Thursday, September 30, 2010

Making Do With What You Have

Creative thinking and being willing to compromise goes a long way when your goal is to either save money, be more earth friendly, or declutter.

I'm not a big spender by any means and very rarely am I overtaken by a case of the "wants". So when I actually do desire something that would make my life easier and it isn't insanely expensive, it sometimes sparks an urge to spend that may not be so wise.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Once Upon a Garden

Once upon a time I lived in a house with a decently sized yard. Nothing spectacularly huge, but it was enough to be able to grow lots of fruits and veggies, have a swing set, and still have plenty of grassy area to enjoy. It was a great place to grow up, but I never appreciated it enough until I moved away, each time moving to home with progressively smaller and smaller yards, until my current home which has absolutely no yard. My last home had a small yard, but again, you only fully realize what a great thing you had when you no longer have access to it.

Recently, I've seen people with yards I can only dream of owning, and to my amazement, they don't take full advantage of the blessing they have.
This list was made based on things I've seen, but lest you think I'm just being judgmental, the vast majority are based on mistakes that I personally made and would like to not repeat.

If I had a yard...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Homemade Cottage Cheese

Can I be a little bit honest here? I'm not quite sure I know what the difference is between ricotta and cottage cheese. I got this recipe from a blog I used to read and it claimed to be ricotta cheese, but it tastes like cottage cheese to me, so I'll just go with that.
To make homemade cottage/ricotta cheese is quite easy and you end up with a cheese that tastes, in my expert opinion, exactly like store bought cottage cheese. I used it to make the lasagna I made for an event I catered and attended today and it was an absolute hit!

Homemade Cottage Cheese

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Religion and Frugality

I've had some interesting discussions the past few days about religion and frugality. I do prefer to keep my religious beliefs off my blog, aside for some very general things. However, I did want to throw out a question to you readers, because, frankly, I'm curious to see how you'll respond.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Preserve Food?

There's lots of talk about preserving around the blogosphere lately, but some people probably push thoughts of that aside, figuring that preserving can't possibly apply to them. Preserving, after all, is for people with large farms or gardens who've harvested enough food that they can't possibly eat it all, so they preserve the excess. Alternatively, they think that in order to preserve food, one must first spend money special equipment, again making it irrelevant to the average Jane.
Preserving is for everyone and has many benefits. Here's why you should preserve food, even if you're not a farmer or gardener, and how you can do it even without investing in expensive equipment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homemade Breadcrumbs- Extreme Frugality Edition

Once upon a time, I bought ready made breadcrumbs. Their price wasn't so bad, so I never thought twice about making that purchase.
Then one day I learned just how simple it was to make your own homemade bread crumbs, and from then on, I never bought them again.
The method of making homemade breadcrumbs is fairly common knowledge, but my extreme frugality edition puts a new twist on the old favorite.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Benefit Of The Doubt

As human beings, as much as we (myself included) dislike assumptions and judgments being made about ourselves, we sometimes wrongly make judgments on other people. As an  extremely thrifty person, when I see others doing pretty unfrugal things, I do sometimes judge them and label then in my mind as "the anti-thrift".
Judging others and labeling them with such titles, even if only silently, is wrong, because you never know the whole story.
Occasionally I get a little wakeup call to put me in my place, stop judging, and give the benefit of the doubt, because sometimes, someone who on the surface might look quite unthrifty, deserves credit or being money smart in ways you'd never expect from them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

From Scratch- Always Worthwhile?

I'm a big "make-it-from-scratch"-er, and sometimes you wonder... is making things from scratch always worthwhile?
As always, the answer to this question is- it depends.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rich and Frugal?

I was asked a very thought provoking question by a reader in response to my post on what to do with extra money you get. She asked "Is frugality only for poor people? What about those who actually make a lot of money?"
In a nutshell, no. I think everyone should be frugal, even rich people. Frugality for rich people, though, is different than my brand of frugality.
Why should rich people be frugal, and what is frugality for rich folk? To answer that, we first need to define frugality.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Sample Frugal Homeschool Curriculum

I started a series on frugal homeschooling and then got sick and that got put on pause (still recovering now), but I got a wonderful guest post submission from Carol Schultz, author of "In The Trenches" about the very frugal curriculum she used when homeschooling her son, which I am happy to share with you for inspiration. I have to admit, I'm a bit envious of her kid- it seems like he's got a really great mom full of terrific ideas!

Sample Frugal Homeschool Curricula

Homeschooling does not have to break the budget. In the community I lived there were many homeschool families and the curriculum ranged from extensive prepared programs to do-it-yourselfers. I had home schooled my son in kindergarten using the children's Bible, flash cards, and a deck of playing cards. He was able to read and do simple math problems when he entered first grade.

When he was in the fourth grade I took the plunge again and always remember it as one of the best years of my life. I mapped out the plan of classes and we did approximately 2 hours a day of "school work" and the rest of the day we worked on our projects and activities. Our curricula:

Poster of the Declaration of Independence. Each day we worked on memorizing. He did much better at this than I did.
Constitution Workbook. We picked this up used at a garage sale or book store. We learned about the branches of government, the judicial system, and the electoral college. We attended community political events to see the process in action.
Penmanship Workbook. This was one of my biggest requirements because of all the illegible adult handwriting I had read over the years. Perfect was the standard.
Spanish. We checked out those tapes from the library where you listen and repeat. My favorite series is Learnables and I have since got them in French and Spanish. They would no longer be considered politically correct but maybe a revision has come out since I got mine. I got my first set at the Homeschool store and the remainder on Ebay.
Reading. We checked out books from the library and focused on the early presidents. Andrew Jackson was my favorite. Did you know he had a personal library of over 20,000 books?
Earth Science. Workbook from the Homeschool store.
Math. Fractions was the subject and cooking was the method. We would double and triple recipes, half the recipe, and get a lot of flour on ourselves in the process. This is when we also started going to the farmers market with our homemade jams, pies, and breads. The kids made the change. I was just along as the driver.

Other books and workbooks as we were interested.

Rabbit Business. This was the afternoon project and is written about in In The Trenches. During the initial interest we met a local man who raised rabbits. We went to ask some questions and became friends. He had some old rusty cages that he used a welding torch to clean off the frames. We then rebuilt them and brought them home. Part of the project was to build a new rabbit shed. We designed, measured, obtained scrap materials, and then the building began.
In preparation for the big day I told my son that as far as I knew a person was supposed to be able to drive a nail in three strokes. The first was to tap it into place and the next two were to drive it in. These were 16 penny nails and remember my son was in fourth grade at the time. He practiced and practiced and practiced until he had mastered the task consistently. Finally the day arrived and my cousin came over to help with the shed and be in charge of all the sawing and other heavy stuff. I will never forget when he picked up a hammer and tap, tap, tapped on the nail. I asked what he was doing. Wasn't the nail supposed to be hammered in three strikes? He looked at me with surpise and responded that "yes, maybe, if you're a professional". So the rabbit house was built and the business began. This included buying the initial rabbits from our friend the rabbit man, keeping the books, buying the supplies, and raising and selling the rabbits.

How did we do? At that time we were required to take an annual test through the public school to insure that a child's homeschool learning was at least as good as what the public school was doing. I was a little nervous as I had basically done my own thing and in some ways a little untraditionally. So I waited through the hours of testing he did with all the public school kids.

Results? His lowest score was at the 10th grade level. Most catagories rated in the 12th grade. Since that time I have been a strong advocate of the homeschool process. Our experience was limited to that one year as he was offered a full schlorship to a private school the following year. I'm not sure who learned the most that year, me or him. And, we had fun!

Education is one of the most important issues and responsibilities of parenting. There are many options available including homeschool, private school, tutoring, public school, and alternative schools. Choosing the best alternative each year will provide the academic achievement to maximize the skills of each child. Education is not one size fits all. Each child is special and unique and therefore their educational needs are best served by parents taking the leading role in making these decisions. Homeschooling can be a wonderful and rewarding choice and can be done within the budget.

Carol Schultz-Weil is the author of In The Trenches - Financial Survival During Times of Hardship and has a companion blog located at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Extra Money- Gifts and Bonuses

My husband got a decent bonus from work this past week in the form of gift certificates. These can be redeemed at any of a number of stores, ranging from high end department stores to houseware stores to electronic stores to clothing boutiques to grocery stores. These types of gift certificates are common around here, used for bonuses at set times throughout the year. There are also a few varieties of certificates, not all of them good at the same stores.

I was talking to friends about these gift certificates, how there were some I didn't like because the only grocery stores they were eligible in were the more expensive ones. My friends didn't understand my issue, because, after all, you could go to all the best clothing shops and get outfits there even with those types of certificates.
This conversation clued me (or shall I say, reminded me) in to the vastly differing attitude people have to "extra" money they weren't expecting to get.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sick on my Anniversary

Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer with ExacTemp TechnologyThis day, 4 years ago, at precisely 7 pm, my husband and I became husband and wife. I was 18 at the time; he was 20 years old. Quite young, I know, but we knew we were each other's soul mates, and so we wed. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homeschooling Curricula on a Shoestring

People like to tell me that I should be prepared for lots of expenses if I plan on homeschooling my boys. After all, I've got to buy school supplies, curriculum, school books, and lots more. They are wont to tell me that homeschooling is not a frugal venture.
I beg to differ.
I am going to homeschool. And I'm going to do so frugally. And not like the other homeschoolers' "frugal homeschooling", because they spend a lot more than I plan on spending. Because when I do something frugally, I do it extremely frugally. I plan on educating my children at home with barely spending a cent. This is part one of my Homeschooling on a Shoestring series.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sneak Peak Into My Home Part 2- The "Half" Room and Hallway

When we downgraded from a 960 square foot apartment to a 485* square foot apartment to save a few hundred a month, I knew there would have to be some concessions. One of the biggest was needing to get rid of a lot of "stuff", and learning to live without all that junk and figuring out what to do with all the rest of our things, especially as we were moving to a home without any closets or built in storage space (other than the few cabinets in the kitchen, that is).
Packing up all our things, I kind of felt almost as if I was one of those pioneer moms, loading up the covered wagon for a trip across the Great Plains, keeping only what few possessions we could fit that would be imperative to have with us in our new life. It was a challenge, but it felt invogorating, refreshing, and freeing at the same time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Some Blog Stuff and Some Advice

I've had a lot on my mind recently, what with a big party I threw for my oldest son, catered entirely from scratch. My busy times are not yet finished as I've got even more coming up in the next little bit.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Roasted Eggplant Salad

This is one of my favorite spreads for bread or dips for vegetables. It is so simple to make, calls for very few ingredients, and its taste is simply out of this world! 

Roasted Eggplant Salad
Mayonnaise (homemade mayo is best)

1. Roast the whole eggplant. You can do this in oven or in your broiler. The cheapest way of all is to put a whole eggplant inside a barbecue powered by firewood. The way I chose to do this is to lean my eggplant on my burner, turn on the burner, and char one part of the eggplant at a time. When one part is charred, I move the eggplant to expose another side to the flame. Once the whole eggplant is soft, I take it off the flame. If you roast the eggplant this way, be sure to put a piece of aluminum foil on the stovetop, because the eggplant will drip while roasting.

2. Remove the eggplant from the burnt peel and put into a bowl.

3. Some people like to blend this in a food processor, but I try to conserve electricity where I can and also prefer to keep the stringy texture of the eggplant, so I use a fork instead. Beat the eggplant clumps until they come apart and you have a uniform mixture. I find using two forks and pulling the eggplant pieces in two directions simultaneously helps break up the clumps the best.

4. Add a dollop of mayonnaise.

5. Chop up some scallions and add.

6. Add salt to taste.



  • You can make this with prepared tahini sauce in place of the mayonnaise.
  • You can also make this with garlic powder instead of the scallions.
The official name for this dish is baba ganouj and it is a Middle Eastern recipe. Have you ever had it before? Do you make it yourself? If so, what do you put in yours?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homemade Apple Cider

I absolutely love apple cider! It brings back memories of fun trips to apple picking in orchards near my home when I was a kid. For me, the smell of apple cider means autumn is here.
Being that it is now apple picking season, the time is ripe for me to teach you to make homemade apple cider. Apple cider around here is quite expensive to buy, so expensive that even with all the excuses in the world, I couldn't justify spending my money on it.
Making apple cider is easy, delicious and can be quite cheap if you buy apples on sale or forage for apples around your neighborhood. Best of all, these instructions require no special equipment like a cider press!

Monday, September 6, 2010

9 Excuses For Overspending

We often rationalize our less than ideal behavior; the financial realm is no exception. Many times people use faulty lines of reasoning to justify their over or unwise spending (myself included). These are some of the most common excuses I've seen used. Have you ever justified overspending with any of these?

9 Excuses For Overspending

Relatively Decent Vegetable Replacements

Many times you go grocery shopping, intending to get a specific food, only that food ends up being so overpriced that you can't bring yourself to pay that money. Other times, you find what seems to be a great recipe, only you can't try it out either because you don't have all the ingredients in the house, or it calls for items that you refuse to buy on matter of principle because you've never seen them at a reasonable price. At times like these, it pays to have a good database on hand of items that, while not perfectly interchangeable, taste similarly enough that they can be used in place without changing the outcome too drastically.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dumpster Treasures

People produce a whole lot of garbage. An insane amount, actually, to the extent that there are hills and mountains around the world made entirely of garbage. Dumpsters and landfills are packed with wrappers, broken things and foodstuffs, as well as diapers, feminine products, and cans. In addition to all the nonsense in the trash, there is a whole bunch of perfectly usable and salvageable things that end up in the trash each day.
People buy things then decide they don't like them, purchase things and then realize they don't fit, or toss things out, not caring that they still have further use.
People like myself who like free things, with the added benefit of preventing things from heading into landfills, like to do what is colloquially called "dumpster diving", but which I prefer to call treasure hunting. One man's trash is truly another man's treasure, and I and my husband have found a great many things either by the curb, near a dumpster, or occasionally in the dumpster that we were either able to use as is, use after a bit of loving, or repurpose into another worthwhile item.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Redneck Watering Can and Garden Update

I live in a tiny apartment with no yard and I have a flourishing garden! How, you may ask? Window boxes! I've got 4 window boxes packed to the brim with different plants, one outside my kitchen window, one near my bedroom window, and two on the ledge of my shared porch.
You can read more about my window box gardening here, but I have some exciting updates to share.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Birthday Gifts and Frugality

Don't you just love birthdays? Ok, maybe at some point you stop appreciate growing older, but nearly every kid loves a birthday. Birthdays: a day dedicated just to you and a celebration of your life. A day everyone shows how much they love you and how much you have improved their life by being a part of it.

Birthdays are definitely a big deal around here.