Thursday, October 29, 2009

Peanut Butter Playdough

We like to play with playdough around our house from time to time. A fun twist to playing with playdough is playing with edible playdough. The kids have alot of fun with this activity, and it tastes pretty good too!

Peanut Butter Playdough

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup dry powdered milk
2 tbsp. honey

Mix ingredients together until it forms a plyable dough.

Diaper Cream Recipe

I found this recipe today for homemade diaper cream. We are trying it out, so far I like it. I like it because it is made from ingredients in my kitchen, without all of the extra added chemicals and preservatives. Not only that, but it is super thrifty, and it seems to be doing well for my little one's diaper irritation. Super simple, super thrifty!

Diaper Cream

3 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Mix together to form a paste, add more cornstarch or oil to get desired consistency, if necessary. Store in a covered container.

I personally added a little bit extra cornstarch because I wanted the paste to be a little bit thicker. I got the recipe from this website:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crockpot Turkey & Noodles Recipe

I made up this recipe using things I had around the house. My family really seemed to enjoy it, so I am passing it along!

Crockpot Turkey & Noodles
1 16 oz package of elbow macaroni
2 cups cooked turkey (or chicken) cut into smaller pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 6.5 oz can of mushrooms
1 10.5 oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 jar alfredo sauce
3 cups water

Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on high setting for an hour, then cook on low setting for four hours.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Crockpots Are Our Friends

I LOVE my crockpot! When trying to be thrifty, you will find that a crockpot most definately is your friend. There are many advantages to using the crockpot vs. using the stove or oven. The energy used to cook with the crockpot is less than using the oven or stove, thus saving money on your energy bill. Using my crockpot also allows me to plan ahead for busy days and have a meal ready to go for supper instead of eating out when I know there is going to be a time crunch in the evenings (that saves lots of money too!). It is also easier to eat healthy using the crockpot.

My favorite part about using the crockpot is that it allows me to prepare dinner for my family in the mornings (my most productive part of the day) rather than in the evenings, when I am starting to get tired. If I plan ahead and use the crockpot, it is easier to resist eating out or feeding my family convenience food that really isn't that healthy. Plus, my house smells good all day from the food cooking!

Some things I make in my crockpot regularly include lasagna, chili, pea soup, pot roast, chicken and rice, lentil soup, and pork ribs. In the near future, I will be posting some of my crockpot recipes, so stay tuned!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Homemade Hot Oil & Honey Hair Treatment

I happened upon a recipe online for a homemade hot oil conditioning hair treatment. I decided to try it out for fun. I have bought the occasional hot oil treatment from the store, but those can be pretty expensive. So far, I am impressed with this hair treatment and I will probably use it again. It is rather simple, I found it here.

Honey Deep Hair Conditioner

1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp olive oil

Combine ingredients and heat up in the microwave. Apply to hair and wrap in a warm towel for 30 minutes. Rinse and shampoo hair.

This left my hair looking and feeling shiny and soft. I have longer hair, so I tripled this recipe. The honey and the oil mix together quite nicely when warmed up. I hope you enjoy this little pampering as much as I did!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homemade Laundry Stain Remover

One of my daughters has been checking cookbooks out from the library. She was looking through them and saw this recipe and showed it to me. I don't know how well it works, when my current stain remover runs out I will probably try it out. This recipe comes from the cookbook "Recipes Kids Vote For." Why kids voted for a stain remover, I have no clue! LOL!

Homemade Stain Remover

1/2 cup ammonia

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup baking soda

2 Tbsp liquid dish soap

2 quarts water

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle. Shake solution before each use. Spray on stain and let it soak for a few minutes before washing as usual.

As a side note, for your safety, do not use this spray with a load you are using bleach on. Bleach mixed with ammonia or vinegar can create toxic gases and fumes. If you decide to use this, please come back and leave a comment to let us know how it works!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thrifty Haircuts

Warning! What I am about to suggest for saving money on family haircuts may be down right risky and adventurous for sure was for me when I started doing it! I got this crazy idea that I could cut my family's hair when we stumbled upon a haircutting kit at Sam's Club in 2003. The price was right, my husband was a willing victim, and thus, mom cutting the family hair came into practice.

I have to say that I did have one haircut under my belt at the time. My uncle sure was a good sport! He asked me to cut his hair with his electric clippers. Somehow, I ended up trimming one side too high above the ear. I informed him of this, and he was pretty cool, calm and collected about it, so I proceeded to try to even out the rest of his hair to match. What resulted was not exactly pretty...since he was bald on the top, he ended up with what I would like to call "the monk cut"! He went and looked in the mirror, and after having a good laugh with me, he decided I should just shave it all off. I can do the completely bald haircut pretty well!

Our haircutting set is a set of clippers with attachments, scissors, clips, a comb, and a cape. I have to say that the attachments really help with giving a decent haircut. I also trim my children's hair, and I have even cut my own hair a time or two (that's more tricky than cutting someone else's hair!). Our haircutting set cost us around $18 at the time we purchased it. It more than paid for itself after one or two haircuts. We have saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars now just by doing our own haircuts. And my husband is still handsome, even after I give him a trim :-)

If you are not quite so adventurous, I would highly suggest clipping coupons or watching for specials. Another option is to go to a local beauty college if you have one. We have a few around here, and if you let a student cut your hair, it is only around $4-$6 a piece, which really is a pretty good deal. And with that, I will wish you "happy haircutting"!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Homemade Oatmeal Bath

Oatmeal baths are a good way to soothe sore, chapped, dry, irritated skin. The last time I checked (and that was a few years ago!), it cost quite a bit for a small box of oatmeal bath packets from the store. I believe a box of about 6 cost around $3-$4, and that was for the generic brand. The Aveeno brand was closer to $5 or $6. I got to wondering if there was a way that I could make my own, as just plain old oatmeal is rather inexpensive.

I managed to find a few ideas online. I haven't tried all of them, but I will share them with you. One idea was to place plain oatmeal in an old nylon stocking, tie a knot in the end, and let it sit in the tub. The soothing part of the oatmeal is supposed to leach out of the stocking and into the bath water. I haven't tried this one personally, but theoretically it sounds like it should work.

Another idea I liked even better was to take some plain oatmeal and place it in the blender or food processor and grind it up until it is a fine powder. You can use it like that, or you can also add a little bit of cornstarch and baking soda to add additionally soothing ingredients. That is the way that I make it, it works great! I actually adapted that recipe from this website The way I make it is I take 2 cups of finely ground oatmeal, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 1/2 cup of cornstarch and mix it all up. Add 3-4 tablespoons per bath. I store the mixture in a ziploc baggie. The cost to make up a batch of this oatmeal bath is pennies on the dollar for what it costs to buy a box of oatmeal bath.

The website I posted above has printable sachets that you can make and put the oatmeal bath mixture into, as well as a more elaborate oatmeal milkbath recipe. I just may have to try that for personal gifts this year, especially Christmas!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bread Machine Whole Wheat Herbed Pizza Dough Recipe

Here's the pizza dough recipe I promised! We love making our own pizza at home for lots of reasons, but one of the best reasons is because we can make it healthier than store bought or restaurant pizza. And it is much more affordable than buying those other pizzas. This recipe is one that I have come up with after experimenting and finding just the right flavor.

Whole Wheat Herbed Pizza Dough

1 1/4 cup water

2 Tbsp oil

3 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 Tbsp yeast

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp italian seasoning

1 Tbsp Creole seasoning

Place ingredients in the bread machine in order given. When adding yeast, make a little indent in the flour for it and cover it up with some of the flour. Use the dough cycle on the bread machine. When it is finished, roll the dough out on a greased, floured pizza pan. Top with your favorite toppings and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saving Money on Fresh Produce

BeforeI get started on this article, let me first say thanks to my friend cindyinsd for the picture of the lemons. It is actually a painting done on a velvet matboard. You can visit cindyinsd's blog at

We all know that we should try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Buying fresh produce can get pretty expensive in a hurry, though. You can eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies even on a budget. There are just a few tricks you can try to keep the cost down and your intake of this fresh goodness up.

1) Check your weekly grocery ads. Usually the best deals will be printed on the front and back pages of the flyer.

2) Buy produce when it is in season. It will be at its freshest, and at most likely the lowest prices of the year. For example, buy your watermelons in July and August when they are $2.50 each, versus buying one in December, where a watermelon may cost you $8.00, or possibly more.

3) Check your local farmer's market, sometimes they have better deals, sometimes they don't. One advantage of the farmer's market is that you can usually speak with the farmers themselves about exactly how they grow their food, this is good if you prefer organic foods and pesticide free produce.

4) When the growing season comes, plant your own garden and fruit trees. The fruit trees may take a few years to get going, but it will pay off in the end. If you get a good garden crop, you could always share and trade with your neighbors, friends, and family. Another benefit of having a garden is that it will help your children in the veggie eating department. My kids are more willing to try the veggies that they helped grow.

It is possible to eat healthy on a tight budget. It's just a matter of making a plan and knowing how to buy fresh produce at the right seasonal times. Your family will be healthier, and you will feel better knowing that they are eating well!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Whole Wheat Italian Bread Recipe for the Bread Machine

My experimental bread turned out pretty decent last night! It is a heavier, heartier bread bursting with flavor, and it was a nice addition to our meal of Vegetable Cheese Soup. Here it is!

Whole Wheat Italian Bread

1 cup Italian Dressing

1/2 cup water

5 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp sugar

3 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 Tbsp yeast

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1 1/2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning

Put Italian Dressing and water in the bread machine. Then add the butter, sugar, and whole wheat flour. Dig a little hole in the flour and put yeast in there, then cover it back up. Add the ground flax seed and the Italian Seasoning. Start the bread machine and use the regular bread cycle.



Friday, October 9, 2009

Bread Makers Can Save You Money

I love my bread maker machine! It has opened a wonderful door to all kinds of breadmaking possibilities in our home. When I first got my bread machine and had only one child, I started making our own bread instead of buying it. I was able to make whole wheat loaves of bread for only a few cents, versus paying $2.00 on up at the store per loaf. It's as simple as putting the ingredients in the machine, and it does all the work: the mixing, kneading, and baking.

Now that I have 3 kids, I don't make the homemade bread quite as often. I still use my bread machine regularly, though. Pizza is a popular meal option around here, and while we enjoy the occasional restaurant pizza, I make our own pizza quite often. I use my bread maker to make my dough, as the machine has a setting specifically for dough. This enables me not only to save quite a bit of money, but I am also able to make a healthier whole wheat pizza dough. I came up with my own herbed whole wheat pizza dough recipe, which I will share sometime soon on this blog. My husband has also used this dough to make calzones and baked, stuffed sandwiches.

My bread machine initially cost around $45.00. However, it has more than paid for itself, as it has lasted me for around 6 years, and it is still going strong. If it ever does bite the dust, I will definitely be getting a new one. Currently, I am planning on having Vegetable Cheese Soup for dinner, so I came up with a recipe for an Italian bread, which is baking in the bread machine right now. If it turns out to be any good, I will post that recipe soon as well. We'll see!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Black Bean Enchilada Recipe

I'll admit it, the first time I looked at this recipe, I thought it sounded gross. But it's not, it's actually pretty good. We have served this recipe to many different guests over the last few years, always to rave reviews. This recipe I adapted from a recipe in a cookbook pamphlet called "Bean Cuisine".

Bean Enchiladas

2 cups cooked black beans or kidney beans
3 cloves minced garlic or 3/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I probably use more than that, enough to cover the enchiladas)
1 can corn, drained
2 cups salsa (I think I use slightly more than this)
Corn tortillas

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic 2-3 minutes. Add beans, corn, cumin, and 1/2 cup salsa. Cook 3-4 minutes. Spoon mixture into individual tortillas and roll up. Spoon 1/2 cup salsa into 11x7x2 baking dish. Arrange tortillas seam side down, top with remaining salsa. Add cheese, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I have just a few other notes and tips about this recipe. In order to make clean-up easier, I always spray my baking pan with some non-stick cooking spray. It helps prevent a baked-on mess in the pan. Also, I always heat up the tortillas in the microwave for a few seconds before stuffing them, this helps them to be more flexible and less likely to fall apart. This recipe usually makes about one 11x7x2 pan full, plus an 8x8 pan full when I make them. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beans Are Economical and Nutritious

Tonight we had black bean enchiladas for dinner, yum! I will post the recipe sometime in the near future, but our dinner brings us to the subject I would like to address today: beans. Beans are a great staple to keep around. You can buy them canned and already cooked, but they are more expensive than buying dried beans, and contain added sodium. I used to think it was a pain to use dried beans because of the preparation it takes to get them cooked. There was the soaking, then standing over the hot stove for an hour or two while they cooked. Time consuming and hot!

I tried a new method of cooking beans that I much prefer. It is energy saving, and I do not have to stand around waiting for them to finish cooking. I still soak them overnight, but first thing in the morning, I put them in my crockpot with lots of water, then cook them on high. By the afternoon or early evening, they are ready to use. Many times what I do is put them into plastice storage containers and freeze them, so they are ready to use when I need them. Then I pull out a container to use when I am making chili, enchiladas, soup, or whatever else I might need some beans for.

While searching online for bean nutritional information, I happened to see that the vegetable of the month at the CDC is beans. Beans are a very nutritious vegetable, being a good source of iron and protein. Here is the link for the CDC's information on beans:

Another big advantage of using dried beans is the fact that they are cheap, and one 16 oz bag can be used to make several meals. Most bags of beans cost less than $1.00. That is quite the bang for your buck! Our personal favorite beans are black beans. If you have overlooked beans as a dietary staple, give them a try! There are lots of good recipes out there on the web that are full of flavor and delicious.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Breastfeeding is a Bargain

It's been a little while since I weaned my last child, but I would like to put a plug in here for breastfeeding. Yes, it does save money (ALOT!!!), but there are so many other positive reasons to breastfeed as well. According to the website formula can cost between $1,160 and $3,915 per year. That can be a significant chunk of anyone's budget!

As a stay at home mom, I have had the privelage of being able to exclusively breastfeed two of my kids. My oldest started out breastfeeding, but mostly had formula as she got older. Honestly, I did find breastfeeding to be more convenient and time saving than bottle feeding. With breastfeeding, the milk is always ready, at the right temperature, and there are no bottles to wash afterwards.

I think the benefits to my children were notable as well. I did notice a difference in the health of my two younger children who were exclusively breastfed. My oldest child was sick more often as a baby, while my two younger children rarely had any health issues at all. Breastmilk provides antibodies to the infants to strengthen their immune systems. That is one thing formula cannot provide. Statistics show that breastfed babies are generally healthier as infants, but later in life as well. The health benefits don't apply just to baby, either. There are additional health benefits to moms as well, such as a lowered health risk of diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression. Better health equals less trips to the doctor equals less money spent. I think, however, the best benefit I experienced with breastfeeding was the bond that I shared with all of my children. For even more information about how breastfeeding can benefit your family, check out


Friday, October 2, 2009

Cheap, Healthy, Convenient Waffles

I love convenience foods because they are quick and easy. What I hate about them, however, is the cost and the fact that usually they are rather unhealthy and very processed. One solution that our family has come up with is to make some of our own convenience food. I am sharing with you today a recipe that I tweaked to make it even healthier. My family loves these whole grain waffles! I usually triple the recipe and then freeze the waffles in large ziploc baggies. We have a family of 5, so tripling the recipe works well for us. If you have a larger or smaller family, adjust accordingly. We use these waffles the same way that you would use a store-bought frozen waffle. We just pop the homemade frozen waffles in the toaster ~ they come out still tasting great! They're great for breakfast, but my kids also like to eat them plain as a snack.

Whole Grain Waffles
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ground flax seed
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup milk (more if needed to get the right batter consistency)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a seperate bowl, mix the liquid ingredients together. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir until well blended. Add more milk in small amounts, if needed, to obtain the right consistency. Then you are ready for the waffle iron! (Don't forget to grease your waffle iron...that always helps the waffles come out perfectly and makes less of a mess of your iron).


The Checkbook Balancing Act

Today I had the lovely task of balancing the checkbook and paying the bills. It got me to thinking on ways that people needlessly lose money at the bank. Some of the fees that banks charge are absolutely outrageous, and most of them are entirely avoidable. With the average fee for an overdraft at $30 and up (and that is per check/transaction!), it is something that should be avoided for sure. Before you plan to go shopping, make sure you have the money in your account first - and if you don't - don't go shopping! Online banking makes it so much easier to keep track of and manage your account. I know I have found it to be a blessing, as I can take care of banking issues and transfer money from the comfort of my home without ever stepping foot in the bank, which also saves on time and gas money.

Another way banks collect up people's hard earned money is through fees at the ATM. If you need cash, stop at the bank during bank hours, or go to an ATM affiliated with your bank. Many times, if you go to an ATM not affiliated with your bank, there will be a $2 - $3 charge per transaction, sometimes more. If you use ATMs very often, those costs can add up quickly.

A major bank I used to do business with started charging a fee if your account went below a certain balance, particularly savings accounts. If a bank is just making things up to charge you for, it may be time to find a new bank. I have found that credit unions tend to be less "fee happy", have better customer service, as well as lower interest rates on loans if you should need one.

These are just a few ways banks find to charge you an arm and a leg. It's your hard-earned money, manage it well and avoid unnecessary fees.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beware of Hidden Fees When Ordering Online

I just happened to be in need of a particular item that I have to special order. Of course, ordering online is always faster and more convenient than ordering by mail or telephone. I have a regular company that I have used several times successfully, but I happened to see an offer in a newspaper ad that I thought I would try out instead this time. It was a coupon code for a "buy one get one free" deal. I was happily going along, glad to be getting such a great deal, until I got to the total bill page. It seems that my "buy one get one free" was turning into not such a great deal when they added a rather large handling fee, plus a high rate for shipping. In the end, what it was going to cost would probably be the same as what I would pay to buy two of the product I wanted at regular price. The only difference was that the company wanted me to think I was getting a bargain, when in actuality, they just tried to tack on extra fees at the end to try to recover whatever cost they got me to think they were discounting. I emptied my online shopping cart with that company and went back to my regular old standby. Sometimes the place that has already been giving you good customer service is still the best deal. Be aware of the psychological tricks companies try to use to lure you into doing business with them. If you see something odd, or wonder about extra fees, don't close the deal!


Saving Money on Home Heating

Today is a good reminder that the season of cooler weather has arrived. We are supposed to be expecting our first snow of the year where I live (early, I know!). The air has chilled and the wind has picked up. Brrr! I thought I would expand upon that subject by addressing how to save money on home heating this fall and winter. Let's bring on some weatherization ideas!

First, before the heater is even turned on (if you have a gas furnace like we do), make sure you put in a new filter. Not only does it improve the quality of air that you are circulating through your house, but it also increases your heater's efficiency. A very dirty filter is not only disgusting, it's also a fire hazard. Make sure to change these every 3 months.

Last year, my husband went around to all of the windows outside and sealed them with caulk. I am so glad he did this, because as he went around the windows on the house, we discovered that this had never been done on our home before we moved in. We definitely saw a decrease in our heating bill last winter, despite it being one of the nastiest winters on record. Because not as much heat was escaping our home, the furnace didn't kick on as often as before.

Another thing I did last year that made a difference is that I made some draft blockers to place at the bottoms of the doors leading outside. I have seen these for sale at home improvement stores for around $10 a piece, but if you want to save even more you can make your own. I took some old blue jeans and cut and sewed them into a tube a little bit longer than the length of our entry doors. I put in some dried beans (for weight to hold them in place better), stuffing, dried beans again in the middle, some more stuffing, and dried beans again on the end, then I hand sewed them shut. These have also helped keep the warm air in and the cold air out.

We have made a habit of turning the heat down when we leave the house. It doesn't need to be as warm if no one is there using the house. We usually turn it down to around 65 degrees when we are away from home, and keep it around 70 when we are home. Some people also turn down the heat when they sleep and just throw on an extra quilt, but we prefer not to do that because of having children who often wiggle their way out from under the covers as they sleep. Use common sense as you look for ways to conserve energy and save!

These are just some basic ways to save on your heating bill. They are not limited to just these, but these are some of the things that we have done to reduce our energy consumption and our heating bill. Feel free to post your ideas, or things that you have done to reduce your bill! :)