Frugal Friday #11

rgIf you are new here, this is the day I share some of the frugal things I’ve done recently and then you share yours in the comments. the idea is to encourage and inspire each other.Frugal Friday

Happy Friday!  I’m so excited! Darren made arrangements for me to have a whole 24 hours to myself this weekend.  The kids pitched in to clean up the kitchen and main living areas, so my 24 hours wouldn’t be spent on chores.  I’m going to read a book, spend time outside, stretch and exercise, soak in the bath and eat super healthy food.   I’ve been struggling the past couple of months with feeling exhausted, dizzy, & foggy in the brain.  I have a few good hours in the mornings and by noon, I’m working flat on my back with the computer propped on my knees.  Sometimes I’m in bed for the night by dinner time and miss out on all the family time.

Yesterday afternoon I started to feel a bit better after several weeks of going back to the food choices and supplements that have been proven to work for me.  Darren came home around 6pm last night and I was not only out of bed cooking dinner, I was dancing a little jig in the kitchen—just because a good song came on. He walked in and said, “Wow!” It was a big change.

If I know what works, why would I ever quit doing it?  It’s crazy, but as I start to feel better I think, “I’m healed–finally!  The nightmare is behind me!” and I skip a dose of supplements, I accept an additional responsibility, I allow myself some junk food.  I don’t feel the affects right away, so I think, “See, you just ate a couple of Oreos and feel great.  You’ve finally beat this!”  Then after a while of bad behavior I start to notice, “Hey, my hair is my hair falling out!  Were those lines on my face this deep yesterday?  Ouch! my nails sure are brittle.  My arms feel heavy. Yikes! The room is spinning! Sob, I’m crying and I’m not even sad.”

Having adrenal insufficiency messes with my ability to do DIY frugal things.  We’ve been talking  about making more memories as a family.  Darren said, “Honey, there was a free kite festival last weekend. The kids would have loved it,” and we both knew that I wouldn’t have made it physically.  I’ve learned to take advantage of my good hours by preparing evening meals in the morning when I have the most energy.  For a time I stopped making as much from scratch (like our breads) to conserve my energy. It’s a vicious cycle, because scratch stuff not only saves money, but it’s healthier too.

The affects of making bad choices aren’t instant and good choices don’t bring instant results either, so it’s hard to stay motivated.  I’m writing it down today, so I can look back and remind myself that my choices matter.  Since I’ve felt better, I did a little more scratch cooking this week.

cereal dreg muffins

  1. I made breakfast.  The first time, I made breakfast cookies. And the second day I made muffins from cereal crumbs.  We only buy bran flakes and toasted o’s from Aldi.  Which averages $.10 a serving (plus milk.)  It’s not coated in sugar, but it’s still more processed than I’d like.  The kids can fix it for themselves after I’ve left for work, so for this season in life we have cereal.  The crumbs collect in the bottom of the bag and I save them for adding to muffins and cookies. This time we had banana muffins and I used up some really old frozen bananas I found in the bottom of the freezer.

avocado dressing

  1. I saved my homemade mayo.  On instagram a few weeks ago I showed a photo of my lovely but very bitter creamy 100% EVOO homemade mayo.  It was so bitter even my real food loving mother-in-law coughed when she tasted it. I added some stevia, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika which made it tolerable.  Then I made a homemade dressing with it, cutting it with buttermilk and cilantro.  It was delicious.  The mayo is keeping a long time in the fridge. It’s almost gone now, but I might try it again with a different blend of oils.

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Contemporary Ruffle Maxi Dress

3. I didn’t buy dresses.  I filled my cart at Forever21.com and had a 20% off coupon to use.  It didn’t feel right buying the clothes right then with all of the other goals we had for our family, so I waited 24 hours.  When I checked back in they had sold out of my size in several of the things in the cart, so I skipped the whole thing.  It felt really good to let it go, even though they were such pretty things.

 It’s your turn. Inspire us with some of your frugal activities this week.

Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

If you ever have a busy morning and wish there were somthing nutritious to grab and eat in the car on your way to wherever….these are for you.  They are mildly sweet and have a good amount of fiber and healthy fat to keep you satisfied.  These hold together well, even when made with gluten free ingredients and are a nice non-crumbly breakfast to go.

Breakfast Cookies 6 Breakfast cookies 9

Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup milk (almond milk works fine)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup whole grain flour (almond meal also works)

1/4 cup flax meal

1/2 cup craisins

1/2 cup diced strawberries

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together melted coconut oil and honey.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, applesauce and milk.

Stir in remaining ingredients

Use a 1/4 cup to scoop dough onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets. Use a spatula to smooth them into round cookie shapes. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Breakfast cookies 11

The next morning I drizzled them with a little melted chocolate hoping the kids would eat them better.  They were pretty excited about it, but I liked them better plain.

 

Frugal Friday #10

Frugal Friday

Happy Friday!!! If you are new here, this is the day I share some of the frugal things I’ve done recently and then you share yours in the comments. the idea is to encourage and inspire each other—not to make anyone feel guilty.

I’ve been having a hard time thinking of things to share on Frugal Friday.  It’s been almost a month since I last post.  Most of our fugal things have been relating to not doing something instead of getting a better deal on something.  They are kind of every day kind of things and didn’t seem too note worty to talk about.  Then it occurred to me that those simple every day things are JUST THE THINGS we should talk about.

  1. We didn’t go to the movies.  We had planned to see the new (can I still call it new?) Star Wars movie as a family, at a matinee where it would be cheaper. It was still going to be expensive when you think about buying a ticket x8, but we’ve only taken the kids to the movies one other time in their entire lives that I can think of–and it was going to be really special.  Kind of like our Disney World—bww ha ha ha! BUT FIRST, Darren thought we should watch the first 6 movies.  I hadn’t seen any of them and neither had several of our kids.  So we borrowed them from the library and netflix and watched them in order.  By the time we found enough family time to get that done, The Force Awakens was available on DVD.  It should arrive today.  We rarely buy movies, but in this case it was $18 for the DVD instead of $48-$80 for movie tickets.  I could have saved the $18 and waited for it to come at the library….that would have been a little more thrifty.  I’m still looking forward to seeing the kids’ faces when the mail comes today.

Brown Bag Lunch

2. We pack our lunches.  School lunches cost between $1.75 and $2.50, which is really cheap for eating out.  BUT we can pack a lunch at home for less than $1.  When you multiply that times 5 school age children, we save $240 a month just packing lunches.

3. We try to remove stains from clothes.  This one sounds silly, but I have heard people tell me they had to throw clothes away because of stains.  They wouldn’t dream of donating or selling a stained item in a garage sale.  While I admire their integrity, there are a LOT of ways to remove stains from clothes.  I’ll buy stained clothes if they are low priced, since it’s likely I’ll (and by me, I mean my mom) will be able to get the stains out.  I should get her to show us how, yes?

Basement family room before and after

Here’s not really a thrifty thing, but it relates.  We have so many house projects to do that it would take every dime we could squeeze from our budget for the next 10-15 years to do them.  I’ve been thinking lately about living in my house unfinished instead, except for the really cheap things I can do to make it liveable (like paint.)  Then we could use the money to make memories with the kids while they are still dependent on us.  We’ve dreamed of taking them snow skiing, and to see other parts of the nation and can’t do both.  I’ve decided I’m ok with looking at 2×4 studs and pipes and bare insulation if that means I can do better for them.

 It’s your turn. Inspire us with some of your frugal activities this week.

Peach Mint Iced Tea

We save a lot of money by drinking water instead of juice, milk, or soda.  I keep a pitcher of water full in the fridge so it’s cold and inviting.  Even then, sometimes, it’s nice to have something flavorful to drink. Even better if it’s inexpensive and healthy too.  Peppermint tea is my favorite summer beverage to add variety to the every day. I save even more by using 1 tea bag for 2 cups of water and letting it steep a little longer so it’s just as strong.

iced tea

 

Peach Peppermint Tea is a fancier version of my favorite. I first tasted this tea at a wedding shower for my close friend.  The shower was held in a victorian style cottage in a wooded area and everything about it was quaint, delicate and beautiful.  They had tea sandwiches and petit fours with fresh berries. Everything was served on floral vintage china with mismatched pieces.  Serving serfaces were softened with lace and cabbage rose printed table clothes. Dreamy….

peaches

The cold refreshing tea was sweetened with honey, but it’s also yummy with stevia. Here’s the simple recipe:

  • 8 cups  boiling water
  • 4 peppermint tea bags
  • 4 tablespoons honey (or 8 packets of truvia)
  • 2 fresh peaches

Steep tea bags in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Discard bags, pressing moisture from them back into the tea.  Dissolve honey into the hot beverage and add sliced peaches.  Cool until room temperature and then chill until ready to serve.  Serves 8.

 

 

How to Fix Pilled Clothes

I’m cheap, I’ll admit it publicly.  I love getting a great deal on clothing and if you compliment my outfit I’ll say, “Thanks!  It only cost $5!” Or something equally embarrassing.  Most of the time I won’t even have the good sense to be embarrassed.

Sweater

While I know I’m cheap, and I’ll gladly TELL you I’m cheap.  I don’t want to LOOK cheap.   I keep my clothes years and years without paying much attention to trends.  I like what I like.  But when what I like gets pilled…now that I don’t like.

Boutique

When I was a teen, I had a battery operated depilling device that was worthless.  After that failure I gave up on removing pills, concentrating on buying clothes that don’t pill often–100% cotton things and higher quality brands (from the clearance rack, ROSS or the thrift store.)  Recently I noticed my higher quality brands are pilling–and some are manufactured with pills already on them.  They call it slub knit.  WHY?!!!!!!

Sweater farm

My search for depilling fabric renews! I tried a razor (a daisy pink) and it worked pretty well. It removed the pills as long as I kept cleaning it out.  The pills had to be taken off the garment with a sticky lint remover, but it disconnected them really well.  If the fabric was delicate at all, or got a wrinkle in it, the razor would leave a tiny hole.

conair depiller

There are “sweater Stones” and “depilling combs” but I finally took a risk and purchased another battery operated depiller.  If it weren’t for the glowing reviews I never would have done it.  Technology has changed in the last 20 years.  It may look the same as the old depiller but it didn’t behave the same.  My clothing looked like new when I was done, and it collected all the lint into it’s own reservoir.

It works better on bulky knits like sweaters.  The finer knits need more passes and to be held perfectly flat.  The reservoir needs to be cleaned out frequently so it doesn’t get too full and clog the head.

Have you tried any depilling methods?  Did anything work well for you?

 

 

 

The $20 Birthday She’ll Never Forget

This post isn’t really about birthdays.  It’s about how relatively unimportant is the amount of money we spend on our kids.  It’s about how kids spell love, T.I.M.E. and how having a friend to come along beside you to give new ideas and tell you that things are going to be ok, can make a hard thing seem possible.

birthday girl

Things have been quiet on the blog the last few days, because I was putting all my energy into a free webinar that has been my dream for the last 7 years.  Finally all the pieces came together to make it a reality.  The webinar itself gives enough information to massively change a financial trajectory, but there wasn’t enough time to go as deeply as I want to go. You can see the replay right here for the next few days.  I’ll need to take it down after the weekend, because some of the information is time sensitive.:

Grocery Shrink Live Replay from Angela Coffman on Vimeo.

At the end of the webinar, I announced a 2 month course/private group coaching session that starts on Monday!  In this time frame we can go as deep as we need to, to seriously change lives! Several readers signed up immediately and we’ve already started the journey in our coaching private group.  One mother especially touched my heart with her story.  We’ve been where she is and there were so many things she said that brought back those old emotions.  She gave me permission to share her story here:

C:  I’m a stay at home mom of 4. I am the financial manager of our home. (LOL) I too homeschool our kiddos. We are currently trying to prepare our home to sell. What we need to sell it for, is more than it’s valued at. We have nothing to pay the difference (a $20,000 difference). We are trying to upgrade the house for a higher resale in high return areas. We are doing the work ourselves to save there. Dinners have become a nightmare. We are feeling the urgency to list the house on the market “now” in prime selling time. However, feeling overwhelmed because the work is not yet finished. I tried to earn some income on the side to help offset the building material cost but I have no time to working the business. I’m still diapering and breastfeeding a baby. The other 3 children’s birthdays are right around the corner. We feel defeated as we may have to settle for a short sale. A real kick in the teeth. Because we almost lost it once before to foreclosure after the hospital bills from birthing came in. We did a loan modification and have been great with mortgage payments ever since going into the 6th year now. ~well that was a bit of a ramble. LOL, I suppose I could have journaled all that, it’s the first time I’ve stopped to look at the big picture! Oh yes, the Goal: to sell the house and become “us” again.

You see the course is about groceries.  We are going deep into groceries and everyone in the course will save the cost of their tuition the first month or get a complete refund. But the course is also about you, your goals, your needs.  That’s what the private group is for.  8 weeks of personal access to me and the other friends on the same journey.  To encourage each other, share ideas. Here’s what I said:

Me:  Oh hugs, C–. How stressful. How old are your kids?

C:  They will be turning, 10,9,6, and 2

Me: Such great ages. If you want we could brain storm low cost ways to celebrate birthdays that make the kids feel like they’ve splurged.

C: That would be awesome b/c the first one is this month the 28th and I usually order things online…

 Me: How old is this one? Boy/girl? Interests?

C: Girl turning 6. She loves horses, princess, tiny figurines to play with like critter county~she loves making little families, arts & crafts, cooking/baking, and dress up

box candy

Me: I’d make it a friend only party and limit it to 2 hours from 2-4 so no meal needs to be served. For party favors buy each little girl a box of movie candy ($1 each) and wrap it in cute paper, or plain white paper and let your daughter decorate them with markers. Grap a couple of extra boxes of candy for the cake. Buy a bag of mixed baloons (Walmart has the best quality for the same price as dollar tree.) Blow them up with your own breath and tie them together with strings (or curly ribbon if you have it already) and hang them from the light fixtures and backs of the chairs. Only buy festive paper napkins (you don’t need paper plates, cups, silverware and tablecloths) and serve the cake and ice cream on your dishes and use the best tablecloth that you already have. Pull out the fancy china if you have any. If not your regular dishes will be just fine. Serve juice mixed with a 2 liter of lemon lime soda in tea cups and call it punch. Do a $1 box cake mix and $1 can of frosting and let your daughter decorate the cake with candy. Get plain vanilla icecream to go with it and pass around a bowl of sprinkles and a spoon. For the party, have the little girls decorate a couple of refrigerator boxes with markers, colored paper and glue sticks to make a castle/house. Then pull out all the dress up clothes and costume jewelry and let them play. You won’t need to buy gifts yourself because each friend will bring something and that’s 9 gifts! at 20 minutes before the parents come, stop the play, serve cake and ice cream. Then open gifts. Hand each girl her own wrapped box of candy on the way out the door. Total cost: less than $20

For the boxes, call Home Depot several weeks ahead and ask when they recycle their appliance boxes. They will save them for you if you ask, but you’ll have to go early to pick them up (like 7:30am) They are free

C: wow, just wow! that all sounds fantastic! seriously I’m stunned…this sounds amazing and I know she would have a blast!

Me: The highlight of her day will be decorating the stuff with you for her friends. The key is to let perfection fly out the window and just let her do it her way. (That’s the hardest part.)

C: yes…I can see your ways 🙂 and all this incorporates who she is,… honestly I’m humbled and stopped in my tracks…

This quick intervention literally just saved me over $300. That is impressive indeed. But, what’s more heartfelt and gets me to the core, is my daughter. I have been trying to find ways to connect with her. She’s a quirky little duck…But I shared with her the birthday plan and she excitedly threw her arms around me saying “oh mommy this is going to be the best birthday ever!” I cried…the $ saved is amazing, but that moment with my little Ellie, priceless. I will remember that for the rest of my life. 🙂 

Me: I LOVE this so much <3 <3 <3

We only have about 20 slots left in the class, but if this is something that speaks to you, you can see more here.

The One Important Thing

If you could cut your grocery spending in half and remove all your debt payments, how would your life change?

happy couple husband wife celebrating success jumping for joy

When I was a young bride with 3 small children, we asked ourselves that question.  We were struggling along on a $35,000 income and wondering how we were going to offer things like music lessons to our kids as they grew. At the time, we didn’t know that 3 more children would eventually join our family.  We only knew that if things continued the way they were we’d never have the life we hoped for.  We had an $89,000 debt looming over us.  No longer were we satisfied with limping along paying minimums. We stared it in the face, taking massive decisive action.  In 6 intense months, we were debt free.  On paper, it should have taken much longer.  Looking back we recognize ONE IMPORTANT thing that made the difference in the speed of our journey to debt free success.

Once someone hears the details to our story, there are two responses:  1.  I could never do that because I don’t have blank or blank.  or 2.  This is so motivating I’m going to do it.

I really hope you are #2, because no matter what your situation is, the One IMPORTANT thing will make a difference for you.

I’m hosting a live video event Wednesday, April 6th and along with our debt free details will explain it all. Reserve your spot here.

 

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Flautas

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Flautas

This low-cost entree is fast to make and really yummy.  They travel well, if you find yourself needing a meal on the go.  A few tablespoons of cheese in each one brings out flavor and adds protein without breaking the bank.  Presenting another meatless main dish to throw into your rotation.  Read more

Homemade Lunchmeat: Pros and Cons

My colleague, Tiffany, at Don’t Waste the Crumbs, recently wrote about making DIY lunchmeat. It sounded pretty easy, so I gave it a try.  Here’s my experience:

Aldi Black Forest Ham

We usually buy Black Forest Deli Ham from Aldi for $3.49 a lb.  The kids love it and I buy it even though it’s “coated with Caramel Color.”  That makes me cringe a little every time I put it in my cart.  What is caramel color anyway?  I finally decided to put aside my fears and just look it up. According to this article, it’s basically toasted carbohydrates and is not any more harmful than caramel sugar.  The problem comes if you are allergic to the carbohydrate base which might contain wheat.  In this case, Aldi says it’s gluten free. We’ve never had a reaction, but we aren’t sensitive to any carbohydrates.

Black Forest Ham Aldi

Sodium Nitrite is the other ingredient that makes me cringe. It is added as a preservative to prevent food poisoning.  You will die much faster from botulism than you will from nitrite poisoning, but it has been shown to contribute to cancer in large doses. The first Trim Healthy Mama book said that while it’s nice to avoid nitrates there are enough antioxidants in one orange to counter any harmful affects from an average serving of preserved meat.  My kids won’t eat oranges :(. Sodium phosphate is a non-toxic salt used as a thickening agent.   Basically you can google any ingredient that you aren’t sure about and decide for yourself if it’s something you are ok with.

Sliced Turkey breast

I started my DIY lunch meat by buying a Kirkland frozen turkey breast from Aldi.  It was $8.99 for a 48 oz package.  At $3 a lb, it would save me $1.50 over buying 3 lbs of lunch meat, but there’s a catch.  Inside the package was a bag of “gravy” weighing 10.6 ounces, leaving me with only 37.4 oz of meat. Uncooked I’m now paying $3.84 per pound.

Sliced Turkey Breast 2

I rubbed the meat all over with seasoned salt and put it in the slow cooker.  I think I overcooked it a tad.  I didn’t really keep track of the time and the juices were caramlized by the time I returned.  It smelled heavenly.  I let it cool on the counter a bit before wrapping and chilling overnight in the refrigerator.  When it was completely cold I weighed it before slicing it by hand.  Trying to get the slices as thin as deli meat.  I wasn’t very good at it.

The finally cooked weight of the meat was 1.6 lbs.  $5.61 per pound.  This is 160% more than just buying lunchmeat.

attempted mandolin

I tried my mandolin slicer to see if it would be easier.  It made a crumbly mess.  You really need an electric knife or deli slicer if you want to automate things.

sliced turkey breast in the bag

It tasted amazing, but crumbled pretty easily.  This is probably because I overcooked it, which would have also reduced moisture content and weight a little bit.

Garlic Bread Sandwich

I had a loaf of garlic bread on hand and used it to make an open faced baked family sized sandwich.

baked garlic bread sandwich

Too bad we were out of tomatoes, that would have been really pretty.  The sandwich was delicious!  A big hit for everyone in the family.

Pros:

  • It was delicious and not that hard.
  • It may have fewer questionable ingredients (although the turkey breast was brined with a sodium solution and I forgot to check the ingredients before tossing the package to see if there were any cringe-worthy ones)

Cons:

  • It was a lot more expensive.
  • While it wasn’t that hard, it took more time than just buying lunch meat.
  • It was hard to slice as thin as deli meat
  • It crumbled easily

Would I try it again?  Probably not.  It was delicious but not budget friendly for us.  If I decide to give up lunchmeat altogether to avoid nitrites, cooking a chicken with bones and shredding the meat, would be more cost effective for us.

What do you think?  Would you try it?

Calico Bean Soup and Cornbread

Hearty bean soup is the perfect low cost dish for this spring weather that can be cloudy, drizzly and chilly in between the sunny, warm days.  It tastes so good, no one will realize how cheap it is to make. Beans are full of fiber, which is so good for you and yet can feel a little terrible at the same time if you aren’t used to it.  I have a hack for that.

calico bean soup

My dad was given this soup as a Christmas Gift from his secretary one year when I was a girl and the whole family loved the mix of flavors. My mom begged for the recipe and it has been a cherished favorite ever since.

Calico Bean Soup

3 cups of mixed beans (A 6 or 9 bean mix works great)

5 cups of water

1 Tbs dried chives

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried savory

½ tsp cumin

1 bay leaf

½ tsp black pepper

1 can, 15 oz chopped tomatoes, undrained

The night before: Combine dry beans with 9 cups of water in a large bowl. Sit on the counter overnight. In the morning: Drain beans.  If you forget to pre-soak the beans, this recipe will still work.  Just add an extra cup of water.

Some say beans are harder to digest if you don’t presoak them.  We get gas either way.  Just being honest.  We are saved the embarrassment if we remember to take amylase enzyme before eating.  Amylase breaks down starches and helps the probiotics process the fiber. I take an enzyme blend to prevent any digestion discomfort.

Slow Cooker Method: Place drained beans in a slow cooker. Add cooking water seasonings, and tomatoes. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

Pressure Cooker Method: Place drained beans in a pressure cooker. Add cooking water seasonings, and tomatoes. Or combine ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook at high pressure for 40 minutes.

Discard bay leaf and sprinkle with dried or fresh parsley just before serving.

1/8 of the pot of soup has 122 calories; 15 net carbs, and 14g of protein

cornbread

Cornbread

This is a great all-purpose cornbread recipe and goes with a lot of different dishes.  Corn and Beans have complimentary proteins so when eaten together you get all the essential amino acids. Ground millet can be subbed for the cornmeal for those with allergies or sensitivities to corn.  It tastes very similar to the real thing.  Doubling the recipe is the perfect amount for a 9×13 pan.
1 cup cornmeal (or Masa Harina)

1 cup hard white wheat flour

1 Tbs Baking Powder

½ tsp salt

2-4 Tbs coconut sugar (brown sugar or honey) (If you are used to cake like cornbread go for the higher amount of sugar)

2 eggs

1 cup milk

¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the middle of the bowl. Add eggs, butter, and milk. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 8×8 inch pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve with butter and honey.  Makes 9 2″square servings.

A 2” inch square has 144 calories; 23 net carbs and 6g protein