Monday, December 12, 2011


As a family, we enjoy making gingerbread houses.  I thought I would share my recipe.  It takes longer that sticking graham crackers together, but it's cuter, and you can make your own shapes.

5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 tsp powdered ginger
1 cup solid white vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
1 cup unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma's)

Melt shortening in saucepan.  Add sugar and molasses and mix well.  Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.  Sift all the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and ginger together in a mixing bowl.  Add shortening 
mixture to dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add a little water if mixture is too dry.  After it's thoroughly mixed, divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each part into a ball.  Put each ball onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Roll each dough ball out to 1/4" thickness and cut each house piece with form, removing excess dough.  (A damp towel under the cookie sheet will keep it from sliding while you are rolling out the dough).
Bake on these cookie sheets in preheated 375 F oven for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.  Let stand on cookie sheets until completely cooled.

Just a few candies, purchased in bulk, and royal icing will make everyone happy!

Royal Icing
1lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
3 Tablespoons meringue powder
6 Tablespoons water

Place all ingredients in mixer bowl.  Mix on low for 10 minutes, until icing has lost its sheen.  You can also make royal icing using egg whites, but the experts say that you shouldn't eat it because of the raw eggs.

For the houses this year, I cut out 6 squares: 2 3"x3", 2 2.5"x3", and 2 3.5"x3".  Have fun!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


This is one of the things I'm grateful for this year.  A few months ago we were exploring phone options for my husband's from-home accounting business.  We didn't have a lot to spend, but he really needed a SmartPhone - something that would keep track of his appointments (we'd managed to forget a few here and there), get good reception throughout the area (he travels anywhere in the Ogden area), and work reliably.

We decided to try Cricket, since there were offering a free Android phone with sign-up.  It had all the features we wanted, but the call quality turned out to be terrible, and the phone was driving him crazy.  He couldn't type anything correctly - all the letters were mixed up!

Then I heard about RawData.  I was very skeptical at first.  I first saw it on an add on KSL.  Could you really get a SmartPhone for only $40 a month?  At that point there wasn't much on the web about this company - a Facebook page, and a survey (but only if you had a link - I couldn't find it through a google search).  Now, they have a better web site:  The idea is that, in exchange for greatly discounted phone service, they put a program on the phone that collects data about your reactions toTV and radio ads.  They also occasionally send text messages to gather more data.  The phone coverage is through Sprint, and is unlimited.

My husband has loved his phone (we paid a little more to get a Nexus S).  It gets reception almost anywhere.  The phone responds well to his typing (many fewer typos).  He's been able to use it to patch an internet connection for his laptop when he really needs it.  The text messages aren't too many, and sometimes it's even amusing.

I understand that RawData is now taking "Panelists" across the country.  If you decide to check it out, let me know - they're also giving a referral fee, which I would love to have!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wax Paper and Crayon Ornaments

I forgot to take pictures of these before they were mailed to Grandma, so use your imagination!

First, I had the kids shred their old broken crayons using crayon sharpeners (pencil sharpeners are generally too small for crayons).  They put the sharpenings on wax paper, in a thin layer.  Then I put another layer of wax paper over top and ironed them until the sharpenings melted and ran together.  (Be sure to put an old rag underneath the wax paper and another over top of it so that if any crayon gets out, it won't get on your iron or ironing boards.)

Then the kids used cookie cutters to trace Christmas shapes on the wax paper (markers work best for writing on it), and cut them out.

Joseph did find that you can use a pen to score white lines on the paper, unfortunately, it tends to make the layers of paper and crayon separate from each other, too.

Even Michelle made a couple - she didn't get the sharpener bit, but it still looked good just with stripes of crayon that she had drawn on (the wax paper will stick to itself when you iron it, so don't worry about having holes in the layer of crayon).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Wreathe Ornaments

This was a fun one in my list of low-expenditure crafts. Some time ago, I decided to get rid of a couple of much-loved, but worn out maternity shirts. Then I realized that they were classic Christmas colors, so I hung onto them just in case they could be useful.

First, the kids helped me cut the shirts into strips, and then into approximately 3/4 in squares. (This was very approximate, neither shape nor size being an issue.)
After that, we took floral wire and strung the pieces of fabric onto the wire. To get through the fabric easier, I cut the thicker wire on an angle to give it a point, and I used a file to sharpen it a little. For the thinner wire, I found a large sewing needle and threaded the wire through it, using pliers to pinch it together just under the needle. Neither method was perfect, but my three-year-old was able to get the fabric onto her wire alright.
After we had about 8-9 inches of fabric on the wires, I wrapped them around in circles and twisted the two ends of wire together, being careful not to leave sharp ends sticking out. For two of them, I cut the ties off of one shirt and used a tie to make a nice bow at the top.
Voila!Mini Christmas wreathe door hangers (or Christmas tree ornaments)!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas of Thanksgiving

In an effort to extend the meaning of Thanksgiving into our Christmas celebration, (and in consideration of our tight financial situation this year) we decided that we would put a moratorium on extra spending this year. We have plans for small one gift for each child (for example, our 6 year old will be getting a scooter that has been in storage at Grandpa's since it's original owner out grew it) from Santa, but that will be all from us.

(We also splurged for a Pass of All Passes for each of us so that we can enjoy the fun center and water parks next year. They were on a great discount at that I couldn't pass up. )

My husband and I also agreed that we would continue to spend the normal amounts on gas and groceries. This is mostly for me, since I've got a new baby and am already struggling to figure out what's for dinner each night. Anything that doesn't fall into the grocery or gas category, has to be discussed between the two of us before it is purchased.

So, Christmas will be made from things we have already. I'll try to post about some of the creative crafts that we come up with - we've already made wreathes from old t-shirts and Christmas ornaments from wax paper and used crayons. Many of our family will be receiving magnet boards, made from scrap metal from our shed and covered with fabric scraps.

My hope is that by focusing on what we have, I will learn to be more grateful for or comfortable circumstances, and less upset about things that we don't have. After all, while that new set of Pyrex that's on sale might be nice, we already have enough dishes to have a fully functional kitchen. So, all the adds are going in the recycling bin immediately (rather a sacrifice for me, since I normally love pouring over them to find the very best deals)!

Wish me luck!

Gratitude Trial

We had a trial run for our Christmas of Thanksgiving this week!

Thursday, the entire area was hit with a tornado-level wind storm.  Billions of dollars of damage was done, and 50,000 homes lost power.  We were lucky enough not to be one of the areas where the schools lost power in the morning and sent all of the kids home!  But, by 3:00pm, we were out of power, too!

It was rather nice to realize that we aren't too tied to the electrical line.  The first sign that something was wrong was when the wireless internet quit working.  My husband simply switched to using his phone to connect to the net, and assumed that our router had gone on the flake again.  He asked me about it eventually, and I gave him instructions for re-setting the router.  Then I went to the bathroom.  When the light switch didn't function, my mental light bulb went on!  We were out of power!

I had to switch the planned Christmas craft (we were supposed to do one the required an iron).  The kids and I enjoyed that, until the sun started going down and I realized that I was going to have to get creative with dinner!

We pulled out the Coleman stove, set it up outside, grabbed a bunch of bottled goods, and made taco soup.  I didn't have to open the fridge.  Then we set the table for dinner by candlelight (electric tea light, to be exact:))!

I was grateful that we are accustomed to going camping.  I was grateful that my children are accustomed to occasionally eating in the dark.  We were grateful for a laptop with a great battery, and a SmartPhone, so that my husband was able to continue working un-interrupted.  I was also very grateful that the power came back on before bed.  I wasn't looking forward to figuring out how to keep everyone warm (especially the new baby) during the night!  But we would have done just fine!

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

What's that new art work on our wall? Nothing yet. But in the course of the next few weeks I hope it turns into a masterpiece.

And I hope as we write or draw pictures of what we're thankful for, we remember how very much we do have. Because as I told Claire as we started this project during Evan's naptime, I'm happiest when I'm thinking about all the things I have, and I'm saddest when I'm only thinking of things I don't have. We did a thankful tree like this last Thanksgiving, and it was so fun to see it grow and to even invite others to add a leaf as they came to our house. So while all the leaves outside are falling OFF the trees, we're adding leaves to our tree inside, one blessing at a time.

We did a Family Home Evening lesson on gratitude a couple of weeks ago, as some members of the family have a hard time with whining when they are given things that aren't quite the way they wanted them. And since then the catch phrase in our house has been "attitude of gratitude" -hilarious coming out of the mouth of a 2 year old.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I HATE holey jeans, and I think that patches look silly. Like most people, I would prefer to be able to replace my children's pants when they start showing wear, but, even shopping at resale stores, that has become an impossibility for my budget. So, here I am, trying to figure out how to patch jeans, but make it look alright.

First, I went through my scraps of fabric, looking for boyish, and girlish ones that were heavy enough to stand up to some wear and tear. Then I got creative with the shapes I cut out - flowers for the girls, parallelograms, triangles, and diamonds for the boys.

The other thing I hate about patching is that my children's pants legs are too small to fit on my sewing machine - so it either turns out looking funny, or I could rip open a seam to spread it out and use the sewing machine - or I can hand sew it. Ugh!

This time around, though, I had a day when I was mostly confined to the couch anyway, due to pregnancy issues, so hand sewing at least gave me something to do. I got out my cross-stitch thread and picked some complimentary colors. Using three strands at a time, I stitched all around the shapes. Oh, I almost forgot.... I used spray adhesive to stick the patches to the jeans until I got them sewed on. It should come out in the first wash, and was a lot easier than trying to pin them on.

Here are some pictures of the finished product.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I have just finished cleaning the baked on mess off of my stove after the last round of canning. Every time I do this, I wonder about the sanity of the project. Sure, we have boxes of applesauce, tomatoes, green beans, apple pie filling, grape juice, and peaches. But how much would that really cost if I just bought it at the grocery store?

Especially if you have to purchase the produce, canning doesn't make sense economically these days. Here are a couple of reasons why I still do it:

1) Some things you just can't get at the store. Homemade grape juice and applesauce are so much better than the store bought variety. It's worth the extra effort, at least at our house.

2) If I don't factor in time, it really does help with the family budget. I'm going to be home with the kids anyway, why not use some of that time to do something productive - and hopefully teach the kids to be productive, too!

3) I love having a garden, and gardening automatically leads to canning.

4) I have lots of wonderful family and neighbors who love to give us their extra fruit - how could I say no to that?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fun Halloween Costumes

This is more for next year, but I'm pretty proud of our family costumes, so I thought I'd post some pictures.

This year, we became beekeepers (one hive in our yard, and one in my father-in-law's), so we thought we'd have the kids be bees and Mom and Dad would be beekeepers. That worked out pretty well, except that I never got around to making a second beekeeping outfit for myself (Dad wore the actual beekeepers jacket).

I got over-sized t-shirts on sale, and we spray painted them, using 2x4's to make the unpainted rows. Next time I think I'll try brush on paint, but it worked. They already had black pants/tights and shoes, so that was a done deal. For the head gear, I splurged at Michael's for the girls antennae, but our son thought they were too girly. I could have sworn he told me he didn't want antennae, but the afternoon before we were to don the costumes for the first time, he tearfully told me that he did want some, just not as a headband!

Fortunately, we happened to have some yellow pom-poms and brown pipe cleaner (black would have been better, but it worked). I used a hot glue gun to stick the pom-poms on, and he was happy. In fact, his antennae stayed on much longer than the girls did!

For wings, I remember that we had three old pair of dollar store fairy wings in the Halloween bin, so out they came to be spray painted along with the t-shirts. Certainly better than the cardboard cutouts I had envisioned!

Over the past week, those costumes have been worn at least 6 times. Taking them trick-or-treating together Monday night was a blast. Times like these make me happy to be a mother!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thoughts on Walking

The kids and I were enjoying a leisurely fall walk the other day. We got to an intersection.

Okay, when the red hand turns into a green man walking, Evan, you hold my hand so we can cross the street together, and Claire, hold the stroller so we can be safe.

Red hand into green man. Go.

We start across the street with both kids dutifully holding on to their respective spots with their eyes on the goal in front of us - sidewalk.

We get to the middle of the street. Evan's eyes wander for a moment from the sidewalk in front of us to the cars lined up beside us, and the ones wanting to turn onto the street we are crossing. Then complete PANIC.

He lets go of my hand, starts running one way across the street, then back the other way, trying to avoid all the cars he is sure are going to get him. The best way to describe it for you Tennesseans is a squirrel in the middle of the road running back and forth trying to decide which side is safest until he eventually gets smashed because he can't make up his mind.

It could have been bad. It could have been very bad. Somehow stroller, Mom, and three kids made it to the other side where I put on my figurative safety badge and told Evan about all the safety violations he had just made.

Then as we continued to walk I realized I have enacted that exact scene over and over and over again in my own life. When things are going well, I hold tight to the Lord's hand, trusting in Him completely. I keep my eyes on the goal ahead - eternal life - and continue happily on my walk enjoying the beautiful scenery. But when I get right into the thick of it, and look to the sides and see the cars waiting to smash me, or the 3 year old whining and screaming and kicking and the 2 year old hitting and biting and the baby. . . well the baby is generally innocent in these scenarios thus far. . . but when I get into the thick of it and can't take the attitude anymore, I let go of the Lord's hand and decide I'm going to do it my way. I yell! Or smack my hand on the table and then yell. Or do a million childish things that I'm not proud of.

The kids and I manage to get to the other side - through the tense moment - but it's never in the same pleasurable manner we would have enjoyed if I had held hands and trusted the whole way.

So what does this have to do with frugality? Nothing. Except we were walking a mile and a half, because that's how far away from campus you have to park if you don't want to pay $6 for the parking garage. So park and walk. You just might learn some life lessons on the way. . . if your 2 year old doesn't become roadkill first.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Backseat Buckles

In anticipation of the arrival of number 4, we decided to move our 3 year old to the back seat of the mini-van. Unfortunately, getting buckled became very difficult. She wants to do it, but the buckle kept sliding under her booster seat! Getting in the van became a 10 minute process as we waited for 5 minutes each time while she got her buckle latched.

Then, inspiration struck! I went to the fabric store, got a 3 inch piece of 2 inch wide industrial strength sticky-backed velcro. Then I attached the soft side to the buckle and the rough side to her booster seat. I used the other half to do the same for her brother's booster.

Getting-in-the-van time is back down to its normal 5 minutes, and even big brother admits that it's easier to get buckled now!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Super Saturday

This post is more for my sisters than for anyone else out there. I'm in charge of Super Saturday in a couple of weeks. We're going to be making magnet boards, and I thought that some of my sisters might find them useful. If you're interested, check out the pictures at and let me know if I can make you one for Christmas!
I think I'll make one for Joseph to hang his school handouts on in his room - but I'll probably try covering it with fabric on front and felt on back.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My three-year-old has a bad habit of asking for food, then not eating it. This is especially annoying when she insists she needs the whole bananas, then eats only one bite! Fortunately, I eventually realized that I could cut off the bitten end, then freeze the rest of the banana for use in smoothies.

Now, if I could only come up with a use for soggy cereal!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Happy Birthday to Our Mother

Happy Birthday Mom! This blog just wouldn't be the same without you ;) We love you!

Give Thanks

Tis the season to be grateful. Actually any time is a great time to be grateful. I liked Carol's post about remembering to be grateful. This picture is of just one of my many blessings. This week has been full of challenges, blessings, and growth.

On a frugal note, it is fabulous if you happen to have a friend who is a professional photographer (see Ashley Zufelt Photography on facebook).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Frugal Flowers

Grandma was coming in to town and we wanted to make her feel special, so I asked the kids if they wanted to pick some flowers for her. I had noticed some gorgeous ones growing wild on a bike ride, so we hiked back to the spot and made her an "Ohio" bouquet. I was a little jealous when I saw how great it made her room look. So a couple of days later at the park I saw some even prettier ones growing wild, and they came home to brighten up the kitchen table. I could get in to fresh flowers around the house one day - but until we can afford them, we'll take nature's bounty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The $550 leaking toilet

Two months ago, when the utility bill for our duplex was a little higher, I figured it was a fluke, paid the bill and thought no more of it. Then the next bill came - over $200 dollars more than normal! After turning off various water valves in both sides of the duplex, we found the culprit - a leaking toilet in the rental side. By the next day we had the toilet fixed, and I figured our next utility bill would be closer to normal (taking into account the delay between meter reading and billing).

Not so, the next bill arrived with another $180 extra on it. I run straight out to the water meter to make sure that the problem really had been fixed. It had - the meter had only registered a normal amount of use since the last meter reading.

When a toilet leaks, it can really leak! All in all, I figure we spent about $550 on that leak, and only $90 of it was to get the toilet fixed.

The moral of the story - get your leaks fixed as soon as they start! And if you have a rental, make sure they know to report problems immediately!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Car Door Handle Repair DON'T Do It Yourself

 Our 10 year old Toyota Camry recently lost its drivers side door handle - very inconvenient. 

We decided to try the DIY (do-it-yourself) repair. With the help of a family friend a suitable replacement part was located for less than dealership prices. 

We painted the black plastic part to match the car. The paint ended up very textured and rather ugly up close. Worse than that the paint job ended up so thick that the door handle sticks - as in won't open. Ooops.

This is one DIY we won't attempt again. 

But I don't feel bad that we tried. The potential savings were worth the risk.  :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Frugality and Gratitude

As I've been thinking about frugality, I've come to my own conclusion that frugality and gratitude are meant to go hand-in-hand. If I'm not grateful for the things I come across cheaply or even free, I can easily start to feel "entitled" to those things instead of "enriched" by them. That attitude should carry through whether it's a good deal on groceries that I'm blessed to find or a free box of clothes from a kind friend. I think of all the people who have so generously given us hand-me-downs of one kind or another. If my attitude was one of entitlement rather than gratitude, I'm sure the hand-me-downs would stop knocking at our door pretty quick. Hand-me-downs like

a doll house that has been played in nearly every day for the past year, usually with miniature dolls, but occasionally with the life-size versions as in above photo
a kitchen-aid mixer that I never knew I needed until I was given one
an adorable bubble car that makes walks to the park with three kids more manageable
free family entertainment exposing my kids to all sorts of new adventures - yes Claire even kissed it
and customer appreciation days at local farmer's markets with free slushies and balloons for kids and free roasted homegrown corn for adults

As I think of all the things we've been given, I hope that the giving doesn't stop with me. Lisa was a good example of that to me a couple of weekends ago when she said she had given away a lot of her baby clothes after baby number 2 (I think #2) and I asked why she had given them away if she knew they were going to have more kids. She said because she didn't want them sitting around going out of style if other people could use them. Light bulb for Carol: you don't have to save it all up just in case you might use it 4 years down the road. If someone can get use out of it, pass it on. Thank goodness for all the wonderful people who have already learned that principle and have blessed our lives because of it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meatless Meals - Tostado

photo from
My kids have decided they can't eat tacos without meat in them. So I mixed things up and tried tostados (hard crunchy corn tortilla like thingy - such a scientific definition I know). I served them with the usual taco toppings minus the meat. I just had seasoned refried beans instead. I used Mom's taco seasoning recipe although next time I think I would cut the seasoning in half. Presto - a new meatless meal!

Foaming Soap for Less

I LOVE foaming soap. I have three small children who love to wash their hands, and the foaming soap leaves a lot smaller mess around the sink, as well as being easier for them to rinse off their hands. I think in the long run, we even use less soap with the foaming variety...

BUT I'm too cheap to pay twice as much for a container that has less soap! Then I found out that you can make your own foaming soap refills - from almost any liquid soap you like.

It's easy:
1) Put a small amount of liquid soap in the bottom of the foaming soap dispenser.
2) Add water to fill container. (Make sure you leave enough room to get the lid back on.
3) Shake gently until soap and water are mixed.

I've had my three foaming dispensers for over a year now. One of them is getting old and doesn't make the soap foam very much anymore, but the other two are still going strong. I've used liquid hand soap, dishwashing soap, and leftover soap from the old dispensers that I retired when I got these. It all works great!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegetarian Baked Potato Soup

Nancy was looking for some vegetarian recipes. This one isn't usually, but cousin Judith was over for Conference yesterday and I wanted to make the meal vegetarian for her. Even the missionaries who were over liked it.

Vegetarian Baked Potato Soup

Servings 8 Prep. time (min) 20 Cooking time (min) 60




4 potatoes, large

2/3 cup butter, divided

2 cups white beans, pureed in blender with water

6 cups milk

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2/3 cup flour

4 green onions, chopped

8 oz. sour cream


Bake potatoes at 400 degrees for one hour. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out and reserve pulp. Melt butter over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, one minute. Gradually add milk, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Stir in potatoes, salt, pepper, one cup cheese, white bean puree, and 2 T. green onions. Cook until heated (do not boil). Stir in sour cream. Cook until just heated (do not boil). Serve with remaning cheese and green onions. Yield: 2 1/2 quarts


Inserted from <>

Of course you can make this soup "unvegetarian" by putting in a cup of chopped ham and garnishing with two slices of bacon cooked and torn into pieces. But I don't even know if it needs that anymore.

Just a note on using beans in cooking. I find it easiest to take one day as "bean cooking day" and do three separate pots with white beans in one, black beans in another, and pinto beans in the third. You have to think ahead and put the beans to soak the night before or do the quick soak where you get them to a boil and let them sit for an hour before actually cooking them. Then I put them in one or two cup portions and freeze them. The white beans are handy to puree and hide in foods like soups, alfredos, and other saucy white things. The black beans are good in most all Mexican dishes, and the pinto beans can be turned into refried beans.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Playset do's and don'ts

We have been wanting a playground set for our backyard for over a year. The problem: we wanted a nicer wood or large metal set, but didn't have the $500+ to get even a basic set. Over the years we've put up a couple wooden ones for various family and friends, so we're familiar with the time involved.

After watching the local classified ads for a couple of months, I was finally lucky enough to see a wood playset listed for $50 and be the first one to call about it. (I'd called on at least 5 others, but was always way down the list.) We were fortunate - it was Saturday afternoon, my father-in-law's truck and trailer were available, my husband was available, and the playset was only 20 minutes away.

So, we showed up, took some pictures, spent 2 hours taking the set apart and loading it in the trailer, got home, unloaded, fed the kids (it was well past dinner time by then), looked at each other and said "Now where do we start?" The picture is of the stack of pieces on our back porch!

It was Monday evening, Family Home Evening, before we got around to doing anything. We'd taken it apart in big pieces to make things easier, but it also meant that we couldn't exactly put it back together the normal way. We decided to lift up the platform of the fort, attach two of the corner posts to it, then lift up the other side and attach the other two posts.

Problem 1:
Which post goes in which corner? They're ALL different! I spent at least 20 minutes studying pictures, and still got two of them mixed up (fortunately we didn't have to take the posts out and move them:)

Problem 2:
When we lifted it up to put in the second set of posts, the first set twisted around, splintering the wood it was attached to!

Re-assemly came to an abrupt halt. We had to wait for the next day and a trip to the hardware store to get supplies to fix the broken piece.

After that, things went a little more smoothly. We were careful to add some bracing pieces to the corner posts before attaching them to the platform. We got some larger lug nuts to replace the ones that come with the set, hoping that that would make things sturdier. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had the playset mostly together - except for the rope ladder and picnic table which needed more extensive repairs. The kids were playing, and Mom was happy! The playset does creak quite a bit when the children all swing, but I think that's mostly just the nature of wooden playsets. I still need to get it painted before winter, but we'll get there - eventually!

Would I recommend this route to anyone else?
Yes, but only if you like puzzles, have extra time on your hands, and really can't afford to pay full price for one. Be sure to take lots of pictures, put all of your hardware in labeled plastic bags, and try to mark the bigger pieces so you can tell exactly where they go!

For those who don't meet the above qualifications: save your money to buy a new one. Even if you have to do the assemply yourself, it will at least come clearly marked and with instructions!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Razors for His Birthday

Since Bonnie posted on her amazing birthday present, I decided to post on mine. My husband had a birthday last week, and he had mentioned the need for a new razor, although he said he didn't want to waste a birthday present on it. Then that week I saw on a local deal blog, that I could print some coupons for razors and they would be free or cheap at Wal-mart.

So that morning I printed out the coupons and while the oldest was at preschool co-op the boys and I jogged to Wal-mart and got the razors. Wal-mart is not my first pick to shop (there is a Meijer, Target, Wal-mart, and 3 other grocery stores within jogging distance of my house), but their coupon policy comes in handy sometimes. If the value of the coupon is greater than the price of the product, they will subtract the extra from your total purchase price. So since some of the coupons exceeded the value of the product, I got $1 back for buying those razors, which I put towards the price of the other razors, to get the whole lot of them for free or nearly free.

You'll notice there are women's razors as well as men's - I gave them all to my husband as a "look, I won't be stealing yours anymore, I have my own now" and then the disposable ones I'll probably donate to a shelter.

The kids helped me wrap them up and when my husband questioned the oldest about his birthday present, she said it had something to do with "shaving his legs". Nice!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Supermarket Savings Tip

I just started using this tip and it's amazing I didn't come across this idea a long time ago.

When buying produce in 5 pound bags or 3 pound bags, weigh two or three bags and pick the heaviest.

Today I bought a 5 pound bag of apples that actually weighed 5.75 pounds! Of course you may only find a bag that is 5 1/3 pounds but that's still more than 5 pounds. I haven't yet found a bag that is less than the marked weight.

Let's do the math.
  • 5 pounds of apples hand selected (additional time)
    • $1.37/pound
    • total cost $6.85
  • 5 pound bag of apples
    • $5.47 total cost
    • actually 5 3/4 pounds
    • and faster too!
  • Savings $1.38
    • plus the extra 3/4 pounds 
    • plus the shorter time in the store (time is money!)
My 3 year old shopping assistant is usually very helpful, but lately he's had the "gimme's." So speedy shopping is essential for my own sanity!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tamales for His Birthday Present

Last week was my husband's birthday. He loves tamales, so for his birthday present (rather than buying him something) I made him a batch of homemade tamales. This is my second attempt at tamale making, and I've learned that it's not as intimidating as it seems. It's time consuming in that you let the meat and then the finished tamales cook for several hours, but the actual creation isn't too bad. Spreading the masa dough on the corn husks is the long part, and that's actually fun--like playing with edible Mexican-flavored playdough. The wonderful thing about this Mexican food is that it's easy to make and inexpensive (you can use cheap meat and stretch it to fill a lot of tamales); it's also freezable and easy to reheat.

Since my husband hunts, we have a lot of game meat in the freezer. With all the Mexican spices, you can't tell much difference between elk roast shredded for the filling and the traditional pork/chicken or beef. So I was able to use what I had on hand, plus $6 for a new bag of corn husks, $3.75 for a new bag of Maseca, and $1 for another bottle of chili pepper (all of which I'll be able to use again for my next batch of tamales). With $10 and some time invested, I was able to produce 42 tamales and wrap them into 18 lunch portions to put in the freezer. Because it's garden season, I also had an abundance of tomatoes and green peppers that I turned into homemade salsa. My husband loved his birthday present!

For those of you interested in learning to make tamales, I used this website for my recipe and step-by-step guide: The detailed explanations and pictures really boosted my confidence the first time around, and putting spices in the masa dough really increases the flavor of the tamales (which are sometimes rather bland without).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wheat in Bulk

I noticed a post on one of my favorite money saving blogs about buying 25 pounds of wheat from a bulk foods store for $19. I've bought wheat in bulk for a long time and I've never paid $19 for it.

I always buy my wheat from the Home Storage Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. You don't have to be Mormon to buy wheat there. The Home Storage Centers are run by volunteers so you do need to call ahead and see when the center will be open before going.

Home Storage Centers are all over the United States and Canada. Here is a map of the different locations. 
  • Locate the Home Storage Center closest to you.
  • Then call the friendly people at the number listed. 
  • Let them know that you would like to come buy a 25 pound bag of wheat. 
  • Ask when they are open. 
  • If they ask what ward you are in, tell them you are not Mormon but would like to buy some wheat.

The current price for 25 pounds or hard white wheat or hard red wheat is $11.45. Look on the order form on the right hand side under the bulk column to see the prices.

And if you need more info on packaging and storing wheat for long-term use has lots of information.

Dead Bread?

Ever wind up with stale bread? Or bake a loaf bread only to discover that you left out the salt? Or have your bread fall in the oven? Or have leftover waffles that no one will eat?

When that happens, I normally slice the bread and throw it in my toaster oven on low for 45 minutes, then break it in pieces and use the blender to make it into bread crumbs, which I freeze for use in meatloaf, meatballs, breaded chicken, etc.

I've just come across another use for not-so-perfect bread: bread pudding. Pumpkin bread pudding, actually. It's like a lighter, faster pumpkin pie. I found a recipe online , (leaving out the currants and nuts) and, wonder of wonders, my husband and all three children devoured it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Easy Rainbow Cupcakes!

This is actually an idea I stole from another sister, Carol, but we used it for my daughters birthday and it turned out great! I like low-key birthday parties, so this was the opening activity -
Rainbow Cupcakes.
It's easy. 
  • First, mix up a white cake mix.
  • Second, separate it into smaller bowls and use food color to color the batter in each bowl. We used red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
  • Third, put cupcake liners in the pan and let the kids spoon in whatever colors they want! Just make sure you stop them when it gets 2/3 full.
  • Fourth, bake them!
We played games while they baked. Twenty minutes after putting them in we stacked them up, stuck candles in them, and sang "Happy Birthday!" They were so cute I didn't even bother icing them.

The kids loved it, it was easy, and it was way cheap! One note though, it only made 16 cupcakes instead of the usual 24. So go have fun; don't wait for a birthday!

By the way, my daughter's most played with present so far: the two frogs her cousin brought over.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cooling the House Economically

Now that it's officially fall South Texas weather has decided to cool off just a little. This morning it was 70 degrees when I took the kids to school and they all wanted jackets!

When I got home from the school run I decided to open some windows to cool the house (for free) before we get back up to 90 degrees later today. I even left the front door open for a few minutes while helping a kiddo ride his bike.

Mr. Birdy liked the open door policy and paid us a visit. I managed to escort him out without any harm. Maybe I'll change my open door policy a little :)


Welcome! I'm Margaret - just one of the FiveFrugalSisters. We grew up together in a family of 10 children. Our Mom was the queen of thrift. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was a common phrase. While none of us have ten kids of our own we do have 20 kids between the six of us. Visit our About page for why the FiveFrugalSisters is actually about six sisters.

Fun trivia:
  • we each had/will have a baby in 2011 (no we didn't coordinate that)
  • we each play a musical instrument (or two)
  • we live in Texas, Utah, Ohio, and Tennessee
  • we each have at least a bachelor's degree
  • we choose to be frugal so that we can stay home with our children
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