Archive for June, 2012


It’s husband’s birthday weekend and this is one of his absolute favorite desserts. We will be at a family picnic as well, and what a yummy treat to share. You may remember this recipe from a previous Sweet Saturday. If you’re going to repeat anything, this is definitely something worth repeating!

Again I already had everything in my pantry to make this recipe, except the chocolate, which was an added bonus on the frugality side of things.

To ‘healthify’ the recipe somewhat, I would use all natural or homemade peanut butter and dark chocolate.

Mix together:

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tsp melted butter

1 cup milk

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Spread into a greased and floured jelly roll pan, sheet pan, or a large cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 mins.

Let cool slightly and spread with peanut butter. The recipe calls for a cup but I believe I used a little more.

I refrigerated it at this point to get the peanut butter to the point where I could spread the chocolate.

Melt 8 ounces of milk chocolate by whichever method you prefer. I used the microwave and started at 1 minute then needed two more 30 second increments, stirring after each. I also used about 10.5 ounces of chocolate and it seemed to be just enough.

This is important! Cut the bars now while everything is still warm and then refrigerate.  It’s going to be a hot one this weekend and everything is going to get melted very quickly so my advice would be to eat dessert first. 😉 Yum!

Follow Your Dreams

The Frugal and Healthful house has had its share of ups and downs during the last nine months, and I wanted to share some of those with the hope that many will be inspired to overcome challenges and follow their dreams.

After many family discussions about resigning an eight year position as a medical secretary at a local pediatric doctor’s office I finally took the plunge almost nine months ago to follow my dream to start a blog and put things in place to earn an income from home. While my family knew what it would mean to be single family income again, they were very supportive.

Before the final decision was made we did the following…

We calculated our monthly expenses to make sure they could be covered by one income, and we lived on one income for a few months. If you have to dip into the second income, you’re not ready yet. Remember to factor in what it will save you to quit your job. It could be clothing, transportation expenses, childcare, the ability to live more frugally because you are no longer too exhausted or stressed to make those more frugal choices, more time to coupon and hunt for savings, etc. I’m not telling you to go out and quit your job. That is a very personal and family decision that would surely take a lot of planning and discussion.

We stopped buying and started saving what I call our emergency buffer, which is the money that saves you from disaster and the unexpected. We had our share of those this year, but we succeeded because we had money saved and were knowledgeable about living frugally. We also stocked up and paid things off using my income and saved the rest for that emergency buffer.

After resigning we were still able to:

Attend my daughter’s Navy boot camp graduation in Chicago, IL.

Have a nice “cash only” Christmas.

Go to the movie theater to see our favorite flicks, and we have a lot of favorites.

Go camping in a cottage.

Go on a beach vacation.

Some things in our lives have changed, but nothing that we are truly missing.

We did these things in spite of…

Several months of unexpected health expenses, up and above what was calculated as the norm over the course of years when I did my figuring.

Temporary unexpected loss of income due to one of those health issues.

Pet health issues and ongoing care expenses.

Vehicle repairs and unexpected household repairs, again up and above what was calculated as the norm.

Bad things are going to happen. We shouldn’t let the fear of bad things happening keep us from realizing a dream. Plan the best you can and give the rest to God.

Things we cut down on:

Eating out. We’ve found that we enjoy home cooked meals a lot better, and now I have a lot more time to prepare them. Eating out has become more entertainment than what used to be thought of as a necessity. Check out cooking for the freezer recipes for those times when you are busy and tempted to go over budget.

Buying a new vehicle right away. I see a lot of posts on popular blogs about making decisions to not have a car payment and even paying cash for a “new” old car. I’m one of those people and completely and absolutely love not having a car payment. When the time comes, our decision will be based on what’s best for the lifestyle we desire and not on just what’s in style.

Buying clothes. I no longer need special clothes for my job. I’ve also become more of a minimalist when it comes to wardrobe and love that approach. Less to take care of and less to worry about. I buy only classic pieces and things that go with everything else, or most everything else. I frequent sales and Target clothing coupons are awesome too. I’ve gotten several tees this year for less than $3 and sometimes even free. The regular retail ranged from $15 to $20. Love deals like that! Also, who needs an extensive summer wardrobe when you are spending a lot of your days enjoying the pool. 😉

Buying paper items. Items that I used to consider a necessity to save my sanity are no longer needed. They are now considered a luxury for tons of company or parties and purchased with coupons and great deal scenarios.

All of these adjustments in our lives are a small price to pay to be able to put things in place to work from home and be able to focus on one’s family, at least we think so.

How far would you go to realize your dream?

It looks like it’s time to do some weeding already. Isn’t it amazing that this came from

this…?

Only a few short weeks ago we put the plants in. Those tiny little seedlings have grown and on some you can already see a few flowers.

The beans have sprouted too…

It won’t be long and we’ll be enjoying fresh veggies.

What’s growing in your garden?

Our weekly menu always allows for some wiggle room. Being flexible can actually help you stay on track. You could flip-flop days or make substitutions here and there. The key is to have a plan in the first place, to help eliminate the what’s for dinner I’m just too tired to think so let’s go out and spend a ton of money we don’t have syndrome.

Sunday: High School Graduation Picnic – Chicken, mac and cheese, baked beans, green beans with garlic and olive oil, garden salad with homemade Italian dressing, watermelon, potato chips, yellow cake with whipped cream, cream cheese, and cherry topping, cake pops, homemade cream cheese mints.

Monday: Leftover chicken, mac and cheese, peas

Tuesday: meatballs from the freezer with gravy over mashed potatoes, salad

Wednesday: Turkey burger sliders, beans, watermelon

Thursday: Dinner out on the way home from running errands

Friday: “Make your own chef salad” Set out salad fixin’s and let everyone create their own salad. This helps make a simple supper more entertaining and will possibly make salad more appealing if you have any complainers. Be sure to include a choice of protein, cut up or shredded veggies, and maybe even some homemade croutons to go on your greens. You could make a special house dressing or allow picky eaters to choose their favorite.

Saturday: Picnic at extended family’s

If you happen to be lucky and have a chilly night, which would be a welcome break from this heat, you could whip up the creamy potato soup that you’ll find with the homemade crouton recipe. It’s a simple soup and you may even have all of the ingredients on hand. It’s cheap, filling, and delicious. You could also pair it with a salad for those who just must have a hot meal at the end of the day.

Cake pops seem to always be a big hit at celebrations. A graduation party for my daughter recently prompted their creation yet again.

How can something so simple turn out to look so spectacular? Guests are impressed and I’m always asked for the recipe. Party goers are amazed that it’s a lot more simple than they thought.

Bake a box cake.

Crumble up the cake in a large bowl.

Add a canister of ready-made icing.

The flavor combinations are endless. We used dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate icing for one batch and strawberry cake with butter cream icing for the other.

Mush it all together in the bowl with your hands and roll into balls.

Refrigerate balls on a tray or cookie sheet until you melt your chocolate or other coating.

Poke a pop stick into each ball. Dip stick into chocolate and then into each ball.

After you have all of the pop sticks inserted refrigerate the balls. This really helps with the process. If the cake balls are cold, the coating will dry faster thereby speeding up the process, which is important when you have around 100 balls to decorate.

Dip the cake balls in the coating of your choice. I used the wafers this time but usually use a good quality chocolate. Follow the package instructions for whichever candy coating you choose.

I’ve seen stands which you can purchase in the cake decorating section at certain superstores for around $3, but you could make your own. You want your cake pops to dry while in an upright position. In a pinch you could tape two cereal boxes together and poke holes so that the sticks penetrate the top box. This would hold them upright and stable. I found it easier to buy the stand, though, and that can be reused. We were careful that the pops were done dripping before inserting in the holder. I placed it over a pizza pan so I could transport it to the frig. It held 48 pops at a time. After they are cold and the coating is set you can store them topside down on a nonstick cookie sheet or tray lined with nonstick foil, wax paper, or parchment paper.

To display your cake pops you can get as creative as you like. I purchased a foam block from a craft store which I have reused several times. You could also arrange top side down on a plate or as a bouquet in a vase.

We sprinkled our pops with colored sugar and nonpareiles. You could also pipe icing on. Work quickly though if sprinkling.

Enjoy these fun two-to-three bite wonders.

A Walk in the Park

We’ve been trying to follow along with Money Saving Mom’s 4 Weeks of Frugal Family Fun Challenge, but failing miserably. We’ve been busy prepping for my daughter’s graduation party this weekend. Preparing for a party can be fun, but it’s mostly, well, work. It’s no excuse, though, to not take time to relax and have some family time that is fun and frugal.

We happen to be lucky enough to be within walking distance of a river and a state park. The scenery beckons you to return. Mother nature is ever changing so you can go several days in a row and you might see something different each time. If you walk it’s about a 40 minute round trip, or you could pack a lunch and spend the better part of the day there. The trip was relaxing and fun for our age group, and would be even more exciting for little ones.

Today we saw geese and some very large fish. Both were feeding along shore.

The fish were large, but I’m not sure what they were. If you have trouble spotting them you can see the ripples they left behind as they splashed around, stirring up the weeds.

Flowers, trees, and insects are always fun to try to identify. There were several butterflies flitting around, but I couldn’t get them to pose for a picture. Maybe I’ll have better luck next time.

Remember to leave behind only footprints and remember extra batteries for your camera. 😉

Primum non nocere

This Latin phrase, mostly known for having to do with medicine, means “First do no harm.

Typically people don’t do things that don’t benefit them in some way. We’re all looking for results. Favorable ones. Whether it’s volunteering at the local soup kitchen or purposely hurting someone’s feelings, it’s the feeling we get from the act that is the driving force of our actions. If there is no benefit, we humans rarely act. We are all human though and therein lies the problem. We often act without thinking, are selfish, have formed bad habits, and the list goes on.

Of course the world would be such a better place if first we were intentional about doing no harm. Most of us try, I know, but sometimes I don’t think we realize just what we do. You might be surprised at just how thoughtless we’ve become when it comes to how we treat others. Oftentimes we may find it’s those closest to us and those we feel we love the most that we actually harm the most.

Here is a challenge. I challenge all of my readers to go through the day and be intentional about doing no harm. Think before you act. Analyze. Pause. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you do no harm for a day. For some it will be easy and automatic, and for others it will take much forethought and dedication. Some of us may get an unpleasant surprise today.

If you have the courage, report back. If you experience one of those “Wow! What was I thinking?” moments, share. I doubt there will be much sharing, but sometimes it’s our shortcomings that make us feel normal. We all make mistakes. Hopefully we can learn from those mistakes.

Share with a friend or friends you feel might appreciate the idea.

How often did you have to alter your actions today, or maybe not act at all, in order to do no harm?

There’s nothing like knowing what you will be eating for the main meal of the day. It helps me stay organized and save money.

Sunday:  Cheeseburgers, Potato salad and Beans

This was a celebratory meal and was neither frugal nor healthful. We even got out the peanut butter pie for later.

Monday: Leftovers from Ham Dinner

Tuesday: White Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic bread

The inspiration for this meal came from the beautiful bulbs of fresh garlic my dad just gave us out of his garden.

You might want to skip the garlic bread if you don’t want carb overload. I might have just a little piece to soak up the oil and vinegar dressing I use on the salad.

Wednesday: Grilled chicken, Baked potatoes, Salad, Peas

This is that comparison meal I did last week. It was enjoyed so much we are having it again. I added the peas.

Thursday: Weiny Roast Pool Party with extended family

We are in need of some frugal yet more healthful suggestions to feed a crowd when we have company over to swim and it happens to be suppertime. We turn to hotdogs because they are cheap, quick, and easy. Cleanup is easy too. I’m sure if I brainstorm I’ll be able to think of a few alternatives so they don’t become a weekly habit.

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Leftovers to clear out the frig to prepare for our graduation party on Sunday

After hearing these mentioned by someone at the grocery store, I had to try them. I’m sure there are recipes out there but I made mine according to our tastes. Not really enjoying things that are too sweet, I experimented with the cream cheese and sugar combination until it was just right.

You will need about 20 to 24 strawberries. Pick the prettiest ones you can find. I think bite sized would be best. I’m sure the filling oozes out with each bite. One or two bites would be ideal.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

Clean and dry your strawberries. Cut the core out leaving sturdy sides. Make sure not to poke through.

Mix your cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. You can do this by hand or use a mixer. Spoon this mixture into a zip top bag. Snip off the corner and pipe the mixture into the strawberries. Allow enough mixture over the top to sprinkle with your graham cracker crumbs.

Arrange on a plate.

Refrigerate if not serving immediately. Your graham cracker crumbs may get a little soggy sitting around, but I’m sure would still be yummy.

Cheap Family Fun

It’s summertime. What to do to keep the kids entertained? My kids have been teenagers for a while and a lot of times teens go their own way and sometimes don’t have time for lazy day summer fun due to summer jobs, taking summer classes to get ahead with college courses, or other responsibilities. For the ones who do find the time or make the time, Money Saving Mom’s Four Weeks of Frugal Family Fun series sounds like a way to get some new ideas for all ages and maybe get our memories jarred a little about some good old-fashioned standbys.

Being the sentimental person that I am and hardly ever missing an opportunity to mix in a little learning, cleaning or organizing with a fun thing, I thought of a frugal, sentimental and entertaining rainy day activity.

Going through old family photo albums. It’s a good opportunity to sort and organize pictures you haven’t yet. This would be a good activity for ages 8 and up, but I guess it would depend on maturity. Children love to hear stories about their ancestry. Everyone should know where they came from, and like to hear funny or even more serious stories about relatives who have passed. It helps keep their spirits’ alive and helps kids to get to know relatives they may have never had a chance to meet.

Going through relatively newer family albums. You took the pictures for a reason, to remember. Why not sit back and remember together. Remember the time we went there and so and so did this? It’s all about the memories folks, isn’t it?

Organizing a new album or boxes of photos. Because this is about frugality, no need to buy special supplies. You can always organize the photos in a small box, or shoebox until you have an album to put them in. I know in the age of digital everything, it’s much more convenient to store everything digitally, however; it’s nice to have a few albums with real pictures to leaf through. Call me old-fashioned.

Use those digitally stored pictures to make a book or calendar. I’ve seen great deals on these periodically. This would make a great present for grandparents or a parent that travels a lot. This would also make a great present for a recent high school graduate to take to college. Nothing like a calendar or book of special family memories to help soothe a homesick heart.

You may have noticed I have no pictures with my blog today. It’s kind of odd for a post about photos I know. That’s because husband and I had some of our own summer “fun” today. It was called replace a fence post, which entailed taking the privacy fence apart, digging up and pulling out the cement holding the old post, running to Lowe’s for more cement and 2 x 4s, and finally finishing the job. Can anyone say, “Let’s collapse in an exhausted heap.”? I wouldn’t want to do that for a living, and it wasn’t frugal either. Kudos to all of the fence post replacing persons out there!

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