Tag Archives: cheap

Pantry and Freezer Challenge

     After Christmas, I try to eat out of the freezer and pantry so we have very little grocery expense.  It makes it easy to pay off credit cards that we used to buy holiday gifts.  We keep a budget and do all our shopping with credit cards that we pay off each month so we incur no interest expense. (see previous post about “loan” being our f-word).

     Another reason to do this is to make room for filling the freezer and pantry again with homegrown items.  It ensures that we are not wasting food by throwing away items that are past their due.

   Some of the things we have eaten this week include sesame chicken noodles made with frozen whole wheat noodles, one large frozen grilled chicken breast and a splash of peanut sauce.  I’ll try to post my frugal version of this recipe later. Since I live in outer Podunk, I have to make due with terribly mundane grocery products so I will post a recipe for this using what I can get locally.

Sesame Chicken Noodles

   I save the last couple of tablespoons of peanut butter in the jar for making this dish. I almost always have cooked noodles and chicken on hand in the freezer for quick meals.  To the jar of peanut butter I add 1/4 cup of soy sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, a little hot sauce (I like Tiger Brand) and a little water. I microwave this on defrost (so the plastic doesn’t melt and just enough for the peanut butter to unstick to the sides of the jar) and shake the jar like mad. Pour this over the leftover noodles, add diced, cooked chicken. If you have planted onion tops in the garden, go looking for them now and add them to your dish! Wa La!

     I’ve been enjoying some free roasted herb turnips from the garden. I peel and cook the turnips they aren’t hard anymore, then toss with a little olive oil, paprika, salt pepper, garlic powder and basil and roast under the broiler until they are a little browned. Yum!

     Since I noticed that there are several packages of veggies that were at the back of the freezer from year’s past I cooked them up in a stir fry. To the frozen broccoli and greenbeans, I added sliced onions and carrots leftover steak.  I mix up homemade teriyaki sauce and keep it in the fridge so I can quickly make stir fry anytime I want.  I’ll try to post that later…

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Debt Snowball

     Related to my last post “Be Your Own Bank,” is Dave Ramsey’s  concept of “ debt snowballing.”  The idea is to pay off a small debt balance, then roll that money that would be going to that debt to the next largest debt.  In our case, we went after the highest interest debt we had and continued from there…

This way of living has had tremendous benefits.  From Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette, I learned to apply savings to areas that would create greater savings.  This is deliberate living that requires you to be financially self-aware at all times.

     I guess this last concept is more like a “savings snowball.” In the past, I started by having a yardsale that gave me the money to spend on garden tools and seeds. The money saved by growing our own food (we included the cost of gas and wear and tear on our vehicles to to to the grocery store) was then invested in canning equipment and dehydrators.

     Each year at this time, we make a list of what we are going to put our savings into.  Some of what we will do this year are invest in more chicks (for eggs and meat). While feed has increased, we have started freeranging our hens and realized some savings there.  Even though we pay for feed, we get a lot of garden vegetables from the compost made from the deep litter we use in the coop (for another post–we compost all paper products, junk mail, etc…) But I digress….

     I’d really like to take some snowball savings and invest in some miniature milk goats that I could use for (at least) cheese and maybe milk and yogurt.  So far, I haven’t convinced anyone else that this is a good idea. I’ll let you know….

     Every year, we take some of our savings and invest in more edible landscaping. By retirement, we should have enough fruit and nut trees and bushes to support ourselves without needing to use a grocery store.  In my mind, the ability to feed yourself is insurance. It’s one thing to be poor, it’s entirely another to be poor and hungry. No one need be hungry, even in the city (but more on that in later post…)

     In the meantime, I’d love to hear some of the reader’s lists for what to invest their savings snowball in to help them save MORE money….

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Be Your Own Bank

     Anyone can see that a 700 billion dollar bailout of the banking industry has to have some effect on our schools and pocketbooks.  It will be difficult to pay for these budget deficits with taxes alone—especially if you expect that there will be some loss of jobs due to the economy going south (you figure, there HAS to be some effect there.) I predict that one of the first places that budgets will be cut will be the education system.

     It’s much easier to weather the coming storm if you are in a good financial position. I agree with both Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman about having a couple months pay saved (in a safe bank?)in case of emergency.

     In our case, it has allowed us to be our own bank. If a car needs immediate repair, we are able to pay for it without putting it on the credit card (what we consider to be a loan).


     “Loan” is the f-word in our vocabulary. We avoid paying interest like the plague. While we now have a smallish house loan, we are paying extra each month so as to avoid thousands in interest. I’d rather have that money to invest in things that will improve my quality of living.

 

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Dollar a day Eating Plan

A couple of California teachers ate food costing only $1/day for a month to prove it could be done. You can read about their project here

The wife is a vegan, so there was no meat involved in their diet. But, if you think about it, most of the world eats little meat. For years I could average $1 per meal per person in my household. This is mainly because we grow much of our food. This saves more than the grocery bill because there isn’t the fuel cost to get to and from the grocery store (we live far from a store). In the last year, however, it has been difficult to achieve dollar meals.

I bring this to your attention, because I’m sure there are teachers who are caught in financial straits in these economic times who might be able to glean some information from their experience. What do you do to save on the grocery bill?

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Hustling for Part-time Jobs

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I was reading a blog the other day about financial security and the author mentioned using the time of our youth to earn some extra money and skills. Often, we think of our youth as the time to have fun and party.

Since I put myself through college without benefit of financial aid or scholarship (my parents would not fill out FAFSA) I know a lot about being young and hustling for jobs.

It served me well when I completed my education–I was used to cobbling together two-three–yes, sometimes four jobs to make enough money to live, and play, too).

While living in my run down hovels (and there were many) I housesat and dogsat for wealthy people who paid me well because I was trustworthy. Often there would be a full refrigerator that they would ask me to eat from so things didn’t spoil. At the time, I was living on a canned bean and macaroni and cheese diet, so leftover filet mignon, lobster and shrimp were heaven-sent!  There is nothing like eating steak  and duck liver pate poolside when you are living far below the poverty level. At the time, I couldn’t afford the four bucks to go to the community pool!

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When changing their decor, they would offer me their castoffs. I laugh to think I have hauled these items across the country several times and am still using many of them daily, Even then, I was a forager and happy-to-take-your- leftovers kind of person. This attitude has served me well over the years.

Not only that, I learned early on how to repair and refinish furniture.  And now, I own nice antiques that didn’t cost me very many dollars.  Because I sewed, I could alter any designer clothes that came my way to fit me perfectly. Not only that, but expensive drapery could be fitted to the home I eventually bought.

You see, folks that need dependable dogsitters, housesitters etc.. are also the kind of people who network. Suddenly, you have more jobs ( and castoff furniture, computers and clothing) than you can take. Later, they have children that they are only too willing to pay outrageous amounts to a babysitter to care for them. Still later, they want to age in place and pay you outrageously for things like: moving their winter clothes from a closet down the hallway to their own.

These employers were interesting, talented people who I learned a lot from being around. One was a world-famous artist who had done large commissioned pieces for office buildings and hotels in the large city I lived in. Another was the PR guy for the NBA basketball team there.

From these side jobs I was able to complete my education and save enough money to put a down payment on a home. That was a HUGE thing for me to do alone. This was before balloon mortgages and easy credit! Thank heavens!

Teachers are very resourceful people. They have to be. In my area, many teachers have side businesses like lawn care that they do after work and in the summers. They run camps.

The janitors at my school do home renovation and repairs. They stay busy too–try getting one to put you on their waiting list! Teachers refer them to other teachers and there is a backlog to get them to do small jobs.  They are in demand because people know they can trust them and are happy to pay extra so that they don’t have to let a stranger into their home.

Think of it this way, people know that a criminal background check has already been done on a teacher. You are “vetted.”

Speaking of side jobs like home repair, I met a laid off computer scientist when I lived in that major city who began doing odd jobs for money when laid off. He became in such demand that he never went back to his old job because he made far more money as a handyman.

Funny aside: I met him when my VERY unhandy, young neighbor paid him a LARGE hourly wage to (I’m pausing to laugh here) change the light bulbs in his home. I’m not talking about inconveniently-placed light bulbs here or light bulbs that required the use of an extension ladder. I only wished I’d known–I’d have done it happily for half the money.

This reminds me of a side job I did for the previous owner of that home next-door. The owner was a DEA agent who would be posted to South America for a couple years at a time. He got tired of the poor job that a local realty company did renting out his home and managing repairs while he was away.  So he paid me (less than the realty company–but still handsomely) to rent the home and have repairs done. He knew how handy and frugal I was so it was really a good deal for him. Most importantly, he knew that since I lived next door, I would not rent to people who would trash his home. Although I did not take them, several other offers came to me to manage property in our neighborhood.

So let’s review (puts on teacher hat): Learn to hustle for jobs, accept any donations that come your way, (hey, you can sell them, if nothing else), learn to repair EVERYTHING, save your money and lastly (most importantly) make connections with your friends and neighbors. I’d love to have my readers tell us about some ways they have hustled jobs. Leave a comment, please.

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Thoroughly Thrifty Thursdays

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How’s that for a nifty (thrifty) title!

I think it’s a good idea to keep track of what you are doing to get ahead. There are many ways, but here is a little tracking method I learned from Justice Desserts Blog:

Let’s see what I can come up with using her formula:

Planting: I’m putting the 1/4 inch root part of every onion I cut for cooking back into the garden for future onions (yes it works!) Also, planting the eyes off every potato I cut up for cooking back into the garden. Yes! They will make FREE potatoes.  I jog out there, making it a little exercise routine as well.

 Harvesting: swiss chard, green onions, cabbage, rhubarb, ground cherries,

Preserving:ground cherries, hickory nuts from the woods

Prep something: Cooking sale turkeys and putting the extra meat in the freezer for future quick casserole dinners after long days at school.

Manage Reserves: Going through what is left of last year’s canning extravaganza to see what needs to be eaten up. Rotation, rotation, rotation!

 

Saw this on another frugal blog:

Office Depot has a 15% off your entire order code. Valid through Nov. 22, 2008 on-line and over the phone. Enter code 19574436.

You may also enter code 32776683 (on-line only) if you are spending $100 or more to receive a free Coby CD Radio Boombox.

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Eight Frugal Things in the Classroom That Have an Impact– for Free!!

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1.   ACT and SAT prep courses are great, but often they cost $$$ that some of our students don’t have. Even if schools have them for free, they may not fit into the schedules of busy high schoolers.  There are many good prep videos available on Youtube and teachertube. It’s not enough to know the material, you must also know the strategy for finishing the test in an accurate way.  In particular, I like Super Magnet Man’s guide to taking the science portion of the ACT. 

2.   In middle school, one of our challenges is to teach students to be prepared and to be responsible.  They are terrible about coming to class unprepared.  Getting a student their supplies takes precious minutes from teaching. Here are some suggestions. I keep pink paper and green pens available for borrowing. They must be signed out (a student is always assigned to this task before I begin teaching.)  I have a record of how often students are coming to class unprepared and am able to speak to parents, if needed. Sometimes being unprepared is part of a larger problem of not being on task. When parents see that 25 days out of 20 little Susie came to class without her book, folder, assignment book, paper and pencil they get a good picture of what part of the problem is.  Please note: students who speak to me privately about financial problems are always given enough supplies until they tell me they need more. I buy extra when they are on sale for this purpose.

 

3.   Teachers are extraordinary at their capacity for giving.  At our High School, athletes are supposed to dress up on game day.  For boys, this means khaki pants, dress shirt and tie.  Many students don’t have these clothes and could not afford them. Our teachers buy them the outfits and no one is the wiser.  Sometimes they are wearing a pair of khakis that a teacher can’t fit into anymore, or a tie that was given at holiday time that the teacher cannot use.  Be on the lookout for things like these. Set aside shirts that may be a little tight—there may be a boy that needs it for game day, college or job interview, or Trivia bowl competition. 

4.   We have a nice tradition at our school where we bring things to the teacher lounge we no longer need and these things are either given away or sold.  For example, someone had very nice quality sheets given to them that they could not use. They were offered at half price and I grabbed them quickly! Start this tradition at your school!

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5.   I have a friend who is a very harried High school math teacher who needed her coffee first period to be alert for doing math.  She noticed that her students commented on her coffee and liked the smell of it. This grew into a tradition in her first period classes that if they brought a covered cup, she would provide the coffee. The student’s parents have volunteered to keep the supply of coffee grounds and creamer flowing.  It’s a little thing, but it really was a special touch her first period math students enjoy and brought them closer together. She says they are very close now.

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6.   Kids love traditions and special rituals.  Special occasions aren’t just for the youngest students. This is especially true for middle and high school students who are still bouncing back and forth maturity-wise between adulthood and childhood.  I like to introduce historically significant dates into my curriculum even if it’s the kind of thing we do after our work is done.  One good place for finding out Birthdays of authors or famous people, National Holidays, Monthly celebrations to use in your planning is the teacherscorner.net. The event calendar for November is located here:

 

7.   I like to keep a classroom set of plastic page protectors for using classroom copies of things. Saves money on laminating and you can always change what is in them, Or store several things in them and only use the page on top.  With these the students can highlight important text and wipe off again. Or they can use them for say, math worksheets.  By writing with a dry erase marker, they can be used again and again. A new sheet can be popped in each day! Another advantage is that it is a very “green” idea.

8.   Help Campbell Soup Company help our schools by donating to the Future Farmers of America organization. Even if you don’t have one at your school, it is a terrific program for students.  Go to check out http://www.helpgrowyoursoup.com/ . Look especially at the “Nourishing Minds” tab. When you click on the red barn, Campbells will donate $1.00 to the National FFA Organization.

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