Friday, February 20, 2015

Saving money, budgeting tips, and frugal recipes

A money tree! Wouldn't this be the most amazing thing to place on our counter and nurture it and have it produce plenty of money for all our wants and needs? A luxury...yes... teaching us responsibility and riding out hard times...not so much.

That's one thing every one of us has faced at some point in our lives. Whether it's the rich mismanaging their fortunes or trusting the wrong advisers, or a new parent struggling to make ends meet. A terrible diagnosis of our health...a job loss and more. Regardless of the reasons why... learning to manage our money is important.

I'm going to share tips that have helped me throughout the years. Being a stay at home mom requires careful budgeting and reexamining when mistakes are made (and they were :-) Staying home and being present for our girl's lives has always been a top priority and there were times we made a lot of sacrifices to make it happen. Yes, we gave up cell phones, cable TV, entertainment and more. Not always easy especially as young parents, but ALWAYS worth it. Having support in a spouse is crucial for making it work. So through the mistakes and the achievements I'd like to share some tips.

Setting up a budget is one of the first things to getting your finances in order. Planning is critical every step of the way, including meal planning and less eating out. To start a budget list all your income, then separately list the bills. The difference of that is what is left each month for groceries, entertainment, gas in vehicles, etc. When an extra week is in a month, use that extra cash towards paying down debts and savings. Most importantly stick to this budget and don't spend more than you make. In fact, try your best to always live below your means and allow wiggle room for expenses that may arise. A key tool is an expense journal and I've mentioned this in previous posts. Great way to keep track of spending and also to help see who has the cheaper prices.

One of the biggest areas that money is wasted is on food that is thrown out or in eating out all the time. There are so many ways to save, but if you don't plan meals you are setting yourself up to fail. For instance, you can eliminate K-cups if not in the budget and brew your own coffee to save money. No stopping by Starbucks every day. Jerry brews his and some days uses K-cups, but he drinks so much coffee it has saved us a ton of $$ brewing our own. Same with tea, it's cheaper purchasing tea bags and many times you can get 2 cups of tea from one bag. Plus saves cost when brewing iced tea and not purchasing bottles of it.

Many times when shopping with our spouses or our young children, we can throw money away on items not planned on our lists. With my girls I have always had them be a part of the grocery shopping and taught them how to find the deals. Now I won't say they haven't "begged" for something extra and at times it may reach the cart, lol... but for the most part they know how important a budget is. Before even entering a store be sure to make a menu plan and don't shop when you are hungry. I have tried different ways of menu planning, both monthly and weekly and I have found weekly to work best for our family. However, keeping regular staples on hand is important for success. Also designate a cooking day and freezing meals saves a lot of money too. Some weeks can be more scarce then others, for example some evenings may be noodles and veggies or breakfast foods for dinner. Keep in mind using what you have on hand first keeps the costs down. Be sure to stay within your budget and adjust as needed. Having bags of frozen stir fry veggies is awesome, I throw them in with a little vegetable broth and add turkey sausage for flavor. Everyone in the family loves it and it's quick, and inexpensive on nights when we are really busy and don't have time for big meals.

I keep an inventory list of my freezers, refrigerators and my pantry and cross off as I use items. It's also handy to have the book near me when menu planning so I know the ingredients I already have on hand and I save money by not buying duplicates. One of the best resources for an efficiently run kitchen in my opinion. Also setting up your kitchen with the proper tools and appliances for making a variety of foods. We use our crock pot, juicer, blender, etc regularly. Also be sure to invest in quality cookware and it will last many years with proper care. Like my Dutch Oven... I love that thing I cook so many different types of meals in it.

Another way to save money is to make your own bread either with a bread machine or from scratch.
Have you ever opened a loaf of bread from the store and smelled the chemicals? Gross... and we wonder why cancer is on the rise. There are so many bread recipes to try. Here's an example I have used from Taste of Home magazine from a few years back.


1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
6 1/4 to 6 3/4 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt, oil, and 3 cups flour. Beat till smooth stir in remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Put on a floured surface knead until smooth and elastic about 8-10 mins. Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down, put on floured surface, divide dough in half, shape into loaf. Place in 2 greased 9 in. x 5 in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled about 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Makes 2 loaves. 16 slices approximately.

Takes a little work and time but there is nothing like homemade bread!

Gardening is another key money saver and being sure to freeze foods that you grown for the winter. We are still enjoying fresh raspberries from our backyard that we had frozen last summer. This year having the property we wanted our garden should really take off and save us even more money! I will be adding more segments about that soon. No matter how small a space you live in a garden is possible. For instance you can do container gardens in apartments :-) Farmer's markets and buying local is also a way to save and eat healthy too.

Another fun way to save money is to do dinner swaps with family, friends and neighbors. Take turns cooking meals for a family and swap. Saves money and helps others. Another way to cut costs is drinking more water and making your own brewed teas and juices at home. Plus cuts down on the amount of waste.

This is a picture of Jerry and I early last year taking a flight to NC for a potential job. Not sure who the strange guy in the back is trying to get in the but anyway.... Jerry and I have faced more than our fair share of adversity. We know what it means to lose savings and have companies close and offer no severance pay. Jerry is one of the hardest working men I have ever met in my life and one thing we have in common is we don't quit. We may get knocked down, it mat take us out for a bit...but we always pull through some how. The biggest part of it all is sometimes you have to move to find the job opportunities and leave family and friends behind. Jerry and I know this all too well and unless you experience it, you can't truly understand the impact. We have done it several times. We solely rely on one another and I think it is one of the reason we have a strong relationship. My point is this.... we know hard times, I may not focus on them but they are there. Sometimes I ask God why... but I know he has a plan and though I may not always understand it at the time....I know it will work out and make sense.

I am thankful Jerry now has a good job and we are together as a family and that is enough.... Day by step in front of the other... we'll get by.
This is one of the reasons I've learned by trial and error... I know that even having savings, though helpful it can be wiped out in the loss of a job very quickly. I know the importance of planning and juggling and surviving. As a team we raise our children how we see best and sacrifice to make sure they thrive. So we may look a bit tired and weary in this photo... but I also see it as how far we have come.

A few more money savings tips:

*  If possible save money and change your own oil in your vehicle or have a friend do it for you.

* Take advantage of free resources and shows and cultural events by going to the library and checking out events at local colleges and universities. I have found some truly wonderful programs at both places for us. Lowes and Home Depot also do free building workshops for kids.

* Get out the board games and spend quality family time together... away from the electronics. We laugh so hard playing games like pictionary and Headbands to name a few.

*Consider investing in electric razors for you and your spouse and cut down on the cost of shaving cream and disposable razors.

*Carpool whenever the opportunity arises...especially with these gas prices! Also try to plan a day to get your errands done at one time and plan the locations.

*Do home projects yourself or by asking a friend and save on contractors. Jerry is adamant on this...we are definitely do it ourselvers! Yes I just created a new word, lol.

*Pay car insurances annually and you can receive a reduced rate.

* Call cable and wireless companies every couple months to be sure you are getting the best rates!

*When traveling be sure you pack your own snacks and try not to impulse buy.

* Consider trading and borrowing with others. Whether its a snow blower, a mower, household appliance, etc. It can save you money and help others in return. Also great to donate clothes to others as your children outgrow them and shop consignments, Goodwills and Yard sales.

* There is tons of free software programs available online, be sure to check those resources before spending a lot on programs.

* Refill ink cartridges instead of buying new ones.

* Before making any big purchases, think about it first for at least 30 days. Is it a need or a want? Is there another alternative?

* Buy in bulk and stock up when you can. Be sure to use up the resources you already have.

* Use cash as much as possible. Keeping an envelope system for different expenses works well. Budget your money out and once it's gone that's it until next pay day.

I remember my grandma was always very frugal and saving everything. If there was a spoonful of peas left after dinner, she'd save it. Perhaps extreme we think today, but the conditions of how she lived were during the Great Depression were terrible and we can't understand if we haven't experienced it. She washed out sandwich baggies and plastic bags and had them drying on the dish rack. She was a master of throwing everything leftover in the fridge in a pot to cook it. She wore the same wardrobe of clothes rarely adding to it over the years. She'd buy reading glasses at the local drug store to avoid paying for an eye exam and so much more. I loved that lady and there is some thing to learn from her frugality.

I came across 2 recipes from the Depression Era that will feed a larger family or be great to cook and freeze the extras.

Depression Casserole

1 pound ground beef (or chicken or turkey :-)
1/4 cup rice soaked in 1/2 cup warm water 15-20 mins.
2 carrots cut into thin pieces
2 onions sliced thin separated into rings
4 to 5 medium potatoes sliced paper thin
2 16 ounce cans chopped tomatoes undrained
1 stalk celery diced
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Crumble uncooked meat into bottom of baking dish. Drain rice and sprinkle over meat. Layer carrots, onions, potatoes and celery on top of rice. Sprinkle salt, pepper & paprika, dot with butter. Pour tomatoes over all. Cover with foil and bake for an hour.

Serves 6 at about $1.56 a serving :-)

Next is called WPA Soup. WPA stands for Work Progress Administration, it was one of the many Great Depression relief programs created under the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, which Roosevelt had signed the month before. To learn more click this link It will take you to the History channel. In the search engine type in This Day in History 5/6/1933. You will learn some more details about the Act and the programs.


6 Quarts water
2 cups celery chopped
2 cups onion chopped
2 cups potatoes chopped
2 cups smoked sausage cut into 1 inch pieces
2 to 3 tsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs slightly beaten

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add all ingredients except eggs. Simmer one hour gently blend in beaten eggs and continue boiling for 1 minute until cooked.

Serves 12 at 50 cents a serving :-)

In 2011 I posted 3 blog posts about saving money. Some may repeat and others are definitely different. If you'd like to review them, here are the separate links, just click on the number:




Thanks for stopping by today and I hope some of these tips and recipes can benefit you and your families! Have a wonderful weekend!



Julie said...

You have such awesome ideas and I hope that for all the time you took to write this that someone learns from them. You have a wonderful list of bloggers that follow you and I know that there are lots, including me, that can learn something new. Most awesome Jill.
I love all the pictures you shared in your last post. I love the most that Jerry lets you and even smiles in pictures you take. I wish Jim would do that.
Take care Jill and have an awesome weekend. Blessings!!

Victorian1885 said...

Hello Jill
You have given all of us some great tips... you are clearly very organized. ; ) Good job!
The photo of you two is great!
Take care...

Nonnie said...

Jill, those are all great tips. You are right about being stronger after experiencing adversity. I know that has been true in my life. My siblings and I grew up in a family that was very conservative with money and crazy enough, we each married spouses who are very liberal. I think we have struck a balance though and my husband and I are careful with money because you never know what lies ahead.
Your Grandma and I would get along great! (And you and your husband are a very cute couple!)

Sonya Ann said...

I love anything that has to do with saving money. It has always been a struggle for us and we have won some and lost some battles. But the good thing is, it really helps when other people talk about it too. It brings us together and makes us realize that we don't have to be ashamed and we aren't alone in the frugal fight.

Camille said...

Great ideas my friend. I am just about to plan our meals out for the coming month and you have added to my ideas list by your suggestions. Thank you! Hugs, Camille

Verny L said...

Some great ideas to save money here Jill. Thank you for sharing all that with us. I think creating a budget, like you say is very important. It doesn`t have to be hard. But you have to know your numbers to not spend more than you have...