Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Got Thinking...

One of the commenters brought up trailers instead of a teeny house. She said I would get a lot more house for a lot less money. I'm actually a huge trailer fan. I think they're cool, again contrary to most of America. I grew up in a five bedroom, three story Victorian on fifty four acres. My husband grew up in a trailer with the largest lot in the trailer park. He says that when he married me, I said nothing about wanting to live in a trailer, but I've been thinking....

I love readers. I really do. Even though I had thought about trailers before, having them suggested in this context really has gotten me thinking! Like crock pot dehydration! You've sparked something in me! So, here's what I'm thinking, trailers are 56' to 70' long, maybe 14' wide, that's what I'm seeing on craigslist. He doesn't want a trailer. We can't have a trailer. But old trailers are being given away for free on craigslist, or being sold for under $1000. We were planning on paying more that that for one utility trailer for our house on wheels.

I'm thinking, gut the trailer, start again from the tailer part, the frame on wheels, building a customized home just as we would have with the teeny house. We'll build a good pitch on the roof, so it is a house on wheels an not a trailer. He likes how the teeny house looks like a house and I do, too. Then, customize the inside into a three bedroom, one for boys, one for girls, one for parents. Voila! Okay, I know it's not exactly that simple, as it is a several year process.
There are a few downsides I see to this. A larger trailer is more complex to move than a Tumbleweed. Tumbeweeds are considered RVs, so the regulations are a little different. Trailers are a home so we will have to be far more cautious with building codes. Also, with older trailers, I don't know exactly what I'm getting into with the materials used to build it, as far as chemicals and lead. Much of the materials from free trailers I'm sure has rotted, which will make the initial move difficult, but as long as the trailer frame is still good, we are in good shape.

My husband and I have been dreaming of Tumbleweeds for a few months, but when a better idea comes along, I'm inclined to take it. My husband likes the idea as well, so I'm pretty excited, and he usually takes a while to come around on these things.

To those who still don't like the square footage, a few hundred feet larger, well, I can still do a series of posts on that. Now I have a whole new dream to plan out. Again, you may not agree with my plans and you may not choose them for your own family. I don't expect you to. I do expect honest feedback and I welcome suggestions.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Large Family, Little Home

I wrote this post in response to the thorough questions asked about my last post, How Low Can I Go?

My husband told me that no matter how many times I put the word "hypothetically" in this post, my reader's wouldn't see it. I have a little more faith in you all, but I thought I would include this upfront anyway: hypothetically, hypothetically, hypothetically.
We have decided that if we still live in this apartment when we have a fourth child, we will switch bedrooms. So I was wondering...

Hypothetically, how many kids can we have and still fit in this apartment?

Well, we can fit three sets of bunk beds in the large bedroom, which would fit six kids, and there is enough floor space for one mattress to slide easily in and out from under one set of bunk beds, which makes seven. We also have a ridiculously large kitchen, and could easily fit one more set of bunk beds there, with a slide-out mattress. Then there is the couch. We could have a pull-out couch that sleeps two more kids. And, we are co-sleepers, if the baby's temperament is favorable toward it, so one more baby may be in our room. Maximum number of hypothetical kids: thirteen. What about clothes/toy storage?

Well, I will reiterate, this is all hypothetical. But, I'm a huge fan of shelving and milk crates, which you can find at yard sales from dairy farms that have gone out of business and at Walmart as file crates. Right now, all of our kid's clothes are in milk crates on the wall. Each kid would have a few milk crates hung in their bunk area toward the foot of their bed for clothes and toys. Finding a space for the trundle mattress kids and couch kids to hang their milk crates should not be too hard.

Why is this important?

It is extremely unlikely that we will stay in this apartment for the rest of our days. This is a more expensive area of the state, so if Dan doesn't get a pastorate right when he graduates, we would probably want to move anyway. We were also lucky to find the landlord that we did. He loves us for paying the rent on time, every month, and is letting us stay with our growing family. Regardless of where we live, though, we want to stay in a small space. Spacial manipulation is a key skill to have in small spaces.

Hypothetically, is that even legal?

Thirteen kids in a two bedroom, 445 square foot apartment? Well, I have looked extensively at federal, state, and local laws regulating occupancy. The federal law basically requires that landlords allow two people per bedroom. They can allow more than that, but they don't have to. If a landlord allows us to have thirteen kids in this apartment, it's legal. It is between us and the landlord. It would be more profitable for him to force us into a four bedroom apartment and have us pay higher rent, but it is between us in the laws' eyes. If the property changed hands, an eviction would be legal as well. As far as our state and local laws, they just say you have to comply with the federal law, so there is no further restriction. This is not true in all areas of the nation.

Although I don't like much government regulation, I am still bound by their laws and investigated all of this when we got pregnant with our third.

What does this have to do with the teeny house?

A lot. In my mind, small living is key to frugality for so many reasons. Many disagree, or value inside space so much that it is the priority that they save for. For many, it is simply something they are not willing to compromise, or they just won't go as far as I do. I value open space outdoors more than inside and I don't want you to picture us all couped up inside all the time.

I published most comments that came in because I think people have valid concerns. My first post on the topic was not comprehensive enough of an introduction to teeny house living. It wasn't meant to be comprehensive in regards to teeny house, as it was an outline of general goals so that my husband does not permanently have to work two full time jobs.

It is going to take several posts to go through the details planned at this point and they won't come all at once. But if there is interest, as indicated in the comment section of the last post, I am happy to share. I am going through the comment section and outlining the questions, queries and concerns into informative posts. This is a project I am excited to tackle, and I hope that you keep an open mind about my ideas. These ideas probably will not all be for you, but I hope you get something out of it anyway.

How Cheaply Can You Live?

My husband is going to school to be a pastor. He is a gifted preacher and has done a lot of pulpit supply for churches in need, but he is seeking a pastorate. There is a need for pastors in our state, however, most of the openings don't pay well. They don't pay as well as his Walmart job, as they are small churches in rural areas. In an old post, I mentioned that $500 per month was a realistic salary to expect from one of these pastorates, but it is certainly not set in stone that that is what we will get. I also mentioned that it was my goal that eventually, he would not have to work a second job. Is that possible, especially where we want a large family?

First, let's look at our current monthly expenses breakdown:

Rent: $600.00
Phone: $6.09
Internet: $19.99
Auto Insurance: $31.22
Electric: $27.00
Satellite Radio: $12.95
Food: Estimated $140 average
Gas: $30-$90, depending on Dan's classes
Auto: average $40 per month for oil changes and any maintenance or repairs
Average Total: $937.25


The largest expense is obviously our rent. We are looking at building our own home, a small home. We like living in a small space, and it is a personal choice as well as a frugal one. Buying the building materials, as much used and discounted as possible, and building the home ourselves would cost around $20,000. After Dan is done with school, we will have his $4000 tuition money, that we get from our tax refund, to put toward this. So, if everything goes according to plan, which it often doesn't, we could have a home in five years after graduation.

Where do I get these numbers, that building a home would cost $20,000? I get it from the Tumbleweed Tiny House website, which is where we will be getting our building plans from. We shaved a little off their estimated cost, as their estimates are from all new materials.

As our family grows, we are thinking we will be building a second Tumbleweed and putting them back to back as one home. This is something that could be done over several years. A second Tumbleweed would be less expensive than the first; it won't need a kitchen, but would just be living space and loft. If you have questions about the Tumbleweed homes, they have their own website, full of information, and a search function at the bottom of the page.

There are portable houses from Tumbleweed, and that is what we really want. Their largest is 130 square feet, but we would customize the loft, which isn't included in that measurement, doubling the floor space. The loft would be for sleeping and clothes storage and downstairs would be our living area. We don't feel that we would ever need a home larger than our current apartment. Two Tumbleweeds, back to back, both with a full loft gives us 520 square feet.

There is the possibility that Dan will land a pastorate with a parsonage. These are rare in our area, as the churches are struggling financially, so we are not resting on this possibility.


With a house on wheels, you can park it temporarily in a trailer park, renting a lot. I've heard of people parking it on a friend's lawn. But we would eventually want to buy our own piece of land. In Maine, land is plentiful. Once we are only paying lot rent of some sort, we could be saving much faster.


The next largest expense is food. I had a small garden this year, and am looking to enlarge it next year, more and more every year. This expense will increase with more children, but will decrease when we have land. We can be growing a large portion of our food and we are looking forward to eventually keeping chickens and a dairy cow. I imagine a $600 food budget will be possible to feed our family at it's largest. Consider also that we won't have all of our children at the same time. I think ten kids is a fair estimate, as we don't use birth control, but at no time will we be feeding ten teenage boys. (The birth control issue will be it's own post at some point.)

Energy and Heat:

Solar panels are getting more and more affordable. I imagine that by the time we are ready to buy, we can get them for $4000, one year's tax refund. Not to mention, you can make your own solar panels. I would investigate making my own pretty thoroughly before investing anything into it, though. There is solar heat, which I've found for under $3000. We would want that to be backed up with propane. Propane would be what we start with, as the cost is included in the estimate of building the home.

The Rest of our Current Expenses:

Phone, internet, and auto expenses are hard to determine at this point. We don't know where government regulations and the market will lead these prices, nor what our needs will be, such as how far we live from the church where Dan pastors.


When we have a home on our own land, we will be paying land taxes. This may change the order of purchases more than anything else. It may be wise to not buy our own land until we have a solar panels and solar heat, so that our tax refund can be going to the land taxes.


Our kids' clothes come from yard sales and from relatives' hand-me-downs. I also sew girls' clothing, mostly because I like to design it. Clothes are and will continue to be handed down from one kid to another. Taking care of the clothes allows them to last a long time and homeschooling will relieve my kids of the pressure of only having name brand and trendy clothes. We really only need to buy two full wardrobes, with some replacements over time. There is one wardrobe for boys, and one wardrobe for girls. There won't be two kids the same size at the same time, unless we have twins. Regardless, I don't consider clothes to be a large expense, as we are very frugal about our clothes choices.

Our goal is sustainability and partial financial independence. I want my husband to be able to devote everything to the work he cares so much about, being a pastor. We don't know when we will reach this goal completely, or if it is something we won't reach until most of our kids have grown. In the meantime, if he has to work outside of his pastorate, he can go from full time to part time, and at some point rest on a few days of independent contract jobs per month to make up any additional income. It is a step by step process, and each step brings us closer to financial independence.

Yes, there are a few overlooked expenses, such as trash pick-up and water, not listed. This is meant to be a general overview of our goals, not a total breakdown of every anticipated expense.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mad Science Experiments in the Kitchen

When I was in high school I wanted to be a scientist, a neuroscientist to be exact. Earlier in my adolescence, I had wanted to be a writer, an actress, a painter, an astronaut, a doctor....

At one point, I wanted to be a mathematician. My mother informed me that was silly, that there was nothing left to discover in mathematics. As an eighth grader, I knew she was wrong. There were at least more numbers in pi to be discovered. I was right, but I didn't end up discovering any of them.

If we think that it's all been done, we won't try anything new. What does that have to do with frugality? Everything.

I don't think you can be frugal if you won't try something new. Sure, you can have a small budget, and one that works for you. You can slowly shave a little off here, and a little off there, as an idea comes your way that you think meshes with your lifestyle. But I get satisfaction from continually slashing my budget down further and further, penny by penny. Am I the only one?

That's why I do so many kitchen experiments. You may think this is odd, as I have only a two week menu rotation. But those two weeks of meals is my control group. I try something new with a dish, knowing its cost and taste before.

Did I improve it's taste? Yes. Did I slash its cost? No, the cost is the same. So, I have improved our quality of life for free. Or, it may happen the other way around, where the taste is the same, but the cost is less. I still come out ahead. Sometimes, I win on both fronts, like with my new sausage, which is yummier and cheaper, not to mention healthier. But I am constantly trying, testing and trying again.

My stevia baked beans recipe is in the process of failing miserably, and I'm considering tossing it and replacing it with something else in our menu, but I have a few more ideas before I'm willing to do that. I'm going to try harder, because we really do love baked beans.

I probably do enjoy kitchen science experiments more than the average person, and experiments in general, so what do you do if you don't? I would say try it, and see if you get satisfaction out of it. See if you save money, and if the time playing is worth it to you.

One commenter said they were working on their bread making technique. It took me a long time to get my bread strategies to where I love my bread. Now, a new variable has entered into my bread making. My son likes to help me knead. This takes longer for me, but improves my quality of life without affecting the cost. As long as I take the extra time to make sure it is kneaded thoroughly, I have won again.

I can't win unless I try.

My Blog Poll

I'm interested in knowing what you would like me to address on this blog. Tell me in the comments section. If you have something specific for a post, please, let me know. Although I already have 55 unpublished posts in various stages of development, if you make a request, I'll get it near the top of the list.

Also, I'd love more poll ideas. I really like these polls, so if someone has a suggestion for a poll, share it in the comments section. Does everyone else like the polls, or am I driving people away, asking all these intrusive questions?

On a total side note, I have gone back and cleaned out some of the old comments sections. The comments sections look a little odd now, but there are two central reasons that I cleaned out some comments.

#1) Off comments breed off comments. Someone new to my blog may read a post, want to post a comment or question, then see all those nasty or off topic comments. They may then respond to some of the comments, which only furthers the off comments. I want this blog to be a resource, so comments that took away from that purpose were removed. Sometimes whole comment conversations were removed to clear confusion, especially if a topic was addressed thoroughly in a later post. I am in the process of linking older posts to follow-up posts that address the question readers had.

#2) I got an apology that made me reevaluate why I hadn't removed nasty comments sooner. I want to forgive all the readers who wrote nasty comments, and I want to move on.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Proof That Maine is Beautiful

Every state has its own set of perks. Maine has quite a few.

My husband and I used to live in the mountain region. He worked at a ski resort. Every morning his commute lead him toward and up the mountains.

We are famous for our foliage in Maine.

We have fields and forests. My mother owns over fifty acres, much of which is covered in an almost mystical, dense woods. It was a delight to grow up with.

Our streams and lakes are good for fishing, swimming and boating.

Lobsters are $3.99 per pound this summer in Maine. Unfortunately, the lobster men here are not doing well in this economy. There are turf wars and even violence is breaking out. But you can't beat that price for lobsters.

And we have the ocean. We have a large shoreline, many lighthouses and historic forts. I love being close to the ocean.

My husband's school is just down the street from one of the state parks, Two Lights. He has a day where he is in school all day, and another day where he goes in for just one class. When he goes for just one class, we go with him. We run errands in Maine's largest city and go to the park.
First, we go to the playground.
Then, there are trails down to the ocean, where the waves crash violently against the rocks. We used to climb all over the rocks when I was a kid. It will be a few years before I'm comfortable with my kids going near the rocks. For now, they are content to watch the mighty waves on a bench, from a distance.The perks of our state are free perks, well, not the lobster, or the state park, as we had a pass that was given to us, but the ocean is free. What are your favorite perks that your state offers?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to Make Sausage - Basic, Frugal Recipe

I've been planning my sausage experiment for today, as tonight is quesadilla night and my husband likes sausage in one of his quesadillas. I thought tonight would be a great time to test it out. I was going to save it as a post for when I go into labor, but since there has been some comments about my sausage, I thought I would post it now.

I found a basic recipe for polish sausage. The recipe, as in ingredients, were basic, but the process was long and complex, so I made sausage patties out of it.

Ground pork, the cheapest I could find, was $1.69 per pound at Save-A-Lot. I can get a ham butt for as little as $0.79 per pound when I stock up during a sale. After taking off the skin and bone, it comes close to $1.10 per pound. I would have to carefully grind it in my blender, which is possible, but quite tedious. The Dollar Tree has one pound turkey rolls for $1.00 per pound. So, we're going with turkey sausage.

The Dollar Tree turkey has one ingredient: turkey. It is commercially raised turkey, yes, but all of our meat is. We are, after all, living on under $1000 per month.

So, first I mixed these spices:

1 teaspoon salt - $0.01
1/2 teaspoon pepper - $0.01
1/2 teaspoon oregano $0.01
1 teaspoon garlic powder - $0.02

I have old garlic powder, like from when my husband and I were first married, so this was a great time to use some of it up. We usually use fresh garlic. This garlic powder was so old, I had to grind it in my mortar and pestle. I mixed the other spices in there then added them to my ground turkey.

I mixed it kind of like the way I knead dough, just to make sure all the spices were evenly distributed.

I made small patties and fried them all up. I can make sixteen one ounce patties easily out of this, although I didn't measure so precisely this time and came out with ten. This was just my experimental test run.

How did it come out?

I love it. I actually don't post any recipes that I don't love. My oldest son is enjoying a patty right now. My husband has slightly less refined taste buds than me, so I'm confident he will love them too. But he is a little less open to change. This whole sausage-replacing-hot-dogs idea took him a while to agree to, but he is whole heartedly on board now. It is a mild sausage, and by doubling or tripling the pepper, depending on your tastes, it would become a hot sausage.
What's it good for?

We'll be using it in our breakfasts, pizza, and my husband's quesadilla. By having patties fried and ready to eat, they will also replace hot dogs, my husband's snack of choice.

It's also cheaper than our old sausage, which was $1.33 per pound. We got 12 oz sausage rolls for $1 from the Dollar Tree, but the turkey is a whole pound for $1.

I'm looking forward to experimenting further with this recipe. We have a lot of old spices that any normal housewife would have thrown away long ago. They are still potent, just maybe not as potent as new spices. I'll be mixing some up and seeing how they come out. I'll post about any noteworthy combinations.

The Verdict:

We got a yummier, healthier sausage for less money. The work was minimal, as I just had to mix the spices and meat. I had to fry up the other sausage rolls anyway, so no extra work there. This one is a keeper.

Some of the Benefits of Blogging

Yesterday, I posted a tough post for me. I got an excellent response from my readers and I am going to look back to that comment section as a source of encouragement if writing this blog gets tough again. Thank you for that. So, I had been putting together a list of ways that you, the readers, have improved my life and thought today would be a good day to publish it, since you gave me so much yesterday.


I have shaved $0.04 per pound off the price of cheese. A reader suggested Sam's Club as a source of cheaper cheese. I had a one day pass, and now I have better cheese than I had for a lower price. I may get a membership and save even more.

Due to some suggestion about starters, I will be saving about $0.06 per loaf with my bread.


Someone spoke up about the nitrates in hot dogs. If they had just said that hot dogs are processed junk, I would have discarded the comment. But by specifying nitrates, I was able to look it up, find some excellent info linking nitrates to cancer and share it with my husband. He, the hot dog man, is now on board with finding alternatives.

A reader pointed me in the direction of a new milk source that may be cheaper, is definitely healthier, and that I can make my own dairy products with. Making my own dairy products has been something I have done in the past, but for some dairy, cheese and butter, the dairy I use most, it is cheaper to buy.

It was also a reader that suggested sneaking grated carrots into food. This sparked my interest and allowed me to find and adapt (aka make cheaper) an excellent carrot bread recipe. This carrot bread insures that even my husband is eating veggies.

My sciatica is gone. A reader suggested a stretching exercise and now, my sciatica is gone! I do this exercise once a day, and if I get any pain, I do it again.


It was a reader's question that got me experimenting with my crock pot as a dehydrator, and I'm glad I know I can do it.

A reader suggested solar ovens, and I think I've figured out a way to do it without adding another appliance to my small kitchen, so stay tuned.

I've bought alfalfa seeds, mung beans and brown-green lentils to start my sprouting experiment. This reader tip could also go under health and money saving, as sprouting is a great idea all around.


I have had so many resources suggested to me. In areas of health, money saving, and for creativity, people have supplied me with their favorite links and book titles. Most of the books have gone on my reading list and you will probably see more changes to my life as I incorporate new ideas. The links that have been suggested are always helpful for me to get a more well rounded picture, even though I don't always agree with their viewpoint. Some resources I was already pretty familiar with, but I hadn't spent much time on stretcher until it had been suggested a few times. Now I'm hooked, and it's one of my favorites.


I love blogs. My most favorite blogs are on my blogroll, on my sidebar somewhere. But when someone comments or starts following me, I check out their blog if they have one. I like everyone's blog, and there are a few I now read regularly that I really enjoy.

Berean Wife - A Bible based blog
Intended Temple - A health blog
Happy (Atheist) Homemaker - A new blog
Teaching Kids About Money - A family finances blog
The Adventures of Captain Cleavage Warrior Princess - A funny blog

The only way that readers can communicate their great ideas and tips is through the comment section. That's why I love comments. So, if you have something to say, please comment. You may be changing my life for the better.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Know I'm Not That Bad of A Mom

I've never really thought I was a bad mom. I stay home with my kids, spend all day with them, read to them, and snuggle with them a lot. I feel that there are things I could be doing better, as most honest moms do. But overall, I feel like I am on the right path.

Before comment moderation, I would go around and delete nasty and unfair comments. Now, with comment moderation, I am the only one who sees them, and quite frankly, it is wearing on me. Not because I think they have a point, but because what they say is so ignorant and I want to respond. So, although your reasons for saying someone should call child protection services on me are creative, they are not compelling, or valid.

On the size of my apartment, we are not breaking our local occupancy codes. So it may not be your cup of tea to have a small home, but according to the law, it is fine. Not to mention, we have a larger home than many families larger than ours around the world, but I don't see you accusing them of being bad parents.

As far as the new baby, we are hoping this one will be a co-sleeper, also not against the law, for a few months until our thirteen month old is ready to share a bed with our toddler. Again, you may think that small kids sharing a bed is somehow unethical, but it's been done around the world for millennia. Choosing our children's sleeping arrangements is still within our rights as their parents.

Last spring, I was a volunteer driver driving patients to doctors appointments. I have been professionally trained by a government contracted agency to install car seats. My car seats are properly installed, whether you think so or not.

About my food, this one is the craziest accusation. I am being accused of malnourishing my children because I feed them homemade pasta and scratch ketchup (not in the same meal). I could make a big long list of websites where coupon queens brag about all of the food they buy for super cheap. That food is pure junk. Just look at some of these sites. I don't go to their site and criticize them, nor do I see any of their readers criticizing them, or accusing them of malnourishing their children. Their diets are not hot topics on the forums. But I am being attacked because I make ketchup from scratch. The ketchup has tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, and onions as the main ingredients. Really, is that so bad for my kids?

My pizza has generated serious discussion on the forums and that discussion has trickled over here as well. The ingredients of my pizza are, in order from the bottom to the top: whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, water, tomatoes, sausage, peppers, onions, cheese. What is in your pizza? As far as the size, it is the same recipe as I used when I made a larger pizza. I could take the same ingredients, form the dough into a larger crust and have what you consider a fine sized pizza. Or, I could squish the ingredients into a small pan and put it into my crock pot. It has the same calories per slice. No one is going hungry.

For the most recent string of ignorant comments, yes, I use the same crock pot to cook in as I make my soap nuts extract in. If it can be used as dish washing detergent, it's safe if it touches my crock pot.

In this blog, I have put my life out there for the world to see. We are in a unique situation that I think many people can learn from. I believe that honesty about what we are doing is key so that people can see that it is possible to live on much less. Living on less is freeing. In my writing, I have a sense of humor. Some of my posts are sarcastic and I like to think that sometimes I am even witty. It is part of my writing style. For people to take my sarcastic quotes and publish them all over forums is silly. For other people to read them, then come to my blog and tell me how I'm a bad parent is pure ignorance. I am not going to stop what I am doing, but you haters don't have a solid leg to stand on in your attacks. You also might want to consider finding something more productive to do with you time.

A SImple, Super Frugal, High Protein Breakfast

I've listed some of my dinner meals, but not the other stuff we eat, so here's our breakfast.

I like a high protein breakfast. It keeps me full longer and gives me energy to clean up around the house. Adding carbs early in the morning sets me up to be groggy and unproductive.

My husband and I start everyday with what we call "egg pile." Not everyone likes the routine of having the same thing every morning, but we do. I usually make something special on one of Dan's days off, like omelets or even pancakes.

We used to have "egg pile" in a sandwich, but I don't have bread on hand every day, so I shortened it. Occasionally, we treat ourselves to bread, which is yummy, but not necessary. If anything, adding the bread makes us hungrier sooner.

I get a 12 oz sausage roll from the Dollar Tree for $1.00. It does have vague "spices" listed as an ingredient, but no nitrates, which is our current health mission. I break the sausage roll into twelve pieces and flatten the pieces. So, two sausage "patties" cost us $0.17.

This goes on an egg, thus the name "egg pile." We get a dozen medium eggs from Walmart for $0.96, or $0.16 for the two eggs.

The egg is also topped with a half ounce of cheese that my husband and I split, for another $0.06.

Each kid gets an egg for breakfast, for $0.16, with a half ounce of cheese, split, for $0.06. They then graze as needed for the rest of the morning. Someday, I'll write a whole post about why we love being grazers, but not today.

Why so skimpy on the cheese? Because I make fried eggs, and I hate cheese cooked onto the pan, so I don't pile it on. I put on what fits neatly. We eat cheese and drink milk throughout the day.

Breakfast is an excellent place to cut costs. Grain based meals, like pancakes and french toast, along with oatmeal, are great frugal breakfast options for people who can handle carbs in the morning. I love eggs myself, and have actually had egg cravings during this pregnancy where it seemed like eggs were all I ate all day.

How do you save on breakfast?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soap Nuts Review - Do They Work? Are They Cheaper?

There are many places where frugality and going green intersect and soap nuts is one of them. If someone told you soap doesn't grow on trees, they were misinformed. The soap in these nuts is activated by heat and water and is an excellent natural laundry detergent.

Months ago I found a good deal on laundry detergent, about $0.07 per load. I use cloth diapers and my baby's skin was getting rashes more frequently than seemed normal. Of course, the "natural" chemical laundry detergents were often more than $0.30 per load, and I didn't want to go back up to $0.10 per load detergent, as I was worried my baby was developing sensitive skin. I had heard about soap nuts from Passionate Homemaking and looked into it.

After a little investigating, I found NaturOli brand to be the cheapest because they use pieces of the nuts, instead of selling the whole nut in tact.

How does it work? Well, you get this big bag of nuts and a little canvas bag. You put five nuts in the bag, and throw it in your washing machine in the place of laundry detergent. Hang it up to dry between loads and those five nuts are good for five loads. Or, you can boil it down to an extract, which I do, and I get ten loads out of five nuts.

NaturOli says you can get 5 loads out of 1/2 ounce of soap nuts, or 5 soap nuts. That is 800 loads out of my 5 lb bag. I paid about $65 for my bag or about $0.08 per load. Where I make the extract, I get my loads for $0.04 per load.

If you have been making your own laundry detergent from bar soap, which there are many online recipes for, you are paying anywhere from $0.03 to $0.08 per load, depending on where you got your recipe. I don't have a food processor, so I never tried the homemade detergent, which usually requires a bar of soap to be grated finely.

The work involved in making the soap nut extract is pretty simple. I put eight soap nuts and and four cups of water into my crock pot on high for six to eight hours. This boils down to about three cups of the concentrate. I use two or three tablespoons of the concentrate, as recommended by NaturOli, depending on the size and dirtiness of the laundry load.

Do they work? I haven't had any problem with the washing. In fact my husband's work pants are cleaner now than with our old detergent. Also, there is no soapy build up on cloth diapers, which makes the diapers more absorbent.

The downside? The downside I have seen people online complain about is that there are no suds. I do get some suds, though, since I use the extract, but not nearly as much as with store bought laundry detergent. I think results are better measured in how clean the clothes are, but if you are emotionally attached to the sudsy water in your washing machine, these may not be for you. They also are not scented. Your clothes will smell like nothing. Some people put a fragrant extract in with the nuts, but I don't bother. I don't mind the smell of nothing.

One odd thing is that the soap nut extract can rot, since it is an actual nut. You need to keep the extract in the fridge, but the bag of nuts is fine in a cupboard. I've never had any rot on me, and it usually takes me two to three weeks to go through my jar of extract, so I don't think this is too common if you take care of it.

Soap nuts are also good for general household cleaning. I've been using a water and soap nut extract mixture for scrubbing as I've had some pregnancy nesting instincts lately. There are several other household uses I'm looking forward to use them for, including dish washing detergent. I've been using them for laundry for about three months. I'll keep you updated about new uses for soap nuts I try and love, or uses they don't work for.

Where do you get them? NaturOli soap nuts can be found at their website. You can also find them on What I did when I purchased my 5 lb bag was a search of "Naturoli coupon code." If there is a valid coupon code going for NaturOli's store, it may be cheaper than Amazon's price, but it is wise to compare prices. I had a swagbucks gift card for Amazon, so I bought them from Amazon. It also looks like Amazon's price has gone down since I bought from them. I paid $65 for my 5 lb bag, shipping included, but now it is going for closer to $55. If you get a smaller bag, it will cost more per load. But if you are not comfortable shelling out $55 up-front for a large bag of something you don't trust, it is worth getting a smaller bag first to see if it works for you.

Has anyone else tried soap nuts? What do you do for a frugal or natural laundry detergent?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Living Debt Free Forever - I Had Debt Once

When I went to college, I had enough money for the first semester, nearly. My Dad pitched in a little for books, and I had something like $2.37 to live on. The college provided meals, so all I had to worry about was laundry, which I did in the sink and line-dried. The college I went to was a small school, like 200 students or so. Most students, myself included, did not have a car. I didn't leave campus much, and when I did, I went with my generous roommate or doting husband-to-be. So, at the end of the first semester, I still had around $0.12.

My mother loaned me the money to pay for the second semester, reluctantly.

I graduated from the one year Bible certificate program and became engaged to my husband. I stayed with his family over the summer before our fall wedding.

I had worked at a chain supermarket, Hannaford's, since I was sixteen. There was a Hannaford's in the town where I was staying with Dan's family, so I transferred and was employed immediately.

My husband had been going to college for a few more years than me and had been doing volunteer work at a Christian camp over the summers. There was no job waiting for him. His family lived in a dying mill town, and most people who worked either worked at the shrinking mill, or at a nearby ski resort seasonally. He spent most of that summer looking for work, picking up any odd jobs that he could.

I got between twenty and thirty hours per week as a cashier at my job. The first $20 of each pay check went to Dan's family to pay for my food and stay. The rest was set aside to pay to my mother. I paid her in three installments. I spent no money besides paying "rent" to Dan's family and sending my mom money. When I say I spent no money, I mean $0. I didn't buy a single candy bar, nothing, because it wasn't my money. It was my mother's money until I paid it all back.

I walked to work, about a mile and a half each way. I usually had a can of vegetables for lunch. Dan's family spent less on my cans of vegetables than they did on everyone else's microwave dinners, so they didn't mind.

There was a store that I passed on the way home from work called the "Free Store." Everything in it was free. If you didn't need something, you took it there so that if someone else did need it, they could have it. I started collecting things we would need, pots and pans and dishes, and Dan's family gave me a kitchen cabinet to put my treasures in. I think every community should have a "store" like this. It took monetary donations for heat and the building was donated by an elderly lady in the community.

This is when I started my first price chart, long before I had even heard of Amy Dacyczyn, who popularized the notion. We had a Walmart, the Hannaford's where I worked, a Dollar Store, and a Rite Aid Pharmacy. I started planning how to feed my husband and I on a $100 per month for a food budget. It was quite a project for me.

Once I made my last payment to my mom, I put everything toward saving for an apartment. My husband finally got a job at the ski resort and was given a year round position. We were married November 19, 2005. We haven't been in debt since.
"But I thought you didn't believe in any debt."

I don't believe in debt. A lot of the things that I now see as wrong are things that I was once guilty of. Is that hypocrisy? No, I say that is growth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Food Guide Pyramid Is Not For Everyone

This is going to be a controversial post, I can already tell, because people hold government literature close to their heart. The government allows for lead and carcinogens in food. If you trust them with your health standards, that's your decision. If I don't, isn't that mine?

The Food Guide Pyramid is the Frugal Way

Grains are the cheapest food around. If you are getting the suggested amount of grains in your diet, especially with food made from scratch, you are on the right path toward frugality. As you go up the food guide pyramid, the foods get more expensive as they get more restricted. Vegetables, then fruits, are the next cheapest. As you get into meat and dairy, you are facing your most expensive foods, so as someone frugal, it is good advice to limit those. If you came here looking for a frugal tip for today, that was it.

Is It The Only Healthy Way?

Many people thrive eating by the food guide pyramid, and that's great. Most Americans don't live by the food guide pyramid, and many would do better if they did.

There are people in America that are thriving on diets other than the food guide pyramid, though. We have a growing number of vegans and vegetarians that our country recognizes as quite healthy. They cut out many sources of proteins and some even cut out the whole dairy category. We also have a low-carb movement, where a whole group of people cut out the grains and fruit from their diet. They are thriving on that diet.

Many people around the world have thrived on other diets, completely different from what the food guide pyramid promotes. Now, we have changed those diets for many, bringing in our processed foods with our industrialization. I think many Americans would be surprised at the high fat and protein diets that people lived on around the world until recently (Sub-Saharan Africa, Japan, Australia, Native America, England, Korea).

Is The Food Guide Pyramid For My Husband And I?

No. For our own health reasons, we are opting for a much higher protein diet. About half of what we eat is animal protein. I only publish my dinner menu, which is the meal we all share, so it is a compromise between our diet and the kids' diet. Most, but not all, of the carbs that my husband and I have throughout the day are in the dinner menu. For us, carbs include grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans, which are lumped with proteins in the food guide pyramid. My husband and I do not get the recommended amount of fruit, vegetables or grains. I get more fruits and vegetables than he does; he gets more grains than I do.

The "why," as well as the budgetary implications, behind our diets will be its own post some day. This post, though, is in response to assumptions that my children aren't being fed properly. I do take a prenatal vitamin to make sure I am getting the vitamins I need for my baby.

Is The Food Guide Pyramid For My Kids?

Yes and no. The food guide pyramid wants my kids to eat their way every day. That does not happen. They may eat only oatmeal on Wednesday and nothing but bananas on Thursday. Then we may have a cheese-beef day or a green bean day. Other days are models of a well-rounded diet. Most days are somewhere in between.

I focus on making sure their diet is well rounded by the week. I'm not too concerned about well rounded days, and I especially don't enforce well rounded meals, since we're a family of grazers. I doubt that most parents do enforce well rounded meals, if they are looking at the whole pyramid. If you do, why do you only ask about my veggies at dinner, and not fruit? You don't have to worry about my kids getting enough veggies or fruits, because they do. It may not be in the same fashion you feed your kids, but it is comparable in quantity.

Their diet will probably change as they get older and we are able to see more clearly how certain foods and types of foods affect their moods and concentration and overall health. But for now, we are aiming for well rounded for our kids.

Next Step In Health For Us:

For those not following the food guide pyramid, health is a step by step process, just as frugality and going green are, changing one thing at a time until we reach our own ideal. The next step for us is cutting out processed meats that contain nitrates, thanks to a reader tip. (I do read and investigate what you all tell me; your comments are meaningful to me and my life has benefited from them.) I found a polish sausage recipe that looks simple and my husband has agreed to let me try it to see if it satisfies his hot dog cravings. I'm psyched that he's giving it a chance and I'll keep you updated.

Is the Food Guide Pyramid for You?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But I would encourage people to really think about their own health ideals instead of taking the government's, or anyone else's, word for it.

I would also like people to at least consider that not everyone is going to live by the same standards they do, nor should they. As I write this blog, I don't expect anyone to do everything that I do. Physically, we're not all the same, we don't all have the same dietary needs, and I'm okay with that.

As with all posts, comments are very welcome as long as they pertain to this post. There have been people trying to spam the comments section. That is not welcome. Comments that only serve to demonstrate the commenter's low reading comprehension level will be deleted, as they cause confusion.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Paper Plate Poll

I would like to start with a confession. I asked my mom for diapers, disposable ones, as a gift for this new baby. We don't use disposables for reasons of cost, health, and the environment. I have already put in the request, though, and I'm pretty sure she's gotten us the package.

Still, I am looking for other ways to make my life easier while we transition into new baby life. There is a placenta recipe I wanted to try, and it looks like it would be good with rigatoni, so I was thinking of buying store bought pasta, just this once.

I was also thinking of buying a package of paper plates to cut down on my dish duty. We would be buying them ourselves; we can afford one package. The environmental effect will be much less than my scandalous diapers. But it doesn't quite sit right with me. Maybe I just feel real guilty about the diapers. What do you think? Should I buy them?

Please, take my poll and let me know.

Comments and further explanations of your answers are welcome here, in this post's comments section. I would also love suggestions for future polls!

How to Continue Life While In Pain

Recently, I had one of those days where I barely left the couch. I'm 37 weeks pregnant and had a bad case of sciatica. Sciatica is when my precious little one gets him or herself on my nerve, my sciatic nerve. Usually this effects my right side. I joke about wanting to cut my leg off. But seriously, when I have sciatica, I want to cut my leg off. It hurts that bad.

For one day, my precious little one was on my left side. This brought on a new sort of pain. With my baby on the left side, I couldn't stand up without the most severe pain, worse than wanting-to-cut-my-leg-off pain. It took me a long time to walk just a few feet.

Two lessons came out of one excruciating day.

#1) I am thankful that our apartment is small. I got a lot of grief when I posted that our family lives in a 445 square foot apartment, and my kids have a room that is 6'x8'. But their small room is for sleep and toy/clothes storage. They play in the living room and our room, and that's the way we like it. I could watch them no matter where they played and they could still play underfoot, the way they love, and climb all over me. Living in a small place is a frugal choice for a lot of reasons. It is also a lifestyle choice, and one that I'm glad we've made.
#2) I can still be productive. I slowly gathered my carrots, peeler, grater, bowl, scale, and containers and grated ten pounds of carrots for my carrot bread. After all, it was my leg that hurt, not my arms. This will make it so that I don't have to grate carrots when I whip up my next batch, and the batch after that. If I have another day like this, I have a hand-sewing project that I am working on. There is always something to do besides reading. Productivity is crucial to people living frugally.

No need to worry about my sciatica, though. My midwife found the spots on my back that if pushed, makes the pain go away. She marked them with permanent marker for my husband, who remarks them as they fade. I can't reach the spot with enough pressure myself, but my husband can, so this is only a real problem when he's gone.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Can You Make Money Blogging?

Thursday was my one month anniversary with this blog. I meant to post this then, but I guess I had other things on my mind. So, here is my anniversary post, with updated stats.

A few months ago, my father told me how he and my step-mom were taking over my step sister's father's finances. Although my step-sister's father made a decent amount of money, he was having a hard time staying afloat. It was an issue of money management and responsibility.

I was so jealous. I had always wanted to take over someone's finances, but no one had ever asked me. How jealous I was actually surprised me. I work hard to make our life good on my husband's income. I do some interesting things, but no one asked me about what I was doing, so I wasn't sharing with anyone, except sometimes my father, who also does interesting things.

I shared my ideas with my husband, too, but when I shared them with him, he felt like I was implying he wasn't a good provider. But he is. He works just as hard or harder than people who make much more money than him.

Then I saw this post at Gather Little By Little about how to make money online. Blogging was at the top of the list. I know some people make a full time income blogging, but I didn't want to work full time, even if I could hold my babies while doing it.

Still, I had such an overflow of ideas, I thought I would start and see what happened. The name of the blog was easy, since this was about how we thrive on little. It is also intriguing, even shocking, and the name itself is one of my main marketing tools.

Whenever I comment on someone else's blog, I sign with "Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth." That's how most of my first readers found me. Then, the word started to spread about my blog, as some of my ideas are not so mainstream.

For a one month old blog, I'm getting a good amount of page views and unique visitors per day. But can I make money doing this?

Here are my stats, up to date:

Amazon referrals (haven't really pushed this one): $0
Swagbucks: 65 bucks, or about $7.00
Adsense: $48.50, about $12 from the days that the Nest Forum people swamped my site

What about an hourly wage? It is hard to determine how much time I have put into this site. The average post takes half an hour, including pictures and some research. But I have just about as many unpublished posts as I have published. And it is hard to calculate how much time I spend just thinking about this stuff. Then there is my "advertising," reading and commenting on somewhat like-minded blogs, which I would be reading anyway. And then there is design and some very basic HTML I've mastered. And keeping up with discussions in the comments section, which sometimes get a little rowdy. I'd assume my hourly wage is somewhere around $1 per hour.

Standard Tips For Blogging:

If you're not writing about something you are passionate about, you won't write well on the topic.

If you're not writing something other people are passionate about, you won't have readers.

Would I still do this if I weren't making a profit?

For one, I haven't seen a dime of what I've made. You need $100 to cash out from AdSense. I may never make it. Most likely, I will, though. (Rest assured, I've set up the automatic deposit to go right into savings. It will not affect our frugal living.) We also have not received the Amazon gift card from swagbucks, and it will be going to one of my husband's theology books.

To answer the question: Yes! If I had readers of this blog, but no revenue, I would continue. If I didn't have readers yet, I may think the whole thing is pointless, because without any readers, wouldn't it kind of be?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is A Sam's Club Membership Worth It?

I mentioned in another post that I sometimes get free magazines from Free Sample Forager. In one of those magazines, I found a one day pass for Sam's Club. I do not have much experience with these types of clubs. I got a promotional pass from BJ's and was disappointed in their selection and their prices, and bought almost nothing. I had been into Sam's Club before, but only long enough to find out that they don't give out promotional passes if you ask.
However, I got a tip from one of the readers that you can get mozzarella and cheddar cheese from Sam's for less than my $2 per pound American cheese. When I got there, there was mozzarella starting at $8.89 for 5 lbs, and cheddar for $9.39 for 5 lbs. With my one day pass, I would pay an additional 10% surcharge. So I would be saving $0.05 per pound for the mozzarella and losing $0.06 per pound on the cheddar. That's not a ton of savings for the mozzarella, but I would be getting a superior cheese.

My husband was raised on microwaveable frozen dinners. No joke. So, everything I make him is awesome in comparison. I'm a pretty good cook, and quite experimental in the kitchen. But I was not raised on American cheese. My favorite cheeses growing up were cheddar and brie. I only get these at Christmas now, when I visit my family, so switching to mozzarella and saving at the same time is an exciting thing for me.

I bought fifty pounds. How do I fit fifty pounds of cheese into my regular sized freezer, that already has over sixty-five pounds of sale priced beef, as well as our usual freezer foods? I don't. I looked at the sell by dates, which all said December 2009. So, I figured we would go through four bags by the end of the year, about five pounds per month. So twenty pounds are in the back of the fridge, and thirty pounds are in the freezer. I popped each bag, because they were full of air, and they fit snugly. I just can't buy any sale priced beef for a while.

I looked at everything else in the store that is on my regular shopping list. The only item that beat my regular price was the carrots, which were $0.60 per pound, including the additional 10% surcharge. That was better than my $0.64 per pound I get from Save-A-Lot. And we've been going through a lot of carrots lately with our cinnamon carrot bread. So, I bought 10 lbs.

I know that you can get yeast at Sam's Cub for $2 per pound, but I have over four pounds in my freezer, so I didn't stock up.

I told my husband this morning that I was going to write a post about how not to eat all fifty pounds of mozzarella at once. He laughed at me, saying that wouldn't be a problem. But if we were careless, we could easily finish all fifty pounds by the end of the year. We go through 5 lbs of American a month regularly, and we will go through the mozzarella at the same rate. The challenge is that the American is sliced, where the mozzarella is shredded.

A slice of American is 2/3 of an ounce. So, I weigh the mozzarella, making sure I use the same quantity in all of my recipes and when I give a little plateful to my babies. This is the only way to be sure I'm not using more, as far as I can see.

Sam's Club Service Review:

They rung up eleven bags of cheese instead of ten, but fixed it when I pointed it out. The price on the cheese was wrong, but I walked back with a manager to do a price check and got a refund. It took a ton of time for the service lady to correct it, which was odd since her name tag said "17 years of service." Despite all of this, they gave me their full, undivided attention and made sure that all of my problems were resolved properly. I was apologized to several times about it all as well, which is nice. However, had I been less vigilant, I would have left that store $15 poorer with the same amount of food.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cheap, Easy Pasta and Tomato Meat Sauce Recipe

I make my pasta from scratch. It is basically a 3:1 ratio of whole white wheat flour and water. It is cheaper, more nutritious and tastes fresher than store bought pasta.

1 1/2 cups flour - $0.24
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water $0

I mix these two ingredients into dough and roll out the dough as thin as I can get it with my rolling pin. I then cut it into strips with my pizza cutter. I cut the strips into short "noodles." Boil the pasta until it floats, then for five more minutes. It should have the texture of regular store bought pasta when it's done.
For the sauce I use a 12 oz sausage roll that I get at the Dollar Tree. I also get a 16 oz bag of frozen peppers and onions from the Dollar Tree. My bag was more peppers than onions, so I added some chopped onion as well.
12 oz sausage roll - $1.00
4 oz peppers and onions - $0.25
2 oz chopped onion - $0.06

When this mixture was nicely simmered, I added:

12 oz can GV tomato paste - $0.75
12 oz can filled with water - $0
1 tablespoon chopped garlic - $0.09
1 tablespoon oregano - $0.06
1/4 teaspoon stevia - $0.04 I add the cooked pasta right into the pan of sauce and serve it as a one dish meal. There were enough leftovers for my husband's lunch tomorrow and a few scraps in the pan for he or I, whoever gets there first, to pick at for an evening snack.

A Mom's Dreams Fro Her Kids

I was asked about what I hope for my children, and how I hope for them to turn out in regard to their finances and financial status.

There are a lot of beliefs and ethics that we want to instill in our children, many relating to money, but all directly from the Bible. So, here they are, in no particular order.

Do not go into debt, which is slavery. If you can't afford something, you just aren't supposed to have it.
"The borrower is servant to the lender." -Proverbs 22:7B
Do not desire more than you need, which is greed.

"Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." -Luke 12:15
Trust God with all that you have and don't have. God is real smart and knows what he's doing. There is never a reason to not trust him.

"But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!" -Matthew 6:30
Work hard toward your goals and for your money. Working half-heartedly reflects poorly on your faith.

"Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." -1 Corinthians 10:31
Don't pass up on your passions because of money. If it is what God has for you to do, it will be provided for. Think Paul.

Give generously and thankfully, as much as possible.

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." -2 Corinthians 9:7
Don't be wasteful as that is bad stewardship of the gifts and resources given. You were raised amongst the wealthiest in the world, although we may seem poor to American standards. Having been raised in this culture of wealth and affluence puts a responsibility on you to use your resources, which are plentiful, wisely.
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." -Luke 12:48B
Seek happiness in the only place it can be truly found in an enduring way, in our Savior. Do not be deceived into believing money will add anything to the happiness that Christ offers.
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." -Philippians 3:8
Do I want them to be poor, like me?

I am wealthier than 85% of the world. I am not poor. I just might be poorer than you. I will have no problem with my children living humbly and and happily, as my husband as I do, and not seeking after those "American dreams."

What if one of my kids wants to be rich?

If they want to gain wealth so that they can give generously, we support that. If they want to enter the corporate world in order to influence others to seek after Christ, that is a noble effort. If they seek wealth in order to pursue their own lusts and greeds, we will most certainly feel as though we had raised them poorly.

I consider gaining wealth through hard work and pursuing a career you love different from "wanting to be rich." If one of my children gained wealth this way, I would still hope that they live by all the principles listed above.

What are your hopes for your children financially?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Easy, Basic Hamburger Recipe

My hamburgers are generally pretty simple. However, today I measured wrong when grating my carrots for carrot bread, so I had some extra grated carrots left over. I mixed these in with my pound of ground beef and made four patties. I think I'll do this every time; you can't taste the carrots if you don't like carrots, but you can see them.

burgers 003

1 lb ground beef - $1.30
4 oz grated carrots - $0.16

We used one half of our crock pot bread recipe. I sliced four slices for my husband and I and chopped the rest into two large "biscuits" for the kiddos. The crock pot bread is awesome for hamburgers because the burger and bread are the same size and shape.

1/2 crock pot bread - $0.33

We put on cheese, onion and ketchup. I make my own ketchup, so it really is good and nutritious. My toddler eats platefuls of this ketchup like it's pudding. When he's done eating this jar, I'll make another batch and post the recipe.
1/2 cup ketchup - $0.32
2 oz of onion - $0.06
4 cheese slices - $0.32

The major downfall of this meal is there are no leftovers, so I plan to have it after chicken night so there are plenty of chicken leftovers for my husband's lunch tomorrow.

Is Swagbucks A Scam?

I am usually pretty even headed, thinking that not every money-saving tactic is right for everyone. With swagbucks, I stand firm. It's for everyone. I'm sure that many of my readers are familiar with swagbucks, but for those who aren't, please read on.
When you search on google or yahoo, google and yahoo are making money off of you. If you notice when you search, the first few links are "sponsored links." Google and yahoo, or whatever search engine you use, is making money when you search because someone is paying them so that they can show you advertisements, or "sponsored links."
Swagbucks pays you back a part of their profit. By simply switching search engines, you can make a pretty consistent $5.00 per month. I switched swagbucks to my homepage just to make it easier.
When you search, you can "win" swagbucks. We win one or two a day, just for regular searching. You can take your swagbucks to the swag store and buy "swag." You can get a $5 Amazon gift card for 45 swagbucks. This is what we do. We get one just about every month. I cashed out and got one just yesterday, which is what reminded me to finally post about it. You can also cash out with a PayPal payout or a prepaid MasterCard, but those options cost more swagbucks, so you won't get as much. If you do not switch to swagbucks, you are simply letting other people keep money that could be yours. I have had my swagbucks banner on the side since I started this blog, and all the swagbucks links on this post are my referral links. If you don't want to use my referral link, that's fine, use banner below.
I have seen other people promote "special deals" for their referrals, saying that if you sign up with their referral link, you will get 3 bonus swagbucks. Well, that's true, but everyone who signs up, regardess of what referral link or if they use a referral link starts off with 3 swagbucks. The important thing is to sign up, then make it your search engine and continue on with life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Easy, Basic Chicken Recipe

Every Wednesday Night is chicken night. We get our chicken from Save-A-Lot. We get leg quarters in a 10 lb bag for $5.80. Two months ago, it was $3.90 and the price crept up. It's still the best price I've seen, but I'm not happy about it.

Our default chicken is for when I don't have the time or energy to do anything special. I throw half the bag of chicken in the the crock pot on low all day. It comes out soft and versatile.
Chicken - $1.48

Chicken cooked this way makes great leftovers and provides a few days meals for my husband's lunch. However, 5 lbs of chicken is not necessary for one meal, even if it is quarters with the bone in. For the actual meal, we only use maybe half of what is cooked, so I listed the cost as a quarter of the bag.

Default chicken is usually served with a pound of potatoes, mashed. When I make potatoes with chicken, I put in some of the juice that cooked out of the chicken and mash the potatoes with that, omitting butter and milk. This chicken broth is extremely nutritious and would otherwise be lost. We used to let is congeal in the fridge and toss it. It is also good for gravy and broth for soup, so don't toss it like we did. Sometimes I throw oregano or rosemary in the potatoes to spice it up, but it's not necessary. By the way, I leave my skins on for nutritional value, even with mashed, but I scrub them thoroughly first.

Potatoes -$0.35

I also make a pound of broccoli. I get my frozen broccoli at the Dollar Tree, 2 lbs for $1 of broccoli cuts. My family doesn't care that they are cuts and not florets. I don't see them at the Dollar Tree every time, so I am really hoping they don't discontinue them.

Broccoli -$0.50

The most basic ways to spice up this meal is sprinkling something on top of the chicken. Cajun seasoning on the top makes the chicken on top spicy for adults, leaving the chicken on bottom mild for kids. We also throw on bread crumbs and spices to make something similar to shake and bake.

When I feel more creative with my chicken I do several other things, including a real spicy chicken and Chinese chicken. Even though I don't use the whole half bag of chicken with these recipes, I cook half the bag to make the leftover chicken, but it's not a good idea to cook half the bag if your family won't use the leftovers in a timely manner.

Tortillas, Bread, Pasta - To Buy or Make

If you are buying store-bought bread, tortillas or pasta, you are probably not getting your money's worth. I know there are reduced priced racks that fill with baked goods when the goods near expiration. I haven't seen prices as low as my homemade versions, and all of my homemade versions are made of 100% whole wheat flour.

I use King Arthur 100% whole white wheat. King Arthur is the lowest price I have found for whole wheat flour in my area. Walmart sells a 5 lb bag for $3.16, or just over $0.63 per pound. Whole white wheat keeps the germ and the bran in the flour, just as "traditional" whole red wheat does. It is just a different species of grain. It tastes more like white flour, and does not add that wheaty flavor to your food if your family is not used to it. Also, King Arthur has pledged not to use genetically modified wheat.

Homemade versions of flour based foods do take some skills. However, once these skills are mastered, no one can take them away from you and you will only get better and faster at them.

Pasta - $0.24/lb

Pasta was the food that took me the longest to try. I don't have a pasta maker, but I do have a rolling pin and surface to roll on. All of my recipes usually have a pound of pasta. This will cost about $0.80 at the store. To make the same pound at home, combine

1 1/2 cups flour -$0.24
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water -$0

The basic recipe is a 3:1 ratio, but I always need a little more water to make it roll easier. Roll it as thin as you possible can. I usually divide the batch in two and roll half at a time. Once rolled, cut it into thin strips with a pizza cutter. I then cut the strips short to make noodles. I don't dry it. You can, but it only adds an extra step. I boil it right away. I boil it until the pasta floats, then for five minutes after that.

Bread - $0.65/28 oz. loaf

I've already posted my basic bread recipe, but here it is again.

1 1/4 cups warm water -$0
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast -$0.06
3 1/2 cups flour - $0.55
1 1/2 teaspoon salt - $0.04

I don't use oil and sugar, as many recipes do. They are not necessary. The bread makers in France have traditionally omitted them. Sugar does help the yeast to rise, but once you've got a good kneading technique, you won't need it.

Tortillas - $0.60

2 cups whole white wheat flour ($0.32)
3/4 teaspoons salt ($0.03, if that)
1/4 cup shortening ($0.25, softened butter, but you can use whatever)
1/2 cups water ($0)

I get about six tortillas big enough to make quesa dillas, and ten taco size tortilla. Combine all ingredients and divide by how many tortillas you want. Roll out each one and fry on medium high, without greasing the pan, for about thirty seconds on each side.

You're not just paying extra for convenience with pasta, bread and tortillas. If you are buying flour based mixes (cake, muffin, pancake), frozen pizza, or cereal, you are paying other people to do the cooking for you, and it isn't as good as if you do it yourself. Compare the cost per pound of the pre-made flour based food to the cost per pound to the basic ingredients of that food, and you will see you can be doing better.

These are not things made commonly in the American household. Our ancestors always made these items themselves, and it was considered a luxury to buy them made. To buy them made, you are paying someone else to do the work for you. There seems to be this ominous myth that these are extremely difficult skills to master. However, our great great grandmothers, who may not have even graduated high school, made these all the time. Women around the world, who may have never stepped a day in a classroom, have these skills, so we can too!