Posted in Day in the life of a mom, minimalism, saving money, Uncategorized

After a Week of the No-Credit Challenge

After a search for podcasts online about ways to successfully save money to “get in the zone” and distract/motivate me as I folded laundry, I discovered a lot of people do a no-spend challenge.  (Which, in actuality, really means no impulse buys, because people still need to buy food to eat, in most cases, for those of us who are not farmers with a food cellar stocked up.) Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast by a financial advisor, Amanda Abella,* in which she mentions that after noticing some larger spending, she wanted to practice going without just to start building into savings more again.  One thing she pointed out that is so true is how shopping venues have really made it easy for you to spend mindlessly, for example, the Amazon One-Click order button.  Your credit info is already in there, and you “need” something?  Want it?  Get it!  To delay gratification isn’t really something happening in this day and age.  (So her advice was getting rid of the Amazon One-Click, unsubscribe to seller adverts in your inbox, and lose the store cards.)

Well, as Amazon Prime members ourselves, with “free shipping!” so enticingly easy, we had been in the habit of ordering something as we thought we needed it; for me, this was because I was so forgetful when I went shopping, and usually distracted by two kids.  It was easy to just remember while near a computer, and click away until we had acquired whatever we had forgotten at the store.  And why delay when you can get it in two days? So, a week into our no-credit month, my husband and I found ourselves having several conversations about “needs” and “wants”.  And I had a couple of chuckles at the fact that my husband, who generally looks at me as the “spender” in the family, and himself as the “saver” with few wants, was the one mentioning stuff to buy more frequently than I was! I had to remind him that he’ll have to wait for next month.  So he has a growing wish list for February.  Thank you, no-credit-month challenge, for building my credibility again in his eyes as someone not ruled by impulse.  *smug smirk*

Somewhat irksome to him, but not regrettable to me, is that I recently gave to a homeless drive the long johns he used to wear snowboarding, but didn’t plan to use again anytime soon, and hadn’t used in several years.  Although a cold snap arrived making him want them again, I do not feel badly for having gotten rid of them because of the fact that arriving at the point where I can part with stuff was a big milestone for me.  (And another chuckle might have slipped out because he’s the one saying we have too much stuff, and wanted us to be minimalists.  We had a conversation and he agreed the thermal unders could go.)  But now that he found himself wanting them again, well…Guess we’ll put them on the wish list.

The cool thing about grocery shopping without credit has been that money has turned up…change in the car amounting to enough with the money a friend paid me for something to get just what we need, within 25 cents of what I had in total going through the checkout.  Then, I found a bag of flour sack towels that I needed to return to Walmart because they weren’t nice enough to embroider as gifts as I’d intended (with unsightly fiber runs in them), which provided another $8.50 that I’ll be able to use for veggies or whatnot next time we need them.  Which is probably today.  There’s another something I can return to a store to get about $12, which makes me feel pretty confident that although we need sour cream (to go in the potato soup I plan to make with the pocket change potatoes I got at Aldi), eggs, carrots, cheddar, and greens, we’ll be able to get all that without feeling majorly deprived this month.

I’ve been using what’s in my freezer, which is awesome, instead of just refilling it atop what’s already in there.  So for fruit, after our apples run out, we’ll be using up the pear slices and pear sauce my mom gave me from their trees.  I “roasted” the two organic super-sale chickens in my big crock pot to debone, make broth, and use the meat this month.  That turned out really tasty and I will be looking for more sale chickens next month to restock the freezer with.  Then we’ve been having a variety of dried bean dishes (thanks, instant pot, for making those not seem intimidating!) like white chicken chili and beefy chili.  Perfect for extra-chilly weather.  I made fried rice with frozen veggies and some uncured bacon we had in our freezer (because I bought a few on sale b1g1 last month).  That was a hit, for sure.  We love bacon!  I’d already had some ham cubed and frozen from Thanksgiving as well a turkey meat, for a variety of other dishes with those.  I am finding I’m actually a better meal planner and cook when there is less in my fridge and freezer to work with, ironically.

So that’s recap of week one.  I don’t think we’ll feel deprived this week either, because on my husband’s day off we’ll be using a gift card we got for our anniversary to go to a restaurant with the kids.  We’ll definitely have to make sure we stay under the amount on the card enough to include tip, because we’re out of cash!  So I’m guessing we’ll skip drinks and go with water, no real biggie.

Have you ever had to or wanted to pinch pennies? What were some tips that worked well for you?

*P.S.  This podcaster had some good insights, but I should mention that earbuds are necessary if you look her up as some words she uses are not for little ears, IMO.  In our home we try to limit screen time, so when my kids watch their Octonauts or Little Einsteins show, I do a podcast or youtube with my earbuds in.  Nobody’s being ignored or needing attention that way.












Posted in Uncategorized

Stocked Up

Here’s the basic chicken stock recipe I was inspired to make by Ellen Brown’s $3 Meals , except I used what I had and put it all into a 5 quart crockpot overnight on low.  A lot of recipes I see and want to make call for chicken broth/stock or bouillon cubes.  In a pinch I have used and grew up using bouillon cubes, but looking at the store lately as I’ve gotten into the habit of reading the ingredients on the labels, I noticed almost every single brand uses MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which can cause headaches and illness in some people, etc.  Some products will have this ingredient and just label it as “other seasonings” or “other spices” or something vague like that.  If not every ingredient is openly named, I am wary of buying the product.  But in any case, I enjoy making my own stuff and saving money doing so.  I like being somewhat self-reliant.  I figure if a food is on the shelf at the supermarket, it’s there because once upon a time somebody had made it at home and enough people wanted it that it ended up on a production line and in the supermarket; so there’s a way to do it homemade again!  Chicken stock is one of the simpler DIY ingredients in a lot of things, and you can easily freeze it (I’m not brave enough for canning stuff yet).  Even though those boxes or cans of chicken broth are sooo tempting as shortcuts, they can be pricey and are not as healthy as fresh.

5ish lbs skin-on bone-in chicken thighs… and any other chicken bones I had saved in the freezer for making stock (only about from 5 thighs from last time making stock) as well as a ham bone that I’d already used once in a ham and bean slow-cooker soup.
1+ cup chopped celery (I love how fast chopping celery goes in my food processor!  I do carrots and onions at the same time, too)
1+ cup chopped carrots
1+ cup chopped onions
2 Tbsp minced garlic 
(one of the few things I buy pre-prepared in a jar since I can find it at the Dollar Tree store!)
2 Tbsp parsley, dried
3/4 tsp thyme 
(I used less than most recipes because my hubby doesn’t love this herb)
1 1/2 tsp crushed bay leaves or 2 whole
1 tsp black pepper
sea salt
aaaand next time I will add some sage, up to 1 tsp I think.  This needed a little more oomph.
top off with Water to about 1 or 1/2 inch from the crockpot lid
(makes about 4 qt of stock that I freeze, and I get about 2+ cups of cooked shredded chicken for enchiladas or whatever else).

I was happy with how thick this turned out, simply with the addition of a few more soup bones.  So each time I make stock, I let the crockpot cool in the fridge overnight (or longer since I never seem to get to things right away) and then scoop off the saturated layer of fat on top to discard, as well as the chicken skin and icky stuff, but saving the bones in a freezer baggie for next batch of chicken stock.

A good rule of thumb is to use this up from your refrigerator within a week and a half, or freezer within 3 months (I use it up way faster than that!!  It’s winter–i.e. soup season!)

My favorite quick go-to meal using chicken stock/broth is egg-drop “hot” ‘n sour soup with noodles in it (basically egg-drop soup with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce added to it), .  My little one even likes it if I thicken it enough for him to spoon up into his mouth easily, or if I help him drink it from a little mug.  

Today I used 3 cups of it for the above and 3 cups for 2 chicken pot pies.  “Instant” flavor as a base for whatever I want to make with it.
What would I do without my crockpots?  Best $5 (for 1 qt size) and $19 (Aldi sale–5 qt) I ever spent.  Crockpots and slowcookers only take up the amount of energy as a 60 watt light bulb I read once.  How cool!