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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekly Menu Plan!

I haven't gone grocery shopping yet, but I plan on getting it done tomorrow. I'm going top go in between my last class at the college, and picking up the baby from preschool. I'll actually be ALONE...A rare treat! I'll probably spend the whole time just wandering around the store, pretending I'm on vacation.:P Here is my menu plan!

Black beans with rice

Oatmeal with walnuts and raisins

Swedish meatballs
Roasted carrots w/maple syrup

Chicken pot pie
Tomato/cucumber salad

Mexican lasagna


Pita bread
Tomato/cucumber salad
(Bumped from last week)

Friday, January 29, 2010

New challenges

I found out last week that my ex-husband is losing his job. He is currently in the Air Force, but they have decided to fire him. I'm hoping that I convinced his First Sergeant to wait until Summer, but even if I did, my ex-husband's bad conduct might force the First Sergeant's hand. This is a serious blow, because my children and I still rely on military benefits, and of course, child support. I'm anticipating that both benefits and child support will disappear the second my ex-husband is kicked out. At first, I kind of panicked about this, but really...I don't have the luxury of giving into panic, so I tried to pull myself together and come up with a plan. Here's what I've come up with:

If the First Sergeant can delay the firing until June, I will (hopefully) finish up my pre-requesites by the end of Summer quarter and be able to get a job while I wait for my program to start. I would need $8000 to get me from June to November. I say November, because I might not get a job right away. The unemployment rate in Augusta is pretty high right now. I feel pretty confident I can come up with tthe $8000. My tax refund alone is almost $6000, I'm getting a Pell refund of $300, and I have my new babysitting job. The lady I babysit for is paying me $300 on February 5. That is $6600 right there! I will get one more Pell refund before June, which will bring me to $7000. I will get paid (hopefully) $750 from babysitting between now and June, and I plan to save $600 of it. That brings me to $7600! I'm sure I'll be able to save that last $400 somehow. *sigh* there are always a few places to cut corners, even in the strictest budget. If I can avoid tapping into my long term savings before I find a job, I'll have enough money to get me through school...No matter what my ex-husband does.

The more extra money I make, the better, especially in the Summer. If I can get just one more child to watch, that would bring my income up to $500 a month. I wish I could watch kids during the day, but school is more important than money at this point.

Luckily there are a lot of federal and state programs out there to help single moms go to college. President Obama has promised to increase Pell grants and other assistance for school. I know a lot of people consider these programs to be "welfare" and "socialist," and maybe they are. The way I see it, though, is those same people are usually devout christians...Doesn't the Bible say to help each other, and that we're all children of God? Wasn't Jesus all about giving to the poor, and needy, no matter how they got that way? It doesn't seem to me that wanting poor people, especially poor CHILDREN to starve and die in the streets, is a very christian attitude.

Well there it is, my plan to (hopefully) avoid disaster.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My end of the grocery cycle improve meal!

Today I just couldn't think of what to make for dinner. My fridge held 2 gallons of milk, 4 apples, 3 turnips, a pound of swiss cheese, some leftover spaghetti sauce, some leftover pasta, and 5 pounds of carrots. I did not feel inspired by these items. What I wanted to make was Greek meatballs, pita bread, hummus, and a salad, but I didn't have the right ingredients! I ran out of tomatoes a day too early, and I couldn't find a good meatball recipe. As I felt sorry for myself, I started a batch of granola bars.
I wish I could say that I was suddenly hit by awesome, frugal inspiration, but that's not what happened. In reality, I moped around, listened to the same song about 500 times ("Don't Come Around Here No More"), and then finally put something together. Here's what I came up with!

About 1/2 pound of cooked, short pasta
2 Tbsp butter
1 can of evaporated milk
1 can of tuna, drained
2Tbsp flour
1 bag 12-16oz frozen vegetables
1/3 pound of swiss cheese, shredded
1/2C breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 350. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add frozen vegetables and cook until mostly heated through. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. Add the evaporated milk and cook, stirring constantly until almost boiling. Add the cheese and stir until just melted. Remove from the heat. Place the pasta in a greased 9x13 pan. Add the cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the tuna and stir to combine. Mix the breadcrumbs with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

The good news is, this casserole turned out really good! We had 4 pieces of garlic bread left, so we ate the casserole with garlic bread and drank the last of our sparkling cider with it. I will definitely be making a version of this in the future. I still have a ton of evaporated milk and pasta in my pantry.:P

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy grocery shopping with kids!

Now that I'm a single mom, I ALWAYS end up taking my three kids to the grocery store with me. Sometimes it is more fun than others, and sometimes it is definitely a chore. Here are some methods I have come up with to ease the potential pain!

I pack a paper bag with "treats" for each of my kids. I say, "Treats," because's usually just healthy snacks! A typical "treat" bag would probably include, juice, cereal or popcorn in a baggie, carrot sticks, and maybe a cookie if I had baked any. My kids go CRAZY over these. Having these snacks for them drastically cuts down on the fighting, whining, and screaming that seems to inevitebly occur at the most embarrassing moments. Sometimes I pack a "treat" bag for me, too!:P

This is exactly the same principle as the "treat" bags. I pick two items (that I want to buy anyway) and I let my kids pick the one they want. Last time we shopped, it was frozen ravioli on sale, the time before it was sparkling apple cider that has 100% juice. If they start misbehaving, I threaten to not buy the "extra" item.:P

This way, they aren't overly tired and the store isn't especially crowded. An even better time to shop is Sunday morning, but I always need to go shopping by Saturday. I obveously need to plan that better!:P

I'm lucky in that my kids actually enjoy grocery shopping. Packing treat bags turns it into kind of a fun, family outing. The kids just sit in the cart and munch away. Grocery shopping day is always my favorite day, because it means we're going to get some new food to eat. We never go hungry, but sometimes I just get so tired of the food we have in the house. I can't wait until the first week I get to spend $105, instead of $80! I plan to stock up and plan all kinds of awesome feasts. I'm sure that first week will have an interesting meal plan.:P

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekly menu plan and an update

It's been a while since I posted a meal plan. That's because I stopped planning meals, much to my chagrin over the past few weeks. I've been really stressed out about a lot of things, but I'm finally trying to get back on track. That's the great thing about falling off the frugal wagon...You can always climb back on. Anyway, here's my meal plan for the week!

Egg salad sandwiches
Oven fries
Cucumber/tomato salad

Spaghetti with crock pot meatballs and sauce

Pasta E Fagoli
Beer bread rolls

Pita bread
Cucumber/tomato salad
Greek style meatballs


Crab and corn chowder
Beer bread

Ravioli with leftover tomato sauce
Green salad

I got a babysitting job recently that will pay me $250 per month. I'm hoping to use $50 of that to pad my grocery budget. $105 every two weeks instead of $80. I think it's going to make a HUGE difference! I'm going to use the other $200 to build up my savings. Every $2000 I save is another month where I won't lose my house, where I won't have to apply for welfare. Every $300 I save is grocery and gas money for a month. Every month that passes brings me closer to getting my degree, and starting a job that will save my children and I from poverty. I just have to get from here to there.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Frugal weight loss!

I wouldn't normally do a blog post about weight loss, but this weight loss actually fits my overall frugal blog theme! 5 months ago, I was weighing between 145 pounds on a good day, and 148 pounds on a bad day! I'm only 5'2", so either one of those weights is WAY too heavy. This morning I got on the scale, and I weighed 131 pounds. That's a weight loss of about 16 pounds! I'm really pleased about this. I don't really know why I had gotten so overweight before, but at least it's finally going away. Now here's the part where my weight loss fits into my frugal blog theme.:P I lost all of that weight just by being frugal! Here's how:

I really think this is the #1 reason for my weight loss, because it's not like I have really been counting calories at home, or anything. The really strange thing is, it's not like I went out to eat all of the time before! When my husband lived with us, we went out for dinner maybe once or twice a week. Since he has left, I just haven't been able to afford dining out. I just can't believe the huge difference that eating at home has made...In my waistline AND my wallet!

Nothing forces you to think about what you eat, like having a tiny grocery budget. I only have $80 to buy groceries to feed 4 people for 2 weeks. I have to really think about everything I want to buy. I want to make sure my kids get all of the vitamins they need. "Extras" like chips, soda, and pre-packaged meals, just don't fit into my food budget. I make all of our meals from scratch, because I really can only afford the basic ingredients. When we eat snacks, it's usually carrot/celery sticks, homemade granola bars, yogurt, fruit, cereal, eggs, or homemade corn chips with avocado salad. I actually kind of snack a lot. Maybe if I didn't snack so much, I'd lose even more weight!:P

When my husband lived with us, dinner was kind of a big, family event. I used to serve meat, at least two side dishes, bread and a dessert almost every day. Not only is that expensive, it's a lot of calories! Now I serve much simpler meals. Sometimes we'll still eat a grand feast, but more often we'll just eat soup, or chili, or a casserole, or breakfast for dinner. I find that my kids actually enjoy the simpler meals a lot more than the elaborate ones I used to make. Simpler meals also have the added bonus of making you lose weight!

I've tried to lose weight before, on Weight Watchers, or on some other diet plan. I would lose weight, but it always seemed so hard! This time, I wasn't really even trying to lose weight, I was trying to save money! I guess frugality was the answer all along, as it so often is.:P

Friday, January 15, 2010

Frugal artistic expression

I used to be very artistic, before my ex-husband drained me of all my will and motivation. I'm starting to wake up again and now...It's like I'm actually turning back into Liz. I don't know how exactly to describe it, but it's like I've been living in a play, with a set character I was supposed to be. Now I'm trying to learn who I really am, and what I really like to do. I feel like I've been in a coma, where the world was filled with washed out pastels, everyone had the same face, and nothing interesting ever happened. Anyway, here are the ideas for frugal art that I've had to try and color in some of the new outlines I've made in my life!

I really like to write, but I had stopped for a long time. Recently, I've become inspired again, and it's awesome! Writing a poem is like creating a painting, or a sculpture. It makes you really look at something, and then want to describe it so everyone else can see it like you did. You could write anything, poems, short stories, editorials, books, plays...I happen to prefer poems. I think it's because I'm too lazy to write anything that requires "filler" words.:P I like to write, because I really want to expand my mind and see everything of interest and beauty in the world. Best of all, writing is free! All it requires is time.

I mean soap, candles, blankets, clothes, pottery, anything that has a purpose, but could still be creatively made. I've actually made soap before, and it is fun and pretty inexpensive. I mean, it depends on the kind of soap you're making.:P My goal is to make another batch of soap before Summer! I also like to crochet blankets, which is...Semi-frugal. Yarn can be pretty expensive, so you have to watch for sales and kind of stock up when you can. I really would like to learn how to sew. My mom can sew and she made me 2 beautiful aprons for Christmas. I feel all motherly when I wear them.:P Years and years ago I took a pottery class with my sister, and I really liked it. Someday, I would like to take another one. I have this dream of having all of these beautiful, handmade dishes and mixing bowls to use.:P

Arranging food on a plate can be beautiful, and artistic. A jug of flowers, an afghan thrown over the couch, a mug tree with pretty mugs displayed. All of these things can add beauty for very little expense. My goal is to first clean, and organize, and de-clutter my house. Afterwards, I'm going to find pretty things I already have and figure out a way to display them. Then I plan to start a frugal, artistic project and FINISH it! (That is definitely one of my problems!).

It's easy to get caught up in the everyday grind and sort of forget than anything else exists. The constant stress of money, kids, work, and everything else can really take it's toll on us. I don't know about my readers, but I know I lived in that dark world with my husband for almost a decade. We only get the one life. I'm determined to enjoy the rest of mine!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My poem!


The water, hot
Surrounds the flower.
For a second, time stops.
Nothing happens.
Then, like a
The first leaf unfurls,
As the flower floats.

The second leaf
The flower swirls,
In the water.
Spiraling like a bird, who
Tries towards the

Then a supernova!
The flower
Exploding like a star.
Consuming the water,
Choking the mouth
Of the teapot,
Beating against
The glass walls
Of the
Like a star that stretches
The fabric of space.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wood Windfall!

I have been encouraging my next door neighbors to start using their fireplace for over two years now. This past weekend, they finally decided to try it out, only to discover their chimney needs to be cleaned! The fireplace smokes terribly and can't be used at all. I felt kind of bad, because I'd been preaching about the wonders of wood burning for so long, and they had really gotten their hopes up.
After we realized that the fireplace really needs professional attention, they decided to just not bother, and they gave me all of the wood they had been planning to burn! It's great wood, already cut and well seasoned. I burned some yesterday and it lasted a long time, and burned very hot and bright. I still have enough for at least two more days! It's been so cold here, I'll take all the extra warmth I can get.

Liz is on facebook!

Today I finally opened up a facebook account! My name on the account is, "Frugal Liz" and my e-mail is I hope all of us can become facebook friends, and I look foward to seeing everyone!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My non-frugal choices, and how I plan to improve!

Recently, I haven't been as frugal as I should be. Between the Holidays and this persistent cold snap, I just seem to have lost my motivation! Here are some of my non-frugal guilty confessions, and how I plan to remedy the overspending!:P

For the past week, I've been buying breakfast every day at the student union on my way to class. I buy a bowl of grits and some hot coffee. It only costs $2, so I've been able to justify it...So far. I started thinking about it, though and I realized that $2 every school day is $8 a week! You may be thinking, "Why is she freaking out over $8? Lighten up, Liz!" I used to think that way too, but now I only have $500 A MONTH to pay for food, gasoline, and miscellaneous expenses for 4 people! That is $125 per week. $8 is roughly 6.5% of my total money for the week. $8 is a trip to the movies for the kids and I, it could be the difference between us feasting on pot roast, or beans on a given night.
So I plan to start bringing my own coffee to school in a thermos, and maybe even some grits too. I'll have to experiment and see if grits stay good in a thermos. If they don't, I could always bring a baggie of cereal and a thermos of cold soymilk. I could make some muffins and bring one, or I could make some bagels. I'm determined to get motivated again!

The cold weather has made me EXTREMELY reluctant to use my clothesline. Who wants to go outside in the frigid arctic (or what seems like it anyway!) when there is a nice, warm dryer to be used? People who need to save money on electricity! It's not pleasant hanging wet clothes out in the cold, but I still need to get on the ball and do it. My electricity bill went up $30 this month, just from using the dryer!

I just got tired of eating leftovers...But when you've only got $40 a week to spend on food, throwing leftovers away is definitely counter-productive! I need to start planning my meals again, and stop feeding my kids waffles and cereal for dinner.

It's hard to stay motivated sometimes, but I'm not someone who is frugal because I'm saving up for a vacation, or for a nicer car. I'm frugal because I have to be. There are a lot of days when I wish I could just turn up the damn heat, instead of trudging out to the woodshed, carrying a backbreaking, heavy load of wood to the house, picking up kindling from outside, and then finally starting a fire. There are days I just want to order pizza, or Chinese, when I want to go to the grocery store and buy whatever I want. On days like that, I go into the kitchen and try to find something special for dinner. I take my kids to a dollar movie, or to the library. After a while, I start to remember all of the good things about my new life, and I don't feel so discouraged.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Meal ideas for extremely tired and lazy days!

Today I was so tired by the evening, that I had almost convinced myself to just get take-out. I mean, one time couldn't hurt anything, right? Shouldn't EVERYONE take a break sometimes?! The only problem was, I only have $80 left to spend until January 15. I'm definitely going to have to buy some gas and groceries before then! Fortunately, after I wandered around in a daze for a while, I happened to remember some Eggo waffles I had bought from Sams Club about 5 months ago! Ten minutes later, those Eggos were toasted, slathered with peanut butter and homemade mango preserves, and being happily devoured by my three hungry kids! I ate my share, too.:P Afterwards, I started trying to think of other easy, lazy day meals. This is what I came up with!

I like to use corn flakes, or grape nuts, with bananas and dates sliced into the bowl. We eat our cereal with soymilk. It's a complete meal! The cereal provides whole grain, the bananas provide potassium, the dates provide iron, and the soymilk provides calcium and protein!

I just scoop out some cottage cheese onto a plate and add some canned pineapple, some salted grape tomatoes, and some canned oranges, or fresh grapes. My kids love this meal, and I love the lack of clean up. No pots and pans!

This is a lazy breakfast idea, although sometimes I start it in the early afternoon and serve it for dinner.:P Just take 2C rolled oats and 2C milk and stir them together in a large bowl. Add about 6 chopped dates, and a small handful of raisins, or craisins. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, or overnight. Enjoy!

These four meals (including the waffles!) are for when I'm feeling REALLY tired and lazy. I can't even count the number of times one of these three meals has saved me from getting take-out. The ironic part is, I think my kids like to eat these meals more than the ones I actually cook!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

With the New Year, comes the inevitable resolutions. This year, I am committed to actually following through on mine!:P

Every year I plan to excersise more...And then I don't. This year I'm making a commitment to get a membership at the YMCA as soon as I can afford it. In the meantime, I'm going to try to do 50 crunches per day and walk at least 2 1/2 miles. That's twice around my neighborhood.

I'm not sure how much money I would need to save up, so I need to do some more research on it. I really want to go, though, because my neighbors tell me that Myrtle Beach rocks! I may not be able to afford it this Spring, but if not, maybe this Summer!

I'm getting pretty good at frugal shopping, but there is always room for improvement! One thing I've started doing differently, is to shop for 2 weeks at a time, instead of one week. That way I have $80 to spend, instead of $40. Also, I've started going back to Sams Club again for certain items that we use a lot of. It's a real family outing...My kids LOVE Sam's club for some reason!

I've always been a solitary type of person. I sort of wait for everyone to come to me, instead of being friendly and trying to make friends on my own. When my husband lived with us, I was just happy to be with him. It's hard for me to understand it now, but I really loved him and when he was with me...I didn't feel like anything else existed, or needed to exist. Now that I'm a single mom, I really need to make some friends. My problem is, I don't really relate to a lot of other people, and I have a tendancy to recoil at the first sign of imperfection.

I'm naturally a very disorganized person, but I want to be more organized. I think my life would seem less...Chaotic and difficult if I could just get into a routine. I want to take charge of my life and make things happen, instead of just letting things happen to me, or hoping that something will happen. My first project is to organize my kids' clothes!(aaacckkk!)

Those are my New Years resolutions. I will update peridically and detail my success!(Hopefully success, anyway.:P)