20 frugal and delicious recipe ideas

One huge misconception about frugal living is that by taking a frugal approach to grocery shopping you consequently cannot eat well.

Food is expensive with fresh produce and meat likely the most costly of the items that make their way into your cart. At the outset of our journey, I vowed that I wouldn’t compromise the quality of the food we eat because what you eat is so important for living a healthy lifestyle. Not surprisingly, we had to get creative when it came to preparing meals because our grocery budget had to last us all week including, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. No exceptions. On average, we’re currently spending under 100$ per week to feed our family of 3.

Below are 20 of our  frugal family favorites. We’ve made each of these recipes and really enjoy them and I hope you do too if you decide to try them!

taco-soup-recipe.jpg

[1]

World’s Best Taco Soup from I heart Naptime

Savory Bacon Zucchini Frittata from The Nourishing Gourmet

ShepherdsPieTop

[2]

Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepards Pie from One Ingredient Chef

Cobb salad with Blue Cheese Dressing from 100 Days of Real Food

Sausage, Potato & Pepper Skillet from 5$ Dinners

simple-chicken-coconut-soup

[3]

Coconut Chicken Soup from Frugal Living NW

Sweet Ham & Swiss Sliders from Double the Batch

Loaded Vegetable Soup from Cozy Country Living

Salsa Chicken in the Slow Cooker from The Happy Housewife

[4]

Meatball Parmesan Casserole from Shugary Sweets

Swiss Chard Tomato Quiche from Real Food Real Deals

Slow Cooked Whiskey Molasses Shredded Beef from Frugal Minded Mom

Broccoli Cheese Soup from Don’t Sweat the Recipe

Fish Tacos in a Bowl from Frugal, Debt Free Life

5762718207_abff3ec718.jpg

[5]

Bean and Cheese Burritos from Pink Parsley

Salmon Patties from The Spruce

Quick Chicken Pot Pie from My Recipes

Hamburger Stroganoff from Food.com

Salsa Chicken Casserole spoon.jpg

[6]

Salsa Chicken CasseroleSalsa Chicken Casserole from Budget Bytes

Walnut Breadcrumb Pasta from My Recipes

QOD

Have any favorite frugal recipes to share?


Giving credit where credit is due!

1/ http://www.iheartnaptime.net/taco-soup-recipe/

2/ http://www.oneingredientchef.com/sweet-potato-shepherds-pie/

3/ http://www.frugallivingnw.com/healthy-coconut-chicken-soup-recipe-paleo-gluten-free-dairy-free/

4/ http://www.shugarysweets.com/2014/02/meatball-parmesan-casserole

5/ http://www.pink-parsley.com/2011/06/bean-and-cheese-burritos.html

6/ https://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/01/salsa-chicken-casserole/

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

5 ways being frugal is different than being cheap

It’s no secret that Mer and I live a frugal lifestyle. Actually, we come from a long line of frugal gurus and despite getting a little off-track in our 20s we tend to really live by the mantra that excess doesn’t bring happiness or joy to our lives. As a result, we really limit our spending and most months we can keep our expenses at around 1000$.

Recently, we watched an episode of Extreme Cheapskates. We were drawn to it because of our frugal tendencies but after watching I was left questioning if living frugally means the same thing as living cheaply. My resounding answer is no – it’s absolutely different.

Here are a few reasons why!

lakeview

Frugal living is about prioritizing and saving for a larger life goal. We don’t live frugally to hoard away all our money and never spend it. Quite the opposite actually.  We live frugally so we can save money and use it to fulfill our life goals. Our first goal was getting out of debt, the second was saving up half the down payment for our first home and most recently we’re working towards saving up a fund to purchase a vacation home which we plan to rent out to help cover the costs of a second mortgage and all the associated costs involved in owning a property. Cheapness is oriented towards saving money for the sake of saving without having an end goal in mind whereas living frugally gives you the power to realize life goals however costly.

familymeal

Frugal living doesn’t come at the expense of others.  Although we choose to live a frugal lifestyle those around us never feel like their are deprived when visiting or spending time with us. When it comes to things like dinner plans, social events or family gatherings we always put our best foot forward. Recently, when hosting a dinner party we fed our guests a feast of delicious food. We were still very much conscious of what we bought opting to create delicious meals around items that were on sale as opposed to full price. Our goal was having a lovely meal with our closest friends and family and our number one priority was that our guests have good laughs and a full belly! Being frugal is about being creative and conscious of how you spend your money while being cheap is about prioritizing the amount of money you can save even if that means disregarding the needs of others.

piggybank

Frugal living isn’t about not spending money. Surprisingly, we spend quite a bit of money on things we deem important and necessary.  We don’t scrimp on things like dental or healthcare, we eat good quality food and make sure to make purchases that we know will be beneficial to our lifestyle. Frugal living isn’t about saving every penny – it’s about making informed, conscious decisions about what you choose to spend your money on. As an example, both Margs and I have very sensitive skin and as a result we opt to buy costly laundry detergent that keeps our skin rash and itch free. Sure, there are far cheaper options out there but I would never opt to save a few dollars and put myself or Margs at risk for skin reactions.

fruits.jpg

Frugal living is about value and not cost. Frugal living means spending money wisely. Recently, Mer and I decided that it was time to replace our winter boots since both our pairs were really on their last legs. We live in an extremely cold northern climate and during the winter months appropriate footwear is essential. We could have spent 50$ on boots and called it a day but we made an investment in better quality boots that are conducive to holding up to our harsh Canadian winters. We ended up spending nearly 300$ (on sale!)  combined but we’re confident that these boots will last us for quite a few years and most importantly keep our feet warm and dry for many winters to come. We try to use the same philosophy of value over cost when we’re purchasing food, clothing and furniture. We’re not in an income bracket that allows us to necessarily buy the best quality all of the time but we do make conscious decisions to purchase things of mid-range quality or better (if we can swing it) at a higher cost to gain product longevity. Replacing things is so no fun!

tea.jpg

Frugal living isn’t about obsessing about saving money. As shocking as it might sound, Mer and I really don’t obsess about our bank accounts. Sure, we check in from time to time to make sure everything is as it should be but we rarely have a look to scrutinize where our money goes. We’ve sort of automated our frugal lifestyle and the routine of not spending is just so ingrained in us that we rarely need to check in to see how much we’ve spent. We have a rough budget for groceries and weekly expenditures and we simply stick to our budget as best we can. Sure, there are weeks that we go over. For example, our local grocer was having a sale on organic chickens a couple weeks back so I completely blew our weekly grocery budget and stocked our freezer full of chickens to make delicious meals in the months to come. Frugal living isn’t about obsessing about money. It’s more a lifestyle choice that allows you not to focus on money at all!  By living on a budget we end up saving money (albeit at different increments each month) which is is the consequence of choosing to spend our money wisely.

Basically, if I were to summarize this entire post in just a few words I’d have to say that cheap people focus on not spending money while frugal ones spend it with intention and purpose.

QOD

What are your thoughts? Is being cheap and frugal the same thing?

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

A few of our favorite frugal, family friendly recipes

pexels-photo-119637

Say that 5 times, fast! ha!

Eating good quality, tasty, healthyish and budget friendly food is such an important part of our lifestyle here at This Tiny Blue House. Mer has a big appetite – he’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy while although I enjoy my meat and potatoes I tend to prefer more savory combinations of protein and vegetables. Our meal plans are often a mix of both and after some trial and error we’ve settled on a few recipes that satisfy both our palettes and make repeat appearances week after week.

I don’t create recipes – I modify them. So, I take absolutely zero credit for the base recipes I’m providing below. What I am offering is a few frugal hacks to reduce the cost of each dish without sacrificing the quality and taste.

I generally prepare and cook all these dishes on Sundays. I then store them in our fridge and pop them into the oven to reheat as we need them throughout the week. I cannot tell you how much easier this makes life – not only is dinner prepared but there is virtually no clean up.

Mediterranean Chicken from The Clever Carrot

IMG_88641.jpg

[Source: 1]

First, we omit the bocconcini altogether. I’m not a fan of melted bocconcini and quite honestly this dish is incredibly tasty and satisfying without it. We then substitute 1 can of artichokes for a can of marinated artichokes (price difference is roughly 2$), using our own oil and spices to marinate the chicken. Chicken thighs are weirdly more expensive than chicken breast in this area so to save a couple of bucks we use breast. Finally, we use frozen herbs from our summer garden instead of fresh.

It produces approx 6 servings so plenty for dinner and leftovers for lunches. It’s Margs approved too. Frugal math tells me that it comes our to roughly 3$ per serving.

Cottage Pie from BBC Good Food

recipe-image-legacy-id--1074465_10.jpg

[Source 2]

This is probably our current favorite since it’s so savory and has such great depth of flavor. I actually found this recipe by accident, decided to give it a try and have continued to make it ever since. To save a a couple of bucks I buy the economy size container of ground beef so I can make two pies at the same time. I also use frozen mixed veggies instead of fresh and sometimes omit the cheese in the potato mash altogether. Frugal math tells me this runs about 2.20$ per serving.

Unstuffed Cabbage Role Casserole from Give Recipe

c51df1ff43bd7e374603296d448669bc

[Source: 3]

This is a great recipe that can be eaten as a side dish with a meat protein or by itself. I usually make this once a week and we use it many different ways during the week. It’s great for a quick lunch or to go along side roast chicken for dinner. To frugalize the recipe we often omit the beef altogether and add frozen white beans from our garden instead. Frugal math tells me this runs around 1.00 per serving. Also, we omit the mint because we just don’t do mint in this house.

Pasta e fagioli con Proscuito– due amiche in cucina

pasta-e-fagioli-con-prosciutto-di-parma-e-croste-di-parmigiano-reggiano-1

[Source:4]

I actually grew up eating this at least once per week and until very recently I hated it. With the cold weather and lack of time to prepare more complex meals during the week Mer and I have really started to appreciate a hearty bowl of pasta and bean soup. To save some cash we use bacon instead of prosciutto – honestly, prosciutto just tastes funky when cooked so we prefer the bacon. We use frozen garden beans and our own homemade tomato sauce. This recipe essentially costs us a half bag of pasta and a few strips of bacon. Frugal math tells me this sets us back roughly 0.60 cents per serving.

What are some of your go to favorite meals? I love trying new recipes so I would greatly appreciate any that you have to share!


Giving credit where credit is due
[1] http://www.theclevercarrot.com/2013/05/dinner-tonight-mediterranean-baked-chicken/
[2] http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/775643/cottage-pie
[3] http://www.giverecipe.com/unstuffed-cabbage-casserole
[4] http://www.dueamicheincucina.ifood.it/2015/04/pasta-e-fagioli-con-prosciutto-di-parma-e-croste-di-parmigiano-reggiano.html

Save

Save

Save

My tiny piece of internet real estate

Aaaand another week starts. Happy Monday folks! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

When I started this blog just over 2 months ago I wasn’t really sure if it would be something I’d stick to long-term. I know that I felt like I needed a place to write and that I wanted to connect with other like-minded individuals but above and beyond that I had no idea where my blogging journey would take me and whether it would even be something I’d enjoy doing.

There was fear because I’m really an open book (too much so sometimes) and I worried about oversharing. There was apprehension because I’m really just a run of the mill stay at home mom with nothing extraordinary or exciting to share since most days are fairly predictable and mundane. Yet, every time I open my dashboard to write a new post I feel myself drawn to writing about our debt-repayment journey, our struggles to bring Margs into the world, saving money and how living a simple and minimalist life continues to bring me happiness and reduce my anxiety.

If you’re subscribed to my blog – thank you. If you take the time to comment, like and email me – thank you. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough but please know that I read every email, every comment and am beyond grateful for every like and subscription here on This Tiny Blue House.

I reached 1000 followers on Friday and I’m still in disbelief because I never imagined anyone would really want to read what this stay at home mum had to say. I’m beyond grateful that each and every one of you has given me prime real estate in your reader and take the time to read my posts! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

blog.jpg

My 2 month blog anniversary is literally a nano-second in the great big world of blogging. Some bloggers have years, even decades under their belt and my tiny little piece of blogging real estate is still very much in its pre-infancy.

As my blog grows a little and starts to take shape, I’m beginning to realize that I really enjoy sharing my ideas with you fine folks. I enjoy reading other blogs, commenting and building a sense of community in this vast space we call the internets.

But what I couldn’t figure out these last couple of months was what compelled me to blog in the first place; what pushed me to register This Tiny Blue House on that fateful day in November? So, today I want to share the 5 reasons I’ve discovered fuel my desire to share my life with you lovely people.

1. I want to give my loss history a voice. I hope to share the message that although devastating a happy life after child loss is possible. I’ve grown a ton emotionally since we first lost our twins and I know that I want to spread awareness about baby loss. Lost pregnancies happen more often than we’d like to acknowledge and I’m hoping that other loss moms who find their way here will see that after the raw devastation subsides a little – putting the pieces back together is possible. It just takes time to adopt a “new normal”.

2. I want to share my imperfect experiences with motherhood. I’m still figuring out this parenting thing. Raising Margs is proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’d like to continue blogging transparently about how difficult it is to parent a child when you suffer from anxiety. I’d like to continue sharing my struggles with my parenting decisions and choices. I’ll never claim to have all the parenting answers because I just don’t. I’m figuring out this motherhood thing as I go and trying to be the best version of myself I can throughout the process.

3. I want to talk about how we live a frugal lifestyle and how we manage our day to day life on less than 1000$ per month. I’ve already discussed how we’ve gotten ourselves out of  hefty credit card debt but haven’t really touched on how we spend our money on a monthly basis. I’d love to show you fine folks that it is possible to live well, eat well and enjoy life on a 1000$ a month budget. We’re by no means experts but we’ve found a way to save money and live what we consider a relatively comfortable lifestyle for about 1000$ per month. I look forward to sharing more about that part of our lives with you.

4. I want to discuss how simplicity has changed our lives. We were once the “worst” type of consumers, living a life of gross gross excess. Scaling back our spending to pay off our debt taught us so many valuable lessons about what truly makes us happy. I’d love to share how we overcame the need to “keep up with the Joneses” and accept that we’re the happiest versions of ourselves when we have less stuff.

5. I want to give you a peak into the life of our run of the mill imperfect family, living on a lower-middle class income. I’d love to share my experiences with marriage (Mer and I argue), finances (we still worry about money), parenting (I’m just terrible at it some days) and cooking (I make a few good go-to meals on a budget). In a nutshell, I’d like to share our very ordinary life with you without creating the illusion that we’ve got it all together which we just don’t – probably never will.

So thank you thank you thank you for reading, communicating and exchanging ideas with me. I look forward to continuing on this journey and I hope that you decide to come along!

If you’d like to keep in touch outside the blog feel free to follow me on twitter, instagram & pinterest.

Why do you blog? I’d love to hear what pushed you to create your blog and why you keep at it!

Our Pipe Dream; savouring the nostalgia

As a child, I spent nearly every weekend in the beautiful tiny city of St-Donat Quebec some 3 hours north east of my home. In the winter I learned to ski and snowmobile while in the summer I spent lazy days with my father on the lake learning to fish and admiring the peaceful beauty of the woods that surrounded us.

121-l

Icy back road heading to the lake

With a population of just over 4 thousand most of which are seasonal residents, St-Donat has that small town feel where you’re guaranteed to see a familiar face when strolling through their small city center.

saint-donat_009

St-Donat city Center with views of the mountain.

Early in our relationship Mer and I went up there on a drive date to pick up a pie. St-Donat has this tiny convenience store hidden behind thick brush off the auto-route that sells the most delicious blueberry pie I’ve ever eaten. It’s one of these places that you’d likely never stop to visit let alone believe could bake such decadent pies out of wild blueberries harvested from the surrounding area. As a child, we’d pick one up every Friday evening as we cruised up the winding auto route to our cottage and enjoy our special treat throughout our 2 day stay in the woods – this is probably one of my all time favorite childhood memories.

After my parents divorce, the cottage was sold and I didn’t get the pleasure to visit  again until that day Mer and I made our way up for pie.

I’d spent weeks speaking so highly of the area and was actually quite nervous that Mer would think I was nuts when he laid eyes on this tiny snowy town. Would he also fall in love with the place that was responsible for creating some of my best childhood memories?

We drove with a steaming pie in his backseat to see my childhood cottage. It wasn’t fancy, a wooden Canadiana with red shutters that sat on an awkwardly shaped plot of land and surrounded by thick woods. By that time the home was really starting to show its age but I couldn’t help but be transported back in time;  I saw past the discolored siding and unglued shingles, in my eyes it hadn’t really changed at all. I’m sure he didn’t get it – but the nostalgia I felt filled me with so much happiness.

464719003

A Canadiana with its sloped roof thanks to getty images.

I told him then and there that one day I’d love to return to my beloved St-Donat and let my children experience the same joy I did. Little did I know that that  journey would be far more difficult than I ever imagined and that nearly 15 years later I’d be married to the man who ate pie with me that day on the side of snowy highway with a plastic spoon.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to perusing real estate listing in the area. Mer and I have oohed and awed at the beauty of some of these homes and imagine what it might be like to own one of these beautiful properties ourselves one day.

This is absolutely a pipe dream since we’re in no financial position to take on a second property but through our perusing we’ve fallen in love with a second blue house. This property really pulls at our heart strings and I’ve caught myself checking in on it daily for the last week or so.

Isn’t she a beaut?

lake-view-cottage-for-sale-st-donat-quebec-province-en-large-6177146

The listing says she was built in 1975. She’s a 5 bedroom, 1 bath lakefront property sitting on just over 15 000 square feet of land. Her interior is quaint – featuring a wood stove, large windows that let in tons of sunlight, sloped ceilings and gorgeous wood detailing. And, the view. Oh my gosh, that view!

If you’re interested in viewing the listing – it’s available here. (There are quite a few photos of the interior if you’re curious)

I can just imagine Margs growing up spending her summers and winters there-playing on the grass and swimming in the lake just like I did some 25 years ago. At a whopping $499 000 this is clearly not something we could realistically afford  but it is nice to dream.

Mer and I both agreed that at some point we’d like to invest in a second property. Most likely a second property would be an investment property with rental units because we feel it’s the wisest investment of our money. I can’t help but wonder though if owning a beautiful property like the one above could one day become a reality if we create a plan to invest in revenue property here and then in 10-15 or even 20 years use our earnings to purchase a lake house. My gears have been turning non stop since we starting playing with the idea, I’ve been calculating and recalcalculating to get an idea of what exactly we’d need to do to get us to this goal and although my estimates are extremely rudimentary I think one day it could be possible. Margs might not be the one able to spend her childhood there but perhaps her children could.

For now though we’ll make it a point to bring our daughter up there yearly. We’ve been heading back for day trips and picnics on the beach in the summer since that snowy day we ate pie. Last year we skipped our yearly trip because we’d just moved and had a tiny Margs who didn’t do well with long drives. This year we’re planning to continue on with our tradition with our toddler in tow – I’m so incredibly grateful I’ll have the opportunity to show Margs a place that holds such a special place in my heart.

We may not be able to purchase that property but it’s so nice to get lost in our dreams sometimes isn’t it?

What are some of your pipe dreams? Do share!

Save

Save

A few more things we do to save money – toddler edition

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the links to any of the products mentioned below.

Morning! How was your weekend?

Ours was quiet but we did manage to get outside and enjoy some fresh air despite this terrible cold snap we’re under. Late Friday I ended up running to my dentist because I broke a premolar almost to the gum line . Talk about karma. I’d just posted about having an emergency fund and issues popping up when you least expect it and then bam the tooth broke and I found myself sitting in the big chair getting prepped for a crown. There goes our January budget (FYI, Mer’s insurance covers 80% of preventative dental but anything restorative is at 50%. So, I’m looking at approximately 1000$ out of pocket to fix my tooth). To be fair, I knew this day would come because I’d had a temporary fix done to this tooth last March when it broke the first time. I was told it should only last approximately one month but I was able to stretch it to 8. I’ll be heading back to have a permanent crown placed at the end of January and hopefully apart from my routine cleaning (approximately 36$ after 80% insurance coverage) I wont be spending any more money at the dentist in 2017.

I’d also like to apologize to anyone subscribed to my blog who has been getting spammed by weird zero content posts. I was playing around with the theme last week and it looks like my blog somehow was sending out “temporary posts for theme detection”. I’m so sorry if your reader or inbox got spammed as a result of my indecisiveness. I’m pretty new to all this so I had no idea that you’d get alerted to all the changes I was making. Thank you to a dear reader who alerted me to the problem last Thursday! I think I’ve finally settled on a theme that works (I don’t love it but also refuse to pay money to buy a theme when there are so many perfectly acceptable free options).

So, let’s talk about saving money

If you missed my first post about how we save a couple of bucks in TTBH you can find it right here. In a nutshell, I told you guys that we buy used whenever we can, sell whatever we don’t need/use anymore, stockpile essentials, clip coupons and grow our own produce to lower our monthly and yearly costs. All these things helped us pay off $21000 in credit card debt and build up a sizeable down payment to buy our first home.

IMG_1376.jpg

Margs new pre-loved shoes. Shes still wears them daily.

Today, I wanted to share the methods we use to keep tabs on our spending when it comes to providing for Margs. Kids are expensive – more expensive than we ever imagined and so we took to finding frugal ways to provide for her pretty early on. Above and beyond the immediate necessities: diapers, food, clothing and medical/dental care we had to think ahead about how we’d eventually help fund her education so saving money right now is a huge priority for us. The following list is a few things that we’ve come up with that work for us and help us add to her education fund regularly without necessarily compromising her day to day life. We don’t feel that being frugal with regards to baby care is about deprivation – instead, we strongly believe that we can still provide a great lifestyle for our kiddo without spending a fortune.

Making Baby Food

You can save a ton by making your own baby food. In the early days when we were first starting experimenting with solids I’d make large batches of things like squash, sweet potato, carrots, fruit compotes and soups and blend them in a baby bullet. A blender or food processor would probably work just as well though. This Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System was on sale last spring and I had a coupon so I couldn’t pass up the deal. Best decision ever because I made all of Margs’ food myself and ended up saving a ton.

IMG_1418.jpg

My lovely bullet which I ended up selling for 20$ when we no longer needed it.

My only qualm about the bullet is the lack of freezer storage options that comes with the system. The set I bought included one silicone freezer tray which simply was not enough to freeze the food I’d make. When I’d make baby food I’d make sure to make enough to last me at least a month and unfortunately the tray only accommodates 6 freezer portions at a time. At first I’d freeze, pop them out, freeze another batch and so on and so on until all the food was frozen but this became really annoying and time consuming and some batches ended up taking about 3 days to freeze. I got really lucky in early summer when I managed to stumble across 2 more silicone trays for 50 cents each at a garage sale. A Baby Bullet Storage Completer Kit is available through Amazon if you can’t score them second hand. I was beyond excited because freezing 18 at a time was going to make things far more efficient in my kitchen. Sadly 18 wasn’t even  enough and eventually I stopped using them altogether and turned to muffin tins instead. It made freezing portions far easier and it also allowed me to control each portion size as her appetite grew.

Not all diapers are priced or made equally

.. and we use this to our advantage.

diapers

When Margs’ was first born we experimented with different diaper brands to try and find one that provided enough absorbancy at a fair price.

We figured out pretty quickly that our best bet was to go with a combo of Parent’s Choice (Walmart store brand) and Huggies Little Movers

On average, I change about 10 dirty diapers a day. Of those 10 diapers we use Parents Choice brand during the day (9ish diapers) because although far less absorbent than big brands like Huggies they do the job perfectly well. I change her so often that a day time diaper is rarely soaked and so I can hardly tell the difference that she’s not wearing a designer diaper.

Nighttime is a completely different story. In the early days, Margs would wake once or twice throughout the night for a feed which included a diaper change so using the cheaper diapers worked just fine. As she got older and started sleeping through the night and drinking more throughout the day she started producing more urine and the cheaper diapers started to fail us. We’d have blow outs and pee stained sheets night after night. That’s when we decided to buy more absorbent diapers by Huggies and use one as a night time diaper. So far, it’s working out quite well and we’ve been blow out free since making the switch.

Now for a little frugal math

Daily diaper usage costs – combination method: (0.14 x 9) + (1 x 0.24) = $1.50 per day = 547.50 yearly

Potential diaper usage costs – designer diapers only: 0.24 x 10 = $2.40 = $876 yearly

Potential savings: 876.00 -547.50 = $328.50

So, if my kiddo is in diapers until the age of 3 that’s a savings of $985.50 which is a heck of a lot of money I’d literally be throwing in the garbage.

*Note: cloth diapering is far more inexpensive and it’s by far the cheapest choice. I was just so overwhelmed with motherhood that washing poop stained diapers just wouldn’t have worked for me. Chapeau to those ladies & gents who do it though!

Clipping/Printing coupons

There are coupons available for just about any and all baby products. When we need to buy diapers, wipes, soap and formula I hunt down a coupon to save a little cash. If you’re feeding your baby any Enfamil formula product they have an awesome program where they periodically send you coupons by mail. The coupons include savings for formula in addition to Fisher Price products. I’ve actually used one of Margs’ coupons to buy a birthday gift for a friends son.

These are the websites I use the most. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a coupon for Parent’s Choice Diapers.

Money savings tip: when I use coupons and rebates I pretend that I’ve paid the original amount. I then transfer however much I’ve saved directly into our savings account. It’s never a huge amount because I’m not an extreme couponer but every little bit helps. Some months I’m able to add about 60$ of padding to our savings just by transferring out “coupon” money.

Bartering baby stuff

_86

My kiddo loved her jumperoo- boing, boing.

After moving, I joined a local play group where I met a wonderful woman who showed me the ins and outs of frugal motherhood. I will be forever grateful to her for suggesting I find barter buddies. Basically, I’ve found a few other moms with children Margs’ age who barter their toys with me. I met these ladies at a baby playgroup and an afternoon kiddo reading hour hosted for free by our local library. Trading toys helps keep Margs entertained because she’s basically playing with new stuff every few months and this keeps our costs next to nothing. I’ve traded a Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo for a Graco Walker and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve also traded a few toys that she’s outgrown to a mom for a second convertible car seat (she had older children who had outgrown it.).

In addition to having barter buddies who I keep in touch with via email, I also periodically barter through online garage sales in my area or on Craigslist. Not everyone is open to an exchange but asking kindly wont hurt. I’ve been able to trade a few items this way as well. Namely, Margs’ snowsuit was obtained by trading a bunting bag she used as an infant in her carrier – again I was dealing with a mom who had an older child and an infant so the trade was mutually beneficial.

I’ve also bartered at the consignment shop. Sometimes I’ll have an item that Margs no longer needs and head over looking for something specific and ask if a trade would be accepted that day. More often than not, the owner is more than happy to trade with me assuming the exchange is fair. My latest trade was 5 warm winter footie PJs for a diaper genie that we were given but never used. This way I don’t touch my consignment balance and avoid having to wait for my items to sell to earn store credit.

Cycling her toys

IMG_1754.jpg

A recent photo of her toys after I'd purged out half.

Margs is easily distracted and she’s also not always easily amused. I keep her toy collection to a minimum and find that she’ll easily get bored if the rotation of toys is always the same. As a result, I cycle out her toys and keep some stashed in her closet where she doesn’t have access to them. Every couple of weeks I trade them out and they are brand new and super exciting again. This kiddo likes to keep things fresh!

I’ve also started planning ahead and bartering and swapping out toys that she no longer plays with to accumulate toys that she’ll enjoy playing with as she grows. I was on the hunt for wooden puzzles for months after seeing how incredibly pricey they were at both Toys R Us, Walmart and online. Luckily a couple weeks back one of the ladies in my barter group had a set of 5 wooden puzzles up for grabs and we came to a mutual agreement. 5 puzzles for a gift basket of Bed Bath and Beyond products I kindly received as a housewarming present from a relative but cannot use because of my sensitive skin.

So there you have it folks. This is what we’re currently doing to save and stash away a little extra cash for our little girl.

What money saving tips do you use in your house?

Ever bartered with someone to get something you needed? If so, tell me about your swap!

Save

Save

What we’ve been up to around these parts & getting more dough from your bread machine

First, I’d like to say a big thank you for all your kind words about how we got our butts out of credit card debt. I was a little hesitant to write that post and actually asked Mer if he thought it was a bad idea at one point. He told me to go with it because when we were looking for advice on how to handle our debt we weren’t really able to find any concrete answers because more often than not the true numbers were never discussed.

I guess I didn’t want to be judged for our repeat bad financial choices (I know I shouldn’t care but I do to a certain extent) but more importantly I was a little scared to talk about the numbers because I’ve always been told that it’s in bad taste to talk about your income. But, I value transparency so I felt it was only right to put all the information out there.

So, dear internet reader you now know the intimate details of my financial past!

So back to what’s been going on around here. Bad weather is what’s up!

img_1772
View from my living room. We’re getting an unusual amount of precipitation this winter.

Winter has been hitting us exceptionally hard this year. It started to really cool off in early November and by the first days of December we were already seeing significant amounts of snow. The weather has been hovering well below freezing for weeks and we’re getting treated to a good amount of snow and ice on a daily basis. Although beautiful- the icy and snowy conditions make it really difficult to head out with a baby in tow and get stuff done. When we first bought this house we never considered what the winter situation would be since we visited in the spring time and winter weather was the furthest thing from our minds.

Living in this roundabout is awesome because it’s super quiet but on the flip side snow removal and street salting is basically non-existent here which was really common and effective when we lived in the city. Clearly, there’s a reason why all our current neighbors have snow removal contracts with companies (evidenced by the sticks plunged into the ground at the top of each driveway). Basically, you’ve either got a company coming to dig you out or you’re shoveling it yourself (which is what we’re doing because we’re too cheap to pay someone to move our snow).

IMG_1894.jpg
Free art from my mother. There are 3 paintings in this collection and they date back to 73′.

Since we’ve basically been housebound since Tuesday I’ve used up my time working on re-framing these awesome paintings my mother kindly gifted me. She knows I wont spend money on art and when she found them laying around she figured she’d check with me to see if I could give them a new home. Done!

IMG_1896_thumb.jpg
Hung! Crappy photography though.

There are 3 paintings in the collection – each one represents a different season in the Canadian north east and I love how they add a little character to our living room.

I’ve also been baking.  I pulled out our bread machine and got going on a few loaves.

IMG_1898_thumb.jpg
Freshly baked bread!

Oh bread machine, you’re so sneaky!

This time, I decided to bake the loaves myself because we needed bread and the roads were awful so heading out to the grocer was out of the question (I walk everywhere because we’re a one car family – total distance to the grocer is probably a little over 2 miles). I guess I could have hauled Margs in her sled but after watching 3 neighbors wipe out I decided to keep my clumsy butt home. Mer doesn’t really enjoy bread machine bread – he complains that the crust is too thin so after my friends Mum suggested I bake it myself I figured I’d give it a go. I’m not really a big fan either because I always thought that the cost involved in making it would actually be higher than buying once you factor in the flour, yeast, oil and salt required to make one tiny loaf.

Well, folks, our bread machines are lying to us.

After using the machine on a dough cycle and allowing the dough to rise once I split it in 2 and allowed it to rise for another 2 hours on an oiled pan in my oven with the warmer on. What I found waiting for me in blew my mind.

img_1903
Part way through the second rising process! 2 loaves!!

The one tiny loaf I used to get by using the bread machine start to finish was now replaced with two larger loaves. Stretching my use of 4 cups of flour to make 2 loaves instead of 1.

With that in mind I got working on crunching some numbers because 2 loaves is a game changer when you’re talking about cost efficiency of making your bread versus buying it.

Geek alert,  frugal math coming up.

10 kg bag of bread flour – $17.99

10 kg = 80 cups of flour (1 kg ~ 8 cups)

80 cups of flour/4 cups = 20 batches of 2 loafs of bread = 40 loaves.

40 loaves of bread at $2.99 (what we approximately pay at the grocer) = $119.60

Potential Savings $119.60 – $17.99 = $101.61 (minus a couple of bucks for dry yeast, oil, sugar and salt which I didn’t bother calculating when I saw how impressive the savings were)

So tell me, do you use a bread machine? If so, do you let it run a full cycle or bake it yourself?

Also, because I’m curious how much is bread flour in your neck of the woods?

How we paid off 21k in credit card debt

In a nutshell it took us 7 years to pay off 21 000$ in credit card debt and to save 55% of the cost of our home as a down payment. With the new year just beginning and so many people making financial matters like paying off debt and saving money a goal/resolution I figured I’d share our story and method with you all. It’s not the only “way” out there but this is what worked best for us and got us to our goal.

drowning-in-credit-card-debt-article-2046291-0e43d51d00000578-50-468x411

I’m going to talk true blue numbers. Why? During the early days of our debt repayment journey I’d scour the internet looking for success stories to motivate us to keep on keeping on and more often than not I’d find stories explaining how debt was paid off without really talking about how much inflow of cash was involved. Taking home a six figure salary and repaying a 20k debt is far different than bringing home a 50k salary and paying back the same amount know what I mean?

For transparency reasons I’ll tell you straight that while Mer was working a full-time job and I had part time work we were netting ~ $36 000 yearly. That means that we were bringing home roughly 3000 per month or 1500 bi-weekly. We’re incredibly grateful that we both had paid stable work since there are people who unfortunately are unable to secure a stable income. The stability of our income is what really helped us create a plan and make our debt free lifestyle a reality.

For what it’s worth and because I’m a numbers nerd I checked what the average salary is in our area. Apparently as per google the average salary in this area is roughly 50 000$ after taxes which puts Mer and I at 14k below the average. In other words we were earning approximately 28% less than the average worker in this area combined.

How we found ourselves drowning in debt in the first place

Mer and I both brought debt into our marriage. We got married when I’d just finished my first undergraduate degree and hadn’t really entered the work force yet. I had roughly 5000$ of debt that was accumulated from tuition balances, text books and living expenses related to being a student without full-time work. He had roughly 6000$ of credit card debt and a hefty monthly car payment something around 650$ per month for another 2 years. In hindsight we should have communicated our debt repayment plans better and came up with an aggressive plan to annihilate this debt but we were young and thought we’d be able to figure it out once we got married.

Wrong.

After being married for 2 years, our debt spiraled out of control. I wish I could tell you that we accumulated that much debt by travelling or buying fancy things but that’s just not the case. I broke a tooth (2000$ that we didn’t have for a crown), the cat got sick (700$ emergency vet visit), winter tires blew out (900$ for new winters), an MRI (1500$ at a private clinic to avoid waiting 2 years), sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment for Mer (2000$ to avoid the 3+ year wait time in the public sector). On and on and on.

Every year was the same. Tax season would roll around and we’d vow to apply our refund to debt repayment and something would happen. The fridge went bust one year, another year the car broke down and yet another I had to have a cancerous growth removed that we had to pay for out of pocket.

We had no savings and no emergency fund which put us in a situation where we had to turn to using money we didn’t have to pay for the unexpected. Shit happens but we didn’t have the money to deal with it and the credit card debt spiral just continued to consume our lives.

The OLD Numbers

Way back in 2008 when we first started on our journey our numbers looked a little like this on a monthly basis (Scary hunh?)

At the time we really started to take our finances seriously- Mer’s truck was paid for and I was still a fulltime student pursuing graduate studies so I worked only part time.

*note: our car and renters insurance was paid yearly on credit because we were never able to save enough to pay it cash.

*note #2: My graduate school tuition was covered nearly 100% by scholarships and bursaries. Without this there was no way I would have been able to pursue my masters.

Credit Card #1 Minimum Payment 150.00
Credit Card #2 Minimum Payment 75.00
Credit Card #3 Minimum Payment 175.00
Rent 600.00
Electric 115.00
Phone Services 100.00
Internet/Cable 150.00
Gas 400.00
Food 600.00
Dining Out 500.00
Miscellaneous expenses (shopping, education, pet food, household cleaners, cash purchases we couldn’t didn’t keep track of) 400.00

Total:

3265.00

Approximate Net income: (Mer’s + Mine)

3000.00
-265.00

Scary as hell. We were basically racking up an extra 3200$ of debt every year we didn’t pay it down. Our finances were out of control and we knew we needed to do something but honestly had no idea where to start. Debt is so draining that you feel so consumed by the weight of its burden – we stalled and stalled until we got to the point where we knew something had to be done and we set up a plan we were comfortable with and stuck to it.

In theory, getting out of debt is easy – you pay back what you owe and you don’t spend money you don’t have on stuff you don’t need. So much easier said than done though right?

What we did and why it worked

1. Owned it. We avoided truly accepting our financial situation for years. Bills would come and we’d look at what we needed to pay without even pulling it out of the envelope. Why? We didn’t want to face the reality that we were digging ourselves deeper and deeper into debt. When we were finally ready and willing to take this on (a lot of this had to do with being in the right frame of mind to take on the challenge of paying off our debt) we sat down together with a pen, paper and calculator and basically went through our last 3 months of bank and credit card statements making a spread sheet of how much we spent on credit card repayment, food, utilities, insurance, miscellaneous and gas. What we discovered was terrifying – we were living way outside our means.

2. Consolidating our Debt: Some debt repayment plans encourage you to start paying off the smallest debt first while continuing to make the minimum payments on the others and then eventually snowball payments as you pay off each debt off. Although this makes total sense and probably works really well for some we decided to consolidate our debt and attack it as one payment instead of three. Mer called the credit card company and requested a credit card increase which was approved (not sure why considering the situation – maybe because we paid everything on time but never really made a dent in it) and so we piled all our debt onto one credit card.

3. Fixed vs Flexible Expenses. Our fixed expenses included rent and credit card payments. Essentially the only things that we couldn’t attack with our frugality plan were these two categories. Flexible expenses including gas, food and miscellaneous are the categories that we worked with which helped us get to our goal. We immediately stopped eating out (a post about how we broke that habit coming soon), we slashed our grocery bills to 75$ per week and stopped buying things unless we really needed to. Most of the time if we really needed something we’d buy it used because the amount of money you can save is really astronomical. Beyond this we actually assumed a new car payment on a used car. Crazy right? Well, the truck was starting to show its age with a number of costly repairs on the horizon and with rising gas prices we realized that it was costing us over 400$ per month to fuel our one vehicle (beyond crappy fuel mileage). We traded it in against a fuel efficient car which cost us 300$ per month and we were able to fuel it and pay for it for less money than what it had cost us to keep the truck driving.

4. Slashing Spending. We slashed everything we could. Like I mentioned above we stopped eating out, we slashed our grocery budget and started buying in bulk and using coupons. No more sodas or expensive snacks. I started cooking more and making things that we were able to make at home for a fraction of the cost. In the summer I would grow my own produce and freeze it to sustain us through the winter.We contacted our phone, internet, electric and insurance providers to try and score a better deal (in most cases we were able to lower our costs). We cut our cable and used only Netflix. We had to keep our internet because Mer needs it to work from home from time to time.

5. Rainy day fund. Some debt repayment plans encourage you to put everything you’ve got toward your debt. Although this probably eradicates debt quicker we opted to save a little extra for a rainy day fund. In my mind, it made no sense to aggressively repay debt without saving a little extra just in case. Part of the reason we were in so much debt in the first place was because we had no rainy day fund so we started to build up our savings. In the first year I think we managed to save a little under 3500$. It wasn’t a ton but coming from a place of zero savings we felt like we’d made a world of progress.

6. Sticking to it. This was the hardest part. There were times that we both felt like just throwing in the towel and saying efff it – let’s just live with the debt. Thankfully, we’d encourage and remind each other why we were doing this. Our goal was to start a family and buy our own property one day. It was hard – especially when it meant explaining why we were skipping a dinner out or not attending a party. We affectionately became labeled as “the cheapos”. Not kidding. Nonetheless, we stuck to our plan and never veered off path. Every month we paid our credit card company 1000$ to bring down our whopping 21 000$ debt – we treated that 1000$ like a minimum payment and made sure to pay our rent, debt and car payment above everything else.

The new numbers

This is what our budget looked like for nearly 3 years of our life.

* Our car and renters insurance was paid with the little savings we were able to accumulate.

Credit Card (17% annual interest, 2.5% minimum payment) 1000.00
Rent 600.00
Car Payment 300.00
Electric 115.00
T.V/Internet 60.00
Phone 100.00
Groceries 300.00
Miscellaneous (gas, medication, pet food, education, household products) 200.00

Total:

2675.00

Approximate Net income: (Mer’s + Mine)

3000.00
  +325.00

 

It took us just over 2 years to pay off our credit card debt and to build up a little savings.

Today, we’re 100% credit card debt free. We’ve purchased a home by putting down a 55% down payment (more on how we accumulated that money in a future post) and continue to live frugally. Sometimes excessively so.

So there you have it. This is what worked for us. There are a ton of methods out there that are just as effective. We simply found a plan that worked for us and went with it. Paying off large amounts of debt is possible – in our experience it takes a huge reality check, planning and dedication. Some days it seems like you’ll never get to the end of the debt repayment journey but eventually the day will come- one penny at a time.

Have you repaid debt? If so, what method is working/worked for you?