Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Garden Evaluation

It is now that time of year when we pick veggies for this years garden.  I generally start with seeds to save more money, but some people prefer plants.  Please get the plants on sale ;)

Here is one way to determine what seeds to use:

#1 - you need to know what will grow in your area, also knownn as your climate zones, there are 10 in the US, I personally live in #8

#2 - what do you eat?  What I mean is, if you like salads, plant lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, etc (according to #1 of course).

#3 - what can be stored long term?  For instance, I like tomato products, and I know how to can, so I plant more tomatoes.  We like salads, but there is no way to store it long term, so I still plant lettuces, spinach, radishes, etc, but not in excess.  I also know how to pickle, so I am okay planting extra cukes, peppers, onions, etc.

#4 - look at your list, then look at your alloted space, if you love lots of things, and live in an area when a large variety grow, but you ave limited space you have to either A) curtail your plans to fit in your space or B) get creative and make more space with containers ~

My space is pretty large and easily expandable, but currently my list looks like this:

Main plot (8' x 20'): 10 Roma tomato plants, 5 basil plants (around base of tomato plants), onion patch (usually about 50 plants in a bunch), 10 bell pepper plants, 5 jalapeno plants, radishes, various lettuces and spinach, green beans

Flowerbed (I am not a flower person):  herb garn - basil, cilantro, thyme, savory, oregano, applemint, parsley, sage, chives, scallions, various lettuces scattered throughout, 2-4 cherry tomato plants, radishes

Containers:  various lettuces and spinach, various herbs, strawberries

I realize I have lettuces and spinach in all 3 places, but every year they grow differently in different locations in my yard based on sunshine, rain, wind, children, animals, etc.  Plus each seed packet has about 500 seeds because they ar so tiny so I spread them out, AND with succession planting you can have fresh, unbolted lettuce for longer!

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pancake Breakdown

I make a lot of pancakes around here.  Not the boxed kind, but the homemade-measure-your-own-flour-and-baking-powder kind.  And they are great.  My kids eat them up, they are hot, they are soft and fluffy and they are healthier than cold, processed, sugar covered kids cereal - by a long shot.  Here is what I do, and some of the variations and their costs:

1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tiny pinch salt
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

#1 - flour
  • I buy all purpose white fluff at sam's or costco for about $8/25lb ($.32/lb).
  • 1lb of flour is about 3cups
  • Therefore, 1 cup flour = 11 cents
  • However, if I use my homeground flour from organic wheatberries, the price changes to .85/lb which makes it .28 per recipe
  • Sometimes I put some rolled oats in the blender and turn them into powder and mix half oat flour and half white flour which increases cost to about .16 per recipe.
#2 - baking powder
  • I bulk purchase both baking soda and cream of tartar and the last time I added it up, a tbsp of home mixed baking powder cost about 1/2 of a cent
#3 - sugar
  • this is totally optional, but if you use it, here goes
  • I buy sugar at sam's/costco for about $.55/lb, 1lb = 2.5 cups ($.22/cup = 1.5 cent/tbsp)
#4 - salt
  • negligible cost, but don't leave it out!
#5 - egg
  • locally at the store they are $3.05/18 = $.17/ea
  • at sam's/costco $4.50/36 = $.13/ea
#6 - oil
  • this can be highly variable, but for me I generally use EVOO purchased for $14 for 3 L at sam's/costco  $14/3L = 4.67/L (about a quart), 4cups/qt = 1.17/cup = .29/1/4cup
  • this is also my most expensive ingredient, but if you are using canola or plain vegetable oil, it will be about 1/3 this price
#7 - milk
  • I used to use regular gallon whole milk ($4gal = $1 qt = .25 cup = .19 for mix)
  • I now reconstitute powdered milke for this recipe ($5/8qt box = $2.5/gal = .63/qt = .16 for mix)
  • I do realize that the end result does not look like a major difference, but powdered milk has a long shelf life and you are less likely to run out of milk during the week if you are only using it for drinking
  • BTW, you can't tell the difference b/t milks in the pancake recipe
#8 - vanilla
  • this is also an optional ingredient, but we like it
  • cost on this is highly variable, if you only buy the tiny bottle of vanilla at the grocery store, then the 1/2 teaspoon will cost you about $.33 per recipe, if you buy the large bottle at bulk store it comes to about $.04 per recipe

So, for $.92, I make enough pancakes to feed 3 children (using the wheat flour and olive oil), when I use other oils, or get things at better prices, of course I save even more.

PS - the mix can sometimes be a better price if you get double coupons and find it on sale at the same time. always compare wisely though, because you usually still have to add ingredients to the mixes

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Diaper Bags

Some designer diaper bags are $50 plus!  Are we nuts to pay that!  The hospital gives you one for free, you can find them at yard sales or thrift stores for a couple bucks, and you will usually get 1 or 2 at your baby shower.  Why would you pay more than a few bucks for something that just holds clothing, diapers or food?  If you look at that description of a diaper bag, an empty grocery bag will do the same thing

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Saving $10,000 in 2013

I want to save $10,000 in 2013, but not by going out of the home to work more, or encouraging my husband to work more.  I want to save $10,000 by saving more of what we already spend.  I am currently in the process of evaluating each month of last year for how much I spend in the following catagories:  gas, grocery, clothing and dining out.  It kinda goes without saying that I will begin that process of training myself to determine the difference between needs and wants (a line that I think most Americans have severely blurred).  But in the meantime, here are a few things that quickly add up to $10,000

  1. Trim $100/month from your grocery budget = $1200/yr
  2. Trim $100/month from your gasoline budget = $1200/yr
  3. Trim $200/month from your dining out budget = $2400/yr
  4. Trim $100/month from your clothing budget = $1200
  5. Cut cable/satellite = $800/yr
  6. DIY auto and home repair = $500/yr
  7. Drop internet from your cell phone = $360
  8. Dye your own hair every 8 weeks = $520
  9. Reduce home electricity use by 25% - $400
  10. Buy almost everything used, and then make it last as long as possible = $500

Now obviously some of these things won't apply to everyone.  For instance, we are not going to completely cut our cable/satellite out, but I can probably save more than the $100 for groceries and for gas (some months anyways).  And if you think about it, there are probably other areas you can cut to make big savings, so here are some other areas:

  1. Memberships to gyms, clubs, etc - do you need them, do you use them, are they saving you money?
  2. Processed foods versus convenience foods - what is the true value and true cost?
  3. Toys for the kids - how many do they need?  Do they even play with the ones they have?
  4. Internet service - do you need the super speedy gaming service, or will a more basic package work just fine?
  5. Day care - do you have to work a second job because day care for 1 kid is usually at least 6,000 annually
  6. Entertainment - going out to the movies, going to expensive parks and museums - the free ones tend to be just as good, and more plentiful, plus use the redbox for a movie (or the library where they are free)
  7. Electronics - do you need a new ipad, new computer, etc if you are really just getting and up grade?  How necessary are the up grades anyway?  My husband and I recently just backed our files up, erased our hard drives and reinstalled our OS, now they work much better, much faster and much easier - for free because we still had the old OS and other drives discs
Take some time and reevaluate last year and find areas you could have cut - make a list with the items/catagories and the amounts and post it somewhere so you can see it, add the totals up and imaging that amount either drawing interested in your savings or having used it to reduce your debt.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I have learned to make homemade soap!  It is fun, super easy and well worth it.  Plus it does cost less per bar than than commercial (unless the commercial is free).  My next task, which I am working on, is getting the fat for free and extracting my own lye - wish me luck and I will get back to you on this one!

Wood Heat

I don't know about the rest of you, buy my electric bill keeps going up and up.  I thought all of these great energy saving appliances were supposed to save us money?

We have a split system electric heat pump for our home, and it uses way more electricity than I want to pay.  This year, we have opened up our fireplace and are starting to use it.  We get the wood for free from fallen trees in some friends' empty lots, and they appreciate it that it gets cleaned out.  We also scavange for firewood from the side of the road where people who obviously don't use it put it out for the county to pick up.  I set both thermostats to 65 and keep my fire going.  It generally stays about 71 in the house, so we are not suffering one bit.  Free heat is better than any other kind :)

BTW - in an effort to say our LP gas, instead of using the cooktop, I started using the fireplace some.  You can't do everything in it, but I have been suprised at what you CAN do!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Using the dryer when you have to

Right now we are being pelted with rain from Frankenstorm Sandy - we have had rain since yesterday and will be having rain at least through Monday - and we have a finite amount of clothing.

As much as I don't like to use my dryer, I do have to make sure we have plenty of clothes to get the job done, so I do medium sized loads and set my dryer to low .  Then they are done in about 30 minutes, which is about half the time required as large loads (plus being as low burns less energy too).  I can get by with about 1 load a day this way, sometimes 1 every other day until the rain stops, then I can catch up on sheets, blankets and towels then.

Plan your laundry, do the necessities, don't wash things that aren't actually dirty and you will be able to be a little more conservative when the dryer is your best option.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Conserving Candles

I read the Tightwad Gazette from time to time when my frugal mind is not being creative.  Lately, I was reading the part about candles, and tried the recommendation.

I took a bunch of candles that were on their wits end and melted the little bit inside and poured the little bits into a mason jar to cool in colored layers.  It looks pretty awesome, plus, with a new wick added, I have a new long lasting candle.

FYI - if you buy candles at yard sales or the thrift stores, you can use the wick that's there in a new mason jar style candle for pennies on the dollar.

No more wasted candles, and from the looks of the new candles I made, I won't have to buy anymore anytime soon either.

Happy recycling!

Load Calculations = How much energy my stuff uses!!

I will gladly thank my husband for telling me the actual title of what I was doing :)

I have been watching my power meter for awhile now, just going out and checking the number every few days and recording it.  So, after a couple of weeks I decided to figure out which appliances in my home were using the most electricity. Here is what I did . . . . . . .

I went through the house and wrote down the amps and the volts for each appliance and calulated the watts, then I multiplied the watts by 1000 to get the kilowatts (which is how your outdoor meter measure electricity usage).  I then multiplied the kilowatts by what the power company charges me per kilowatt hour (the amount of electricity used per hour).  My particular figure for this season is 11.231 cent per kWh (kilowatt hour).  Example:

My dryer (a great example of the typical power-hog)

28 amps x 240 volts = 6720 watts (6.72kWh)
6.72kWh/load (because a typical load takes 1 hour to dry) x 11.231 cent/kWh = 75.5 cent/load

Okay, let's take it out a bit further

75.5/load x 7 loads/week = $5.29/week = $274.82/year

Hmmm, with $274.82/year I could:

1 -  add more/improve insulation around the house to decrease electric bill
2 -  fill my LP tank completely full and my gas tank completely full once each
3 -  buy an entire months worth of groceries
4 -  buy an entire months worth of gas for the car
5 -  pay for 3 months worth of auto insurance
6 -  pay for our home phone for 6 months +
7 -  buy a 7"tablet (if that were on my list)
8 -  buy a large chunk of Christmas gifts for the year
9 -  put tires on my car
10- take the entire family to the dentist for cleanings

What could you do with that much money, and, more importantly, if you know how much energy your appliances use, how much more could you save by making the ones that really drain it more efficient?

I do believe that even just being aware of how much energy your appliances use helps you save money, because awareness increases likelihood of being consiously conservative of the resource. 

More on this topic later . . . . .

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thinning with water

This is kind of a no brainer in some ways, but sometimes I need the reminder ~ Almost any personal care product can successfully be thinned out with water, shampoo, conditioner, liquid soaps, lotions, hairspray, hair gel, etc. Facial care is a little different. I have gotten my best results by wetting my face and hands a little before applying eye creams and facial moisturizer. This way my hands arre not absorbing so much, and I can evenly moisturize my face instead of having some patches more moisturized than others and having some patches feeling heavy. I find this to work excellently! There are also quite a few household products that can be thinned: dish soap, fabric softener, laundry soap, bleach, ammonia, linen water, etc. Give it a try and save some money ~

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DIY - everything!

I used to get other people (mostly my husband) to fix things for me all the time.  But I have learned that you can learn how to do just about anything by googling it or you tube-ing it.  Even surgery - for goodness sakes even surgery is on you tube!!! That is just crazy!!

But I digress.  I have been having some minor computer problems, and taking it to someone can be very, very, VERY expensive!  So, with some uninterrupted time and a lot of diving through websites, I have managed to fix some of my computer problems.

There will always be some things I cannot fix this way, but the more you at least try it, the better at it you become.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Soup/Gravy Thickener

I love roux.  I love butter, flour, and the beautiful toasty thickening bonanza it becomes.  However, I do realize that #1 - butter is expensive, #2 - butter is high in calories and fat, #3 - butter can burn badly and ruin an entire dish.  Cream is also a high dollar item to have go bad in your fridge.  So, I have been watching my Julia Child videos, and she gave a most valuable tip that is easy, cheap and healthy.  Use rice.  Take cooked rice and put it in a blender and add some water (just a couple of tablespoons for  a cup) and blend until smooth.  Then, add it to your soup, and voila, you now have a cream soup or a thickened gravy.

Today, I used leftover cooked brown rice and made a lovely, no lump beef gravy nice and thick.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saving Money After a Purchase

Recently, we purchased a new computer through Staples.com. Of course, I had researched my product to make sure I was getting the most for my money! (We are economically savvy, yes?!)
Something I didn't consider before the purchase was
Don't forget about comparing prices for a couple of weeks (14 days after purchase specifically for Staples) after you shopped! I was leafing through my Sunday sales flyers and spotted the same exact one on sale again for $30 less than before. One painless 800 number phone call (about 10 minutes time with very polite customer service)...and that bargain I already had found got even better!
Other companies offer similar programs...so do your research and check those sales flyers!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I had a dress emergency yesterday, and that 'necessity' made me 'invent' something useful and wonderful.

I needed something to smooth out my tummy and thighs. So, here it is, 4 hours before I have to leave for a funeral, July, hot and I had too many kids to run out and get a satiny thing to help me.  So, I took an old pair of pantyhose and chopped them off at the knee.  This gave me smoothness from the waist to the knee (read as 'no chub-rub), and wasn't too hot.  Plus it was a lot cheaper than a Spanx and I didn't have to go anywhere to get it.

Don't toss holey pantyhose - you never know when you are going to need them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shampoo Update

I can happily say, that after about 2-3 weeks of using baking soda instead of shampoo, my hair has not only survived, but done just fine.  No dryness, no frizzies, no funky feeling, no nothing, just hair.  And I love that!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stretching Ground Beef

We eat quite a bit of ground beef here. Spaghetti, lasagna, nachos, enchiladas, hamburgers, beef skillet (a homemade version of hamburger helper), meatloaf, meatballs, shepherds pie, pastits, etc. Anyway, I have been working on ways to increase the bulk of the ground beef while using less beef, decreasing fat and calories, not greatly changing flavor and not going the soy route. Here is what I have come up with and how it works for us:

carrots: My preference with these is ground (if you have a meat grinder handy), but shredded works fine too, works best with Mexican and Italian flavors, decrease the amount in things like meatloaf and burgers

onions: I use this in pretty much all of my beef mixes, grind or finely chop

brown rice or steel cut oats: these give the chew texture that is similar too beef, dont go overboard with it though or it will give a 'fake chewuy' texture that I just cannot describe

mushrooms: these have a naturally earthy full flavor of their own that works well with beef. I would not buy them primarily as a meat stretcher, but it is a great way to use up extra mushrooms before they spoil, these go over well in burgers and meatloaf

breadcrumbs: use any type of leftover bread heels or whatnot for this, a little goes a long way, hels uwith binding for burgers, meatloaves, meatballs, etc

Anyone have any other 'dirty little secrets' for stretching and (dare I say) fortifying their beef?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chest Freezers

My dad is giving me a chest freezer. It was given to him by a friend who didn't need it anymore, and he already has one so he is passing it to me. I am very excited as I enjoy bulk cooking, shopping, etc. to save time, money, waste, etc. I do think it to be imperative to formulate some sort of syystem/worksheet or something in order to keep up with what's in there, ane how long it has been there. Any suggestions or methods you have found effective?

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I have finally found a shampoo recipe that does not leave a residue, does not dry my hair out and does not smell funky . .... . (drum roll please) - using no shampooo at all!  I was visiting the Simple Mom a couple of days ago and she posted about going shampoo free, the alternative recipe for a hair rinse she did post and I tried it, and it has actually worked better than any of the other recipes ever.  Add one tablespoon baking soda to 1 cup of water, stir well and pour on hair.  Use your hands to work it through a couple of seconds, do it again, leave on for a couple of minutes, then rinse.  If you use a lot of hair junk, you may have to rinse a couple more times.  But that was it.  There is the option of a vinegar rinse, 1 tbsp cider vinegar in 1 cup water, but that does leave a smell.  I did it yesterday, both the baking soda cleaning rinse and the vinegar softening rinse, and my hair looks and feels great - tonight I will do it without the vinegar and see.  I will post an update on this experiment in about  week to see how my hair is doing.

For a better explanation of how this all works, go to,


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Summer Crockpot

Most people generally see the crockpot as a fall/winter tool, but I love it's versatility all year. For instance, tonight I made enchiladas in my crockpot. They were wonderful, and I managed to NOT heat up my kitchen in the process which is great because it has been in the 90's and I am trying hard to keep my AC unit from going into overdrive. So it's. Twofold victory - great dinner and lowered energy cost. Sounds win-win to me. Next recipe to try, crockpot lasagna!

I still need a good way to make bread in the crockpot, but that one is a little more difficult to sort.

Monday, June 27, 2011

One Week

. . . . And I am still on the same squeaky clean trash bag!