Frugal Kitchen Tricks!

I spend a majority of my day in the kitchen and I have been searching for ways to decrease my cost of baking and cooking.  Here are a few tricks that I do to save money in the kitchen:

Make Your Own PAM Cooking Spray

Just the other day I ran out of generic PAM you know the vegetable oil in a spray can, and of corse because I make my own cleaners I had an extra new spray bottle sitting around the house. So I cleaned it out and filled it with vegetable oil! Viola! I now have my own PAM and for pennies compared to the generic $1.97 can that I buy from the local grocer!

Avoid Using Paper Towels

I used to use paper towels for everything from drying my hands to cleaning up the messes my kids made on the floor.  Now I use dish towels.  I have even gone so far as to sew my own apron that is made out of a towel so I always have one with me to dry my hands.  (I do make them to sell by the way.)   We have managed to go from 3 rolls of paper towel a week down to one!

Stop Using Disposable Antibacterial Wipes to Clean the Counter

I used to use Clorox wipes all of the time to sanitize my kitchen and table.  I have done away with this practice and begun using bleach mixed with water to sanitize my kitchen surfaces.  I keep a mixture of this in a spray bottle as well so I don’t need to mix a whole sink full if I am cleaning a small area.  Simply spray it and then wipe it up with a clean dish rag!  The best proportion to use is 1/2 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.  Remember this mixture will take color out of clothing so be careful with it.

Buying Baking Products in Bulk

I bake things from scratch a lot!  Pizza crust, bread, biscuits, cakes, muffins, rolls, cinnamon rolls, corn bread pancakes and waffles are all things I make from scratch regularly!  I have found that buying my baking supplies in Bulk from Sam’s club not only saves me money on my grocery bill but also saves me extra trips to the store which in turn save me money on gas and also my valuable time.  I can get a 25 LB bag of flour for around $7.00 at Sam’s Club versus a 5 LB bag of flour from the local grocer for around $2 on sale!  Things That I have found are much cheaper to buy in bulk are:  Flour, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Yeast, Chicken Bullion, Baking Powder, Corn Starch, Cocoa, Butter, Cheese, Vinegar, Vegetable Oil, Olive Oil   and Spices.  Now you are thinking how in the world does she store 25 LBs of flour and sugar?  Well that is simple, I store it in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid.  I freeze the cheese and usually use up the butter well before its expiration date!

Now I encourage you to not only try to try my tricks for saving money but also see what you can do to cut your costs in the kitchen!


How to Make Fabulous Desserts on a Frugal Budget!

I love eating at fancy restaurants and one of my favorite things in these restaurants is the dessert.  Who doesn’t love Molten Lava Cake or Creme Brulee?  Well when we decided to begin living more frugal we cut dining in nice restaurants totally out of the budget and I didn’t miss the steak or the seafood I missed the desserts.

Because I am an avid baker and scratch cook I started looking for recipes for some of my favorite fancy desserts.  The funny thing is I can make enough dessert for my whole family to enjoy for less money than I spend on one serving of a desert in a nice restaurant.  It may also suprise you how easily you can make these desserts and how few ingredients are needed for such rich and decadent treats.

Here are a few of my favorites for you to try at home:

Molten Lava Cake:

4 Eggs (Room Temperature)
3/4 C of Butter melted
3/4 C Melted Dark Chocolate (I use Nestle Chocolate Chips)
3/4 C Sugar
1/4 C of Flour

  1. Mix Melted Chocolate and Butter together
  2. In a separate bowl whisk eggs and sugar.  When well mixed add flour.
  3. Mix in melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture.
  4. Pour into individual greased ramekins and bake at 390 Degrees for 15 minutes.

Serve with Vanilla ice cream.


Creme Brulee

3 Cups Heavy Cream

3 TSP Vanilla Extract

8 Egg Yolks

1/2 Cup White Sugar

1 Tablespoon White Sugar

  1.  In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, heat cream with vanilla extract until bubbles begin to form at edges.
  2. Beat egg yolks with sugar until pale and thick.  Slowly pour cream into egg yolk mixture. Do this a little at a time or you will scramble the eggs.
  3. Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and add hot water to the pan until half way up the sides of the ramekins, bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until the custard jiggles like jello).
  4. Take the ramekins out of the water bath and cool at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  5. Put the ramekins in the fridge to cool.
  6.  Prior to serving, sprinkle remaining sugar evenly over custards and brown with a kitchen torch or under the oven broiler.

Serve with fresh Berries or Berry Puree.


How to save money on meat!

Have you ever dreamed of eating filet mignon for $7.99 a pound or less? Or boneless pork chops for $1.99 a pound or less?  Well let me tell you it is possible.

The most costly thing in my grocery budget is meat.  But by learning the correct shopping practices and learing about different cuts of meat you can cut this area of your budget dramatically.

It is important to know when the store you shop at marks down their meat.  Some of my biggest savings on meat were items that were marked “Managers Special.”  These are items that are going out of date in the next day or two and they are perfect to freeze or use immediately and can be a great value.

Keep a price book that tracks the prices of common cuts of meat that you use so you know when it is a good time to buy it.  In my area of the country (Costal Georgia) boneless skinless chicken breasts are priced good at $1.99 a pound but I have found them for as low as $1.59 a pound.

I also track the sale cycles of meat in my price book and have discovered that boneless skinless chicken breasts goes on sale about once a month as do the other cut of meat I buy.

When you find an excellent price on meat stock up!  Buy enough meat to last you until it goes on sale again and freeze it.  I have a big upright freezer and I probably have over one months worth of meat frozen in it at any given time.  This allows me to store meat when I buy it at rock bottom prices.  I put it in freezer bags and mark it with the date when I add more I rotate it so the newest is in back and the oldest is in the front so it does not get over looked.

Another great way to save money is by learning to cut your own steaks and pork chops.  You can buy a whole boneless pork tenderloin for around $1.99 a pound and cut it into pork chops and pork roasts.  These are commonly carried at Sams Club and their meat department will cut them for you.  I prefer to cut my own so I can cut some thicker for dinner and some thinner for breakfast.

You can buy a whole boneless beef tenderloin and cut it into steaks commonly known as filet mignon.  I like to wrap mine with bacon and cut them about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Normally I pay around $7.99 a pound for whole tenderloin on sale at my local grocer.  You can also get whole boneless Ribeyes and cut them into steaks for around $4.99 a pound.

You can also buy bone in chicken breasts and cut the breast out.  You can usually pick these up for .89 a pound.  Then I use the leftover bones, fat skin and ribmeat to make some of the best chicken broth you have ever had.  You do this by simply simmering the bones, skin and attacked meat in water until the bones fall apart and then strain off the broth.   Broth also freezes well for later use in soups or cooking.  i like to use mine to make rissoto.

Who would have ever thought you could have filet mignon on a budget?  Well it is possible if you watch your prices and do a little of the work yourself!  Enjoy!

Frugal Pizza Night!

My family loves pizza and we eat it about once a week for dinner or sometimes for lunch on Saturday.  Pizza also make a quick and easy meal!

We used to order pizza from various pizza joints around town and then one day I realized how this once a week treat was cutting into our budget.  Fifteen dollars a week works out to around $780 a year that we were spending on pizza.

So I started looking at recipes.  After all we like different kinds of pizza toppings and cheese than what is offered in the typical pizza joint.  So not only was this a chance to save money it was also a chance to make pizza out of toppings my family really enjoys such as portabella mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, ricotta cheese and  cheese (a cheese that can only be  gotten in St. Louis that I pick up in bulk when visiting family.)

In my search I discovered several different economical ways to make pizza crust.  Crust is so easy and cheap to make and it tastes a million times better that the stuff from certain pizza joints.  Not to mention if you are making it from scratch you can stretch it as thin or as thick as you want it to be.  My prefered crust is either a yeast crust from scratch or a tortilla (we always have plenty of these around the house because I make mexican food quite often).

Now I am sure you are thinking of making pizza for dinner well here is the basic  yeast dough recipe that I use for pizza crust to help you out:

Pizza Dough 

1 1/3 Cups of warm water

1 TBS of Sugar

1 Packet of yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

3 3/4 Cups of Flour

3 TBS Olive Oil

1 1/2 Tsp of Salt

Sauce and toppings

  1. In a mixer combine 1  1/3 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 packet
    yeast on low-speed for 30 seconds (I have a Kitchen Aid  stand mixer and it works great for this recipe). Then let it sit until  proofed (foamy).
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together  3 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons
  3. After yeast is proofed slowly add dry ingredients on medium speed.
  4. When dry ingredients are mixed well with the yeast mixture  add 3 tablespoons olive oil
  5. knead until smooth with dough hook about 3 to 5
  6. Brush with olive oil, cover in a bowl and let rise until doubled, about
    1 hour 30 minutes.
  7. Divide into two 1-pound balls.  (I usually use one ball right away and either freeze the second ball or store it in the fridge until the next day.)
  8. Stretch dough to desired thickness on a floured work surface.  (I use a rolling-pin and two well floured sheets of parchment paper.
  9. Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes on a pizza pan or baking stone
  10. Top with desired toppings and return to the 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

If you don’t have time to wait on a yeast dough you can use tortillas for a quick crispy thin crust.

Crispy thin crust Tortilla Pizza

  1. Preheated oven to 375 degrees
  2. spray or brush the bottom and top of the tortilla with olive oil place on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes flipping halfway through
  3. Top with desired sauce and favorite toppings (the key to keeping the crust crispy is to not use too much sauce or to many toppings)
  4. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

I hope you try these recipes and enjoy pizza night in a whole new way!

How to Use Muscadine Grapes for Wine Making and Jelly Making!

This is my favorite time of the year!  This is the time of the year when the muscadine grapes come in.  If you have never heard of a muscadine grapes they are wild grapes that grow in the south.  They have a thick skin, seeds, and are dark purple in color.  The thick skins are sour but the insides taste like pure sugar!

I love to make homemade wine and jelly out of these grapes!  These make wonderful frugal Christmas gifts.  Everyone loves to receive a bottle of homemade wine or a jar of homemade jelly.  I always get my grapes for free.  It always seems that someone I know has extra grapes and invite me to pick them in exchange I usually give them a few jars of jelly or a bottle of wine as a thank you gift.

Here are the delicious recipes to make these yummy frugal treats!

Muscadine Grape Jelly

3 1/2 LBs of Grapes

7 Cups of Sugar

1 1/2 Cups of Water

1 box of Sure Jell Pectin

Juicing the Grapes

Wash grapes, discard stems, place in saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.   Let cool.

Strain off juice using cheese cloth.  (I use an old-fashioned berry press to juice my grapes and then let the juice run through a cheese cloth)

Making the Jelly

Measure 5 cups of juice in sauce pan.  Stir in box of pectin. Bring to a boil.  Quickly stir in 7 cups of sugar.  Bring back to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute.

Ladle into sterilized jars, cover with sterilized rings and lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Making Homemade Wine

This is a very easy recipe for making wine.  It does not use any yeast and it has 3 simple ingredients: Sugar, water and Juice from fresh grapes. It uses a very simple fermantation process. This recipe was given to me from a friend who is 93 years old and has been making it all of her life.  It makes a sweet wine.  I have been making it for 5 years now successfully myself and we love it.  Grapes have natural yeast in them and this is a no yeast recipe and very simple.

1. Crush a 5 gallon bucket of washed grapes skin seeds and all.  I use muscadine or scuppernog grapes.

2. Return crushed grapes to clean 5 gallon bucket and cover with a clean dish towel.

3. Let sit for 3 days.

4. After the  grapes have sat for 3 days strain off the juice and pulp.  I do this with an old fashioned berry crusher.

5. Place the pulp and juice in a pot and bring to a steam.  A steam is not a boil or simmer it is when steam rises off of the wooden spoon when the mixture is stirred.

6. Measure juice/pulp mixture and mix using these proportions: 1 QT Juice with 2 QT water and 3 LBS (about 2 cups of sugar to 1 LB) of white sugar.

7. Place in 1 Gallon jugs  leaving a 2″ airspace at the top. I use the old vinegar jugs or you can use one big 4-5 gallon jug from a wine making store.

8. Place a balloon on top of the jug so it is sealed.

9. Place the jug in a cool dark place for about 40 days.  (You will know when the wine is done because all of the pulp will first float to the top and then sink to the bottom.)

10. When all of the pulp is at the bottom siphon off the liquid on top in to wine bottles and seal.  (I use a siphon from the automotive department of Walmart.)  I also place my wine in old cleaned Liquor bottles with a screw on lid.                                                                                           

How to save money while Cleaning!

I have to say one of the tasks I dislike the most is cleaning my house.  In fact I would say there aren’t many people I know, other than my mother, who truly enjoy cleaning.  But there is one thing I dislike even more than the actual task of cleaning and that is spending money on cleaning products!

After spending tons of time clipping coupons and shopping sales I still felt I was spending too much of my budget on cleaners.  I started thinking, women have been cleaning their houses for hundreds of years so what did they do before commercial cleaners?  Then I began to research recipes to make basic cleaning products in my home.  As I began to read different recipes I discovered most cleaning products can be made out of basic things you have in your home such as:

  • Vinegar
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Water
  • Borax
  • Ammonia
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemon Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Bleach

I also discovered that the recipes are simple, the ingredients are inexpensive and best of all they work just as well as commercial cleaners!  These homemade cleaners work so well that last time my mother visited she had no idea that I had cleaned my home with them and not Windex, Pledge and Soft Scrub which are the products I was raised using.

So now I am sure you are probably wondering, how do you make them?  Well You are in luck instead of scouring the internet for hours like I had to do I am going to share my favorite homemade cleaning recipes and tips with you over the next few days.

I am going to start with a few of my favorite recipes:

Homemade Glass Cleaner

1 Cup of water

1 Cup of Rubbing Alcohol

1 TBS of White Vinegar

Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle.  Use to clean windows, mirrors and anything else you would use glass cleaner on.

Homemade Soft Scrub

1/4 cup water
1/2 liquid dish soap
1 2/3 cup baking soda
2 tblspoons vinegar

Homemade Dust and Furniture Polish

Mix in a sprayer bottle:

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice

Shake well and apply a small amount to a flannel cleaning rag or cleaning cloth. Spread evenly over furniture surface. Turn cloth to a dry side and polish dry.                                                                                            

Enjoy saving money and making your own cleaners!



The Dreaded “B” Word!

Some people hate to hear the word budget but in reality the budget is the heart and soul of living a frugal life!  You are not truly a frugal person without one.  The reason a budget is so important is because without one you do not know where your money is being spent.  You may think you are saving money because you are getting a great deal on a purchase but without a budget you don’t really know if you have the money to make the purchase.

I can not stress the importance of having a plan for your money.  You would never go to the bus station and get on a bus without knowing where that bus was going.  However, how many of you get up in the morning and have no idea where your money is going? A budget is the number one key to getting your spending under control.  So now you ask how do I do this?  Well here are the steps on how to do it:

  1. Track your spending-This is important.  You can not write a realistic budget if you have no idea what categories you are spending in and how much you are spending in each category.
  2. Put it on paper:-After you have tracked your spending put the amounts down on paper.  Be specific categorize every dollar you make and make sure every dollar you make belongs someplace in your budget.  This is called zero sum budgeting.  Once you write your budget your income will equal your line items in your budget.
  3. Implement the budget: Put your plan into action!  Now that you have it on paper use it and stick to it.  If you need to make a change be sure to change it on paper and again account for each dollar being careful not to spend more than your income.

I suggest you write a budget every pay period. Here are a few tips on writing a working budget:

  •  Be sure to account for larger upcoming expenses or payments every pay period.  For example if you house payment is $1000 and due on the first of the month and you get paid twice a month (1st and 15th) split the payment into two and set aside $500 from the paycheck on the 15th so you will have the full $1000 on the 1st when it is due.
  • Account for annual expenses like property taxes, car tags, annual dues,  insurance etc…. The easiest way to save for these expenses is a little at a time.  For example if your property taxes are $1200 and you get paid twice a month set aside $50 a pay period so at the end of a year you have your tax money set aside.
  • Account for unexpected expenses like home repairs, auto repairs, medical copays etc…  Again the best way to do this is by saving a certain amount every pay period toward possible unexpected expenses.

I suggest putting your saved funds for unexpected and annual expenses into a separate checking or savings account so the money is set aside when you need it.

I also suggest that you use cash for your everyday spending such as groceries, gas, clothes, toiletries, dining out etc….(I have an astric * next to the items I suggest you use cash for on my budget form.)  I put the money for these items into envelopes marked with the line item name on my budget and never comingle these funds.

Writing a budget isn’t as hard of a task that you think it is and to help you here is a budget form I have written for you to use:

My  Budget
Item Subtotal Total Item Subtotal Total Item Subtotal Total
 Total Charitable Gifts ___ Clothing Recreation
Housing * Children ____ Magazines ___
1st Mortgage ____ * Adullts ____ Movie
2nd Mortgage ____ * Cleaning ____ * Gifts ____
Real Estate Taxes ____ Total Clothing Costs ____ Vacation ____
* Maintenance ____ Other ____
 Total Housing Expenses ____ Medical Insurance Premium ____  Total Recreation  ____
Doctor Bills ____ Debts ____
Utilities Cell Phone ____ * Medications ____ ____
Electricity ____ Dentist ____ ____
Phone ____  Total Medical Expenses ____ ____
Cable ____ ____
Water ____ ____
 Total Utilities ____ ____
Personal Debt Paydown ____
Food * Toiletries ____  Total Debt Payments ____
* Groceries ____ * Cosmetics ____
* Restaurants ____ * Haircare ____ Savings Insurance Deductible ____
 Total Food Expenses ____ School Tuition ____ Emergency Fund ___
* School Supplies ____ Retirement Fund ___
Transportation Car payment ____  Total Personal Expenses  ____ College Fund ___
Savings for Car ____ * Pets ____ Insurance Copay ___
Gas ____ * Mad Money ____  Property Taxes ____
* Maintenance ____  Other ____  Other  ____
____  Other ____  Other  ____
Taxes ____  Other ____  Total Savings ____
Repairs ____ Total pets and Other Expenses ____
 Total Auto Expenses  ____
Subtotal Column 1 ____ Subtotal Column 2 ____ Subtotal Column 3 ____
Income Paycheck 1 ____
Paycheck 2  ____ Total Income ____ Cash
For Envelopes
Other Income  ___ Grand Total Expenses ____
Be sure your income minus expenses equal: ZERO  $                        –