Saturday, September 29, 2012

Refried Beans from Scratch

I love tacos, and I love homemade refried beans even better.  This stuff is so good you'll be licking your fingers just like it's cookie dough.  I make a huge batch all at once, then freeze it in small portions.  Then on Taco Tuesday, I just have to make sure I have enough fresh ingredients like tomatoes, lettuce, cheese on hand, pull out the refried beans and the taco meat from the freezer, and dinner is done.  Love this stuff!
Homemade Refried Beans
  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans
  • 3 T butter or other fat
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 t. cumin
  • 2 t paprika
  • 2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • Bean juice, milk or water as needed
Prepare the dry beans by soaking overnight, rinsing, and cooking next day until tender.  Saute the onions in the fat, then add garlic for 1-2 more minutes. Add beans and extra liquid if needed.  Stir in seasonings.  Use a blender or food processor to puree.  Store in serving size portions in the freezer for up to several months.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Salvaging Old Paint

I was attempting to use some old paint for a craft, but it had lots of lumps and another can had rust dripping into my paint. I didn't have any cheesecloth to strain it with, but I discovered that two layers of tulle fastened to an old plastic container (yogurt container) with a rubber band works nicely. You could probably use another loose weave fabric as well.

And I happily tinted half of my salvaged paint using a little bottle of craft paint.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Microwave Playdough!

We're having a playdough playdate with small friends tomorrow. . . and we're out of playdough.  Except one small tub of peppermint candy cane playdough from last Christmas.  Check out this amazing recipe that you cook in the MICROWAVE in just a couple of minutes, and don't have to labor over a hot stove for.  Each kid picked their color and made their own personal playdough.  To add an extra element of educational fun: as you wait for extra batches to cook in the microwave, let the kids feel all the playdough balls and decide which is hottest, which is coolest.  What they smell like.  Why they smell like that.  How the colors mix to make new colors, and how the heat in the microwave makes the colors more vibrant.  Science geekiness all around.  One more awesome frugal feature to this recipe: you can substitute lemon juice or vinegar for the pricey cream of tartar!  The recipe called for 1 T. cream of tartar, but not having any and not wanting to buy any, I found online that you can substitute lemon juice or vinegar at three times the amount of tarter called for. Adds a nice citrus scent. Here's the fantastic recipe:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp oil
1 cup water

Stir in plastic bowl and place in microwave for up to five minutes, stirring at least once.  My microwave it took about 3 minutes total.  

Original recipe (before lemon juice addition) from

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Recycle Bin Saga Continues

Remember how I made a nifty recycle sign out of cardstock and it only lasted a few minutes before Miss Baby picked it off? Then I made a recycle sign out of vinyl and congratulated myself on a job well done? Well, that was July and this is September and Miss Baby has been diligently practicing her fine motor skills. She loves to scribble on anything and recently learned the joy of picking stickers off of items in Hobby Lobby (no kidding).

So this week in Baby VS Vinyl Recycle Sign, Baby scored 2 out of 3 recycle signs. (See picture above for baby in action.)

Here's Miss Baby crying over her interrupted artwork. Actually she was mad I took her binky away.

Now it's Mom and the Recycling Sign VS Baby. Plan C - spray paint.

 Step 1 - cut recycling sign out of Contact Paper (only 12 cents per foot versus vinyl at almost a dollar a foot). Don't you love the stripes? Not me.
 Step 2 - Cover garbage can.
 Step 3 - Spray.
Step 4 - Remove everything and admire your artwork. Admit that you didn't tape things down quite well enough and will have to use a little paint remover after things dry. And wonder why you can't upload right-side-up photos into blogger. Hmmm.

Step 5 - Wonder how long before Miss Baby defeats Plan C. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Zaycon Foods - bulk chicken sale

Jannette introduced me to a bulk food company that specializes in fresh meats: Zaycon Foods.

Our family has enjoyed the products she has shared with us: huge hot dogs, really great brat sausages, and 93% lean ground beef.  So I decided to make my first venture into using their company.  Zaycon only sells in bulk (you buy a case at a time), and they only sell fresh (their products are not frozen; they come from the farm to you via refrigerated truck).  You get an email announcing that they have a certain item available, and when you order, you choose a specific pick-up location, and there is a set window of time to come and get your product.  

So tonight I made my first order.  Currently (through the first week of October in most places), they are selling boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.69 a pound in a 40 lb case (that's $67.60 plus tax; my order here in UT was $69.63 with tax). 

Because they come as whole breasts in a huge case, I'll obviously have to spend some time trimming and storing the meat in smaller quantities.  I plan to bottle some and freeze some.  My last attempt at a 40 lb case of chicken was $1.59 a pound from a grocery store and very poor quality, but I have been impressed with the Zaycon products I have tried, and chicken is apparently their trademark product.  So here I go!  I'll let you all know how my experience is.

In the meantime, if you're curious, you can check Zaycon Foods out at  For my curiousity, I checked other regions in the country to see if they were selling this product other places besides Utah.  Mom, they have a chicken "event" in Hixson, TN, on Sat. Oct. 20.  Carol, they have one in Columbus, OH (and several other Ohio sites, but I wasn't sure what might be close to you).  Marg, they have one in San Antonio (likewise on the other TX sites).  Sorry, Naomi; no chicken for sale in West Virginia right now.

The other interesting thing about this company is they don't advertise.  Instead they offer a referral incentive program, which reminds me of Dad's talks about 'paying the people who make the company run.'  When a new person joins Zaycon Foods, they can list a code for the person who referred them to the company (I listed Jannette, of course).  From then on, anytime that person places and pays for an order, the referring person receives a $1 credit in their Zaycon account that can be used towards their own future purchases.  My referral name (in case any of you are so impressed you sign up immediately without waiting for my report ;-) is BonnieGee, or you can use this link:

Wow!  That's the longest post I've ever written for this or any blog. ;-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Frugal Family Fun

I love that fall is coming on, and we found a way to use it to our advantage for some frugal fun at the park today. Ohio is known as the Buckeye State and for good reason.  We easily found four large buckeye trees at our city park today, all of which have laden the ground around them with beautiful chestnut colored buckeyes.  The Native Americans originally named the nuts buckeyes because of their light-colored center that reminded them of a buck's eye.  

When a wind blows the tree drops any loose hulls to the ground and they usually break right open to reveal one or two buckeye nuts inside.  We found it especially lucky to find a spiny hull that didn't break open upon contact with the ground.  
It was way more fun than an Easter egg hunt I thought.  No prep work involved - a real party put on by Mother Nature.  
If you want to get really frugal with the buckeyes, you can always drill out the center and string them into a necklace with scarlet and gray beads.  Easily sells for $10-15 a string on game days.  I also thought it entertaining that you can buy Christmas garlands made out of beads and buckeyes online for $40! Not bad when we're talking in terms of such low overhead!

And for you Westerners who can only dream of buckeye glory, my boy would have been more than content whiddling away his time collecting acorns, of which there were also tons at the park.  Collect 'em, put 'em in a sensory bin at home, lay them out for the squirrels.  I'll admit I was somewhat sad to see our bags of collected buckeyes quickly disappear when the kids saw a squirrel, threw a nut towards him, and he grabbed it and ran off.  After that the nuts were history - our carefully collected treasures could be found sitting boldly at the base of nearly every tree in the park, waiting for some lazy squirrel to stumble upon them.   Oh well.  I guess my necklace will have to wait for another day!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Cheapster" internet reality show

Know an ultra-frugal college students in Utah or Idaho?  They could compete to win $10,000 in a contest sponsored by Zion's Bank.  I just found this article on and couldn't resist passing it on.  Here's the article, with information on how to apply to compete: Compete to become the ultimate Cheapster.

Or you can check out the show at

Frugal CAN be FUN!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Celebrate Museum Day

Saturday, September 29, 2012 is Museum Day.  Museums across the nation are offering free admission through a printable entry ticket from  Check out the website to see a list of all participating museums.  In Ogden, Utah, the Union Station Museums and Eccles Community Art Center are listed, and the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum in Salt Lake City.  The tickets are limited to two people per household, but it would make a great father/son or daddy/daughter outing.
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