Thursday, July 17, 2008

Surveys and Free Stuff

There's all kinds of survey scams out there that promise to pay you for doing X-amount of surveys. The problem is that once you've answered 10 questions, they tell you that you're not qualified and will receive no compensation.

I've been lucky however to have joined up with two survey companies that do offer valid rewards for my time. The first is HiPoints, or Harris Poll Online Surveys. They offer HiPoints for every survey you complete as well as a chance to enter their sweepstakes. I never pay much attention to the sweepstakes as I'm not generally a lucky person. But the points add up and they have some good prizes. When we were in our money crunch, we took advantage of the $5 paypal deposit that one of the prizes offered. Higher levels offer appliances, books, dvds, cds, and computer stuff. One of the first things I used my points for was a magazine subscription, so I know it's valid. I'm currently saving up for either a coffee pot or a second crock pot.

The other one is called e-rewards and offers small "monetary" type credits for completing surveys. While you don't actually get the money, you do get to spend it on nifty rewards. This one is limited on what you can get, and some of the awards require that you spend money first. For example, you can save $100 at Omaha Steaks, but you have to buy $300 first. Or you can only get certain prizes once a year or once every six months. However, through this program I've gotten two really cool rewards. The first was $15 in Borders Bucks that I used at the mall on new cookbooks. The second was one we just redeemed today: two coupons for a free pre-viewed movie at Blockbuster. It seemed like such a neat thing for us to go pick up two new DVDs for our collection at no cost to us (Juno and Sweeny Todd if anyone was wondering).

If you can find a good survey program that really will offer you some good rewards, I say go for it. It's usually only a little bit of your time and there's nothing wrong at all with free stuff.

To Netflix or Not to Netflix?

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine sent me a free month of Netflix. Not being one to turn anything down for free, I took it. The BF and I had talked about getting Netflix as we're both avid movie and television series lovers. I'd subscribed to Netflix before and always had a good experience with it.

To take advantage of the free month, he signed up rather than me re-opening my account. True to the promo, we got our month free before they started doing their automatic withdrawal. We did discuss it however to make sure it fit into our budget and if it was even worth it. On the three movies at a time unlimited plan, the cost is 16.99 per month (18.23 after taxes here in good ole KS).

If a movie rental is an average of $2.00 per movie (which is somewhere between the cost of an old release and a new release depending on which store you go to), we figured we'd only need to rent 10 movies a month to make it worth it. In a regular four week month, this is a cycle of DVDs per week (get three, watch them, return them). Already we've made it worth it for us, as some weeks we've gotten six DVDs because of the way the weeks and the shipping dates fall.

Not only are we saving money on rentals, we're saving money on the gas that it would take to get to the video store to rent and then take back . We're also saving on any late charges we might incur (something that I was always bad about). And watching movies keeps us home and out of spending trouble.

Though it doesn't work on our system at the moment, Netflix also offers a "Watch Now" option in which you can watch movies directly on your computer along with the ones you get in the mail. If you're a major movie buff, you can probably lower the cost per movie to $1.00 each. Or even $.50.

There's also Blockbuster Total Access which works much the same way but offers in-store rentals as well.

Movie lovers, I highly recommend one of these but only if you can fit it in your budget and only if you know you're going to get your money's worth out of it. If all you're going to watch is three movies per month...go ahead and go to the video store.

Current Situation and How Far We've Come

It's been a long time since I've blogged, partially due to life just getting busy and partially because my inspiration was waning. I didn't have any great tips on saving money. I'd used them all up. And I didn't think anyone would really want to read about what we spent in a day's time or every little way we saved a buck. Though sometimes I did want to write about that stuff, just because it was exciting to me and reminded me of why we were doing what we were doing.

So tonight I thought I'd throw out a little update. I may do a few more blogs...a few exciting things have happened that sort of center around money. I've had a few new ideas to share and at some point I'll post some more recipes. My friends have given me all kinds of great ones to try and I've collected so many I think I have enough to get me through the rest of year. If anyone out there actually reads and uses them, let me know and I'll get on posting some more.

We, meaning the BF and I, are doing really well considering how we started out. Alot of times we'll remind each other of how it was the first month I was here. "Remember when we only had $10 and no jobs?" We joke about it, but I've told him many times that I never want to be in that situation again. I never want to be in any situation I've been in in the past. I don't want to worry that I can't pay the rent or my car payment. I don't want to avoid the letters from the bank because I know they're telling me that I've overdrafted. I don't want to realize that a "treat" to myself ended up being a day's worth of spending that ended up costing me triple what it was worth in overdraft and late fees.

At present time, there is enough in the bank to cover all our bills with some leftover for us to "play with" over the next two weeks until our next payday. We have a savings account, my first in a number of years and his first ever. There's enough in savings for me to finally go to Michigan at the end of the summer with some to spare, and we still have time to keep socking money away in there for spending money. And still have some left. There's this sense of security that I haven't had in a really long time, but there's also a scary sense of "If I screw this up I'm going to backslide again." I've been diligent about keeping track of the checkbook, so much so that I balance it everyday to make sure nothing is going on with it that I'm not aware of.

For the most part, we're still being frugal. We're still getting help with the Vision Card, but July is the last month we'll be getting them. However, groceries have been costing anywhere from $30 to $50 at a time and lasting us for two weeks at least. We take advantage of free stuff when we can without taking advantage of any one person. But we're also letting ourselves a little lee way. My big splurge for this year, besides my trip to Michigan, was the massive amount I spent on Mary Kay stuff. I haven't told anyone how much I spent on it, at least not anyone online, because how do you justify spending money like that when you've cried poor all your life? To get it out into the was a little over $300, paid in monthly installments through the rest of the year. On a high note though, I really like it. It seems to be doing good things for my complexion and I've narrowed down what I'll actually want to buy in the future vs. what I splurged on to see how it works.

The BF hasn't been left in the cold either. He's been able to buy gaming books, a new paintball gun and paintball accessories, and had money to actually go gaming and paintballing with his friends instead of borrowing money from them just so he could be social. As for the two of us, we're still cooking at home alot, but we're okay if on a random night we decide to order a pizza, or on a weekend we decide to go out for lunch. In fact, this coming weekend, we're going to the movies to see "The Dark Knight" and out to lunch at a local downtown restaurant and we're treating his brother for helping us move. I have a BOGO coupon for the movie and a $10 gift card I won at work for the restaurant, but there's nothing wrong with a frugal splurge either.

That pretty much sums up where we're at right now. I hope to get some more blogging in like I did before, both to update and to keep myself motivated. It's so easy to think "Hey, I've got money...let's go spend it." I want to continue to be conscious of where and how my money is being spent so that the days of financial issue induced ulcers can be long gone.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Stimulus Check

I got my stimulus check this past week. While I was originally given the $600 as promised (it seems that some people were shorted) my check came up about $130 short of the mark.

After doing some searching and calling the IRS hotline, I found out that contrary to some of the things I'd been told, the amount that I owed for taxes was in fact taken out of the stimulus check.

While it was kind of a bummer not to have the whole amount, it's also a really good thing on my part. I had signed up for an extension to make my payment and now I don't have to worry about it. Since I won't have anymore accrued interest, I'm saving some money in the long run (not to mention the mess I would have been in if I'd forgotten about it altogether).

As far as taxes go, I'm paid up for this year but due to some problems I had filing this past April, I will have to invest in an accountant for the next year to help with state and fed taxes. I'm okay with this, or at least I am now. I'm confident that both me and the BF (who also had some issues) will get them all worked out in the spring. Just a note on a littel faux pas I made. Having been told that I could take up to 2 dependents as a single person to give myself a little extra money out of every paycheck, I had went that route this past year.

While this may work for some people, and some might even need it, I won't be doing this again. Had I been a little bit better with my money in the first place, I doubt if I would have even missed the little bit extra that taking 0 dependents would have cost me. I would have had a refund and I would not have been so stressed out at tax time.

This round, I made sure that I'm claiming zero dependents. While past tax mistakes may actually eat up any big refund I would get in 2009, at least I'll be working towards the top of my hole, not digging myself further.

So what am I doing with my check? Over half of it went into savings, the rest into checking to help pay bills and give me a little "free" money to have fun with. However, the amount in savings will also be going to my trip to Michigan in a couple of months...a great investment for me and my personal situation.

Recipe: Tortilla Casserole

I believe this recipe came from the Betty Crocker website though I had a hard time finding the recipe to post the link. However, the BC website has alot of great and easy recipes to check out.

This one was extremely good, though a bit spicy. I don't have the exact cost of everything for this one, but it was relatively cheap to make. Also, the original recipe called for some name brand items which I'm making generic as I don't usually buy the name brand if I can find a cheaper version.

1lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup medium salsa
1/2 cup milk
1 package Hamburger Helper Cheesy Nacho or Crunchy Taco mix
6-6 inch flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook beef and onion in 10 inch skillet over medium hight heat until brown. Drain any grease.
3. Stir in hot water, salsa, milk, and Hamburger Helper components (make "topping" sauce separate and then add).
4. Heat to boiling, stirring occassonally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until pasta or rice is tender
5. Cut tortillas in half. Spread 2 cups of skillet mixture in ungreased baking dish and top with six of the halves. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of shredded cheese.
6. Repeat the layer process, ending with the last of the beef mixture and shredded cheese on top.
7. Bake uncovered 15-20 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted

When I first saw this recipe it looked pretty complicated but it's not at all and it's really really good. Not only was it great as a main meal, it sets up beautifully and makes some great leftovers. It gave me and the BF two dinners and two lunches with good sized, filling, portions.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Recipe: Easy Chicken Tenders

This recipe actually started out as a sesame chicken recipe gone a bit wonky. However, the recipe came out really well and these chicken tenders were much tastier than the kind you buy in frozen foods section.

- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips or small pieces (use your judgement)
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- salt and pepper to taste
-1 egg beaten (recipe may also use 1/3 cup melted butter if baked instead of cooked in a skillet)
- a little bit of veggie or olive oil (if cooking in skillet)

1. Mix ginger, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and bread crumbs together (I do this by throwing it all in a plastic baggie, sealing, and shaking)

2. Dip strips into egg then in breadcrumb mixture

3. Heat oil in skillet on med high heat and cook strips for about 5 minutes on each side (longer if needed depending on how thick your chicken is)

4. Serve with choice of sauce.

The variation on cooking this is to put on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Estimated cost: about $2.00 per person per meal

Recipe: 20 Minute Chicken Parmesan

I have to credit this recipe to SparkPeople ( They have a daily recipe that they send in email and I found this one in my specified folder. It was from months ago, but could probably still be found on the 'net. For anyone looking for good, healthy recipes and a bunch of other healthy stuff, check this site out.

This was recipe was AWESOME! Very easy and the best chicken parm recipe we've made so far.

- 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 large egg, beaten lightly
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs (I only had regular breadcrumbs, so I mixed in some italian seasoning and garlic salt for the same effect)
- 2 tbs butter or margarine, melted
- 1 3/4 cups spaghett sauce (I didn't measure this, I just used a standard can of sauce)
- 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Dip chicken in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs
2. Cook chicken in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned on both sides
3. Spoon spaghetti sauce over chicken (I just poured the can over it carefully)
4. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, let simmer 10 minutes
5. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley; cover and simmer 5 minutes
6. Serve over spaghetti

This made two meals for two of us, even using the tiny 8 oz box of spaghetti from Wal-Mart. Best thing is that this can be thrown together quickly and is very flavorful and filling.

Estimated cost: about $1.50 per person per meal

Recipe: Pork Chops with Balsamic Vinegar

This recipe is technically a dinner for two, but we doubled the recipe to get two meals out of it. I'll post the original as it's made for two people or two meals for one person.

-2 boneless center pork loin chops, 1 1/2 inch thick
-1 1/2 tsps lemon pepper
-1 tsp vegetable oil
-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-2 tbsp chicken broth
-2 tsps butter

1. Pat chops dry and coat with lemon pepper
2. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium high heat
3. Add chops. Brown 8 minutes, turn, and cook 7 more minutes or until done
4. Remove from pan and keep warm
5. Add vinegar and broth to skillet; cook and stir until syrupy (about 1-2 minutes. NOTE: I never did get to the syrupy stage, so either I did something wrong or it just takes longer than a couple of minutes)
6. Stir in butter until blended
7. Spoon sauce over chops

We served this with frozen vegetables as a side.

Estimated cost per person was a little higher as we had to buy lemon pepper. Lemon pepper is a great thing to have on hand though.

Estimated cost: about $1.50 per person per meal

The taste was really good though a little light on balsamic flavor. Add more to taste as needed. I had thought that the leftovers would be more flavorful as they had time to sit in the sauce, but they weren't as good as leftovers generally have seemed to be. Still good in a pinch however and good with any number of sides.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Recipe: Onion Baked Pork Chops

Another fairly cheap recipe and a tasty one!

4 bone-in pork chops (center cut) (bought on sale for about $1.00 each)
1 envelop Lipton Recipe Secrets Golden Onion soup (about $.65 as the whole box was only like $1.29 and you only need one envelope)
2/3 cup Breadcrumbs (already had stocked, but Wal-Mart sells big cans for less than a dollar)
1 egg well beaten (about $.15)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine soup mix and bread crumbs in plastic storage bag. Shake until well mixed then pour out on flat dish.
Dip chops in egg then coat with crumb mixture on both sides.
Grease baking pan and arrange chops
Bake uncovered 10 minutes, then turn and bake for another 10-15.

We served this with macaroni and cheese, which we bought for $.33 a box at Aldi. We had enough for two meals, so we had leftovers a couple days later. The leftover taste was fine, but the pork got a little bit tough when re-heated in the microwave.

The estimated cost per person per meal: less than $1.50.


I wasn't actually going to share this little piece of information. After all, I do have a rep to protect, and as someone who's been trying to be frugal and live cheaply, I had been hoping to stay on the wagon a little longer than I actually did.

I splurged. Hardcore. On Mary Kay. Funny thing is, I just wrote an article for Associated Content on how not to spend alot of money at at-home sales parties (not yet published but will be on here shortly). Does this make me a hypocrite? Not necessarily.

Being frugal means that you have the money for an occasional splurge. When I normally talk about splurges, I talk about lunch out with the BF, pizza for dinner, or a movie night with friends. But most people tend to find splurges to fall in the realm of vacations, expensive new wardrobes, a plasma TV, or even a new car.

My splurge could have easily been found at a lower cost. I could have done with about half of what I bought and yes, since I'm having to pay for my splurge in monthly payments, I'm going to have to give up some things. So while I did spend money I didn't need to, as part of trying to adapt to a life of better money management, I am definitely willing to give up some things.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recipe: Garlic Mushroom Chicken Melt

This recipe was completely awesome and the BF loved it too. We actually had the leftovers tonight and even they were really good. It's a pretty cheap and easy meal too.

4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts ($.75 a piece per the bag we bought...that may vary)
1 envelope Lipton Recipe Golden Onion Soup (about $.65 as the whole box was only like $1.29 and you only need one envelope).
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained ($.48 Great Value brand)
1 tbsp olive oil (can also use veg. oil)
sprinkle of garlic salt (optional)
sprinkle of italian seasoning (optional)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (used the imitation Kroger brand for $1.50)

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees
-Arrange chicken in 13x9 baking or roasting pan
- Blend soup mix, tomatoes, and oil together (I didn't have a blender but stirring it worked just as well)
- Pour over chicken
- Bake uncovered for 25 minutes
- Remove and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
- Bake for 2 more minutes or until cheese is melted

We served this with spaghetti noodles ($.48 for smallest GV box) coated in a little bit of margarine and parmesan cheese and got two meals out of it.

Total cost: approximately $1.25 per person per meal (if I figured that out right).

Note: The original recipe called for Lipton Secrets Savory Herb w/ Garlic Soup Mix, which is where I'm assuming the mushrooms came in. WalMart didn't have it so I grabbed the golden onion and substituted the garlic salt and italian seasoning.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Weekly Splurge at IHOP and Garage Sales

The BF and I decided this week we would do an early breakfast at IHOP for our weekly treat, followed by some garage sale shopping.

While I'm not upset that we did it because it was planned and budgeted for, IHOP is expensive and we ended up spending more than I'd planned for. I remember the days when coffee was $.89. Not so much anymore. My coffee cost $1.49 and his soda was $1.79. Our meals were good. My breakfast was just under $7.00 and his burger (he'd just gotten off work so it was dinner for him) was just under $8.00. Figure in the cost for tax and tip and we spent over $20 for just the two of us.

So big splurge, and one we're not likely to repeat again for a long while. It was good though and worth it. The garage sale shopping wasn't as intense. After working the graveyard shift, he was ready for a nap and after parting ways with a $20 bill, I just didn't want to spend anymore. We did however stop at two of them.

Our fun and awesome find: 15 books from The Enchanted World Time Life book series for $3.00.
Our practical but still awesome find: A pair of nice shoes for work for $3.00.

I love garage sales.

Taco Bell Value Menu

My previous experience with Burger King was less than good, so we've stricken that one off our list. But sometimes a person just wants some fast food. Taco Bell has always been a favorite of mine but it can get costly as most fast food does.

Recently, TB has released their new value menu which uses three different tiers of pricing: $.79, $.89, and $.99 items. Ever a fan, this past week gave me an opportunity to try them out with the BF on an errand busy lunch.

The verdict: this is a pretty good deal! While not as cheap as eating at home, you can get something to tide you over for less than $5.00 and if you like the taste of Taco Bell, the cheaper items are no less in quality. For lunch, I had a double beefy cheese and rice melt, a soft taco, and mango strawberry Frutista Freeze for $3.95. Not bad considering the drink was the most expensive thing I bought.

This shouldn't mean it's okay to go to TB everyday of the week. Four bucks a pop still comes to $28.00 if you ate it everyday, and that's only for one person, for one small meal. Plus it's fast food, so it's not really healthy. But for a treat or a grab on the go lunch, you could do much worse.

Menu Planning 6-7-08

Though it was never anything I found exciting before, since I've started cooking I've really enjoyed planning a weekly menu for the BF and I. Not only do I feel organized, but I consistently see how much money I'm saving by doing this.

This past week, I planned for six full meals rather than the three and leftovers I'd previously been doing. We're getting to the point where we have the money to spend on groceries, so while leftovers will definitely be eaten, we have more options and can start taking the second portion to work.

One thing that's helped my menu planning is to keep things varied. I planned one meal based each around a different meat (beef, pork, and chicken). I then picked a Mexican dish, a different kind of hamburger dish, and planned for a soup and sandwich night. While there are other categories I'll use in the future, this method allowed me to make sure I had a good variety. A couple of the dishes will still stretch for two meals and we won't get bored. I also made sure they would be easy to cook, so I planned for a crock pot recipe and a couple meals that I know will take only 15-20 minutes to prepare, like the soup and sandwich and a Helper night.

This weeks menu:
Garlic Mushroom Chicken (which incidentally does not have mushrooms; recipe will follow)
Cheesy Nacho Chicken on Corn Tortillas (crock pot)
Oven Baked Pork Chops (recipe will follow)
Hamburger Helper
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwiches
Cheesy Spinach Burgers

The most exciting part about the menu is the grocery cost. After making my grocery list based on my menu and any hard to ignore deals in the Dillons ad, I estimated about $60 for groceries. My actual total? $27.30. And that includes not only the main course, but applicable sides and drinks, as well as sandwich stuff for lunches.

The breakdown comes to an average of $2.50 per meal per person. Which means on the 7th day, if we can splurge, we're having Little Caesars!

Internet Issues and Tips

Once again, we went a few days without internet. There's been a lot of issues here since the apartment complex switched from everyone having individual 'net to offering it for the whole community. So once again, I was unable to get anything done in the way of blogging. However, I did have time to think about some things concerning money and internet.

First, ways to save on internet. You don't actually have to have home internet to survive. Most of us feel disconnected when we can't get online to chat, do email, or whatever it is we do. And admittedly, I'm one of those people. However, when you're forced to do without, you find ways around it. If internet is one of those costs that can be cut out to save money, here are some ideas for staying connected:

1. Utilize work internet - I'm lucky in that the company I'm currently working for has internet and allows us to use it on breaks for personal use. Check with your company's internet policies to find out if it can be used at designated times. If so, do email on your breaks and/or part of your lunch. Just make sure not to do anything that would violate company policy. Don't be a jerk and ruin the privelege for everyone else because you wanted to download porn.

2. Find a Wi-Fi spot - If you have a laptop, Wi-Fi hot spots are common and can be very helpful. Plan some time where you can find a local coffee shop, bookstore, or restaurant that offers it. If there's a cost associated with it, find out beforehand. And be careful, even though you might not be paying for the internet, you might get tempted into buying an expensive coffee drink or meal. In order to avoid this, try the.....

3. ...library. Not only does the library generally have wireless access to internet for laptop users, they usually have several desktop computers set aside for the general public to use and to access the internet with. And because most libraries are "No Food or Drink" places, you won't be incurring any extra costs except the gas to get there.

4. Ask a friend - If you have a close friend who's online, make plans to use their internet. Offer to pay part of the bill for the privelege of using it for periods of time throughout the week to do basic email, bill pay, account stuff. If you're in a financial bind, let them know about it. Who knows? You may have something they need in exchange. You can also use the time to hang out and catch up if you don't get to see each other often.

If after careful consideration you find that you truly, absolutely, no matter which way you look at it can NOT live without internet, there are a few options that will help cut costs.

1. Downgrade to dial-up - Not everyone uses the internet to download, upload, and play games. If you're a minimalist when it comes to the internet, meaning you pay bills, check email, and occasionally shop online, then you probably don't actually need a high speed connection. Find out how much local dial up costs. With DSL and cable connections, dial up prices have decreased immensely. Remember that you do have to have a land phone line and a degree of patience as it is slower and may not be as efficient.

2. Search around for package deals - Many big companies are now offering packages that include internet, phone service, and digital cable. If these are things you want anyway and can afford, try out a package deal to save money. However, make sure to read the small print. Alot of bundle deals start out at a low price and go higher after a month or so. Know exactly what you're getting into before signing on the dotted line.

Even though we've had problems, many apartment complexes are already set up with internet and have, for the most part, gotten all the bugs out of their system. So if you're looking for a new place to live, finding one that has on-site internet can be a money saver if the rent is already reasonable.

Last but not least, don't hesitate to call for a discount on your bill if your internet is out for an extended period of time. Most companies want to keep their customers and will do what they can to make them happy, especially if the problem was on their end. If they won't help you out, you have a good reason to file a complaint and go look elsewhere.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


I officially have $25.00 of touchable money in my savings. This is big for me. The challenge is going to be not to touch it.

It's always been a challenge for me to keep a savings account, but after going through such a rough time with money recently, I'm ready to commit to one. With a dual income, $25.00 a week is feasible. Like most things though, I'm having to make putting money away a challenge and a game.

In this case, my plan is to play the carry over game. Come next payday (for either myself or the BF), half of whatever is left from the previous week gets put into savings, the rest stays to pile on top the new incoming money. This may not be feasible every week, especially when there's major bills to pay. But my hope is that by doing it this way, we'll stay motivated not to spend a whole lot of money, a tendency that we've kept at bay for awhile now but which I know I can easily fall back into.

If anyone has any tips on savings, I'd love to hear them. I'm willing to try anything at this point.

Cheese and Spinach Burgers

We found a recipe for a different sort of burger that we tried out today. I'm not entirely sold on them but the BF really liked them. They have a weird tang to them that I'm not accustomed to. However, they lend themselves to several different variations and were fairly cheap to make:

1 pack dry French Onion Soup Mix (GV brand - $.68, which is for the whole box, so one envelope is actually $.34).
2 lbs hamburger (price varies. We were able to get ground round on sale for $1.99 a lb so about $4.00)
10 oz box of frozen spinach ($.96)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese (GV brand - $1.98).
Buns (we bought reduced bakery buns at WalMart for 1.34)

1. Squeeze the moisture out of the spinach and let dry
2. Mix soup mix, cheese, dried spinach, and hamburger together.
3. Form patties and grill or broil (we used a George Foreman grill).
4. Serve on a bun with your choice of toppings.

Notes: This recipe should yield 8 burgers, therefore we cut the recipe in half, which still yields two meals for each of us. Taking that into account, the cost per person per meal is approximately less than $2.50 person, and that's taking into account we ate it with Pringles (on sale for $.88 at Dillons this week).

There are several areas where costs can be cut even more. You can get standard hamburger buns for around a dollar in some places and you can find shredded cheese for cheaper than we did. Cheaper cuts of hamburger can be found, though they may have more fat and will shrink the size of the patties.

Some of the variations of this include substituting the french onion soup mix for a ranch dressing powder, using mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar, and using more or less spinach depending on your palate. Next time we try these, I will probably forego the spinace while the BF will probably want more of it.

Easy and cheap recipe. Try it.

Be Careful of the "Splurge"

Interesting story I thought I'd share.

Yesterday was my first payday and even though the BF and I agreed we were still going to be frugal, we decided to go ahead and hit the drive thru on lunch while were running errands around town. With a little bit of money at our disposal, we figuired it would be okay.

After a few weeks with no fast food and rarely eating a meal that costs more than $3.00 per person, we decided to try Burger King. The first painful part of our meal was the wait, though by that time we really didn't have time to go anywhere else.

The cost was another hit to the stomach. For two medium size value meals, the cost was $11.70. This is more than double what we've been paying for the meals we've been eating at home. I knew it was a bad idea, but to top it off, we both agreed that the food was horrible. Fairly bland, way too greasy, and completely unsatisfying.

Our lesson? There are some splurges that are worth it when you're trying to live cheaply. Fast food is not one of them. Because of what we spent, we have agreed to forego our normal after-church meal out, which, from now on, will include fare that's worth the splurge: Quizno's, chinese, Applebees, etc.

No more of this fast food stuff. Our wallets and bodies will be alot better off.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Joys of Hamburger Helper

I have a confession...I used to be a Hamburger Helper snob!

I'm not sure why. It wasn't that I looked down on it as a meal. I think part of it was growing up and remembering how often we had noodles and meat, so the thought of it as an adult wasn't appealing. Another part of it was the preparation. Up until recently, I've never felt comfortable in a kitchen, and even now I'm still finding my feet. But it always seemed like such a pain to have to brown the meat and mix everything (I know, right? That's pretty lazy of me).

Cooking dinner tonight, which was Hamburger Helper (Three Cheese if anyone was wondering), I felt silly for being so snooty about it. HH is a really cheap, pretty tasty, easily made dinner for people who are aiming to save money. It comes in a ton of different flavors and when you get sick of hamburger, you can fall back on Tuna Helper and Chicken Helper.

Some nifty things about Helper meals:

1. Low Cost of Item - The brand name starts at about $1.50 depending on the area you live in, but it seems to be one of those items that goes on sale alot. Look for local sales on HH. The most common one brings the price to about a buck a box, so stock up when you find them to keep around for an easy dinner. If you want to go generic, there's many off-brands of this type of meal, though you might not get the same variety.

2. Budgeting for the meat - The thing that's going to drive an HH meal up is going to be the meat which has gotten more expensive over the past few years. Depending on the type of hamburger you buy, it can get really expensive. We opt to buy the cheapest/easiest we can find which is the small pound tubes of it at WalMart for $2.12 (plus tax). We're currently working with limited freezer space so these one shot servings work best, though if you can find bigger packages at a lower per lb price, buy up, divvy the meat into storage bags, and freeze away. Also remember to drain the grease too as the cheaper hamburger will produce alot of it.

Chicken breasts for CH are a little pricier and take more preparation but not much. If you really want to save time, buy the canned chicken. TH is probably the cheapest as you can get a can of tuna for less than a buck. A Helper meal covers your meat and grains, so adding a cheap veggie and a glass of milk can help cover some of the others.

3. Not a health food, but... - Hamburger Helper is a little higher in calories and fat than alot of foods, but if you're trying to save money you can still compromise. For a slightly higher cost you can buy a leaner cut of hamburger, or you can buy ground turkey instead. I haven't bought ground turkey in a long time, but last I remember, it's actually cheaper than hamburger but gives a similar taste and is much healthier. Substitute "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" for butter/margarine and use skim milk for the mix.

Portion size is also something you can control and can make your meals cheaper. Check the box to see how many it will serve, especially if you're cooking for two or just yourself. Divvy the portions up accordingly. This isn't always easy with families, as different people eat different amounts, but you can try it a couple of ways. After separating it out for one meal, decide if you want to further multiply it. A single person can get two large meals or four small meals out of one box. Two people can one or two meals, etc. The more meals you can get out of one box, the cheaper each meal becomes. Keeping that in mind will also help you stay on track with healthy portions.

The BF and I were lucky enough to have acquired three boxes of HH from a friend who was moving so our meal was a bit cheaper. But taking into account the regular price of HH from WalMart, the meal breaks down into the following:

HH = $1.50
1 lb Hamburger = $2.12
Milk = negligible, but estimated at about $.50.
Total = $4.12

We opted for no sides and we didn't go the healthy route on this, deciding on a big dinner after a long day of work. Therefore, this meal came to $2.06 per person.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Spending

Holiday weekends are great in theory. Some extra days off, time spent with family and friends, and good food, usually in the form of BBQ. Unfortunately, holiday weekends also lend themselves to a little bit more spending than may have been planned for. While Memorial Day weekend is now officially behind us, I've come up with some frugal ideas to keep in mind for the next holiday weekend which will be here before we know it.

Garage Sales: It occurred to me that not everyone who has the extra day off may be getting paid for that extra day. While many jobs offer a chance for people to work some holiday/overtime hours, others may be left 8 hours short of a good paycheck. Holiday weekends in most areas are good times to hold a garage sale as there are more people in town and more people with a little extra time on their hands. If you plan well in the weeks beforehand and have alot of things to sell (in good condition of course), you can make a decent amount to supplement what you may have lost in that extra day off. And hey, even if you are getting paid for Memorial Day, there's never anything wrong with making a little extra money.

BBQs with Friends: Whether you throw one of your own or go to a friend's house, a group BBQ is the summer equivalent of a potluck. The host may offer to buy the meat if everyone else brings sides, chips, and drinks. Or everyone may bring a pound of meat to share plus a side and their own drinks. No matter how it's ran, you can generally enjoy a nice big meal for a small cost, and if the BBQ runs the whole day (complete with games and chatting), you'll usually enjoy lunch and dinner.

Be Frugal When Travelling: The opportunity of a long weekend is also an opportunity to take a road trip to see people you don't get to see regularly. However, the price of gas and regular travel expenses has gone up considerably since last year and doesn't show signs of going down before the next summer holiday. Be sure to plan ahead. If you can rent or borrow a vehicle that gets better gas mileage, budget for it. Try to stay with family or friends in order to save on hotel costs. Avoid stopping for meals by packing a cooler with sandwich stuff and drinks. And if you really can't afford to travel, take the time to enjoy being at home. Pitch a tent in the yard or do a mini house trade with some friends for a change of scenery. Be creative. It is possible to have a great weekend for relatively cheap.

This weekend, the BF and I managed to keep our costs down. He worked, and even though I had a four day weekend (paid, luckily...I didn't look ahead on that whole garage sale thing), I kept gas costs down by staying home and reading or looking up recipes when we finally got our internet back. In fact, I ended up not driving anywhere on Saturday which really saved on the gas. We ended up going to two BBQs where we were asked to bring a side and our own beverages. We opted for chips, macaroni salad, and a 12 pack of Coke Zero. The pop was a splurge...normally we try to stick to either the 68 cent 2 liters of WalMart brand or the $1.00 3 liters at the Dollar Store. The chips we got on sale...2 bags for $4.00, so we took one bag per BBQ. Watch out for the mac salad! We ended up buying deli salad for $4.29 a pound. I haven't checked into it, but I'm pretty sure you can make your own for alot cheaper.

All in all, for two BBQs that ended up being 2 meals (lunch and dinner both days), we spent about $12.00, which when broken down, ends up being $3.00 per person per meal. Not too bad at all!

Hope everyone had a great enjoyable weekend and we'll be looking to the 4th of July to use some more frugal holiday ideas.

Back Online

About an hour after my "no internet" post we came back on so I'll be back to blogging once more!

I want to say thanks to al who left me an awesome looking recipe. I'll be definitely trying this one, probably this week or early next. Thanks!!! :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

No Internet!!!

We haven't had internet for several days and it's not looking like we're going to have internet for a few more. It's hard keeping track of things and keeping up on a blog when you don't have it at your fingertips.

Therefore, there will be a mini-hiatus, but once we're back up and running, I'll be back up and blogging.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cheesy Chicken With a Taco Twist

As I am now officially a working woman, making easy dinners is going to be really important. Today we did another crock pot recipe and added our own twist.

One of the ideas found in the review section suggested adding pepperjack soup in place of one of the cans of cream of chicken. We followed this suggestion and then switched out the garlic powder for taco seasoning. It was ready when I got home from work tonight. I ate it over tortilla chips for a chicken nacho dish.

We cooked enough for two meals (4 chicken breasts) so we can have leftovers for tomorrow.

The prices are as follows but these are only estimates based on what I can remember.

Chips (free from a friend, but you can get a bag of generic chips for a dollar)
Cheese soups - $1.50 per can
Cream of chicken soup - $.70 for the generic
Chicken breasts (Great Value) - $.75 each
Taco Seasoning (generic) - $.40

Total cost: about $4.35
Per meal per person: about $1.09

This tasted really good and is pretty versatile with seasonings and soups. If you have a crock pot, I highly suggest trying this recipe out.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Temporary Shoe Fix

This one actually comes courtesy of my BF and is something I never really thought about doing. It's a good idea if your shoes are in rough shape and you don't have the money right away to get a pair of new ones.

Cheap insoles can be found at the store. At Wal-Mart, you can get a really cheap, standard pair for less than a dollar. Depending on your preferences and how much you have to spend, you may want to spend a little more, but we're going really cheap these days.

Find some heavy cardboard and super glue the insoles to it. Then cut around the shape, cut to size, and fit into your shoes. The cardboard reinforces the insole and covers over any areas where the rubber sole may have started to come through.

This is not a permanent fix. If your shoes are in bad shape, they can cause foot and back problems if you continue to walk on them. However, if you just need something to tide you over until you can get to Payless (or find a cheap pair at a thrift store or garage sale), this is a good solution.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Good news!

The BF and I both have jobs now! He started his yesterday and I start mine on Monday. He may possibly be working two jobs this summer too.

This means that the budgeting will have to start soon. We already budgeted for him, at least for the one job and the minimum hours he's expected to work. Since I know I have a job, I can probably budget for myself now as well, though mine will be trickier. I have more bills.

This part's going to be tough. I've never been good with money. But I am determined to stick to a budget and save some money.

Wish me luck!

Planning a Menu

I'm proud to say that today is the first time in years I've planned a menu.

The way it's planned, I'll only have to cook three nights and then we'll have leftovers for three nights, tweaking the meal only a little bit, like having mashed potatoes with the leftovers instead of noodles.

Two of the recipes are crock pot recipes. I've never cooked any of these things before, so this should be interesting.

The trick now is to get everything for my menu at the lowest cost possible.

Online Pre-Browsing

I really hate buying something at one store only to find later that I could have gotten it cheaper at another one. I'm currently in the process of coming up with a database that will tell me the different prices of different things at different places. Unfortunately, it's a work in progress as I'm not about to go through three different stores and take notes on every price. Since we're just in the early phases of cooking, we don't even know what our staples are going to be.

I found out today that one of the local grocery stores has a site that shows their weekly ad prices. After working in retail for many years, the general rule seems to be that big grocery chains generally have higher prices than say WalMart or Aldi. But they also tend to have the best sales. Checking sales online before going shopping can save gas money and a small piece of mind.

In this case, I made a list of all the sale items that would work with this coming week's menu and their sale prices next to them. I'll take this list when I go to one of the other stores and will be able to compare sale prices with regular prices. Granted, this doesn't work on regularly priced items, but it's one step to take to make sure you're getting the lowest possible price on groceries.

Italian Chicken Recipe

On a recent internet browse through time and money saving recipes I came across this one:

The recipe seemed easy enough and I'm all about the crock pot so we gave it a try. It turned out to be really good! The sauce isn't a thick one, so if you like a thicker tomato, meat or marinara, you might be surprised to find this to be a thinner one. But the taste is really good and being that it's a crock pot recipe, the chicken comes out nice and tender.

For the dry sauce mix, we used the Great Value brand for 50 cents a packet. In fact, all of the ingredients were GV which kept our cost very low. We served it over spagetti noodles with parmesan garlic bread from the Wal-Mart bakery on the side.

Also, the recipe calls for 6-8 chicken breasts, but we used four and the proportion seemed to work. We were able to split this recipe into two meals for two people. After doing some minor calculations on the cost of one of these meals, the total comes to about $1.30 per person.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Loving Your Library

Entertainment can be expensive unless you like to read. My BF and I are both avid readers which keeps us busy when we can't afford to go to a movie or even to rent one.

Yesterday we went to the local library where I got my library card. Library cards are generally free to those who live in the area. You can check out books, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks, as well as back issues of magazines. The one in my town is very spacious and comfortable, offering comfortable chairs to sit in for anyone who just wants a change of scenery. Libraries generally offer free classes, internet, and movies to the public.

For free amusement, look into your library and take advantage of all it has to offer. Just make sure to get your books back in time. Late fees can be minimal but they are still fees and will cost you something.

Putting Pride Aside

The BF and I were lucky in that the other night we had some friends invite us over for dinner. This saves us money and gives us a chance to socialize, but it's hard for me to put my pride aside and let someone else offer me something.

Living frugally really means that you have to put aside some pride. At some point in the future, I have every intention of taking these friends out for dinner or buying the makings for a meal or even inviting them over. But right now, we aren't in a position where we can. Sometimes when you don't have money, you really do have allow others to help you out and offer their kindness.

Just a quick thought on the matter.

High Money Days

Alot of money has been spent over the past few days, but most of it has been things that are fairly necessary, at least for where I'm at right now and what I'm doing.

1. I had to spend 23.00 on a new drivers license. There's really no way out of this people. However, I did have to pay a 1.00 late fee since my last license was expired. Be aware of your drivers license expiration date and renew before it completely expires. I only had to pay 1.00 but different states have different rules and you can save a good chunk of change by not accruing those late fees.

2. I finally had to get gas for my car. I only had $20.00 to spend, which doesn't get very much these days. It took me just over half a tank of gas. Make sure to find the cheapest gas in your area. I've also heard that the best times to get gas are in the morning. As far as gas mileage goes, keep your tires inflated and your car free of extra weight that's not needed. And be conscience of how much you drive. Walk or bike whenever possible.

3. Food over the past few days has cost a little more than usual, mostly due to our own failure to plan. At Wal-Mart, we spent a whole $10.00. Unfortunately, we only got 1.5 meals out of it, sloppy joes one night and then we had some bakery cheddar buns for tonight's meal. It wasn't a total washout though. We scored some more sugar free drink and cheese, as well as some bananas and cookies for snack purposes. Tonight, we splurged on dinner and ate out, though if you want to go cheap and like pizza, Little Caesar's Hot and Ready deal is great. For 7.50 we got a large pizza and a thing of breadsticks and made it last two meals.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekend Spending

We were really lucky this weekend in that we didn't end up having to spend much of anything. The BF's family was in town, so we got treated to three meals and a movie. We did make sure to conserve leftovers for a good dinner tonight though. I've never been one for leftovers but I'm really learning the value of them. We're also making our bread and bologna last and we still have some cash for supplies later this week.

I have to admit to a little splurge tonight though. Sunday nights have been the BFs gaming nights for a long time and now that I'm living here they've become mine too. One of the key ingredients to a get together night is snacks. Not having money means we can't go to Taco Bell like everyone else does or bring in major munchies. But we have found a way to have our own snacks without spending alot. The local Dollar Tree has all kinds of snacky type food, all of it for $1.00 or less. For 3 bucks plus tax, we were able to get a 3 liter of pop that we could share and two snacks, like crackers and cookies or beef jerky and chips. The snacks last the whole evening, we were able to share, and we still had some to bring home.

Also, has far as gaming is concerned, we play the Dungeons and Dragons RP game. Those who really get into it can end up spending hundreds of dollars on books, dice, maps, and miniatures. Luckily, as a passive player, this form of entertainment is free for us. The BF already has a whole can of dice he's accrued over the years (a basic set costs about $5 to get started) and player sheets and pencils are usually supplied by the host of the game or can be acquired for pennies using the internet (for the sheets) and the dollar store (for pencils).

If RPing isn't your idea of fun, game nights are really inexpensive. Find a cheap deck of cards, or get together with friends and pool board games you have hidden in your closets. Socializing doesn't have to cost anything and can be alot of fun.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bratwurst Dinner and Grocery Shopping

We decided to do something different for dinner tonight and cook something a little more wild than just tuna helper or hot dogs. So we decided to go for a bratwurst dinner with french fries.

This dinner was actually a little more expensive than our last few. The bratwurst were on sale for $2.50 for a five sausage package and the fries were $1.79. Our original idea had been to make the bratwurst last for two meals, but after a traumatic over-broiling experience (my bad), we ended up having a larger dinner than we'd planned for. If you add in the bread and condiments we used, this meal for two people came to a little less than $5.00. I thought it felt extravagant, but when we compared it to a typical Taco Bell meal, we came out alright, considering that's less than what most people pay for an individual TB value meal.

SHOPPING TIPS: On today's shopping trip, we visited Dillons. Like many regular grocery stores, I find that their stuff is a little high priced compared to Aldi and even WalMart. But we decided to check it out and by looking at their ad prices, we were able to get some great things on sale.

Oscar Mayer Bologna was on sale for $1.00 each for the larger packs (regular price $3.29). Like hot dogs, not everyone can stomach bologna, but I have no problem with it and actually kind of like it. We bought two packages to stock up for lunches and the occasional dinner.

Kroeger's Bread was also on sale for $0.88 per loaf, which is about 60 cents lower than it's original price and almost 10 cents cheaper than Wal-Mart bread. Again, we couldn't beat the sale, so we got two loaves, which we can use for hotdogs, hamburgers, toast, and sandwiches. If you can get a sale like this and have freezer space, stock up.

We also scored some ketchup and mustard for under a dollar each and a dollar pack of cookies. Dillons is one of the chains that requires a savings card to get the deals. When all was said and done, we went from a grocery bill of $21.00 to one of $14.00 by using the card.

Making Extra Money

Besides picking up more job applications today, the BF and I managed to make about $50 by selling some things we didn't need anymore, namely books, CDs, and videogames.

In this town, there are several avenues for selling used media. CD Tradepost was our first stop and offered us $7.50 for about 5 used CDs. Sure it doesn't sound like alot, but when money is an issue (as in you don't have any) every little bit helps. All of these CDs had been purchased by me, and since I had since loaded them onto my iTunes, I could get rid of them without feeling too much regret.

We also have a Hastings, which buys back books, DVDs, CDs, and video games. By rounding things up in the same way, we were able to sell back enough to make $40. Because of how tight things are right now, this was a small fortune. The first thing we did was talk about how we were going to spend it. Spending as a couple is a lot different than spending as an individual, and I wanted to make sure we kept the lines of communication completely open. After discussing it, we socked away $20 for gas (which won't get us much but it'll get us something). We decided to do some more grocery shopping and then just hold the rest to buy us groceries over the next couple of weeks until we have jobs.

I have to admit though...we did splurge a little. We treated ourselves to Sonic Happy Hour, where all Sonic drinks are half priced. For a whole $1.88, we got a large sour apple slushie and a large apple limeade. Okay, so yeah, we splurged. But I think it was definitely a couple of dollars well spent.

Free Dinner Opportunities

I found out last night that one of the things that helped my BF out through the school year is free dinners for students given my campus ministries in the area. In fact, we went to one given by the campus Lutheran ministry. We got a good dinner and had a good time at no cost. This ministry has another one next week as well as one on Sunday.

Last Sunday, I attended a church that was holding a collegiate lunch for one dollar.

Area churches are one of the sources I never would have thought to look to help with a frugal lifestyle, but they are offered for those who are having a hard time making ends meet. My BF has attended this dinner several times before and so, as his guest, it wasn't a situation in which we were imposing or, I felt, taking advantage of the situation.

There are a few things to remember when using these kinds of ministries to help save money:

1. If you don't attend the church regularly, take advantage of it only when you have to
2. If you do attend the church regularly, when you can afford it, offer to make a donation or bring something for the dinner
3. Be respectful of the people giving the dinner. Remember that most church groups are not going to appreciate alot of swearing, dirty joke telling, or other inappropriate behavior.
4. Be mindful of portions and how many other people are there for dinner

Above all, be grateful for your meal and use it as an opportunity to meet and chat with new people.

Frugal Does Not Mean Dishonest

Just a quick word about living frugally and making every penny count.

This does not in any way indicate that anyone should be frugal by stealing or other nefarious means. One of the things I'm really against is shoplifting and using sneaky/illegal means to make/save money. It is possible to make money and be frugal and totally be on the up and up.

I feel the need to say this in case something I say or do in one of my blogs comes across as a little shady. I would hope that if someone felt this way, they would call me on it to either let myself justify what I did or rectify the situation.

Having said that, I encourage everyone to be both moral and honest. If you find a wallet, turn it in. If you find the cashier at the store made a mistake in your favor, let her know. Saving money is cool, but I'm a believer in good karma. What goes around comes around, so make sure that only good stuff is going to come around to you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wal-Mart Shopping

Wal-Mart is a little pricier than stores like Aldi and Sav-A-Lot, but they have a good selection and you can still find some pretty cheap finds if you hunt for it. On our latest WM shopping trip, the BF and I did everything we could to spend the least amount of money and get the most meals out of it.

Bar-S Hot Dogs are only 67 cents for a package of 8. Many people don't like hot dogs at all, and if they do eat them, they have to be beef. If you're like me and don't care, you can make these last for a couple of meals. We paired a pack of them with a loaf of GV bread ($0.96) and some mustard which we already had. Pringles are a dollar per can, so we bought two. This gave us a dinner and a lunch. We also picked up two cans of GV tuna fish (0.56 each) and two GV Cheesy Pasta dinners (like Tuna Helper but semi-generic) for 96 cents each. That's two more meals, four if we halve each one.

We splurged a little on a pack of 98 cent GV cookies. The most we spent was $1.88 for a canister of GV sugar free drink mix. Though we spent over a dollar on it, it's actually the best deal. You get 6 tubs of mix in a canister, and each makes 2 quarts of drink. Since it's sugar free, it's already flavored, so we saved by not having to buy sugar. Once we figured it out, we found it was the healthier and cheaper option.

The total cost for four meals for two people, including dessert and drink: $10.23.

Not too shabby.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lazy Day Options

Being limited in what you can and can't do because you don't have the money is really tough. What I need to remember is that when I do get money, I do not need to spend it all at once, but by saving and budgeting it, I have a better chance of not finding myself in this position again.

Said position is me stuck at home, not wanting to go anywhere because of the need to save on gas. Grocery shopping needs to be done, but I only want to make one trip, so I'm waiting until the BF gets out of class so I only have to drive once and then park for the night.

Not going anywhere meant having to find something to eat and keeping myself busy all day. Lunch was macaroni and cheese. If anyone had an Aldi near them, I recommend giving it a try. They have mac and cheese for about 33 cents and it's actually comparable in taste to the name brands. That's my opinion, and I'm sure not everyone would share it. Aldi is along the same lines of a Sav-A-Lot. It's a bring your own bag and bag your own stuff place that offers fairly low prices basic grocery goods. The funny thing about Aldi is that you sort of "rent" the cart by putting a quarter in a slot to release it and then getting your quarter back when you return it to the cart corral. This is their way to save on labor. They don't have to hire anyone to go chase after stray carts.

Note: Mac and Cheese is very starchy and carby, and should be served as a side with some sort of protein. As I have no protein in the house and am making do with what I got, it didn't make a bad meal for a lunch.

So what does one do when she's homebound? See list below:

1. Cleaned house
2. Looked for cheap living tips online
3. Engaged in Facebook poking wars with friends
4. Uploaded photos from digital camera onto the computer
5. Played Guitar Hero II

None of these things are an immediate cost to me, though internet does cost most people and if you don't have a digital camera or Guitar Hero, it's not overly frugal to go out and just buy it.

Other things to do when boredom sets in:

1. Read
2. Write a story or a poem
3. Journal
4. Organize something (you may find things to sell for extra money)
5. Watch TV or a DVD/VHS
6. Call a friend (which I can't actually do since it costs me cell minutes)
7. Take a walk

In truth, I'm not going to pretend that anything is that exciting when you'd rather be out driving around and/or spending money. But be aware that there are always options, even when you're feeling extremely poor.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Household Idea - Cheap Pillows

I love pillows but to buy them brand new at the store can be pretty expensive. If you're not picky about your pillows, you can pick them up at rummage sales and thrift stores.

As I was unpacking from this most recent move, I realized I had an overabundance of pillow cases and blankets. These were things I'd picked up cheap at those same rummage sales over the years, or had been given by friends and family. Since I didn't need all the blankets, I folded them up and stuffed them into the pillow cases to make extra pillows. It's a really simple idea that I'm sure other people have done, but I thought it was a pretty neat and cheap way to add pillows and decor to a bedroom.

Blankets to make Pillows


Chicken Parmesan Dinner

The BF and I are having to be really careful with what we buy and what we eat, so for dinner last night, we decided to go with chicken parmesan. I love this meal because it can be swanky or cheap and it seems to taste good either way. We did our shopping at WalMart and I've included the prices to show the cost of the two meals we're getting out of the supplies.

DelMonte Four Cheese Spagetti sauce ($0.92)
Great Value Spagetti (small box, enough for two servings) ($0.58)
Value Chicken Tenders (meat section, four servings of 3 chicken tenders each) ($2.50)
WalMart Bakery Rosemary French Loaf ($1.33)
Sam's Choice Ginger Ale 2 Liter ($.068)

After thinking about it, I think we could have found frozen chicken tenders in the freezer section, so check into it. Both meals were basic.

Chicken Parmesan
Cook spaghetti according to box directions (this amount will serve 2 people perfectly)
Place 6 tenders on a plate and microwave for 1.5 minutes
Slice desired amount of bread for those eating, saving at least half a loaf for the next meal
Once spaghetti is cooked, drain and pour in half a can of sauce. Mix and serve over chicken tenders with bread on side.

Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches
Same meal minus the noodles. Place leftover sauce in a bowl for dipping or pour over remaining chicken tenders laid out on remaining bread.

Just a hint, we had some olive oil and balsamic vinegar at hand so we put a little bit in small bowls and dipped the bread in for a more italian restaurant feel. However, the bread at WalMart is really good and can be eaten plain. This loaf of bread can actually be stretched into three meals...we just really love bread.

For less than $7, two people had two meals, which is definitely a good step from fast food where you get a small (unhealthy) meal for close to that for one person.