Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. I took a survey to earn a $5 Amazon gift card. I used it to help buy some Biokleen Bac-out. A sippie got lost under a seat in the van and it smells like curdled milk, even though nothing spilled.
  2. I picked up 3 shifts this week.
  3. I volunteered to bring snacks for my school-age and preschool-age children’s end of year parties. I baked 2 batches of cookies from scratch.
  4. I made homemade popsicles from peaches and apple juice.
  5. I used my Paypal funds from selling on Ebay to buy my daughter’s kindergarten supply box.
  6. I watched Dr Thorne using my Amazon Prime membership. If you like Downton Abbey or Cranford, you would probably like this. If you are not an Amazon Prime member, you can trial it for 30 days for free.
  7. I watched the movie Trainwreck using my free HBO Now trial.
  8. I watched Call the Midwife using the PBS Roku app.
  9. I watched the movie Wild, which we borrowed from the library.
  10. My mom brought us 2 bags of English muffins, and we made English muffin pizzas to use them up.
  11. I applied for a $1500 scholarship.
  12. There are no available shifts next week, but I am volunteering to enter our backlogged discharges for a few hours and signed up for a 2 hour training.
  13. I am a member of my county’s medical reserve corps, and I completed a free 6 hour training online in Psychological First Aid.
  14. My son made hand-made thank you notes to relatives who gave him birthday gifts.
  15. We needed to buy a sleeping bag for our daughter for camping this summer. I went through Ebates to get 4% cash back and 10% off from LL Bean, and paid nothing because I had a Paypal balance from selling the hideous kitty cat jars on Ebay.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. I threw out most a a pineapple which had gone bad.
  2. I indulged in a quiet lunch out during one of my workdays.
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Cash For School Update: May 2016

Cash for school

It’s time once again for our monthly check-in! How are we doing with our goal to remain debt-free while I earn a graduate degree?

Last month, we got a big surprise when we did our tax returns. Our return was so huge that is was enough to cover two of our last three school payments, due in July, October, and January. That meant we only needed to pull together about $4500 by January to meet our goal.

Where are we now?

This week, we had another big surprise. I learned that all of the time I have spent pulling together scholarship applications has borne some fruit.

I won a $2500 scholarship!!

I am the finalist in the Value Colleges Finish It! Scholarship for Non-traditional and Returning Students. I hear they may be giving away an annual scholarship, so if you or your child are looking, feel free to bookmark this link and apply next year. We are both ecstatic and grateful to receive this.

This means that we now only have to come up with $2000 by January to meet our goal. Yes, I am still filling out scholarship applications. I just sent another application off today for a $1500 scholarship. I have a week off from school this week, but I am still working about 7 days a week on my two websites, working on the nursing textbook rewrites, and spending Saturday afternoon at the library researching for more scholarships. I will keep plugging away at scholarships until I near the end of my program.

I have spent about 20 hours so far working on scholarships since I started school in September. If you calculate the scholarship amount by the hours I worked on applying, I have paid myself $125/hour for my efforts.

Help Me, I’m Desperate: A $50 Emergency Menu From Walmart For A Family of 4


This is a follow-up to my popular $50 Emergency Menu From Aldi For 4 and $25 Emergency Menu From Aldi For 4.  Every few of months I will get an email from someone asking for help to reduce a grocery budget. While most of the time they are looking for tips to knock off a little money from a weekly budget, sometimes those emails are a little more desperate and ask “I only have X dollars. What do I buy to feed my family for this week?”

I am lucky that I have just about every kind of store to choose from within a 20 minute drive: Aldi, Walmart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Meijer, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Thyme, Sam’s and Costco. I can hit each one if I wanted (and if I was crazy) and pick the lowest price for every item. There are many who may only have a local grocer and a Walmart nearby, however. Each store has its own positives and negatives, and Walmart can be great because not only do they price match (take advantage of this!) but they have a lot of variety, including some bulk foods. My local Walmart carries a 20 lb. bag of rice for under $8, and that is a great deal if you have the room in your budget and the storage space.

Once upon a time, I fed myself on $10 per week. I have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. If you have only ever had lentil soup, I encourage you to try these lentil recipes. They are now regulars on my menus, and my husband and kids love them too. You can do it!

$50 Emergency Menu For 4 From Walmart 

(prices are from my local Walmart in Ohio)

Rotisserie chicken $4.99 (Eight 3 oz servings)

2 gallons milk $ 4.58

10 lb potatoes $3.84

1 lb margarine $1.57

1 lb lentils $1.54

5 lb rice $2.98

1 lb Goya black beans $1.28

2 lb onions $2.24

2 lb carrots $1.32

3 loaves bread $3

40 oz Great Value peanut butter $4.37

32 oz Great Value grape jelly 1.72

42 oz  quick oats $2.48

Celery- 1 bunch $1.50

Shredded cheese, 8 oz- $2.22

Frozen broccoli- 14 oz Great Value broccoli florets- $1

15 oz can of peas-$0.68

3 lb apples $3.94

3 cans chili ready tomatoes $2.16

Small jar minced garlic $1.38

Bananas- 2 lb ( 2 bunches with about 6-7 bananas each) $0.88

Total: $49.67

Remember, you are stretching a little a long way. Be a good steward of what you have and stick to the portion sizes, or you may run out. Don’t waste food.



1 cup Oatmeal daily (made from 1/2 cup dry) with 1 cup of milk and sugar (if you have on hand), 1/2 of a banana. If you don’t have sugar, try Overnight Oatmeal by mixing half a cup of oats with half a sliced banana and milk to cover the night before. It will be soft and require no cooking the next morning. Eat it cold and add a TB of peanut butter for extra taste and protein if you want.


PB & J sandwich (2 slices bread and 2 TB peanut butter and 1 TB jelly),  1/2 to 1 apple, carrot or celery sticks, 1 cup of milk


Sunday : 

Chicken shepherd’s pie made with homemade mashed potatoes (3-4 lb peeled potatoes mashed with 2 TB margarine and 2-3 TB milk), carrots, and peas and half of the rotisserie chicken, shredded. Mix chicken and veggies with salt and pepper, top with mashed potatoes, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Shred the remaining half of the chicken, set aside in the refrigerator, and use the carcass to make chicken stock overnight in the slow cooker with 10 cups of water, half an onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, 1 tsp salt, and a bay leaf if you have it. The next morning, remove the carcass and veggies, strain, and divide into four servings. Freeze two and save the other two to use this week.


Lentil and Rice Casserole: Make a casserole out of lentils and rice by mixing 1 cup of lentils, 1 cup of rice, 1/2 a diced onion, 2 cups of homemade chicken stock, 2 cups of water, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, and your choice of seasoning (bay leaf, Italian seasoning blend, or cumin). Place in a casserole dish and cover with foil to keep the moisture in. Bake at 350 for an hour, until lentils and rice are cooked through.

Don’t be afraid of lentils! They don’t have a “beany” smell or taste, smell amazing when cooking with chicken or veggie stock, and don’t cause the GI issues beans can cause.


Mujadarrah: This is a traditional Lebanese dish with lentils that is a favorite of mine. There are many ways to make it, but I prefer the simplest. Cook one cup of rice as normal. In another pot, cook one cup lentils with two cups  of chicken stock until soft. In a frying pan, melt 3 TB of margarine and saute 1-2 sliced onions on medium-low heat until caramelized. When done, mix all three ingredients together and salt and pepper to taste. If you hate onions you can avoid them and try mushrooms instead.


As soon as you get up, put the bag of dried black beans in the slow cooker, cover with water, and soak. You will need them tomorrow.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole: This is similar to what many of us have eaten for dinner before. Cook 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of chicken stock. Mix cooked rice together with the shredded chicken you already set aside, a bag of frozen broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and top with 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Right before bed, drain soaked beans, recover in new water, and place in slow cooker on low overnight to cook through.

Thursday and Friday:

Black Beans and Rice: Cook 1.5 cups of rice in 3 cups of water. Mix cooked rice with black beans, 1 tsp of minced garlic, and 3 drained cans of tomatoes with chilies into a skillet and heat through. May top with cheese if desired. This should last two nights.


Leftover Night:  Use up any bread, peanut butter, fruit, and leftover casseroles and/or have a buttered baked potato.

If you have an extra $5:

Buy 2 head iceberg lettuce for $1.98 and 1 Great Value salad dressing for $1.66 for more veggies and $0.99 worth of tea bags to make your own hot or iced tea.

Feeding 5 For $100/Week: 4th Week of May 2016

My sister  and my in-laws were in town this weekend, and we hosted a cookout for 15 people with chicken, metts, and hot dogs, so our total is planned to be a little high this week.

I had pictures- but I erased them from my phone, along with my daughter’s dance recital pictures- thinking they had uploaded to my computer. Gaaah!

Kroger: $ 49.04

Aldi: $75.02

This week’s total: $124.06

Running total (May is a 5-week month): $396.98



Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. My mom babysat for free this week so the mister and I could attend a late school meeting together.
  2. Our son’s teacher is having a baby and the class parents threw a surprise baby shower Friday. I made pink and white Rice Krispie Treats from things we had on hand and sent a gift and gift bag from my stockpile.
  3. I took my girls on a play date to the local playground with a friend of hers from preschool. His mom provided sandwiches and I brought apples.
  4. The only work shift available was for Friday, which was a no go for us, as our daughter Miss E had her dance recital rehearsal that afternoon. I did pick up 2 hours per day Tuesday through Friday in the morning, which was the equivalent of a full day shift.
  5. I made spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker to feed the husband, two of the kids, and my in-laws on Friday night while I had the little Miss at her rehearsal. I took her to Chick-Fil-A for dinner afterwards, but we saved the cost of feeding the rest.
  6. I used $19 in CVS ExtraCare Bucks and combined them with a 25% off coupon to get 51% off my cart of allergy medicine, expensive dry mouth toothpaste, pull-ups, and water goggles for swim classes.
  7. No eating out this week.
  8. We have extended family coming over for a cookout for our son’s birthday, and we opted for the cookout in lieu of buying food like wings or pizza. It increased the grocery budget, but still cheaper overall.
  9. I sold 11 pairs of my son’s old shoes on Ebay, but not for much- more like $2.99.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. I can’t think of anything!

Help Me, I’m Desperate: A $25 Emergency Menu From Aldi For A Family of 4


This is a follow-up to my popular $50 Emergency Menu From Aldi For 4.  What do you do if you truly have almost nothing to buy groceries? If you have to feed your family, and you only have $25, your focus will be calories, calories, calories. Your options are pretty limited- but you already know that, right?

We all know we should optimally be eating fruits and vegetables every day, but when you have nothing, you need to think about survival first. That means getting at least 1200 calories a day or more if you can. If you have access to a food pantry, don’t be afraid to go there to fill in the gaps. And if you can’t, know that you can manage if you can scrape together $25 and discipline yourself to stick to the menu and suggested serving sizes. You will only have enough for minimum survival, not enough for extras.

This menu is very close to what I ate when I had $10 per week to feed myself. I have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I tended towards lentils over pinto beans, but I have never seen dried lentils at my local Aldi. This is very plain eating, but desperate times call for desperate measures. You can do it!

$25 Emergency Menu For 4 From Aldi (about 1500 calories per person per day)

(prices are from my local Aldi in Ohio)

1 42 oz.  quick oats oatmeal: $2.39 (Makes 30 1/2 cup dry servings)

2  gallons of whole milk (has the most fat/calories for satiety): $4

32 oz grape jelly: $1.59 (Makes 45 1 TB servings)

40 oz peanut butter: $3.49 (Makes 45-46 2 TB servings)

3 lb rice: $1.59 (16 half-cup servings per pound)

2 lb. dry pinto beans: $1.79 (Makes 24 half cup servings per 2 pounds dry)

10 lb. potatoes: $3.49 (Has about 20 potatoes)

2 packages taco seasoning: $0.58

1 lb. margarine quarters: $0.75 (Has 32 1 TB servings)

5 lb. all purpose flour: $1.59 (Has 18-19 cups per 5 lb. bag)

4 lb. sugar: $1.59

2 strips of active yeast (6-pack): $.1.58

26 oz. iodized salt $0.39

Total: $24.82

If you luck out and some things are lower priced because of sales, I recommend buying more pintos or some onions to add to them and the potatoes.



1 cup Oatmeal daily (made from 1/2 cup dry) with 1 cup of milk and sugar


PB & J sandwich (2 slices bread and 2 TB peanut butter and 1 TB jelly)on Cuban Bread,  1 cup of milk


Sunday through Friday: 1/2-1 cup rice and 1/2 cup pinto beans seasoned with taco seasoning. (A small child could eat 1/4 to 1/2 cup and a grown man should need about 1 cup cooked). One-half to one potato with 1 TB margarine (a child can have 1/2 and an adult one full potato.

Saturday: PB & J on Cuban Bread or leftover oatmeal with sugar.

It sounds hard to bake bread, but 5 lb of flour should yield you about 7 loaves of bread with 10 uneven slices each. This should allow everyone to have a little comfort food and  give everyone 2-3 slices per day. Homemade bread tends to be higher calorie than cheap store-bought bread. This is easy enough for a beginner.

Recipe for Cuban Bread from the Complete Tightwad Gazette

5 to 6 cups all purpose flour (I tend to use about 5)
2 tablespoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups hot water (120 to 130 degrees)

Mix 4 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt. Pour in hot water and beat 100 strokes, or 3 minutes with a mixer. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead 8 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let rise 15 minutes. Punch down. Divide into two pieces. Shape into two round loaves, and place on a baking sheet. Cut an X ½ inch deep on top with a sharp knife. Brush with water, and sprinkle with seeds. Place on the middle shelf of a COLD oven. Place a cake pan of hot water on the lowest shelf. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake 40 to 50 minutes until deep golden brown.

The Tightwad Gazette has probably saved me thousands over the years and is well worth the money. If you can’t afford to buy one, they are usually at the library.

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Frugal Step: Make A Menu


We are eating from the pantry again this week!

Monday: Homemade Bagels with Cream Cheese and Sausages (going to be brave and try to make bagels for the first time)

Tuesday: Make-Your-Own Pizza using Leftover Homemade Bagels

Wednesday: Lentil and Onion Spread over Rice

Thursday: Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Fruit, Sauteed Onions and Peppers

Friday: Spaghetti with Meat and Veggie Sauce Made in the Slow Cooker (family coming into town)

Saturday: Family Cookout- Hot Dogs, Mettwurst, Veggie Burgers, Corn on the Cob, Grilled Pineapple, Old Fashioned Sugar Cake

Sunday: Leftovers


Feeding 5 For $100/Week: 3rd Week of May 2016

We’re eating from the pantry again this week.

Amazon: (not pictured) $27.83

We have our monthly Subscribe and Save order coming this week. It’s a 4-pack of Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Pancake Mix and my beloved Taylor’s of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold looseleaf tea.

From Grandma: Free

Three-quarters of a gallon of whole milk, a bag of pretzels, 3 pints of berries, cantaloupe, and a pint of half-and-half. Thanks Grandma!

Aldi: $12.41

2016-05-13 20.43.16

Kroger: $22.02

2016-05-13 20.45.23

This week’s total: $62.26

Running total: $272.92

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Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. I took a CVS survey and earned $5 in Extra Care Bucks.
  2. We ended up watching a free movie from our HBO Now trial rather than renting Deadpool for our anniversary date night.
  3. My mother gave us some carrots, a loaf of bread, raspberries, ham, 1/2 a gallon of milk, and grapes.
  4. I picked up two shifts this week.
  5. I found out the $89 I paid for my health assessment program was a duplicate. The school is going to tell us how it will be refunded. Even if it is deducted from our next tuition, I would be fine with that.
  6. I sold some stainless steel sippies on Ebay for $10 and some of my daughter’s outgrown Stride Rite shoes for $5. We also sold the lot of ugly cat jars for $150! There is a bid on my girls’ old pillowcase dresses as well.
  7. Our son’s birthday was Wednesday. He originally wanted pizza, as we allow our kids to choose their birthday meal. He changed his mind instead to hot dogs, cantaloupe, a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (we use Aldi brand), and homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. This meant we paid nothing extra for the meal, since all was already on hand.
  8. I took this Brilliant Pin Promotion course through Brilliant Business Moms and got a 90 minute group coaching session for free as part of it. If you notice my Pinterest page looks completely different, it’s because we went over it as a group and I learned so many things to help make my Pinterest profile and my blog more cohesive. I was up way past my bedtime to participate, but it was well worth it! (And while we are at it, feel free to pop on over and follow me!)
  9. We did not eat out once this week for dinner.
  10. We haven’t used Vudu in a while, and they sent us a $3 credit towards a future rental in my email. I am going to save it until I can rent Deadpool on a night the kids are in bed.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. The tomatoes I bought at Aldi turned very quickly and we had to compost them.
  2. We also composted two bananas and some cilantro that had headed south.
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