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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Liz is Back!

Christmas is over and I finally have some time to start blogging again! It has definitely been a busy three weeks, but they were also frugal and fun. I had saved up $200 this year for Christmas, which was great! I had originally saved $100, but then I sold back my textbooks to the college and got $100 extra! That money went straight into my Christmas envelope. That extra $100 allowed my kids and I to really go all out this holiday. Here are some of the things we did!

My ex-husband would never let us decorate for Christmas, so we had a lot of catching up to do. The kids and I went to Michaels art store and bought SO MANY decorations! I think we might have gone a little overboard, but it was so much fun, I don't even care! We bought a 6 foot Christmas tree on sale for: $29.99, 3 wreaths to decorate, one Christmas wreath ball, several Christmas baskets at 50% off, and about 20 Christmas cookie tins that were 70% off! Then we bought a bunch of plain ornaments to paint, and a TON of sparkly odds and ends to decorate the tree and wreaths with. Last of all, we got several different kinds of Christmas lights and put them all over inside and outside. My house looks like a Christmas store, or something!:P I admit that I did sort of cringe when I realised I had spent $80 of my budget, just on decorations. I have a lot to make up for where my kids are concerned, so I tried to put my frugal worries aside! I let their dad dictate to me for 9 years and ruin almost every holiday...I want every holiday now and in the future to be twice as wonderful, so my kids can remember that instead of what their dad used to say and do.

I made about 150 sugar cookies and the kids and I decorated all of them with icing, sprinkles, m&m's, gum drops and raisins! We had a lot of fun. My 3 year old especially made some interesting designs!

The feast really got crazy, since it was just for the 4 of us. I made: Turkey, mashed rutabagas, wild rice stuffing, sweet potato casserole, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, buttered peas, pumpkin pie, and lemon blueberry bars. For the last two days, the kids and I have eaten SO MANY leftovers! I admit, it was a lot of fun, though! I've been bringing my neighbors extra cookies and bars in some of my many cookie tins as gifts, which has also been fun.

After Christmas, my kids and I went to Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Michaels to look for discounted holiday merchandise. I still had $27 in my Christmas envelope to burn! At Target we bought: A beautiful christmas table cloth for $7, a Santa Claus mug for $1, and some Lindor truffles that were 50% off! At Michaels we bought a candy pretzel making kit for 80% off. At Bed Bath and Beyond I bought a homemade root beer brewing kit for 50% off! We mixed up the root beer yesterday and it should be done in about 3-7 days!

What did all of you guys do for the holidays?

Monday, December 21, 2009


Sorry my blogging has been so...Absent these past couple of weeks! First I had exams and final projects due for school, and then I had to start getting ready for my parents to visit! Unfortunately, I kind of let the house go when I stopped blogging.:P Anyway, I promise to start blogging regularly again after X-Mas. In the meantime, I hope all of my readers have a great, frugal holiday!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

...And now my belated menu plan!

I've been behind on my blog, because It's the end of the quarter at school and I've had a lot of assignments due! Now I just have a research paper due Thursday (almost done) and two more tests in Algebra before I'm through. I'm excited about the algebra, because I know I'm getting an "A." My other class is English Composition...And I'm not sure what I'll get in there! I'm hoping for an "A," but it depends on how the exam went (crosses fingers!). Next quarter I'm taking THREE classes, so hopefully they won't be too hard. Anyway, on to my menu plan!

Turkey noodle soup
corn chips

Turkey stroganoff

Turkey salad (seeing a theme?:P)
Whole grain beer bread rolls
Oven fries

(My kids are going out with their dad. I'll just have leftovers)


Turkey shepherds pie


Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekly Grocery and Menu Plan

I went to the store on Friday instead of Sunday this week, so I'm posting my menu plan early! I did something a little different this week. Instead of taking out $40 to shop for one week, I took out $80 and I shopped for two weeks! I was very pleased with the results. I spent just $50.16 total for two weeks! That's $29.84 under budget! Here's what I bought:

Two 16oz boxes 7 grain spaghetti: $2.60 ($1 off coupon, so only $1.60!)
Kashi heart to heart cereal: $3.03 ($1 off coupon, so only 2.03!)
Two boxes corn flakes: $5.36 ($2.50 in coupons, so only $2.86!)
Sun maid raisins, two large containers: $4.30 ($1 off coupon, so only $3.30!)
Hungry Jack pancake mix: $1.19 ($.50 off coupon, so only $.69!)
Fiber One pancake mix: $2.65 ($.60 off coupon, so only $2.05!)
Uncle Ben's wild rice mix: $1.52 ($.75 off coupon, so only $.77!)
2 cans pumpkin: $2.18
5 pounds all purpose flour: $1.50 ($.50 off coupon, so only $1!)
Tomato paste: $.49
Sweetened condensed milk: $1.69 ($.55 off coupon, so only $1.14!)
2 cans Goya black beans: $1.70
2 cans pineapple in syrup: $1.58
2 29oz cans crushed tomatoes: $2.00
Tabasco sauce: $1.14
Two boxes tissues: $1.98 (FREE after coupon!)
Twelve 6 oz containers Yoplait yogurt: $6 ($1 off coupon, so only $5!)
Sour cream: $1.39 ($50 off coupon, so only .89!)
2 packages refrigerated organic cookie dough: $3.98 ($1.50 in coupons, so only $2.48!)
Plain yogurt 32 oz: $2.08 ($1 in coupons, so only $1.08!)
One pound butter: $2.19
Frozen soybeans: $1.23
Two 16 oz packages frozen broccoli: $1.60 ($.70 in coupons, so only $.90!)
One 16 oz package frozen shrimp: $4.99 ($1 off coupon, so only $3.99!)
1 can frozen orange juice: $.99
Zucchini: $1.85
2 acorn squash: $2.13
Ginger root: $.18
Turnips: $1.09
1 pound mushrooms: $89
Green onions: $.50

I saved $16.03 in coupons and I had a $2.99 rebate! I'll do my menu plan in another post, because this one is getting pretty long!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Frugal Christmas Decorations!

I just got back from my Williamsburg vacation on Sunday! It was a lot of fun...I really needed a vacation. The only downside is, I think I gained about 5 pounds, but the food in Williamsburg is just great!
Anyway, after I returned, I realised that it was time to start decorating for Christmas. My husband NEVER let the kids and I decorate, so I didn't actually have any decorations to put up. I decided it would be fun to make my own decorations and ornaments, so I headed to Michael's arts and crafts store! Luckily, Michael's was having a sale.:P I bought 3 plain wreaths for $3 each and one ball shaped wreath thing for $3. Then I bought a TON of sparkly flowers, holly berries, tiny pine cones and other sparkly shapes for 50% off! I also bought some Christmas ribbon for 30% off. All of these things were for decorating the plain wreaths and the ball shaped thing. I spent $42.65 total!
Yesterday, the kids and I sat in front of the fire(it was really cold) and made 2 beautiful wreaths and one beautiful ball thing. We're making the third wreath today! Next week we're looking for a christmas tree and some ornaments to paint. What do you guys do for Christmas decorations?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekly Grocery and Menu Plan

I didn't buy any groceries this week, because I'm leaving for my vacation on Tuesday! I was tempted to buy some, because our meals have gotten admittedly stranger as I try to use up all of our perishable food. I've still got 2 dozen eggs to use up! Anyway, here is my menu plan for the next few days and what I plan to take with us on vacation.
Leftover stir fry
Leftover rice
Vacation food!
Apple walnut bread (This is to use up some bananas and sour cream I have!)
Date nut bread (This is to use up bananas, buttermilk, and of course, dates!)
PBJ sandwiches
Leftover brownies

For breakfast and lunch on Sunday and Monday, I plan to really try to eat up the eggs and some homemade bread I have. I know eggs are cholesterol bombs, but I just really hate to waste them! Hopefully my arteries won't get too clogged.
I hope everyone has an awesome Thanksgiving. I can't wait to buy turkeys on sale! I'm hoping to buy at least two, because I seriously love turkey. Turkey stew, turkey pot pie, turkey salad...I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Frugal Mishmash Post!

Sorry I didn't post this week, but my Internet was down for 5 days! I finally got it fixed, though and then when I had the chance to sit down and blog...I got writers block! As an antidote to the dreaded block, I've decided to write a "Frugal mishmash post" about a few frugal things I like to do that aren't really enough individually for an entire blog article. Here goes!
Rolling change
Today I rolled up all of the change I'd been saving for the last 6 months. It amounted to $112! I'm taking it to the bank on Monday to exchange it for paper money. A lot of people don't bother saving change, but I've found it to be a great way to painlessly save money. I keep my silver change in a big, pink piggy bank. I keep pennies separate from the silver change in a big mason jar.
Brewing my own beer!
About a year ago, I bought a home beer brewing kit and it has been a great purchase! Home brewed beer costs about half of what you'd pay at the store and it's really fun to make! The only downside is that it takes about a month to finish fermenting and conditioning, so if you're a serious drinker, home brewing might not be the way you want to go. My favorite part of the process is cooking the wort. (Yes I did say, "Wort.") Before it ferments in the keg, immature beer is called wort! I like to say it as often as possible.:P
I'm willing to eat an odd dinner
Today my kids and I ate cereal with bananas, dates and soymilk for dinner. I REALLY didn't feel like cooking, in case you couldn't tell!:P The temptation to order pizza, or Chinese food was enormous, but then I looked on top of my fridge and I saw all of that raisin bran and all of those kix I bought on sale. Then I looked on the counter and saw a bunch of bananas that were edging into the "overripe" category. Luckily, my kids really like cereal! I'm so glad I didn't get takeout!
I took my kids on a walk
This afternoon my kids were, "Sooo bored!" My older two were starting to REALLY get on my nerves, so I finally just loaded the baby into her stroller (yard sale find, only $8!) and said we were going on a walk to get some exercise. We walked all over the neighborhood and what started out as a way to just get the kids to stop fighting for 5 minutes, really turned into a fun outing! We stopped and said hello to friends, we looked at what trees were changing color, we met a stray dog, and best of all...It didn't cost any money! I plan to do this a lot, while the weather is nice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Canned" Pies!

Back when I was just "Frugal Liz," I would have DIED at the thought of using canned fruit or pumpkin in a pie. I NEVER would've used a frozen pie crust...Everything had to be made from scratch, or we weren't eating it. Now that I'm, "Frugal Divorced Liz," I have a lot less time to make pie crusts from scratch and a lot less money to but fresh fruits to be made into pie filling. One thing I've discovered is canned and frozen fruit make a pretty awesome pie, or crisp, or cobbler as well...And it usually costs a lot less! I can use coupons for canned or frozen fruit, but I have yet to find coupons for fresh. Here is a great peach pie recipe, made from canned peaches!
Peach pie
2 16oz cans of peaches in light syrup (drain the peaches and reserve 1/3C of the syrup)
1/2C sugar
2Tbsp flour
1/2tsp cinnamon
2Tbsp butter
1Tbsp lemon juice
1 double pie crust (I used a refrigerated one I got on sale and with a coupon!)
In a large sauce pan, combine reserved syrup, cinnamon, sugar, flour and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until very thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until butter is melted. Add the lemon juice and peaches and stir well to combine.
Roll out bottom crust and fit it into a pie plate. Add the peach mixture to the pie plate and smooth the top. Roll out the top crust and place over the peach mixture. Seal and flute the edges of the pie (fluting is optional, sealing is not! To seal, press the edges of the top and bottom crust together and then fold under, pressing it together again. To flute, press the sealed and folded edge with the tines of a fork all around to make a pretty design.) Cut 5 vent holes in the top of the pie. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Let the pie cool to room temperature before cutting! Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some hot chocolate (or coffee!), for a truly decadent treat!
Desserts are truly one of my guilty pleasures, and the main reason for my ever expanding waistline! One of the hardest things about a tiny grocery budget is justifying desserts. When you hardly have the money to buy a healthy variety, it's hard to justify buying 3 pounds of peaches or apples(possibly out of season!) to turn into a pie. Berries are expensive even when they ARE in season! With coupons and sales, though, I can make a canned or frozen fruit dessert practically for free! I made a pumpkin pie two weeks ago with a can of pumpkin I got for $.49 (it was on sale for $.99 and I had a $.50 off coupon!), a frozen pie crust I got for $.75 ($1.50 for two!), and evaporated milk and eggs I got for free (from Wic!) So that pumpkin pie cost me $1.24 total! It was quick and easy and provided the kids and I with dessert for 3 nights after dinner. 3 days of dessert out of 7 isn't bad! This week I'm making the canned peach pie.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekly Grocery and Menu Plan

I had a request from one of my readers that I post where I bought my groceries, what I bought and how much I paid for each item, so here goes!


1 watermelon that was on sale for $4 (I wouldn't normally buy out of season, but we love watermelon so much!)

1 bunch of bananas that were on sale for $.33 a pound!


Two 4 packs of Yo-Plus yogurt that were on sale for $1.25 each. Luckily, I had two $1 off coupons, so I actually got them for $.25 each!

2 boxes of twelve "Nature Valley" granola bars: $3.98 (However, I had $1.80 worth of coupons, so these ended up costing me $2.20 total)
2 boxes of "Rozini Smart Taste" macaroni noodles: $1.98 (However, I had 2 $1 coupons, so these ended up being free!)
2 boxes of "Uncle Ben's white and wild rice": $3.04 (I had $1.50 worth of coupons, so these only cost me $1.54 total!)
Welches black cherry and grape juice: $2.59 ($1 off coupon, so $1.59!)
Welches white grape and peach juice: $2.59 ($1 off coupon, so $1.59!)
2 boxes of Triscuit crackers: $3.58 (I had $1.50 worth of coupons, so this was only $2.08!)
Washing soda: $2.05 (sadly, no coupon)
6 Yoplait yogurts: $3.00 (I had a $.50 off coupon, so $2.50!)
Buttermilk: $1.33 (Sadly, no coupon!)
2 boxes of frozen Green Giant sugar snap peas: $1.98 ($.50 off coupon, so $1.48!)
2 pounds of lean ground turkey: $4.72 ($2.25 worth of coupons, so $2.47!)
Shredded lettuce: $1.25 (Sadly, no coupon)
5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes: $2.99 (Sadly, no coupon!)

Well, my grand total grocery spending for the week is: $32! That leaves $8 more for me to save for Williamsburg, so I'm pretty psyched! I hope this post was informative and not boring.:P Now for my menu plan!
Marinated steak
Green beans
Mashed potatoes (The parsnips were still too expensive!:()
Chicken salad sandwiches
Oven fries
Sugar snap peas
Ground turkey and rice skillet meal
Asian stir fry
Anything that needs eating up before our trip!

You may notice I've planned to eat a lot of leftovers. This is because we leave for our vacation next week!


Fall is finally here and with it comes the season's bounty of delicious root vegetables, cabbages and winter squashes! What I'm excited about, though, is the parsnips. Parsnips look like big, white carrots. They have a complex, spicy, tangy flavor and a velvety texture that can't be beat! Best of all, parsnips are CHEAP!:P Today, I will post my favorite parsnip recipes.

Parsnip Pie!
(I swear this pie turns out absolutely delicious! So good...And good for you too!)
1 pie crust (I buy frozen ones on sale, but you could always make your own)
2 pounds parsnips, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (To core, just cut the parsnip in half and remove the woody center)
1 1/2C buttermilk (DON'T use powdered!!!)
2/3C brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ginger
1/8tsp cloves
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the parsnips and cook until tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain the parsnips and let sit for 5 minutes. Return the parsnips to the cooking pot and mash with a potato masher. Measure out 2C of the parsnip mash and reserve the rest for another use. (I like to use parsnip mash to flavor soups and stews!) Puree the 2C parsnip mash and the buttermilk in a blender until smooth. Transfer the mash to a mixing bowl and beat in the sugar, eggs and spices, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 1 hour. A toothpick inserted into the center of the pie will come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Serve cold or at room temperature. I prefer cold with whipped cream on top!
Parsnip and leek soup
2Tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
6C chicken or vegetable broth
2 leeks (White and light green parts only) trimmed, washed and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, peeled, cored and diced
1 pound potatoes (I prefer yellow!) peeled and cut into dice
2tsp turmeric
Melt the butter in a large, heavy soup kettle. Add the onion with some salt and cook until the onion is soft. Add the broth, leeks, parsnips and potatoes and boil briskly for 5 minutes. Add the turmeric. Turn down the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, about 15-20 minutes longer. Puree the soup in a blender and strain it through a medium sieve (It is not strictly necessary to strain it...I almost never do!) Add more broth if the soup is very thick. I can't wait to make this soup over the weekend! I like to drizzle a little buttermilk over the top, just before serving.
Mashed Parsnips!
2 pounds parsnips, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/2C evaporated whole milk, or cream or even buttermilk
2Tbsp butter
1Tbsp lemon juice
1Tbsp fresh chives, or dill
Cook the parsnips in boiling water until tender. Drain the parsnips and let sit for 5 minutes. Return the parsnips to the cooking pot and mash with a potato masher. Add the lemon juice, milk, cream, or buttermilk and butter and whip the parsnips with a large wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle the herbs over the top. So good...Even tastier than potatoes! Mashed parsnips go really good with steak that has been marinated in a sugar bourbon marinade and then grilled. I have some steak in the freezer right now...I know what I'm defrosting over the weekend!:P

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Williamsburg Update! and Frugal goals

Today I checked my Williamsburg savings account and discovered I'm a little ahead of schedule in my savings goals! So far I've saved: $590 hotel money, and $140 spending money! I had $200 in spending money, but I had to use $60 of it to buy firewood.:( At least I still have 1 more week to save. I'm thinking I won't buy too many groceries this week, because we need to eat up what I already have! There's nothing worse than going on vacation with a bunch of food sitting in the fridge...Slowly decomposing.:P If I'm careful with my grocery spending and my miscellaneous spending, I'm hoping to have another $40 saved by the end of next week. $180 for my spending money isn't too bad! I'm really excited about this vacation. I love Williamsburg and this has been a bad few months for me and my kids, so we could really use some time off!

I've decided to start setting some frugal goals for myself, so maybe I'll get more excited about my new, single life and not pine so much for my old, married one. Here are the goals I've decided to try and reach!
Finish my afghan. I started crocheting an afghan like a year ago and I would really like to finish it! Crocheting is a fun and relatively frugal hobby. My mom is an AWESOME crocheter (is that even a word?). I'm an okay crocheter, but I still like it a lot. This frugal goal is really more about me getting back in the swing of things, than it is about frugality. It's been really hard for me to be motivated to do anything, since my husband left.
Start making my own yogurt again. I used to make yogurt a lot, but again...I stopped when my husband left. I get milk for free through WIC, though, so making yogurt would be an extremely frugal use of my time! I'm going to try to make a batch over the weekend in my crock pot.
Bake some freaking bread. When do you think I stopped baking my own bread...? I really like baking, is the ironic part! Baking my own bread is much healthier and more frugal than eating store bought. It's about motivation. Being depressed makes me tired, but I'm hoping that if I just start doing all of the things I like again, I won't feel so depressed anymore. I'm hoping to make some beer bread rolls this weekend, to enjoy with some leftover bean soup!

Those are all the frugal goals I can handle for now.:P I'll post next Thursday and tell how I did!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How a few pantry items can save the day!

Being a single mom of three small children can be VERY exhausting. I have a million responsibilities and things that stress me out during the day. A lot of times, I just don't want to face making dinner and then dealing with a mountain of dishes and cleaning the kitchen and dining room afterwards. Getting take-out just isn't an option for me, however, so here is what I have done to prepare for those nights when I'd rather do ANYTHING but cook and do dishes!
I have stocked up on easy to prepare ingredients. Having just a few staples on hand at all times can make a HUGE difference. My pantry staples are: rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, various condiments, spices and herbs, canned chicken, canned "cream of" soups, evaporated milk and canned beans. My freezer staples are: Frozen vegetables, ground beef (portioned out into 1 pound increments) and 1 loaf of frozen french or garlic bread (whichever was on sale when I bought it!). My refrigerator staples are: Block cheese, onions and eggs. With these items on hand, I have a myriad of easy, fast meals I can prepare on short notice.
I also do a lot of prep work ahead of time. By prep work, I mean chopping up vegetables and putting them in ziplock bags, cooking extra rice, or pasta that can be heated up later, assembling and shaping a meatloaf for later, peeling and slicing up potatoes to be made into mashed potatoes or oven fries (store in cold water in the fridge so they don't turn brown!). Doing some work in advance not only makes me feel a lot better, it also ensures me a much less stressful evening, which makes my kids feel better! Even if my 8 year old has a meltdown, my 6 year old decides to give the dog a bath in the toilet and my 3 year old once again decides that toilet training isn't for her, dinner will only take a few minutes to prepare and it won't make a lot of dishes.
For nights that I'm just too tired to cook at all, I have some meals already cooked and frozen. I'm not saying these are GREAT meals, but they will get the job done! The frozen meals I have right now are: Bean soup, baked ziti, and chicken tenders with oven fries. Sometimes I cook a lasagna and freeze it, or I make extra pizza and freeze it. I always like to have two or three meals, just in case I get sick, or I really just don't have time to cook. Having a few dinners already prepared has really helped me out on several occasions. Another trick is to have partial meals already cooked. By partial meals, I mean cook and freeze the parts of a meal that are more time consuming and difficult to prepare. The "meal kits" I currently have on hand are: cooked, shredded beef to be made into enchiladas or quick beef stew, cooked beans to be made into chili or bean burritos and cooked, frozen rice to be tossed into soups and casseroles on the fly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eating Healthy on a Tiny Grocery Budget!

Ever since my grocery budget plummeted to $40 a week for my family of 4, it's been a real challenge for me to make sure we eat healthy. Unhealthy, processed foods are often a lot cheaper than healthy foods. I know people always say that healthy foods are cheaper, but I have really not found that to be the case! Here are some of the ways I try to make sure we eat healthy on a tiny budget.
One way I ensure we eat healthy food, is I only buy seasonal produce. In Summer I buy a lot of tomatoes, zucchini, melons, mangoes and corn, in Fall I buy apples, pumpkins and cabbage, in Winter I buy citrus, root vegetables and winter squash and in Spring I buy lettuce, berries and peas! If I want other fruits and vegetables that aren't in season, I buy frozen (with a coupon of course!:P)
Another way to eat healthy for cheap, is to eat a lot of beans and lentils! Everyone needs protein, but meat is an expensive and fatty way to get it. Beans have no fat, lots of protein and fiber AND best of all, they cost less than a dollar a pound! Eggs are also a good source of inexpensive protein and they cost about $.79 per dozen. We eat a lot of eggs at chez Frugal Liz! Here is a great bean soup recipe:
1lb beans, rinsed and soaked for at least 4 hours
1 onion, diced
1Tbsp paprika
1Tbsp dried thyme
1Tbsp dried rosemary
1C diced ham (optional)
1tsp salt
Drain the soaking water from the beans in a colander. Meanwhile, saute the onion in some oil or butter, in a large soup kettle for about 5 minutes. Add the beans and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add the herbs, but NOT the salt. Add the optional ham, if using. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pot. Let the beans simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed. Add the salt after the beans have cooked for an hour. Re-cover the pot and let the beans simmer for another hour. Dish the bean soup up into bowls and serve with hot bread, slathered with butter and honey! I like to serve bean soup with homemade beer bread rolls.
One way that I really try to ensure that all of my $40 a week are spent wisely, is I never buy soda or chips, or other totally empty junk. Junk food can be a real budget drainer and all it does is harm you! I'm not saying I never buy less than perfectly nutritious items, but I always make sure I have all of the real food FIRST. If I have any money left over, I might buy some fruit snacks, or brownie mix.(Always with a coupon!) I look on those foods as an extra treat, though, not as a guaranteed part of my shopping trip. At least the brownies contain chocolate, which is good for you...Right?:P

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly Grocery and Menu Plan

This week I spent $41.38 on groceries, which is $1.38 over budget, but I'm not freaking out over it! I saved $14 this week with coupons and I stocked up on: juice, cereal and yogurt! Here is what we're eating this week.
Chicken tenders
Oven fries
Garlic green beans
Beef stew
Dinner at Applebees to celebrate my daughter, Bella's, piano recital!
Chicken stir fry
Frugal pizza!

For breakfast and lunch we will have: Granola bars, waffles, smoothies, leftovers and eggs. For dessert, I plan to make a batch of brownies that will hopefully last all week!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Investing in a Thermos!

Now that the weather has turned cold, I'm tempted every day to buy coffee on my way to school. Now one cup of coffee might not seem like a big deal, but at $1.20 a day, it adds up to $6 a week, or $24 a month! To avoid this budget pitfall, I started making hot tea in my thermos and taking that to school instead of buying coffee every day. I make tea, because I don't have a coffee maker...Yet. Tea is relatively inexpensive and soothing on a cold morning. I drink it during my first class of the day and it fortifies me for my second class.:P
A thermos can be useful in other ways, as well. You could heat up some soup to take to work, or pack some chicken salad for a sandwich. A thermos could also be used to bring a refreshing cold drink to work, or school during the Summer.
I find that a thermos really helps me stay on track as far as going out for lunch, or coffee. I really just can't afford to spend money on those kinds of things, but if I were hungry or cold, it would be only too easy to rationalize making a pit stop at dunkin doughnuts!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Not to be TOO Frugal

Sometimes, I can cross over the line between frugal and the dreaded CHEAP. My budget is so tiny, that I get all panicked and think I can't afford things that I really can. One way I combat this, is I pay for all my weekly expenses in cash. Every Friday I go to the bank and I take out $150. That money breaks down into: $40 for gas, $40 for groceries, $40 for miscellaneous expenses and $30 for my sitter. When the money is gone...That's it, but if I manage to not spend it all, well that's a little extra in that envelope for next week. On the other hand, I can always spend all the money that's in an envelope.
Another way I stave off cheapness is to shop at Goodwill. If I try to shop for clothes or movies at a regular store, all around me is a sea of prices I can't afford. $10 for a kids shirt, $20 for a pair of jeans, $19.95 for a movie! It gets pretty discouraging, so I end up not getting anything...Even if I really should. Goodwill on the other hand, is filled with items that fall within my budget! I can buy really cute kids jeans for $3.75 and shirts for $2.75. Movies cost $1.01 for some and $4.04 for Disney movies that come in the plastic case. I can go into Goodwill with $20 and leave with complete outfits for each of my 3 kids! It's a great feeling to go into a store and know I can probably afford almost everything in there.
At the grocery store, it's easy to think about getting an item my kids would really like, but then not get it, because we don't really NEED it. When you only have $40 for groceries, it's hard NOT to be cheap! The way I beat that particular brand of cheapness: Coupons coupons coupons! I know I talk about coupons a lot, but it's because I really can't stress how useful they can be. Coupons allow me to get a lot of items I could never afford AND to stock up on items I CAN afford, so that I save some grocery money one week and have more to spend the next week! I use coupons to stock up on: Frozen vegetables, yogurt, dish soap, pasta, canned beans, frozen fries (Because they are free with the coupons!), sugar (for holiday baking!), canned tuna, canned tomatoes, canned "cream of" Campbell's condensed soups (for casseroles), juice, and ground turkey. Once I've stocked up on all of those staple items, it really frees up money in my budget to buy "extra" items, like refrigerated cookie dough, brownie mix and fruit snacks. In the past, I would've made my own cookie dough and brownies from scratch, but I get $1 off coupons for these items, so it's actually cheaper to buy them instead of making them myself! I make a batch of cookies or brownies on our pizza and movie night, so that's pretty much just a junk food day!:P We eat the fruit snacks at my daughter, Bella's piano lesson every week. It keeps my younger two quiet and I admit...I love fruit snacks too!
The last way that I ward off cheapness is: I try to remember that is IS only money. As long as I'm not going over budget or going into debt, if I have some extra money we SHOULD use it for something fun! My kids only get one childhood and I don't want them to remember it as a me constantly saying, "We can't afford it." My cheapness busting methods allow me to say, "Well we can't afford THAT, but how about we do THIS instead!" Maybe I'll even be able to teach them something about frugality and life along the way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Williamsburg Vacation!

This Thanksgiving, my kids and I are going to Colonial Williamsburg with my parents! We went to Williamsburg last April and it was really fun. Luckily, Williamsburg is a relatively frugal place to go on vacation, but there still are some costs involved. Here is a breakdown of the vacation costs and my plan to save up enough money for the trip!
Unfortunately, I found out that the economical hotel we stayed at last time is CLOSED, so we'll have to stay at a more expensive one. My total hotel cost for 5 nights will be: $609. This is kind of a blow, because I was anticipating it would be more like, $400!
Since we're staying in the hotel for 5 nights, admission into Williamsburg is free! We're going to be there for 4 days, so the savings is pretty significant. There's a lot of expensive and very tempting souvenirs to buy, but I have a certain budget and I'm going to stick to it.
Here is the money I've saved so far for the trip!
Pell Grant refund: $440
Friend paying me back what I loaned her: $100
So that's $540 saved so far for the hotel. I've got about $200 saved up for spending money, so I think I'm okay there. I plan to bring a cooler and a LOT of food from home, to minimize the cost of dining out! Here is how I plan to come up with the rest of the hotel money! I still need $70.
I won't have to pay my sitter for Thanksgiving week: $30
I plan to try really hard to not spend for the next 2 weeks! If I can pull this off and save grocery AND gas money, I think I can come up with the last $40. I'll have to be pretty disciplined, but I've already saved $20 in grocery money and $2 in gas money! Here's hoping my friend is actually going to pay me back...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Triple Coupons!

So I went to Food Lion to take advantage of the triple coupon week and I only spent $20 for a whole weeks groceries! This means I only spent half of my $40 a week budget, so I'm pretty thrilled. My total coupon savings added up to $42.63, which is just...Amazing. The best part was, I got a beautiful pot roast that was originally $13.77, but had been marked down to $5.48. I'm going to cook that pot roast in my crock pot tomorrow with some carrots, turnips and onions. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! Here is my menu plan for the week.

Pot roast with vegetables
mashed potatoes
chocolate chip cookies
The kids are eating dinner with their dad, so I'm just having cold cereal with dates cut up in it!
Bean soup with ham
French bread
Waffles with peanut butter
Soymilk smoothies
Leftover pot roast
French fries
Spaghetti with meat sauce
turkey bacon

My Frugal Day!

Today is November 1st, which means 1/2 priced Halloween merchandise! The kids and I are going to Target today with $20 I saved from last week. I plan to stock up on Halloween candy and decorations for next year. Three days from now, there will be 90% off Halloween clothes that I will look at for the kids.
This morning, I was once again able to get free Sunday paper coupons at Dunkin Doughnuts! Someone had bought a Sunday paper and then left all of the coupon inserts on the table when they left. Those coupons went straight into my purse.
Best of all, Food Lion is doing triple coupons up to $.99 until Tuesday! I clipped all possible coupons out of my free inserts and I plan to go there later today and cash in. There's a limit to how many coupons can be used per transaction, so I might have to leave and go back a few times. Luckily, the Food Lion is only 1/2 mile from my house!:P I will post later about what I was able to get and how much I saved!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly grocery and menu plan

This week was very successful as far as me staying withing my $40 a week grocery budget. I had a lot of great coupons this week, so I only had to spend $25! I would've spent $37, but I had $12 in coupons! Even with coupons, $25 is still pretty exceptional for me. Another frugal success I had today was I got coupons from the Sunday paper for free! They were left on a table at a Dunkin Doughnuts, so I took the ones I wanted and didn't have to pay the $1.75 for the paper. Dunkin Doughnuts has this awesome deal where you take a survey online and get a free doughnut. I was in there cashing in my receipts to get 3 free doughnuts for my kids. All in all, it was definitely a frugal day! Now for my weekly menu plan.
For breakfast we will have: Oatmeal, eggs, grits, smoothies and cold cereal. For lunch we will have: Sandwiches, leftovers, cold cereal and apples. Now for my dinner menu!

Crock pot chili with rice and cheddar cheese
Oatmeal raisin cookies
Avocado tomato sandwiches with fries
Oatmeal raisin cookies
Chicken noodle soup
Homemade biscuits
Bean and cheese burritos
Vegetable stir fry with Asian sauce
Bean soup with ham
Homemade beer bread rolls

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Back when I was just Frugal Liz, I never used to bother with coupons. I had $150 a week in my grocery budget, so it just seemed like more trouble than it was worth! After I became Frugal Divorced Liz and my grocery budget became $40 a week, then I started looking into coupons. Honestly, coupons are the only way I can stay within my budget! When I saw how easy they are to use, though, I started to wish I'd used them before! Here is my best couponing advice to make using them as easy as possible.

Only clip coupons for things you will use A lot of times I see $1 or $2 coupons that are a GREAT deal. The only problem is, they are for things I wouldn't normally buy! This can be good and bad. Sometimes it's a coupon for something I can't normally afford, but then that $1 or $2 off means it drops down in price enough to be within my budget. A good example of this is yogurt. Dannon probiotic yogurt is a delicious luxury that at $1.68 for four, I can't afford to buy. Enter a cleverly clipped $1 off coupon and suddenly that yogurt becomes a fast, frugal snack! I also use $1.50 coupons to buy frozen fries. The coupon is $1.50 off if you buy two packages of a certain brand of the fries. The thing is, each individual package costs $1.50, so with the coupon it's like I get one for free! I also regularly clip $1 off juice coupons. The juice I like to buy is $2.68 per bottle and since I would buy it anyway, getting $1 off is a pretty sweet deal!

Look in more than one place for coupons The Sunday paper can be a great place to find coupons, but the Internet is an even better one! I regularly visit to find awesome manufacturers coupons. Another good Internet resource is actual product websites. I often get great deals from juicy juice, welches and uncle ben's this way.

Pair coupons with sales for even more savings! If you wait for the lowest sale price of an item and then use a coupon, your savings can really be significant. This requires some advance planning, but I've really been able to save a lot of money or even get things for free this way.

Go to stores that double coupons Not every store will double coupons, but if there's one in your area, it can really be worth it to go there. Publix and Bi-lo are the stores around where I live that double coupons. Both of these stores are more expensive, so I only go there when items I want are on sale AND I have a coupon I can double.

Separate out the coupons you want to use on a given shopping trip! If you go into the store with a huge wad of random coupons, your chances of a successful, stress free shopping trip pretty much disappear. To avoid this problem, I first make a shopping list of all the items I need that week. Then I check my coupon stash to see what I have coupons for and I separate those into a different envelope. (I keep my coupons in envelopes!) After I find the useful coupons I already have, then I search the Internet for even more coupons to use. If I find any, I cut them out and put them in the separate envelope as well. This makes it so I go to the store armed with a list and the coupons I want to use ready to hand to the cashier. I take my other coupons with me too, in case there's an awesome sale and I have some extra money to take advantage of it.

I hope this coupon advice helps someone. If you're still thinking it's too big of a hassle, just try it for a week or two and see if your grocery bills go down!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Frugal Fun!

Now that I live on $24,000 a year, I don't have a lot of money in my budget for fun. I mean really it can be kind of easy to forget that "Fun" even exists, when the bills are piling up and my stress level is through the roof. One thing I've learned since getting divorced, though, is that having fun is really important to fend off the inevitable depression and despair that happen if life is just one big drudgery. Here are the activities I've come up with that really cheer us up without emptying my purse!

The $1.99 movie theatre My kids and I love going to movies, but the regular theatre is $7 per person, even for a matinee! That would be $28 for us just to get in and that's not counting snacks. Instead we go to the $1.99 movie theatre and bring our own snacks. I know a lot of people can be really judgemental about people bringing their own food to a movie, but seriously, not everyone can afford a $4 drink and a $5 popcorn! I bring water for my kids and I, 2 mini candy bars for each of us (That I bought on sale after Halloween and Easter last year!) And maybe some crackers or something. Last night we went to see Harry Potter VI and it cost me under $8 total. Now that's a price I can afford!

The Library Here in Augusta, we finally have a great library. The library is a great place to get books and movies and to find out about community events. If the library doesn't have a certain book or movie that you want, they will often order it for you...For free! Our library has a wonderful playground and grassy field next to it. Now that the weather is nice, I've been taking my kids there on weekends to eat a picnic lunch. We pack a bag, spread out a blanket and eat on the grass, in the shade under a tree. Then the kids play on the playground for a while. It's a really nice way to spend an afternoon and best of all...It's free!

I have a pizza and movie night at home Once a week I make homemade pizza with whatever toppings we can come up with. The kids really like this, because they get to help. After our pizza, I pop some popcorn and we watch a movie together. I either rent the movies from the library, or I buy them for $1 at Goodwill. This week I bought "George of the Jungle" and we'll watch it on Saturday.

We play boardgames Boardgames are inexpensive and fun and best of all, they encourage us to spend time together as a family.

Those are a few of our favorite things to do, but even chores and other "un-fun" activities can be made fun. Saturday is usually our big chore day, which would seem pretty bleak and boring. I just put on some music, though and suddenly the chores get done a lot faster and we have some fun while we do them. Pouring some bubble bath into the tub makes bath time a lot more fun. The grocery store becomes fun, because the kids help me with the coupons...One thing about kids is they all seem to think coupons are awesome. Maybe just my kids.:P

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

(Almost) free cleaning supplies!

I haven't bought laundry detergent or housecleaning products for over two years now. You might be thinking, "Egads!" Right now, but I promise I didn't stop buying them because I just stopped cleaning. I stopped buying commercial cleaning supplies because I started making my own! Making your own is not only cheaper, better for the environment and better for your health...It's fun too! Here are my favorites.

Earth Scrub
1C baking soda
1/4C liquid soap (I recommend dr. bronners liquid soap. It's kind of expensive, but it works great and it's completely non-toxic.)
1/4C water
2Tbsp vinegar
essential oil (optional)
Mix together the baking soda and liquid soap. Add the water and mix until combined. Add the vinegar LAST and mix until smooth. If you are using unscented soap, you might want to add a little essential oil just for fun! I like using about 10 drops of orange or lemon. This scrub works GREAT on bathrooms, kitchen sinks and anything else where you need an abrasive cleaner.

Window Washer
1 empty spray bottle
1/2 bottle water
1/2 bottle vinegar
essential oil (optional)
Take an empty bottle and fill it halfway with water and halfway with vinegar. Add about 15 drops of essential oil (if using). My favorites for this are: Peppermint or tea tree, but you can use whatever you want. Now start cleaning those windows! This spray also works great on mirrors and floors.

All purpose spray
1/4C liquid soap (again I recommend dr. bronners)
1tsp borax
2Tbsp vinegar
Essential oil (optional)

Place the borax in an empty spray bottle. Add the 2Tbsp vinegar and fill up the bottle 3/4 of the way with hot water. shake it well and then let it sit for a minute to dissolve the borax. Add the soap last. For this recipe, I like to add 15 drops of peppermint or lemon or tea tree essential oil.

Laundry soap!
4.25 oz bar of soap, grated. (I like to use dove unscented soap. I grate the soap in my food processor.)
1/2C washing soda (You can buy this in the laundry detergent aisle)
1/2C borax (Also in the laundry detergent aisle)

Place the grated soap in a large saucepan. Add 6C water and heat until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat. Pour 4C HOT water into a large, clean floor bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir again. Now put the bucket in an out of the way place and let it sit for about a day. Now your laundry soap is ready to use! I store it in a large Tupperware container with a lid. I use 1/2C per load of laundry coupled with 1/2 of borax for water softening and deodorizing.
Note: This laundry soap will not look like commercial detergent. It will be a watery gel, not a solid gel.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall is here!

I usually love the fall. I love the crisp bite in the air, the scent of burning firewood and the breezy days. I also love the fact that here in Georgia, I don't usually have to use my air conditioner or my heater from about mid September to the first of November. That's not to say it doesn't start getting cold here, because it does. Right now it's down to 38 degrees outside! It's only October 18 and my house is only down to 66 degrees, so I haven't turned on my heater. I keep the house at a relatively chilly 65 degrees all winter long. Some people might read that last statement and think I'm insane and that 65 degrees is WAY too cold. I'm going to tell you about the ways we stay warm and keep our winter utilities at around $150 a month (gas and electric) in a 1750 square foot house.

The first thing I always do to stay warm, is I wear thick socks. I can't even describe the difference this makes. My mom got me two pairs of woolen slipper socks last winter and they really helped a lot. I even wore them to bed when it was especially cold. This may seem obvious, but I also wear a sweater in the house. A lot of people I know keep their thermostat set at 72 or even 74 degrees and then complain about $200 or $300 utility bills! These same people hang out wearing shorts and tee shirts all winter, while in the artificially tropical environment they've created and are now paying through the nose for. It's winter...It's supposed to be cold!

Another way I stay warm, is I use a heating pad when I start feeling tempted to turn up that thermostat. The heating pad is especially helpful at night, when I'm first trying to fall asleep and the sheets on my bed are still cold. I use a heating pad to warm up my kids' beds as well. Another way to keep your bed warm, is to use flannel sheets. I bought mine on sale in the spring, for like $15 a set.

I also drink hot beverages to stay warm. All winter my oldest daughter and I drink herbal tea and my younger two drink hot chocolate. One of our favorite winter activities is to pile on the couch together under a blanket and watch a movie, while sipping our hot drinks. On the same vein, I make a lot of hearty, warming meals. For breakfast I make oatmeal instead of cold cereal. For lunch I make soup instead of a cold sandwich. For dinner I might make a hearty stew or chili, or lasagna or pot roast, all served with hot, crusty bread.

I know not everyone has a fireplace, but if you do, it's a great way to cheaply heat up your house. I'm talking about a wood burning fireplace, not a gas one. Here in Georgia, I pay about $150 for a cord of wood to be delivered to my house and loaded into my wood shed. If you've never seen a cord of wood, know that it is a huge amount. I usually only have to burn one cord of wood for the entire winter. The cold weather here lasts for about five months and during that time, I burn a LOT of wood. If you live in an area where firewood is really expensive, this isn't a good option for you. Here in the South, hardwood happens to be all over the place!

Those are the ways that my family stays warm in the winter without busting our budget. It can be hard sometimes (especially when my parents visit from Florida and my dad walks around making comments like, "You could store meat in here!" and my mom just sits huddled in front of the fire, speechless and shivering:P) It's all worth it, though, when Spring comes and I haven't had to drain my savings, or go into debt.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Successful Frugal Dinner!

The other day, I experienced a nightmare for any frugal person living on $2,000 a month...My hot water heater died! It was leaking and not heating water, so I called my plumber and he told me that it had to be replaced. He also told me that most gas water heaters last for about 9 years and mine was 15 years old. Total cost of the replacement water heater: $839.65. Luckily, I have some savings, but it was still very stressful having to shell out that kind of cash.

After that whole plumbing fiasco, I was seriously ready to just order some takeout for dinner. It was 5:00, I was tired and stressed and my 3 year old had once again decided that being toilet trained is an optional life skill! As I got out my wallet and contemplated feeding the four of us on the $13.60 I found in there, I decided that maybe I'd better just look through my cabinets for something easy to make. Suddenly, like a message from the gods, I found a bag of lentils I'd forgotten about. Now my kids LOVE lentil soup...In fact, when times are tight, I make this kind of chili that has like 2oz of ground beef and about 1/2Lb of lentils in it. My kids go crazy for it, never knowing that the whole pot cost me maybe $1 to put together! I had no defrosted ground beef in the fridge, so I decided to take the lentils in a different direction. I sauteed 2 green onions with 2 stalks of celery and 6 diced baby carrots for a few minutes. I added 1tsp cumin and 1tsp turmeric and stirred it around. I added 6C of water and 1 1/2C dry lentils last with 1 chicken bullion cube for flavor. THEN I remembered that I had four plum tomatoes, so I diced them up and threw them into the mix.
After the soup had been simmering for about 30 minutes, I remembered the garlic bread I got for $.99 on Sunday. It had been sitting in my fridge and actually taking up an inconvenient amount of space. Lentil soup night seemed like a perfect opportunity to use it up, so I heated the oven to 350 and tossed it in there (not literally). By the time the soup was done simmering, the garlic bread had heated up to a crispy, buttery perfection. I called the kids to dinner and we enjoyed our frugal, impromtu feast.
Sometimes I feel sad, only having $40 a week to buy groceries for the four of us. My grocery shopping list is very planned out and I pretty much have to have a coupon for everything. Sometimes I'll see an item I want to try, or a treat I want to get for my kids and I have to pass it up, because I really just can't afford it. I was even heasitant to buy the garlic bread, because it was an "extra" that I hadn't budgeted for, so it meant something else had to be sacrificed.(I sacrificed buying 2 cans of cream of celery soup to use in casseroles) A night of feasting, even if it was on such simple fare, really lifted my spirits. Best of all, I still had 2 servings of soup and half the loaf of garlic bread left after we were done eating! Guess what I ate for lunch the next 2 days...:P
Tonight I plan to make some mushroom, green pepper pizza, because when you make it yourself, each pizza costs maybe $1.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekly grocery and menu plan

Every Sunday, I plan out the meals for the following week, so I know what to buy at the store. This prevents me from just arbitrarily putting whatever happens to catch my eye into my cart. I also make my grocery list keeping in mind what coupons I happen to have. For example, this week I had a coupon for $1.50 off of a package of frozen french fries. I wouldn't normally buy frozen fries, because they are junk food and not really included in my food budget. Since I had a coupon, though, the fries ended up only costing me like 19 cents and the bag is big enough for me to serve them as a side dish for 2 meals. Here is my menu plan for the week
My kids almost always have oatmeal for breakfast. They love it and it's filling and nutritious. I on the other hand drink coffee for breakfast...Which is decidedly less good for me!:P
My older two kids get lunch at school and they are on the reduced lunch program, so it only costs me 80 cents per day for the both of them. My youngest and I will eat leftovers, fruit, granola bars (homemade) and cereal (grape nuts-I bought them for like $1.00 with a coupon!) with soymilk and dates (possibly my favorite meal ever!)
Here is where I actually have to plan things out!
Sunday-tacos with beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and green onions
Monday-Lentil soup with garlic bread (I got this on the reduced bakery items shelf for 99 cents)
Tuesday-Macaroni and cheese with vegetables
Wednesday-Veggie quesadillas
Thursday-spaghetti with meatballs with leftover garlic bread

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saving on Groceries

Every week I budget $40 for groceries. This is pretty hard for me, because I'm a real foodie and my grocery budget used to be $150 per week! I've had to be pretty careful and creative to make my new food budget work, without dooming us to rice and beans every night. Here are the methods that have worked for me.

Angel food ministries: If you've never heard of this organization, now is the time to look it up on the Internet! Basically, you pay $30 for a big box of food that would normally cost maybe $50-$60. I got the September box for the first time this month and I have to say, it's really helped me to save some money. What came in the September box was, about 8 pounds of chicken parts, 3 rib eye steaks, 4 turkey burger patties, 1 pound of ground beef, 1 pound of frozen green beans, 1 pound of frozen sweet potatoes, 12 eggs, 1 can of pears, 3 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of onions, 1 quart of milk, 1 frozen can of orange juice concentrate and a package of bake and serve oatmeal raisin cookies.

I used up those chicken parts like crazy! I made crock pot chicken, baked chicken, chicken pizza with leftover chicken, chicken broth with the bones and so on. If you're having trouble buying quality food, or you just want to spend less, give them a try and see if it doesn't save you some money!

Wic: This is the Women's infants and children nutrition program. If you have a child under 5 and don't make a lot of money, you will probably qualify to be on this program. My youngest is 3 1/2, so I can still be on Wic for about 16 months. Wic doesn't provide a TON of food, but it provides enough to really help out. My 3 1/2 year old gets 4 bottles of juice, 4 gallons of milk, 2 dozen eggs, 2 pounds of cheese, 24 oz of cereal and a jar of peanut butter every month. Every little bit helps, when you've got a tiny budget!

Coupons: I actually don't find that I save a TON of money by using coupons, but I usually save roughly 5-10% off of my total bill. That's pretty good for doing something that literally takes me about 20 minutes of effort while I watch t.v.!

Make a menu plan for the week and when you're figuring out your menus, plan to use groceries that are about to expire, or ways to use leftovers. This also helps when you go shopping, because you can make a list and stick to buying only what you need. If you need frugal recipes to get started, check out my other blog at:

Plan little "extras" so things won't get depressing and bleak. Not having money really stresses me out and eating the same meals every day makes me really depressed. My best advice is for everyone to invest in a cookbook that specilizes in budget cooking. My favorite is called, "Cheap Fast Good!" and it was written by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. It has tons of awesome recipes that are easy AND frugal and it also has a ton of grocery saving tips! Best of all, it's a really big book and it only cost me like $13. The "extras" I plan are things like, a special dessert (Not expensive, but tasty.) Some of the ones my kids love are, cupcakes, homemade pudding and pretty much any cookie. I also used a coupon and got a lemon merangue pie for $2.95. I'm saving it in the freezer for a special day, like one where we go to the zoo or just cook a feast for no reason!:P

Monday, September 28, 2009

$24,000 a year

So my husband dumped me and left me with 3 kids and child support income that adds up to $24,000 a year. This blog is going to be about how I stretch that income to support my family while I'm in school and also how I'm coping with being a single mom. So far I can say it's both harder and easier now that he's gone. It's easier, because he's not around constantly criticising me and making me feel like a huge burden. It's harder, because my kids are sad and I'm having to do everything myself and I have about 1/2 the money I used to have. Here is a list of my fixed expenses:
Mortgage: $878 per month
Electric: $131 per month (budget billing plan)
Gas: Between $30-$75 per month, depending how cold it is
Phone/Internet: $61 per month
Cable: $31 per month
Garbage: $30 per month
Car insurance: $22 per month
Childcare: $225 per month (Actually, I'm going to do before and after school care for my neighbor and she's going to pay me $200 per month, so this expense kind of evens out!)

After I pay all of my fixed bills, I have $193 per week to cover food, gas and anything else that might come up. So far, I've divided my unfixed expenses up like this:
Food: $50 per week
Gas: $40 per week
Miscellaneous expenses: $40 per week.

This leaves me $252 to cover anything else that might come up during the month, like a car repair, or whatever. I have to say that so far, this money goes FAST and I have to really make an effort to stretch those dollars to the max. I'm going to try to do a blog as often as I can about ways I learn to make the most of what money I have.