Friday, July 31, 2009

Delicious and frugal Summer cobblers and crisps!

Two of my favorite desserts are cobblers and crisps. I love them because they are tasty, easy, frugal and less fattening than eating pie. Summer's bounty of fresh fruits makes it the perfect time to enjoy a myriad of tasty treats. I know I do...It probably contributes to me not losing that last 10 pounds of baby weight!:P It's tough when you're home all day and you love to cook. Here are some of my favorite cobbler and crisp recipes for your eating enjoyment.

Blueberry cobbler

(For the biscuit)

2C all purpose flour or half white flour half whole wheat flour

2Tbsp sugar

1Tbsp baking powder

1/2tsp salt

6Tbsp cold, unsalted butter

1C milk or buttermilk

Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 5 or 6 pieces and add it to the flour blend. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of small peas. Pour in the milk or buttermilk and stir just until the dough comes together. You may need to add more flour. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and roll out 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into 8 biscuits. You will have to re-roll the scraps a couple of times. Place the biscuits on a plate and place in the fridge while you make the filling.

(For the filling)

3/4C sugar

3Tbsp cornstarch

1/2tsp salt

2 pounds fresh or frozen blueberries

2Tbsp lemon juice

Wash the blueberries and place them in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch, sugar, salt and lemon juice and toss with the blueberries until well combined. Scrape the mixture into a greased baking dish (I use a deep dish pie pan) and place the biscuits on top. You might have extra biscuits. I just place the extras on a baking sheet and bake them along with the cobbler. Bake the cobbler at 375 for 45 minutes. If you are also baking extra biscuits, remove them after about 15-20 minutes.

Fun Fruit Crisp
(For the topping)

1C flour

1C old fashioned rolled oats

1/2C brown sugar

1/4C white sugar

1/2tsp cinnamon

4-8Tbsp butter

Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
(For the filling)

6C fruit in bite size pieces (I'll give my favorite combinations at the end)

3-5Tbsp sugar

1Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1Tbsp lemon juice

(Assemble and bake)
In a greased baking dish, mix together the filling ingredients. Remove the topping from the fridge and sprinkle half of it evenly over the top. Bake the crisp in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining filling over the top. Bake for a further 20-25 minutes.
Some of my favorite crisps are: Apple crisp (add 1tsp cinnamon to the filling)
Peach crisp, mixed berry crisp, plum crisp

I usually serve the crisp with sweetened whipped cream, but that is certainly an optional ingredient!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The air conditioning company

I've been away for a while, because my downstairs air conditioner stopped working about 2 weeks ago and my computer is downstairs! Anyway, I wanted to write about my experience in getting it fixed, so that everyone will be warned of the possible perils out there.
My air conditioner stopped working while we were at the movies, so we came home and the house was inexplicably hot. I quickly figured out that my air conditioner was still running, but not blowing out cold air. I called an air conditioning repair place called, Connells heating and cooling. Technician one came out and told me that my problem was blown fuses, so he fixed the fuses, charged me $90 and left. 20 minutes after he left, my air conditioner stopped working AGAIN, so I called back, but connells was no longer open for the day. So I called back the next morning.
This is where my story takes a more sinister turn. Technician two came out and told me that I needed to get a whole new air compressor and that the new fuses were already blown He told me that my compressor had leaked freon, run out of it and burned up. He said that my compressor was still under warranty and that he would do me a huge favor and install the new one for $1400. I arranged for him to do it the next day. Then I called my dad and when I told him that the air conditioning company was charging me $1400 just for labor, he told me I was being overcharged and to call other air conditioning repair companies to compare what they would charge. So I did and THREE different companies told me they would charge about $650 to install a warranted air compressor. $650 instead of $1400! I quickly called Connells and cancelled my appointment and then I called one of the other places and arranged to have technician three come out the next day.
Technician three arrived and checked out my compressor. He told me that my unit was FULL of freon and that what was in fact wrong is that it had probably been struck by lightening. He told me he could replace it for....$570. Man am I glad I called around and didn't just go with that first company!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strawberry jam!

This weekend I was at sams club and I bought 8 pounds of strawberries for $9! My family loves strawberries, so I know we'll eat a lot of them as snacks or in smoothies. Strawberries are extremely perishable, however, so I decided to preserve 4 pounds of them by making some jam! Here is my recipe.

Stellar Strawberry Jam
4 pounds fresh or frozen strawberries, rinsed and hulled.
6C sugar
1/2C bottled lemon juice

Steep the strawberries by mixing them with the sugar until the sugar has liquefied and then letting them sit, for 4 hours at room temperature. You can also let them sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Place the strawberry sugar mixture and the lemon juice in a large, heavy bottomed pot and bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Cook at a rapid boil until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Ladle the jam into 3 or 4 sterilized pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch at the top and screw on the lids. At this point you can either can the jars or refrigerate them. Canning ensures a much longer shelf life, so that's what I always do. You can find detailed canning instructions online.

Beautiful Blackberry Jam
Peel, core and grate 1 granny smith apple. Mix with:
2 pounds blackberries
1Tbsp orange juice
3C sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot and boil rapidly until it reaches 220 degrees. Skim off any foam and ladle into 2 or 3 pint sized jars that have been sterilized, leaving 1/4 inch at the top. Screw on the lids and then can or refrigerate the jars.

My family loves these two jams, so I make a lot every Summer and we enjoy it all year. Our favorite uses for the jam, (besides spreading it on toast) are to mix it into yogurt or cream of wheat, use it to top pancakes and waffles, or even to top vanilla ice cream.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Frugal granola bars!

I love granola bars and so do my 3 kids. If I let them, they would each eat a whole package of 6 granola bars every day! Since a package of granola bars is about $2.50, that would get very expensive. Luckily, I found a great recipe for chewy granola bars on . I took the recipe I found on that website and gave it a few Frugal Liz tweaks and here is what I came up with!

Frugal Granola bars master recipe
2C quick oats
1C flour (I prefer spelt, but any kind will work)
1/4C brown sugar
1/2C wheat germ, oat bran or ground nuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2C oil
1/2C honey
1 egg
2tsp vanilla extract
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients and then add them to the dry ingredients. Stir very well to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13 cake pan and spread over the bottom in an even layer. Bake @350 degrees for 16-18 minutes. After they are cool, cut into granola bar shapes and enjoy! My kids eat these with homemade yogurt for breakfast and sometimes for lunch too! I pack them as snacks when we go to the store, so the kids won't whine for junk food. This recipe makes 24 granola bars.

Variation I
Make the master recipe adding 3/4C raisins and 1/2tsp cinnamon with the dry ingredients.
Variation II
Make the master recipe adding 3/4C chocolate chips to the dry ingredients and 1/4C smooth peanut butter to the wet ingredients.
Variation III
Make the master recipe adding 3/4C dried cranberries and 1/2C coarsely chopped almonds to the dry ingredients.

The possible variations are pretty much endless, so by all means experiment and come up with your own. Make sure you write a comment about it or e-mail me so I can try your ideas too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I finally made some decent yogurt!

I've tried sporadically for the past 6 months to make some decent yogurt, but for some reason, all of my attempts were failures. I tried all different recipes and incubating methods, but the yogurt always turned out too soft or too tart. Monday was finally my first success, so I want to share the recipe and method I used to make 4 quarts of yogurt. This is really going to save me some money, because my kids eat a TON of yogurt and I was buying a whole bunch for the week and spending about $12! Now I can just buy 1 gallon of milk and make the same amount of yogurt for about $2.30. I got my recipe and incubation method from a website called:

Plain yogurt
1 gallon whole milk
1/2C maple syrup
2/3C dry milk
1C plain yogurt with live active cultures
Pour milk into a large, heavy bottomed pot and slowly heat to 185 degrees over medium heat. You'll need to stir frequently to avoid scorching and check your thermometer! After the milk reaches 185 degrees, remove the pot from the heat and cool it down to 110 degrees. This will take a LONG time. Make sure you check your thermometer frequently once it gets close to 110 degrees. While the milk is cooling, add the powdered milk and maple syrup, stirring to dissolve everything. After the milk reaches 110 degrees, add the 1C of yogurt, stirring well with a whisk to combine it with the milk. Pour the milk into 4 CLEAN quart sized canning jars and screw the lids on. Place the canning jars in a cooler and heat some water up to 120 degrees. Pour the water into the cooler with the jars, stopping about 1 inch from the top of the jars. Place the lid on the cooler and let the jars sit for about 12 hours. Remove them from the cooler and transfer to the fridge for another 12-24 hours. Now your yogurt is ready to enjoy!

I've found that homemade yogurt isn't as stiff as store bought, but it still turns out pretty good! My kids ate up a whole quart of it yesterday and I plan to use some in their morning smoothie today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A great sandwich bread recipe I found

I'm always looking for new recipes and I found this great one for sandwich bread in "The Bread Bible."

Sensational sandwich bread
(To make the sponge starter)
2 1/4C plus 3Tbsp bread flour
1 3/4C water (not cold)
2Tbsp plus 1tsp honey or sugar
3/4tsp yeast
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk together for 2 minutes until very smooth and aerated. Set aside while you prepare the flour blanket.
(To make the flour blanket)
2C plus 3Tbsp bread flour
1/4C dry milk
3/4tsp yeast
Mix the flour blanket ingredients together and then sprinkle them evenly over the sponge. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to sit for 1-4 hours at room temperature. While you wait, set out 8Tbsp of butter to soften.
(To mix and knead the bread)
Add the softened butter and 2 1/4tsp salt to the bowl. Mix by hand or on low speed until all ingredients are moistened. Continue mixing by hand or on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stop mixing and let the dough sit undisturbed for 20 minutes. This will make it less sticky. After the 20 minutes are up, continue kneading the dough for about 10 minutes on medium speed or by hand. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat both sides. Cover and allow to rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled. Punch dough down, fold over itself 3 times and allow to rise again for 1-2 hours. Divide the dough in half and shape it into 2 loaves. Place the loaves into 2 greased loaf pans, cover and let rise for 1 more hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Take the loaves out of the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Unmold the bread from the pans and cool completely on wire racks before cutting.

You can also use this dough to make hamburger buns! In the shaping step, simply cut each half of the dough into 10-12 equal pieces and shape them into hamburger bun shapes. Let them rise for about an hour and then bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Or you can make one loaf of bread and use the other half dough for hamburger buns.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Frugal Cherries!

Cherries are only frugal in the Summer, so at other times of the year, these recipes would be pretty expensive! I buy my cherries from sams club for about $2.30 a pound and they are totally worth it! Cherries are not only delicious, they are versatile. The only drawback is you have to pit them, but that can easily be accomplished with an inexpensive cherry pitter. Here are some of my favorite cherry based recipes.

Cherry Focaccia
3/4C plus 2Tbsp warm water
2 1/4tsp yeast
2 1/4C unbleached flour
1/4C brown sugar
1 1/4tsp salt
3/4C dried cherries
1C fresh cherries, rinsed, pitted and halved
1Tbsp sugar
Place the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, 1/4C sugar, salt and dried cherries. Knead on medium speed with the dough hook for about 7 minutes. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to sit for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a 10x10 rectangle. Transfer the rolled dough to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a dry towel and let sit for about 45 minutes.
preheat oven to 400 degrees
Gently dimple the top of the dough with your fingertips. Place the cherry halves on top of the dough, pressing them in slightly. Sprinkle the 1Tbsp of sugar over the dough. Bake on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes.

Cherry Tart
(For the tart dough)
12Tbsp softened butter
1C powdered sugar
1/2C almonds, finely ground in a food processor
1 egg at room temperature
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2C unbleached flour
1/4tsp salt
Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add the almonds, egg and vanilla and then the flour and salt. Mix until just combined. Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
(For the cherry filling)
1 pound fresh cherries, rinsed and pitted
2/3C heavy cream
1/3C sugar
2 eggs
1/3C sliced almonds, toasted
Heat the oven to 400 degrees
Remove one disk of dough from the fridge and roll out into a round 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9 inch tart pan that is at least 1 inch deep and has a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan.Remove excess dough and discard or save for cookies. Put the pan on a baking sheet and line the dough with parchment. Fill the parchment lined dough with dry rice or beans and bake it until the sides are set, 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove the rice or beans and the parchment and return the pan to the oven. Bake another 7 minutes, or until the bottom is set and lightly browned.
Spread the cherries over the bottom crust in a single layer. Whisk together the cream, eggs and sugar and carefully pour the mixture over the cherries. You may have a little extra. Sprinkle the almonds on top and bake until the top is brown and the cherries are bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let the tart cool until it can be removed from the pan.

Cherry smoothie
1C orange juice
1C soy milk, almond milk or cows milk
1C pineapple
1C cherries
1-2 frozen bananas
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy. My 3 year old calls this her "Red shake".:P

Poached cherries
1 3/4C water
2/3C sugar
3 strips lemon zest
3 strips orange zest
1/4 vanilla bean, split, or 1tsp vanilla extract
15 peppercorns
1 pound cherries, rinsed and pitted
In a saucepan, bring the water, sugar, lemon and orange zest, peppercorns and vanilla to a boil. Add the cherries and simmer for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam. Let cool and then refrigerate. Strain off cooking liquid before serving.

Cherry mousse
1 pound cherries, rinsed and pitted
3Tbsp powdered sugar
2C heavy cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized
Combine cherries and 1Tbsp sugar in a food processor and puree. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until medium peaks form. Fold in the cherry puree. For a fun dessert, layer this mousse with the poached cherries in clear wine glasses for a stunning effect!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saving change

Two years ago my husband and I started paying for all of our weekly expenses (food, gas, fun stuff, miscellaneous expenses) with cash. We just budget a certain amount every week and take it out of the bank. This cash system has really helped us to stay within our budget and it also has the added bonus of generating a lot of change for us to save. We used to just save the change in a jar, but now we have a piggy bank.:P I keep the pennies separate from the other coins in the old jar, because it makes it easier when it comes time to roll everything up.
Change really adds up fast in a surprisingly short amount of time. My husband and I roll ours up every 4 months or so and we have ended up with between $85-$115 every time. After we roll it all up, we take it to the bank and exchange it for paper money. Then we use the money for fun! I know a lot of finance bloggers use their change to pay down debt or to pad their emergency fund and those are great ways to use the money as well. We don't have any debt (except for mortgage debt) and while every emergency fund could use some padding, I think you need to have some money for fun sometimes. Even when my husband were so poor we couldn't afford a car, we still had some money in our budget for fun.
Saving our change has been an easy and painless way for my husband and I to save some money. even if you only save $5 a week in change, that's still $260 a year you'll never even feel yourself saving!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cooling drinks that battle the Summer heat

I hate to be hot, so it's too bad I live in Georgia. The Summers here are extremely hot and humid, so I'm always looking for ways to stay cool and comfortable. One of the best ways (besides setting the AC at 70 degrees and having a fan on at all times!:P) is to drink a lot of cold beverages and to eat as light as possible. Nothing makes me feel hot like a heavy meal! Here are some of my favorite Summer drinks and light meals!

Cantaloupe milk
(I got this recipe from the book "Fit For Life".)
1 cantaloupe, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2C soy milk, almond milk or cows milk
Place ingredients in a blender and process until a smooth, pale orange "milk" forms. Pour into 2 glasses and serve. You can also add a frozen banana for a more substantial meal. I would have this for breakfast or a light lunch.

Honeydew milk
Make the same way as cantaloupe milk, but substitute a honeydew instead. Or you can use half honeydew half cantaloupe!

Watermelon juice
(To make this, you need a juicer)
1/4 large SEEDLESS watermelon, preferably chilled
Remove rind and run watermelon through a juicer (I have a champion). Pour into a large pitcher and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Watermelon juice is extremely refreshing and delicious!

Mango parfait
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
2C plain yogurt
4Tbsp maple syrup (divided)
Place 1/2C yogurt in a bowl. Top with 1/4 of the mango chunks and drizzle with 1Tbsp maple syrup. Repeat with remaining yogurt, mango and maple syrup to create 4 servings. Enjoy! You can also use fresh peaches, strawberries, blackberries or cherries in place of the mango. My kids go crazy over this!

Friday, June 19, 2009


Back in 2004, when I was 24 years old, my husband and I came into some money from my husband going TDY and then from the military giving us some money for moving expenses. We ended up saving about $10,000 all together and since at that point our emergency fund was in pretty good shape, we were looking for something else to do with the money. I ended up talking to the financial advisor at the bank and he told me I should start an IRA for my retirement. At first I thought he was crazy...I mean I was 24 after all! Then I started doing some research and I found out that if I contributed $4,000 a year for 10 years and then just left the IRA alone, that when I was 59 years old the $40,000 I had put in would have grown to about 1.5 million dollars! There is some risk involved, because the money is in the stock market, but the risk is pretty minimal because I have the money in a balanced fund. A balanced fund is a mixture of stocks and bonds, which makes it less risky...But you also don't have as much potential for a big return.
Since 2004, my husband and I have contributed $4,000 a year to our Roth IRA and now we have $20,000 invested. Some years it's been pretty hard to save the money to contribute, but we've always made it a high priority. It scares me to think about being old and poverty stricken...Unable to even afford air conditioning or medicine, which is what happens to a lot of people once they are too old to work. Also if we had to we could take out any of the money we've contributed without incurring a penalty, because we have a Roth IRA. That would of course be a last resort, but in a pinch, $20,000 would go a long way towards getting us back on our feet!
So once you have a fairly large emergency fund and you're looking for another way to save, I would recommend looking into a retirement account. We have ours with The Vanguard Group and so far I've been very happy with them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My $665 car repair

Today I took my car to the local auto repair shop, because the brakes were making a weird sound and the steering wheel would shake whenever I tried to stop the car or even just slow down. It turned out that all four rotors needed to be replaced along with the brake shoes and pads. With parts and labor it came to $665...Ouch. Luckily, my husband and I have some savings, so we could afford a car repair, but it still hurts.
Last October we started saving to go on an awesome family vacation to Disney world this October. Our goal is to save $3000 and so far we have $2500. This vacation fund is separate from our long term savings, so only "extra" money can go in there. I was hoping that this month we could get the rest of the way there, but I guess it will have to wait...Especially since the car needs a tune up and the roof on my house needs to be replaced! These things always seem to happen all at once, don't they?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Frugal Pizza!

Pizza is one of my favorite foods, but ordering it is so expensive. My family would spend anywhere between $15 and $22 for one pizza meal, back when we used to get our pizza from a restaurant. I started making my own pizza about a year ago and I never looked back. Here is my recipe!

Perfecto Pizza
5 tsp yeast
2C warm water
5-6C bread flour
1Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
About 1C pizza sauce
4C shredded cheese
Toppings of choice
Dissolve yeast in the warm water for 5 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add salt, oil and 5C of flour and mix on low for about 1 minute. If the dough is too wet, mix in more flour 1/2C at a time until the dough comes together in a smooth ball and cleans the sides of the mixer bowl. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes longer. Place dough in a greased bowl and spray cooking spray over the top. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).
Punch dough down.
Preheat oven to 450
Cut dough into 2 equal pieces and roll each piece into a round about 10-12 inches in diameter. Place rounds on 2 greased cooking sheets, rolling the edges slightly to create a crust. Spread about 1/2C sauce over top of the pizza and sprinkle 2C shredded cheese over the sauce. Top with desired toppings and bake for about 20 minutes, switching the pans around halfway through.
My favorite pizza toppings:
Chicken, pineapple bacon, or just chicken and pineapple!
Mushroom and green pepper
Ham and pineapple
Pepperoni bacon (my husband's favorite!)

The way I keep this pizza easy and frugal is I buy bread flour in bulk from Sams club at $7 for 25 pounds and I buy shredded cheese from Sams club at $6.75 for 8 pounds. I know that's a lot of cheese, but it lasts for a long time in the fridge and I use it for other recipes, like lasagna and baked ziti.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kitchen appliances it's worth it to pay more for

For anyone who reads my blog, I'm sorry I've been gone for so long. I went on vacation in early April and then right afterwards I got terribly sick for literally 3 weeks! Then I had a TON of catch up work and I'm still not 100% back on my feet, so it's been tough. Anyway, on to my post!
I'm always looking to save money, but sometimes you really do have to spend some or you'll end up with useless junk. My first food processor is a good example. I paid $35 for it and it was broken within about 2 months. My first blender was a cheap, $25 model that burned out after 1 month of use. Since then I've been amassing an arsenal of sturdy, built to last appliances that cost more, but are well worth the extra money. Here are the ones I've gotten so far.

Black and Decker food processor: $250
After my crappy $35 food processor broke, I went ahead and bought a decent one for $250. That was 6 years ago and since then I've used it almost every day for chopping and grating vegetables, mixing dough, making hummus, pureeing soups and making sauces. A good food processor is an extremely handy tool for any cook. I would say it's been my most useful appliance.
Champion juicer: $220
I know this isn't a practical appliance for everyone, but I thought I'd include it just the same. My juicer is a wonderful tool in my quest for more healthy living for my family. I use it to make all kinds of juice combinations for just drinking straight, or for smoothies or for raw soups and even for Popsicles. If you like fresh juice, go ahead and buy a juicer. I've had mine for 7 years and it's been great. Nothing makes me feel better as a mother than to serve my kids a tall glass of freshly made juice, or a Popsicle that contains no sugar or additives or a frosty vegetable/fruit smoothie that they scarf down with delight.
Black and Decker blender: $150
A good blender is essential for me, because I make so many smoothies and I also make my own almond milk. My goal is to eventually buy a Vitamix, which is a kind of super blender. It costs about $450, though, so I'm still saving up. A good blender really does make life easier.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For anyone who reads my blog...

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, but first I went on a frugal vacation (which I will post about soon!) and then I got the FLU literally the day I returned. I've been sick for 4 days, now, so hopefully I will get better soon and be able to continue blogging. Thanks to my readers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My new waffle maker

Years ago I had a waffle maker, but it was pretty cheap and it broke. Since then I've been looking for a frugal, but not cheaply made alternative. On Wednesday I went to Target and I finally found one! The waffle maker I bought was one I had looked at before, but never bought because it was $59. On Wednesday it was on sale for $8! I didn't hesitate for even a moment, before taking advantage of that awesome sale. (Then I was so elated I didn't hesitate for even a moment before I bought a $3 tea latte from Starbucks to celebrate!:P)
I love making waffles, because they are so easy and so very tasty that I can whip up a batch on the spur of the moment. Just this morning, I was tired and didn't feel like cooking breakfast and my kids were clamoring for pancakes. I was trying to convince them to eat some cheerios (it wasn't working) when I remembered my new waffle maker. Even the baby changed her tune from pancakes to waffles after I suggested it. I made honey bran waffles, which are not only very delicious, but healthy. I've found that waffles can almost always be made healthy with better results than you can get with pancakes or scones.
Now I just need that $250 stand mixer I've been looking at to go on sale!:P

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My 3 favorite "breakfast for dinner" menus

I like having breakfast for dinner, because breakfast foods are pretty much always frugal, tasty and quick to make! Here are my 3 favorite breakfast food menus.

Pancakes with grits and bacon

Pancake recipe
2 1/4C Bisquick
1C milk
2 eggs
1tsp baking powder
1Tbsp sugar
1Tbsp lemon juice
1/2C fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix together all ingredients except the blueberries in a large bowl until combined. Add the blueberries and stir a few times to incorporate them. Begin heating a pancake griddle or large skillet over medium high heat. The griddle or skillet is ready when a drop of water sizzles and jumps. Lightly coat the bottom of the skillet or griddle with butter and drop the batter onto it in 1/4-1/3C measures. Make sure to leave space between them for easy flipping. Cook the pancakes on the first side until bubbles appear all over the surface and the edges look pretty dry. Flip the pancakes and cook on the other side until done. Remove the pancakes to a cookie sheet or plate. Repeat the process until all of the batter is used. Serve the pancakes with syrup and enjoy!
Note: I use Bisquick in this recipe because it is easy and I bought a HUGE box of it from sams club for like $4.

Grits recipe
4C water
1C grits
1tsp salt
4tsp butter
Heat the water until boiling. Slowly add the grits, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat, cover and simmer the grits until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add butter and salt, stirring to combine. This makes a lot of grits, but the recipe can be easily halved. I bought 15 pounds of grits from sams club a while back for like $5!

Waffles with eggs and grits and fruit topping

Honey bran waffles
3/4C all purpose flour
3/4C whole wheat or spelt flour
1/2C oat or wheat bran
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp baking soda
1 1/2C buttermilk
1/3C honey
1/2C melted butter (1 stick)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2tsp vanilla extract
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon. Don't stir a whole lot, or the waffles will be tough. Cook in a preheated waffle iron until done.

Fruit topping
1/4C water
1/4C sugar
1C blueberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries
1Tbsp lemon juice
Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the berries and lemon juice, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Polenta with eggs, bacon and cinnamon rolls

Polenta recipe
1C cornmeal
5C water
1Tbsp butter
1-2tsp salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour all ingredients into a large ovenproof skillet and stir until blended. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir briefly. Return skillet to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the polenta rest for 5 minutes, then pour it into a large, buttered bowl. I like this polenta even more than grits!

Classy cinnamon rolls
(These take less than an hour to make!)
For the dough:
3/4C cottage cheese(whole milk!)
1/3C buttermilk
1/4C sugar
4Tbsp butter, melted
1tsp vanilla extract
2C unbleached flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp baking powder

For the filling:
1 1/2Tbsp melted butter
2/3C brown sugar
1 1/2tsp cinnamon
1C chopped pecans or walnuts

For the glaze:
2/3C powdered sugar
2-3Tbsp milk or cream
1tsp vanilla extract

Make the dough first. In a food processor combine the cottage cheese, buttermilk, sugar, butter and vanilla. Process until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and pulse just until the dough clumps together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead it about 6 times with floured hands. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 12x15 inches.

Make the filling second. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving about 1/2 inch on all sides that is unbuttered. Combine the cinnamon, sugar and nuts together in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the buttered part of the dough and lightly press it in with your hands. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, lengthwise. Gently press the seam to seal and roll the dough so that it is seam side down on the counter. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces. Place the rounds into a greased, 9 or 10 inch springform pan. The rounds should be lightly pressed together in the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the springform pan and then remove the springform ring. Transfer the rolls to a large plate.

Make the glaze last. Mix the sugar, milk and vanilla together in a bowl. It should have a smooth, thick, but pourable consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and let sit for 15 minutes. So delicious!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our windfall

March is a month of windfalls for my family. First we get our tax return and then my husband gets a reenlistment bonus payment every year on March 29Th. This year they will add up to $10,860 after taxes (the bonus has $1800 taken out of it!) Here's what we're doing with the money.
1. $10,000 in long term savings
2. $600 in our vacation fund (We're saving $3,000 for a trip to Disney world in October!)
3. $260 in "fun money"

It's not very exciting, I know, but our savings was pretty well drained last year when we bought our house and that extra $10,000 will bring us almost back up to where we were. Also the roof on our house is going to have to be replaced sometime soon , and the water heater is getting pretty old. I have to take my oldest daughter back to the orthodontist this summer as well and I know that's going to cost an arm and a leg!

It can be tough...Always saving, always waiting until it's "safe" to buy everything, but every time I'm tempted to just go ahead and buy that second car, or that swimming pool, or that new furniture, I think about back when my husband and I were first married and broke. We used to pretty much just live paycheck to paycheck and anytime something happened it was a major issue. It took a lot of time and hard work and sacrifice for us to get to the financially stable spot we're in now. That feeling of security, of knowing that the worst thing that could happen really isn't that bad, is way cooler than anything I could buy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

5 ways I've become more frugal in the past 3 years

I've always been a frugal person, but since the birth of my 3rd child 3 years ago, I've had to become even more so. I don't know why exactly, but we really started feeling the financial pinch after she was born! For one thing, we started having more definite goals, like buying a house and starting an IRA and going on vacation and buying a second car. All of these things would cost a lot of money and we didn't want to completely drain our savings account to pay for them. Here are the 5 main things I started doing to attain my dreams without hemorrhaging my life savings away.

I made a budget
I know personal finance books and blogs are always saying this, but it bears repeating: CREATE A BUDGET. I would say that creating a budget was the single most important thing I did in my quest to save more money. All I did was to figure out our monthly income after taxes ($3600) Add up all of our set monthly bills ($1300) and subtract the $1300 from the $3600. Then I took that number ($2300) and divided it by four ($575), because there are about 4 weeks in every month. Then I figured out how much money I would need every week for food ($125), gas($30) and miscellaneous expenses ($170). My weekly expenses add up to $325 per week, which I take out in cash and divide into separate envelopes. Using cash to pay for these expenses really helps us to stay on track. It's too easy to overspend when using a debit or credit card.(At least it is for us!) Anyway, if you add up my weekly money and set bills money, it comes out to $2600. This is $1000 less than my $3600 income. My goal is to save $500 per month and with this budget, I almost always meet that goal. Even if something unexpected happens (And it does...Every month) I still have a $500 buffer zone.

I bought a smaller house than the bank said I could afford
When my husband and I first went to the bank to apply for a loan, the loan officer said we could afford a mortgage payment of $1700 per month!!! On a $3600 a month income! Luckily, we knew that was crazy, but I still can't believe the bank people tried to convince us of that! We opted instead for a $805 a month mortgage with no PMI because we were able to put 20% down. The house we bought wasn't the biggest or the nicest house we looked at. It doesn't have 4 bedrooms or a finished basement, or big bathrooms. It DOES have a big kitchen and 2 porches and a huge backyard. Most importantly it has a mortgage that we don't have to struggle at all to pay every month. That peace of mind is worth more than 2500 square feet and separate bedrooms for each kid.

I started shopping at sams club and walmart for groceries
I never used to want to shop at these places because I am a total food snob. I wanted to shop at the gourmet store for aged beef and exotic grains and European butter! What I realised about a year ago is that I could save hundreds of dollars every month by shopping at walmart and sams club instead. Now I only go occasionally to the gourmet store to pick up hard to find items, and then only if it falls within my grocery budget.

I learned how to make expensive foods myself
I used to buy turnovers and scones and artisan bread and brownies and lemon curd and preserves at the store for a hefty and ridiculous price. It was mainly ridiculous because these items and many others are easy and cheap to make at home! With a little practice, pretty much anyone can be a gourmet cook.

I put up a clothesline
Last Summer my dad put up a clothesline for me in my back yard. The first month I used it instead of my dryer, my electric bill went down by $35! In the fall, spring and summer I use the clothesline for everything except my towels. Towels dry really stiff if you don't put them in the dryer.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frugal muffins

Buying muffins from the store or from a bakery is probably one of the most un-frugal things you could do. This is because muffins are some of the easiest to make and most frugal baked goods on Earth! Muffins are a quick bread, so that means you can easily whip up a batch on a whim (which is something that I often do!). Store bought muffins are extremely fattening and usually filled with a TON of sugar and preservatives. Homemade muffins can be made with less sugar, whole wheat flour, nutritious additions, less fat and best of all...No harmful chemicals. I eat them for breakfast, send them to school with my kids, give them to my kids as an after school snack and I even serve them as dessert! Anyone with an oven and a muffin tin can make these versatile treats. Here are a few of my favorite recipes!

Zucchini muffins
(I know this probably will seem like a weird type of muffin, but rest assured these are absolutely delicious!)
1 1/2C cake flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp powdered ginger
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/4tsp salt
2/3C finely chopped walnuts
2 eggs
3/4C brown sugar
1/2C canola oil or 1/4C walnut oil and 1/4C canola oil
2C grated zucchini
1/2C raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine flour, spices, baking soda and walnuts in a small bowl. Beat the eggs, sugar and oil together in a large bowl until very smooth. Add the zucchini and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and raisins and beat until just combined. Spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with paper muffin liners, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Blueberry muffins
4Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2C sugar
1 egg
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1C unbleached flour
1/2tsp baking soda
1/4tsp salt
1/3C sour cream or whole milk yogurt
3/4C fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Add half the flour mixture and half the sour cream to the butter mixture and using a rubber spatulas, fold until the flour is almost completely moistened. Add the remaining flour and sour cream and fold until completely combined. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with paper liners, filling the cups almost to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and the tops are lightly browned.

Carrot muffins
1 1/2C unbleached flour
1 1/2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
2tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2C canola oil, or 1/4C walnut oil and 1/4C canola oil
1C sugar
3C finely grated carrots
1/2C raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and sugar until well combined. Add the flour mixture and beat well until Incorporated. Beat in the carrots and raisins until combined. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way full and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are browned and spring back when lightly pressed. YUM!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Frugal anniversary

Tomorrow is my 8 year wedding anniversary. My husband and I got married on March 18, 2001 in what actually turned out to be a very frugal wedding ceremony! My mom's friend was a Notary Public and she came over to my parent's house and performed the ceremony for free. The whole thing literally took about 5 minutes and my husband and I still laugh about it, about how nervous we were and how we managed to flub our wedding vows. Our frugal wedding luckily set the stage for our frugal lifestyle afterwards. We started out our life together with no debt from a big wedding, so when we (unexpectedly!) had our first child right away...It wasn't nearly as financially devastating as it could've been. I've been a stay at home mom since I became pregnant with her and the only reason I was able to do that is we had no debt at all starting out. Even our car was paid off, because it was the one my parents bought me in my senior year of high school.
Anyway, here is what I plan to make for the occasion!

Frugal fish and corn chowder
4 slabs thick cut bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2-1tsp cumin(depending on taste)
1/4tsp turmeric
1tsp dried thyme or 1Tbsp fresh thyme
4C chicken broth
2C diced potatoes (if using russets, peel)
2C fresh or frozen corn
1C shredded carrots
1/2-1 pound orange roughy fillets, skin removed if present
1/2C heavy cream or evaporated whole milk
Cut the bacon into 1 inch dice. Cook over low heat until most of the fat is rendered and then turn the heat to high to crisp the bacon. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour out the bacon fat from the pan, reserving 2 Tbsp. Cook the onion and bell pepper in the reserved bacon fat for 5 minutes. Add the cumin, turmeric and thyme and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes, corn and carrots and bring to a boil. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add the orange roughy fillets, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flaking. Break up the fish fillets with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove the pan from the heat. Let the pan sit for about 10 minutes and then add a little of the cream or evaporated milk to see if it separates. If the chowder is still extremely hot, the cream might separate, so it's best to check. If the cream blends well with the chowder, add the rest and stir it in. Serve and enjoy! This is my favorite chowder. I make it a lot in the summer, when fresh corn is plentiful.

Rosemary scones
2C all purpose flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1tsp salt
2Tbsp sugar
2Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
6Tbsp butter
3/4C milk
1 egg
preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and rosemary in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. In a small bowl, combine the milk and egg. Add the milk mixture to the food processor and pulse until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and shape into a disk. Place the disk on a cookie sheet and pat it into a round about 1 inch thick. Cut the round into 8 wedges and separate them. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned and the bottoms are crisp and browned. These scones go well with pretty much any soup or chowder!

Lemon filled cake
2 1/2C self rising flour
1 1/2C sugar
1tsp vanilla
1C milk
1 stick butter, softened
3 eggs

1C sugar
1/4C light corn syrup
1/4C water
2 egg whites
1/4tsp cream of tartar
1/4tsp salt
1tsp vanilla

Lemon curd
3 eggs
3/4C sugar
1/3 fresh lemon juice
1Tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
6Tbsp butter, cold

(Make the cake first)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 2 round cake pans and line the bottoms with greased parchment. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Mix milk and vanilla together in a separate bowl. Add butter, eggs and 1/4C of the milk to the flour mixture and beat well with a mixer at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl down and add the remaining milk. Beat just until combined. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool for ten minutes and then remove the cake from the pans onto a wire rack to cool completely.

(The lemon curd can be made up to 2 weeks in advance)
Bring about 3 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest in the top of the double boiler and mix very well with a fork. Cook the egg mixture over the simmering water, stirring often for 8-10 minutes. It will thicken into a bright yellow sauce and coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the lemon curd from the heat and cut the butter into small chunks. Add the chunks a few at a time, stirring them well into the curd before adding the next batch. Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

(Make the frosting after the cake has cooled completely)
Bring about 3 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the top of the double boiler. Beat for 1 minute with a mixer at low speed. Place the top of the double boiler over the boiling water and lower the heat to maintain a simmer in the water below. Beat the egg mixture with a handheld mixer at high speed for 7-14 minutes, until it has tripled in volume and holds stiff, curly peaks when the beaters are stopped and slowly lifted. Remove from heat and add the vanilla, beating for 2 more minutes.

To assemble the cake, place one layer top side down on a cake stand or large plate. Spread the layer generously with the lemon curd. Place the second layer top side up over the lemon curd. Cover the cake with a complete and thick layer of frosting and enjoy your beautiful creation. Store this cake in the fridge.
Note: If you don't want to make lemon curd, you can use 1C of raspberry or blackberry jam instead.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My favorite frugal lunches

Lunch is probably my favorite meal, because I'm only cooking for me, so I can eat whatever I want. It's probably also my most frugal meal of the day, because I use this meal as an opportunity to eat leftovers and other odds and ends I can't really use for breakfast or dinner. Here are some of my favorites!

Homemade soup with muffins
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 pound chopped vegetables, such as carrots, celery, cabbage, zucchini, corn, etc
1 pound meat, cooked and shredded or diced
1/2C dry rice
4C chicken or vegetable broth
2Tbsp fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, dill, sage, tarragon or basil.
1Tbsp acid, such as lemon juice or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce

Heat 1Tbsp oil in a large soup kettle. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the broth and tomato and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables, meat and rice and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the fresh herbs, acid ingredient and salt to taste. Let sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors meld. Some of my favorite soup combinations are:
1. zucchini, corn, carrots, shrimp, tarragon and lemon juice.
2. Carrots, cabbage, zucchini, peas, chicken, rosemary and Worcestershire sauce.
3. corn, carrots, celery, white fish (such as orange roughy) dill and soy sauce.

Munchable muffins
(preheat oven to 400 degrees)
2C all purpose flour, or 1C white flour and 1C whole wheat flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1C milk
1/2C melted butter or vegetable oil
2/3C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1C blueberries, blackberries or raspberries (optional)

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir a few times. Add the optional berries and stir the batter until all dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into a muffin tin lined with paper muffin liners. Fill each one up to about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 20 minutes. I have to hide these muffins from my husband so there will still be a couple left for me!

Artisan Apple balsamic salad
1/4 large English cucumber, peeled and cubed
8 grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 sweet apple, peeled and diced
10 baby carrots, chopped
1/2 Haas avocado, peeled and diced
1-2Tbsp walnut oil (walnut oil is kind of expensive, but it lasts for a long time in the fridge)
1-2Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Mix together all fruits and vegetables together in a large bowl. Drizzle oil and vinegar on top and mix well. Add salt to taste and mix again. I love this salad!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My favorite frugal dinners

Pita bread hummus dinner
Pita bread recipe
1 1/4C water
2Tbsp oil
2tsp yeast
1 1/2C white flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
2tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 475
Place the ingredients in the order given in a bread machine and set it to the dough cycle. Add more flour if the dough seems too wet. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough to a floured counter and punch it down. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into balls. Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet and cover them with damp paper towels. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. Grease a second baking sheet and set it aside. Working with one dough ball at a time and keeping the rest covered, gently stretch each ball into a flat round about 6 inches across. Place 4 on each baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time on the bottom oven rack for 4 minutes. These pitas are best consumed right after baking.

Delicious Hummus recipe
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
1/4C tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice from 1 lemon
3Tbsp water
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with pita bread!

Cooling cucumber salad
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
salt to taste
2Tbsp olive oil
1-2Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Place cucumbers and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the salt, oil and vinegar and mix well together. Serve with pita bread and delicious hummus for an awesome dinner!

Chinese stir fry recipe
1 1/2C cooked shrimp
2C broccoli florets
2C shredded cabbage
1C shredded carrots
1C sugar snap peas
2 large zucchini, cut into long spears
3 scallions, chopped
1Tbsp minced ginger
sauce ingredients:
3Tbsp rice vinegar
1Tbsp corn starch
4Tbsp soy sauce
1Tbsp roasted sesame seed oil
1Tbsp brown sugar
Mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl
Heat 2Tbsp oil in a large wok or dutch oven. Add the broccoli and cabbage and zucchini and stir fry for 4 minutes. Add the carrots, ginger, shrimp, scallions and snap peas and stir fry for 2 minutes. Drain any accumulated liquid from the pan and return to heat. Stir sauce ingredients and add them to the pan. Stir fry for about 1 minute, or until sauce visibly thickens and begins to coat the vegetables. Remove from heat and serve over hot rice.

These are my 2 favorite frugal dinners. I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, February 20, 2009

How my fireplace helps me stay frugal

I have found my fireplace to be an invaluable tool in my quest to stay frugal this winter. Now I live in north Georgia, where it's never all THAT cold, but it does get below freezing here and people in Georgia tend to go crazy at the first sign of a chill. My neighbor was just telling me yesterday that his last gas bill was $180. Mine was $72. The reason for this difference is that he keeps his heater set at 75 degrees and uses his fireplace to store books (seriously). I keep my heater set at 64 degrees and I use my fireplace if the outside temperature gets below 45. I also wear a sweater instead of turning on the heat and I drink a lot of hot tea.
Now my fireplace is the wood burning kind, so I have to factor in the cost of the wood in my savings. I usually buy 1 cord of wood every fall and it ran me $80 this year and that includes delivery. For anyone who doesn't know, a cord of wood is a HUGE amount. It's 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide and I would say about 20 inches deep. In Georgia I only have to use my heater from late October to early April, so about 5 months total. Last year my overall average monthly gas bill was $65. If you factor in the cost of the firewood spread out over 5 months, that makes the average monthly heating bill $81.($80 divided by 5 is $16 and I added that to my average monthly cost of $65)
The fireplace isn't just a valuable savings tool, it's a pleasant perk of the winter. It's nice to sit in front of it with my kids and drink hot chocolate. Sometimes the kids and I toast marshmallows in it and make smores.(actually...We do that a lot!:P) The fireplace also makes my house smell great...Like camping in the woods.
The low utilities in the winter help me save up for the summer, where my average electric bill is about $180. I still haven't figured out a way to make the savage heat less expensive.:P I know that up north, it gets so cold that the winter bills are the ones people have to save up and prepare for. They could do what I do except in the summer. Maybe don't run the air conditioner unless it gets above a certain temperature and use fans. Drink a tall, cold glass of lemonade, or iced tea. It's not just good for your savings account, it's good for the environment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Afternoon tea for Americans

I like to watch a lot of English period films. I like the stories and the costumes and I like the fact that the British appear to always be eating... at least in their movies.:P A few years ago my parents went on a vacation to Ireland and it sounds like the most awesome place ever. When they got back, all they talked about was Irish food, beer and afternoon tea. They said it was so restful and fun to just take a break every day around 4:00, sit down and have sweet, milky tea with delicious scones and biscuits. Now I'm all for any excuse to sit down and have a snack, so I decided to start having an afternoon tea time myself. I discovered two truths on that day. 1.Afternoon tea is a GREAT idea! 2.Scones are easy to make, frugal and awesomely tasty! Here are some of my favorite afternoon tea recipes.

Ginger scones
2C flour (I like to use 1C all purpose flour and 1C whole wheat flour)
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp powdered ginger
1/3C sugar
3/4C chopped crystallized ginger (available in pretty much every grocery store)
6Tbsp butter, cold
1 egg
3/4C buttermilk (or 2tsp cider vinegar with enough milk to make 3/4C)

Preheat oven to 400
Mix together flour, sugar, powdered ginger, salt, baking powder and crystallized ginger. Cut up butter into small pieces and add to the flour, cutting the butter in with a pastry blender(about $3 at the store). When the butter is about the size of small peas, add the milk and the egg all at once (Lightly beat the egg and milk together first) Mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Add more flour if the dough is too wet. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and shape it into a ball. Transfer it to a greased cookie sheet and pat the dough into a round about 7 inches across and 1 inch thick. Cut the round into eight wedges and separate them. Bake @400 for 18 minutes. These scones go well with pretty much any tea. I have them with iced tea in the summer and hot tea in the winter.

Rosemary scones
2C flour (I like 1C all purpose and 1C whole wheat)
1Tbsp baking powder
2Tbsp sugar
2Tbsp chopped, fresh rosemary
1/2tsp salt
6Tbsp butter
3/4C buttermilk or sour milk(2tsp cider vinegar with enough milk to make 3/4C)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400
Mix together flour, sugar, salt, rosemary and baking powder. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the flour, cutting it in with a pastry blender. When the butter is the size of small peas, add the milk and egg(beat them together briefly beforehand) to the mixture. Stir together until the dough forms a shaggy ball. Add more flour if the dough is too wet. Turn the dough onto a floured counter and shape into a ball. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet and pat into a round 1 inch thick and about 7 inches across. Cut into 8 wedges and separate them. Bake @400 for 18 minutes.

Cinnamon chip scones
2C flour(I like 1C all purpose flour and 1C whole wheat)
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon
1/4C sugar
6Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2C cinnamon chips
3/4C buttermilk or sour milk (2tsp cider vinegar with enough milk to make 3/4C)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the cinnamon chips and stir to combine. Briefly beat together the milk and egg and then add to the flour all at once. Stir until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Add more flour if dough is too wet. Turn dough out onto a floured counter and shape into a ball. Transfer the dough to a greased cookie sheet and pat into a round 1 inch thick and about 7 inches across. Cut into 8 wedges and separate them. Bake @400 for 18 minutes.

Summer mint iced tea
6 herbal mint tea bags
6C boiling water
1/3C honey or 5Tbsp sugar

Pour the boiling water over the teabags in a large, glass pitcher. Allow to brew for 10 minutes. Remove the teabags and add the honey or sugar, stirring well. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Pour over a tall glass of ice and serve with a scone!

Everyday English tea
1 teabag of earl grey, roobios or chai tea
6 oz boiling water
6 oz milk, heated until steaming, but not boiling
sugar to taste.

Pour the boiling water over the teabag in a large mug and allow to brew for 5 minutes. Remove the teabag and pour in the hot milk. Add sugar to taste and for about 15 minutes, forget all of those things you still have to get done today.

Awesome news for TV watchers!

Yesterday I finally realised my dream of getting cable for under $13 a month. I'm going to get it from Comcast for $10 a month! It's a special they are running right now and it includes channels 2-23. I know that's a pretty limited cable package, but since the digital conversion, my broadcast channels don't work anymore! I'm going to get a converter box, but my $40 coupon won't arrive until April. I'm thinking this cable might be better anyway, because my broadcast reception is pretty bad. Also, I only got ABC and PBS.
The number to call is 1-888-comcast. They are charging me a $14.95 hookup fee and that includes up to 4 rooms. And here I was all set to buy a bigger antenna!:P

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Delicious drinks to quench your thirst without bleeding you dry

Summer is the best of times and the worst of times for the frugal person living in Georgia. On the one hand, Georgia is the perfect place to frugally grow a kitchen garden and dry clothes outside on a line. The long growing season ensures a bountiful crop and the hot weather ensures that any clothes hung outside will dry in a couple of hours. Best of all, anything you can't grow yourself is available at any number of farm stands for a great price. The downside to the Georgia Summer is of course...The heat! Just this week it's been in the upper 90's and even over 100 degrees on a couple of days. The intense Summer heat makes for big energy bills, even when the house is kept at a frugal 78 degrees. The best way to stay cool in Summer is by drinking a lot of cooling beverages and by eating Popsicles. Here are some of our favorites!

Soothing Summer Smoothie
1C orange juice
1C soy milk, cows milk or almond milk
1 or 2 frozen bananas
1C pineapple
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. Pour into 2 or 3 glasses and drink up for a refreshing snack!

Mango Mania
2C soy milk, almond milk or cows milk
1 large mango
1-2 frozen bananas
1C sliced strawberries
1-2Tbsp maple syrup
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve up a tasty Summer treat!

Playful Pudding
2C soy milk, almond milk or cows milk
1 large mango
1/2 Haas avocado
1C strawberries
1-2Tbsp maple syrup
Blend until smooth. This is still a smoothie, but the avocado gives it a pudding like texture that my kids think is funny. Avocado is really good for you as it contains a lot of healthy fats, potassium, vitamin E and other important nutrients.

Yummy yogurt
2C orange juice
1C pineapple
1C strawberries
1 frozen banana
1/2C plain or vanilla yogurt
1-2Tbsp maple syrup
Blend until smooth and enjoy!

All of these Summer smoothies can be frozen into pop molds and eaten that way as well, with the exception of the "Playful Pudding" smoothie. Avocado does better when not frozen, in my experience.

Party food for penny pinchers!

Easy Strata
1quart half&half
12 large eggs
1tsp salt
pepper to taste
12-14 slices fluffy white sandwich bread
8oz mushrooms, sliced, 1 small onion, peeled and diced, 1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced, 1C frozen corn, thawed. (Saute all vegetables except corn in a generous Tbsp oil, until softened)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
12oz sharp cheddar, grated

Whisk half&half, salt and pepper and eggs together in a large bowl until combined. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the baking dish with 6 slices of bread. If necessary, cut strips to fill in any gaps. Combine all of the vegetables and scatter half over the bread. Sprinkle on half the scallions and half the cheese.Pour 1C egg mixture over the bread. Start another layer with 6 slices of bread, cutting strips to fill any gaps. Scatter remaining vegetables over the top, followed by remaining scallions and cheese. Slowly pour remaining egg mixture over the bread. Cover strata and let stand for half an hour.
Preheat oven to 325. Bake strata on middle rack for 50 minutes. Leaving strata on the middle rack, turn on broiler and broil until strata is spotted brown and puffy (About 5 minutes). Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
This strata can also be made up to a day in advance. After assembling, cover and refrigerate. Add 10 minutes to the cooking time when baking and that's it!

Orange strata with cranberries and walnuts
12oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2tsp grated orange zest
9 large eggs
3C half&half
2Tbsp sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
12-14 slices white sandwich bread
1C dried cranberries
1/2C chopped walnuts
1C orange marmalade
1/4C orange juice

Combine cream cheese and orange zest in a medium bowl and beat with a mixer. Add eggs one at a time to form a lumpy batter. beat in half and half and sugar and vanilla. Batter will still be lumpy, so don't worry. Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line bottom of baking dish with 6 slices of bread. If necessary, cut strips to fill any gaps. Pour 1C egg mixture over the bread, then sprinkle with 1/2C cranberries. Make another layer of bread, cutting strips to fill any spaces. Slowly pour remaining egg mixture over the top. Cover strata and let stand for half an hour. Preheat oven to 325. Uncover the strata and sprinkle the remaining cranberries and the walnuts over the top. Lightly press them into the bread. Bake until strata is set and puffy, 35-40 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the marmalade and orange juice in a small saucepan. When strata is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to stand for 10 minutes. Serve it with the warm orange sauce mixture. (This strata can also be prepared ahead. After assembling, cover and refrigerate overnight. Add 5-10 minutes to the cooking time and you're done!)

Cheddar puffs
8Tbsp butter
1C all purpose flour
2 large eggs
4 large egg whites
1C grated cheddar cheese
1/2C thinly sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 400. Bring butter, 1C water, a big pinch of salt and pepper to taste to a simmer in a medium saucepan. When butter has melted, remove from heat. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon to form a thick dough. Transfer to a bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in the whites. Cool dough to tepid, then stir in the cheese and the scallions. Spoon dough onto greased baking sheets in 1Tbsp portions, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until crisp and golden, about 25-30 minutes. These are awesomely good!

Tasty scones
1/2C sour cream or whole milk yogurt
1 egg
2C flour
6Tbsp sugar
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp baking soda
1/2C dried cranberries or currants
8Tbsp butter, frozen

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk together sour cream or yogurt and egg until smooth. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cranberries together in a medium bowl. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture. Toss to combine. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until dough begins to clump together. Press dough with your hands until it comes together into a ball. Knead the dough 3 or 4 times. Place dough onto a lightly floured counter and pat into a 7 or 8 inch circle. Use a sharp knife to cut circle into 8 triangles. Place them 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Serve these scones with some hot, herbal tea and spread them with preserves for a real treat!

Mulled cider
4 cinnamon sticks
2tsp allspice berries
2tsp cloves(whole)
zest of one orange
1 gallon apple cider

Combine spices and 1C water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour cider into a large dutch oven or stock pot. Add spice mixture to cider and bring to a simmer over low heat. Turn off heat and pour into mugs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Joy of Bread Baking: For your senses and your bank account!

I love freshly made bread. I love kneading the dough, shaping the loaf, the way my kitchen smells while it's baking and finally, that first delicious bite...Slathered with butter and dripping with honey. Luckily for me, making bread is both easy and frugal.

I discovered the joy of bread baking when I first got married. My husband had just joined the military and he was making about $1500 per month before taxes. I was pregnant and we didn't have any furniture or a car or really anything to speak of, except for each other. I knew that if we were ever going to have the things we wanted for us and our baby, I was going to have to get really frugal, really fast. I started that penny pinching right in the kitchen.

Baking bread is probably one of the best and most frugal things you can do in the kitchen. Store bought bread can't begin to compare in taste or price or even in health benefits. Homemade bread has no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Store bought bread is positively SATURATED with these harmful substances and we as consumers pay a premium for the privilege of eating them. Do yourself a favor and enjoy real, wholesome bread instead of chemical saturated Styrofoam. Here are some recipes to get you started!

Basic sandwich bread

2C warm water

1/3C dry milk

3Tbsp sugar

2tsp yeast

1 1/2tsp salt

3Tbsp oil

6C flour

Mix water, dry milk, sugar and oil together in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes. Add flour and salt and mix well until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking. Place dough back in bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (1-2 hours). Turn dough out on counter and punch down. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 loaves. Place loaves in 2 greased loaf pans, cover and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake @350 for 40 minutes. Remove loaves from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove from loaf pans and cool on a wire rack. This bread makes awesome sandwiches!

Artisan bread

Sponge (dough starter) ingredients

1C bread flour

3Tbsp wheat germ

1/4tsp yeast

1tsp honey or sugar

1 1/3C warm water

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together and whisk for 2 minutes. The batter should be very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. In a different bowl, mix together 2C bread flour, 1/2tsp yeast and 1 1/2tsp salt. Mix the yeast into the flour before adding the salt, because the salt will kill the yeast if it comes into direct contact with it. Pour the flour mixture over the sponge. DO NOT MIX IN. Cover the bowl and let sit for 4 hours at room temperature.

Mix the flour mixture into the sponge with a large wooden spoon. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for a few minutes. Turn the bowl upside down over the dough and let sit for 20 minutes. This will make the dough less sticky. Remove the bowl and knead for another 5-10 minutes, adding more flour to prevent sticking, if needed.
Place the dough in a large bowl and let it rise for 45 minutes. Press the dough down, fold it in half and then in half again, rounding the edges. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and press down on it to flatten it slightly. Round the dough into a ball and set it onto a greased baking sheet. Invert a large bowl over the shaped dough and let it rise for 1 hour. Remove the bowl and place the dough on the baking sheet in the oven. Bake @475 for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 425 and continue baking for 20 minutes. Remove bread to a wire rack and allow to cool before cutting. This bread is wonderful eaten fresh from the oven and slathered with butter and honey or butter and preserves.

Flax seed loaf
3Call purpose flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
1/2C ground flax seed
1 1/4tsp yeast
2Tbsp honey or sugar
1 3/4C warm water
2tsp salt
In a large bowl, stir together the water, honey, flax seed and yeast. Add the flours and salt, stirring until all the flour is moistened. Knead in the bowl until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, adding some more flour to prevent sticking, if needed.
Place the dough in a large bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour. Turn the dough onto a floured counter and punch down. Shape into a loaf and transfer to a greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Bake @375 for40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and unmold bread onto a wire rack. Allow to cool before cutting. We like to eat this bread with peanut butter and blackberry preserves.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Have your cake and save money too!

Desserts are probably my favorite part about being frugal. Usually I can make something really tasty for practically no money, but it still seems like I'm having a treat. It's not so hard being frugal if you know you can still have those little "extras." Here are my favorite desserts.

Pumpkin pudding

1 can solid pack pumpkin

2 apples, cored, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2C fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs

1 1/2C maple syrup

1 3/4C rolled oats (NOT quick oats)

1/3C ground flax seed or wheat germ

1Tbsp butter, melted

1/4C finely chopped walnuts (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin and eggs and beat well. Add the apples, cranberries 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 3/4C maple syrup. In another bowl, combine oats, remaining cinnamon and maple syrup, melted butter, flax seed and walnuts (if using). Stir until combined and crumbly. Mix half of oat mixture in with the pumpkin mixture. Transfer pumpkin mixture to a greased, square 9x9 cake pan. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture on top. Bake @350 for 35 minutes. Serve warm or chilled with cool whip on top!

Oatmeal cookies

4C rolled oats (NOT quick oats)

3/4C dry milk

1Tbsp cinnamon

1/2C ground flax seed

3/4C butter, melted

2 eggs

3/4C brown sugar

1/2C almond milk(or cow or soy)

1/2C raisins

1/2C chocolate chips

preheat oven to 325

In a large bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, almond milk and eggs. Beat well to combine. Add oats, cinnamon, flax, and dry milk. Stir until almost combined and then add raisins and chocolate chips. Stir until well combined. If dough seems too dry, add a little more milk and stir again. Bake in batches on ungreased cookie sheets for 10-12 minutes. These cookies really hit the spot as dessert or an afternoon snack. I like to serve them with hot tea in the winter and cold milk in the summer.

Fudge I (maybe this one isn't especially healthy!)

3C sugar

1 5oz can evaporated milk

2C semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 7oz jar marshmallow fluff

12Tbsp unsalted butter

1tsp vanilla

Combine evaporated milk, sugar and butter in a medium saucepan. Heat to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff and vanilla. Stir mixture until well combined. Pour fudge into a 9x9 inch square pan lined with aluminum foil. Let sit for 4 hours undisturbed. Cut into squares and enjoy! Fudge makes a great frugal gift. People love it and it costs very little money to make. Chocolate chips can be purchased in bulk at sams club to make this recipe even less expensive.

Fudge II(This fudge doesn't firm up as well as the other one, but man is it tasty!)

1C unsalted butter

4 1/2C sugar

1 12oz can evaporated milk

2 1/4C semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 7oz jar marshmallow fluff

2 tsp vanilla

4C chopped pecans (optional)

Cook sugar and evaporated milk in a medium sauce pan for exactly 11 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the butter, chocolate, marshmallow fluff and vanilla and stir until well combined. Add pecans (if using) and stir to mix well. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and allow to cool completely. Chill overnight before cutting into squares. Store in the fridge.

Chess Pie

1 unbaked pie shell

1/2C melted and cooled butter

1C sugar

3Tbsp flour

4 beaten eggs

1C buttermilk

1Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1tsp vanilla

dash of salt

Preheat oven to 400.

Roll out pie shell and fit into pie pan.(Or use a premade pie shell) Mix sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, butter and buttermilk and mix well. Stir in the lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Pour into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and continue baking for 35 minutes, or until browned on top. Remove pie from oven and cool completely before serving.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cleaning products that save the planet (And your wallet!)

I'm always seeing "green" cleaning products at the store that cost a bundle and probably aren't that "green" anyway! About 2 years ago, I read a book called, "Clean House, Clean Planet" that introduced me to many easy to make recipes for cleaning products. Since reading that book, I have made all of my cleansers myself and it has been fun and profitable. Here are some of my favorites.

Glass cleaner

White vinegar


Peppermint or tea tree essential oil (optional)

Fill a spray bottle half with water and then half with vinegar. Add 25 drops of essential oil if desired. Cover bottle and shake. This glass cleaner works great on mirrors and windows.

Earth Paste

2 1/2C baking soda

1/2C liquid soap (I STRONGLY recommend Dr. Bronners liquid soap here. It is sold in the "natural" section of supermarkets and I've even seen it at Target in the health and beauty section! My favorite scent is the peppermint one.)

1/4C water

2Tbsp white vinegar

Mix together baking soda and liquid soap. Add water and mix well. Add the vinegar LAST as it will cause the mixture to foam up. Mix well and tackle that dirty bathroom! You might want to use the glass cleaner as a rinse after using Earth Paste. Sometimes the baking soda leaves a slight residue, but the glass cleaner gets it right off. Just spray it on and watch the residue dissolve.

Floor Cleaner

1 bucket water

1/2C white vinegar (I don't actually measure. This is an approximate estimate.)

Pour vinegar into mop bucket and start mopping!

Laundry detergent
(This may be one of my favorite recipes of all!)
Dr. Bronners sal suds (This can be found in natural food stores in the cleaning products section)
1/2C baking soda

Pour 1/4C sal suds into washing machine. Add 1/2C baking soda and start machine. The sal suds make the clothes smell sweetly of pine and the baking soda softens and deodorizes. In the summer I hang my clothes out on a clothesline to dry and they come out beautiful and fresh with no static cling!

Scented baking soda
1 box of baking soda (I prefer the 2 pound ones)
essential oil
Put 50 drops essential oil in a 2 pound box of baking soda and mix well with a fork. This baking soda can be used for cleaning surfaces, in laundry or just for deodorizing.

Shampoo and vinegar rinse
Dr bronners soap (I prefer tea tree)
2Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Pour the vinegar into a large cup and fill with warm water. Shampoo hair with dr. bronners soap and rinse. Pour vinegar rinse over hair and rinse again. I have waist length hair and this is how I've been shampooing it for the past year. After I found out how toxic shampoo and conditioner are, I never wanted to use them again. My hair feels better and looks prettier than it ever did when I used shampoo on it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Frugal snacks for hungry kids (or anyone else!)

I have 3 kids who always seem to want to eat. (I guess they get that from me.:P) Since we are a 1 income family, that means I have to come up with frugal, yet healthy snacks (So I don't get as big as a house!). I could resort to prepackaged snacks, but they cost a ton of money and offer pretty much no nutrition. It always boggles my mind when I see low income people like myself, buying single serving packages of chips and cookies and gummy candy. Those snacks are not just outrageously overpriced, they are also bad for you! You're much better off making your own snacks that will benefit your body and your wallet. Here are some of my favorites.

Plain yogurt with maple syrup and berries
2C plain whole milk or low fat yogurt
1C fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries or mulberries are best)
4Tbsp maple syrup

Put 1/2C yogurt in each of 4 bowls. Drizzle 1Tbsp maple syrup over yogurt and scatter 1/4C berries over top. Enjoy!

Strawberry almond milk shake
2C almond milk (You can buy this or make it fresh. I prefer to make it myself. The recipe will follow) Or cow or soy milk
12 fresh strawberries
1 or 2 frozen bananas (To freeze bananas, simply peel and place in a zip lock bag)
1 peeled mango (optional)
1Tbsp maple syrup

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. I can't even describe how good these are.

Almond milk
1C almonds, soaked for at least 4 hours
4C cold water
Place almonds and water in a blender and blend for 3-4 minutes. Strain through a clean dish towel into a bowl or pitcher. Almond milk will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

Apple banana pops
1C apple juice (I prefer freshly squeezed, but bottled is just fine.)
2 bananas
1C almond milk (Or cow or soy milk)
1 tsp cinnamon

Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into pop molds and freeze for 8 hours or overnight. You can drink any leftover smoothie for a delicious treat. My kids go crazy for these pops!

Mashed avocado salad with corn chips
1 ripe avocado, mashed with 1/2 tsp spike seasoning or 1/4 tsp salt and 1Tbsp lemon juice
1 pickling cucumber, peeled and diced
1 handful grape tomatoes, halved or 1 regular tomato, diced
small handful of sprouts (optional)

Add cucumber, tomato and sprouts (if using) to mashed avocado and mix very well. Serve with corn chips. Avocados and grape tomatoes can be purchased very cheap at sams club.

Ants on a log
Several stalks celery, washed and dried
peanut butter

spread peanut butter inside celery and line ants up along the top. It's that easy!

Mango with almond milk and brown sugar
1 ripe mango
splash of almond milk (Or cow or soy)
1 tsp brown sugar

Peel mango and cut into chunks. Place mango into a bowl and pour a splash of milk over it. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Mango is delicious by itself, but this just takes it up a notch.

4C old fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick oats!!!!)
1/2 C flour
1/2C dry milk
2C shelled pecans
1/4C canola or corn oil
3/4C maple syrup

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour oil and syrup into bowl and mix ingredients VERY well. Spread onto two greased cookie sheets and bake @325 for 20 minutes. Remove cookie sheets and stir granola around. Place cookie sheets back in oven, switching their positions and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove cookie sheets from oven and cool completely. Store granola in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. This granola makes a tasty topping for yogurt.

More frugal recipes

Last night I was trying to figure out a dinner I could make without going to the store. We budget $125 per week for groceries (for our family of 5) and I really want to save $25 of that this week for our trip to the zoo. That way we don't have to use next weeks money to pay for the trip. We have a zoo membership, so we go there a lot. Anyway, I was looking in the cabinets and I found like 5 cans of albacore tuna (whoa...I had forgotten about those!)and some mini penne. In the fridge I had some carrots, some garlic, some ginger and mayonnaise and sour cream. This is what I ended up making for dinner.

Tuna pasta salad
1 box of mini penne or sea shells or any other small, short pasta
1 12oz can of tuna (or 2 6 oz cans) preferably albacore, drained well
3 green onions, sliced
1/2C light mayonnaise
1/2C light sour cream
15 grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
2tsp lemon juice (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water for 1 minute. In a large bowl, combine tuna, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice and green onions and mix well. Add pasta and mix well again. Add grape tomatoes (if using) and mix again. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. This can either be served right away or refrigerated and served chilled. I thought this came out awesome!

Carrot ginger soup
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1C leftover mashed potatoes (optional)
4C vegetable or chicken broth

Heat about 1Tbsp butter or oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add ginger and carrots and saute until ginger is fragrant. Add broth and leftover potatoes (if using) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until carrots are tender. transfer soup to a blender (working in batches if necessary) and puree soup until smooth. transfer back to pot and serve. I ate this soup with corn chips and it was really good! You can use less ginger if you don't love it like I do.:P