 oz (trial/travel section) @ $1.49 ea
Pay $2.98 out-of-pocket
Get back $7 ECB 
= Final Price: 2 for FREE + $4.02 moneymaker!
 
American Greetings Cards (Limit 1)
Get $3 ECB when you buy 3
Use $1 off 3 printable HERE
= If your store carries $.99 cards, this could be a $1 moneymaker!
***It's nice to see a few freebies this week!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tip: 30 Tips to Spend Less and Save More

image from msn.money
Head over to msn.money for 30 great money saving tips compiled by Stacy Johnson of Money Talk News. A bonus: At the top of the page is a video featuring some of the best tips from top financial bloggers.

Don't forget to click on the sidebar links on the lefthand side of this page to follow Because I'm Frugal on twitter and facebook.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Aveeno Moneymaker Deal at CVS

Thanks Faithful Provisions for this great moneymaker beginning this Sunday if your CVS carries the Aveeno Trial Size (I haven't checked to see if mine does yet).


*Get $7 ECB wyb 2 (Limit 1)
Final Price: As low as FREE!
Deal Scenario: 
Buy [2] Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, 1 oz (trial/travel section) @ $1.49 ea
Pay $2.98 out-of-pocket
Get back $7 ECB
Final Price: 2 for FREE + $4.02 moneymaker!

Movie Night

Head over to I Heart Publix for some great Blockbuster Kiosk movie codes good this weekend.

Tip: Dent and Bent Stores

Also known as liquidation grocery stores (but doesn't "dent and bent" sound more fun?).

These outlets are great places to pick up bottled items, canned items, and dry goods like cereal and spices (I keep all dry good in the refrigerator or freezer). I have found the key to success at our local shop is to take my time, look at everything, and inspect items carefully. The prices, locally, are at least 50% less than regular grocery store prices.

Our local dent and bent store carries an ever changing selection, their selection is dependent on what they receive, which can change with each shipment, so there's no telling what will be there from one day to the next.

Have you shopped a liquidation store? What was your experience?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tip: Free Credit Report

Once a year at annualcreditreport.com you can request a free, no strings attached, credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. Read more about this service here at the Federal Trade Commission website.

There are plenty of other sites that will provide a credit report to you and credit monitoring but this is not a free service, and not the same thing.

So ... why request an annual credit report? 
  • First and foremost, to verify that the information is correct, as incorrect address, employment, payment, and credit information will affect your credit score.
  • It's important to help guard against identity theft.
I don't plan to get a loan in the future or use a credit card. I still keep an eye on my credit score and the information on my credit report, for security and because a poor credit score could negatively affect my insurance rates.


I have found inconsistencies and errors on my credit report in the past, especially post-divorce. All corrections were made, easily, online and new credit reports were sent after the changes were verified and made by the credit reporting agencies.

Tip: Getting Deals from your Favorite Retailers and Brands

Looking for coupons and bargains from your favorite brands and retailers?

Check their website for an e-mail list you can join. While you're at their website check to see if they have coupons posted, many brands do.

Search twitter and facebook and follow them. These are great ways to stay informed of their offerings and often to receive exclusive specials and discounts.

If you have a brand you are particularly fond of tell them. You may get coupons in response, or at least a nice thank-you. If nothing else it lets them know what's working.

I recently mentioned a Cheerios product in a twitter tweet, something to the effect that my kids like Multi-Grain Cheerios (which they do, a lot). I was contacted by Cheerios and given a duffel bag, travel cup, snack container, and coupons ... and all I did was randomly mention them (with no thought to getting something in return)!

I mentioned the Cheerios freebies to my brother and he told me that his bank has staff devoted solely to monitoring social networks, both the running of facebook, twitter, and the like, and reading what others say about the bank and responding to both the good or bad. I thought that was very interesting, another example of the power of the internet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun and Free - Halloween Edition

I don't know about your part of the world, but the Halloween festivities begin Saturday in our neighborhood and the kids can't wait.

I've posted already about some costume ideas but am going to go even further here.

I buy pumpkins last minute, because they are usually deeply discounted then. I began doing it that way years ago, due to disorganization rather than frugality, and was so pleased to find such good prices that it has become a tradition of sorts. I cook some, pureeing and freezing the "meat" in 1 cup portions to use throughout the year in breads, muffins, pancakes, pastas, and so on. The rest are carved into jack-o-lanterns by Halloween night.

The seeds are always lightly oiled and salted, then roasted. They don't last long in this house, usually gone the day after Halloween.

Here's the further mentioned above ... Great, awesome, creative ... Halloween fun. Some activities will require a little output, some will work with things you have on hand.


Modern Parents Messy Kids has some terrific pumpkin and costume ideas. I'm certainly going to try the cookie cutter pumpkin carving this year (great looking and easy!).


Martha Stewart has a great deal of everything, for beginners and accomplished Halloween decorators and partiers alike


Thrift store costume ideas
More last minute thrift store costume ideas

Lastly, an interest search for "free Halloween" will pull up loads of free printables - coloring pages, games, decorations, and more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dishwasher Distress

So what does this frugal Mom do when her dishwasher breaks? Very relevant question around these parts this week.

This Mom has determined that the dishwasher is not getting water to the top rack. The water should be coming from the back and flowing into a "tunnel" that travels to the middle of the bottom of the top rack and then disburses from four arms that would then spray the water onto the top rack dishes. The last load took three hours to run, with me turning it off before the cycle was complete and the top rack dishes looking no better than when they'd been put into the dishwasher.

Immediate solution is to wash dishes by hand. While that may not be fun, it's functional and leaves me with time to google like crazy and try to figure out how to fix the dishwasher. Yes, I'll try to fix the dishwasher myself. I will borrow tools, if necessary, and learn all sorts of new stuff trying to get it back in working order. If I'm lucky I'll get it to work again, but that doesn't always happen. Whether it works or not I'll realize, yet again, that I can do a whole lot more than I ever thought I could and I'll walk away feeling awfully proud of myself (but let's be honest ... I'll feel prouder if I fix the darn thing).

If I can't fix it I'll google and see how much it'll cost to fix it (which I may already have determined by googling to find repair solutions).

If it's too much I'll enlist my children to help me remove the dishwasher and will replace it with the "builder's special" dishwasher in the garage. I'm so grateful that when we purchased new appliances after building this house we saved the the old ones, the plan then was to put them back and take the high-end ones when we moved. Eight years later I haven't moved, but have already put the cheap-o washing machine back in the laundry room when the "nice" one died an untimely death.

When the aforementioned washing machine started acting up the kids and I washed laundry by hand in the kitchen sink for over a month. My oldest son and I tore that washer apart. I learned so much about washing machines, things I had no idea were even there to be learned. We actually took it apart three times working to fix it. I could have pointed out and named various parts of the machine with my eyes closed. Sadly, when all was said and done our expensive washing machine would have cost more to fix than to replace because the broken parts aren't available (note: be careful when buying high-end appliances when brand new on the market, there's no telling how long it'll stay on the market or how it will perform over time). My oldest daughter and I then brought the builder's special washing machine upstairs by ourselves (second floor laundry ... usually a great thing), one difficult frightening step at a time ... but we did it and got it hooked up and working! I borrowed a neighbor and his friend to get the "good" washer downstairs. The next weekend I stuck it outside with a "free" sign on it and a man and his pregnant wife grabbed it to try their hand at fixing it. I could have spent hundreds trying to fix it, I could have spent hundreds replacing it, but instead I spend about $5 for a funky screwdriver thing and have a working washing machine (though, admittedly, a very basic washing machine ... but functional).

And that's why this frugal Mom is off to fill to get her children to fill the sink with suds.

Give-Away Link-Ups

There's a running joke in our house that we never enter contests because we never win. Actually, it isn't really a joke, because we don't win. EVER. If we bought 49 out of 50 raffle tickets that 1 other ticket would win. Strange but true. Not complaining at all, in fact we laugh about it.

But if you're like the rest of the population and you actually do have the potential to win a contest then this is a link for you!

Each week Money Saving Mom posts a link-up of giveaways across the web. That's a lot of chances to win! Good luck and let me know how you do.

A Give-Away

While I have some give-aways planned for this blog for February this particular one is for my sister site, Because I'm Me. Just head over here and enter to win some beautiful fabric coasters.

If you don't happen to need beautiful coasters they'd make great Christmas gifts, or hostess gifts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 10/24/11

Each Monday I shall post our dinner menu plan for the current week.

The kids feed themselves for breakfast and lunch (usually lots of fruit, pasta, sandwiches, or leftovers) so I will only be posting the dinner menu, as that's what I cook.

Please link to your weekly menu in the comments if you are inclined. I'm always looking for new ideas.

Sunday - Lazy Crock Pot Chicken with Mushrooms , salad, steamed carrots
Monday - Southwest Roll-ups using homemade refried beans, corn, salad
Tuesday - Chicken Bake, salad, sauteed yellow squash
Wednesday - Chicken Tacos, salad, refried beans
Thursday - Imitation Chick-Fil-A nuggets (haven't found a recipe yet, please share a winner!), salad
Friday - Grilled Chicken, potato salad, salad
Saturday - Leftovers or spaghetti and tomato sauce

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shopping Plan Sunday 10/23/11

Each Sunday I will post my shopping plan for the week ahead.

I'm asked how I get by with a very tiny grocery budget. It's not easy, that's for sure, but there are some little tips and tricks that ease the challenge and, when it comes down to it, it's exciting to watch the grand total go down, down, down.

There are great blogs out there that will guide one through grocery and drug store deals. I use them and couldn't do without them. Because those blogs are so thorough I'm not going to repeat their information here, at least not in total, and will just post what I plan to buy.

Please link to your shopping plan in the comments, if you're inclined.


Publix

Pears are $.89 lb. I'm happy.

DiGornio Cheese is BOGO @ $4.79. "Like" Digornio on FB for a $2 coupon. After printing the coupon hit the "back" button and print it again (you can almost always print coupons twice)

GM Cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams) are BOGO @ $3.59. Coupons will bring the per box price down to a bit over $1 each


CVS
Sunday-Tuesday only
Candy Corn, Autumn Mix, Pumpkins $.99 bag, $.99 ECB
Pumpkin Carving Tools $2.49, $2.49 ECB


I'm not planning to do much shopping this week, and will instead be shopping the freezer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tip: Use Google to find Coupons

If you're going to make an online purchase google (or some other search engine) for a coupon code. Often there are free shipping or %age discounts available.

If you're going to make a brick and mortar store purchase also google (or some other search engine) for a printable coupon or mobile phone coupon.

I just type in the name of the store and either "coupon code" or "printable coupon".

There are a number of coupon code sites, some better than others, and you'll find the ones that carry the best codes for the items you're looking for after a little trial and error.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tip: Shopping Suggestion

It  didn't take long to get over this huge, bulky hippo.
This tip was passed along to me in college and has served me very well over the years.


When you're shopping and you want to buy something carry it around the store for at least 20 minutes. Carry it in your arms, not in a shopping cart. Then, after 20 minutes, decide if this item is still something you "can't live without".

It's likely you'll realize that you're over your infatuation and attachment to the item and are perfectly fine putting it back on the shelf or rack.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tip: Mint.com

If you aren't using a bookkeeping software (I use Quickbooks and love it) Mint.com is a great site to track your accounts, your spending, and your income. You can set up budgets and the program will alert you by e-mail if you aren't following your budget and if your account balances are too low or too high.

The best way to keep a grip on your money and your spending is to track what you're doing. I've mentioned this before, in this tip on writing down everything you spend, and Mint will help you to do that.

Once you've set up your accounts it'll automatically update from your account websites, and then formulate everything for you. It's nice to have everything, all your accounts, right there in front of you for you to review, with the legwork done for you.

Here's a thorough article at Get Rich Slowly written by Geoff Lennon describing Mint.com and what it can do for you.

I can't stress enough how strongly I feel about tracking and knowing your income, spending, debt, and assets in order to control them. If you're a parent you know full well that a child out of your sight has a much great opportunity to find trouble ... same with your finances!

Have you tried Mint.com? Do you use other financial software or an online program? 

** I am not, in any way, paid to endorse mint.com and receive no compensation from them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Restaurants cutting prices and offering more specials

Restaurants cutting prices and offering more specials

I'm really happy to see this. Hopefully it's a trend that will carry over into other restaurants and chains as well (as long as they can afford it with rising food prices).

I took three of the kids to Olive Garden recently and we spent less than $30. Not cheap, but not bad for dinner for four, including a 20% tip.

I've also been seeing quite a few Olive Garden and Red Lobster coupons pop up in the Sunday paper.

Higher Food Prices Coming

It has been widely rumored that peanut prices are going to go up, as much as 40%, within the next few weeks, due to bad weather in peanut growing areas.

Flour and pecans may also rise in price.

Right now, Target has a peanut butter deal (via Fiddledeedee):
Planter's Peanut Butter (16.3 oz): $1.99
$.75/1 Target coupon - HERE
= $1.24

Publix has a $1 off any one Skippy Product store coupon available HERE that can be stacked with a Skippy manufacturers coupon for a great deal. Even without a stack it's a good deal, as the price of the peanut butter (15 to 16.3 oz.) is $1.99.


In my house, with five growing kids, three of whom are happy (um, hell-bent is more accurate) to eat peanut butter every single day, "stocking up" is rather futile, I know that what I buy won't last long, but I will be making an effort to stock up this week.

I've looked at the costs of many "peanut butter alternatives" and their prices seem to be about $5 and up per pound, which would mean the cost of peanut butter would have to rise at least 250% to make them cost effective alternatives (though they are still wonderful allergy alternatives).

I'm going to price out making my own peanut butter after buying peanuts in bulk, but I have a feeling it won't be a great cost savings as "ugly" nuts can be used in peanut butter, but are usually sifted out of what's sold in bulk. I'll report back with my findings though.


I gave some thought to moving to Georgia and growing my own peanuts, but after a half-second of consideration that didn't seem like the most cost effective way to go.


The costs of most foods have risen this year. It's important to keep looking for healthy low-cost alternatives and to adjust overall spending with the knowledge that food prices have risen, and are likely to continue to rise.


What is your "peanut butter plan", if anything?

Tip: Homemade Yogurt

This is not a new concept, or my own concept.  But it's one I love and have been faithful to for years, and a recipe I swear by.

Originally, I found the recipe here.  Another great easy-to-follow rendition is here.  After giving you those links I know I don't have much else to say on the subject but I'll give you my "plan of attack" anyway.

In the crock pot goes 8 cups of milk.  I use whole milk because that's what I buy.  You can use 1% or 2%.  Turn the crockpot on low and let it sit for 2.5 hours.

After 2.5 hours turn the crock pot off, unplug, and let it sit for 3 hours.  Now, you can let it sit longer if you want (or if you forget about it ... not that I've EVER done that. much.) but it leads to more sour yogurt if it sits too long.  Just know that you don't have to be rigid with any of the times, but they do seem to produce the best results.

After 3 hours add 1/2-1 cup yogurt (I use one single serving container).  You can use plain or flavored, regular or greek or one of the "plus" kinds ... the greek and plus ones seem to produce slightly thicker yogurt and the other cultures in them also seem to grow (I don't know this for a fact, but I choose to believe it), so I go with these.  I add 1/2-1 cup sugar or honey at this time as well, stirring until it's dissolved.  Sometimes, if I have it on hand, I add in a tbsp. or so of vanilla, but if I don't have any I don't sweat it.

Cover the crock pot with a thick towel or blanket and let it sit for 8-12 hours.

Eat.

The yogurt will generally be slightly runnier than regular yogurt.  That's fine.  For babies I freeze little bits in ice cube trays and give them that to work on - great for teething and lets them eat it themselves.

I store it in the fridge in ziploc containers (containers, not bags).  If I have fruit on hand I'll add it in before storing so the kids can just grab and eat. You could also freeze the yogurt, in this house I'm lucky to not run out even when making batches back to back.

Or I make smoothies with yogurt, ice, raw spinach, and fruit ... and whatever else we have on hand.  The spinach will make the smoothie green but it won't make it taste like spinach so it's a good way to up that iron and green leaf intake.  I freeze little bits of that for the babies too.

It didn't take long at all for my kids to decide that they liked Mama's yogurt better than store bought.

1/2 gallon of milk is about $1.50, 1 cup yogurt is about $.50 (not that I'd ever actually pay full price for it, but if I did it'd cost that) ... total cost for 9 cups of yogurt = $2 ... about $.22 a cup.  Single serve yogurts at the grocery store are less than 1 cup, so this ends up being a really good price, it doesn't beat a super Publix BOGO deal topped with coupons (which is when I stock up on the starter containers of yogurt and freeze them for future use), but still, it's a really good price and you have more control over the final product.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Frugal Halloween Costumes

When I was a child we usually made our own costumes. Some years we were treated to a store costume, complete with stiff plastic mask with gigantic eye holes, but most years we made our own. This was in Wisconsin and back before kids trick or treated at the mall so under or over our costume was our heavy jacket ... which kind of distracted from the costume.

But here we are in Florida, where my kids have never had to wear a jacket on Halloween, but where they still often have home made costumes, often out of parts of other costumes, things from the dress-up box, consignment and resale shopping, and a bit of sewing from Mom.

Not only does the "make your own" technique of costuming save money but it allows the kids to be more self-expressive and creative. AND, we've found that the costumes that win the contests are usually home made ... and really really cool!

One year three of my kids were the Blues Brothers (when they had the little kid with them) using simple dark pants, dark shoes, white shirts, dark jackets, hats, and sunglasses, one was a good purple witch (using parts of store bought costumes), and another was a pirate (he's always a pirate).

So what kind of costume could you make? Here are a few simple ideas:

denim overalls + flannel or t-shirt + hat + straw or raffia = scarecrow
jean skirt or jeans + white t-shirt + scissor-fringed vest = cowgirl or cowboy
shredded dirty white clothes + face make-up = mummy
jeans + white tee with sleeves rolled up + loafers = James Dean
white tee + white tights + stuffed pillowcase with arm and head holes cut out = marshmallow

For more great ideas, even some instructions, check out these sites:
www.familyfun.com
homemade halloween costume ideas
JoAnn Fabrics
Halloween kids
Budget 101

Expense Tracker Worksheet

I have to share this with you.

I'm excited that these spreadsheets have been made available. One is a printable carry along spending spreadsheet and the other works on the computer and does the math for you. How cool is that?

I've said it already and I'll say it a zillion more times, knowing and controlling your spending is important if you want control of your finances. These spreadsheets are one option for tracking what you spend.

Thanks Squawkfox for creating these and for making them available to all.

Happy tracking!

New Swagbucks Deal - Earn 80 swagbucks by joining now

This is a new deal:

When you sign up for Swagbucks you receive 30 points. If you use coupon code "JoinToday" you'll get an extra 70 swagbucks. Woo hoo. This offer expires Monday, October 24 at 12 PM PDT and is only good for new members.

Swagbucks are earned most easily by using their search engine or following their blog, fb, and twitter pages and entering codes when they are posted. Swagbucks are then redeemed for merchandise or gift cards - great with the holidays around the corner!

Last year I was able to earn gift cards and give them to family members as gifts. 

Tip: Homemade Baby Wipes

Here's my recipe for homemade wipes ... feel free to adjust it, there's nothing scientific about it.

1 roll Bounty select-a-size paper towel (I am fussy about the paper towel I use, other brands can shred and I like the smaller size of these sheets)
2-3 cups water
2 T. baby wash or gentle liquid soap
2 T. baby oil or lotion

Mix the liquids together with a whisk in a sealable tub large enough to hold the paper towel roll. Bring to a boil in microwave (optional, but keeps the mix fresh longer, in my opinion). While the liquid mixture is coming to a boil cut the paper towel roll down the middle, to make two 1/2 rolls, with electric bread knife. Put the paper towel rolls in the water mix.

After your concoction sits a bit and the water soaks through pull out the cardboard center tubes. As you use the paper towel wipes pull them from the center - a delightful little dispenser.

Savings:

Target Baby Wipes
box of 792 costs $13.69   
$.0173 each

Homemade Baby Wipes using Bounty Select-a-size rolls from Sam's Club, each roll cut in half
1 roll has 154 sheets, or 308 when cut in half costs $1.62
$.0052 each


That's huge savings.

In addition to saving money, you aren't putting alcohol or any other painful ingredients on your baby's bottom. I started using this mix when one of my kids had a terrible rash from roto-virus. He couldn't stand the pain of the wipes we were using so I made my own ... what a difference. He was more comfortable and his skin healed more quickly.

Menu Plan Monday 10/17/11

Each Monday I shall post our dinner menu plan for the current week.

The kids feed themselves for breakfast and lunch (usually lots of fruit, pasta, sandwiches, or leftovers) so I will only be posting the dinner menu, as that's what I cook.

Please link to your weekly menu in the comments if you are inclined. I'm always looking for new ideas.

Sunday - Southwest Roll-ups using homemade refried beans, corn, salad
Monday -Spaghetti with tomato sauce, salad
Tuesday - Macaroni And Cheese*, salad
Wednesday - Turkey and Black Bean Sloppy Joe's, salad
Thursday - Lentil Burgers (didn't make them last week, going to try again!), salad, egg salad
Friday - Chicken on the grill, grilled veggies, salad
Saturday - Leftover night, or bbq chicken in the crock pot (just chicken, bbq sauce, potatoes), salad


*Homemade Mac & Cheese, adapted from November 2007 Family Fun Magazine
1 box (12-16 oz) elbow noodles
4 T butter
4 T flour
4 C milk
1 lb. cheddar cheese
1 t salt
2 t Dijon mustard
1/8 t cayenne pepper

topping
4 slices bread
1 clove garlic
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
2 T butter

Butter and set aside casserole dish. Heat oven to 375'.

Cook noodles, al dente.

While noodles are cooking, melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan, sprinkle in flour, stir with wooden spoon (or whisk) until the mixture starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Increase heat and whisk in milk 1/2 c at a time. Heat, but do not boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the cheese, salt, mustard, and pepper. When cheese is melted add in noodles. Blend, then transfer to casserole dish.

Combine topping ingredients in food processor. Process to bread crumb texture. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

If you want creamier, cheesier mac and cheese decrease the amount of noodles to 3/4 of a box.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kindle Sale - Just $79

Check out this great Kindle price at The Lonely Conservative. I've never seen them go this low before.

Swagbucks - 100 point bonus for joining now

This is a great deal:

When you sign up for Swagbucks you receive 30 points. If you use coupon code 5for5 you'll get an extra 70 swagbucks. Woo hoo.

Swagbucks are earned most easily by using their search engine or following their blog, fb, and twitter pages and entering codes when they are posted. Swagbucks are then redeemed for merchandise or gift cards - great with the holidays around the corner!

Shopping Plan Sunday 10/16/11

Each Sunday I will post my shopping plan for the week ahead.

I'm asked how I get by with a very tiny grocery budget. It's not easy, that's for sure, but there are some little tips and tricks that ease the challenge and, when it comes down to it, it's exciting to watch the grand total go down, down, down.

There are great blogs out there that will guide one through grocery and drug store deals. I use them and couldn't do without them. Because those blogs are so thorough I'm not going to repeat their information here, at least not in total, and will just post what I plan to buy.

Please link to your shopping plan in the comments, if you're inclined.

CVS
Another ho-hum week at CVS for me. Last week I avoided the store completely, this week there there is just one deal that may get me in the door.

Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars or Wrigley’s Fun or Snack Size Bags 2/$5
Use $1 off 2 CVS coupon (from Red Coupon Machine in-store - see ad for details)
And use (2) $1.40 off printable HERE
**final price - 2/$1.20 ... great with Halloween around the corner

Publix
Last week I stocked up on pasta. There isn't much I'll stock up on at Publix this week, but a few good deals that I'm excited about. (Publix changes their sales on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on your area, and these deals will end then.)

Post Kids Cereals (the sugary ones)* BOGO $3.25 Use $1/2 coupons.com coupon
Vlasic Pickles BOGO** $2.89 Use $.55 SS newspaper coupon
Bertolli Pasta Sauce BOGO $2.89
Red or Golden Delicious Apples 3 lb/2.99 (best price I've seen on apples in a long time)


*My kids have to mix a bit of this sugary cereal in with the boring "adult" unsugary cereals ... that extends the life of the yummy cereals and gets them to eat the others without complaining


**I found a recipe to imitate ChickFilA chicken nuggets that calls for a pickle juice marinade, thus the need for pickles

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tip: Price Compare, Even at Bulk Stores

There are many items well worth buying at Sam's and Costco.

I shop Sam's and purchase milk, chicken, cheese, romaine, apples, and bananas weekly. Those prices just can't be beat and the items don't generally go on sale. I'm sure there are some other items, as well, with terrific prices.

BUT there are some things to watch out for when shopping at these stores. Most of their items are name brand items, so they're priced as such. Sam's carries peanut butter, but only one brand and their price, while it may be good for that brand, doesn't beat a store brand and doesn't beat a Publix bogo sale - even without coupons on top of the BOGO (yes, BOGO = 2 items = 2 coupons!). Sam's price on toothpaste may be a better deal than the regular price of the same brand elsewhere, but if you can get it for free or almost free when writing your weekly shopping list than that Sam's price isn't worth considering.

Also, consider whether or not you'll use all of an item before it expires or gets stale. While their bananas price is great, if you aren't able to use more than one bunch before they go bad then buying more than one is not in your best interest, no matter what the price is. A giant bottle of cooking oil is great, but it will go bad over time.

These stores will not take manufacturer's coupons. BJ's will, but not Sam's or Costco.

I suggest that you simply keep your eyes open while shopping (everywhere). I have a price point where I will or won't buy most items, and I don't hesitate to pull out my phone and use the calculator to see if the bulk prices meet my limits.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tip: Use Real Napkins and Dishcloths

Instead of purchasing and tossing paper napkins and paper towel invest in a one-time purchase of basic napkins and dishcloths.

Cotton napkins are really easy to make with a sewing machine, a square of fabric (between 12 and 16" square or so), and a zig-zag stitch around the edges. They can also be purchased at Target, Amazon.com, or any other linen source very inexpensively.

Terry towels can be purchased in a dozen set for about $7 in the automotive section at WalMart, where the car washing supplies are. I purchase mine at Ikea for a couple dollars and cut them in half. Smaller pieces work great for cleaning counters and wiping things, are less cumbersome, easier to hang, and dry more quickly.

Better for the pocketbook and better for the environment. Win-win.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fun and Free Wednesday - Make Your Own Water Play

Each Wednesday I will post a free, or almost free, fun family activity. Please share yours in the comments, I'd love to add some guest posts to this feature, especially from different areas of the country and world.


This isn't quite free, but very inexpensive.

Ingredients:
a couple inexpensive PVC pipes (all the same size, we used 1/2")
end and corner PVC pieces (elbows, t-pieces, end caps, whatever looks good)
1 connector to connect the garden hose to the PVC pipes

Cut the PVC pipes, either into a variety of sizes or all the same size. Drill holes into the PVC pipe. Use the tiniest drill bit you have and drill sparingly, too many holes and there won't be any water pressure (learned that through experience!). Be creative with the holes and know there's no right or wrong. I let the kids cut the pipes and do the drilling, with safety glasses and supervision.


Throw the kids outside with all the PVC gear and let them get creative. Half the fun is in the building and seeing how each creation works, the other half the fun is in the getting wet, wet, wet.

This is a great "there's nothing to do" activity for the kids.

Total cost was less than $20, with every item purchased being reusable.


Here's another with instructions.

Tip: Using the Freezer, Continued

Yesterday I talked about freezing fruits and vegetables. Today I'm going to talk about other things that can be frozen. I'm not going to talk about make ahead meals, that's a post in itself.

Here are some other things I freeze:
cheese, shredded and divided into 8 oz. portions
milk (it will come out a little waterier than before, but taste is fine)
cream cheese (the freeze causes some separation so it's best to cook it after freezing it)
bread
rice, cooked and bagged in 1 C. portions
jalapeno peppers after opening a can

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tip: Using the Freezer

When your fruits and veggies are about to go bad freeze them.

Bananas freeze very well, as do berries (and berries are great to eat out of the bag frozen). I freeze bananas and berries individually and then toss all the frozen product into a dated bread bag. The bananas are great in pancakes, bread, muffins, smoothies, and so on.

Bell peppers starting to go bad get diced in the food processor and placed in 1/4 c. portions into ziploc bags. The bags are dated and placed in a bread bag in the freezer. Same with onions. It is so nice to be able to grab a baggie and toss the contents into a recipe without having to do the knife work.

Carrots and celery I cook before freezing.

If you've got a fruit or veggie and you're not sure of freeze-a-bility google and find out.

What other produce do you freeze? Any tips or suggestions?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 10/10/11

Each Monday I shall post our dinner menu plan for the current week.

The kids feed themselves for breakfast and lunch (usually lots of fruit, pasta, sandwiches, or leftovers) so I will only be posting the dinner menu, as that's what I cook.

Please link to your weekly menu in the comments if you are inclined. I'm always looking for new ideas.

Sunday - Chicken Bake*, tossed salad, apple slices
Monday -  Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken over pasta (this recipe is so good), steamed carrots, salad
Tuesday - Baked Spaghetti, sweet potatoes, salad
Wednesday - Chicken All Dressed Up**, broiled zucchini, salad
Thursday - Lentil Burgers (new to us, let me know if you try it and what you think), salad, egg salad
Friday - Chicken and veggies on the grill, salad
Saturday - Pizza night if we're home, grilled chicken if we're camping


*Chicken Bake
(everything is approximate in this recipe, I use much more pasta than the recipe suggests and add diced tomato)
3/4 c. macaroni, approximately
10 oz. cream of ______ soup (whatever floats your boat)
1/3 c. milk
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. shredded cheese
1/2 c. shredded chicken (or a can of tuna or chicken)

Cook macaroni as directed on package. Rinse with cold water. Drain, poor into greased casserole. Set aside.

In medium saucepan combine soup, milk, peas, and cheese. Heat and stir until cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in chicken.  Pour over macaroni.

Cover, bake in 350' oven for 20 minutes.

Remove cover. Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top. Bake uncovered 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.


**Chicken All Dressed Up
4-6 pieces of chicken
1 c. catsup
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T lemon juice
1 T mustard
1 t salt

Mix all ingredients but chicken in crock pot (double if you want extra sauce). Add chicken and spoon sauce over chicken to cover. Add potatoes if you'd like, or carrots later. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or low for 6 hours. Serve over rice, if you choose to.

Tip: Track Your Spending

I'll get into this in more detail in the future, but one of the best ways to control spending and money leaving your pocket is to keep track of it.

Honestly write down everything you, or your family spends. I use do this on Quickbooks, I'm sure a notebook would work too.

Putting it in writing creates accountability, while also allowing some honest reflection. It makes creating a budget much easier - there's no guesswork as to what is needed in various categories, and will likely draw attention to expenses that could be cut or eliminated.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shopping Plan Sunday 10/9/11

Each Sunday I will post my shopping plan for the week ahead.

I'm asked how I get by with a very tiny grocery budget. It's not easy, that's for sure, but there are some little tips and tricks that ease the challenge and, when it comes down to it, it's exciting to watch the grand total go down, down, down.

There are great blogs out there that will guide one through grocery and drug store deals. I use them and couldn't do without them. Because those blogs are so thorough I'm not going to repeat their information here, at least not in total, and will just post what I plan to buy.

Please link to your shopping plan in the comments, if you're inclined.

Publix
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Bread BOGO $3.29 $.60/1 Smartsource coupon
Hidden Valley Dressing BOGO $3.69  $1/1 Smartsource coupon
Finish Dish Detergent BOGO $11.99  $1/1 Smartsource coupon
Mueller's Pasta BOGO $1.55 $.55 coupon ****this is a great stock-up price
Keebler Club Crackers BOGO $3.89 $1/2 Redplum coupon
Sprayway Glass Cleaner $1/1 Publix One Stop. One Store. coupon

CVS
Nothing this week that excited me or was a great enough deal

In addition I'll make a trip to Sam's Club for cheese and bananas, and a Saturday morning visit to the local farmer's market.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Green Halloween - Free at Select Zoos and Aquariums Nationwide

A healthy, safe, eco-friendly free alternative to traditional trick or treating. Over 50 locations nationwide to choose from. More information and list of locations here.

Save on Winter Heat Bills

With the arrival of fall comes the falling of temperatures and the most likely, inevitable rise of our heating bill.  If you’re searching for some easy ways to save energy this year and keep that bill more manageable, we’ve compiled an extensive list of 24 easy ways to conserve energy and save money ... Read the very informative and thorough article here at Northern Cheapskate.

Argh ... Great Deal on Pirate Costumes


Ahoy, matey. Pirate costumes for $.99 or 2/$1.98 at Little Tikes.

Great for Halloween, a pirate themed costume party (wouldn't a bunch of these running around be adorable?), the dress-up box, daycare, a neighborhood treasure hunt, and more.

Thanks SouthernSavers for the heads-up on this great deal.

Tip: View It In Bigger Terms

When considering the cost of something view it in annual terms.

For example:
- Eating lunch at work every day only costs about $5, but that's $25 per week, about $100 month, and about $1250 a year
- Adding extra services to a cell plan may cost just $30 a month, but that's $360 a year

I don't know about you, but I can do a lot with $1250 or $360 ... that's a big chunk towards debt, and could seriously help pay debt off faster.

I find that viewing costs in larger terms puts the expense in a different light and motivates me much more.


Have you tried this? Does it work for you?

The Great Recovery


Christmas of 2007 my brother and sister in law gave us Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. I read it and was very excited. At that time we were significantly in debt. We didn't NEED to be so much in debt, but we liked vacations, taking the kids to their sailing regattas, eating out, shopping, etc. and all of that took a toll. At the same time we were paying on debt. And it never ended ... I'd pay on the debt, but then use a credit card to go out for dinner. Brilliant. We were stuck in a rut. That Christmas I wrote down all our debts, expenses, sources of income, etc. and came up with a plan (I wrote it on envelopes, which I still have and love to look back on). And that was pretty much the end of that. While we did pay more attention to our spending and became thriftier we never followed Dave Ramsey's, or anyone else's, plan for financial "health".

Fast forward two years. I could not make ends meet. Period. I had the same house payments, same debts save one, same expenses, same kids (actually, one more), etc. and significantly less money than had been coming into the house before. And I was beyond panicked. It was not unreasonable to think I'd lose the house (from what I hear, most women get the house in the divorce and too many can't afford to keep it) or have to declare bankruptcy.

I picked up that Dave Ramsey book. And I read it, twice, very, very carefully. I also read a Suze Orman book. I started reading personal finance blogs.  I knew I didn't want to live week to week or day to day forever and I knew that the only person who could work to fix it was me.

I got to work. I wrote an insanely tight budget. I got rid of all credit cards, keeping only my bank debit card. I came up with a plan. I very slowly built an emergency fund. I started working on paying off my debts.

At one point I wrote a letter to Suze Orman begging for help. How was I to begin paying off debt when I couldn't make it through the month? I didn't know what to do, but things sure were hopeless. I never heard back from her, but that's ok.

I was blessed with an opportunity to pay off the first debt on my list. And that's when things started to look up. Less than two years later I now owe significantly less on credit card debt than when I started. Sadly, I owe a lot of money because of something else, but I see light at the end of the tunnel (years long tunnel). I also owe for my house, and am not dealing with that right now.

This is a very slow process for me. Some folks are able to pay off their debt in no time at all once they get started and get serious. Given where I started financially I'm happy with it taking a long time. Yes, I'm antsy to be debt-free, but the reality is that that won't happen tomorrow, but that I've made real progress.

What I'm saying here is that if I can do it anyone can. And it's worth it. It stinks sometimes to not have a fancy new screened patio like I'd like or new clothes, but in time I'll be able to pay cash for that. I don't dread the bills coming in the mail (in fact, I get more coupons and free samples in the mail than bills now!). I sleep at night. I most certainly still struggle a lot, but I know that a part of that struggle is because I'm putting money to debt so that, in the long run, the kids and I will have more financial stability and less worry.

Again, and I do believe this, if I can do it most anyone can.

Recently, Dave Ramsey presented a webcast with his plan, The Great Recovery, summarized as:

The Great Recovery is a grassroots movement spread by people who are tired of looking to Washington for answers. The truth is that the government can’t fix this economy. It’ll be restored one family at a time, as each of us takes a stand to return to God and grandma's way of handling money.
 

Together, we’ll bring this country back on track—one family, one church, one community at a time.

If you have an hour, listening to the webcast is a great starting point - it's very inspirational.  If you don't have an hour, but want your financial future to look different than your current financial situation, check out his regular website or similar programs. Financial Peace University offers seminars and classes at churches for a fee (I think around $100).

I don't get anything out of trying to "sell" this to you. I just believe in it because it's working in my life, and getting this financial monkey off my back (or at least tamed) makes my life better. And I don't think Dave Ramsey is the only one out there with a good plan, but his is what got me motivated and is one I've seen work for other people.

If you're interested and you need help, questions answered, support, suggestions, whatever, I will do what I can to help. I can be e-mailed directly at becauseimme@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hair Cutting

When it comes to hair cutting I'd always been a one-trick pony - I could do a mean bowl cut, but my repertoire extended no further.

Until this awesome video tutorial at I am Momma - Hear Me Roar. I follow the tutorial loosely, using the clippers on a 1/2-3/4" setting up to the tops of the ears, then leaving length at the top (I start layering just above eye level). So now my boys get a layered bowl cut. Ooohhh aaahhh.

Seriously, it looks good.

The youngest doesn't like haircuts. He's afraid of the clippers. After speaking with a friend I decided to try candy to keep him busy and distracted. 3 Mike and Ike's was all it took to get through an entire haircut, and he was super cooperative and content. Last time I had to give up and leave him with a very uneven cut, this time he sat until the haircut was complete. The moral of that little tale is: bribing with candy = good.

Four boys getting haircuts every 3 months at $13 each, plus $2 tip would cost $240 annually.
Mama haircuts at 1 box of Mike and Ike's cost $1.80 (Mike and Ike's stored in freezer for next cut)
Annual savings = $238.20

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shopping Plan Sunday

Each Sunday I will post my shopping plan for the week ahead.

I'm asked how I get by with a very tiny grocery budget. It's not easy, that's for sure, but there are some little tips and tricks that ease the challenge and, when it comes down to it, it's exciting to watch the grand total go down, down, down.

There are great blogs out there that will guide one through grocery and drug store deals. I use them and couldn't do without them. Because those blogs are so thorough I'm not going to repeat their information here, at least not in total, and will just post what I plan to buy.


CVS $0 out of pocket
Reach Toothbrush 2 pack $3.99, $2 ECB (limit 1), $2 coupon
Gallon Milk $3.79

** Will use $2 pledge ECB (no longer available but expired Monday), also have $11 ECB from shopping last week. I am buying the milk to use the expiring $2 ECB, we always need milk and that's a good way to get a deal on it. Today ECB's from quarterly shopping should print, giving me another $2.50 to use over the next few weeks. Some customers have also received a $5 ECB at the in-store printer ... that would be really nice! Total out of pocket will be close to $0 for this trip, and with the quarterly ECB's printing I should break even on ECB's.

This is a small CVS trip ... some weeks are, some aren't. My goal is to pay nothing for most things. We're actually down to 2 extra toothbrushes so this is a good week to buy these, but even if we weren't in need this is what I'd buy, the goal is to stock when items are free (not crazy extreme couponing stocking - just what we'd normally use in a reasonable amount of time).

Unfortunately, there isn't anything on sale at Publix this week that flips my skirt, so I may just skip that trip. Their ad comes out here on Thursday, but I shop at the beginning of the week so I will still post the deals I find appealing then.

In addition to CVS I'll shop at the bread outlet ($.88 per loaf), Sam's Club for fruit and a few things, and my local produce market for veggies.

Menu Plan Monday

Each Monday I shall post our dinner menu plan for the current week.

The kids feed themselves for breakfast and lunch (usually lots of fruit, pasta, sandwiches, or leftovers) so I will only be posting the dinner menu, as that's what I cook.

Sunday - Homemade Macaroni and Cheese (recipe to come), salad
Monday - Chicken Fried Rice*, salad
Tuesday - Southwest Roll-ups using homemade refried beans (the kids loved this meal, I was surprised)
Wednesday - Spaghetti and tomato sauce, broiled zucchini**, salad
Thursday - Marinated Chicken on the grill, salad, grilled yellow squash
Friday - Quiche (a variety - probably turkey bacon & broccoli, cheeses, and vegetable)
Saturday - something in the crock pot


*Chicken Fried Rice
I don't really have a recipe for this, but here's the basic idea:

Heat 1 T oil over medium/medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook til white on the outsides. Add diced misc. veggies (peas, carrots, onion, zucchini, broccoli, mushroom, water chestnut, etc) ... great time to clean out the produce drawer and cook until they are softened. Add rice that is at least 24 hours old and cold, if you precook and freeze rice that's great too (and a huge time saver). When the rice is warm and separated create a crater in the center and cook 2-3 scrambled eggs. After eggs cook toss everything together and coat with low sodium soy sauce. Mix well and serve.

If you don't want to use oil use a smidgen of chicken broth instead. Really.


**Broiled Zucchini

Halve zucchini lengthwise and score, spread a bit of butter or spread on, sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and seasoned bread crumbs, broil for 2-3 minutes until browned.  Feel free to add garlic or parsley or basil or whatever on top before broiling. My kids love this and will happily eat yellow squash or zucchini cooked this way (cooked most ways, actually, but this is a fave).

Fun and Free Wednesday - Movie Night

Each Wednesday I will post a free, or almost free, fun family activity. Please share yours in the comments, I'd love to add some guest posts to this feature.


Every so often a group gathers for Movie Night. We all bring chairs, snacks, and blankets and enjoy a kid-friendly movie. One family has a warehouse with a huge white wall, perfect for a movie projector. It really is like being in a theater, but without the high cost of a ticket. The movies last until bedtime, and make a memorable weekend night.

I scored a Blockbuster deal through Groupon a while ago, paying $2 for 5 movie rentals, which I've offered to contribute to Movie Night.

Even without a large white wall and a projector this could be a fun event -- just a bunch of friends hanging out in the family room to watch a movie, bring your own popcorn.

Welcome to Because I'm Frugal

Welcome to Because I'm Frugal. I've been running a successful family/sewing blog, Because I'm Me, for quite some time and realized it was time to give the penny pinching and money saving I do a blog of it's own.

I'm a single Mom to 6 terrific kids. About two years ago I walked out of divorce mediation with a signed agreement that left the kids and I short each month financially. I sat down, wrote out all the bills and fixed expenses (utilities), and figured out what the shortage was. Then I set a goal - to be able to travel with the kids - and a plan - get out of debt and buy an RV - and got to work making that a reality.

Making that goal a reality is one heck of a task, and quite a journey. How do you get out of debt when you can't make it through the month? My plan is to share that journey - successes, "learning experiences " (um, failures), ups and downs, progress (we've got a long way to go!), etc. here in the hopes that someone else can benefit.

Again, welcome. I'm glad you're here.
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