Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Grocery shopping in your pantry (and fridge and freezer)

As I looked around our kitchen on Sunday, I realized that we were very well stocked. It was also near the end of the month and I was hoping to come in under on our March grocery budget. So on Monday I only grabbed milk and some fruit at the grocery store and decided to try to make it through to Friday without buying any other food. So far so good!

Sunday: Spaghetti. I had sauce and pasta in the pantry. Also served a spinach salad.

Monday: Tacos. We had a package of ready-made carne asada in the pantry (free sample from my husband's work), tortillas, spinach, salsa and cheese in the fridge. I also served black beans from a can we had in the pantry.

Tuesday: Frozen (homemade) Pizza. We had made and frozen an extra the last time we made homemade pizza, so I just baked and served with a spinach salad.

Wednesday: Chicken. Crock pot applesauce chicken thighs, sweet potato fries, and peas. Chicken, fries, and peas were all from the freezer. (if someone comments on this post asking for the crock pot recipe I will post later this week)

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner. We are going to have baked eggs, homemade waffles or pancakes, yogurt, and fruit for dinner.

Throughout the week our 14-month-old ate from our plates as well as eating mixed vegetables I steamed for her, rice cereal, mandarin oranges, whole wheat bread, etc.

Lessons Learned:
1. It helps to keep a well-stocked kitchen. I think I'll do a post in the future outlining the key items to always keep on-hand.
2. I spent very little on groceries this week, but also avoided using gas for multiple trips to the store as well as those impulse purchases that always seem to end up in my cart.
3. It was fun to look around and figure out what I could make from what we had.

While we certainly won't use this strategy every week, maybe it will become a new end of the month tradition!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Free 411 Service

Thanks to my thrifty friend Nicki for suggesting this one. Do you ever find yourself needing to quickly find a phone number and just dialing 411? A friendly person answers, finds the phone number, and connects you. Then at the end of the month you find a hefty charge on your phone bill! There is a better way.

My husband and I had been a fan of google 411, but the service was discontinued in November of 2010. Never fear, Bing now offers one. Bing411 The number is 1-800-BING-411. It's voice-recognition based, and the times I've tried it I have found what I was looking for on the first try. The only charge is any that you'd normally pay to make a cell phone call or to receive a text if you have the number sent to you.

So, you might want to program the number into your phone for those times you need it.

Does anyone else out there have a free phone service that they use?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Indonesian Chicken

Chicken has been on sale quite a bit in the past couple weeks, so I've stocked up on thighs and drumsticks. When I saw that peanut butter was a main ingredient in this recipe I had to give it a try. It was delicious! We had it with steamed broccoli and baked potatoes, but it would also be great with rice and a stir-fry.

Indonesian Chicken
From Make it Fast, Cook it Slow

  • Eight chicken drumsticks, skin removed
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 t sesame oil
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
  • garnish with sesame seeds and lime wedges; optional

  1. Put the peanut butter into your crockpot and turn it to high so it can begin to melt. Add the other sauce ingredients and stir to mix. Add chicken and toss to coat.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5. This is done when the chicken is cooked through and has reached desired tenderness. The longer you cook it, the more tender it will become, but it may fall off the bone if you cook too long.
  3. If your crockpot isn't at least 2/3 full, keep an eye on it so the peanut butter doesn't burn. You may need to stir a few times.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- Frame art yourself

As I've mentioned before, my husband has become quite good at framing posters and photos. Most of the art in our house has been framed by him, and he has also done some framing for other people. The project you see below is a wedding picture of his sister and her husband. My husband framed it for them as a gift.

There is an initial investment in a mat cutter, saw, biscuit joiner, point gun, etc, but it has more than re-paid itself. The cost to get a piece of art this size framed at Michael's or another store is easily over $200.

1. Gluing two pieces of molding together to create the desired frame thickness

2. Cutting the long pieces into the individual sides of the frame

3. Side view of the molding after being cut

4. Using biscuit joining tool to cut slots in each side

5. See how the biscuit fits into the two pieces

6. After the two sides are glued together, sanding edges smooth

7. Staining the completed frame

8. The mat cutter

9. Measuring the width of the mat

10. Cutting the mat

11. Putting it together

12. Attaching the backer (foamcore) with point gun

13. Rolling brown paper over the back and taping in place

14. Attaching the hardware to hang the frame

And the final product- A double-matted (orange inside, cream outside) custom-framed piece of art! He usually uses plexiglass instead of glass, but for this one ended up using glass.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saying No

Discussion Book
A discussion topic in our baby and me class today really got me thinking. We talked about saying "no" to our kids and how important it is to teach them they can't always have everything that they want. Saying no helps them to develop self-control and self-discipline, two very important life skills. The discussion also centered around how culture and the media focuses on saying "yes" and always getting more stuff with instant gratification.

What a lesson. If more people had learned this lesson as kids said no to things they couldn't afford, maybe we could have avoided the mortgage meltdown and financial crisis! A recent post on one of my favorite blogs said it well, too: I Am Not Giving My Kids Everything

How does this tie to being thrifty? We can sometimes say no to ourselves when looking for the easy way, which might be the more expensive way. We can try to raise our kids to not expect piles of presents and material things for every holiday, but give them an unlimited amount of love and attention. We can talk to our kids about the family budget and why we make the spending decisions we do, which sometimes might mean saying "no" to things they want.

As the header of this blog says, being thrifty is not just about saving money, it's also about thriving, flourishing, and prospering. Saying no in a loving way can help all of us do just that!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shamrock Shake Price Differences!

From Source

Does anyone else love Shamrock Shakes? These minty, electric green delights are only available at McDonald's during the month of March. I might have already had three of them this month.

I'm sure we're all familiar with the fact that prices at McDonald's and other fast food restaurants are usually more expensive at airports and malls. What I didn't realize that individual product prices could differ over just a few miles. My first two shakes were from a McDonald's in one town (Chanhassen) and my third one was from a McDonald's just one town and less than five miles away (Excelsior) but was 20 cents cheaper.

Lesson learned: it might be worth it to price compare at local fast food restaurants if there is an item you buy repeatedly. I will probably save at least a dollar this month by the time I reach my Shamrock Shake limit. Between this and Easter candy, it's a good thing I added a gym membership last month!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thrifty Recipe- Molten Chocolate Cakes

Photo from Women's Day Magazine
Craving some decadence? Well, these molten chocolate cakes are for you. We (well actually my husband) have made these cakes for guests for the past two weekends and they have turned out great. Both times, we doubled the recipe to make four. I received ramekins for Christmas and have been looking for excuses to use them. This is a great excuse. And super thrifty as well- only five ingredients. Save the egg white you don't use and make an egg-white omelet the next day.

Molten Chocolate Cakes
From Women's Day Magazine

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the ramekins
1 Tbsp flour, plus more for the ramekins
1⁄3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 450ºF. Butter two 6-oz ramekins and dust the inside with flour.
2. Place the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high in 20-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg, egg yolk and sugar in a medium bowl until thick and lighter in color, about 1 minute. Add the melted chocolate mixture and flour and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins. Bake until edges are set and center still jiggles slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand for 15 seconds. Run a knife around edge, then invert each cake onto a plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with fresh mint or berries, if desired. Serve immediately.

Make-Ahead Tip: Refrigerate the batter in the ramekins for up to 1 day. Before baking, bring to room temperature.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thrifty Strategy- CSA's

Photo by Kimberly Aime
 I am thrilled to welcome my first guest post to the blog. Over the past few years, I have heard a lot about CSA's (Community Shared Agriculture), where you join and get a weekly or bi-weekly box of fresh produce from a local farm. My dear friend and fellow blogger Kimberly took the plunge and joined a CSA in 2010. I asked her if she'd be willing to share her experience in a blog, and she did!

Badger Girl Learns to Cook- CSA's: Time to Sign Up

The post outlines what CSA's are all about, her experiences, thrifty potential, and the pro's and con's of joining one. She even includes links to websites where you can find CSA's in your area. While you're at it, check out Kimberly's Examiner page. She writes about arts and culture in the Madison, Wisconsin area.