Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Money Saving Mom's Budget book

I did a search at the library and this book came up so I reserved it.  I figured if it was interesting I was all set and if it was boring, I could just return it.  I opened up the inside and saw that it was from the women who writes the blog moneysavingmom.com and I realized that I was going to have to read it.  As most could tell if they paid attention to the title, The Money Saving Mom's Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year by Crystal Paine is written by the Money Saving Mom.  The problem that I have with the books that require action is that I want to read the whole book and then do the "chores" that they recommend.  I should probably take notes on the homework assignments and power through.  I might have to go back and read the beginning to see what I have to do.

On page 59, the author lists ten drastic measures to lower your expenses by at least $600 or more per month.

1.  Downsize your home- not happening!  We bought a smaller fixer upper house and we have spent many years fixing it up so we are not moving and I don't think that we could find a place cheaper then here.

2.  Become a single car family- not happening.  We have two really old cars (okay, one is truck).  If we did have one car then my son and I would have to get up and going and take my husband to work in the morning when we needed to use the car which would cost lots more in gas.  It would be better to change the car insurance to be collision only and with my record and the way people drive in this area, we just haven't taken the plunge.

3.  Stop eating out- Done.  We only go when we have a gift card from someone else (Thanks Ann, we went to Panera last weekend when we went to the outlets to get my pots on super crazy sale with my gift card from Christmas).  My husband has had two lunches out both $5 in the past three months when travelling from one meeting to the next for a special treat.

4.  Get Rid of Cable-  Done.  We didn't get cable when we moved from our apartment to our house 9 years ago so we haven't had it in 9 years and really don't miss it.  We can hardly keep up with the normal channels.

5.  Cancel all subscriptions and membership- Done (ish).  My husband and I both have a magazine subscription that my parents give us for Christmas so there isn't any cost associated with it.  My husband does have one magazine (only $20 per year) but it is going to go for 3 years before it expires and it helps save money with projects around the house.  We don't have gym membership or Jazzercise membership anymore.

6.  Cut the bells and whistles on the phone- Done.  The home phone is already cut to barebones and had been for 9 years since we moved in.  We don't have local or long distance calling on it so we only use it for incoming calls and power failure situations.  I would like to cancel the home phone all together but my husband wants to make sure that we have a land line in case of emergency if cell phones aren't working like on 9-11.  My cell phone is at the lowest plan that we can since we have a family plan with both of my parents on it and they now pay half the bill.  I would cancel it but we use it to talk to family and they are all in network so we can talk to them as much as we want or need to.

7.  Eat more meatless meals- this is a tough one.  We did a spaghetti dish with zucchini that was meatless but only a few times.  We normally did spaghetti and meatball meal where there wasn't much meat but we really aren't a meatless family.  I guess we could try a few but I think that we normally get meat for so cheap and don't buy the expensive cuts over $2 per lb.  The way I have tried to get around this like they mention in the book Family Feasts for $75 per week, make meat a side dish.  I make a pizza that has meat on it but it is a little bit compared to a normal meat and potatoes meal.  I also make a taco rice where the main part is the rice and one pound of meat can be split to make taco rice and a pasta dish and one other item.  I follow the idea of the $5 Dinners to try to get everything for way under $5 per meal.  I am usually really successful in doing that so we don't have to have a lot of meatless meals.

8.  Quit using your dryer-  I think that this one sounds do-able.  I don't know if it will save as much as they think that it will be something that I can think about.  I would have to figure out where I can get a clothesline and where I would be able to hang it.  I think that I could find somewhere in the backyard to put it but it would take a little investment to get the clothespins and line.  The numbers that I have seen on this are saving $10-$15 per month.  I am not sure if it is worth the initial investment but I will look into with the warm summer months around the corner.

9. Adjust your thermostat- Done.  I have adjusted it down a few clicks and we have the programabler thermostat- Done.  I have adjusted it down a few clicks and we have the programable one so it changes throughout the day.  I spend most of my time under a blanket either way because I love snuggling in with my blanket and reading a book.  As long as there is no one else here, there is no one to mind the cold :)

10. Plan a menu and use coupons- Done.  This is obviously where I started!  I started using coupons 3 years ago and shortly after started planning a menu.  I have been working to use the items in the freezer while using the grocery money for the month to stock up on things for next month or perishables for the current month.  I think that I have done a great job getting all of the things that my husband and son consider essential items to have in the house like Cheese-Its, Cranberry Juice, Frozen Pancakes, Ham and Turkey lunchmeat while remaining under budget.  The main reason is because I try to save as much as I can on the other items so that I can fit in a few more luxury items like Cranberry Juice (don't know if you have seen the going rate for it recently but it is pushing $4).  I think that menu planning is a great thing and helps when shopping greatly because you know what you have and if you need anymore :)

The other part that is closely related to this topic for me is the budget (which she mentions in another section).  I found lots of great deals when I first started couponing and I didn't know when to stop.  If I had 5 coupons, then I was out buying 5 shavers.  Do I need that many shavers???  NOPE!!!  As evidenced if anyone has seen my under the bed boxes in the guest room.  I have one for shampoo and shower gels (with a little corner for my husbands toothpaste and deodorant).  I have one for all the small stuff like nail clippers, lip gloss, travel tide, toothbrushes, and this also includes air freshner, hand soap, and shave cream.  I have another one that has bars of soap, lotion, and shavers.  Lastly, I have one for feminine products shoved all the way to the back.  There is a logic in my head but I don't know what to tell you because it doesn't work for everyone plus there is also a weight limit to what I can actually pull out from under the bed and the one with the shampoos is super heavy!!!  Recently added a smaller box for medicine and things that shouldn't be mixed with soap like cough drop :)  Anyway, back on topic, I had to set a budget so that I didn't buy every deal out there.  After couponing for a year without a budget, I knew that I needed some financial boundaries or we would go broke with all the deals that I was getting (they all aren't free you know).  I started tracking my grocery expenses (including diapers, personal care items, and household products) in February 2011 which happens to be the same time that I quit my job to stay home.  See how that makes sense that I wasn't making an income so I had to make sure that we didn't have a huge outpouring of cash for the items we needed.  Obviously it would be nice to have steak and baked potatoes with asparagus but was that something we could afford.  Meal planning linked to budgeting helped me to decide :)

For those of you out there looking to get all the benefits from this book without picking it up, I gathered a list of websites that she suggested so that you could check them out.  I haven't checked them out yet but I am sure that there are a few winners in the bunch!!

myfridgefood.com- make meals out of items in the fridge
lifeasmom.com- freezer cooking
leftoverchef.com- recipes to use leftovers
momsbudget.com- homemade cleaners
crockpot365.blogspot.com- crockpot meals
vrbo.com- vacation rentals by owner
recipezaar.com- restaurant copycat recipes
beautyandbedlam.com- thrift store shopping

Best idea is to pick this up at your local library or bookstore and check it out for yourself.  It is a super fast read with lots of measurable hints on how to get better at tons of things and be grateful for what you have.  I hope that you enjoy it if you do pick it up to read :)  I know that I am glad that I stumbled upon it!!!

Books I Plan to Read in 2012

One of my goals in the New Year was to read more.  I was trying to get to 4 books a month which was a 400% increase over the previous year but I knew that I could do it.  I was also going to try to read some different books than I would normally read (not just fiction novels).  The other part was that I would not pay for a book, taking most of them out of the library or getting them as gifts or borrowing from friends.  If you have any books you think that I should read, please send them over :)

I have been blog hopping and I found two blogs that had a list of books that they are going to read for the year (moneysavingmom.com and ourfrugalhappylife.blogspot.com).  They break it down by month and I was going to try to do the same thing even though I kind of missed posting this in December/ January but I have a partial list on the blog to go back and see what I have read this year so far :)  I hope that you add a few books to your list to read and enjoy.  Here are my monthly goals which I will keep updated as the year goes on.

January- DONE 5 books
The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed a Money Group, and Took Control of Their Finances by The Smart Cookies and Jennifer Barrett

The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare by Erin Chase

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare by Erin Chase

Whatever Happened to Thrift?: Why Americans Don't Save and What to Do about It by Ronald T. Wilcox

The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn

February- DONE 6 books
Naptime Is the New Happy Hour: And Other Ways Toddlers Turn Your Life Upside Down by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

Frugal Living for Dummies by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style by Marjorie Harris

It's Not About the Money: Unlock Your Money Type to Achieve Spiritual and Financial Abundance by Brent Kessel

Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill by Mary Ostyn

The Money Saving Mom's Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year by Crystal Paine

March- DONE 9 books
The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money by Carmen Wong Ulrich

When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nug... and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be by Amy Wilson

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat 1) by Richard Castle

The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better by Chris Farrell

Hot (broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink It Too by Nancy Trejos

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat 2) by Richard Castle

Safe Money in Tough Times: Everything You Need to Know to Survive the Financial Crisis by Jonathan D. Pond

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese

Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms by Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth

April- DONE 8 books 
I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood by Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth

Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving by Jonni McCoy 
The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (8) by Alexander McCall Smith
 
In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue by Lauren Weber


The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (13) by Alexander McCall Smith

The Lazy Couponer: How to Save $25,000 Per Year in Just 45 Minutes Per Week with No Stockpiling, No Item Tracking, and No Sales Chasing!

Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners (A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook) by Rachael Ray

Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home by Pamela Stone


Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days: An Almost Completely Honest Account of What Happened to Our Family When Our ... Came to Live with Us for Three Months by Judith Viorst

Home Economics by Jennifer Mcknight Trontz


Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life  by Jenna Woginrich
by Cindy Glovinsky


The Vow: The True Events that Inspired the Movie by Kim Carpenter, Krickitt Carpenter and Dana Wilkerson

August- DONE  8 Books
It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh

Almost Amish: A Novel by Kathryn Cushman

Nothing to Hide (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand

Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You by Peter Walsh

Back on Murder (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand

Friendship Bread: A Novel by Darien Gee

The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins

September- DONE 3 Books
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins

SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck by Julie Morgenstern

Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It by Cindy Glovinsky

October- DONE 5 Books
Pattern of Wounds (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand

Momfidence!: An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting by Paula Spencer

That Summer Place: Old Things\Private Paradise\Island Time by Jill Barnett, Debbie Macomber and Susan Wiggs

The Nanny Diaries: A Novel by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Fourplay: A Novel by Jane Moore

November- DONE 4 Books
He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

Hannah's Art of Home: Managing Your Home Around Your Personality (Capital Lifestyles) by Hannah J. Keeley

Discipline without Shouting or Spanking: Practical Solutions to the Most Common Preschool Behavior Problems by Jerry L. Wyckoff and Barbara C. Unell

Frozen Heat (Nikki Heat, Book 4) by Richard Castle

December 
We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?: An Easy Plan for Losing Weight and Living More by Peter Walsh

How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too! by Sal Severe

Cinnamon and Sugar Pie Crust Cookies

Okay, so my creativity is running to an all time low here at the end of the month but I usually bake on Wednesdays and/or Fridays because they are preschool days.  My son told me this morning for breakfast that he wanted me to make him brownies.  He went to the cupboard and got out the box and handed it to me.  He thinks that the brownie magically come out of the box ready for him to eat and that I would give him a brownie for breakfast.  Neither of these things being true, I looked in the fridge and I saw my last two eggs and told him that I would make them while he was at school.  The brownies call for 2 eggs so it was a match made in heaven.  Son happy and easy baked good done!  This should mean that I have the rest of the day to put my feet up and eat bon bons!!!  Well, I decided that I was going to make Cinnamon and Sugar Pie Crust cookies.  My mom left me a box of pie crust mix that she bought (she said by accident which I don't know what that means but don't ask if you don't want to know) so I figured that I would use it to make the recipe that I saw the other day for cinnamon and sugar pie crust cookies.  Drat!!  Forgot to bookmark it... starting internet search to double check.  Found!!  Back on for Cinnamon and Sugar Pie Crust Cookies.  Start the search for cookie cutters that aren't Christmas or Halloween (stopped to daydream about cookie cutters, note to self:  add to Amazon wish list).  Found a heart, snowman, teddy bear, lighthouse, and star thingy (see in picture at the bottom). 

How to actually make them:  I made the dough per the package directions but it would be great to use the roll out pie crusts which is what I plan on doing with the pie crust in the freezer next.  That way I won't have to roll out the dough and my son can help cut the cookies.  Put the cookies on a cookie sheet and brush with melted butter.  I just melted some of the spread from the fridge. 


Shake with cinnamon and sugar shaker.  Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  The smaller the cookies, the lower the time.  I ate some right off the tray and they were super yummy and fluffly layers.  I tried a few different shapes just to be sure and they were all equally good.



They are a super yummy treat (especially if you have extra pie dough sitting in the freezer from the holidays and no flour or eggs left in the house to make anything else).  I would have eaten the whole tray on this cold. rainy day if I didn't think that would make my son and husband said to not get to try them.  I will let you know what they think but I am sure that these are going to rank out there with their favorites.  Easy as rice krispie treats with all of the satisfaction of making something yummy for your family (or yourself, I won't tell).  Hope you enjoy!!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2/27

Monday- Philly Cheesesteak Pasta
Tuesday- Original Spiedies and white rice
Wednesday- Taco Wontons
Thursday- Bisqiuck Chicken and Pasta Roni
Friday- ????  Daddy's Special Birthday Dinner ????
Saturday- Leftovers/Chicken Wraps
Sunday- Hamburger for Bryan and BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Toast) for me/??

I am trying to leave the weekends open so that we can figure it out when we get there.  That helps finish up leftovers or figure out new meals with the leftovers like fried rice and other creations that we had last weekend.  I always hope that it will leave a chance to try out a new recipe but you never know if the inspiration will strike :)  I will certainly let you know!  Plus I have to go to the store sometime soon and get lots of good stuff to eat!!!

Naptime is the New Happy Hour Book

I couldn't resist this book when I saw it on the shelf and I was right.  Naptime Is the New Happy Hour: And Other Ways Toddlers Turn Your Life Upside Down by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor was a laugh a minute from the first page.  I had to read part of it out loud to my husband.  I would tell any mom to read this one and get a few great laughs (but a big warning to not read this if pregnant or do not yet have children).  It went through chapter by chapter of all of the things that happen to moms.  Ever been in a mom's group where another mom says that her kid doesn't watch TV and only eats nutritious food? This book gives you helpful hints for not feeling bad about putting your kid in front of the TV to make dinner and to get a break.  She walks you through her first Pampered Chef party which she walked away with a can opener that doesn't leave a sharp edge and a bad feeling about her kitchen and culinary skills.  The author's story of her daughter's first hair cut is one to read!  The author tells tons of fun stories that we all know to be true from nursery schools, leaving work to be a SAHM, playgroup, finding the right mom and kid friend combo, and more!  I certainly don't have the affinity for wine that the author does but I certainly understand that inclination!!  It is a super funny book that kept me laughing right to the end.  I can't wait to find her other book on the shelf at the library :)  I hope that you enjoy the book and get a few laughs if the day isn't going your way.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Flour Emergency Situation

I baked doughnut muffins and a loaf of American Sandwich bread this morning.  I think that everyone knows that like to bake but this is just crazy.  I went out to buy 5 pounds of flour at Giant on February 11th (ony telling you that because it is important to the story) because I was suposed to be making a cake for a baby shower the next day.  I had a little left but not enough for the recipe.  I was on the phone with my parents after they got home and my dad was pricing out the flour at Sam's Club.  In case you are wondering, there was a 10 lb. King Arthur flour for $0.60 per pound.  For those of you like me, who looked up and started to multiple by 5 to figure out how much a 5 lb bag was, I did the math- it is $3.  I think that I can find that good of a deal at the grocery store so I don't see a need to splurge at Sam's Club.  They had a 25 lb. bag of Bakers All Purpose flour which was $0.30 per pound.  Back to the math, that makes it $1.50 for the one at the normal grocery store bag.  I thought that was a pretty good deal.  My mom claims to be able to get a 5 lb bag of flour all the time for $0.99.  Personally, I haven't seen that in years but she gets it so I guess I should have her do my shopping.  I (using my mothers logic) told my dad that I didn't need it because I couldn't figure out what to do with a 25 pound bag.  My container only holds 10 pounds so what do I do with the other 15 lbs. 

Fast forward two weeks, and this is what I have left.  Also, you should know that I have all purpose flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour and corn flour so this is only two of my flours pictured below.

My flour container-
 Bread flour (out of the bag)-
I guess it is hard to see in the second one but I am going to have a hard time making even one more recipe out of either one of them.  It is touch and go situation with the low levels of flour here.  If you hear a low moaning sound coming from the house, it is just me crying over the lack of flour.  Of course, it is doubtful that you would hear me over the construction next door but I just wanted to let you know.  I am now going to have to figure out the recipes that use the least bit of flour to make the most treats or go to the store and buy flour like other people do :)  Hope your family doesn't use flour at the same rate!!!

It reminds me of a story of my aunt and how she didn't use flour.  We were at her house for Thanksgiving and my mom asked her for flour but she said that she never keeps it in the house.  My mom then had to try to figure out how to thicken the gravy without flour which was interesting.  When were at the store weeks later, I told my mom that we needed to get a bag of flour for her sister for Christmas.  We wrapped it up and gave it to her for Christmas and she laughed so hard that she almost stopped breathing.  In addition, for years later we asked her to show us her flour.  She would still have the flour that I gave her when I was a kid if it lasted that long but she now does have some flour in the house in a bag so small that I didn't know they sold them!!  I grew up in a house with at least 10 lbs. of flour on hand at all times so this was a new one to me.  How much baking supplies do you keep in the house???  Do you always have flour, sugar, brown sugar, confectioners sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and butter??  I always have those around (and a box of brownie mix) so that I am prepared for an baking emergency.  I don't feel that I am properly ready for a baking emergency currently so lets hope that I don't have one!!

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins

I usually try to make something yummy for the weekend but with my son's crazy sleep patterns (up every 2 hours), we are lucky to be awake and upright to eat something yummy.  I woke up a little later then a normal Sunday but I was still determined to make something.  I remembered a yummy recipe that I saw on Mary Ellen's site Whisked Together (http://whisktogether.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/doughnut-muffins/).  I don't know if I told you but I love everything that she makes... check out some of the new recipes and I am sure you will too!!!  Back to the muffins, I thought that it would be a hit with my son because he usually eats anything and everything covered in cinnamon and sugar.  I mixed it all up and it actually made 18 muffins for me too.  Usually, I make less than the recipe calls for because my muffin tins are a little bigger than others.  I made the first batch, per the recipe, only dipping the top in butter.  Since we have a shaker of cinnamon and sugar pre-mixed,  I just shook it on top (see it all over the plate).


 But we really like our cinnamon and sugar so I covered the whole muffin in butter and rolled it in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  They were super extra yummy like that :)

I changed the recipe a little and added cinnamon to batter since I love cinnamon.  I think that I might also add a little bit of cloves next time because I think that it might be my favorite spice.  I was also thinking about using a cinnamon powdered sugar mixture on the outside.  When I make doughnuts, I usually use the powdered sugar on the outside because it is my husbands favorite.  I hope that you try the recipe and make it your own (the way your family will like them)!!!  I think that you could add apples or chocolate chips to some of them to see how they turned out too.  I hope that you try them soon :)

 Doughnut Muffins
yield 18
¼ cup butter
¼ cup vegetable (or canola)
oil
½ cup (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/3
cup (2.5 oz) brown sugar
2 large
eggs
1
½ tsp. baking powder
¼
tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground nutmeg ( I used 1.25 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg)
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 2/3 cup (11.25 oz)AP flour
1 cup milk

Coating:
1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter
3 Tbsp. sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease muffin pan.  
2.  In the mixing bowl, combine the butter, oil and sugars.
3.  Beat in the eggs.
4.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.
5.  Alternately add the flour and milk in 3-4 installments.  Always always begin and end with the flour.
6.  Divide the batter between the 18 muffin cups.  
7.  Bake these for 15-17 minutes.  The toothpick test should be clean.
8.  After about 5 minutes, remove them from the hot pan and place on a wire rack.  When you can handle them, brush or dip the tops in butter.  Then, sprinkle or dip the tops in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Serve warm.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Frugal Living for Dummies book

I started reading Frugal Living for Dummies by Deborah Taylor-Hough which I got from the library thinking that it might be a little bit easier read then some of the other books that I have read recently.  It is an interesting read and it has an interesting organization method to the chapters.  It is a quick read at 248 pages but I don't know it provides a ton of interesting advice.  There is a section on homemade personal care items including a scrub made from olive oil and salt.  I never thought about that as a combination but it is used as a face scrub (and I would guess body scrub) to exfoliate and then hydrogen peroxide to acts as an astringent (because it isn't supposed to dry you out as much as rubbing alcohol).  They also recommend desitin diaper rash cream for blemishes so I guess I am set if I get a pimple :)  If you are between products and haven't gotten to the store to buy more, try these and see if they work first.... and then let me know! 

 Topics were basics, eating, family, home, and gifts.  It gives ideas for the grocery store, shopping at second hand stores and topics that are common sense.  I think that everyone knows it will cost $60 or more to take a family to a move and about $5 to rent a movie and watch it at home.  Then they follow with an idea that this saved $55 should be put towards a vacation which seems like a crazy conclusion.  A family is staying home to watch the video to save the money because they don't have the $60, not so that they can put it towards a vacation.  I use coupons at the store to save money on groceries to support my family.  If I saved around $575 for the month, that doesn't mean that I have that money to put into the vacation fund.  I didn't disagree with most of the ideas in the book except this one because it seems like a strange way to fund a vacation.  I hope to fund a vacation through using frugal measures through the year but I don't think that I am going to over $600 closer by skipping going to the movie and couponing, a little closer to saving in general. 

When you get to the end of the book, it just ends.  There is no wrap up or anything and the next page is the index.  It is a little strange but I guess they covered the topics that they wanted so they were done. Overall, I don't think that I would recommend the book for others.  If you truly do want the frugal living guidebook, I think that there are other more interesting reads out there with recipes and concrete steps to help save money.  Hope this review helps you to know whether you should skip this at the local library or bookstore!!

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

I am sure that I have shared this recipe already but I made some more today sauce today so I thought I would share for a variety of reasons.  First, I organized (moved stuff around) in the downstairs pantry the other day to see what items were left to try to figure out what we were going to have for our March meal plan.  In case you haven't seen the pantry in the basement (which very few have because my basement is a mess), our old kitchen cabinets were re-purposed to hold lots and lots of stuff in the basement.  I have one set aside for all the canned goods so that they aren't all in my kitchen putting weight in my new cabinets.


I know that it looks like a confusing mess to most but I do have a method to my madness.  The bottom right is all Campbell's soups (chicken noodle, cream of chicken and tomato), the second shelf on the right is the peanut butter and jelly.  There were some other sections like the salad dressing was on the bottom left but then I started to put the dressing that we used as marinates on the top shelf which I think confused the situation.  Anyway, in my "cleaning" I saw that a few of my tomato paste collection had a date of March 2012 so I figured that I should come up with a few recipes to use those before March which is right around the corner. Excited to put a use to my free organic tomato paste... I had a coupon :)
In case you can't tell in the picture above, the 2012 expiration are on the first shelf and the 2013 are on the second shelf so that I don't get confused and use a newer one first.  See method to madness :)  If you have any other recipes that use tomato paste, please send them my way because I think that I have 6-8 more cans to use before March and I don't think that I will need more enchilada sauce (although I might be making some anyway since they freeze so well). 

Long story to tell you that I decided to make enchilada sauce which is one of my biggest user of tomato paste.  There are tons of recipes online that use tomato sauce or other forms but I did a google search to use the items in the pantry and found one which I promptly changed to meet my needs.  I used to buy the cans of enchilada sauce but they aren't on sale very often and the coupons tend to be getting worse and worse so this recipe makes the sauce for pennies and hopefully a little healthier.  Normally, I mix the store bought enchilada sauce with a can of tomato paste (recommendation from my mother in law) to make it a little thicker, less spicy and make it go farther.  So when making the recipe, it made sense to incorporate that extra amount of tomato paste upfront in the recipe.  Since I had so many cans of tomato paste, I doubled the recipe which filled my pot to the top (note to self: don't do more then double or it won't fit into the pot).

Enchilada Sauce

 

Ingredients:

·                        2 tbsp vegetable oil
·                        2 tbsp flour
·                        2 tbsp chili powder
·                        1/2 tsp cumin
·                        1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional which I don't use)
·                        2 cups water
·                        12 ounce can tomato paste (original recipe called for 8 oz.)
·                        1 tsp garlic powder
·                        1/2 tsp onion powder
·                        1/2 tsp salt
Preparation:
Heat the oil, flour and chili powder together in a large pot. Allow to cook for a minute or two.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow simmer. Stir well to combine and dissolve tomato paste in water. Allow to cook for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more spices as desired.
 Hope that you try this easy recipe to make some sauce for your family!!!  It is a great one to make on the weekend or at night after the little ones have gone to sleep.  Each batch makes enough for two pans of my enchiladas so if you do make it when you are making enchiladas, be prepared to store the "leftovers."  It freezes great so that you have everything ready to go when you make enchiladas the next time and as easy as opening the can from the store.  Check out these bags ready for the freezer.


Next project, clean out the freezer enough to fit these!!!  I should have defrosted but instead I kept filling.  My freezer always calls to me in March to defrost but it is also at it's most full.  I am trying to let it know that it is Frozen Food month which means that frozen food is on super good deals so it is a bad time to need to be defrosted.  I swore last year that I would defrost before March and it snuck up on me again!!  I need to put it on the calendar for January next year :)  Please remind me because I am going to have to eat everything in the freezer before defrosting so it might take until summer!!!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Month End Budget Update

The month is almost coming to a close and it has come to a shopping close for me with my last trip to go buy bread this morning.

Okay, so the picture adds confusion of how I ended up with Tide too!  I had two smaller Tides which were not the HE kind that I need for my washer so I brought them back and exchanged them for the bigger one which is the only one that has the HE in the Tide Free for our sensitive skin household.  I only had to pay $0.35 for my exchange so it worked out well.  I should have done it when the bigger ones were on sale and I would have made a profit!  NUTS!

Wondering how the month worked out?  I was too after this mornings trip so I sat down to crunch the numbers and see where I ended up :)  This is the first month that I tracked the spending, savings, and total cost.  It ended up being interesting knowledge for me too.

Drum roll please.......

Month Total      $160.57
Month Saved    $573.76
Total Cost         $734.33

78.1% savings for the month

I can't believe that I would have spent $734.33 in a "normal" month pre-coupons but that was also pre-baby so I know that it would be different then I think... might even be higher.  I was only $0.57 over my budget but part of it was the trading in of the Tide and one last package of diapers the other day at CVS before my ECBs expired so I thought it was worth the extra pocket change.  I hope that you did as well with your goals for the month.  Looking forward to March!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Applesauce Bread more from scratch

I had some apples that were getting a little mealy and I was trying to figure out what to do with them since I have tried to make this a no waste house (at least on food).  Of course the longer you wait, the mealier they were getting so I figured that I better start cooking!  My husband doesn't like cooked apples so I knew that if I made anything that I would end up eating it all.  Tempting but not a great plan!  The whole family really likes applesauce bread so I decided that I would peel the apples and then do something to make them into applesauce.  Skip to me seaching the internet for different ideas.... given up and called mom.  I decided to shove them in the blender and mash them all up and she approved.  I was confused because the applesauce recipes online said that I had to cook the apples and I didn't know if I had to do it if I was just using it to bake with.  Mom agreed that I didn't have to cook it first :)

Looks just like applesauce without the wonder of where it came from and how it was made (although there was a death of an unsuspecting Pampered Chef wooden spoon that was eaten by the blender).  Much to my surprise, It turned out to be enough for two loaves of bread.  I was tempted to freeze the second batch of applesauce because I was afraid that the bread wouldn't be any good.  I decided to make the second loaf because I didn't want to do all the dishes again and the oven was already on (I know that it isn't the best reason but it is a reason).  It made the BEST bread ever because I had one green apple mixed in with the red ones.  I guess what they say about using different apples to make a pie holds true for bread too!! Check out one of the loaves:
I cut the ends off the other loaf and ate them for my evening snack.  I think that the crusts are the best when they are hot out of the oven but usually end up in the trash if they aren't eaten on the first night :)  They were still yummy and moist with the nice crispy outside.  My husband also approved the bread with his taste test of another piece.  Hoping that this last through the weekend :)  I hope that you try the recipe with or without the homemade applesauce.  Enjoy a slice of your own bread (or come and try mine)!!

Applesauce Bread

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups applesauce
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the egg and applesauce; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cloves; gradually add to the creamed mixture just until combined. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Monday was catching up on a weekend of not baking.  I started the morning by making chocolate chip cookie dough from the request from my husband.  My son requested cake so I stopped the process of making cookies to start the cupcakes (from the box mix).  I made some in ice cream cones and some as just cupcakes.

I only got one picture since as soon as they were out of the oven, my son and his friend were ready to eat them.  Then us two mom's ate two more (this was mine shortly before entering my mouth).  The boys got sprinkles on theirs which they might have liked more then the cupcake.  I should have taken the after of what their cupcakes looked like but I didn't think about it.  My son ate straight down the middle and didn't want to eat the cone.... funny since he stole a cone before I got a chance to fill and bake it :)  Maybe he already had his fill!  Anyway, this isn't really a recipe since it was from a box but it was a great reminder that this is a fun treat to try to mix it up a little :)  Hope that you like the idea and make some for you... they are super yummy!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style book

Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style by Marjorie Harris was a fast read but provided little constructive information on how to be thrifty.  First hurdle was to realize that the author was Canadian (which lead to a lot of ou combos that were colourful) which meant she used were words used that were uncommon in American writting or conversation.  There are a different topics that she covers in the different chapters:  Thifty Citizen, Frugal Fashionista, Frugal Foodie, Frugal Home, Thrifty Gardener, Thrifty Traveller, and Frugal Life with Style.  There are some interesting ideas in the gardening section but since I already have my lanscaping done (for the most part- no judging on the weeds), I don't think that it provides a ton of helpful information for me.  Even though Amazon gave it 3 1/2 stars, I don't think that I would recommend it unless you are looking for a fast read that is entertaining because it doesn't provide any constructive help that isn't discussed in more detail in other books.  Hope that helps you decide whether this is something that you are interested in picking up and reading this one.  Crossing my fingers for a better one next time :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Not About the Money book

It's Not About the Money: Unlock Your Money Type to Achieve Spiritual and Financial Abundance by Brent Kessel is an interesting read.  The first thing that it does is help you pick your financial personality types (page 40).  The choices are the following:

The Guardian- always alert and careful
The Pleasure Seeker- prioritizes pleasure and enjoyment in the here and now
The Idealist- places the greatest value on creativity, compassion, social justice, or spiritual growth
The Saver- seeks security and abundance by accumulating more assets
The Star- spends, invests, or gives money away to be recognized, feel hip or classy, and increase self-esteem
The Innocent- avoids putting significant attention on money and believes or hopes that life will work out for the best
The Caretaker- gives and lends money to express compassion and generosity
The Empire Builder- thrives on power and innovation to create something of enduring value

This was super easy for me to pick the main two that I currently am (Guardian and Saver) and see others that described me previously (Caretaker and Empire Builder).  Do you see any that describe you or people you know? 

It is eye opening to read the chapters that describe you to a tee and read the chapters for the other types that you can totally see family and friends fitting into.  The book tells you that it is best to balance all of the archetypes to make the most well rounded person.  It has a great point because I think that it is human nature to be one way (like a Caretaker) and get burned taking care of someone so you totally turn away from that way of being and stop sharing and flip to a totally new behavior (like Saver or Pleasure Seeker).  Balance is always best but I think that it is hardest for human nature to accomplish. 

The last few chapters have lots of information about getting a will, life insurance, investing, and other helpful financial advice.  The main point repeated over and over is to get a fee based financial advisor to go over your plans with because it could make all the difference.  There are a lot of resources listed to find a financial advisor with websites like http://www.napfa.org/, http://www.garrettplanningnetwork.com/, and http://www.kinderinstitute.org/.  If you want to check out more on the author, his website is http://www.brentkessel.com/ and he references a ton of information that is available on his website.  This is not a page turner of a book but I think that it is less heavy then other books with the same information so I guess the information is presented in a interesting way.  If that strikes you fancy, feel free to check out his books at your local library or bookstore (at least long enough to figure out what type you are).  Hope that you like it or learn something interesting from picking it up like I did.