Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monthly Roundup: What I Got on our $150 Grocery Budget

My New Year's resolution is to spend $150 cash on our grocery budget.  We do have a good pantry stockpile, as well as toiletry stockpile, so in general I haven't had to purchase items for either.  I did decide that at least this month & the next I'll allow myself to spend up to $200 (I spent $186) in order to stockpile for the impending arrival of Little Baby. 

Here's what that $186 got us:


12 roma tomatoes
1 cucumber
6 romaine hearts
1 bag of onions
1 bag of oranges
4 avocados
6 green peppers

6 cans fat free refried beans
6 cans black beans
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
3 cans tuna
3 cans chicken
2 boxes lasagna noodles
2 boxes ritz type crackers
1 box saltines
1 bottle syrup
1 bag corn chips
2 pack pizza crusts

2 bags shredded hash browns
2 cans frozen apple juice

1 bag plain bagels
1 bag english muffins

heavy whipping cream
unsalted butter
2 gallons of whole milk
1 gallon of skim milk
3 bags of shredded cheddar
1 bag of shredded mozzarella
1 container cottage cheese


Pantry/ Junk Food (many of these were special buys for E's 2nd birthday & not normally on our list):
2 2 liters of Coke
1 2 liter of sparkling water
6 packs of kool-aid
1 pack of crystal lite mix
2 boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix
2 Duncan Hines frosting
2 boxes jello

3 gallons milk
18 eggs
2 dozen eggs
1 quart of Dannon plain yogurt (homemade yogurt starter)
2 Athenos yogurts

2 Jack's pizzas


3 cans of Rol Gold tomatoes (free after coupon)

2 loaves french bread

3 dozen eggs $0.99 each

A-Z (Scratch & Dent Grocery Shopping):

4 boxes of Zatarains Jambalaya
2 boxes of Life cereal
1 box of Blueberry Morning cereal
1 box of Honey Nut Cheerios
12 Luna bars
2 Wishbone Italian dressings
2 Wishbone Balsamic vinaigrette
2 bags of Indiana Popcorn
Valentine's Candy Hearts
12 bags of Dole Apple Bites
2 boxes of Chocolate cookies
1 box of Whole Wheat Linguine
4 bags of Tortilla Chips

All of this for $185.72.   Which we used to make these meals:

Definitely an improvement from last month & we're well stocked for this upcoming month.  Here's hoping I find some more deals this month before I can't go out & easily bargain shop!  ;)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stain Removal for Lazy People

I'd like to say that Emerson is the largest contributor to the stains we have on our clothing, unfortunately that is not the case.  I will forever be the girl who can't wear white without spilling on it.

Case in point:  This lovely little red stain caused by Crystal Light.   Fortunately there's a simple solution. 

Simply remove the garment as quickly as possible.  Rinse in very cold tap water, squirt with a little dish soap, & briefly rub the soap into the stain.  In this case I had some regular Palmolive, but in my experience most dish soaps work.

Then soak the garment in very cold, soapy dish water.  Get on with your day...

Come back in a few hours & like magic, the stain is gone.  I have no idea how it works, but I swear this is the cheapest & easiest way I've found to remove a whole host of stains.  Easy, peasy. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Freezer Cooking: Breakfast Burritos

I'm currently trying to stock our freezer with meals for when Little Baby arrives & I have no time to do anything besides nurse our newborn & take care of our toddler.  In anticipation of that blessed event, I made some breakfast burritos that are a variation on the Simple Dollar's recipe

I scrambled a dozen eggs & thawed & cooked 2 bags of pre-chopped onions & peppers. While the peppers were cooking, I also drained & rinsed a can of black beans. 

**Side note, if you are using frozen peppers & onions & have a lot of excess moisture, don't throw it away!  Drain it off & add it to your homemade stock.  It's super yummy & free!  

Assemble burrito:  eggs, cheese, a spoonful of beans, some peppers & onions, & some salsa if desired.  (I found the salsa made the tortillas a little on the soggy side, but maybe that's just me?)

Wrap burritos in saran wrap or foil, bag, label & freeze.  To thaw, unwrap, microwave for a minute or two, and voila, you have breakfast!

I was able to make these rather cheaply, so here's my cost breakdown using Aldi ingredients, unless specified:

12 eggs--99 cents on sale @ Walgreens
12 tortillas--99 cents
1 can of beans--55 cents
1 cup of cheese-- 44 cents
Salsa--Free (Thanks Gram for sharing your canning!)
Peppers & Onions--46 cents (approx)

Total:  $3.43 or  $0.29 each

Nothing like a healthy breakfast you can eat with one hand while nursing a baby!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super Saturday Shopping--Scratch & Dent Shopping + Couponing at Walmart

We definitely didn't do our usual grocery shopping this weekend.  This morning JC went to Walmart armed with coupons.  We got a coupon for a free gallon of milk with the purchase of 3 breakfast items, so he bought a gallon of milk, 2 Athenos yogurts (splurge), & a dozen Great Day eggs.  His subtotal was $7.51, but after the coupon for the free milk, & a dollar off coupon for the eggs from a few weeks back, we only paid $3.64 after tax.  Good shopping, Husband!

After that we headed to a neighboring town to shop at their scratch & dent grocery store.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure, a scratch & dent grocery store purchases odd lots of items, boxed goods that have been accidentally cut by store clerks, or boxes that have been smashed, & resells them very cheaply.

Our store doesn't have any fresh items, so we couldn't do all of our grocery shopping there, but it's a great way to stock up & refill pantry items.  It's also an easy way to get name brand products inexpensively & without the effort of couponing.

Here's the cost breakdown: 

4 boxes of Zatarains Jambalaya --4 @ $0.60
2 boxes of Life cereal--2 @ $1
1 box of Blueberry Morning cereal--1 @ $1
1 box of Honey Nut Cheerios--1 @ $1
12 Luna bars--12 @ $0.25
2 Wishbone Italian dressings--2 @ $1
2 Wishbone Balsamic vinaigrette--2 @ $0.80
2 bags of Indiana Popcorn--2 @ $1
Valentine's Candy Hearts--$0.50
Dole Apple Bites--12 @ $1
Chocolate cookies--2 @ $0.50
Whole Wheat Linguine--$0.80
Tortilla Chips--4 @ $0.50

Grand total for groceries after tax--$32.08.

I'm particularly excited about the Dole bites (E loves these & they're healthy) & the Luna bars, which will be helpful to have when Little Baby is first born. I'm not entirely sure how much these groceries would normally be if we paid retail, but I would assume they would be somewhere between $60-$80, so we definitely got some deals.

If you do try scratch & dent shopping here are a few hints:  Be sure to look for expiration dates as some of the items are past date.  Also, if you find an amazing deal on something buy it immediately.  Last time we went they had bags of dried black beans for $0.30 & I only bought 2 bags.  Major mistake on my part.  

Hope you found good deals too.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wait, Wait, Don't Trash Me

One of the biggest things I've learned from frugal living is that I need to be creative & look at the possibilities of absolutely everything we have & try to maximize its use.  Here are a few "creative" ways to get the max out of things before they go to the trash.

Save cereal crumbs for yogurt--I save the tail end, yucky in milk cereal, for yummy crunch in yogurt.  Bug & I both love it & it's certainly cheaper than buying/making granola for that purpose.

I've also heard of people saving the lining from their cereal to use in lieu of waxed paper.  If you use waxed paper, let me know what you think of this frugal method. 

Hold on to your butter wrappers--Once you finish a stick of butter hang on to the wrapper until you need to grease a baking dish.  Simply rub the wrapper on the dish & you're good to go.

Freeze & reuse shredded cheese bags--Save these in the freezer & reuse them as wrappers for chunk cheese.  I only reuse these once, but it still saves needing to use a ziploc.

Reuse bread & tortilla bags--Rather than throw these out, save them for wrapping up pizza, double bagging things for the freezer, etc. 

Hold on to those bags--We bring our own bags to the grocery store, so we frequently run low on bags for small trash cans.  Last time in Texas I hit up my gram for some of her bags & she gave me the bag that held their toilet paper, which I thought was brilliant.  We don't go through tp super often, but this method can be applied to any number of exterior product bags. 

While I can't avoid creating waste entirely, it makes me feel better to delay or re-purpose things on their way to the bin.  Any of you lovelies have any other ideas?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Keurig: Convenient Coffee at What Cost?

I don't have a Keurig, nor do I have any intentions of switching from the coffee maker we received as a wedding present nearly four years ago.  Truthfully, I haven't given much thought to the Keurig, except to puzzle over its popularlarity & the (in my opinion) exorbitant price of owning one. 

That was until today when I saw this video that shows that the non-recyclable Keurig cups are quickly cluttering up our already taxed landfills. To me, that hot new kitchen appliance isn't looking so attractive anymore.
So what to do?  If you own a Keurig, consider purchasing a refillable K cup like the EkoBrew.  You can fill it with any standard hot beverage of choice AND prevent those little Keurig cups from winding up in the landfill, saving both you & our environment.  After the initial $12 investment, that's a pretty sweet deal. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Use It Up: Homemade Vegetable Stock

Recently I was reading online about people making vegetable stock from their veggie scraps & I figured I'd try it.  I kept an old cottage cheese container in our freezer & any time I peeled a carrot, chopped up some celery, or onion I simply put the scraps in the container.  It took about .2 seconds for it to be full.  I also collected fresh veggie scraps for stock as well, which made for two crock pots of stock. 

I simply threw my veg in the crock pot, filled it with enough water to cover all of my vegetables, & seasoned with my favorite spices.  I used 2 bay leaves, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, & onion powder.  (I actually used some onion powder that globbed into large balls due to lovely Arkansas humidity & I would have normally thrown out.  Yay!) 

I set my crock pot on low & allowed the stock to simmer for approximately 4 hours or until the vegetables became somewhat translucent.  Then I simply strained the stock.  And by simply I mean spilt scalding liquid all over our kitchen, down our cabinets, & on my feet while saying some not child friendly words.  Whoopsie.  Allow yours to cool first, won't you?

After years of buying vegetable stock, I am so happy to essentially be turning my trash into treasure.  This stock is a delicious, nutritious,  money saver & I now have two large containers of stock in our freezer.  If only I had tried doing this sooner!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weekend Shopping: 7th Generation Tissue & more for $0.18

We're currently taking turns being sick, so I didn't get the opportunity to go out this weekend for our mid-month perishable restock trip.  I did, however, receive my order from Vitacost and was really excited.  I'd never heard of Vitacost before, but it's an online pharmacy (like that specializes in organic, natural, & environmentally friendly products. They have groceries, household cleaners, baby products, you name it, they have it. 

They're currently running a promotion giving you $10 when you start a new account, & I just couldn't turn down the "free" money.   I used my $10 to get 4 boxes of 7th Generation kleenex, an Earth's Best Organic snack for Emerson, & I got two free samples to boot. 

My total came to $0.18 & shipping was only $4.99, which made essentially made the 7th Generation boxes of tissue $0.93 each;  a great price for tissues, especially ones made with recycled paper.  Check out Vitacost, sign up, use your $10, get up to two free samples, & enjoy.  Easy peasy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm at the tail end of a marathon two day freezer cooking session, in the hopes of filling our freezer with treats before Little Baby arrives.  These muffins are a variation of MoneySavingMom's recipe, but I made them a little more healthful, used sweet potato puree instead of pumpkin, & cooked a double batch. They're delicious, freeze well, & are something that is great any time of the day. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 16 oz pureed pumpkin (sweet potato)
  • 3/4 cups oil
  • 3/4 cups of applesauce (sweet potato or banana can also be used)
  • 2 cups  whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 tablespoon of flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 package chocolate chips (add a tiny bit of flour to the chips so they don't sink to the bottom)
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, and oil until smooth. Add in dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 16-20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Makes 24-30 muffins.


**I lowered the temp to 375 because my first batch came out too dark.  It could be my oven, but if your oven runs hot keep it at 375 rather than the 400 degrees in MSM's recipe.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sweet Potatoes vs. Pumpkin in Baking

I'm trying to spend $150 a month on groceries, & one part of keeping that restrictive budget is making sure no food goes to waste.  So when I saw our bag of sweet potatoes looking a little weird (they're so darn ugly I never know if they're getting old) I figured I should cook them up just in case.  

The only problem is our family wouldn't go through a bag of cooked sweet potatoes before they rotted, so I figured I could use them in place of pumpkin in a muffin recipe.  Here's how I did it:

I simply baked potatoes at 450°F for 20-30 minutes or until the potato shrunk up from the skin.  

I then used a fork to pierce & remove the skin.  

Because my food processor is just god-awful, I had to chop the sweet potato, fork mash it, then add it to the food processor until it was pureed.  If you happen to have a decent food processor, feel free to skip many, many of these tedious steps.

Simply measure & use just like you would pumpkin.  It tastes the same & with canned pumpkin in short supply in recent years, this is an extremely fresh & economical alternative. Try it, you'll like it. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Simple Valentine's Day

I've always sort of detested Valentine's Day, but now we celebrate the love we have as a family, which I like much better.  Rather than hire a babysitter & leave Emerson at home, we like to spend the day together.

For JC, I made a card on Tiny Prints several weeks ago & got it for free with a promotional Facebook code.  Emerson then helped decorate the envelope for her daddy.

We used some left-over birthday money to buy Lady & The Tramp for Emerson, & she quite enjoyed eating smarties out of the accompanying Lady & The Tramp bowl.

For the evening, we had a coupon & a gift card to Olive Garden, which made for a rather economical meal; especially considering the leftovers will be eaten for a meal tomorrow.  Our evening's entertainment was watching the Breaking Dawn Part 1 DVD JC bought for my/our present.

After our gift card, coupon, & various birthday/Valentine's presents we only had to spend $4 out of pocket.  Not too shabby!  It was a nice quiet day at home, which is just how we like it. 

Hope your day was filled with happiness & love!

Monday, February 13, 2012

DIY Fabric Softener

I haven't bought fabric softener in months.  We've run out of the Downy I bought several years ago for $0.99 a bottle & have just been making do without softener or  a splash of vinegar as necessary.  While I haven't have any trouble with static I must admit I do miss the smell of softener on our towels & sheets, but I figured I wouldn't buy any unless I could get it for under $1 after sales & coupons.

Then I read the following DIY Fabric Softener on & figured I'd try it out:

3 c vinegar
2 c hair conditioner
6 c water

While this recipe looked great, it was a little large for me, so I used this recipe conversion calculator to reduce the amount down.  

I used hotel samples of conditioner that smelled like heaven, but were rather thin & after draining them in a funnel overnight ended up with 1/2 cup of conditioner.  

 While measuring the  1 1/2 cups of water, I funneled a little into each bottle so I could shake the remaining conditioner loose & not have any go to waste.

I then added 3/4 c of vinegar & poured all of it into a mason jar.  Shake the mixture until it is evenly incorporated & voila, you have homemade fabric softener!  I found an old measuring cup from coffee & intend to use that small amount (approx 1 T) per load as we have a HE washer. 

I'm not certain that this is the most economical recipe, but if you happened to have free conditioner on hand then this is a great solution. Add this to some homemade laundry detergent & you've got a frugal laundry habit! 

Happy washing!

Friday, February 10, 2012

No Cow Needed: Seven Ways to Save on Milk

After tallying our last month's grocery expenses I realized we spent roughly 20% of our grocery money on milk.  Yikes!  Fortunately the ever timely Krazy Coupon Lady had this article suggesting 7 different ways to save on milk.  I will say that the suggestion about using powdered milk has gotten a lot of heat in the comments, as powdered milk prices have sky rocketed recently, but I still found it to be a worthwhile read. 

Plus, it's written by a woman who lives 45 minutes from my hometown.  How fun is that?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Save Thousands in 15 Minutes or Less

Kiplinger put together a list of ways to save thousands with minimal effort.  Aside from the usual Don't Pay Fees on Credit Cards, there are some clever little websites & tricks that I've never heard.  Check it out here & hopefully save yourself some sweet moolah.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Emerson's 2nd Birthday

Emerson's 2nd birthday was last week on Thursday and we had a great little celebration. 

We took her to Petco where this nice guy let her pet his dog.

She checked out all of the little Nemo's

&  far less pleasing animals like rats.

Then we headed to the park for swinging

& other fun. 


It was a great day & Emerson had a lot of fun.  Happy 2nd birthday Doodlebug!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Day In The Life

Before I was a homemaker, I frequently wondered, 'What the heck does a stay at home mom do all day?'  Here's a brief re-cap of my day:

Gather E into our bed for daily watching of Sesame Street.  Discover lovely disposable diaper has leaked everywhere, right down to our sheets, our mattress pad, & mattress.  Change baby.  Remove sheets.  Start wash.  Fix breakfast.

Call Pampers to complain about the faulty diaper, while trying to entertain toddler.  Call to make a return for a faulty Christmas present that has been sitting on our dining room table for a month.  Hang sheets on line.

Take call from sister, get crayons for E.  Start more wash.  Get dressed, pack up toddler, go to store for $0.99 eggs.  Realize while shopping cloth diaper has leaked.  Crap.  Hurry home.  Change diaper, change clothes, fix snack.  Nap.

Load & run dishwasher.  Prep freezer cooking session.  Scramble a dozen eggs, saute peppers & onions.  Eat a slice of leftover pizza while standing up, prepping other ingredients.  Realize burrito rolling is harder than it looks, wrap & freeze burritos.  Go comfort screaming toddler who has realized she's napping without her favorite blanket.  Pull blanket out of the washer & hang outside to dry.

Sit down for 15 minutes to eat lunch.  Run outside to get blanket & give it to daughter so she can return to napping.  Realize cloth diaper has leaked, despite best efforts to insure dryness.  Change diaper, change baby, change wet quilt.  Put baby back down.  Fold clothes. Fix snack, wake daughter up, go pick up friend's son.

Drive home.  Gather up necessary baby doll & blanket for daughter.  Go for walk.   Cash checks at bank.  Return package to UPS.  Walk home.  Change diaper, fix snack.  Hang wash inside while talking to other sister. Fix supper.

Realize it's getting dark & there's still wash on the line.  Remove wash.  Kiss husband, sing wrong prayer at dinner & make toddler scream.  Eat supper.  Realize diaper has leaked for the MILLIONTH time & child MUST be potty trained immediately.

Watch potty training video while chasing naked baby to & from potty.  Get child dressed.  Have her rush to the potty immediately after being fully dressed & THEN decide to pee.  Diaper leaked.  Oh. My. Word.  Change diaper.

Try to convince toddler to clean up before bed.  No.  Watch husband clean up toys while toddler tries to remove them from the toy basket.  Make toddler cry because she must  go to bed.  Realize diaper leaked AGAIN.  (Are you freakin' kiddin' me?!) Gather new pjs, say nighttime prayers, kiss baby, feel totally drained.

Go to lay down in bed, realize there are still no sheets on the bed from this morning.  Make up bed while grunting in pain at bending down with a 7 month preggo belly.  Kiss husband.  Eat cupcake.  Thank God tomorrow is a new day & a new blessing.


Friday, February 3, 2012

The New Domesticity

I recently stumbled upon this article from the Washington Post.  As a person who never thought she'd be a homemaker, I find it super interesting.  I know that I, for one, wouldn't want to be anywhere else but at home living the domestic life