Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday Savings

I'm not feeling so hot right now. Instead of whining about it, let me just redirect you to Cheap Healthy Good, where I thoroughly enjoyed Kris' post on the timely topic of Cheap Healthy Party Food.

If you’re a football geek like Donnie and me, I’m sure you’ll be celebrating this Super Bowl Sunday with lots and lots (and lots!) of delicious snacks. Why shouldn’t they taste great AND be cheap and healthy?

(On a side note, Donnie and I are fortunate enough to spend Sundays with my grandparents, so we won't be cooking for ourselves. My grandmom makes us the best snacks every week!)

(On a further side note, I'm a pretty rabid Eagles fan, but I'll nevertheless be rooting for the G-men this Sunday. I loathe the Pats. How about you?)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stylish Skirts

I try to build my wardrobe around high-quality staple pieces that I can mix and match to create a wide variety of outfits. I previously wrote about how much I love the endless possibilities of the basic white blouse. Another of my favorite staples—which I just happen to be wearing today—is the classic black skirt. If you’re building a frugal wardrobe piece by piece, I highly recommend investing in this versatile item.

The basic black skirt is perfectly suited to almost any occasion, regardless of season. It can be beautifully “dressed up” with a sleek satin blouse, elegant scarf, and heels. Pair it with a simple cotton tee, jean jacket, and flats to create a casual, sophisticated everyday outfit. Worn with a wool sweater, textured tights, and structured black heels, the classic black skirt will keep you cozy all winter long. Greet the warmer weather by pairing your basic black skirt with a chic striped tee and sandals. To create the perfect business casual ensemble, partner your skirt with a classic white blouse, jewel-toned blazer, and black leather loafers. Dress it down with a cable-knit hoodie, patterned leggings, and ballet slippers. The possibilities are endless, because black looks great with almost every color!

Like the classic white blouse, a beautiful black skirt will never go out of fashion. Invest in one that’s been well made from high quality materials, and you can wear it for years to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Setting the Mood...


This evening, why not eat dinner by candlelight? There’s no better way to create a romantic atmosphere—while saving on your electric bill, no less!

Sensational Samples

L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani Fragrance

Just Like Sugar – sugar substitute

Habaneros of Texas Hot Sauce

Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend Coffee

Monday, January 28, 2008

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway at Mommy Cracked!


Stop by the Mommy Cracked blog for the opportunity to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Just comment on this post for your chance to win!

When Money is "Tight"

I recently made a minor wardrobe change that ended up saving me a good bit of money (and hassle): I started wearing tights instead of pantyhose.

Tights don’t rip, pull or tear the same way pantyhose do, because they’re made from a thicker, stretchier material. Plus, they hold their shape well, even after repeated washings. This means I don’t have to buy several new pairs each month, the way I did when I wore pantyhose. I can wash and wear my tights over and over again, without them falling apart in my hands when I go to wear them.

Thankfully, the tights available for adults don’t look like those opaque pink and white styles made for little girls. (I can’t see myself wearing a pair of those!) In fact, there are a wide variety of colors and textures available, all of which complement a grown-up wardrobe. My silky black tights actually look very similar to a pair of black pantyhose. The only difference is that I don’t have to replace them every three weeks!

Have you made any small changes that ended up saving you big bucks over time? Please share your stories in the comments!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Callie Micks Apron Giveaway at Home Ec 101


Comment on this post at Home Ec 101 before 11 PM EST tonight, for your chance to win a beautiful and practical Callie Micks apron.

The pic above is the apron being given away. Isn't it lovely?

Energy Efficiency at Home

Yesterday, the call-in show Radio Times on Philadelphia's WHYY Public Radio featured an hour-long discussion on the topic of making our homes more energy efficient. If you’re interested in learning more about conserving energy and cutting costs in your home, it’s definitely worth a listen!

To hear the show in its entirety, follow this link, then scroll down to the paragraph labeled "Thursday, 1/24/08 Hour 2."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Streeeeeetch Your Meat Budget

One of the ways Donnie and I save on groceries is by preparing meals that contain only a minimal amount of meat. We use lots of fresh produce and hearty grains to stretch small portions of beef, pork, and poultry a long way.

On Tuesday night, I tried a new recipe along these lines. My goal was to stretch about an ounce of London broil into dinner for both of us, with enough leftovers for two lunches. The results, pictured below, were delicious!


I first sautéed my London broil with some garlic, olive oil, basil, and a diced tomato. Then I cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, and served it with the tomatoes over a modified version of Hillbilly Housewife’s Cream Cheese Basil Pasta (I doubled the amount of Parmesan cheese and spices, and also substituted elbow macaroni for the spaghetti).

Donnie and I were both pleased with this creamy, flavorful dish. The pasta—which would be delicious served on its own—was the perfect base to stretch a tiny portion of London broil into a fantastic dinner.

How do you transform those last bits of meat into tasty meals? Please share your tried-and-true recipes in the comments!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Free Declutter Calendar at My Simpler Life


Beth at My Simpler Life is offering a free Declutter Calendar when you sign up to receive free weekly simplicity tips by email. This looks like a great motivation tool for those of us who need to get organized this year!

Am I Cuckoo?

Before I throw an “empty” tube of toothpaste away, I cut it open and scrape the last bits of paste directly onto my toothbrush. I get maybe one or two more brushings per tube this way. Not exactly stellar savings, but, hey, the toothpaste is there. Why waste it?

The catch is, Donnie thinks I’m nuts—especially considering we get all our toothpaste for free from CVS (we actually have something like thirty tubes in the medicine cabinet as I write this).

So, tell me—do other people do this, or am I just a ridiculous cheap-o and/or certified crazy person?

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Home-Based Business Idea (for someone else, that is!)

More and more shoppers are buying canvas bags to use in place of the old "paper-or-plastic" options at the supermarket. In fact, this trend is becoming so popular that many grocery stores actually sell reusable shopping bags emblazoned with their corporate logos. These bags are extremely cheap but, for the most part, hideous.

At the other end of the style spectrum, some big-name designers have launched their own lines of attractive canvas shopping bags. These bags are far prettier than those available at the supermarket check-out, but who in her right mind would spend hundreds of dollars on a sack used to transport groceries?

Which brings me to my idea.

For those of you who can sew (as opposed to me), wouldn't creating beautiful, sturdy, reasonably priced reusable grocery bags be a wonderful home-based business idea? I'm sure many environmentally conscious shoppers would be delighted to purchase lovely, well-made canvas shopping bags from an enterprising crafter.

If you can sew and have been looking for ways to put your skills to profitable use, why not give it a try? I’ll even give you three months of free advertising on this website, in exchange for a product sample. Just drop me a line at kgregg613@yahoo.com, and we'll take it from there.

So...anybody game?

Frugal Inspiration

This weekend, my mom showed me how she recycles pallets originally used to ship fresh fruit—as storage for her Christmas ornaments. Isn’t that a great idea? The boxes are padded to protect produce during transport, and include little cardboard dividers that can be adjusted to accommodate objects of various sizes. They’re perfect for storing her fragile decorations.

Donnie and I don’t have any of these boxes at our house, which is fine, because we don’t have many Christmas ornaments, either—certainly none as fancy as my mom’s! We don’t usually buy produce in large quantities from farmer’s markets, and we’ve never received a gift of fresh fruit in the mail (which is how my mom got her pallets). Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing how my mom made good use of the raw materials available to her, rather than spending money on manufactured storage containers. I'm always greatly encouraged by others’ stories of resourceful recycling—even if I can’t recreate their ideas myself, I’m inspired to look at my own “garbage” in new ways.

How have you used items you would normally throw away in new, creative, frugal ways? Make my day by sharing your inspiring stories in the comments!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Green 3 Giveaway


Stop by The Green 3 (the latest member of Frugal Hacks, by the way!), and comment on this post for the opportunity to win a copy of The Tightwad Gazette.

Good luck to all!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Simple Savings

Over the past year, I’ve saved money and lowered my daily sugar intake by making a simple change to my morning beverage. Up until about ten months ago, I drank chai latte made from a powdered mix with my breakfast every day. It was delicious, but it was pricey, not to mention full of fat, calories, and sugar. I decided to save money—and improve my health—by replacing my latte with a cup of simple chai tea, sweetened to taste.

When I first started drinking plain brewed tea in place of lattes, I added about two teaspoons of sugar to my cup each morning. After a few weeks, I reduced that amount to one teaspoon. Once I had gotten used to drinking my tea that way, I once again halved the amount of sugar I added. Then, after about three months of drinking hot, slightly sweetened tea, I stopped adding sugar entirely.

Now I enjoy my fragrant chai tea without any added sugar. I don’t miss the sweetness at all; instead, I savor the beverage’s enticing aroma and naturally spicy flavor. Buying tea bags is significantly less expensive than constantly purchasing powdered chai latte mix, which saves Donnie and me a significant amount on our monthly grocery bill. Plus, I enjoy all the health benefits that come from drinking black tea, without filling up on empty calories and sugar.

Small, deliberate changes like this can make a big difference in your life. How have you tweaked your daily routine to save money, improve your health, or reap some other significant benefit? Share your inspiration with other readers in the comments!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Happy Trend?

The frugal blogosphere is growing by leaps and bounds. KimC at Frugal Hacks added over 30 new members to the blogroll just this week! Could it be that our consumerist culture is changing for the better, one financially responsible blogger at a time? How I would love to see a world where all people strive to be better stewards of our precious, limited resources!

Am I being overly optimistic, or is frugal living really "taking off"? Thoughts? Please share!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For Sanity's Sake...

Donnie and I try to do most of our cooking from scratch. It’s healthier and less expensive than dining out frequently, or eating highly processed packaged foods. However, there is one item I simply refuse to make from scratch: mashed potatoes. When it comes to those, I stick to the boxed variety.

It’s not that I can’t make homemade mashed potatoes. I can, I have, and they were delicious. My potatoes were prepared using only natural ingredients, making them more nutritious than the boxed variety. They were also significantly cheaper, especially since one of our local grocery stores runs terrific sales on Russet potatoes fairly frequently. All in all, my homemade mashed potatoes were a healthier, more frugal option than the boxed variety. So why did I decide to stop making them? Because, when all is said and done, I despise the actual process of preparing mashed potatoes from scratch.


Part of me felt extremely childish when I first admitted that to myself. I wanted to “suck it up” and stick with the more nutritious, less expensive process of making potatoes from scratch—even though I hated the work involved. However, I ultimately decided to make my life easier and use the instant variety. I knew I was never going to stop making mashed potatoes. Donnie and I both like them too much. I also knew I was never going to enjoy the tedious process of preparing them from scratch. So I chose to spend less time doing something I loathe and went back to the boxed kind, even though they are more expensive and less nutritious than potatoes prepared from scratch. I’m not necessarily proud of the choice, but I am at peace with it.

Doing things we strongly dislike just to cut costs is a bad idea. Sacrificing our sanity to save some money doesn’t add to anyone’s peace of mind or contentment—and doesn’t that defeat the purpose of frugal living?

Are there any areas of your life where you’ve decided to save sanity by spending more? Share your experiences in the comments!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fabulous Freebies

Emergen-C Vitamin Drink Mix - click on "Share the Good"

"Daisy" Fragrance by Marc Jacobs

Pet n' Shape Dog Treats

L'Oreal Elvive Anti-Dandruff Shampoo - click on "Try it Free"

How Embarrassing!

I guess I was sicker than I realized last week. I've just been re-reading my posts from the past seven days and there were a TON of typos.

My apologies to those of you who hate bad spelling and grammar as much as I (usually) do! I promise not to blog my way through any more migraines.


Monday, January 14, 2008

A Frugal Flop?

Last week was a frugal flop for my household, thanks in large part to the fact that I felt terribly ill. We didn’t make it to CVS, which means we missed out on quite a few spectacular deals. I never got around to creating a decent shopping list, so we floundered on meal planning almost every day. On Thursday, we caved and got take-out, in spite of the fact that we had defrosted pork chops, because neither Donnie nor I was having much success staying awake long enough to cook. Yesterday I discovered that I accidentally allowed $6 in CVS Extra Bucks to expire, because they were out of date-order in my file. And, I went two whole days without writing a single word.

In years past, I would have spent a ridiculous amount of time berating myself for being such a frugal failure. Thankfully, as I’ve gained more experience with simple living, I’ve learned to go easier on myself. A few un-frugal slip-ups every now and then aren’t going to completely derail Donnie’s and my budget, or invalidate all the hard work we do all year long, trying to live simply and sensibly. We’re never going to achieve a state of frugal perfection, and we shouldn’t even attempt to do so. Frugality is one of many tools we can use to create a happy life, but it isn’t our life’s purpose. Much good can come from frugal living, but an occasional lapse into un-frugal-ness isn’t going to send our finances spiraling out of control.

In that spirit, I hope you will all be gentle with yourselves as you confront the challenges of living on a budget. Making smart money choices is important, but it isn’t everything. By all means, do the best you can, but accept the fact that you will make mistakes. We all do—and we’re all still okay.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rebates!


If you, like me, have experienced the frustration of submitting a mail-in rebate offer only to have it rejected (or simply ignored), then you absolutely must check out Donna's post "Steps to Take When Your Rebate Check Does Not Arrive" at About.com: Coupons/Bargains. I recently swore off mail-in rebate offers, but maybe I'll change my mind...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Smoke-Free and Frugal

One of the best ways to improve your physical and financial health this New Year is to give up smoking. Cigarette use increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and other serious diseases. Children exposed to second-hand smoke suffer a wide array of problems, including developmental delays. Plus, the tobacco habit costs users thousands of dollars a year.

I know giving up smoking is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are numerous Internet resources available to people trying to quit. If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out the sites listed below. You’ll feel better and have more money—a winning combination if ever there was one!











Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Frugal Freshness

If you, like me, are lucky enough to be enjoying this unseasonably warm East Coast weather, why not open a few windows and freshen up your house for free?




The warm winter breeze will make your whole home smell wonderfully clean, without any effort or money spent. After three cold months filled with the scents of pricey candles and air-fresheners, some real, honest-to-goodness fresh air will be a deliciously frugal change of pace!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mmmm


I can't wait to try Melissa's "reducipe" for Toscana Soup, posted over at A Penny Closer. It looks divinely hearty and warming for a cold winter's night!

Monday, January 7, 2008

More Freebie Fun

Meyenberg Powdered Goat Milk

Scholastic Classroom Magazine

Zostrix Arthritis Pain Relief Cream

GlucoBurst Gluco-gel (for diabetics)

Inexpensive Insurance

Donnie and I recently moved our home and auto insurance policies to a new provider, saving us about $600 annually. My wonderful husband invested a good bit of time into researching various companies and their rates. The results were well worth the effort, as far as I’m concerned!

I would highly recommend shopping around for better insurance rates at least once every three years. In addition to calling direct writers (companies like GEICO with whom you can work over the phone or internet), it’s also a good idea to contact a local independent insurance agent for help obtaining quotes. Independent agents are often able to negotiate with the companies whose products they sell, resulting in better rates for their clients. These experts can also explain your coverage in detail and answer any questions you may have.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Frugal Giving

Check out this great post by Deputy Headmistress at FrugalHacks, on the topic of helping those less fortunate while sticking to a frugal budget. I especially love that she includes suggestions for giving without spending a dime. It really is possible to help others while maintaining a frugal lifestyle!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Frugal Fitness Part Two: Healthy Eating

Say good-bye to frozen diet dinners and highly processed low-cal snack foods. You can meet your New Year’s goal to lose weight while still eating real food AND sticking to your regular grocery budget. Here are a few tips to get you started.



  • Bulk up. Buy fresh produce from a local farmer’s market or agricultural auction instead of the grocery store. You can save literally hundreds of dollars a month this way, and you’ll always have delicious, healthy snacks on-hand. Preserve what you can’t use within a week by freezing, canning, or de-hydrating.


  • Drink lots of water. Sugary sodas, fruit drinks, and even juices are loaded with unnecessary calories. Calorie-free diet drinks aren’t any healthier, once you account for all the artificial flavors, color, and other chemicals in them. Plus, unlike those other beverages, water is free. Even if you invest in a water-filtration pitcher or faucet, your long-term savings will be significant.


  • Tweak your favorite recipes for better health. Replace the ground beef in lasagna with fresh vegetables. When you bake, use applesauce in place of vegetable oil. Sautee meats and vegetables in heart-healthy olive oil instead of butter. Use reduced-fat cheese in place of whole-milk products—you won’t be able to tell the difference when it’s melted. Make cream sauces or puddings with skim milk instead of full-fat. Check out this article from Ohio State University, for more tips on healthy recipe modification.


  • Make small changes and smart choices. Really think about what you’re eating, and consciously choose lower-calorie, more nutritious options at every meal. Gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee, until you’ve eliminated it entirely. Top your bagel with plain yogurt and fresh fruit in place of cream cheese and jelly. Instead of chips and dip, snack on baked tortillas and fresh salsa. Add an extra scoop of veggies to your dinner plate. Everyday healthy choices quickly add up to better overall nutrition!

How do you eat healthy on a frugal grocery budget? Share your tips in the comments.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Homemade Magazine Holder

Erin at About.com: Frugal Living shows you how to make a magazine holder from an old cereal box. This is perfect for those of us who need to get organized on a dime!


I've included a picture of Erin's finished product so you can see how wonderfully this project turns out.

Blouse Basics

I’ve found that the best way to build a versatile wardrobe without spending a great deal of money is to invest in a few high-quality wardrobe basics. These classic items can be mixed and matched to suit any occasion, and dressed up or down with a variety of inexpensive or handmade accessories. With a little creativity, you can create hundreds of different looks from just a handful of clothing pieces.

Perhaps the best example of a versatile wardrobe basic is the classic white blouse. Pair it with a pretty pastel skirt to create the perfect “look” for a summer picnic. Add a jewel-toned cardigan sweater, and your summer outfit becomes an instant autumn classic. Worn with jeans or khakis, your basic white blouse is ideal for casual weekend wear. Paired with dress pants or a pencil skirt, it’s perfect for a business environment. Your classic white blouse can be layered under any number of jackets or sweaters, or over your favorite tanks and tees. It can be paired with simple scarves, elaborate jewelry, or flattering vests. There’s no limit to the number of ways this basic wardrobe essential can be worn.

Best of all, the classic white blouse never goes out of style. Invest in one that’s been well made from high quality materials, and you can wear it for years to come.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Frugal Fitness Part One: Exercise

The start of a new year is the perfect time to get healthier by changing diet and exercise habits. Unfortunately, many people assume the only way to lose weight effectively is to spend a fortune on gym memberships and special “diet” foods. That’s simply not the case. There are many, many ways to get fit while spending almost nothing!

In today’s Frugal Fitness post, I’ll write about changing your exercise habits without breaking the bank. Friday's post will suggest simple changes to your diet that can help you shed pounds without resorting to frozen dinners or highly processed snack foods. You can bet I’ll be trying to make these changes myself this new year. It’s time to get in shape!

  • Sweat the small stuff. Find little ways to replace inactive behaviors with active ones. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus one stop early, or walk to a co-workers’ desk instead of sending an email. Little changes add up to big results!

  • DIY. Now is the time to tackle those big home repair projects on your to-do-list. Work up a sweat by painting the living room, stripping your wood floors, rearranging your furniture, or even just steam-cleaning the carpet.

  • Get walking. Start your day with a brisk walk (or jog) to set your heart pumping while you enjoy plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Begin slowly if you aren’t accustomed to physical activity. Even ten minutes a day will make a difference.

  • Refuse to sit still. Pace the room, pump your calves, march in place, or do simple stretches as your read, sew, or engage in other sedentary activities. You can fidget your way to burning hundreds of calories a week!

  • Check it out. Choose from a wide variety of exercise videos at your local library. Just don’t limit yourself to one type of workout! Try your hand at aerobics, Yoga, Pilates, dance, tai chi, strength training, and more. While you’re at the library, pick up a few books that show you how to develop a fitness plan that works for you.

  • Play with your kids. There are literally hundreds of fun, physical games you and your children can enjoy together. Hop scotch, jump rope, Simon Says, tag, freeze dance, dodge ball, Red Rover, Ring-Around-the-Rosie and hula hoop are just the tip of the iceberg. For maximum family fitness and fun, try a new game or activity every day. You can even invent your own!

How do you stay fit without breaking the bank? Share your tips in the comments.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Advertise for FREE with Frugal Fabulous


If you have a home-based business and are interested in trading samples of your product for three months of FREE advertising at Frugal Fabulous, please contact me at kgregg613@yahoo.com.