Category Archives: Budgeting/Saving

A Frugal Tip: Chicken Stock

Dilemma: I love food. I love cooking. I hate the grocery store. I hate loading the groceries into my car, back out of my car and to the kitchen, and finally putting them away. BUT the thing I hate most about the grocery store is PAYING for the groceries!! You see how this is a tricky situation? I’m not self-sufficient; therefore the grocery store (and shelling out the money for groceries) is a necessity.

As a result of this dilemma, I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ways to save at the store. I can’t extreme coupon. While I respect those gals’ ability to walk away with 7 truckloads of ‘stuff’ and money back from the store, I cannot spend the time required to plan that trip, nor do I want my basement to look as though we are preparing for a nuclear holocaust.

One simple trick I’ve found, and thought I’d pass along to you involves the art of freezing. Freezing requires very little effort and there are so many things that fair well through the process.

Several times each year, particularly around holidays, – Easter is right around the corner, FYI – grocery stores have wonderful sales on stock (chicken, beef, veggie, etc.) During these sales, I like to really stock up (no pun intended) and I prefer to buy the boxes of stock rather than the smaller cans – also a savings in the cost department.

Another option is to make your own stock! I had planned to do that with the chicken from yesterday’s post, but forgot until I had thrown the carcass away and I wasn’t about to go dumpster diving – so that ship has sailed and I’ll have to remember the next time I make a whole chicken and share the recipe with you.
All that said, it isn’t often that I need more than a cup or two for a recipe which leaves a lot of extra (whether bought in a larger quantity at the store or homemade) that will last only a short while in the fridge.

In walks my frugal suggestion: Instead of allowing the remainder to go to waste, if you don’t see an immediate use for your leftover…freeze it!
I like to go one step further and freeze mine in ice cube trays because it allows me to thaw only what I need the next time around:

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In my particular situation, with my particular ice cube trays, 14 cubes equals about 1 cup of stock. I mark my freezer safe baggies with this info for a quick reminder and when the time comes I am prepared with exactly the amount I need and the rest stays safely frozen!

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Do you have any creative, frugal tips? Please do share in the comments section below. We are all looking to save a buck and sometimes the simplest of things aren’t obvious to us without the help of others!

-H


Bathroom Cleaning Made Simple(r)

A clean, organized house is one of my favorite things.  I grew up in a home where clean wasn’t an option, and while I used to gripe about the Saturday cleaning routine, I appreciate the lessons learned about a clean home while growing up.

Typically I enjoy cleaning, with exception of the bathroom. I never enjoy cleaning the bathroom…not even doing a quick once over. This is also the reason I never want to share my bathroom. Cleaning my own messes is bad enough, keeping it up for multiple people, no thanks.

I’m always looking for a way to make the bathroom cleaning chore easier, faster, less fuss. Have you noticed that sometimes you find an item you really love, and suddenly the company isn’t making it any more? This seems to happen to me a lot with health and beauty products as well as cleaning items.

Scrubbing Bubbles used to make a cleaning pad that attached to this little hand held spongy handle thingy. Add a little water, poof, it would suds up wonderfully and clean both the tub and shower in one fast swoop. Guess what? They don’t make it any more. Or, I can’t find it anywhere any more at least.

I’ve been disappointed with the discontinuation of this product, and it’s been gone for years as far as I know. Recently I stumbled upon this idea on Pinterest:

In an effort to save money, I’ve also been researching ways to make cleaning products at home with items that we generally have on hand anyway. Who needs to purchase a $4.00 bottle of cleaner when you can make your own out of stuff you already have? Not this girl!

So…this idea does three things that I love, 1) quick and easy clean of the bathroom 2) multi-tasking and 3) saves me money on cleaner.

This Dish Wand, typically used in the kitchen, has found its way into my bathroom. Wait, no, that’s not right. I don’t use the same wand in the kitchen and in the bathroom. Can you even imagine? Ick! I bought another wand, filled it half with white vinegar and half dawn dish soap (just the original blue kind). It has a permanent spot in the shower caddy of the shower and while my conditioner is working its magic the wand makes a quick swoop of the shower. At the end everything gets sprayed down and I emerge, not only clean myself but with a clean shower. When it’s time to clean the sink or tub (I have a gigantic whirlpool tub) I grab this baby out of the shower and it works wonders in these spots as well.

Here’s the thing that really grabs me though, I just stumbled upon this idea on Pinterest all the while I’ve been using the same type of dish wand in the kitchen. After dishes are washed and put away I always scrub out the kitchen sink with the wand. Is this not the same idea? Why didn’t I come up with this myself? Thank God for Pinterest. While it might be a huge suck of otherwise productive time, it tends to come through with ideas that make life easier or helps to pinch those pennies.

Do you have Pinterest? If you do, let me know. I’d love to follow your pins.

What cleaning tips do you have for making cleaning easier & faster and/or help save you money??

Here’s to sparkly, clean bathrooms AND to it being the middle of the week!
-Hilary


Morning Coffee

4 summers ago when I bought Therapy House, I bought myself a Keurig Coffee Maker as a house warming gift. This is when Keurig was relatively new on the market, and I adored the idea of individual servings of coffee. Those K-cups were just too cute!

I don’t drink more than 1 cup a day, and the idea of getting to mix it up with coffee flavors as the mood strikes thrilled me. This small appliance seemed like the perfect fit!

I bought the small version of the appliance. The larger versions have a larger water tank and you don’t have to add water each time you make a cup. I’m forced to add water each time, but really, I enjoy this process.  The ritual of making my morning coffee sends a signal to my brain that it’s time to begin the day. It even made getting up for the job I didn’t enjoy (and no longer am at) tolerable.

About 1 year after owning my Keurig, something bad happened. It started out slow, coffee grounds in my coffee (yuck). Then it got worse, the K-cups were exploding inside the machine and sending hot water and coffee grounds all over the machine, counter, and (if I happened to be in the area) ME!

Talk about disappointed. I loved this machine. It was expensive. I knew I couldn’t just buy a new one. Sooo, I pulled out the owners manual and did what I could to clean the internal workings of the machine, along with the K-cup needles. I crossed my fingers, and held my breath. Nothing worked!

I finally bucked up and called Keurig. The woman walked me through the steps I’d already tried to correct the issue and to no avail. Then, the most wonderful thing happened…she offered to send me a new machine, for FREE! The newer model and everything. She only requested that I take the postage paid label that would be included and box the new machine came in to send the broken one back to them so they could investigate what was wrong with this possessed unit!

Happy Again!

Then, about a year ago, a friend turned me on to this little secret: I could buy my K-cups at a cheaper price! Always loving getting a deal, and saving money, I had to get the full scoop.

Do you own a Keurig? If so, you need to know this secret also. Green Mountain Coffee. (greenmountaincoffee.com).

Green Mountain really does hook a person up on the cost of their K-cups, here’s what I found:
1.You have to sign up for the “club”, which is no big deal, no extra cost.

2.The price per box of K-cups is cheaper than anywhere I could find around here (or in the city, for that matter) EVEN when shopping the sales.

3.The boxes of K-cups that come from Green Mountain have 18 cups in them, whereas the ones at the store usually have 12 (see #2 and add in these savings to that as well).

4. If you order 4 boxes at a time, they ship to your home for FREE!

5. The first time I ordered they threw in a box of dark hot chocolate and a travel mug, FREE!

6. Being a member of the club means that you select automatic shipping for your coffee order. You can change your order at any time. When they are getting ready to ship the next order you get a heads up email. You also select the frequency with which you want to receive coffee (every 2 weeks? 6 weeks? I have mine set at 12 – and you can change it any time).

7. Green Mountain has a HUGE selection of coffees, teas, hot chocolates, etc. You are sure to find whatever your heart desires on this website.

I love my Keurig Coffee Machine AND getting a deal on my coffee!

What helps get your morning started?

-Hilary


Barter A Trade

A big goal of mine this summer has been to cut down, considerably, on my grocery bill.

This has been very difficult for me, for a number of reasons:
1. I like to cook and that means trying new recipes, which I often don’t have many of the ingredients for starting out.
2. I like to be able to choose from fresh, healthy options and these generally cost more.
3. I like to stock up on pantry items or meat when they are on sale so that sometimes means more money up front.
4. I’m not really sure what an appropriate grocery budget is for a girl who lives alone but has company a couple weekends a month.

What I do know, though, is that I had been spending far too much on groceries for essentially 1 person. And this needed to stop!!

So…I’ve been trying the cash only for groceries trick. You know, the one our grandparents used before credit cards, debit cards, etc.?

I’ve started at $100 per month. When the $100 runs out, that’s it!

I think this is actually a little low for a grocery budget but I’ve been doing this for almost 2 months now. The first month I had a dollar to spare, and I’m right on track with month 2. When winter hits I may need to increase the budget a bit as I will no longer have access to fresh garden treats!

Here is how I’m making it work:
1. Be very conscious about what goes into the basket at the store.
If I’m getting low on cash, I skip some things (chips, ice cream, etc.). I want to still have things in the house I enjoy but it might mean there’s a couple weeks I have to go without.
2. Never buy more fresh produce than can be used, and use the fresh before falling back on frozen/canned.
This really goes for fruit right now. My garden is producing my favorites in the fresh veggie world so just keeping up with that has proven a challenge some weeks. I’m getting ready to start preserving for the winter months though so that will be a big help in the nearer than I’d like future.
3. Eat less meat.
This one is difficult for me also, because the rule of thumb is actually to have a couple meals a week without any meat. Can’t do it! I have to have a few bites of meat to feel like I had a meal BUT this doesn’t mean I can’t cut that pork chop or chicken breast  in half and fill up on veggies from the garden.
4. Avoid throwing anything away.
This fits had in hand with #2 but I mean with ANYTHING. Sometimes I get sick of leftovers, or simply want something different, but choosing that option also might mean throwing out perfectly good food. AKA: wasting! Eat it, freeze it, or figure out another use for those items that are nearing their end. Got a couple bananas that are past their prime for your taste? Let ’em go and turn them into banana bread!
5. Shop the sales & use what’s on hand.
Plan your meals for the entire week around what you already have on hand. This will mean fewer ingredients to purchase at the store. Also, shop the sales. If chicken is on sale, save the steaks for another week when you can pick them up at a discount also. If you can handle playing the coupon game, go for it. I respect those gals who can extreme coupon but I just can’t get in to it myself. I don’t need 645 bottles of ketchup that will never in my lifetime get used and I also don’t have a storage facility for all the ‘extras’ I would bring into my home.
6. Drink less soda.
I’d like to say I can stay away from soda entirely, but I haven’t made that choice and commitment yet. Drinking sun tea, brewed right on my deck is helping me to cut way back – which means BIG savings at the store!
7. Barter a trade.
This one is my very favorite right now. A girlfriend of mine has a bigger space to garden, thus she has planted things I could definitely use but didn’t have room to grow myself. She also has chickens, which means I get the hookup on fresh eggs. Just a couple weekends ago we engaged in a trade. Her garden is behind mine in production because I’ve got the benefit of the greenhouse. So…I’ve taken her green beans, squash and zucchini in trade for this:

Potatoes, white & red onion, and garlic.
I also have the hookup on bird feed so we exchange feed for eggs BUT this year, added bonus, she bought some butcherin’ chickens so when I was out to her place to have lunch, and trade veggies I was also presented with a whole frozen chicken.

I wish I had a place to plant a GIGANTIC garden & raise chickens!

Do you have any other tips or tricks that help keep your grocery budget in check? Also – what is your grocery budget and for how many people?  How do you go about setting this budget? I am beyond interested in hearing your ideas and the method to your madness!!

-Hilary