October 1 Debt Totals

Is it me, or did September fly right by? Here are my September 1 debt totals:

Chase Card #1: $21,954.78 ($269.91)

Chase Card #2: $4,214.49 (-$42.22)

Chase Card #3: $9,653.44 (-$331.96)

Discover Card: $14,729.87 ($151.10)

Citibank Card: $7,641.28 (-$80.07)

Total Credit Card Debt: $58,193.86 (-$13.44)


How did you do in September?

The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity
Dave Ramsey Release Date: October 21, 2014 Buy new: $22.99 $17.18
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
by Stephen R. Covey (Author, Narrator) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change(2347) Buy new: $28.30 $26.95

What’s Cooking?

As you may know, I recently decided to minimize processed foods, and improve my family’s eating habits and health. In some ways, this dovetails nicely with frugal living. For example, planning and cooking meals and using leftovers in a variety of ways, both save us money, and help ensure that we’re eating more healthily. Because I’m pretty lacking in creativity and don’t feel very comfortable “winging it” in the kitchen, I’ve been researching and trying out new recipes. Here are some that I’ve attempted recently, along with the results:

  1. Chicken Cacciatore: Fine, but like most slow-cooker recipes I’ve tried, it was kind of bland.
  2. Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles: Not good. The batter was extremely thick and gloppy, and it cooked unevenly in my waffle iron. The outsides were getting dark, while the insides were barely – at best – cooked.
  3. Pizza Dough (with roasted veggies). This was was first attempt at making my own pizza dough, and it was pretty disastrous. It took much longer than the recipe said it would for the veggies to cook under the broiler, the dough didn’t cook all the way through in the center of the pie, and the top was soggy from the veggies (at least that’s what I assume caused the sogginess).
  4. Apple Strudal Muffins. Awesome!! These muffins were super easy to make, and they were scrumptious! Everyone loved them, including my picky daughter. I’ll definitely make them again.
  5. Italian Brunch Casserole. Delicious!! My daughter wouldn’t touch this one, but my husband and I loved it! It’s not the lightest dish I’ve ever made, but it was very filling. The only problem was that the recipe makes a good amount, so it took several days for the two of us to finish it. But I never tired of it, because it was just so delicious!

And now I need some advice… I really enjoy watching The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network, and my daughter loves watching it with me. She recently did a show on quick pasta dishes, and my daughter said, “Ew, don’t make that,” to all but one of the recipes. The one she asked me to make? Quick shells and cheese. Check out the recipe here. Did you see the fifth ingredient? It’s “processed cheese, such as Velveeta”. Obviously, this flies in the face of my plan to eat (a) less processed food, and (b) more healthily. But I know both my daughter and my husband will eat it. (Okay, I’ll be honest and say that I’ll eat it, too.) Plus, it’s cheap! Ree even posted a slightly different recipe on her blog, and it includes peas. Do they cancel out the Velveeta?  (Okay, it also includes bacon, but I would not include that. We all have limits.)

So my question is, should I try this undoubtedly delicious, but far-from nutritious recipe, or can I not allow myself to go down that dark hole? Also, can you recommend any other, (healthier, please!), recipes I should try?


School “Fun”draisers

My daughter started kindergarten this month, and there have already been many surprises, both positive and negative. On the positive side, she loves riding the school bus, and doesn’t seem particularly tired out by the long school day. On the negative side, she is bothered by how loud the cafeteria is, and doesn’t like that students are required to take a book out of the school library once a week. (Huh??)

But the surprise I’m enjoying least, is how frequently the school hits parents up for financial contributions. This month alone, we’ve been asked to purchase school t-shirts/sweatshirts, Scholastic books, and tchotchkes with our kid’s school picture on them. Oh, and the first request for Box Tops for Education was sent out by the HSA (home school association, aka, PTA). I knew that one would be coming, so I’ve been saving up for months.

I completely understand that public schools are under-funded, and I absolutely want my daughter to have as many educational opportunities as possible, but it feels very wrong that parents are being asked to cough up money almost monthly. This month, it comes a matter of weeks after asking us to provide not only school supplies for the classroom, but also tissues, wipes, and other seemingly basic materials. Again, I’m happy to provide these items, because I want them to be there for my daughter and her classmates, but really? Tissues?

I’m not blaming the teacher, principal, HSA, or school here. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly who to blame – state government, the federal government, society as a whole? I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around. So what’s a parent to do? I was excited to receive a flyer from the HSA, letting families know that we can opt for the “armchair fundraiser”. We write a check for the amount the HSA estimates they spend per child per year, and this exempts us from participating in their annual fundraisers. Armchair fundraiser? $75. Not having to bug friends and family members to purchase gift wrap, candles, and bad chocolate? Priceless.

What kinds of fundraisers do your children have at school? How often do you participate? Do you feel pressured?


Last Week’s Frugal Highs, and a Nice Surprise

Happy Monday! We had a weekend of gorgeous, almost-too-hot weather, and enjoyed some great outdoor family time.

Here are last week’s frugal highs:

  1. Cashed in MyPoints points for a $10 Home Depot gift card.
  2. Earned cash back from Checkout 51 for purchasing bananas.
  3. Received a payment of $10.93 for items purchased from my Amazon store.
  4. Cashed in Ipsos survey points for a $10 Amazon eGift card.
  5. Picked a bowlful of cherry and grape tomatoes each day. (Those bargain plants are finally bearing fruit!)
  6. Used some of the apples we picked a couple of weeks ago to make delicious muffins.
  7. Dropped off a few pair of snow boots at the local children’s consignment store, and picked up a payment of $8.29 for items sold.
  8. Watched several episodes of Six Feet Under, Season Four, and Boardwalk Empire,Season Four, on DVD, borrowed from the library.
  9. Started reading, Cut Adrift, by Marianne Cooper, and borrowed from the library. (I’m really excited to read this, as I heard the author interviewed on the radio last week, and the book sounds fantastic. It’s about American families from all income levels, and their diverse financial anxieties.)

cut adrift

On another note: We received a nice surprise in the mail yesterday: a state (NY) tax rebate check of $350! Apparently all New York State residents who claimed a child under age 17 in 2012, and with an adjusted gross income of between $40,000 and $300,000 , received such a check. I first heard about it on the news Friday evening, and it was a very nice surprise. (A cynic might note that the checks went out just over a month before Election Day, when statewide seats and the Legislature, will be on the ballot… But, hey, I’ll take it!)

What about you? How was your weekend? What were your frugal highs from last week? Any pleasant surprises to share?

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Weekend Plans and a Shameless Plug

Happy Friday! We’re expecting fabulous weekend weather here – sunny and highs of nearly 80 both days – woo hoo!! Tonight I’m having a sleepover with my daughter. This is exactly what it sounds like – I sleep with her in her room for the night. Although it means missing out on my evening downtime, and that I’ll wake up repeatedly throughout the night, afraid I’m about to fall off her full-size bed because she’s laying horizontally and pushing me with her feet, it’s very sweet to get some intense snuggle time.

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a day-trip to Vermont, where we’ll check out a fall festival and farmer’s market, while doing lots of leaf-peeping. Sunday will be a day of lawn-mowing and football for my husband, and chores and baking for me.

And now… A shameless plug! You may know that I have a very small business selling children’s books and educational toys. It’s called Bookworm Gifts, and through the end of the month, all in-stock Bear-series board books and paperbacks are on sale for $4.99 (regular $6.99). Thanks for listening. :)



What about you? What are your weekend plans?



Late to the Party… Again

Over the last few months, I’ve been spending less on food to feed our family. How did I accomplish this monumental feat of frugality? Are we eating just rice and beans? No – neither my husband nor my daughter would accept that. Am I harvesting huge volumes of food from my garden, and living off the land? Nope. Have I gone coupon crazy, and been stocking up on dirt cheap boxes of processed food? Nah. So what innovative ideas have I incorporated into our lives to spend less at the grocery store?? Drumroll, please… I’ve been shopping the pantry/freezer, and re-purposing our leftovers!

What, you’ve already heard of these tricks to saving on groceries?? That doesn’t really surprise me. I’m always late to the party. (If you want to go all psychotherapy on me, you might call this trait “resistance to change.”) Seriously, I don’t remember eating leftovers growing up – ever. I don’t know if there were no leftovers to be had, or if my mother saved them for her lunch the next day, or if they – gasp! – weren’t consumed. (Since my parents are exceedingly frugal, I doubt the latter was the case.)

So after months of reading all sorts of great blog articles about frugal living and saving on groceries, (here and here are two recent favorites), I’ve finally fully embraced these two strategies and we’re reaping the benefits. I got really excited this summer when I grilled chicken for dinner one night, then chopped up the leftovers and made quesadillas with them the next night – mind-blowing. Like I said, I’m always late to the party. I’ve done this with sausages, ground beef, and grilled veggies, too. (Re-purposed them, not made quesadillas with them.) And a cool secondary benefit of this is that I don’t have to plan and cook as many full meals. Since I’m not a huge fan of cooking, this is a major bonus.

Shopping from my pantry/freezer has been a little harder for me, since I’m not a very creative person by nature. But necessity is the mother of invention, right? After work yesterday, I glanced the the group of small tomatoes I had gathered from my plants, and thought, “I can’t eat tomato salad again tonight.” But I do love pasta pomodoro, and I always have pasta, garlic, and cheese on-hand. Bingo!

Many of you frugal readers are probably laughing and shaking your heads, but these simple changes have really made a difference for me – even if I came by them a little late.

What about you? What are some of your favorite tricks for re-purposing leftovers?


The Versatile Blogger Award

A big thank you to Laurie from The Frugal Farmer, for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! The goal of this award is to show appreciation for and get the word out about other bloggers whose work you enjoy. Nominees must: (1) share seven random facts about themselves, and (2) nominate seven other bloggers for the award. Here goes…
Seven random facts about me:
  1. In college, I thought I wanted to be a therapist. As a result, I have a masters in clinical social work, which I don’t really use in my current line of work, but I couldn’t get my job without it. (A masters degree in counseling or social work is required.)
  2. When I want something, I tend to see only the positive things about it, and give no thought to the negative ones. Therefore, I was completely shocked at how much work parenting and owning a home are. This trait probably also didn’t help with some of my past, unwise spending decisions…
  3. My husband and I met through friends, were good friends for four years, became roommates (2-bedroom apartment), then started dating six weeks later. (Once our 2-year lease was up, we moved into a 1-bedroom apartment.)
  4. My commute to work is close to 50 minutes, but I don’t mind at all. The drive itself is beautiful, and I get to listen to NPR the whole time. (I can’t watch or listen to the news much when my daughter is with me.)
  5. I really wish I could meditate, but so far all attempts have been complete failures. I have become a big believer in the importance of deep breathing, though, and it’s been very beneficial to me. (Wow – this one makes me sound more new-agey than I think I am.)
  6. I have terrible vision. I wear contacts all day, and glasses at any other waking moment, otherwise I can’t see a thing. I feel terrible that this trait will surely be passed onto my daughter.
  7. I despise winter – cold and darkness, what an awful combination!! – but I can’t ever see myself living outside the Northeast. (Actually, I tried it once, and it wasn’t for me.)

And I now nominate:

  1. Jessi at The Budget Mama
  2. Christina at Northern Cheapskate
  3. Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs
  4. Rachel at Grow a Good Life
  5. Sara at Sara’s Simply Living
  6. Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker
  7. Kelly at The Nourishing Home

Last Week’s Frugal Highs

Happy Monday! It feels like our weekend flew by, since we drove four hours each way, to and from MA yesterday and today. We saw my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and parents, and attended my nephew’s 2nd birthday party.

  1. Found a $1 bill during my run on Monday!
  2. Received SavingStar cash back for purchasing yogurt and multigrain tortilla ships
  3. Dropped some items off at the children’s consignment store, and picked up $42.63 for items sold.
  4. Used Discover cash back to pay for a purchase on Amazon.
  5. Used a $0.97 per gallon gas credit, (earned through a grocery store promotion), when filling up the tank.
  6. Received a free container of buttermilk at the grocery store! There’s wasn’t any in the case, and it took a little while for the cashier to track down someone to get it for me from the back. When he brought it out to me, he said it was on them because I had to wait so long!
  7. Brought home some leftover pizza and goodies from the birthday party, which we enjoyed after the long ride home.
  8. Finished reading Skinny Bitch, borrowed from the library. I didn’t learn a whole lot of new information, but it definitely made an impact on me.

How was your weekend? What were your frugal highs last week? Would you pick up a $1 bill on the side of the road? What about a quarter? Anything smaller? :)

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Weekend Plans

Happy Friday! I had some friends over for coffee this morning, and will be planting a bunch of spring-flowering bulbs in our yard this afternoon. I’m also doing a quick grocery run, mainly for buttermilk to try this buttermilk pumpkin waffles recipe tonight. (It’s breakfast-for-dinner night, so I’ll also cook some leftover bacon I have in the fridge.)

Tomorrow morning, we’re taking a road trip to MA for my nephew’s 2nd birthday party. We’ll spend the night at my sister’s house, then head home late Sunday morning. My parents will also be there, so it’ll be nice to see them, as well.

Speaking of breakfast, have you downloaded this free book of superfood breakfast recipes, yet? Today is the last day… Some of them are a little ambitious for me, but I’m going to give a couple a try.


What about you? What are your plans for the weekend?

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What I’m Reading Has Me Thinking…

At the recommendation of a friend, I recently started reading the book, Skinny Bitch. I haven’t quite finished it, but I’m really enjoying it. If you’re not familiar with it, it was a best-seller about ten years ago – I’m always late to the party with these things – and it’s essentially about, well, getting skinny. While I certainly could stand to shed a few pounds, it was recommended as a source of good ideas for how to eat a healthier diet. This is something that has recently become more important to me, thanks in part to my reading of blogs such as Don’t Waste the Crumbs.


Skinny Bitch is written in a pretty snarky, sarcastic tone, and includes it’s share of vulgarity, as the title suggests. The authors are both vegans, and that’s the diet they’re pushing. With that in mind, there’s a chapter that discusses factory farming, that focuses on the treatment of the animals. Nothing in it was news to me, but there are several pages of graphic quotes from current and past factory farmer workers. They were painful and disturbing to read, and they lead me to what feels like a pretty big decision I’ve made for our family: we will no longer buy factory-farmed meat and eggs.

I’m not going to discuss the horrendous conditions under which these animals live and die, but I encourage you to seek out this information if you eat meat. It’s truly awful, and I don’t want my family’s food dollars to support this treatment. I’ve held off on making this commitment in the past because I was concerned about the cost of meat and eggs from more humane sources. However, I’ve become aware of several farms and stores that sell non-factory-farmed meat in my area, and I ready to start visiting them and comparing prices. I typically prepare two meat-based meals per week, so meat is not a huge contributor to our grocery bottom line. Ditto for eggs, which I probably go through at the rate of one dozen every 2-3 weeks.

I feel great about this decision, and am excited to learn more about new (to me) sources!

Have you read Skinny Bitch? What did you think of it? Do you eat meat? If humanely-sourced meat and eggs are important to you, where do you get them?

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