Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers -- Can You Say Soup?

As the Thanksgiving dishes were cleared away, a huge pile of fresh veggies from our appetizer tray remained on my kitchen counter. Carrots, celery, tomatoes and broccoli.


What to do, what to do! Soup was the answer.

The tomatoes and carrots where chopped, combined with onion and garlic. I sauted them in olive oil, added about 3 cups of broth (from boiling the leftover turkey breast) a dash of lime, salt, pepper, chick peas, and chunks of turkey. And in the end we had a delightful Turkey soup.


The celery and broccoli were chopped and sauted in olive oil. I melted about 1/3 of a stick of butter, added 2 tablespoons of flour, and made a paste. The paste along with 3.5 cups for vegetable broth and a 1/2 cup of whole milk were added to the veggies. I tossed in some of the leftover wild rice, and in an hour we had another amazing soup....creamed celery and broccoli soup.


Should a host or hostess every offer to send home left over veggies from a holiday party, you now have some inspiration to turn those into some amazing soups. Most ended up in the freezer to be enjoyed in the weeks ahead.

How about you -- what's your favorite Thanksgiving leftover accomplishment?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Bread for the Bread Machine

If you are trying to sell your house or want to make a delicious treat for guests, this is the recipe for you! It is by far our favorite item via the bread machine. Consumed warm from the bread machine or toasted a few days later, it will not disappoint.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Bread:
  • 1 1/4 cup milk;
  • 3 cups bread flour;
  • 3/4 cups oats (I use old fashioned);
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar;
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt;
Dump into baking canister. Push all four sides up, creating a well in the middle

  • 2 tbsp butter, cut into 4 pieces. Place one piece in each corner;
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast or 1 1/2 tsp fast rise yeast (I use fast rise). Pour into the well you created in the center.
Insert baking canister into bread machine, lock into place. Select the "sweet" setting. It will beep about 15 minutes into the process. When it does, lift the lid and dump in 1/2 cup raisins. Walk away and in just under 4 hours you will have a lovely bread. Crunchy on the outside, moist and yummy on the inside.

Lessons I've learned with my bread machine. Add ingredients to the baking canister with the canister outside of the bread machine. Should anything fall over the edge, which is easy when working with flour, it may land on the element. And just about the time you need to add the raisins the entire thing will be smoking enough to set off a smoke detector.

Thanks to my devoted reader at Midwest Potato Blog for emailing with questions about using a bread machine. A "previously owned" model had made its way to her home and she was looking for suggestions. She had found the manual on-line with a Google search, but the 30 page owner's manual was not an easy read.

If you are frugal and looking for a bread machine, I suggest stores like Savers, Hospice Thrift, St. Vincent de Pauls, or Goodwill. They have endless models, and manuals can be downloaded from the web.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: Upcycling: Create beautiful things with the stuff you already have

Several weeks ago I heard a segment on the radio, To the Best of our Knowledge, on NPR. It was devoted to "upcycling". When you hear the mantra "reduce, reuse, recycle", upcycling fits into the reuse category. Part of the program mentioned the book Upcycling: create beautiful things with the stuff you already have by Danny Seo. A few weeks after the radio show I got an email that the book was waiting for me at the library.

At 200 pages, it is beautifully put together with amazing photos. Released in 2011, it contains chapters with ideas for: decorating, entertaining, giving, kid projects, and the great outdoors. As I read I found myself inserting little pieces of paper to mark the projects that seemed realistic to a mother with 2 young children who also has a part-time legal practice. Time and craft skill are not an abundance in my life, but I love the idea of transforming stuff I already have into something new. It is a great way to delay something's entry to a landfill and usually costs little to nothing.

Future projects I hope to tackle include:
  • a bath mat made with wine corks;
  • Neon artwork using holiday lights;
  • cork tin can organizers;
  • string scented diffusers;
  • coffee sleeve crowns; and
  • lids to preserve botanicals.
All of the other projects seem doable, but not that practical for our household. This is a book that is certainly worth a library check-out, and if you have time for crafts, one you may want to add to your collection. I can see the potential for lovely "upcycled" gifts. At a cost of $12.99 it could pay for itself in no time...but only if you are really going to do the projects. I recommend borrowing it first, give it a try, and add it to your library if you must.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25, 2011 - Buy Nothing Day!

Yes, a holiday a frugal person can really get behind....Buy Nothing Day. Started by an artist in Vancouver back in 1992, it is a day of protest against mindless consumption. If you are looking to put the "green" back in Christmas or keep "green" in your wallet this holiday season, consider joining me on this day of anti-consumption.

One way to embrace the holiday is to take the pledge at The Center for a New American Dream to simplify the holidays. It is a great way to challenge yourself to do 5 things different this holiday season, and all of them are frugal! I took it this year and it inspired me to make an extra effort to use environmentally friendly decorations this year. We moved into our home last year and have not really set any standards for holiday decor, especially on the outside. With small kids I want to do something festive. But that something needs to be festive and "green".

Another way to celebrate is to embrace nature and not the mall. Last year a friend specifically set out to enjoy a State park here in Wisconsin rather than use the day to purchase holiday items. Hearing about her day, exploring nature and all its glory has motivated me to do the same with our family this year. Not that we were ever big shoppers to begin with...so it will be easier for us than others.

How about you my frugal friends? How are you spending this "Black Friday?"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving


Turkey Day is a day off of blogging for me. I do want to share a favorite photo mine, one I took a few years ago at Warner Park in Madison, Wisconsin. To me it illustrates the point in the season where we are preparing to say good-bye to fall and hello to winter. Enjoy, pause, and give thanks. I'll be back tomorrow with frugal thoughts for all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Frugal and Thrift Stores

Every few days it seems that something comes to mind that we need in our house. A new grader for the kitchen. The zipper in my wallet broke, time for a new one. A wall rack for coats would be a great addition to our daughter's room. As each item comes to mind I write it on a list. The list entitled "2nd Hand Store". About once a month I leave the kids at home with my husband and hit one or two 2thrift Stores, with list in hand.

This past month I was delighted at my finds. All of the above items were acquired, and for pennies compared to what I would have paid retail. I found a "new" wallet at St. Vincent de Pauls. It was priced at $1.25, but was 50% off the day I happened into the store. My kitchen grater is about to break, and has been replaced with a much sturdier version, found at Savers for $0.99. And our daughter now has a cool coat rack adorned with the moon and stars, for $2.99

I have to give a special shout out to Savers this month. At the check out they asked if I had any coupons. "No, how do I get some in the future?" The clerk said when you donate they give you one. When she heard I have donated, but never received one, she happily pulled one out of a stack and gave me 20% off my entire purchase. Then she handed me the coupon which is good until the end of the year. I've always liked Savers, but more so now than ever.

As we head into a highly commercialized time of year I encourage you to consider thrift stores. They'll save you money, give new life to products, and support local charities. How much more can you ask?

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Laptop Serves Double Duty -- No DVD or DVR In Our Home

Close friends know that television viewing is not a common occurrence in our home. However, there are times when we do opt to watch a DVD. This is not done with a DVD or DVR machine. Until two years ago we did not even have a TV in the house. When we put in a DVD it is on a laptop computer. If you are looking to save space, save money, and save on technology production, I recommend this approach. Especially since DVDs are moving towards the fade of dinosaurs, don't waste money on this soon-to-be obsolete technology.

One possible draw back is if you put a DVD on for a child, you won't be able to check email or do any of the zillion other daily tasks you use the computer for while the show is playing. Then again, it underscores the importance of sitting and watching a show with your child. It forces togetherness, which is a lovely way to spend time on a cold winter afternoon.

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: A Homemade Christmas by Tina Barseghian


My goal is to bring you a book review each Monday. The book I selected for today's post is winter holiday themed. Instead of waiting until after Turkey Day, the official start to the holiday season, I am bringing this review early so that you'll have plenty of time to find and read a copy before finding yourself in the thick of the holiday season.

If you are looking to take the commercialization out of the Christmas season, yet maintain some the traditions, I highly recommend you read A Homemade Christmas: Creative Ideas for an Earth-Friendly, Frugal, Festive Holiday by Tina Barseghian. This is a book that I will consider adding to my permanent collection. That says a lot because even though I am a self-described bookworm, I use the library for the vast majority of my reads.

A Homemade Christmas: Creative Ideas for an Earth-Friendly, Frugal, Festive Holiday consists of 5 chapters and is just under 130 pages long. Each chapter contains several ideas for holiday cheer, as well as several "kid friendly" concepts that are flagged. The chapters include: greeting; trimming, cooking, giving, and celebrating.

From homemade holiday cards to stocking alternatives to homemade snow globes, my mind was just a bubbling as I read her book. I will be using several of her ideas this coming holiday season, and will pull on others in the years to come.

If putting the "green" back in the holiday season is a priority for you, check out this book!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Homemade Chicken Tenders

If you have kids, you have people who like chicken tenders. I'm not sure what the folks at McDonalds or Burger King did to figure this out, but if you put chicken tenders on a picky toddlers plate, they'll eat it. Please do not ask how I know this, the answer is not one I am proud of.

If you'd like chicken tenders on your plate, but prefer not to by them from fast food establishments or the freezer aisle at the grocery store, try my simple technique for a homemade version:
  • purchase chicken tenders at the store or use left over chicken (purchasing a whole chicken is always less expensive then one cut up for you);
  • roll the pieces in olive oil;
  • toss with bread crumbs;
  • bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Voila! Homemade chicken tenders. Any leftovers can be tossed into a salad or wrap.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Frugal and Cell Phones

My three year old poses the most interesting questions at times. Recently he asked "Mom, why doesn't your phone have visuals like Baba's?" And there you have it. The secret is out. I am one of the few people left with a cell phone that does not have internet capability. I joke and call my phone the "negative G" phone. My husband, the technical expert, corrects me and says "you have a 2G phone with no data service".

When you are frugal you most likely do not have the latest and greatest phone, or anything for that matter. Even my husband, who does have a 3G phone (with visuals) is frugal. Here is a guy who literally knows how to design the circuit boards in cell phones. To say he adores technology is an understatement. Yet he waited until 2010 to purchase one. When he did, he got a mid-grade phone with excellent reviews. His cost a fraction of what most people paid.

So, why don't I have a better phone? One, I don't have a lot of free time. To purchase one will require some consumer research. Then I'll have to invest time in figuring out how to use the dang thing. Time is precious in my life. Second, I don't need one because my current phone still works just fine. Might I want a slick state of the art phone? Yes, at times. But I'd also like to fly to Paris every Spring. We can't have everything we want. Knowing that and living by that make me frugal. I am always amazed to see how many stay-at-home parents I meet who complain about living on a tight income, not being able to save for college, and then take a call on a 3G phone. That puzzles me beyond words.

So, if you want to be frugal I challenge you the next time you are prompted to up-grade to take a deep breath, wait and then continue to wait. Sure, you may not have an amazing phone. But you'll have some extra money to stash away....for a kid's college fund or a trip to Paris in the Spring.

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Maxing Out the Plastic...the Other Kind


In our house we believe in maxing out the plastic. No, not credit cards. The plastic that has become so ubiquitous in our society. Not a fan of plastics because of the havoc they can have on the environment, aka the Pacific Garbage Patch, I try to max out the utility of each piece I purchase. My first line of defense is to NOT purchase plastics, but that is near impossible in our society. The trunk of my car has a stash of cloth bags that we pull out when going shopping. An added bonus is that most stores will knock 5 or 10 cents off the bill for each bag. Yet, plastic is in my home.





Here are five ways I get the most out of each item:
  1. Trash can liners. Instead of pulling the bag out each week when I empty the trash, I dump the contents into one large bag. Usually from the kitchen of the can near the litter box. I can usually get several uses out of one bag before it needs to be "trashed". The ultra frugal approach is to use an plastic bags you acquire as liners and avoid purchasing garbage bags all together. This usually works well for bathroom trash;
  2. Shower liner. When you have two kids in diapers and two spouses with their own businesses, something as simple has finding the time to give the shower a thorough cleaning can be the highlight of your evening. As I scrubbed our back shower, I discovered that the plastic liner need a good cleaning. Remembering a tip from The Queen of Clean, I pulled it down and tossed it in the washer with a towel and set it for a light wash. Twenty minutes later it was like new and drip drying in the basement; and
  3. Wash and dry plastic lunch bags. I've blogged about this in the past, but felt it was worth another mention. We often eat away from home and plastic lunch bags are easy for transporting goodies. I purposely buy the freezer kind so that they are more durable. The easiest way to clean them is to turn them inside out, wash, and let dry. You can tuck them back in the box and get multiple uses;
  4. Baby Bottle Brush Reincarnation. Our baby has turned into a toddler and left her bottle days behind us. Yet, the bottle brush still sits next to the sink. It now serves as a great means of drying the above mentioned plastic bags; and
  5. Reuse bread bags. Occasionally we will purchase commercial bread. When we do, I wash, dry, and store the bag for when I make my own bread in the bread machine.
There you have it, five was to max out the plastic in your life. Frugally wise and environmentally kind.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post: Bicycle commuting is a great solution for a frugal society

Note: Today's installment of the Frugal Upside is brought to you by a guest columnist, Elizabeth Wheeler. Among many things, she is a bike commuter. Even though snow has fallen in the upper Midwest, it does not mean that you have to put your bike away for the winter. Her piece reminds us all of the benefits of biking. For the first 5 years of our marriage we were a 1 car family; I had brought the car into the relationship. My husband owned two bikes, and that was all. In 2009 he bought a used car because of a change in his work duties, which required a car. Those work duties recently changed again, and he is now working as many bike commutes into his routine as he can.

Photo Credit: This one runs on fat & saves you money by Peter Drew of Adelaide, licensed under Creative Commons.

Bicycle commuting is a great solution for a frugal society

Guest column by Elizabeth Wheeler

Last week's Huffington Post article highlights one way that using a bicycle as transportation can bring economic and public health benefits to our society. We all know that bicycle commuting is good for your health and the environment. Most of us are also aware that it can save money, but there are a lot of hidden ways that biking is even better for the pocket book - and the economy - than most of us realize. Here are just a few:

1. No gas! Not only do you not have to buy gas to ride your bike, the money you would otherwise spend on gas can stay in our local economy.

2. No car payment, insurance, registration, AAA,[1] maintenance, and wear and tear on your vehicle: If you can avoid having a second car, or even a first car, these costs can add up! According to the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, these costs average to over $450/month per vehicle. If you can replace your second car with a bicycle - even a fancy bicycle with all the gear - you could easily recover these costs in 3-4 months.

3. Free parking! There is almost always free and ample bicycle parking. And when was the last time you got a parking ticket on a bicycle? Car parking infrastructure also comes at a high cost to our society. (See Free Parking Comes at a Price,” NYT article from August, 2010.)

4. Bicycle Benefits! Bicycle Benefits is a program that local retailers participate in in 20 U.S. states plus British Columbia. I paid $5 for a sticker on my helmet which saves me 5%-15% off at 119 different local restaurants and retailers in Madison. I use this regularly grabbing a few groceries at the co-op on my way home from work. I save 5% when I bike. Bonus: more money into our local economy.

5. No need for a gym membership! Your workout is built into your day when you bike to work or for short errands. We all know that going to the gym is expensive and time-consuming. Added benefit: No room full of mirrors or judgy looks from hardcore weightlifters!

If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out Grist Magazine’s series, “How bicycling will save the economy (if we let it)” found here: http://www.grist.org/biking/2011-02-28-how-bicycling-will-save-the-economy



[1] An alternative to AAA exists for bicycles - the Better World Club offers roadside assistance, discounts, and other benefits for cyclists.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel

On my weekly trek to our local library, I spotted the book The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel: Hundreds of fun family vacations to fit any budget by Kelly Merritt. With thoughts of next summer's vacation bouncing in my mind, I dropped the book into our "to go" bag and brought it home for a read.

Released in 2011, the book is just under 400 pages long and consists of 20 different chapters. With titles ranging from "A Vacation Doesn't Have to Break the Bank" to "The Well Managed Budget" to "National Parks" it appears to hold great promise for a self-described "frugal person". However, after a few hours with the book I'd advise you to leave it on the shelf.

The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel: Hundreds of fun family vacations to fit any budget is so lacking in practical frugal suggestions that I question whether it was truly written to be used by frugal shoppers. The skeptic in me says the publisher slapped Budget Travel on the cover as it went to press in 2011 simply because of the recession. Why the slam?
  1. The chapter on National parks contains no reference to "free admission" days. For the record, there are four times a year when admission is free to our Nation's parks;
  2. A chapter on "coolest" cities mentions New York, Boston and San Francisco -- three of the most expensive cities one can visit. The references make no mention of creative ways to save on lodging in these "cool cities";
  3. The author describes train travel on Amtrak as an amazing adventure. Our family considered that as an option this past summer, but discovered the price was 3x airfare..and we've heard the same from others. There is no mention of this fact;
  4. The book suggests visiting various zoos, many of which sound amazing, but none of which are free. Okay, so the Henry Vilas Zoo in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin may have slipped under the radar for being free, but what about Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago?; and
  5. The chapter on promoting camping leaves the reader wondering if the author has ever camped -- the discussion is too upbeat and too positive.....I couldn't help but wonder about the bugs, bears, and beer drinkers one is likely to encounter while camping. I imagine ads for REI being more cautionary on getting into the camping habit.
So, this book is in the return pile for the library. I suggest you spend your time using Google search if you are interested in budget travel.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Celebrate Veterans Day, Frugal Style

It's November 11th, and that means it is Veteran's Day. If you have the day off, consider the following inexpensive ways to commemorate this day:
  • attend a parade;
  • visit a military cemetery;
  • tour a veteran's museum; or
  • spend time with a veteran you love.
If you live in or around Madison, Wisconsin, you can visit the Veteran's Museum, which offers free admission. If you are not in the area, simply enter your city, state, veterans day 2011 into Google and see what type of events pop up.

I am fortunate enough to still have my grandfather, a WWII vet (and purple heart recipient) in my life. In addition to the card I've put in the mail to him, I hope to plan a visit with my two young children. I know that he does not like to talk about his time in the service, so I plan to ask my grandmother (who is still going strong at age 90) to tell me about Victory Gardens that were so common during WWII.

How about you? Any other frugal thoughts for this holiday?

My grandparents, aged 90, still able to enjoy the rough and tumble ways of a toddler....specifically
their great-granddaughter (that's my girl).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reducing Repair and Replace Costs -- Everything Has a Home

Do you have an absent minded professor type in your life? If so, you probably also have a budget line (assuming you use a budget) devoted to repair and replace. If your absent minded professor type is like mine, the bulk of those budget items fall into "replace". I have lost count of how many times my husband, aka the absent minded professor (engineer actually) has misplaced his cell phone, MP3 player, GPS, bike (yes, he left it at the store once), and various clothing items. He is so used to loosing things that after 20 minutes of searching he declares "search and recovery is over", fires up his computer and orders a new one of whatever is missing. And yes, you've guessed it, within 36 hours the lost forever item is found, usually by me. Yet, a box still arrives via UPS with the replacement item. In an effort to get this budget line item under control I am in the process of finding a home for everything in our home.


Photo of said absent minded engineer, taken in 2009, with our son at his 1st Ham Radio festival. Note, our son is NOT absent minded and commonly reminds his dad not to forget his keys, coffee cup or phone.


This is not an easy task, but one I am embarking on nonetheless. For example:
  • shoes go in the hanging shoe holder in the front closet;
  • hats are put in the wicker basket in the front closet;
  • bike and bike accessories along the north wall of the garage;
  • assorted electronic gadgets in the living room armoir that hides the TV;
  • cell phones next to its respective charger; and
  • keys...in the key box by the front door.
Please offer tips or suggestions on helping me in my quest to reduce repair and replace expenses! And an aside offered by the absent minded engineer "if we had anything or real value, we would not be posting its exact location on the world wide web -- please note for any would-be thieves."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Growing Herbs....In the Bathroom?


Our house runs north to south, which means we get very little southern exposure. Translation, there are not a lot of spots with great light for growing plants. The kitchen is especially lacking. So, my first attempt at potted herbs was a dismal failure. Then one morning, after a shower (I always think best when being doused in hot water), inspiration hit. The bath off of our bedroom gets great southern light, and at least twice a day becomes humid from the shower. The perfect place to give potted spinach and cilantro a try. And guess what, it worked!!! The only down side is that it is not a room the kids hang out it every day, so they are not getting the daily contact with the eco-world I would like. But, I have fresh spinach and cilantro to harvest, so no complaints. Winter hasn't even arrived yet and I'm already eager for Spring planting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

$15 Target Coupon

I am one of those shoppers that reads the coupons that spit out when the cashier is finishing up with you. You know, the ones that he or she hands you along with your receipt. Last month I was handed one for the Target Pharmacy; $15 gift card for a new or transferred prescription. I was giddy because a $15 gift card is a nice find! I tucked it into my coupon envelope, which is stored in my wallet, ever ready when I'm at a point of purchase.


Remembering the coupon at my annual doctor's visit, I had the doctor send my asthma inhaler prescription to the Target near our home instead of Walgreens, which I've used for decades. We really maxed out our savings because my husband took his evening run and went to Target. He paid for the $16 prescription, got the $15 gift card, and used no petroleum (unless you factor in that he eats more when he runs). The gift card was redeemed on my weekly run to Target. It, combined with the 5% off we get from using the Target debit card, other coupons, and bringing our own bags (5 cent savings each) dropped the bill from $70 to $40!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Farmers' Market of the Season


Saturday morning I made a solo trip to the Westside Farmers' Market, the last for the season. As I walked among the vendors I heard over and over "have a great winter", "see you in April", and "I plan to hibernate for the next 5 months". Yes, it is early November in Wisconsin and the growing season has come to an end.

This weekend I roasted the last of the pie pumpkins, and will enjoy the tender super food for the next 11 months via pumpkin bread and pie. I also picked up a huge, dried sunflower ($3) and a few gords (4 for $1) to feed the birds and squirrels over the winter. Cheap entertainment for the kids, cats, and me.

Now that the market is behind us it is time to dive into the frozen goodness I have stashed away in the garage freezer. I think I'll start pulling out items from this Spring over the Thanksgiving weekend. How about you? How long do you wait to tap into your winter stash?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Frugality in the Chaos

There is a sign in my kitchen that says "This House is Udder Chaos". I find it appropriate because 1) we have two small children, 2) my husband and I both run our own businesses, and 3) we live in the dairy state. Can you see it? It was a great find for $2.99 at Savers! I took this photo this past Tuesday, also known as Soup and Bread day in our home?

I find that it helps tremendously to have a meal pre-set for each day of the week. Making the grocery list is easier. There is little to no thought expended on the question "what's for dinner". Gone are the times I spent standing at the fridge or freezer, letting the cold out, and trying to whip up a gourmet meal. This rule of thumb is especially important now because on November 1st my husband started a new client....and will now be working 60+ hours a week. The income will be wonderful, but as we learned with his last client of this nature, when you work that much money tends to get tossed around. So, as we head into chaos, our dinner meal routine is set:


  • Sunday - quiche and veggies;
  • Monday - brown rice, curried veggies, crockpot chicken;
  • Tuesday - soup and bread;
  • Wednesday - clean out the fridge leftovers
  • Thursday - bean dish (think lentils, etc.)
  • Friday - pasta
  • Saturday - take-out pizza (using a coupon).
Our routine is extending beyond meals. We now know that Mondays are library mornings, with the aim to cut out any late fees. Sundays and Wednesdays are grocery days at Sentry (Wednesday is also double coupon day at the store). Tuesday and Thursday we hang out at home, tackling a chore or two (currently raking leaves). Friday is adventure day, usually to our zoo (free) or for a nature walk. Saturday is farmers' market day. And Sunday, if our kids are cooperative, is attending services at the First Unitarian Society. And that is pretty much it. I make a weekly run to Target, and a monthly run to Woodmans (warehouse grocery) and have my husband watch the kids. Far more efficient!

My hope is that this simple, set schedule with cut down on the car trips, allow my husband and I to conduct business as usual (I'm with the kids in the AM and works PMs), and set a calm pace so that we can continue our frugal ways.

Reactions?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Profile in Frugality: Steve Jobs, ????

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died earlier this year with an estimated net worth of $8.3 billion. Yes that was a "b" as in billion, not a "m" for million. One may be shocked to learn that a person with such a massive net worth not only described himself as frugal, but who is also described by others as frugal. Yet, CNN ran a story on Steve Job's frugality. The story is relatively brief, and promotes the new biography by Issacson. However, two principles of frugality jumped out at me:
  1. Keep clothing simple. His jeans and black turtle neck were icons. But they were also smart. Low cost and easy effort in wardrobe. I appreciated the less is more concept during my pregnancies because my maternity clothes were limited. It was liberating. I was not overwhelmed by choices. There was less laundry to do. It was simple, easy, and something I've tried to maintain even though the pregnancies are behind me.
  2. Have an idea of what an appropriate price is for an item, and walk away if it is too high. Apparently Steve was in NY City without a coat and it was a cold day. He went to a store with a colleague, but walked out, without a coat because he felt the price was too high, especially since he would get little to no use out of it in California. This from a man with a net worth of $8.3 billion!
I have requested his biography from the library and am eager to learn more about this frugal man.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Every Last Drop

Are you trying to get every last drop out of a jar of spaghetti sauce? If you are frugal you probably are. Here is a great tip I picked up earlier this year -- once you've dumped the sauce, add in some red wine, swish it around, and add to the pan. It is a great way to get out every drop without watering it down. Thanks to Leah Ingram for this great tip!

I've also taken to draining the last drop out of a jar of applesauce. The key is to have a container that is small enough to prevent the jar for hitting the bottom, but large enough not to topple over. My 1.5 measuring cup works well.

And on the medicine front, we commonly add a dash of water to a bottle of liquid medicine. If you swish it around it gets the last drop out, making those health care dollars go farther.

What tips can you share with others on getting the last drop out of a jar or bottle?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Free Tax Information and the IRS

Free is a word most people love, the IRS is not usually in their list of top 100. However, I recently came across a great resource -- IRS Publication 910. It is a guide to free tax services. It contains a complete list of free publications, an index of tax topics, and information on tax education and assistance programs. The link I have provided is for 2010, which is the one on the agency's web site. Sometimes free means a little outdated. However, it still seems to have some useful and easy to access information. I'll post an update if I see a revised publication appear on the agency's web site.

Apparently the IRS is embracing social media to distribute information, and have videos on YouTube and a feed on Twitter. I did not see a Facebook Page....which probably would not have too many "likes".

Who should check out this resource? I'd recommend it for the following:
  • small business owners;
  • employers;
  • low-income families;
  • recent retirees;
  • do-it-yourselvers of tax forms.