Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One goal for the new year

No more library fines! I have been really, really bad about that this past year. Last month I had to pay a $22 fine. I get all my entertainment from the library, so I'm going to set a day that I go every week. Movies are due after seven days, and it's $1 per day late fine, so that's usually what gets me in trouble. And it's an easy enough thing to get online and renew things. It takes two seconds, but I'm often too lazy to do it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Re-evaluating my health insurance to save money

Michael's work has crappy health insurance options. The coverage for him is freaking awesome, and they pay the whole premium for him. When you add family, the cost is ridiculous. They have one plan, and to add me to it would cost 1/3 of his income. I rarely go to the doctor. I'm very healthy, and I just prefer to treat things at home. However, I do want to have something in place in the event that I got some terrible disease or got into a car accident. A year and a half ago I purchased a crappy plan through BCBS that would cover that kind of thing. $5,000 deductible, 80/20 plan. At least we wouldn't be bankrupt if I got into a car accident or something. In 18 months I have not utilized that insurance at all. I paid $116/month for it. So I decided to re-evaluate. The whole reason that I want it is for hospital-type emergencies. I don't want to be saddled with a huge bill if I get into a car wreck, for instance. For doctor visits, I don't utilize the insurance that I already have--I have been going to the student health center at school for the few doctor visits I've needed in the last year and a half, and they wouldn't file with my insurance anyway. So I decided to go with a hospital-only plan, that is only $44/month. It only covers actual hospital costs, not physician costs. It's not ideal, but neither was the other one, and I figure if I'm going to have insurance that I'm not going to use, I want it to be as cheap as possible. I'm currently looking for a full-time job with health benefit, so I hope I'll be able to have "real" insurance again soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cilantro White-Bean Soup

Our frugal dinner last night--YUM!

Prices are from my grocery price book.

Cilantro White Bean Soup
2 tsp. olive oil (15cents?)
1 c. onion, chopped (20 cents)
3 garlic cloves, chopped (15 cents)
1/2 lb. of white beans--I used great northern, you could use a combination of garbanzo, chick-peas, etc....if using cans, use 2 cans of beans and drain them (0.50 for the dried)
1-14.5 ounce can of chicken or vegetable broth (I use an equivalent amount of the stock that I make from scratch, so maybe 3 cents?)
1-14.5 ounce can of whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped (0.49)
3/4 tsp. dried oregano (pennies)
1/4 tsp. pepper (pennies)
lots of salt to taste if using dry beans (pennies)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (0.50)
1 can of green enchilada sauce (0.75)

If using dried beans, cook until done and drain the liquid. In a skillet, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add to the pot with the beans, and add all other ingredients except the cilantro and enchilada sauce. Bring to a boil. Turn down and add cilantro and sauce, and simmer for five minutes. Good topped with cheese or with homemade cornbread. Serves 4 for approximately $2.86, or about $0.72 a serving.

What is left of it for lunch today:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Camping and New heights of frugality

We went camping with family last weekend. We don't take vacations since we're getting out of debt, but we do camp a couple of times a year. Usually we meet up with my family in Houston somewhere halfway between us. We budgeted $60 for Friday-Sunday of camping, including gas and the entrance fee. This time we met my Dad and sister at a place called Meridian State Park, which is just gorgeous. We liked it a lot better than our other usual place. One pic my husband took:

I bring the food for dinners, a few things for lunch, and my Dad brought breakfast stuff and the junk food. We also don't own a tent, so my Dad brings his. This particlar state park had great fishing, and we were so excited when Ethan caught his first fish! He absolutely loved it, and after he caught his first one he was hooking his own worm and actually had the patience to sit and wait for the fish to bite.

My Dad had also caught some fish, and one of our neighboring campers caught some catfish that they weren't going to eat, so they gave it to us. We decided we would have fish for dinner, courtesy of Ethan (he thought that was so cool). As my Dad was filleting the fish rather haphazardly and missing a lot of the meat, my frugal alarm bells were going off. I asked him if I could take the fish guts home with me. The look on my husband's face was priceless.

So I took the guts home and made stock out of them. For the feint of heart, I tried not to take pictures of their little fish faces in the pot:

The finished stock:

I read somewhere that fish stock is really good for a lot of health problems, including thyroid issues, which I'm pretty sure I have. I froze it all for later use. I haven't yet decided what I'm going to make with it--maybe some kind of chowder. With our 80 degree weather, it hasn't really been cold enough to think about soups yet.

Testing out the Laundry Soap

Just an update on the homemade laundry soap. We tested it out with a stomach virus last week. It worked. I'll spare you the details.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Homemade Laundry Soap

Thanks to the ladies at on my Mom's board for posting homemade laundry soap recipes! This has been a big savings for us!

I originally tried the dried powder:
1 bar of grated Zote or Fels Naptha Soap (I got zote at Save a lot for $1)
1 cup borax (purchased at Kroger)
1 cup washing soda (also Kroger, in the laundry aisle)

Mix it all up and use 1 tbsp. per load. This lasted me as long as a regular bottle of generic laundry soap. I would venture a guess that the total cost of this was about $1.25-$1.50.

Today I mixed up the liquid variety, because I'm told that it's even more economical. I also like that I don't have to let it dissolve before adding the clothes.
1/3 bar Fels Naptha or Zote bar soap, grated
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
Lots of water
Melt grated soap slowly in 6 C hot tap water on stove. When completely melted, stir in borax and washing soda.
Add 4 cups of water to bucket
Stir in melted soap mixture.
Add 20 more cups of water.
Pour into containers.
Let set until it becomes gel like
Use one cup per laundry load. Does not make suds.

I saved one empty laundry soap bottle, cut the top off of it and was able to fill it with about half this mixture. The other half is sitting in a covered bucket in my garage. I have not had the chance to work the math on this, but logically this does save money. A box of borax is $3-$4. I've actually had a box sitting around my house for like two years. The washing soda was also $3-$4 dollars. For this liquid variety I used 1/3 of the bar of zote, so 33 cents worth. I should be able to make 10 or more batches of this with the borax and washing soda that I currently have.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Article about Modest Young Millionaires

I read a book a while back called "The Millionaire Next Door". A couple of guys did a study of millionaires--what kinds of cars they drove, houses they lived in, if their parents were rich, how they made their money. It turns out that a lot of us live next door to millionaires and never know it, because they look just like "normal" people. They drive used cars, live in modest houses, and a lot of them are first generation-wealthy. Many of them are immigrants to the U.S. In short, they stayed out of debt and instead of putting their money into luxuries, they put their money into businesses or investments that MADE them money.

I read this article this morning about Modest 20-something millionaires. Our goal isn't necessarily to be millionaires, but we would like to retire well and not have to worry about money later in life

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't throw that away!

I swear I'm not a packrat! I think packrats are people who love to buy things and squirrel them away with no real intention of ever using them. I try to come up with creative ways to use less, and ways to use up things that people usually throw away. Some recent attempts to use less:

Sour milk---Makes the BEST pancakes! Anytime milk or half/half starts to get a little funky, I use it for baking. Homemade pancakes is a great breakfast, but we really love them for dinner. You can also use it in muffins, or to make my homemade "cream of anything soup".

Ziploc bags--I wash and re-use ziplocs all the time. The only ones I won't re-use are those that were used to store meat--those get tossed. I use foil to separate meat and I had been putting the meat in a ziploc bag so it wouldn't get water logged while it thawed. Lately I've started using leftover grocery store produce bags for this task. I usually wash out the ziploc bag inside out and hang it on my clothesline to dry.

Moldy/hard cheese--cut off the moldy part, grate the rest and put it in the freezer. Works really well in casseroles.

Old clothes--once they are just beyond repair or so stained that they can't be worn anymore, of course. I took an old flannel shirt and made Mama pads for me. You can cut apart old T-shirts to make cleaning rags or baby wipes.

Bubble Wrap--when I order textbooks or other things online, I save anything useful from the packaging. I NEVER buy packaging to ship books or stuff that I sell online.

Gift bags/tissue paper--I also save these so I never have to buy them to wrap presents.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Personal Training

I had my first free personal training session this morning. There is a personal trainer-in-training (sheesh, that's redundant!) at my Y who is trying to get his certification, and he needs to get 100 hours for his externship. I'll be training with him a few times a week for free throughout August. Today he said that he doesn't plan to leave those of us who have signed up during his externship, but I wasn't sure what that means as far as having to pay him after August. Either way, I'm just going to take advantage of it while it lasts!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

#432 in line

I requested the movie "Juno" from my library back in April. My husband laughed because my hold queue position was 432. I sent him to the library yesterday to pick up my stuff on hold and lo and behold, there it was, a mere four months later! It was definitely a lot sooner than I expected it, and I didn't have to pay anything to see it :D

The library has become our biggest source of free entertainment. It's rare that I want to read a book or watch a certain movie, and my library doesn't have it. Michael is a teacher, and we have a lot of free time in the summer, so we really utilize it this time of year. One day last year I was cooking in my kitchen and the theme song to the old show "Dallas" came on. I remember my Mom watching it when I was little, and I always loved the theme song and the way they flew over Texas Stadium. I realized I had actually never seen the show, so I checked to see if my library had it, and sure enough, they had the first five seasons. We spend a lot of last summer snuggled up on the couch watching it. I was the only person in 2007 who couldn't wait to find out who shot J.R., but I only had to wait three days to get the next DVD to find out. (It was Kristin, btw, for those of you not cool enough to know). This summer we've been watching '24'. We're mid-way through the third season and we love it!

I also borrow tons of books for me and the kids. I just got my paralegal certificate, so I picked up three books about paralegal careers. My library also has software, like the expensive Rosetta Stone language learning software. You can access it from home. I borrow cookbooks and make copies of recipes so I don't have to buy the whole book for 1-2 recipes. I also borrow all my favorite magazines instead of having magazine subscriptions.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Entertainment

Yesterday I took the boys to the movies for the first time. The theater near our house does free summer kids movies on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. We saw a Veggie Tales movie. Ethan totally loved it :) Andy said he "liked it a little bit." He didn't care for the dragon or the rock monsters, because they were "scawy."

Anyway, it was my first time taking them, and I thought it would be packed because it was free, but there were still quite a few seats left. I wish we could have taken advantage of it more this summer, because they showed some really good kid movies.

Michael is at a Ranger's game right now. They give free tickets to teachers (not sure when), and he and a buddy from work went. They rode together to split the gas and parking. He gleefully informed me that it's also dollar hot dog night. He made sure he had an extra $4 for that (lots of eye rolling).

Monday, July 28, 2008

My husband shopped at Goodwill--proud moment for me!

My frugal ways are starting to sink in around here :D My husband, without ANY prodding from me, went to Goodwill to try to find work clothes. I had mentioned a long time ago that he might want to try there, because he's a pretty generic guy-size. My husband hates to shop, and hates to try anything "weird", so I really thought he'd never actually go in there.

He came home today and had spent $36, ALL of it at Goodwill. He got some very nice things. He bought four pairs of slacks, two button down shirts, two neckties, and a black suit jacket (8!). Nothing is stained and all of it appears new. Several of them are nice of the shirts still has the JCPenney tag, and one is from Lands End. He tried them all on, and only one pair of pants is a little snug--everything else was perfect.

He is done with his work clothes shopping for the year.

I was so pround I thought I was gonna burst!

I would take pics, but my camera is on the fritz :(

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Electric bill Continued......

Sometimes I wonder why you people read this, LOL! Such exciting topics!

Got the electricity bill today. We are still with that awful Simple Energy company, as the new company hasn't started billing us yet. Even with the fact that they jacked our rate yet again to 0.19 kwh (is that even legal?!!), we still managed to decrease our bill from last month.

The math:
Last month's bill: $231.71, using 1377 kwh.
This month's bill: $186.54 using 949 kwh!!! Only one other time have we ever gotten close to using that little electricity. In April of this year we used 947 kwh.

A savings of $45.17. If we could keep our usage the same, once the switch to the other company occurs, our bill should be somewhere around $135.

The changes we made:

Increased the daytime thermostat from 78 to 80.

Increased nighttime thermostat from 72 to 75, and started using a fan near my bed, since I really just like circulating air.

Started hang drying laundry. We ran the dryer once in the last month.

Turned the computer completely off before going to bed at night.

I don't notice the warmer temp in the house anymore. I've gotten used to it. Of course, I've noticed hang drying the laundry since I'm the one doing it, but it's only maybe 3-4 loads a week so it's not too bad.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's my birthday

I'm the ripe old age of 26 today :)

I have really come to love our creative, frugal birthdays. We used to go out to dinner and Michael used to give me a nice gift, but now he has to be really creative, because we don't do birthday gifts anymore. I have loved the last two birthdays. He totally spoiled me today....let me sleep in, made me my Shirelle-style eggs (scrambled with garlic and dill--which he totally doesn't like), let me go to the Y and work out, and when I came home the house was totally clean and he was all good-looking and good-smelling. He told me we could go somewhere if I'd like, so we went to the pool at my Y and spent the afternoon together (he's a hermit, so a public pool is not really his idea of fun). I came back and when I got out of the shower, I saw that he had changed the screen saver to this pic of him that I had told him I loved and he'd taped a note to it that said "Happy Birthday, I love you." He made my favorite dinner tonight--Trinidadian curry and bara, and my cake is currently on the counter cooling.

Last year he told me that he would go take a yoga class with me (yoga is my favorite group ex class)...he was totally awkward and terrible at yoga, but he didn't complain a bit (group ex classes aren't usually on a hermit's agenda either).

Birthdays have just become a lot more meaningful now that we celebrate the day without relying on spending money to have a memorable day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Good Riddance American Express!

We scraped up $812.49 out of our tiny income this month to pay off Am Ex!

We were so proud when we got that card. They originally gave us a $10,000 credit limit---at the time, we barely made twice that in a year! They bumped us up to 20K a few months later, and we were so proud that people thought enough of us to give us credit. We ran it up considerably during that time.

My how things change :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A hacksaw and super glue

I got REALLY mad at Michael the other day. We had gone out and bought 21 lbs. of ground beef in bulk packs, meant to be separated and frozen. He put it in the fridge when he got home, and I guess he thought that I was going to separate it and freeze it. It sat in the fridge for two days, and at the end of the second day he noticed they were turning a little brown, so he stuck two huge 7-lb. packages of beef in the freezer WITHOUT separating them. I woke up the next morning and my first thought was that I needed to separate that meat, and that's when I found the giant hunks of ground beef in my freezer. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed. What the heck are we going to do with a 7 lb. hunk of ground beef?! I actually woke him up and reamed him out, because this is not the first time he did that. The last time, I told him he would need to defrost and cook the five lb. hunk of meat, and freeze the cooked meat individually. I thought by making him deal with it, that he wouldn't do it again, but apparently I was wrong.

So, in my anger, as he is telling me that he didn't KNOW he wasn't supposed to freeze the giant hunks of ground beef, I slammed down my coffee press. It cracked. Great, now I have to buy a new coffee press.

So I came home from work, and found out that my wonderful spouse had come up with a creative solution to appease the angry, frugal woman. He had actually taken his hacksaw and sawed apart one-lb. sections of meat. He was quite proud of himself, actually. I kind of wish I could have watched that process.

I dealt with my coffee press leaking for several days, thinking I would have to buy another press. But with some creative super gluing, it's now leak-free.

Crises averted :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

School supplies

Ethan starts kindergarten this fall, so I'm keeping an eye out for good deals on school supplies.

Staples has really good sales in their ad this week for a few items on our list. They have folders, 8-packs of pencils, and little travel bottles of Purell for a penny each. They have floppy binders for 25 cents each.

We spent $1.25 on 18 items.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

...and the $600 phone call

following up from the $1,000 essay :)

When checking my school's financial aid award, I noticed that they listed a:
Texas Education Grant with "denied" next to it. I knew I hadn't denied any grant (who the heck would?!), so I called the financial aid office to see why it said that. She said it was because I wasn't taking enough hours to qualify. I jokingly mentioned that I couldn't even if I wanted to, because I'm taking a basics class at my local community college in order to save money, and I wouldn't have time. I asked her if there was anything else I could do to qualify for it. She sounded surprised and told me that it might benefit me to contact another person in the office about a "consortium agreement" with the community college. Like I've mentioned before, if you let people know that you need to save money, they will often tell you how to do that.

Long story short, they gave me an extra $600 for taking the community college class. The ironic thing is that that class only cost me $200.

I was very excited to find that we didn't even need the $1100 we saved up for my Summer II and fall classes--between the phone call and the essay, I have more than enough money for school.

The graduation countdown is winding down! 5 months to go!!!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The $1,000 essay

My goal has been to get through college while forking out as little money as possible. Getting good grades has been part of that. From the history/government dept. at my university, I was recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship for the fall. It was the highest scholarship the department offered. The funny thing is that I know that I didn't have the highest GPA of those that received scholarships. I talked to the scholarship coordinator some months beforehand, and he said that the awards were based on the GPA, and they also took the essays into high consideration. I wrote the best essays I could possibly write. I really took time with them, and I had several people proofread them for me. I was as honest as I could be about our goals and personal situation, and I was very proud of what I wrote.

At the awards banquet my professor came up to congratulate me and made a point of saying, "You were one of a few who really took the essays seriously."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stock up on ground beef!

Tom Thumb has awesome prices on ground beef right now! They have 80% lean for 0.99/lb, 85% for 1.99, and 90% ground sirloin for $2.99!

Definitely a stock up price! And if they don't have it when you go in, go to CS and get a rain check!

Update on the electricity bill situation

I did end up switching companies. I used the website to compare rates. We decided that we wanted a fixed rate plan, because it just seems like market conditions are ripe for prices to keep increasing. We locked in at 0.14cents/kWh with Hudson Energy. One thing I didn't like about that other company we were looking at was that they charge you a higher rate per/kWh if you use less than 1,000kWh a month, AND they charge you a $10 fee. I've noticed that a lot of companies do this, but you really have to read the fine print to figure that out. You basically get penalized for saving energy, which really just sucks. The other company also had a hefty cancellation fee of $150!

Michael used the dryer once this week, and I hung up every other load of laundry. We've been keeping the thermostat at 80 or higher, and at 75 at night (up from about 71). And I've been keeping the lights off and things unplugged like I usually do.

I'll keep you all updated to see if my electric-bill reducing efforts pan out :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Andy's Birthday

My baby turned 3 yesterday!

I really wanted to have a party for him this year. He has lots of friends at the Y, and I knew he'd love a fun party. Our house is too tiny to host any kind of kids party, so I thought about doing a park party. The problem is that we live in North Texas, and it's 100 degrees by mid-morning everyday for the past three weeks. I decided to see what kind of indoor options we could find that wouldn't totally break the budget.

A new Chick-fil-a opened up close to our house, and we decided to have the party there. It ended up being about $65....the kids each got a kids meal and ice cream. We got to use their play area, we had a hostess handle everything for us, and we got a visit from the cow! It was such a fun party! They didn't provide the cake, so I made cupcakes....with two box cake mixes, 1 container of frosting, six eggs, and a little oil and water, they came to about $4.80 for 48 cupcakes (we still have a ton too!). I used candles that I had on hand.

I could have done a cheaper party at a park or something, but I guess the extra $20 or so was worth not having 10 dehydrated little kids!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Got the electric bill today

OY! It went from $133.14 last month to $231.71 this month. Our rate went from $0.13/kWh to $0.163/kWh. Time to switch. This morning, I used to compare rates. I'm thinking of getting on a fixed rate program, but in reading the fine print, I'm confused if it really is a fixed rate or not. I'll need to call them tomorrow and see if I can figure it out. There is one company, YEP, that supposedly has a fixed rate of $0.146/kWh....but the fine print makes me skeptical.

In the meantime, I'm kicking up the thermostat to 80 during the day, and 74 at night. I'm going to have a hard time getting used to sleeping with it warmer....I really like it cold when I sleep. I think I'll rummage through the garage and see if I can find a fan or two that still work.

I've been toying with putting up a clothesline, but I didn't have anywhere to put one up in the backyard. Yesterday we rigged one up in the garage. I read recently that it can cost as much as $1 per load of laundry that you dry, plus it heats up your house, and wears your clothes out faster.

Here's our new clotheline.....I just used what we had around the house. Michael had some twine in his toolbox and we used some brackets that were already hanging on the wall. That's one full load of laundry hanging up.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How far can you stretch one on-sale chicken?

I bought whole chickens at Kroger for 69 cents/lb. On Thursday, Michael roasted one and served it with mashed potatoes and salad. On Friday, the kids ate leftover chicken and potatoes for lunch. Today I picked off every little tiny bit of chicken that I could get off of it, and I mixed it up into chicken salad.

We all had chicken salad sandwiches and fruit for lunch. Then I threw the bones into the crock pot to make chicken stock.

I also keep a ziploc bag in the fridge with bits of onion, carrots, and celery leaves--I throw that in with my stock. Since it's summer, I don't need the stock for soup. I do make a lot of casseroles though. Here is a recipe so you don't have to buy cream soups for casseroles, and it uses chicken stock.

Cream of Anything Soup:
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. chicken stock/broth (made from the leftovers of one $3 chicken!)
3 tbsp. butter (can be cut down)
3 tbsp. flour
s&p to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the flour to make a roux. Slowly add the stock/milk, and whisk until it thickens up. This can be used in place of any recipe that calls for a cream soup. If you don't want the little bit of chicken flavor, you can use all milk and omit the stock.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shopping with Shirelle!

I should offer my disclaimer before I delve into my trip. There are a lot of ways to save money at the grocery store. I have my method, and it probably isn't even the most frugal. I do know people that successfully coupon and save a lot more than me. I haven't had much luck with couponing, so this is the current frugal method that I use to save money :)

Sunday was grocery shopping day. It's usually a half-day affair, as I only go once every two weeks.

Our shopping trip actually starts on Saturday night. I sit down with the ads from all my local stores, my grocery list, and my meal plan list. First I scrounge around my pantry/freezer and see what needs to get eaten. We still have a bunch of corn tortillas, and we have an insane amount of cheese that I got free from work. I have 1/2 lb. of leftover italian sausage, a couple lbs. of beef stewing meat, and several lbs. of chicken breast.

Pork chops are on sale at Sack and Save, and they also have chicken drumsticks/thighs for 88 cents/lb. I pick apart the ads and figure out where the best prices are on produce this week--Sack and Save has strawberries for $1.88, and yellow onions 3lbs./$1. They almost always have good deals on produce that aren't marked in their ad, so I'll pick some up when I'm there. Kroger has watermelons on sale for $3.88, and I know that will last us a while.

Here is the dinner meal plan for the next two weeks:

Homemade pizza with italian sausage, salad
Fried Chicken (the husband requested this), mashed potatoes, and a veggie
Homemade mac and cheese and broccoli
Fish tacos with rice and refried beans
Breakfast for dinner (pancakes, eggs, grits)
Homemade "hamburger helper" and some kind of veggie
Bean burritos (homemade), lettuce and tomato
Pork chops, sweet potato pancakes, corn
Beef and Cheese Enchiladas and beans
Oven chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, swiss chard
Tuna Casserole, some kind of veggie
Meat and potato quiche (this is a new recipe) and sauteed zuchinni
Beef curry and fried plaintains
Pantry/freezer meal

My first stop is Sack and Save. If I get there early in the morning, they usually have meat and milk marked down. I get what is on my list in the produce department, and notice that they have watermelon for $2.50, which is cheaper than Kroger, so I pick it up there. They have peaches for 68 cents/lb. and I pick some up for Michael.

I head over to dairy and immediately see the all the red mark-down tags. I pick up six gallons of milk at $1.99 each, and the dairy guy offers to mark some more down for me, but I tell him I can't fit anymore in my tiny freezer!

On the way to the meat department I notice they have hamburger buns marked to 50 cents for an 8-pack, and I pick some up, mentally deciding that I will make tuna melts with them one night. I head to the meat department and pick up the pork chops and chicken on my list, and I also notice that they have ground pork marked down to $1, so I pick two of them up. I buy the bacon that was in their ad for $1.99, and pick up TP at 78 cents for a 4-pack. I also pick up a couple of boxes of sugary cereal for my husband--they were 3/$5 in the ad. At the checkout counter, the girl looks shocked at my milk purchase, and says, "You know these are all like two days from their date right?!" I spend $50 at Sack and Save.

I'm done there, and I head over to Save a lot. I first go to the counter and buy $40 worth of gift cards. They have deal going on right now, where you save 10% off of gift cards. I buy a lot of my staples here--they have red tape bananas for 25 cents a lb. and I buy a lot of those to make banana bread for breakfasts. They don't have any good deals on meat or dairy, so I pass those up. This is my default store for canned goods, cereal, baking goods...they have great prices on staples if I can't find them on sale elsewhere. I only spend $20 at Save a lot, so I still have my other gift card for the next shopping trip, and I head over to Kroger.

I usually spend the most at Kroger. I first go grab a juice from the produce aisle which is (oops!) not on the list, and not particularly frugal. I don't have the kids with me, so I'm savoring the fact that I don't have to share my juice with a greedy two year old.

In the meat aisle, I grab some marked down ground beef, and in the dairy aisle I score another 16 ounce container of sour cream for 50 cents. They've had these way marked down the last few times that I've been in. I bypass the milk because I am stocked up! I pick up beer for the husband at (gasp!) 5.99 for a 6-pack. He'll have to settle for Modelo in the can, because I refuse to spend more than that. I pick up one brick of cheese that was on sale in the ad for $1.50. Next I pick up bread, which for whole wheat is $2.50! I consider baking my own bread again. I buy 2-2 liters of Dr. Pepper, that was in the ad for $1/each. I pick up a few staples....yogurt for the boys, frozen peas, brown rice, noodles, peanut butter(have a coupon!), toothpaste and floss, applesauce and my expensive coffee which is $5.99/lb. I'm realizing that we could save a lot more money if we drank more water!

I get everything home and make my husband and kids unload it all!

I took $190 with me, and came home with $35. So I spent $155, but I still have a $20 gift card, so I actually spent $135 on two weeks worth of groceries.

$67.50 a week is not bad!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Saving a little while washing dishes

Okay, so I don't always do the dishes like right after a meal. When I do get around to doing them, I fill the sink and soak the dishes for a few minutes. When I'm loading the dishwasher I don't turn the water back on. I just use the water already in the sink to scrub and rinse the dishes. I use the same water to clean my counters. So instead of letting the water run and pouring soap on a sponge repeatedly, I only use one sink full of water, and just the small amount of soap that went in it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keeping Carrots and Celery Fresh

When you bring carrots home from the store, if you cut the tops off of them they will last much longer. The stem soaks up all the water from the carrot, and that's why they get limp after a couple of weeks in the fridge. I learned this from the little tip section in a cookbook--really helpful place to find good info!

Celery will keep for weeks and weeks if you wrap it in foil. Don't make the mistake I did though, rinse them and leave a damp paper towel in there with the celery sticks. (found that nice little surprise today)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free Books for Kids!

This was posted on my Moms board that I'm on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cloth diapers, cloth diapers, cloth diapers!!!

I started cloth diapering when my oldest was about 16 months old. I wondered if it would be worth it, because I didn't know if he would potty train soon. That was one of the best investments I've ever made. I bought two dozen premium chinese prefolds and 6 large proraps. I spent about $50 on that first order. I later ordered 6 extra large proraps, to keep up with him as he grew. He actually didn't potty train until right around his 3rd birthday. Then when the second baby came along I bought a dozen infant prefolds and some small/medium proraps. I spent about $100 total on cloth diapers. When some friends heard that I was cloth diapering they gave me snappis (these really cool devices that replace old fashioned diaper pins), liners for my diaper pail, and some more diapers. My 2-year old wears one diaper at night, and we use the original ones that I bought. We hope to have more kids and we'll use them again. I estimate that I've saved a couple thousand dollars in diapers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cash is king!

(As Dave Ramsey would say :) )
Retailers get starry eyed when you pull out a wad of cash.

Last year I had my car worked on, and the bill came to $740. I asked them (notice a theme? ) if they would let me give them $700 in cash. They didn't even hesitate. For a two minute drive to the bank, I saved $40. This works REALLY well for big purchases. I also did this when I got pest control last year. I asked them if they would give me a discount for paying cash. They knocked 10% off the bill. We've done this with everything from pest control to buying our Christmas tree.

Cash has the other benefit of making you really FEEL when you spend money. It hurts to lay down 7-$100 bills!!! You become more in touch with your money when you actually have to count it out and give it to someone. When I used to use my debit card for everything, a lot of times I wouldn't even hear what the cashier said my total was. I'd just hand over the debit card. A study done by Dunn & Bradstreet found that people paid an average of 12-18% more when they paid with credit cards rather than cash. McDonalds did a focus group study that showed that customers paid an average of 47% more when they paid with a credit card rather than with cash.

Want a discount? Ask!

Stores want your business. Even at chain stores, managers have a lot of leeway to keep customers happy.

Two weeks ago I needed to buy a new mop. The one I'd bought at Big Lots had broken within two times of using it, so I wanted one that would be better quality. Sack and Save had a nice looking one in their ad for $7.99. When I got to the store, the only one that they had that looked like the one in the ad, was marked $12.99. I asked the manager to show me where the one in the ad was. He couldn't find it either. I knew that if I stood in the aisle looking uncomfortable for long enough, that he'd try to keep my business. He walked me to the front of the store and told the cashier to give me the $12.99 mop for the sale price. So I got a much nicer mop than the one in the ad, for about half the price.

If you are at a store trying on clothes, and you notice a defect with your item, ask for a discount! I know that Sears will almost always give you 10% off for an item with a little stain or a little rip in the fabric. The same is true at the grocery store. I love to buy marked down milk and freeze it. At another grocery store the dairy manager asked me if I was finding everything okay. I told him yes, except I was hoping they would have some milk marked down. He went and got a marker and marked some milk down to 99 cents for me. Meat managers will do that as well.

I rarely have anyone tell me that they can't mark an item down, but even if I did, it didn't hurt to ask!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Frugal Cleaning supplies

Well, you all probably know by now that I do not hire a maid. In fact, I actually was a maid for a while, back when I first started college :)

It is extremely rare for me to buy cleaning supplies. I've found that baking soda and vinegar will clean almost anything, with the added bonus that they don't have the harsh chemicals that give my husband headaches.

I do usually buy some knock-off Comet, for when the tubs get really gross and the baking soda isn't cutting it, but the baking soda takes care of most jobs.

About five years ago, I took an old windex bottle, rinsed it out, filled it with 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, and I've just been refilling it ever since. I use it to clean my kitchen/bathroom counters, floors, toilets, mirrors, etc. A couple of times a year I rent a rug-doctor to clean my floors, and instead of buying their expensive cleaner, I fill it with vinegar. It deoderizes really well.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Kids Haircuts

When Ethan was 2 1/2, I attempted to cut his hair to save money. I tried to convince myself that it looked okay if I combed it to one side and looked at it from a certain angle. We ventured to the grocery store and had no sooner passed the bananas when a woman asked my child, "Awww, did you cut your hair, honey?" To which I replied (with a smile, of course), "No, his Mommy did." I swore off trying to cut my child's hair, and just opted to let it grow long and shaggy until I was forced to take him to a professional to have it cut.

A couple of years ago, I borrowed Amy Dacyczyn's The Tightwad Gazette from my library. My favorite section was on how to cut a boy/man's hair. There was a very simple diagram and instructions on how to do it. It took me about an hour and a half and a very cranky kid, but I actually managed to do a good job! Since then, I usually cut my boys hair myself. I occasionally will take the older one in to get his hair cut, when there is a good coupon for a $6 haircut. I'm much faster at it now, of course :)

Andy's hair has been a challenge because he has these gorgeous baby curls that I love. So I decided yesterday to just trim it up. I really only know how to do an all over, short, boy cut, so this was new for me.

Savings (per haircut): $10

Friday, April 11, 2008

Finding deals on staples

I tend to shop at various stores, because I've noticed that certain stores always have things marked down, or always seem to have good deals on certain things (dairy, meat, produce). I've found this to be true in the last three cities that we've lived in. In Fort Worth, Sack and Save almost always has great deals on produce. I always check Kroger's ad vs. Sack and Save's ad. Save a lot is my staple store. If I can't find it on sale at Kroger or Sack and Save, I get it at Save a lot.

I found half gallons of milk at Save a lot for 50 cents. They were on their expiration date. I bought all nine that they had and froze them. We didn't buy milk for several months. Gallons of milk are on sale at Kroger right now for $3 a gallon. Savings: $18

I found butter at Sack and Save for 98 cents. I froze a bunch of them. Nothing wrong with them. Just a loss leader. I bought a lot....maybe 10? I usually spend $2 on butter at Sack and Save. Savings: $10

Jumping in!

I decided to jump on the blog bandwagon with my own blog about my frugal family! We are getting out of debt on the Dave Ramsey plan , and one of our strategies is frugality!

We've been living this way for two years, and so far we've paid off two family loans, a small credit card, and most recently, Michael's car! We've committed not to take on any more debt, including student loans. I am a full time student and we have paid for all of my school expenses in cash. We've cash flowed a root canal (me), big car repairs, and a two-week trip to Florida to see Michael's father who has been sick for a long time. Michael teaches at a private school and I work part-time at the YMCA while I go to school, so we have a very modest income.