Dining Out on a Budget

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No matter how broke we were, Friday was always “dining out” night when I was a kid. Somehow, my parents were able to pull this off every week. We’d order a pizza, go to McDonalds, or to an affordable family restaurant. I would always get the cheeseburger and fries off of the children’s menu.

It was our splurge for the week. As much as we enjoyed my mom’s cooking, dinner out was a special occasion. (Not to mention a well deserved break for our mom.)

It’s not that difficult to find a decent restaurant to visit at least once or twice a month to give you that feeling of treating yourself. We all deserve that, no matter what our bank account looks like.

Here are a few tips…

  • Ask around. Most people love to share where they go for an affordable tasty dinner.
  • Check out the appetizer menu. Despite what anyone says, onion rings can be an entire meal.
  • Find a place that doesn’t upcharge you for salad, soup, bread and side dishes.
  • Ask for water to save extra money.
  • If you’re old enough, order something from the senior menu. Sadly, I have a few more years before I can do this. Boo.
  • Tip nicely and be amazed when your regular waitress doesn’t charge you for coffee and throws in an extra roll. (This actually happened.)

And remember, always use a napkin and excuse yourself when you belch.

Do you have any tips on dining out on a budget? Let us know in the comments!

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Some Ways to Save Money You Might Not Have Thought Of

I’ve always been willing to learn new ways to save money. Afterall, don’t we all want to save some bucks when we can?

I came across a few other ways to save some money that I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe you know of some ways too. Feel free to let us know in the comment section.

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Have a day of the week you cook a meatless meal for the family. Even one day a week can save you tons of money on meat (which is usually the most expensive part of the meal). There are lots of recipes out there that taste pretty darn good without meat!

People love to shop online. I know I do. There are a lot less people. 😉 But….you might save yourself some money if you don’t buy those items right away. Put it in your online shopping cart and then sleep on the idea of buying your purchases overnight. You might be surprised at how often the next day those same purchases don’t seem quite as appealing, thus saving you money!

Don’t always pass by the generic brands in stores. A lot of generic brands are made by the big name manufacturers, believe it or not. They are way cheaper, though. Try some out and you might be surprised!

Use your slow cooker more often. It uses less electricity than a stove or microwave and if you….um….have a tendency to overcook or burn your food… using a slow cooker will stop that! Plus, you will have a home cooked meal when you get home or as I like to use it….put it to use and do other things while dinner is cooking itself!

Go to your local farmers market near closing time. Lots of vendors will deeply discount what they have left so they don’t have to cart it home! You can save tons of money this way.

Buy at dollar stores! I can buy most cleaning supplies at my local dollar store. Or better yet make your own! There are a lot of websites out there devoted to making your own cleaning supplies. Look them up!

I’m sure there are many more ways people can save money, these are just a sampling of what you can do.

Cowboy Fuel

I’d like to share a recipe from Ladybuggz aka Teresa, a long time blog friend of mine.

If you’d like to share a budget friendly recipe, please email either Jackie or myself.

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I call this recipe Beef, Beans & Biscuits or Cowboy Fuel!
Most of us on a small budget have these ingredients in our fridge and pantry….it’s a rib sticking, great meal!
Ingredients needed: Ground Beef, Onion, BBQ Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Refrigerated Biscuit Dough (premade) or make your own… 1/2 cup of Shredded Cheese (your choice/or not). You can also add more veggies to it if you have them..like celery, carrots, & green  pepper.
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Step 1:
-Use as much Ground Beef as your family usually uses……
-dice 1/2 medium  onion or more (to your liking)
-Brown Ground Beef and Onion together…Keep on low
Step 2:
-Add 3/4 cup of your fav. BBQ Sauce to the beef and onion mix & next  3 ingredients
-Add 2 Tbsp of Brown Sugar/ or what ever sugar you have on hand
-Add 1/2 tsp Salt
-Mix in 1- 16oz can of your fav. Baked Beans, bring to a gentle simmer….
Step 3:
Pour meat and bean mixture into a casserole dish big enough for all to fit! (or see end of step 4 for alternative).
Step 4:
-Either Make or use pre packaged Biscuit Dough, place Biscuit’s on top of beef and bean mix, cover with 1/2 shredded cheese and bake according to Biscuit recipe. Or bake biscuits separately and keep meat mix hot on top of stove ( I do this to keep bottom of biscuits from getting soggy).
This will fill your bellies and keep your house warm in more way’s than one!
Enjoy!
Thanks Merry and Jackie for considering this recipe for your new site!
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You’re welcome, Teresa! I’ll have to give this one a try (and light a candle!)

Use Your Freezer to Save Money

If you don’t already own a separate freezer from the one in your refrigerator think seriously about investing in one. They are a huge money saver in the long run, even if you are single or it’s just you and husband.

There are so many things you can freeze, even things you were told weren’t freezable. I experiment with mine, most times it works out, rarely it doesn’t.  I freeze everything from soup to nuts…literally.

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How many of you were told you can’t freeze cheese? I was told that when I was younger. I freeze cheese. Cheese is expensive, so when I find it on sale I buy extra and then shred it (if it isn’t shredded already) and freeze it. Works great when all you need is a little cheese for your recipe. I even use shredded cheese to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Works great as it doesn’t take as long to melt as sliced.

Here is a list of other foods you can freeze……..

Nuts: These are great for the freezer! Freezing them keeps them fresh for months. Nuts have oils in them, freezing them keeps the oil from getting rancid. They only take a few minutes to thaw.

Rice: Cooked or uncooked. I mostly freeze cooked rice. It freezes great and reheats like a champ with a couple of spoonfuls of water. I use cooked frozen rice in lots of recipes. Stir fried rice and soup comes to mind.

Bananas: I’ve frozen bananas for smoothies and banana bread. They work great frozen! (or thawed)

Bacon: I freeze bacon all the time. If you only need a few slices at a time…freeze it that way. It thaws out quickly.

Fresh herbs: I do this quite often too. Most recipes only call for a small amount of fresh herbs, so freeze the rest! Most herbs freeze quite well. I wash the herbs and pat them dry with paper towels, then I lay them flat on a pan and stick it in the freezer for a while. When they are frozen I put them in a freezer bag. That way you can take out as much as you need when you need it. They last for months in the freezer.

Chips: Yes, I’m talking potato chips here. If you buy a big bag, or several smaller bags they can be stored in the freezer. Chips like nuts have oils on them (duhh!) so if you only eat a few chips at a time, store your tightly sealed bag in the freezer! They can last for months, even an opened bag.

Flour: Actually if you are a big time baker you might know this one. Flour last for months in the freezer and professional bakers store it there as it works better in most baking recipes. Go figure!

Eggs: Store them in the freezer without their shells. You can also store the yolks and whites separate! Or you can whip them together (like you would for scrambled eggs) and store them that way.

Chocolate: Now who doesn’t crave chocolate? Even I do on occasion! But…there is a trick to freezing chocolate. If you stick a hunk of chocolate in the freezer straight from the store it will become crumbly when you take it out to take a bit of it later. First, stick it in the refrigerator for a day, then stick it in the freezer. Comes out perfect!

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Have any other freezer tips? Let us know in the comment section!

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Pizza

I like to make easy appetizers for the weekly football game, but I’m trying to mix things up a bit this season. I am also currently trying to stay away from processed foods, which is not an easy feat.

I stumbled across this simple and delicious recipe that has only 3 ingredients. It’s carb friendly and much healthier than your standard helping of nachos or slice of za.

What You’ll Need:

2 large zucchini’s, sliced

1 jar of pizza sauce

2 cups of mozzarella cheese

Place the zucchini slices on a baking sheet. With a spoon, put a dollop of sauce on top, then cover with cheese. Put in the oven for 20 minutes on 350 degrees.

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They looked better before everyone started eating them!

They were a hit! Even my husband loved them. We didn’t miss the pizza crust at all.

I swear.

Do you have any easy, simple appetizer recipes to share? Let us know in the comments and we’ll feature them in a future post!

Beware the Money Suckers

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I recently sold some of my clutter at the flea market. I didn’t make much money, but it felt good to finally get rid of some of the useless items that I’ve accumulated over the years. The things that didn’t sell were given away to charity.

But wait, I hear you asking. This is a blog about being thrifty, not decluttering your home!

Give me a second to explain.

I realized that even though I am as thrifty as they come, I do have an issue with buying things that I don’t need or won’t ever use.

For example, I am always trying different dietary supplements. I bought 3 bottles of something at a website (buy two get one free!!) only to end up getting sick from it. I should have gotten a small bottle to try instead.

I sold the two never opened ones for a dollar each and I lost money.

We don’t even realize how much cash we spend on useless items, or as I like to call them, Money Suckers.

Take a look in your junk drawer to get an idea of what your “Money Suckers” may be.

Mine is full of things that I don’t even recognize, although most of it was purchased by my husband. (Don’t tell him I said that.)

I currently have 3 decks of playing cards, a set of stress relief balls, 10 keychains, 20 pens, a bunch of staples (no stapler) and enough paper clips to last two lifetimes.

Every little thing counts when you’re trying to save money.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Please let us know!

5 Things to do with 5 Bucks

When I was little, 5 bucks to me felt like 100. I was a child millionaire. I could buy any kind of candy that I wanted and still have enough to buy a few cans of ice cold Coca Cola.

These days, 5 dollars isn’t much. But you can still have a mildly good time if you use your imagination.

Here are 5 things to do with 5 dollars.

Go To The Flea Market

I have found some really cheap finds at the flea market for under 5 dollars.

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I got this vintage tin sign for $2!!!

I don’t drink pop, especially Dr. Pepper, but my daughter loves the stuff. I have it hanging above my kitchen sink. It’s selling on Ebay for $30 right now.

Treasure hunting is totally doable with little cash!!

Feed The Wildlife

Go to a store that sells baked goods at discount prices or just your regular store will do. Buy a couple loaves of stale bread (or fresh if you’re feeling charitable) and find your nearest lake or pond. There are bound to be a few ducks or gooses around. They love bread!

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Pigeons will also appreciate your efforts.

Just be careful, though. I once got chased by a pissed off goose.

Go See A Cheap Matinee

The majority of theaters have a discount movie day. Where I live, it’s on Tuesdays, although I haven’t had the chance to go in a long time. $5 will get you in, but you are on your own with concessions and they are really against bringing in your own food.

I’m a rebel and do it anyways.

Buy Some Really Nice Nail Polish

If you’re into doing your nails yourself, you deserve a decent bottle of nail polish once in awhile. I just got one for a dollar on clearance, Maybelline Color Show Street Art called Nighttime Noise.

Mer’s Thrifty Hint: Always take a gander at clearance items!

I had four dollars left, so I just stuffed that away for next time.

Coloring Is Fun

Most of the dollar stores near me sell various adult coloring books, colored pencils and markers. If you haven’t tried coloring as an adult, I highly recommend it. Anyone can do it regardless of artistic talent, it’s cheap to get started if you shop at the right place and it’s relaxing.

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For a few dollars more, you can even get a swear word coloring book. I am gonna ask Santa for one this Christmas.

 

So you see, there are plenty of things that you can do with 5 measly dollars. Who needs a Caribbean cruise, anyways?

If you have any other ideas, please let us know!!

Is Buying in Bulk Worth It?

Is buying in bulk worth it? Simple answer…Yes and no.

Buying some things in bulk is well worth it. Some other things not so much. As to what to buy, well, meat is good to buy in bulk. Especially since that’s one of the biggest costs in a family’s food budget.

Can stuff is great to buy in bulk. I have two big shelves in my mud room full of can foods. From soups to vegetables, I have them.

I realize better than most that buying ‘extra’ food is hard for lots of people. The budget will only stretch so far. I know. I get that. BUT……if you figure in your budget to buy extra once a shopping trip, you’ll have that pantry filled up in no time with extras.

And it won’t break the budget to do so.

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Also, if you can, invest in a machine that lets you wrap that extra meat or dry products. I use a Food Saver machine. It’s a bit of an expense at first but sure pays for itself quickly. If you can, ask relatives to chip in together and buy it for you for your birthday or Christmas. That way you get something you really want and need and there is no outlay of money on your end.

Also, if you qualify financially,  go to a food bank. There’s no shame in it and it doesn’t have to last forever. They are a good source for can goods and dry goods. You don’t always get to pick what you get but whatever they give you can come in handy down the road.

Now comes the question of what you should buy in bulk.  I’ve broken it down and added why it makes a good idea to buy it in bulk. Look for coupons if you use them. I go online for my favorite grocery store and see what kind of sales they have.

If you can, shop at stores that have good weekly sales. It’s very competitive out there. Do your homework. It doesn’t take much. And hell, you’re usually online anyway, right?

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If you have a store like Costco, or Sam’s those are great places to buy bulk. I can’t afford the yearly fee that Costco here charges and since it’s just me and the husband I don’t shop there. But, if you have a family, those kind of places are wonderful.

Oh, and don’t forget about dollar stores. I have a great one near me that sells food items. I buy bulk gravy mixes and some can goods. I can also buy pet food and treats at a great price. Investigate your dollar stores, they aren’t all the same.

Ok, now down to what to buy in bulk.

Toilet Paper: This is always a great item to bulk buy. People use it every day.  It can be stored under the sink, in the linen closet, even under the bed in plastic tubs.

Shampoo: Again it’s something you use all the time. It’s easy enough to store too.

Dry Beans: Ah, one of my favorites. Dry beans can be kept in tightly sealed bags or plastic containers for very long periods of time. They are super easy to cook and are one of the most versatile things out there.

Pasta: Another favorite. Again it can be stored almost indefinitely in tightly sealed bags or containers and is something we probably all use quite often. Like beans, it can be used for salads, soups, casseroles, you name it, pasta has been there.

Oatmeal: I have lots of oatmeal on  hand. It’s great for breakfast or making cookies. It’s cheap and if you look online there are all sorts of things you can do with this ingredient. From cooking to cleaning it’s a gem to have on hand. It’s also cheap and easy to store.

Trash bags: Here is one item that most people don’t think of when buying in bulk. Everyone knows how expensive they can be. My advice….buy good ones. If you buy the cheap ones they usually split when they are full and you have to use two bags. That is NOT saving you money. Buy the good ones like Glad or even try your store brand kind. Some are good and some are not. If you find a good store brand type you’ve struck gold. They are usually cheaper. When you see trash bags on sale grab an extra box of them. You always need them and it will save you money down the road.

Toothpaste: This is another item most people don’t think about. But, it’s easy to store and you use it daily. Unless you’re like my husband and don’t have any of your own teeth, then just pass this one by. 😉

Can soup: Cream soups are always a good buy and lots of people use them in cooking. I have one whole cupboard full of extra can soups and vegetables. It took me a couple of years to stock that much but between the food bank and good sales I now  have them.

Laundry Soap: Again, something everyone uses quite often. If you find a good sale grab an extra box or bottle and stick it in a closet. The same goes for dishwashing soap.

Meat: Well, duh, this is a given. Even if right now you don’t have a food saving machine it’s always a good idea to stock up on meat and poultry.

If you live somewhere that has a nice cool basement. Potatoes and onions are great bulk buys and can be stored in the basement for very long periods of time.

You don’t have to buy things all at once. It’s taken me a few years to work up to a full pantry. I also have an extra closet that I use for dry goods to store. I have shelves too that are dedicated to just extra can goods. It can be done. Try it.

 

Hope this article helped some of you and if you have any ideas let me and Mer know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Ingredient Crock Pot Meal

When I was a kid, my mom made one of my favorite meals in a crockpot. Because I was a kid, I didn’t care to know what was in it, only that it was yummy.

Well, I got a crockpot recently for my birthday. I have never owned one. When I was still physically spry, I loved to cook fancy meals that required much detail and technique.

I have no interest in that anymore, sadly. Hence the reason why I asked my mom and aunt to get me the crockpot, so that I could go back to cooking tasty meals again, but with minimal effort.

My mom told me how to make what she always called Smothered Pork Chops.

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Comfort food. 5 Yums Up.

Pork chops are relatively cheap, so I purchased a package of 7 thin boneless ones, as my mom recommended. I salted and peppered them as well.

Then I added two cans of cream of chicken soup. No other liquid is required.

That was it. I cooked it on low for 6 hours and viola!

I also made mashed potatoes (real, not boxed) and corn to go with. The gravy goes perfectly with the taters, I must say.

This recipe will be on my dinner rotation all fall and winter long.

(You can also use cream of mushroom or celery soup if you’d like.)

I will be sharing more easy crockpot recipes here as I try them out via my cookbook that I just received. I will also give them an overall yum rating.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Bedsheets on a Budget

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I haven’t paid full price for bed sheets in at least ten years, because I buy them at the thrift store for less than $2 dollars. I know that to some people it might seem disgusting to lay down on used sheets at night, but think about it like this…

You check into a hotel. Exhausted after a day of traveling, you slip into the bed you paid good money to sleep in, just like the people who booked the room before you.

Those sheets you’re on? They have been washed (hopefully) in hot water and soap. Possibly even bleach, if they are white. Or that fancy bleach they sell that doesn’t ruin colors. I forget what they call it.

Plus, like an old pair of jeans, they have lost the stiffness and scratchiness, now as soft as the fur of a kitten.

You can do the same thing with thrift store bath towels, rugs and blankets. Bring them home, give them a thorough washing and boom. You just saved yourself a buttload of money.

I wouldn’t recommend buying used underwear, though. Or bathing suits. You’re probably safe with a bathrobe.

So the next time you’re in need of bed sheets, think twice about spending $20+ on them and head to your nearest thrift shop.

Then pat yourself on the back and take a well deserved nap.