Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hubby doesn't like leftovers...

I LOVE being in the kitchen. I enjoy all kinds of cooking and baking. I think I enjoy baking the most but then I start to think about it more and I really enjoy making soup and canning I guess I love it all. My husband enjoys my cooking but is NOT a fan of leftovers. He will take some things in his lunch the next day, but it depends on what it is. One of the meals I find so "reusable", so therefore frugal (my favorite word), is roasted chicken. I buy them when they are on sale at Giant Eagle buy one-get one because theirs are usually between 6 1/2 - 8 lbs. I purchase a couple and keep the extra in the freezer. After we are done enjoying our roasted dinner I strip the chicken. When I tell people this they usually laugh, I can only imagine the images in their minds :) But seriously...I wait until it's cool enough to handle and remove any meat I can with my hands. Yes it's messy but its the only way to get all the meat, don't forget the back meat...yes there is back meat. You can then package it in quart freezer bags to reuse another time or put it in the frig to use within the week. You can make quesadillas, cream chicken & biscuits, casseroles, etc...

But one of our favorites is my chicken dumpling soup. Its soooo easy and I think pretty healthy. The first thing I do is chop up the chicken and toss it into a pot. Then I clean about 4 carrots, chop them and toss them into the pot. You can add anything you like...potatoes, celery, parsnips. Then I add water to cover and some bouillon or stock. I am a "dump" cooker, I just dump stuff in and it mostly depends on my mood. Sometimes I stop at the bouillon and other times I add garlic and onion, this last time I added some Thyme. So whatever taste you like, dump it in.

While the soup is coming up to a boil and the veggies are cooking I mix up my dumplings. I put alot of dumplings in mine because that's what my family likes. So...I crack a few eggs into a bowl, add bouillon then flour followed by (drum roll please) cream of wheat. If you live near Amish/Mennonites you can buy it in bulk, it's called Farina (much cheaper). The flour makes a more 'solid' dumpling. I usually use 4 eggs and 1/4 cup of flour and finish with Farina. You want the consistency to be pretty thick, otherwise your dumplings will fall apart in the boiling water. But again, that's not a bad will still taste good. Once your carrots and/or vegetables are tender you can add your dumplings. Use a teaspoon and spoons small to medium sized blobs into your boiling soup. Dunk your spoon into the soup to make the dumpling slide off. After you have added all your dumplings, cover the pot, turn the heat to about medium or medium/high and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes. You want to keep a nice easy boil going. Side note~~run water in your dumpling bowl right away and let it soak. I am pretty sure Farina and cement share alot of the same properties.

This is the finished soup. If you don't eat it all that evening or if it gets too thick just add some stock or water. The dumplings tend to absorb the water, but it doesn't effect the taste. You know how noodles get all mushy and icky...the dumplings won't do that.
This is a frugal meal. The chicken is left over, you may use a cup of Farina, your veggies and some seasonings. I would say this definitely comes in as a $5 meal. You could fancy it up by serving it with some crusty bread and a spring lettuce salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I think I've been bitten...

By the exercise bug that is.  I have been going to the gym off and on for years. During the last 3 months I have been going faithfully 3 days a week and more lately. Monday I woke up in a grumpy mood and did not feel like being cooped up in a gym. So I dawned my shoes, jacket, gloves and iPod and down the road I went. It is exactly one mile from my driveway to the second stop sign up the road. I walked the first quarter mile, ran the next 3/4 then it was time to turn around and come back.

I briskly walked most of the way while clearing my head and getting ready to face the day. I was feeling much better and enjoying the sun on my face and the cool air against my sweaty skin. I was glad I had my phone with me because the sunrise was spectacular. I had made the perfect decision and God rewarded me with this beautiful view.

I sprinted from the bottom of my hill up to the driveway of my neighbor...the goal is my driveway. The hill is pretty steep and it was a great way to finish strong. I have recently started a Zumba class two days a week in additional to my regular work out schedule. And I have to is a total BLAST!

Frugal tip: running on the road is FREE, push-ups & sit-ups are FREE, walking in the mall is can get fit for FREE

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Utility bills....

It's incredible how much we spend each month on the essentials, isn't it?! And there is always someone calling promising to save you a small fortune if you switch to their company. You could make it an extra part time job checking on price per kilowatt or amount per unit of natural gas we use...and drive yourselves crazy in the process. However I do try to do a utility check-up periodically.

Here are two examples:

I have been with AT&T forever!  When Ohio Bell and AT&T were two different companies I switched back and forth now and then but have been locked on with them for many many years now. My Internet goes through them too because it is the only affordable option where I live. I called them the other day for a review of my account and to see if I was getting the best price. The gal reviewed my plan, my actual usage and we discussed my needs and services I could do without. Bottom line...she put me on a new plan and I was able to get rid of voice mail (which I am not fond of) and add caller ID to my office line for $8 LESS a month. In my mind that was a good thing. And it only took about a 15 minute phone call.

Garbage pick-up...a dirty necessity! During the gas price hikes my garbage bill kept creeping up and know the dreaded "fuel surcharge".  It had gotten to the point that I was paying $80 for three months of pick-up. I had noticed a new garbage service in the area and many neighbors were using them.  As a matter of fact, each week more yellow bins were showing up on the curb. So I called a friend to see if she liked them and she sang their praises. After getting their phone number and talking to a friendly lady in an office in the neighboring town I had switched my garbage pick-up for the price of $48 for 3 months. And as a side next bill was only $43.20 for three months.

I will keep giving my thoughts on where and how to save but they will be sprinkled in from here on out. I am off to organize my recipe collection. A project I kinda sorta started back here...but am going all the way this time.  Of course I will share pictures and maybe a recipe or two. I don't like posting with no pictures.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Ahhh dreaded insurance! Isn't it curious how much insurance and taxes have in common? There are as many kinds of insurance as taxes and they are all necessary and we rarely "see" our benefit from paying them. Of course health insurance has been in the news constantly  recently and we all know we are required to have it...but it can be mind boggling trying to get the best deal. Auto insurance is also required, even if it is an "old jalopy(sp?)", of which I own.

This is a case when you really do need to "hire" a professional, they're FREE don't cha know. Take the time to sit down with insurance agents (and yes I mean more than one...remember they're FREE). They can look at your policies and compare apples to apples. The ads you see on TV, especially for health care, make it sound like you can get great health care of pennies. This is typically for ONLY hospitalization and normally have very high deductibles ($10,000) in some cases. And while this can be all you need, it would protect you from losing your home for example, in the case of an emergency. But before you sit down with an agent you need to know what is important to you, what you can live without and how much you can afford to spend. Some questions to think about; do you need a prescription card, is your doctor on the plan, what about co-pays for doctor visits and are the services you normally need "covered" under the plan?

The same is true of auto insurance. Auto and home insurance is one of those things that we sign up for and keep the same company for decades and in some cases, generations. If your parents had Allstate, chances are you do to, and so will your children. I had had the same insurance company for house and cars forever! I asked on different occasions, especially after adding my teenage daughter, if we were getting the best rate agent assured me we were. And he was right, but only for the companies he was 'able to quote for'. I term I now understand. Some agents are only contracted to offer for 2 or 3 companies while others can offer from almost any.

So here is my insurance story. It seemed like every time I turned around my car insurance went up. Finally got tired of it and made some phone calls, did some online quotes and went in and sat down with an agent. I had my declaration page showing exactly what coverage I currently had. An hour later I walked out with a policy that was identical with one big was $60 cheaper...A MONTH! That's $720 a year folks...that's Christmas! It was worth the time it took...hands down. Another little tidbit, let them take it out of your account automatically (especially if you have a real live human you can deal with face to face), a lot of time this equates to another discount.

I also had them review my homeowners insurance. And to their credit, they called me a week later and were unable to even match my policy. The reason I say 'to their credit', they were honest with me. Kudos to them!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Frugal? Cheap? Whatever you want to call it in today's economy we have all been forced to be a little more frugal. I was raised in a modest. We always had food to eat, a roof over our head and clothes on our back.

During the late 80s and early 90s I think alot of people were living large. It was the era of easy and cheap credit and a time when "how much you had" defined who you were. I am sure our parents and grandparents who lived through the depression were just shaking their heads. Today it seems no matter where you look; government, school, business and even our own is tight!

I have always clipped coupons, shopped sales, bought in bulk and I am a regular at Wal-mart. But lately prices have seemed to gone through the roof. To start with ice cream is now 1 1/2 qts for the same price as 2 qts (back in the day) and a can of Lysol is $5.72...are you kidding me?! And I am NOT even going to discuss the cost of "feminine products". Would you like new sheets on your bed? Towels? How about a bra that "works"? It is unbelievable how expensive everything has gotten. That has caused me to start rethinking what frugal means and how to BE frugal.

The amount of waste in this country is astronomical. I am guilty too. We all are. How many leftovers do you throw away? Do you have any clothes, appliances or nick-nacks that you are not quite sue why you purchased them? Many of them show up in a yard sale, are carted off to a local mission or passed onto friends or relatives. How much money do you think we "give away" every year?

How much do we spend every month on wants? I am not talking about lavish gifts, diamonds or fancy cars. I am referring to dinner out, cell phones, the internet and cable. These have become the norm of today, but they take a huge chunk out of our budget every month. It is mind boggling when you really start to think of all the ways we "waste" money every day.

I started back at the gym several months ago and I am seeing slow and steady changes in my body and my mind. I am ready to send my family budget to the gym! In the next few weeks I will be bringing to you my ideas to save a few dollars and even find a few that are already hiding in your budget. 

I will close with a couple websites that have helped to inspire me to be more frugal. Happy saving!

Do you think you could feed your family a healthy and nutritious meal tonight for $5? No you say? Check out THIS site to learn how.

One of my favorite blogs that offers great tips and reminders that our wealth should never be measured by our pocket book.