Cheap Thrill$ in Omaha

Frugal Living In The Heartland

Change, and I Love The Free Market System!

It’s not that I hate change.  It’s that I hate the surprise of change.  The “React to THIS now, CT!” attitude that change often brings.  And it’s not like this 54-year-old gal doesn’t know that change happens, or that it should, or that it’s even sometimes good.  It’s just that the change du jour presented so abruptly, so smugly, as if to say, “Too bad, so sad.”

My favorite grocery store is closing.  I found this out quite by accident at Bag N Save yesterday morning.  I asked the Assistant Store Director why the location wasn’t on the web site anymore, and he matter-of-factly stated that the store was closing in about three weeks. Turns out the employees were told a week before my discovery — like most people, I shop once a week. When I asked when they were going to tell people, he smiled and said they should be soon.  What?!  What my mind (and probably the minds of the other customers) heard was, “Oh, we’ll let you know when we’re darn good and ready.  Meanwhile, just go about your business and let us continue to play our little games.” — or, “No groceries for YOU!

It doesn’t matter that the store has to be closed; I know in my head that it does.  I know I’m so blessed to have so many other options for food and sundry procurement in this city.  I know in my heart of hearts that it will all work out for the employees one way or another, because God does provide.

What matters is how Nash Brothers (the parent company of No Frills and Bag N Save chains) handled this last round of closings: their no-notice position, removing of half their stock three weeks before scheduled closing. No tissues! No deli! No bread! Pitiful produce!  With NO signs to alert customers.  AND not even honoring the current sales flyer.  It’s how they treated the customers, not to mention the employees.  (Although I must say, I was very impressed that the Customer Service Manager thoughtfully called the nearby assisted living facility to alert them to the reduced stock before their scheduled shopping excursion for residents.)

What I haven’t told you is that starting a little over a year ago, Nash started reassigning many (but not all) of the best employees from my store to other stores, whether or not they wanted to go.  One employee was given a few days’ notice of their reassignment, and it was so dangerous and drastic that they had to stop working for Nash.  Nash executives didn’t want to discuss any changes.  I asked them last year; they didn’t care about this customer’s concerns.  Here’s the thing: you can’t reasonably expect to improve customer service and profits when you take away popular and high-performing staff.  You can’t reasonably expect to serve a market, a community, when you give up on a location’s operations.

The unfortunate image you project, Nash, to this former customer, is that you don’t care about the people in the communities from which you draw your customers, the very people who make this city tick.  Oh, I know it’s all about the profit, but really, you should probably improve the store and serve your customers rather than eliminate the options for them.  It’s called giving back; you should try it. You might see a positive effect.  But I see elimination of jobs, elimination of affordable grocery options for lower- and fixed-income residents, and the eventual elimination of this entire chain, which could have been a strong community player.

This means I just need to adjust my grocery shopping strategies again (and you will see the progress here on CT). I chose this grocery option for a long time, and now I will choose another. There are so many solutions to pick from!  Indeed, we are all so blessed to live in such a world, where not only is food plentiful and cheap, but also there are many places to get it.  My choices are possible because of our free market system.  Whatever my value system, I can choose if, how, where and when to spend currency in exchange for goods.  Incredible!  And as my value system changes (time v. funds, for example), my choices can change! (Oh, and, Freedom of Speech!)

MERICA!

This was my favorite store, mostly because of the people I encountered there. I am really going to miss those great employees.  I am really going to miss chatting with and helping those senior citizens in the aisles (because store staff was reduced so much).  But change happens.  Usually it’s uncomfortable.  Sometimes it is made more uncomfortable than it should be, by out-of-touch entities.

Bottom line: I’m no longer supporting Nash stores with my hard-earned grocery dollars.  I will find other solutions for our grocery needs. Competition is good and the free market system is awesome! 

 

I vote with my wallet when it comes to business.  How about you?

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Weight Loss and Being Healthy on the Frugal Plan

I am purposely losing weight.  Not that I was unhealthy, but I want to be healthier.  And I want to stay that way for a long, long time. The older I get, the more I realize how much work this takes in our current society.  After 50, it’s so much harder!

Since late last summer, I’ve lost nearly 20 lbs.  (Thankyouverymuch.)  Since Thanksgiving, I’ve lost 15 lbs.  Wow! Over the holidays, even!  I had a target weight for Valentine’s Day, and sadly, I came within 1 lb. of that, but did not hit it.  NO WORRIES!  It was one stepping stone along the way.  I just have to cross it eventually.  The up and down cycles are tiny now, and as long as I keep at it, it works.

Remember how I said I’ve switched to a mostly plant-based diet?  Yeah, that Valentine’s steak wasn’t plan-compliant.  But, “I was on a break!” It’s okay, really.  I’m back to my regular eating now.

The new goal weight marker comes at Easter.  And this I can do, if I don’t plateau.  With Ash Wednesday this week, and Lent for 40 days + 10 Sundays = 50 days, the combination of thoughtfully doing without certain food luxuries and getting out in the coming warmer weather will help keep me on the right courses, spiritually as well as physically.

But frugally?  You betcha!  As evidence, I present that in January I stayed under my grocery budget.  Eating smaller portions of lean animal protein, and aiming for once a day with that, is definitely cheaper than eating a heavy meat-based diet.  There is plenty of decently-priced produce available right now.  Maybe it’s not the fruit you enjoy in the middle of summer, or the fresh Nebraska corn from down the way.  But you can find relatively local (within a few states’ distance) vegs and Texas or Florida fruit, if you eat seasonally.  And my friend The Freezer supplies an abundance of preservative-free, sometimes organic, sometimes local, always delicious foods.  Not bank-breaking.

When I combine my regular thrifty grocery shopping habits with reduced amounts of meat and cheese, and eliminate as much non-food as I can (without mutiny), it is absolutely the frugal way to eat.  I’m looking for those sales all the time.  Price matching saves time and gas, but sometimes I’ll swing by a store with a better price along my travels (so still saving gas).  I always look for markdowns — I don’t always find what I’m looking for, but I do look.  I even find really good, whole greens marked down.

Canned foods don’t have the same benefits as fresh.  But whatcha gonna do when tomatoes aren’t in season?  Look for sales in the canned aisle!  Dry beans v. canned? Whichever is cheaper per serving!  Since dry beans were incredibly marked down in January, I stocked up.

Brown rice.  Reasonable, on sale occasionally, and a key part of my eating plan.  A little goes a long way.  That’s about it.

Exercise, moving around, keeping physically active, are important to this process.  I can blame the cold, but really I haven’t been making it a priority like I should.  In addition to my “walking” DVDs, I need to get outside more, get some sun on my face, put some mileage on my shoes.  The other day, DH and I found a new-to-us trail that goes to a nearby grocery store that I don’t usually hit because it seems silly to drive there for their 1 or 2 coupon deals.  But, with the “two stones” concept, this could be a helpful walk (roughly a 4-mile round trip).

Simple food is my M.O. these days, and keeping my purchases simple helps not only my “bottom line,” but also our budget bottom line.  And moving around is free!  I just need to step away from the computer.

What’s your favorite effective way to stay healthy frugally?

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How Do I Love Thee Frugally?

Many of you know that February 14th marks not only St. Valentine’s Day, but also our wedding anniversary!  There were a few reasons we chose that day.  And while we love to love it, we find ourselves staying home rather than going out to celebrate.

With the budget squeaky tight this year, I wanted to make this a special night at home, a real celebration without breaking the bank.  DH has been working very hard, sometimes missing family dinners, and I miss cooking for him.  We deserve a teeny break from the austere.  So a fancy evening, without a fancy price, would be nice.  I think I’ve succeeded.  Here’s the plan (and I’m not spoiling anything for DH).

The MealWe love a good steak.  I was hoping to catch a deal a week or two ahead of time, keep it in the freezer, and have budget-sized portions for our dinner.  Imagine my Thrill when I found these:

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Can’t beat the price of these luscious steaks.

Beautiful ribeyes for about .75 each!  I know it was a mistake, and the others were marked 9.99/#.  But, I presented them at the register, and they rang up like this, and the cashier saw it.  These will be such a treat for us!  And the leftovers (because I’m not eating 3/4# of beef in one sitting) will not go to waste.  Sides will include the frugal potato, gussied up as Hasselbacks, and crisp Romaine salads.

And we love a good dessert.  Especially when I don’t have to make it. The other day, for another occasion, I bought a Bundlet at Nothing Bundt Cakes.  I had a BOGO free coupon from the Saving Sidekick coupon book dutifully purchased for a fundraiser last year.  How lovely that we will be able to share this:

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Only a bite….or two.

This is massive, folks.  A decadent 3.5″ wide, 3.5″ high mound of red velvety awesomeness.  It is certainly enough for two to share.  And being free just makes it sweeter.

The Wine — DH is drinking reds these days.  For Christmas, I gave him a case of various reds from Wine Insiders.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  I don’t know which one he’ll select for himself.  I may well skip the wine, or just have a sip to celebrate.

The Table — Now this will be a surprise, so no picture just yet.  I purchased a red satin window panel at the thrift store recently for .99, washed it, and hemmed it into a square.  Layered over that will be a white tablecloth we used at our wedding reception.  Special plates, also purchased at the thrift store specifically for this occasion, and genuine antiques.

I’m always blessed with flowers.  The other night DH brought home roses.  He likes to avoid the last-minute rush and price hikes.  I know where he gets them, and bless his frugal heart, he done good!  These are very similar to the roses we had at our wedding.

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Beautiful!

The Ambience — DH always selects great background music for our celebrations.  We have a nice CD collection already, so we could use what we have.  Maybe we’ll play one of the cable music channels for a little variety.  Candles, soft lighting, etc.  Maybe we’ll even dance!

Part of the secret to making this a relaxing evening, is preparing as much ahead of time as possible.  (And cleaning up all but the last-minute dishes so no one has to be in there scrubbing.) No cost for that.

I’m pretty happy with the plan!  It’ll be just us two, as #2 has decided to spend his day and evening gaming elsewhere.

EDIT 2/16/15 — Didn’t get a full pic of the table, but here are the plates. Those are votive candle holders, not wine glasses.

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What are your frugal, but not “cheap,” Valentine’s Day plans?

 

 

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The Ninja Maker

 

This is not a sponsored post.  This review is based on my own experience with this purchase.

I’m proud to say that my eating habits have improved quite a bit in the last 5 months.  Good news: I’ve been able to adjust my eating this whole time, and now eat a mostly plant-based diet.

So when I decided to combine several gifts recently, I got this:

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Oh, yes.  Nutri Ninja Professional. 900 watts of power!  Four super sharp blades.  Appropriate sized containers. Nutrient extraction. I compared, I researched, and this — this is what I chose.  Not just for smoothies (because I just can’t have one every morning for boredom), but for celebratory first-job milkshakes, trial-and-error salad dressings, and even a soup fail experiment, so far.

It cost $99 plus tax at Walmart (Savings Catcher caught me nothing on this, and we only went there because we were returning another gift).  There were several different kinds of machines available at price points fro $59 to $120.  I’d done my homework and knew I wanted this brand, this model, for its features and price.  I’ve had it for 30 days now.

When I brought it home, DS#2 was there to christen it: The Ninja Maker.

TNM replaced a 30-year-old blender.  Since I was only using the huge, old thing for fruit not-so-smoothies, anyway, TNM was a better appliance for me, and the upgrade in function was a good move.  Love, love, love the 900 watts!  This can zip up my morning drink meal in about 15 seconds, and cleans up in a flash.

And I must say, it makes things so very smooth.  I can live without an ice cream headache — the power blending makes it smooth without all the iciness.  Plus, really, it’s freezing outside right now.

TNM takes up little square footage, so I can leave it out on the counter, which reminds me to use the fruit. I love all kinds of berries!  Even though it’s the middle of winter, there is still plenty of fresh and frozen fruit available at good prices.  Did you know that grocery stores will mark down bananas that are still perfectly good, just because the skins turned a little brownish because they got too cold between the truck and the produce department? A couple weeks ago I found containers of fresh blackberries on sale for .99, so I flash froze the berries then popped them into a freezer bag (not as sweet as late July, but still antioxidant rich).  And if all else fails, there are berries available in the freezer section.  Personally, I like to toss in a bit of orange, definitely in season right now, as well as some apple.

I’ve even experimented with tossing in a leaf of kale.  While they say you can’t taste it, I can.  But I also don’t mind it so much.  I’ve made “lunch smoothies” with assorted bits of veggies and tomato (fruit or veg, you decide).  One such concoction was intended to be a soup, heated up afterward, but, ummm, no.  (I may or may not revisit that.  I’m still recovering.)

There are lots and lots of recipes on the Interwebz, and I haven’t found one go-to website that I like. The Nutri Ninja Professional comes with a recipe booklet, but I really don’t have those ingredients on-hand all at the same time for those drinks.  Maybe I’ll get there.  In the meantime, I’m sticking with my usual morning blend:

  • 1/2 – 1 cup frozen berries in whatever variety and measurements I’m in the mood for
  • 1 medium fresh banana, which is so much better than frozen for texture and taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground golden flax seed for Omega 3 and fiber
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and I prefer Almond Breeze!

Like I said, I change it up a bit with orange, apple, kale, etc.  But this is my base, and this morning it was enough for me.

The milkshake was for #2, to celebrate confirmation of his first job as a camp counselor this summer!  Chocolate, of course, and in short order.  I tasted a teeny sip, and all the ingredients were well mixed without melting from too much blending.

So, does The Ninja Maker make me a Ninja?  The jury’s still out on that, but I feel healthier, the weight is dripping off as hoped, and I have more energy these past few months. I even feel some relief of my osteoarthritis.  This nutrient extractor is, so far, an excellent value, and I look forward to finding out what else it can do.

Do you have a go-to food prep item in your kitchen?  What thing makes your cooking life so much better?

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Unexpected Money — Yes, Please!

There usually aren’t any significant surprises on our credit card bills.  We use them mostly for gas, an occasional big purchase, and things for which we want the backing of the card company.  Our accounts are paid in full every month.  We try to keep current with Quicken entries.

(Money Makeover aficionados are likely spitting out their morning coffee, I suppose.  But this works for us, and we do not carry long term balances on our accounts.)

About a year ago, we learned that DH’s credit card was offering a credit of 5% of the first $150 of gas purchases each month.  Nice, we’d see what would happen.  The promotion ended with the last billing cycle, and they applied a credit to the account.  It’s enough for three tanks’ worth of gas!

The running total showed at the bottom of each statement, but since the credit didn’t apply, I paid it no mind.  It was to be a bonus, a sort of surprise at this time of year.  We like good surprises at this time of year.  DH didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.  He just filled up as he normally would.  Now, some of those months, he filled up the old gas-guzzling Durango, some of them the high MPG Saturn, and some the Toyota that replaced the Durango.

The credit was, indeed, a welcome surprise!  It will get credited to the proper Quicken account, and we will be under budget by quite a bit this month.  And that’s always good.

What good surprises have you found in your bills lately?

 

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Paying The Utility Bills

Part of our Money Makeover requires getting a handle on the bills.  Not just popping dollar amounts into the budget, but getting to know more about how the billing processes have changed over the years.

Yeah, we’re pretty old school.  Boomers entrenched in ’50s values tend to be that way.  But now it’s time to review and, I can see already, change.

To that end, I am becoming intimate with our accounts again.  (Let me clarify that credit card bills are examined monthly.)

We use budget billing for OPPD (electric) and MUD (gas and water) because we like to know what our monthly expenses will be. We get billed the same amount every month for the whole billing year, regardless of our usage, and  the account is adjusted at the end of that cycle, as a new monthly rate. There’s some Einstein-ish algorithm that magically calculates the new rates based on usage, expected energy costs, long-term forecasts, blah, blah, and I’ve never questioned it.

But I am questioning our usage! For some reason, for the past few years, our natural gas usage has steadily gone up over the previous year’s, every February. Huh! The bills reflect actual usage, not estimated, like they used to a few years back. That was one reason I was no longer examining the bills closely — some months were estimated, some were actual meter readings, with no consistency, and there was no making heads or tails out of the information. It was frustrating and a waste of time. Now that I’m actually looking at the bills again, I see they’re actual readings.

So why the jumps? Well, you can bet I’m going to be quite observant over the next few weeks to try to figure this thing out. While we might use more gas (for the furnace) in February than in other months, I can’t imagine why it would increase substantially each year, over the previous year’s jump.

The game is afoot!

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The Value of Black Pants

I’ve lost 12 pounds since Thanksgiving.  Twelve!  It needed to be done, and still needs to be done.  I’m on a journey here to a healthier, happier me.

So I purged my closet again, to get the ill-fitting stuff just OUT of there.  A few things fit comfortably and looked nice enough to keep.Three things got set aside for altering, and the rest got put in a pile for the thrift store, or listed on eBay.  My favorite pair of versatile black pants, now two sizes too big, sold within six hours.  Goodbye, dear friend.  You were always there when I needed you. Those black pants were worn with blazers for work, fancy blouses for work parties, soft sweaters for date night, and casual tops for day outings. Truly the go-to workhorse of my closet.

I suddenly had no black pants.  But with our financial goals super tight budget, a new wardrobe is not in the plan, especially since I’m still losing weight.  You know me….off to the thrift store!

Do you know how many pairs of pants hang on the racks at Goodwill?  A gazillion, at least.  Among them, a pair of black pants of the same brand and style as my favorite former bestie!  In my current size!  I held my breath and prayed for a red tag (the .99 color of the week).  And we have a winner!  God is good!

It is not trivial to find an excellent pair of well-fitting black pants.  Such a pair is versatile, comfortable, flattering, and esteem-boosting.  I will wear these often, with 70% of my tops, in all four seasons (as long as they fit).  And I simply cannot beat the price.  I can confidently say I will wear them at least once a week, probably more, which will bring the cost per wear down to about two cents if I stay on my weight loss schedule.

I feel so much better knowing that this item is available when I need it.  It empowers me, really.  That’s something money can’t buy.

What empowers you?  It doesn’t have to be a tangible item, of course!  But it shouldn’t be an expensive item, either, or it really doesn’t empower you.

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Money Makeover Budget

At the start of any Money Makeover is the budget process.  Stay with me.  Breathe deeply.  It’s just a blog post.

If I don’t plan out where the money goes for which I am responsible, it will go where it wants, as fast as it wants.  So I have usually stayed within general spending limits.  But this is not a budget.  What I’m talking about is a category by category accounting of where the expected income will go.  No money left, the wants don’t get purchased.  No bricks left, the wall doesn’t get built.

We’d decided last fall to scrimp this year in order to save, to make up for last year’s travel expenses and other things.  Then we found some house issues while installing Christmas lights, that will require major repair this spring.  Oh, the frugality!  That belt got tightened a bit more.  The new year’s salary was calculated, and we still needed to bring that budget to its last scrimpable possibility.  I read Total Money Makeover and got inspired with a plan that affected the budget process.

Let me say that creating a budget is not one of my most fun things to do.  We use Quicken for our finances, and I really, really, really do not like the way it handles budgeting.   It gave me fits, as usual. And, as usual, I was unwilling to learn something new to replace this tool just now.  But I persevered, and the budget was created, discussed, revised, and ultimately entered.  We’re now one month in, and I have some happy things to report!

I was under budget on groceries!  Yippee!  The budget for January was smaller than other months because I had so.much.food in the freezers leftover from the holidays.  I’d created freezer meals that weren’t used, so we’re still eating from that.  Even with a reduced budget, I was under, and that makes me happy.  Since my eating habits have changed drastically (along with my weight, thankyouverymuch), I’m eating lots of fresh veg and fruit, and try to eat lean meat just once a day.  We’re also eating more produce at dinnertime, and our meat portions have decreased.  Of course, coupons and price matching are still part of my agenda.  But I’m also finding that I’m just not buying certain stuff anymore, like processed foods and things I know I have enough of in the pantry.  Win!

We spent less on our vehicles than budgeted, too.  I drove less, was religious about combining errands (to the point of rearranging my weeks), and the warmer January helped gas mileage.

There was an unexpected dental issue, which, even with insurance coverage, grabbed a couple hundred dollars from our balance.  That’s okay, we had it, and that was a non-negotiable item.  Not the end of the world.  Because of that, other planned dental work for this month got postponed for later on. So while we’d budgeted for that to be paid from savings, we now have extra time to save up for it.

Long time readers will remember that February is a big month here.  Valentine’s Day is our anniversary. My birthday is this month, too.  I’ve considered all that in the budget, and we’ve vowed to make it work.  Here’s one example: I decided to return a Christmas gift from DH, and instead got something for that gift, Valentine’s, anniversary and birthday: a Nutri Ninja Pro 900 watt blender/pulverizer/extraction machine.  (Part of my new way of eating lots of produce means smoothies, homemade dressings, nut butters, etc., and the 30-year-old Hamilton Beach blender just wasn’t helpful anymore. It got Freecycled.)  I’m so fine with that, it makes me giddy.  It will probably also cost less than individual gifts in the long haul (we’re big on gifts here, even little ones).  FYI, I used Savings Catcher, but the WM price was already the lowest.

My recent weight loss has been awesome, but those nice black pants I wore so often were two sizes too big, and they got sold on eBay, along with other wardrobe staples. That meant no dark neutral pants, among other things.  With the budget so small for clothes, I have been super, super picky at the thrift stores (would I buy this if it was new?), and came away with just a few items this month, for less than $1 each.  These make a huge impact for very little.  The big item in this category was dry cleaning a sweater, and I will definitely write about that soon.  I did salvage some items I can alter or refashion, and I’m on that a bit each week.  This wardrobe process will continue for at least another two sizes by Easter.

Overall, we were slightly under budget!  A few truly miscellaneous expenses arose (condolence flowers), but we did so well in other areas to make up for them.  I am so hopeful for this year!  We can do this, and we will do this.

What’s your budget category that has surprised you in recent months?  How have you dealt with it?  Let us know in the comments.

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Happy Belated Frug Year! Money Makeover Time!

Wow, has it really been over a month since I posted?  Have I really let a January go by?  Sorry!  Much has happened, actually, from DS#1’s holiday visit (likely the last for a few years), to pounding out a new budget, to cleaning up around here….  You get the drift.

So, yes, belated greetings.  This is going to be a Frug Year at Chez CT. The belts are tightened.  We’ve got goals, after all.  And this year, by gum, we’re going to do something about meeting them and keeping to a plan.  In December, I picked up Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover at Goodwill for .99.  I could have checked it out of the library, I suppose, but then I wouldn’t have had all this time to read it on my schedule.

Anyway!  Chock full of inspiration and motivation, that book.  Most of the overriding concepts were not new to me.  In fact, at one point in my single years, I found myself in incredible debt even without a car note or mortgage, and I got out of it on my own, in just the same way ole Dave recommends.  So I know it works — it’s the motivation that’s the key.  The points in the book that I hadn’t considered seriously, or that I didn’t realize apply to me today, went on my to-do list.

Last year I paid off the furniture that was purchased when we had no non-mortgage debt, the washing machine purchased three days later out of sudden necessity, the air conditioner that was purchased a week later out of even more sudden and greater necessity, and a HUGE amount for physical therapy that ended in 2013 (don’t even get me started).  Debt = gone!  It avalanched in, and got snowballed out.

We’re now working together as a family to achieve success in steps toward greater financial stability.  This goes beyond coupons and meal planning.  It goes beyond buying frugally in the seasons.  In fact, it means not buying stuff we don’t need and saving instead, and being accountable for all the expenses, not just “adjusting” the cash balance.

This focus and the energy and effort we’ve put into the process, are getting us where we need to be, sooner than later without a huge change in lifestyle.  I’m all about that using-what-you-have thing right now, moreso than ever before. So no POS sale deals for this frugalista this year. No spring or fall clearance racks. And no whining!

Instead, we’ve got solutions.  This year I’ll share some of those solutions with you, and hopefully you’ll share some with me right here.  It’s all good.  It’s just a different approach to getting what we always said we wantedStay tuned.

What has been your inspiration, financially speaking?  Have you applied Dave Ramsey’s techniques?  Have you achieved your financial goals?  How? — and don’t spare the details, please!

 

 

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“Eat Well on $4/Day” — SNAP Cooking

Whilst randomly (okay, not really randomly) surfing the Interwebz, I found this FREE PDF publication, and just had to share it.  Eat Well on $4/Day: Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown. This latest version was published in August 2014.  Hooray for this publication!

Recall, dear readers, the hoo-ha over the two state senators who said they didn’t think anyone could live on a SNAP stipend.  So many Nebraska frugal bloggers pshaw-ed over this, and the collective aspiration deflated these guys.  Many of us in the blogosphere at that time were touting low daily and weekly totals for feeding our families.  You can find a gazillion old posts on Cheap Thrills to that topic ($25/Week dinner menus, for example).  But shortly after that, Leanne Brown did research and recipe development on this very subject for her masters program at New York University. That resulted in this cookbook and eventually a program to put these and more recipes in the hands of those who need them.  For those who couldn’t access the online version, a Kickstarter program provided funds for printed copies.

Brown’s information includes what CT has been preaching for years: use versatile ingredients, build a pantry, plan weekly, eat seasonally, cut down on meat, and use your freezer (among other great tips).  Preach it, sister! 

The recipes in this cookbook are tasty, easy to prepare, and nutritionally packed.  TRIFECTA!  And her instructions are geared to helping folks learn to cook: “Mix up the dressing and taste it. Adjust the salt, pepper, and lime to your liking.”  This might be unnecessary to many of us, but honestly, there are so many people who do not know to do this. Really. And the conversational, friendly writing style is helpful.

One of my favorite things about this cookbook for the audience it addresses, is the information on how to use leftovers.  Having worked with recipients at Project Hope, I’ve heard many comments about certain ingredients, and how to use the uneaten, that I know for certain this is needed information.  And so many young families find themselves in need of these services lately; they usually don’t know how to cook frugally or creatively use the leftover ingredients.

Brown probably didn’t know where this project would lead.  But I hope you will purchase this through the Kickstarter program.  Or download and print this, and pass it along to someone who could use it.  Maybe include a few food items, huh?

At this time of year, look for seasonal deals on baking items, butter, root vegetables, and canned vegetables.  Shortly after Christmas, be on the lookout for low sale prices on hams, turkeys, whole chickens  (there’s a great recipe for cooking a whole chicken in the cookbook), and frozen items.

Have a blessed and merry Christmas season!

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