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