Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cheap Meals: Breakfast Skillet

This use to be one of those meals that I did only on Saturday mornings to make my husband happy. But as we reevaluated our budget and did some math, potatoes are a cheap carbohydrate for breakfast than toast- even with our 50 cent loaves. We use to eat eggs and toast every other morning for breakfast and we have started replacing some of those mornings with breakfast skillet.

  • oil
  • 3-4 small/med potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 3-5 eggs
  • options: chopped peppers, 1/2 c shredded cheese, salt and pepper to taste
suggestions- use a cast iron grill and it make a great dinner skillet- just add some veggies.

Heat the oil in the pan. Chop up all the veggies. When the oil is hot add the potatoes to the pan. Don't let the stick to the pan too much. Add the onions, and if you're doing peppers. Once the onions are mostly cooked (lightened up to the "translucent" stage). Make space in the middle, crack the eggs in that space. Scramble them.  Mix it all together. Add cheese if you so desire and salt & pepper. Serve as is or with salsa or ketchup.

download the recipe card- right click and "save as"

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pork- Its what's for Dinner

Long time ago, back when my husband and I were doing Weight Watchers. We started cutting back our portions of meat. We started to look at the amount of meat in our meals and decided that we didn't need to eat that much meat. I started looking into ways to cut back our meat. Adding lentils  - great way when you're using a ground meat, but less helpful when using shredded meats. The price of ground beef went up and we started looking at alternative cheaper somewhat healthy meats. Using more beans in Mexican-inspired dishes help with shredded meats.

Over time we have moved to eating more pork. The cost of chicken has gone up too. It took me a while to figure out things to make with pork.

When I buy pork I try to grind some of it. We have a Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Then we have ground meat to use in any recipe that I would normally use ground meat for (Shepherds Pie, pasta, meat balls, sloppy joes).

The rest of it I freeze and then cook in the crock pot. I put about 3 lbs in the crock pot, first cutting off big sections of fat. I'll add some water to the pot so it won't burn. Also remember that the cut of pork -shoulder, roast, butt, are all less important. But not chops or ribs. I look for packages that are cheaper but are boneless when possible.

3 lbs will make 6-8 meals for my family of 6 (granted one baby and twin girls).
pulled pork sandwiches (takes the most meat)
pulled pork on rice
pulled pork tacos
pulled pork taco salad
Fancy Burritos (like Chipote)
Baked Tamale Pie
Shredded Pork over Zucchini
Taquitos *never made these myself, but have had lots of friends suggest it

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Vegetables for Less (and some fruits we use like vegetables)

When doing once a month grocery shopping you have to recognize that your fresh vegetables that you buy at the store are not going to last the whole month before going bad. I advocate a mixture of mostly fresh and frozen veggies with a few cans in there. I am sure some of you have noticed how few veggies it seems like I have on our shopping lists and there are reasons for that (I buy bulk so it is a one item on the list, free veggies from friends gardens, frozen veggies, and a pantry full of food storage canned veggies).
But this is a great time to talk about some ways to get lots of fresh affordable veggies. And when I say veggies I am not using the scientific definition. Instead I'm referring to non-sweet mostly green and yellow foods that we use like vegetables and like sweet snack worthy fruits.
  1. Buy the ones on sale. Don't get hung up on that your family loves to eat asparagus or some other not on sale vegetable. Buy the ones on sale, learn to eat them and learn to like them. I have found that I like (or can easily eat) almost any vegetable when made up in a good way. Don't be picky or snob.
  2. Grow a Garden- Yes this take time and money to get started. But it can be done cheaply. I have tried many times, to grow nothing. But this year we did have a tomato plant, it has supplied all the tomatoes we have needed this summer. I bought it from a nursery that was closing back in April. We figure it has saved us a little on buying tomatoes, with the added benefit of the super fresh tasty tomato. Also everyone keeps telling me to put it in my garage for the winter and it should survive the winter just fine. So even little garden things can help eat fresh cheaper.
  3. Garden Extras- Lots of people where we live have gardens. We have lots of friends who have choose to follow the commandments for our church leaders to "grow a garden". Funny thing most of them plant things that they don't eat much of themselves. Keep your ears open for when people are giving away their garden extras. Sometimes it is because they don't like to eat what they grew but sometimes it is because their gardens were so plentiful that they can't eat it all in time. Also, when people talk about how plentiful their gardens are, don't be afraid to say "if you find you can't use it all, send some our way". We have ended up with many bags of random veggies on our porch from friends wanting to share before things go bad. You'll have to be open to which veggies you get. Again try new foods
  4. Bountiful baskets, Market on the Move, Coops... there are many groups all over that take 2nd grade veggies (ones that are good to eat but not pretty enough to go to the grocery stores), they often have a "cover" price and then you get bags full of veggies. Ask around groups are out there. Many are sponsored by church groups. If there isn't any in your area, maybe look into starting one. Ask around and find out what interest there would be. Start a facebook group. Contact organization groups like Bountiful baskets and find out what you'd need to go to start a local group. Talk to a local Farmer's coop and see if they would be interested and able to participate.
Now that you have fresh veggies (which most of the time turns out to be some sort of squash- if you got it for free) What do you do with it?

here is a list of generic ideas:
  • search pinterest - lots of ideas for unique veggies
  • baked/fried with a breaded crust
  • chop up small and put into pasta. I have found my family will eat ANY veggie (and I actually enjoy it too) chopped up with other mixed veggies and put into pasta sauce. This is my go to stand by for when I don't know what to a given veggie. Make pastas different by adding different things every time.
  • On top of Pizza- when we went to Italy there were all sorts of veggies (mostly squashes) topped on the pizza- and they were so good. Go out of your comfort zone. My kids don't notice- its pizza.
  • Stir Fry- again chop it small, when you chop large you get big tastes of it and kids are more likely to pick around large veggies in their food
  • Bolgolgi- Korean bbq stir fry, same idea, add what you have.
  • Skillet- sometimes known as hash. Get your potatoes going and add whatever veggies you have with a little bit of whatever meat you have. 
  • Stew it- or soup it. Simmer it all together add a little tomato sauce to the stewing broth. 
  • Lasagna- or a baked pasta. layer it with the meat layers, for a healthier and cheaper versions, use 1/2 the meat you'd normally use and fill the space with veggies. I lightly steam the veggie first and you will need to be careful not to add anymore extra water on the steamed veggies, you'll end up with a soup at the bottom of the lasagna pan. Or take a note from the Greeks and make Moussaka- a veggie and meat layered lasagna-like dish.
  • Orzo, Rizzoto, pilaf  - I find it best if you chop the veggies about the size of the orzo or rice. make how you would normally and add in the veggies. Sauteing the veggies first can add more flavor.
  • experiment

Friday, July 24, 2015

20 Ideas to Keep the Park Fun

Since we have been using public parks as a way to get out of the house and not spend money on entertainment here are some ideas for keeping the park fun- even when you are there a lot.

  1.  Pack a Lunch- don't bring the same thing every time. Try to mix it up the best your budget allows. But just having the picnic can change it up from just going to play at the park.
  2. Special Treat- we had a play group that for a while had snow cones at the park once a month. Don't go out and buy a snow cone machine, but there are homemade Popsicle, Otter pops, frozen fruit, cookies- lots of things that you don't give them all the time that you could bring to the park for a special treat. I actually find these the most fun when you bring plenty and encourage your kids to share with the other kids at the playground. 
  3. Bring a blanket and lay out on the grass. Have everyone point out a cloud and what it looks like to them. Or bring some books and paper and encourage them to read or draw while on the blanket. Read a book to them, or sing some songs together.
  4. Play games- tag, hide & seek, rhythm games (clap and pat games), mother may I, red light green light. Get other kids involved. Best part is if you get the game going with other kids you can normally sit out and no one cares.
  5. Bubbles- make your own with water and dishsoap (search pinterest there are a ton of "bubble recipes" on there) or at the Dollar Store you can get a really big bottle for a dollar.
  6. Sidewalk chalk- again at the Dollar Store, we also have buckets of the stuff around the house from kids birthdays (it is a very popular gift).
  7. Take a Walk- if you live close enough to walk to the park- cool, if not or if you do that all the time, change it up by going to a park with a walking path. Walk around before you go to the playground. Use this time to point out plants and wildlife.
  8. Bring your Bikes/wagon
  9. Water guns/ water balloons, even a kiddie pool can be fun at a park. But be considerate of families at the park if it isn't a splash pad park. They may have chose the non-splash pad park because they didn't want to deal with wet children.
  10. Bring a bag of balls- there was this dad who every time they came to the park he had a mess laundry bag full of different sized balls. He encouraged all the kids to play. It was awesome. Kids love balls and if it is a park with lots of running space they can throw, roll, run all over the place.
  11.  Play dates. Invite new/different friends to join you at the park. If you invite people directly (phone call, facebook message, text message) they are more likely to join to over a general invite through a mass text or a facebook status. By changing up the friends your kids have to play with, they will get board much slower.
  12. Change the park you go to- we all have the park that we like to go to because of whatever that reason is (clean bathrooms, walking distance, playground, grass, covered playground) but if you're going a lot -try a new park, it will help make it more exciting for your kids again.
  13. Get out into Nature- whether it is at our normal park and having them draw or play bingo to find local wildlife (birds, squirrels, bugs) or go picnic in the wild, make the goal to experience what is around them. Hint: If you have toy magnify glasses or binoculars this is a great time to use them.
  14. Buckets and shovels- my kids love the sand. I hate dealing with it in their shoes. But to change it up bring the digging stuff along and plan on them digging till their hearts are content. 
  15. Farmers' Market Time- Sometimes I avoid the city park on the days the Farmers' Market is there.  But if you aren't doing it too often, or go with it in mind, the people watching can be fun. Play "I spy" with your kids. Our Farmers' Market often has live local performers, my twins love to dance and spin around to the music. Also with the increase people there are often more kids to play with and make new friends.
  16. Scavenger Hunt- make a list of things to find, or do it like an egg hunt, bring the items, hide them and have the kids find them.
  17. Fly a kite- make your own (again check out pinterest) or the Dollar store has decent kites. 
  18. Make a tent- rope (laundry clothes lines work great) find to place to tie between tie it up cover it with the blanket you brought (sheet or tarp would work great too.
  19. Get daddy to take them, or go as a whole family. Whenever my husband goes with us, it changes the whole dynamic of park play time.
  20. Lastly, if you are going a lot, limit the time you spend physically at the park. Only stay an hour. If you are never there long enough for them to start getting tired of play at the park then they will still be excited to play there they next time they go.
Know your kids limits, but also don't limit yourself to how well that idea went last time. Your kids are growing up all the time, maybe this time...

Also I have seen parents try to do crafts at the park- I'm sure there are times it goes just fine, I have never seen it go over well. The closest was once when the craft was assembly of food, it didn't go great, but all the kids were super happy to eat their treat.

What things to ya'll do to keep the park new and fun?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Surviving Summer

Summer break can be hard keeping a balance. There is the pressure to make every moment of life a memory and count. This is unrealistic and most people will admit it to themselves but there is still that idea that we all feel the need to try to live up to. Now I've never been a super mom who even half way actually tries to live up to this ideal. But in the past I have done things that have in one way or another contributed to our debt. Even when I thought I was making safe and savvy choices, I was still probably adding to our debt. I'm not saying the choices I was making were directly contributing to our debt, but without trying to keep to a budget or even having a budget it was contributing.
What were some of the good/bad choices I was making:
We would go to the free/$1 summer movies at our local theater- but sometimes I'd fall in the pitfall of buying popcorn or candy. We plan on going to the park and having a picnic- but the downfall for me I would run out of time and we'd stop a fast food. We'd get discount coupons to go to the zoo, but in the end the cost of gas to Tucson and then all the passes even at a discount cost us a lot. We have also gone to stay with my parents to do swimming lessons up in the Phoenix Valley where swimming lessons through the city half the price per child's lesson. However, staying up at my parents we tended to eat out a lot and do activities that we can't do at home, but end up costing us a lot more- ie museums.
story time at our local library

  • Wherever you are going- bring cash for only how much you plan on spending. If that means you have to call ahead and ask some questions, plan ahead.
  • Planning ahead! & Be prepared. I met a mom at a museum once that she always packs a lunch and snacks for the day. Even when the plan is to be home in time for lunch. If we are planning to go out for the day, I have started making lunch for all of us while making lunch in the morning for my husband. Also I have just started planning ahead to be out for lunch.
  • Find out what summer activities and programs your library and city offer. 
  • Budget it in. Its not that all those things that cost money are bad, but figure it out and plan it in the budget. If you have places you love to go and would enjoy going once a week or more and they offer a family pass, figure out the cost, you might need to budget it out for the whole year and then when the year is over you can buy your family pass. For example: we looked into the zoo for a family pass. With our family's size and the family pass price we'd have to go 2 1/2 times (so 3 times) in a year and the pass is paid for. We then have to decide if that is worth it to us- right now it is not.  But maybe someday in the future (when we are out of debt).
  • Check out deal sites and ask at the grocery store. Deal sites like Living Social and GroupMe can be a great place to pick up deals to local museums and attractions. (I do this every time we are going on vacation, I watch to see what local things we can get deals). Also ask at the grocery store information counters. They sometimes have discount tickets to local attractions- check all year round some tickets are seasonal. Another place to ask is at the library youth desk.

I wasn't the only mom who was taking advantage of the cooler temperatures and the park shade
This summer with an entertainment budget of $0, we have spend lots of time at the park (we have been going at least twice a week and staying for an hour or two, each time I invite all our friends to join us), at story time, and at the free movies.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Water and Water Bottles

Every parent knows the frustration of having their child cry at you because the park's drinking fountain isn't working and you didn't bring water with you... or maybe that is just an Arizona problem for Arizona parents. But I'm pretty sure it is mostly a first world problem we can all relate to.
I hate standing at my water filter filling water bottle after water bottle- one for each child and one for myself. Takes forever. We have an in fridge water family size water pitcher. I know there are those of you out there thinking 'suck it up and use tap water'. This is true, it would save me tons of time and probably the money from buying the water filters. But the thing is we are on a well and our well water isn't filtered. It doesn't bother me to bathe in it or wash my clothes in it, but I have issues with drinking it. It may be fine, or it may not be. We have never had it tested. So until then I prefer to drink water I filtered.
We all have (or maybe its you) that friend who every time you turn around has bought a new bottle of water from some store. Last summer I started buying a gallons of water at the grocery store. Then I had the idea of re-filling the gallon jugs at the water kiosks. Now in Arizona they are everywhere. I don't know if it was just where I was but when we went to California on vacation I couldn't find them anywhere. For those of you who don't know what they are, they offer 1 gallon fill ups at a time for 25 cents or 5 gallons for $1. Lots of people use them to refill their freestanding water coolers. Yes that is 25 cents every time I refill it. But I use random change, and when I can remember I will refill the gallon jug from my filter at home. Some Kiosks even have chilled water. Those are my favorite.  I refill our gallon jug at least once a week during the hottest part of the summer. I bring it with us to the park (which is at least once a week, often twice or more). I keep a few cups or water bottles in the car and we fill them up from the gallon jug. When all is said and done it is only about $1 a month if I don't fill it at home at all. Yes its not freezing cold water. But it is water and most of the time it is just room temperature. The important part is that it is making my life easier and is a lot cheaper then buying new every time you are out and about.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July's Grocery Shopping

Finished my once a month shopping. This last weekend we went to Mesa. That means a trip to the bread store and to Costco.

To start my husband and I had a long talk about what needed to be purchased and we decided we needed to split the household items from the groceries. If I am going to have a budget of $200 for groceries it is $200 of food. But I wanted to have some flexibility between grocery and household. So for this month's budget was $230 for grocery and household $210 and $20 for household items (shampoo, toilet papers, paper towels, soaps, ect)
7/6/15 (husband had to pick up a prescription and I had him pick up a couple items in addition)
Prescription         $1.43*
Body Wash          $4.63*
cabbage                   $.94    
Bread store                 $15
Cherrios  ($7.89-2.30) $5.59
Yellow Onions      $3.49
Potatoes 20lb        $7.79
Skippy Peanut Butter (9.79-2.80) $6.99 x2
Mild Cheddar  2#    $4.85
Chocolate Chips      $9.99
Feminine Hygiene pads (12.49-2.50) $9.99*
Trident Gum         $7.89
5 Doz Eggs           $10.99
Batteries 9V         $15.89*
Mixed Veggies    $6.49
3pk Lettuce          $2.79
Seaweed               $9.79
Sliced Cheese      $9.99
Tortillas  40ct      $3.89
Tortillas  80ct      $3.49
Mini Peppers       $5.49
Sliced Ham          $9.89
Yeast                   $4.39
Corn Tortilla Chips $3.19
Carrots                $4.79 x2
tax                       $11.00
Dill pickle chips    $1.50
butter tub               $1.29
Yogurt     (.50x10)   $5
Milk  (3x1.99)       $5.97
Salsa                      $4.99
Shampoo               $1.39*
Animal Crackers (.88x3) $2.64
Hot dogs      (.89x2)  $1.78
Jello                       $.39
Blueberries            $.97
Butter Sticks  (2x.99) $1.98
Pork shoulder         $10.80
Apples                    $1.67
Graham Crackers   $1.69
                                  +tax =$41.79
Total= $7+$15+$164.30+$41.79= 228.09
leaving me $1.91
(household $31.94, grocery 198.06) 

I made one impulse purchase at Costco- I bought the Seaweed for my husband's snack food. I also made one purchase that I would have been better to have bought at the grocery store- the mini peppers. 

There were so many things I wanted to purchase that I just did because the money wasn't in the envelope. It is hard. I have never had to be that disciplined with our money. It was a little rough. I had to remind myself we have plenty of food we aren't going to starve. 

I still need to go get honey at the local farmers market but I will have to put it off for one more month.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the 6 people in my life

Recently found an article on Dave Ramsey's site called "6 People You Need While Getting Out of Debt".
It made me think about who those people are in my life.

1. The Supportive Spouse
     I could see this being important, if one of you aren't ready to make the commitment to make changes those changes are never going to happen or stick. I am grateful that my husband sees this as important and we are working together.

2. The Jerk
    We expected to meet more of these then we have. Maybe my husband has met more then I have. As we told people we were cutting back and making changes we though we'd have more resistance. In fact, I can't think of one person we are friends with or personally acquainted with that has even scoffed at us. I did have one person on the phone, one of the people at the credit card company. I called them to get info from them that I needed from the card. When I said we didn't have cards anymore, he wanted to send new cards out and was quite rude when I said 'no! we don't want any cards'.

3. The Friend Who Understands
    Every one of our friends that we have spoke to about it has been very understanding. Some have gone out of their way to help us out.  Our families have been really understanding too. We have been blessed.

4. The Joneses
     Everyone has that neighbor or friend who seem to spend so carefree and have all the latest toys. The church ward we belong to has a lot of families that are really well off.  Over the past years I have had to remind myself that we can't live like some of them do. We can't take as many or as extravagant vacations. We have lots of friends that are dentists and doctors. They choose to live out where we do because there is lots of land to build dream houses. This summer has been harder than normal in watching because they are all doing their summer activities and vacations.
  One particular family any time I mention something they did this summer my husband responds "it must be nice to be on the hospital board of directors". This set of friends has are the Joneses that I wish the most we could keep up with. They are always taking big trips and doing lots of activities. For example for Spring Break this year they spend it in England, and their boys have been to summer camps almost every week this summer. In the past, I would compare and in a way try to keep up with them. They go on a Disney Cruise almost every year, when we decided to do a family cruise we in the end decided we would do a more affordable cruise line. Besides that the husband is a doctor and on the hospital board, I also have to remember that we are at different stages of life. Their oldest child is 12 and their youngest is 6. While my oldest is 6 and our youngest is 15 months. They have been working professionally longer, and I know when they were first married and out of school they lived really humbly. My husband reminds me that they lived like no one else already, and now they probably can live like no one else. We just aren't at the same place in our lives. I can't keep up with "Joneses" they are in a different place in life and the dad is a doctor.
   Another family I have a little harder time in the day to day is a family who our children are all about the same age. We have been friends with them since moving here. In the mean time, she now works full time in a well paying job along with her husband. Whenever we hang out with them she has picked up some sort of fast food for snack food, lunch, or dinner. Since Arizona summers are so hot she always wants to meet at the McDonalds play area- I am not against theses, in fact we love them, it is just when we aren't buying food, my kids whine and cry so much I can't do it. Many times I have fallen into the comfort zone of just buying fast food with them. This summer has been hard, but I have come prepared with snacks from home and sandwiches in a bag for lunch. I have to remind myself that we can't keep up with the "Joneses" they are a two income family and we are only a one income family.

5. The Co-Worker Who "Gets It"
    I remember back to when I worked full time. It is hard to not be part of the "group" at lunch as they head somewhere to pick it up and eat. My husband has mentioned that at least some of them have been understanding on why he isn't going out anymore. To make this easier on my husband I try to give his lunches some variety and something special. Even when you have a co-worker who "gets it" I'm sure it doesn't make it any easier to be left out.

6. Dave Ramsey
   I rolled my eyes at this one on the list but then I started to think- I liked his facebook page. Now every once in a while I see an article in my news fed. Seeing some of these articles have helped me to start thinking about different things and has helped a little bit to stay motivated. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Affordable Bread

Bread - We all eat it. Unless you're gluten free and have given up trying to eat gluten type foods. 
Here are the problems with bread...
healthy verses cheap
time verses convenience

I have friends who make their own bread. Some of them have their bread day and the spend the day making bread and that is their bread for the whole next week.
When you make bread- cheap bulk yeast, flour or wheat with a wheat grinder bring the cost lower and lower. But it takes lots of time. Also if you're bad at bread making, like myself, it can be less affordable when you have loaves that aren't edible. 
In all my blog reading of those trying to save money I remember one mom said she gave up on buying the organic super healthy thick bread. Instead she just went to stocking up when on sale and never spent more than $1 per loaf.
A few years ago my sister introduced me to Alpine Valley Bread. She is a huge fan of Whole Foods and Sprouts- and like stores. She had found Alpine bread there and fell in love with it. Their bread is healthy and hearty. It has the weight to it like homemade bread. Then someone introduced her to the bread factory and the discounts of buying the bread at the factory.
They are located in Mesa Arizona on Southern east of Country Club.
On Wed. and Fri. at 1pm all fresh made that day loaves are discounted to $1 a loaf limit 5 per person until all the loaves are sold (they close at 3pm).
But in addition to those sales and that going in and buying fresh loaves is cheaper and more fresh then the specialty stores, irregular loaves and day old loaves are 50 cents a loaf. Considering we bring our loaves home and put them in the freezer, day old is the least of our cares. The 50 cent loaves aren't the most exciting. They tend to be the less popular breads (ie multi-grains breads or cracked wheat). Sometimes they have specialty breads, buns, rolls, and desserts for great deals.
When we go, I have found going in the morning is best. The store section opens at 8am. If you wait to until the $1 deals (best way to get the specialty breads) the 50 cent loafs are all gone.
We don't live in the Phoenix Valley. My sister lives in Mesa, almost down the street from the factory. They don't have a huge box freezer. Since she didn't have the freezer space for a lot, she would go once a week and get their family's bread for the week. For us I go every other month or every three months. It depends on if we can get up on a week day before they close.
This last trip I had $15 of our grocery budget. So I was looking at about 30 loaves that would need to last us about 3 months. When I got there they has some boxes filled with 15 loaves each. I asked the cashier about them. My first thought wasn't a discount for the bulk but instead I was thinking if they were already in a box and wouldn't get smashed on the ride back home. She said that if I bought the whole box (unopened) they were $5 a box (would be $7.50 when 50 cents a loaf). Done. 45 loaves for $15 that will make a huge difference when it comes to making our bread last for 3 months till the next time we come up.
Showing up at the right moment to places like this makes getting great deals a matter of luck or in this case I don't see it as luck- I see it was a huge blessing. Yes we are going to be eating 9 grain bread and nothing else for the next 3 months, the point is we have enough bread for 3 months and it only cost us 33 cents a loaf. We were blessed.
There are places like this all over. Do some searches make some calls.
What are some things ya'll do to make staples like bread cheap and affordable?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cheap Meals: Thai-Style Fried Rice

A huge portion of the world eats rice for every meal. Part of that is because rice is cheap.

My favorite way to eat rice is Thai-Style Fried Rice
I make this for dinner and every once in a once in a while I make it for breakfast
3-4 cups cooked rice (Jasmine is best but any rice works)
4 eggs
1 TBS minced garlic
1 small onion
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 TBS brown Sugar
Chicken or ham- 1-3 chicken thighs (you can use breast but it is a good      opportunity to use that cheaper chickens) or 1 cup chopped ham
optional items
   -green onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, carrots
   -breakfast: pineapple or mangoes

Heat the pan with the oil. To the hot oil add the eggs (whisked) and your meat. Once your eggs are scrambled and chicken cooking add onions and garlic. When mostly cooked add rice. Let cook for a couple minutes before adding the soy sauce and brown sugar (tip-mix/dissolve them together and pour over the rice). Cook until the rice is starting to stick and fry to the pan. Serve.

Downloadable and printable recipe card (right click and save as)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Making Holiday Meal special but Affordable

We all have our favorite holiday meals.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving are universal musts.
But what about other holidays? Birthdays? Special days?
Some meals we aren't willing to compromise cost over not having our special meals. Most of that has to do with our memories. Creating memories can be just as important and it doesn't have to be expensive memories.
What made me start thinking about this is the 4th of July. Today in fact. It has been my tradition to make homemade ice cream. This year when we started being serious about keeping to a budget and I realized I had agreed to keep to $80 grocery budget for the month and that had to include my homemade ice cream supplies and grilling for the 4th. It was hard to accept. We already had some hot dogs and Turkey patties in the freezer. I reserved those for grilling on the 4th. (With the cost of low-fat beef burger patties, turkey patties are a great alternative for saving money). I made sure I bought buns and cheese for the burgers. But there was the matter of the ice cream. How was I going to make homemade ice cream on a budget.
Then I saw this video from Buzzfeed. Around the time the video came out I had 2 friends say they tried it that night and their ice cream turned out awesome. So I thought this 2 ingredient ice cream was the answer to still keeping tradition. Not my normal recipes but sometimes you have to change it up to still keep what is important to you.
1 pint of Heavy Cream and 1 can of Sweet Condensed Milk
So I added about $1.50 for a pint of Heavy Cream to keep a tradition.*
What about other special days?
ideas- consider breakfast as a special meal.
Breakfasts are a cheap, nutritious, and there are so many options that are probably not apart of your regular breakfast rotation.

suggested breakfasts:
Eggs Benedict (if you have difficulty with the sauce, I recommend the Korrs brand sauce mix)
homemade muffins
waffles (to make them extra special use fruit as toppers)
Rice Pudding (can be made in the crock pot and makes a great Christmas morning breakfast)
Bread Pudding
Scones/fry bread/donuts
Hot cocoa with toast
German Pancakes
cinnamon rolls
biscuits and gravy
Breakfast Pizza
Apple cobbler

What are some of your families' favorite special breakfasts?

For Father's Day we made my husband a massive omelet. Twice a year (first weekend) in Oct and April are the General Conference of the LDS church. I made Eggs Benedict those mornings. Our ward (local church congregation) has a huge pancake breakfast on the 4th of July. We have Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast most Sunday mornings. Create some of your own traditions. It doesn't have to be one of the big holidays, and it doesn't have to hurt your wallet.

Don't forget that breakfast food can be used to make special meals for non-breakfast meals too. Breakfast food isn't just for breakfast.

What are some of your families' favorite tradition foods and how do you keep them affordable?

*Follow up story for the 4th of July: when my in-laws learned that the amount of ice cream this year was going to be decreased, they offered to buy the cream if I would make full batches. We took them up on the offer, after all who doesn't love lots of ice cream. That can be another tip. If the budget isn't going to allow for your favorite dishes, if others participate in the joy ask if they wouldn't mind adding to the pot. I did still make the Buzzfeed video recipe and it turned out really good.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Avoid our Pitfalls of Credit Cards

Credit Cards are the worst type of debt. I fooled myself for years into thinking having "revolving debt" was the way to go. I got into the habit of convince back in college and have continued those bad habits.
I realized in college that if I used my card for my every purchases instead of my debit card. I didn't have to pay attention to what was in the account at that moment. I didn't have to worry if my paycheck was deposited today (and was available) or if it will show up tomorrow. So I used my card to make the everyday purchases and then told myself I would pay it all each month.  Sometimes it worked out just like that. But then there were the months I was unemployed or didn't have as much income as I normally did for my spending. Or I straight up over spent. As life got even crazier and I paid even less attention those numbers added up even more. There are a lot of people who get into lots of debt because they impulsed bought, often big ticket items. We aren't bad at that. We have had our moments, but that is not the bulk of our debt. And to compound it all is the compounding interest. Once you have that carry over balance getting rid of that balance again is almost impossible only making payments.

So here is a warning to you.

All debt is bad debt. Revolving debt is still debt and the easiest pitfall get trapped into. Sure I thought it was making my life convenient (and it was convenient) but I was also ignoring the responsibilities to my finances. I was addicted to my credit cards. Not exactly to the overspending but to the easy non-accountable way I didn't have to worry about every penny. But that isn't good for our pocketbook nor is it good for the soul. God's plan is for us to be accountable.

Now we are paying the price of our non-accountable actions. We are now being held responsible for all the actions we have taken.

Learn before. Don't use credit cards. If you're in the same boat as I am. Cut up those cards, go cash, and force yourself to learn to be accountable. It is possible. We can do it.

No debt is good debt.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Metal Lunch Box for under $5

Hey everyone, today we went and let my son pick up a new metal lunch box for taking to school. I only allow him to take metal lunch boxes because he is so rough on them. Last year, we bought him a really nice thermal bag.
this is what happened to it on the first day of school. I took it back to the store.
After that he is only allowed to have metal lunch boxes. For his birthday my dad asked what he should get him and we recommended a new lunch box. After going to 3 stores my dad called and asked "Where do you buy metal lunch boxes?" I didn't know what to tell him. His one that we had (before it was lost) I had bought on the internet. I mentioned this to a friend and one day I get a text that she saw a bunch of metal lunch boxes at Hobby Lobby.
Awesome. Today we went to there, with the coupon on my phone we went to Hobby Lobby to let my son pick his lunch box for this next year.
All the metal boxes at our local Hobby Lobby are $6.99 each.
My son picked the Avengers box
$6.99 with our 40% off coupon total with tax came to = $4.52 YAY!
For under $5 we got our son a new metal lunch box. We had budgeted $20 to get something our son would be happy with and we only had to spend $4.52.

WE did it! One full month!

We did one full month. Our first month.

  • In our first month we were able to put aside our $1000 emergency fund.
  • Pay off my student loan
  • Pay on our Van's loan
  • Spend less than $80 on groceries for the month
  • managed to use cash for everything that is not on automatic withdraw
I know I should see this as a HUGE accomplishment. But I have to constantly remind myself of that. I have to look at this list and say "look how much we accomplished in only one month". Otherwise, I look at all the changes we have made in our lives and feel depressed that this is our new life for a while. 

So I choose to look at the list and remind myself we are making progress!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cheap Meals: Po'Man's Meal (skillet)

I got this recipe from "Great Depression Cooking with Clara" it is a series a family made so that would have it before their Mother/Grandmother was no longer with them, of her memories and recipes from growing up during the depression. She is so sweet and has great memories to listen to.  I have tried most of her recipes now. This is one that has become a family favorite, I have also adjusted to to fit our tastes more. She calls it "Poorman's Meal"

6-8 potatoes diced (I always leave my skins on)
3 hot dogs sliced/diced (can be substituted with ham, pork, chicken chunks, or bacon if that was cheaper for you at the time)
1 small-medium onion diced
2 TBS- 1/2 c. Pasta Sauce
1 cup water
*optional various veggies (suggestions- bell peppers, zucchini, green beans, broccoli, summer squash, carrots, celery)
Salt to taste (it always takes more than I think it should, pepper to taste

Skillet the potatoes in an oiled pan. Add the onions let them start to become translucent, add any veggies that aren't previous cooked at this point. Add your hot dogs (idea is use the cheapest meat available to you).  Add your pasta sauce. Clara's recipe is 2 TBS. I find we like it better around 1/2 c of sauce. At this point add the cup of water and let sit for a while (3-5 minutes). If you want the "sauce" to thicken a little you can add a tablespoon of flour/cornstarch. If you are adding left over veggies add them now and let sit over heat for a couple more minutes. Serve.

*Clara's recipe doesn't have any veggies but the onion and potatoes. I like to add lots of veggies. I add whatever we have on hand. If I have leftover veggies from another night- they all go into the pan. If we have zucchinis or peppers then at least a small portion we have into the pan.

downloadable and printable recipe card- just "save as" the image

Meal Cost Breakdown:
.69 potatoes+ .75 of hot dogs+ .43 of onions+ *.75 of various other veggies+ .62 of pasta sauce= 3.24 for the meal +whatever sides you choose