Archive for July, 2012


July has come to a close. It’s a good thing because the grocery money allotted for the month has been spent. We weren’t perfect but did pretty well.

A trip to Aldi for $21.67

to Giant at $21.85,

and Target at $23.12 – $4.00 for clothing or $19.13,

and with $4 spent on corn on the cob and cantaloupe at a local produce stand,

the month rounds out at exactly $14.48 over budget. Not too shabby. I can only imagine what it would have been without diligence and planning. Hopefully we’ll hit closer to the mark next month.

Some may argue the point about wasting gas to get to multiple stores. This is not the case in this instance. I started out at a haircut appointment and worked my way back home not deviating from the same road the entire trip. It was very convenient and cost effective, allowing me to visit multiple stores and get the best deals at each, making the most of my money. While doing so I scored a nice top at Target for $4 by pairing a sale with a coupon and a free pack of ballpoint pens using a store coupon. Aldi has many items that are just as good as name brand for a fraction of the price, including some quick lunch options my daughter requested, and Giant was having a great sale on the meat for a couple of special meals that were requested. I hope to do even better next month and can’t wait to try.

Whatever reasons we have to try to save money, whether it be to have more to save or invest, have more to give, or to have more to pay down debt, it’s always smart to let someone in on your plan, to help keep you accountable. Of course first you need a plan. Thank you for sharing in my goals by following along with these posts and keeping me honest.

How do you stick to your money-saving goals?

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Summer is in full swing. It’s time to utilize the crock pot and grill to keep the house cool and also keep the cost of preparing the food in check. I love the changing of the seasons and enjoying the various fruits and veg from them. It gives you something more to get excited about.

Sunday – Baked steak in the crock pot with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and salad (Husband’s special request)

Monday – Leftover baked steak and gravy over bread with mixed veggies, and cantaloupe

Tuesday – Stuffed cabbage rolls with garlic bread

Wednesday – BLT’s and salad (We like our bread toasted. Note the mayo. There are vegan varieties available that taste very close to the “real” thing.)

Thursday – BBQ Chicken with potatoes on the grill and salad

Friday – Grilled Rainbow trout and fresh summer veggies with rice pilaf

Saturday – Family reunion picnic (I’m bringing Italian pasta salad.)

We were going to go the fresh fruit route this weekend to keep things in line with the $200 a month grocery challenge and because we have such a bounty of fresh fruits.

We have quite a bit of peaches, cherries, and cantaloupe.

It appears that the sweet lovers here won out though. I found a simple, from scratch chocolate cake recipe that I had forgotten about. This cake has no icing. You’ll find it’s really not necessary. It has its own built-in chocolate and nut frosting baked on top. It’s a small cake which limits overindulgence, a bit. ūüėČ I believe it’s the easiest from scratch cake you’d ever bake.

1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

6 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 egg, well beaten

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

9 walnut halves or an equivalent of pieces

Cream butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla and cocoa. Add egg. Sift flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternating with 3/4 cup water, beating after each addition. Spread batter in greased and floured 8 x 8 x 2 pan. Sprinkle with chocolate morsels. Arrange nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees F about 30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched in the center. Cool in pan.

What is your favorite scratch cake recipe?

A trip to the farmers market …

Large, beautiful head of romaine $1.25

Three large, perfectly ripe homegrown tomatoes $2.50

Three candy onions $1.50

Five perfectly ripe peaches $2.00

Total $7.25

Left with $52.25 for this last week of July should be interesting because we are almost out of dog food and I generally like to shop for two weeks at a time. We may even opt for fresh fruit this weekend instead of the traditional Sweet Saturday unless I can find a recipe for items already on hand, which I have succeeded in doing in the past. I’m making my list now, scouring the grocery store flyers, and clipping coupons. I also wanted to stop at Target and pick up a few deal as I’ll be in the neighborhood. We’ll see how it all works out soon enough.

Friendships

Recent events have inspired me to explore friendships.

We make our first friends as children. Do these initial encounters help define us as we grow? I’m not a psychologist but have a feeling this is the case.

My first friends as a child were a household of many siblings, all girls¬†with the youngest at least 6 or 7 years older than me. We lived out in the country and didn’t have many neighbors. On the other side of us there was a boy, right about my age. At the time I remember realizing the boy was different but it didn’t make much difference to either of us. We played and got along. We had fun. We were about 5 or 6 yrs old. We were friends. The other family of all girls had a what I will call a¬†snotty snot, the one closest in age to me. I feel she was a bully and very jealous that I was an only child. I was a little spoiled and she had to share with many siblings. I remember feeling compassion and did share with her, but sometimes she just took without asking. This was the beginning of the world of friendships for me.¬†Sometimes I think it’s¬†still defining how I interact with people¬†today.

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I’ve always felt that I was a little different. I’ve often¬†thought that being an Aries¬†female compounded the problem, if you believe in that sort of thing.¬†I’m not sure I believe it but I know that what I have read makes sense. I always preferred¬†and got along better with male friends. My spouse is aware and¬†accepts this,¬†just in case anyone was¬†wondering.¬†Earlier in life this was not a problem. The problems started in and around my teenage years. Parents of my female friends frowned upon the fact that I had close associations with many male friends. They all had dirty minds. Yes, I had boyfriends, but the majority of my male friends were just that, friends. Had it occurred to anyone that I found dirt bikes and watching someone skillfully or clumsily¬†taking engines apart more appealing than the latest gossip and hair styles? No. I was more comfortable around males. They think more logically, as I do. There is much less drama, which I prefer. They tell you the truth. Well, the friends do. The lovers are¬†most often¬†the ones who lie. It’s complicated but such is life.

It’s important to note¬†when you start to shift into your middle age years and find yourself with plenty of family but not really a lot of friends to speak of you feel a little lonely. Friends are important. Of course you confide in your spouse, your parents, and other close relatives, but when you are an only child, it’s nice to have a friend who will listen, share a secret, a joy, or a concern as you would with a sister or brother. So what do you do? First you attempt friendships with other women. Office politics and other things I’d rather not mention globally ensue to make coworkers seem as a less than¬†acceptable option. You join a church and enroll in an adult Sunday school class with hopes that the fellowship will bring friendships too. You still feel that you connect more with the men and I can guarantee you this is not the venue to even want to bring up that issue. Then you reach out on social sites, which leads to a lot of “oh we should get togethers”s that really don’t turn into the close “bff” friendship that you are looking for.

Now that you’ve explored the socially acceptable avenues you revert back to what you know. Having a spouse that works in an all male work environment, you become close, and friendly with some of his coworkers. This is fine. It is acceptable. One even belongs to your church. Of course it’s not the relationship you really want because they are friends with your spouse first, and you are second, more of an acquaintance. So your spouse is aware of this quirk and thinks it’s ok with him. You know others with this “problem” and even another female relative with a close male friend. Armed with this knowledge and acceptance you revert back to the social sites and try again.

You do a little research and find both some expected and some interesting things. You find that there are men who are uncomfortable being friends with a woman, even some old childhood friends find it difficult to view you as a friend. Weeding out the perverts is yet another task that is unpleasant but necessary. You do find some males that think that’s just fine and dandy, they even stop by to chit-chat, but their wives would not appreciate it, of course, and that is a situation no one wants to be in. Yuk! You think to yourself that possibly those playing for the same team might be the answer, but you know few, and¬†those you do¬†know are too young with which to have much in common.

The main problem is that you are looking for someone as rare as yourself. It would take a special combination to really fit the bill. ¬†You would need the right amount of respect, trust, and everything else you’d find in a girly relationship with a little extra bit of something so things would be comfortable for all parties involved. It is doable? I would¬†enjoy a lot¬†of common ground including¬†being on the same plane intellectually,¬†being astrologically compatible (which sounds on the romantic side but is not and really helps, again,¬†if you believe in¬†that kind of thing)¬†and surprise, with no perverse vibes present at all.¬†Is it too much to ask? That remains to be seen. Life is a work in progress. We’ll see how this works and then¬†progress.

All this trouble because your best friends as a child were boys and your nemesis was a girl. Maybe it will turn out to be a blessing instead of a curse.

Some celebrity friends without benefits…

Julia Roberts and George Clooney

Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali

Kirstie Alley and John Travolta

 

The month is winding down and we’re still doing a good job on our $200 a month grocery challenge. Here’s the supper menu for this week.

Sunday – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with garlic bread

Monday – Marinated, grilled chicken breasts with grilled potatoes and salad

Tuesday – Stuffed zucchini boats with salad (recipe to follow another time)

Wednesday – BLT salads (Originally we were to have BLT’s, but I figured BLT salads would be more filling and healthful.)

Thursday – Spaghetti, salad

Friday – Grilled pizzas, with homemade pizza dough

Saturday – Possibly Chinese takeout

With our busy yard sale weekend and the heat of late, a simple no-bake recipe seemed in order. If you are looking for healthful you may want to look elsewhere today because I’m pretty sure the oatmeal in this recipe does not cancel out the naughtiness of these cookies.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

1 stick butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup baking cocoa

1/2 cup milk

Bring the above to a boil stirring often. Allow to boil for 2 minutes. Stir in..

3 cups oatmeal and 1 cup peanut butter and a tsp of vanilla.

Quickly stir and drop by tablespoons on wax paper.

Cook and store in an airtight container.

We make these once or twice a year, once being during the holidays. About every fourth or fifth time my cookies refuse to set up. This was one of those times. They are still good, just a little gooey. I didn’t hear any complaining though.

Does this ever happen to anyone else and does anyone know what causes it? I’m only speculating but you have to allow your mixture to boil for a while. I wonder if it has something to do with temperature, candy making, ect, or maybe humidity? I’d love for you to share your knowledge.

A huge head of cabbage from my dad’s garden inspired me to make stuffed cabbage rolls for the freezer, or pigs in the blanket as we call them around here.

I ended up with three zip top bags of six or seven pigs each. I also ended up with a container of leftover meat, rice and cabbage to make stuffed cabbage soup.

Cook enough rice so you end up with 6 cups. I used a brown instant variety that I had on hand in the pantry.

Saute 2 med onions in some olive oil.

Mix the onions with the rice.

Mix in 6 lbs of ground beef and 4 eggs. You can use a meatloaf mixture or beef and pork mixture too, equivalent to 6 lbs. At this point I also add any seasonings, such as salt and pepper and maybe some garlic powder.

While you are preparing your rice and onions you need to soften the cabbage leaves. You can use whichever method you prefer. Some remove the leaves and steam them or some core and steam the entire head, peeling off leaves as they go and then steaming again. That’s up to you. My head of cabbage was so large I did both.

Cut out the stem of the cabbage leaf so that they roll easily. Place enough meat mixture in the cabbage leaf so that you will end up with a full pig after you roll it.

At this point you can place your pigs in zip top bags to freeze or bake them in your favorite tomato sauce.

This is such a time consuming task that I make three different zip top bags. This translates into six meals for us as the cabbage rolls are huge, we like them with garlic bread to dip in the sauce, so there is always enough for two meals.

To heat these I ususally place them in a slow cooker or counter top roaster with our favorite tomato sauce. I usually add a can of tomato soup too. It adds an interesting flavor that we’ve all come to enjoy.

Our Frugal Beach Vacation

Our family of three and daughter’s friend recently embarked on what most would call a low-budget beach vacation. I shared a recent post about how we save money on vacation here. We had a blast despite our limited funds.

The ocean has a different personality each day it seems. I don’t ever remember it being the same day by day for as long as I’ve been going there, and that’s been since I was a small child. This year it was calm the day we arrived. The water was warm and peaceful with high tide arriving right around lunchtime. We arrived at our hotel around 11 a.m., got the parking pass from the office and walked up on the beach. Our motel is about a block from the beach and boardwalk. We ate our picnic lunch and stayed on the beach until around 4 p.m. After heading back to the hotel, checking in and cleaning up, we made our way up to the boardwalk.

Our first night there we enjoyed a delicious and mostly frugal and healthful meal. It’s my favorite boardwalk treat. Pizza. Well, actually it’s a Maruca’s Tomato Pie.

A perfect masterpiece of just right crisp crust, delicious sauce and yummy cheese that was just enough for the four of us. Even with a couple of drinks it was very affordable. You can watch the pizzas being made right in front of you while you dine in air-conditioned comfort right on the boardwalk. Everyone is always smiling and friendly too. We love it and make a beeline for it every year. It’s all the way down at the end of the boardwalk and worth every step.

Our second day on the beach started out very windy. There was a yellow flag at the beach patrol station which warned us about the moderately rough surf, and they weren’t kidding. The sun came out later in the day and we did end up braving the waves, but not without a few near casualties and near losses of bathing suits. It’s pretty bad when you have to choose between modesty and breathing. I’ve made a note to only wear one-piece bathing suits to the beach from now on. ūüėČ

You can see how the rough surf carved out a chunk of beach.

It was more than a 2 ft drop, but just a little bit fun sliding down to get to the water. Once you made it to the water that was an obstacle in itself.

On our second night we went to a local family Italian restaurant for dinner. We found a coupon in the Beach Comber magazine we found in the hotel lobby. It was the buy one entr√©e get one free variety. The portions were huge and the food was delicious. I noticed many left with doggie bags. We had a frig and microwave in our room so we were able to do this too. We didn’t realize it when we entered the restaurant, but the cast of the TV show Jersey Shore was dining in the back. Although we are not fans, it was exciting to watch the interested patrons and their anticipation of maybe getting a glimpse of one of the cast.

We were welcomed by calmer water on our third and final day on the beach and spent a great deal of time in the water jumping the gentle waves. It was just enough days on the beach. Even with reapplication of sunblock, with all of that sun and sea spray, you start to get a little crispy around the edges. We left the beach with a promise to the ocean to return next year. Our third and final night was spent on the boardwalk taking in all of the sights and sounds, everyone choosing their favorite boardwalk foods to eat and riding go-carts. The boardwalk is a mile long. We more than walked off our supper walking up and down.

Our vacation came to a crescendo on the way home when we stopped at The Cheesecake Factory to spend some of the extra money that we did not need for the trip. It was neither frugal nor healthful, but a welcomed once a year treat. I opted for a more healthful chicken and shrimp dish with brown rice. We ordered the cheesecake to go and packed it away in a cooler to keep it safe on the rest of the trip home.

We had a fantastic time for what most would certainly feel was just a little bit of money as far as vacations are concerned.

How do you vacation?

Yard Sales

This week we are preparing for a yard sale at the frugal and healthful house.

 

While I’m not one to recommend running to every yard sale in the general vicinity on a Saturday morning just to buy whatever, I am into finding specific items that one may need. If you grab whichever Friday night or Saturday morning paper that lists your local yard sales, you will find that many will place specific items in the ad. If you are in need of a large item, such as a dresser, you’ll save a ton if you pick one up at a yard sale, even if you have to refurbish it a little. You can also have your own sale and clean out that attic or garage. I’m itching to do just that. I find if you set a purpose for the money you’ll make ahead of time you always do better because you have a goal to work towards. Our¬†earnings this year will go towards our budget category of truck repairs/tires. In the past we have used our yard sale¬†profit for the summer vacation fund.

Tips For Hosting Your Own Yard Sale

Check to see if your community has any laws regarding yard sales and follow the rules.

Decide what to sell. You can have someone help you with this process if you are sentimental.

Clean up any items that might need it. A lot of times you can get more for an item if it’s spiffed up a little.

Price your items. If you haven’t had a sale in a while you may want to browse a few sales in your area to make sure you aren’t under or overpricing your items.

Figure out a display strategy. Hang clothing on hangers from a clothesline. Plan to borrow tables if necessary. Have an outlet and extension cord available to test electric items. Make sure customers have a safe path to walk around and look at items. As you place items on your tables keep the box under the table for large purchases or for easier cleanup after the sale. Figure out how you will cover your items in case of bad weather.

Save grocery bags to use for customers’ purchases.

Ask friends and neighbors if they would like to join in before you place an ad so you can split the cost.

Set one price for pants, another for shirts, etc. and write it on a sign instead of having to mark every item.

If you make and post signs in the high traffic areas of your neighborhood, which I highly recommend, make sure to take them down when your sale is over. They can create quite an eyesore.

Make sure to get change the day before your sale starts. Decide who is in charge of the cash box and keep a close eye on it at all times, or wear a cash belt or fanny pack. Have a pen and paper nearby or a calculator for quick adding.

What kinds of items have you scored at yard sales that saved you a bundle?

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