Five Frugal for Friday

money-saving

By Liz

I enjoy writing my Five Frugal for Friday articles.  They feel like small little financial victories to me and it has been awhile since I have posted a Five Frugal for Friday article, so now is as good a time as any.

So what kind of things did I save money on this time around?

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1. Ham steaks.  This one was actually a find by my husband. Our local Walmart had marked down some great looking chunks of smoked honey ham, that my hubby then brought home, got out his deli slicer (yes….he has one of these) sliced up, packaged and froze some great looking ham steaks.  These will be used for breakfasts with some eggs, diced up for soups and casseroles as well as the all to popular and quick “I’ve had a busy day and I don’t feel like cooking” meals.

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2. Open faced apple pie.  I seemed to have an abundance of small lunchbox sized apples that no one was eating and I also found a pre-made refrigerated pie crust in my fridge,( I think left over from the holidays) so I sliced up my apples, combined it with a handful of dried cranberries and chopped pecans, along with some sugar and spices and baked it. The end result was this delicious, however, not so pretty to look at, open faced apple pie that was eaten up in a matter of 3 days.

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3. I took a temp job.  So in a previous post, I had mentioned that I had attempted to re-enter the work force, not because I had a huge desire to, but because that was what I thought I had to do. I left that job about 3 months ago on good terms and had made a friend in my then boss.  A few weeks ago, she reached out to me because she was swamped at work and wanted to know if I would be interested in working as a temp for a few weeks.  This opportunity came at the perfect time, because my sister and I are planning on to taking a trip to New England this upcoming fall and I wanted to raise the money for it myself and not have to sink into my husband’s and my savings account.

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4. Croutons. An all time favorite money saver. I had about 1/3 of a loaf of sourdough bread that maybe had another day left in it, but instead, I cut it into cubes, tossed it with some olive oil spray and some seasonings, toasted them up and now I have croutons for the remainder of this week that will go in salad or soup, or my favorite….used for dipping in some flavored olive oil as an appetizer along with a tray of sliced cheeses and garlic stuffed olives, not to mention a glass of wine to wash it down ( I love Friday night wine and cheese night!!!).

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5. Close the curtains! This one is a no brainer.  It goes without saying that even here in Texas, we have our share of winter weather.  Although no snow to speak of, it still gets cold, damp and chilly during the winters here.  When the sun is about to set, we close the window blinds and pull the curtains shut to help prevent any drafts. This small action does make a difference and makes the house not feel as chilly, saving us from having to turn the heat up a notch or two. (It goes without saying this is also done in the heat of the summer months to keep us from turning up the A/C as the heat of the sun bears down on our windows).

There are my 5 frugal for this Friday.  Do you have any you would like to share?

Peanut Butter & Jelly Proper

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By Liz

This article is really a miscellaneous article for me, because, let’s face it…it’s peanut butter and jelly, who doesn’t know how to make this age old, beloved sandwich?

I had recently gathered one evening with a group at my church that gets together once a month to make sandwiches for a local homeless shelter. I watched this well oiled machine of about 20 people make up almost a five hundred sandwiches in about 20 minutes. One of the sandwiches they make is PB &J, I noticed however, they were not making this simple sandwich correctly.



When I came home that evening I happened to be watching the news and during one of the breaks was a commercial for a kitchen design store…I think, and the well, cinematographed ad depicted a girl in this beautiful kitchen making a PB &J sandwich for her mother. As the camera looked down on her making the sandwich, I noticed again, it was being made incorrectly.

This may sound like rantings of a crazy woman, who has nothing better to do with her time than obsess over how one makes a PB &J sandwich, but in today’s world of “foodies” and endless streams of reality cooking shows, I figure the least society can do is learn to make a proper Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.

What you need:

A clean, dry flat surface.

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Two clean butter knives.  You don’t want to “cross contaminate” your condiments.

Your favorite creamy peanut butter.  You could use chunky, but it tends to be harder to spread and you are more apt to rip the bread while spreading.

Your favorite jelly. Grape is best and the most traditional, but you could use strawberry as well.

Sandwich bread. Plain old white bread is customary. Wheat, sandwich bread is acceptable too, but please, no tortillas, bagels or any fancy shmancy artisanal bread, let’s not re-invent the wheel here people…it’s PB&J for pity’s sake!

Directions:

1. Place 2 slices of bread on your clean, flat surface.

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2. Take 1 clean butter knife and scoop out about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and spread on one slice of bread. Repeat with other slice of bread. (This creates a barrier so the jelly won’t soak through the bread, making your sandwich really soggy, really quickly).

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3. Take the other clean knife and scoop out about 1 tablespoon of jelly and spread on which ever slice of bread you desire.

4. Close sandwich by marrying the condiment sides together.

5. Eat, and enjoy this childhood favorite!

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And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen; Peanut Butter and Jelly Proper.

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*Just a side note to my New England peeps…the same application is to be applied to a Fluffernutter sandwich as well. Just replace Marshmallow Fluff for the jelly.



Five Frugal for Friday

savings

By Liz

This was an “off” week here at the house.  The college semester has ended for one of the boys, and he does not get any extra hours at his part time job for the summer until June, so he has been hanging around the house all week; one of our dear friends suffered a loss this week; our oldest dog was sick for a few days so this included stopping what we were doing to run around the house cleaning up after her.

My husband and I just could not seem to “get it into gear” this week when it came to getting projects done.  Needless to say, we are looking forward to the weekend and although it was a bad week, I still managed to get some thriftiness in.  Here are 5, frugal things I racked up this week:

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1. Sunday was Mother’s day. I hope all moms had a great day. After Sunday service, I was treated to brunch at home, not made by me this week, but by my hubby and kids, which did included a fabulous tomato and cheese omelet, home fries, avocado toast and  a couple of mimosas (my fav.).   Later in the day the kids that were home for the day, took me to one of my favorite places, the local antique mall. If you have never been to an antique mall, I highly recommend it.  It is almost like going to a museum. So many things to look at, and so many trips down memory lane and the best part…no admission fee.

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2. Sasha, our eldest dog, who was ailing this week, got some overdue TLC.  I took her to the DIY dog wash and gave her a good scrub down helping knock off a lot of her remaining winter coat.  Yes, I could wash her at home for free but Sasha has arthritis really badly in both her front and back legs and she is a big dog so it is hard for me to lift her in and out of the tub, not to mention ALL THAT HAIR. So I was glad to pay a fee of $10 at the dog wash, as they provide a tub with a ramp for her to get in and out of, they  also supply a variety of shampoos, towels, blow dryer and the best part…I don’t have a drain to unclog and tub to scrub down later.

3. Staying on Sasha, I found a new dog bed for her. Sasha gets a new bed once a year and by that time, it is much needed as the old one is pretty matted down and has lost its fluff and shape by the time the year is up.  Sasha is pretty particular about her beds; we have found that she prefers the beds at Costco that are size appropriate for her, they run us about $45. However, we have an open box store near us that sells many items that have come from Costco and I found a Kirkland (Costco brand) bed for her for only $25.

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4. From 2 zucchinis that came from our micro garden, I made a wonderfully moist zucchini bread that the family enjoyed for dessert one night and breakfast the next morning with coffee.

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5. Thursday is my errand day. So I am in and out of the house for the majority of the day, I had planned on picking up something fresh to cook for dinner that night, but you know how sometimes you just get a craving and nothing will do until you satisfy it?  Well, that was me most of the week; I was craving fried chicken.  As luck would have it, I came across some discounted Walmart fried chicken that had been made previously in the day and was now over in their refrigerated case, it was still very fresh.  I picked up 2 containers, at a price of $6.22 for a total of 16 pieces; I would only need to reheat them in my oven in the evening. I also picked up some store baked cookies that were discounted as well, 6 fresh baked cookies for a total of 68 cents and I made 3 boxes of mac and cheese that cost me another dollar. So dinner that evening cost me about $8; hammering the price of any kind of take out fried chicken I was considering stopping for that evening.

So that was my frugal 5 for Friday.  What kind of great finds or savings did you have this week?






My Menu Planning System

 

schedule

By Liz

I often get asked how I come up with a variety of nutritious, delicious, cost efficient meals for me and my family of 7. Unlike most meal and money saving plans, we really, really like to have variety. So one thing that you might notice here, is we don’t have pizza or rice and beans on our menu once a week, each of those is more like once a month.

My system maybe old school, but it is what works best for us.  On our fridge, there are two empty, monthly, block style calendars.  One is for the kids to post their work schedules and school hours and any kind of extra activity that may arise that is out of the norm.  The other is used for dinner planning, as it is the main meal in our house. Also on our fridge is a note pad to be used when I do our weekly grocery shopping.  This is a running list of items that we are either out of, or we are low on.  I have tried to challenge myself to go grocery shopping once a month, but our family goes through a lot of milk, fresh fruit and vegetables.

For our family of 7 we have the fridge in our kitchen, however, its design lacks optimal storage space on the inside, but it came with the house, so it is ours until it dies. We also have an extra fridge that is in our garage that holds mostly beverages, overflow of milk, eggs, juice and coffee creamer as well as meat that needs to be thawed or cut to portion size pieces; the top freezer portion contains bread, rolls, bagels muffins and buns.  In addition we have a 12 cubic foot chest freezer that holds primarily meat, batch cooked meals, ice cream, frozen vegetables and any kind of convenience food that we found worth our hard earned dollars and passes our personal, nutritional guidelines. Also worth mentioning is that we have a good size walk in pantry for all of our dry goods and staples.




Once a week, I will sit down with the kids’ and menu planning calendars and start filling in my dinner menu. I will browse my chest freezer for meat, chicken or fish, check my vegetables and dry goods to pair it with and start building my week of menus. Since the kids’ schedule is ever changing, I do this on a weekly and not a monthly basis, but it is nice to see what we had to eat in a month’s time. It also helps me fill out my running grocery list. If I am in need of an ingredient or will be using the last of a staple, then up on the list it goes.

I don’t plan out our breakfasts. Our house contains mostly adults and not all of us are morning people. I myself, rarely eat breakfast, I know it is the most important meal of the day, but I have always struggled with eating in the mornings.  I am good with just a cup of coffee or two. Some of the family however does like eating early in the morning and because of that there is always a supply of eggs, fruit, bread, jam, peanut butter, oatmeal, yogurt, premade muffins, breakfast sandwiches or burritos (that I make up in batches every two weeks).  We do share a weekly breakfast together, after Sunday service; I will cook brunch for the family that usually consists of a meat, toast, potatoes and eggs made to order, fresh hot coffee, juice and or milk. Once a month I will make either French toast or pancakes served with fresh fruit in place of the toast and potatoes.

Lunches are not planned out either, due to different schedules.  Our house has a revolving door between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to midnight, between work, school and socialization. So our lunches tend to be mostly leftovers, either as is or reworked a little. For instance, if the previous night we had chicken or steak, lunch then becomes either fajitas or quesadillas or if we have leftover baked potatoes from the night before, this easily becomes a broccoli and cheese stuffed potato for lunch.  We also, always have tuna, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese on hand in case someone wants a sandwich.

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My system makes it easy for me make the most of the money we spend on groceries. Since we have a freezer full of bread products, I only shop for this once a month. Since we have a freezer full of meat, I only pick more up if I come across a great deal (and I usually do) during my shopping trip. Since we have extra fridge space in the garage, I can stock up on milk, juice and eggs for the week and since we have pantry space, I can stock up on dry goods when they have reached rock bottom prices.

I love to cook and even though I have a formal education in culinary arts, it is not always very practical when operating a large household.  My menu planning contains mainly easy, healthy dishes that require minimum ingredients, time and most important….minimal clean up. Again, it might not work for all, but this is what works for us.