Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cheap Joe

I knew a gal who drank Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. She purchased it a pound or two at the time, brewed it at home and brought it to work in a thermos. When co-workers commented more than once regarding her champagne tastes vs. her beer budget, she'd ask, "How much do you think you're paying a pound for that cup of Starbucks?"

Do the math. At 5 bucks for a cuppa Starbucks Joe, the others were paying the equivalent of a hundred dollars or more a pound (32 cups x 5 bucks a cup less cost of the milk or flavoring or whatever).

Okay, I'm guessing re: how much the milk, etc costs. Let's just say that it's way more than the $35/or so a pound you'll pay for a good quality Jamaican Blue.

This is baby stuff, I know it. That's the first item listed in any 'How to be more frugal' article.

1) Brew coffee at home and take to work in thermos.

(Number 2 is usually something like: "Bring your lunch instead of buying it." Followed by, "Group your errands so you aren't using as much gas.")

Frugal is all in how one looks at it.

I used to buy the flavored sugar-free syrup. It's a frugal solution to what could be an expensive habit. If you use coupons, you can get those International Creamers for a song. But have you looked at the typical list of ingredients?

Da Vinci Gourmet Syrups - Water, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Cellulose Gum, Sucralose (Splenda® Brand), Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Caramel Color.

Coffeemate International Creamers -
Water, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Sodium Caseinate (a Milk Derivative) (Not a Source of Lactose), Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Polysorbate 60, Natural and Artificial Flavors Carrageenan, Beta-Carotene Color.

I'm sure Dipotassium Phosphate isn't in the least harmful, but I have to wonder why I need it in my coffee.

So one morning, I'm searching my cabinets for something to make the morning coffee extra special and my gaze falls on the obvious: cinnamon and vanilla extract.


Cinnamon sprinkled in with the coffee grounds, a tsp of vanilla extract added to the brewed pot. Add half and half or milk and Splenda and I've got a frugal solution that makes the frugal solution look expensive.

All my epiphanies should be so obvious.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stockpile for the week of 5/29/09 - lunchbreak

So I'm back from Monument Valley (and the reason this post is so late) and I'm thinking how hard it was to find decent food and wishing I'd ignored the family and brought along some cans of things and a can opener. Would've saved us a boatload of money and me a few extra pounds.

Given the greasy spoon and sugary fare I've been subjected to the last few days, this is what jumped out of this week's grocery ads and clocked me over the head with my Arizona Travel Guide:

Campbell's chicken noodle or tomato soup - 50c/each at Fry's (buy 12)
Banquet Pot Pies, 50c/each (buy 12)
Fry's brand Macaroni and Cheese - 33c/each - (buy 12)

Tina's Burritos - 25c/each at Food City - (buy 24)

Total for the above $24

Why those items? All could have been made in the microwave and stored in the refrigerator provided at the overly-expensive hotel we stayed at.


And we wouldn't have needed $24 bucks worth of the stuff either. I just suggest it because it will provide a lot of easy cheap lunches over the summer.

Along with those items, I'd stockpile the following:

Hunt's tomatoes, I like the chunky kind, 14.6 oz - 50c/each, also at Fry's (buy 10)
Hatch diced tomatoes with green chiles, also 50c/each, also at Fry's (buy 10)
4 dozen eggs at Fry's at 77c/each


I like canned tomatoes. You can do a lot with them. The ones diced with the green chiles are begging to be scrambled with the eggs into Huevos Rancheros.

Come to think of it, I could've made the Huevos Rancheros in the microwave also.

I say 4 dozen eggs because I think it's a good idea to keep 4 dozen on hand. Eggs turn up in a lot of for scratch recipe and while they are often on sale, they are not ALWAYS on sale. I refuse to pay more than $1/dozen for eggs and have found that 4 dozen is enough to get me through any dry spells.

So that's another $10, plus the eggs - hmmm...eighty times four equals two dollars and forty cents less three times four or twelve equals...$2.28.

I think.

Close enough. That's about another $12 added to the $24 dollars which equals $36. I'd spend the remaining $14 on the chuck roasts and steaks at Bashas at $1.57/lb. $14 is enough to purchase 9 pounds. Have 4 pounds of it ground up into hamburger, ask the butcher to run another 2 pounds of it through the cubing machine and marinate and food saver the last 3 pounds. Use a lemon or lime based marinade to make it tender.

Voila! $50 for a boatload of food.

While you're at it, notice that Basha's is selling cubed steak for $3.99/lb right next to those chuck roasts. Pat yourself on the back for being so frugally smart.

Now sit back and google 'ground beef' with 'canned tomatoes' and see what kind of recipes pop up. Probably a lot of quick and easy ones involving noodles and chedder cheese. Make a bunch of it and FoodSaver for future dinners.

You are going to be sooooo popular with your family.

I'll post another stockpile post on Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rising to the Challenge

No blog about feeding healthy, frugal food to the family can go very long before the topic of baking bread arises. Yes, it's frugal. But the best reason for learning to deal with the mysteries of gluten and yeast is that the results tastes sooooo good.

Flour, yeast, water, knead, plus time and heat yields bread. Watch this video. These two have figured out a way to remove the kneading component.

I made my dough with half whole-wheat, half white. Also, I added wheat gluten because it gives bread good loft. Vital wheat gluten is available from or from Honeyville through Amazon. I set the loaf up in the morning and let it rise all day, baking it right before dinner. Cold dough doesn't rise and I don't understand the bit in the video about letting the loaf rest for 20 minutes then baking. The loaf must be awfully dense after that.

This has been working very nicely and my family is scarfing up the bread. Give it a go. Tell me how it works out.

Next week, I'll discuss the wonderful world of homemade muffin mix, so easy and good, you're sure to exile Betty Crocker to an assisted living facility.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What to do with all that food!

So there you are staring at pounds of tomatoes, piles of apples, a plethora of papaya and thinking, 'Okay, Mindy Likes to Coupon promised me a post guiding me what to do with all this, so where is she?'


Sorry about that. This has been a wonderful week for couponers - tons of FREEBIES and just in time for the holiday and I've been clipping and hitting the stores.

Let deal with the papaya first, shall we? I like papaya. It's kind of like cantaloupe in consistency and calorie density, so great if you're watching your calories. Also, it's a wonderful tenderizer for meat. Want to tenderize a cheap steak? Cook it with papaya . Lentils are always cheap. I picked some up at the 99c Only Store today.

Or how about making a Papaya Jam. (Yes, this is where the pectin comes in) Jam is really easy to make and once you start making your own, the store bought stuff just won't do. If you make smaller quantities you can just keep it in your fridge and not have to worry about the canning part of it.

As long as we're talking jam, how about strawberry-kiwi? This is a freezer jam. Yes, you pop it in your freezer when you're done. Cool, huh? (Pun intended)

How do you like them apples? They're as versatile as your imagination. I make this Apple-Barley Pudding often except I add more barley and skip the water because otherwise, it's kind of like a glorified applesauce. And I put milk or half-and-half over it, or leave it off altogether. My kids love this.

And remember the rolled oats I had you buy? Try this Apple Crisp-like Apple-Oat Pudding. You don't have to use quick oats, regular oats take like one minute longer to cook than quick oats and contain more fiber. Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour and halve the sugar (leave out the white sugar) and go ahead and use those Galas instead of a tart apple. You'll feel more virtuous so you can have a second helping without guilt.

If you don't eat up all the apples or cook 'em up before they start getting old, just cook down the rest into applesauce:

Core the apples (don't peel them, lots of fiber and good stuff in the skin), toss in a saucepan, add cinnamon and nutmeg, maybe a tiny bit of water and cook it down to whatever consistency makes you happy. Put in fridge, use in box cake mixes in place of the vegetable oil to save lots of fat and calories.

By the way, I also think the imitation crab meat at Fry's (Crab Classics, $1) is a good deal. If you were a couponer, it'd be an even better deal because it'd be free with coupons. I use this stuff with non-fat mayonnaise in mock crab salad. I also put it over bagged salads which are on sale for $1 at Fry's and Basha's this week.

Another item worth stockpile consideration are the Bone-in, Rib eye steaks at Bashas for $3.67/lb. They are being sold in the family packs. That's a good price for rib eyes and those are great on the grill. I also picked up the Kroger-brand canned pasta (like the Chef Boyardee) at Fry's. They were 78c/can. I'm doing a road trip this summer with the kids and items like this and the Van Camps I mentioned yesterday make great lunches while on the road. Leave on the dashboard to heat while you're off site-seeing, then take a can opener to them and chow down. A real money and time saver when on the road.

That's it for this week. I'll be back tomorrow or the next day to list all the items that couponers rarely shell out any of their own money for. Have a great evening!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The First Stockpile Post

This is a great week for getting healthy food and doing something with the stuff you can't eat. It's late and I'm tired, so bear with me and tomorrow, I'll give you all the explanations and instructions for what to do with the suggestions tonight. There's no real order to this, it's just the way I picked it out on the CouponSense 'Create a Shopping List' (an unbelievably fab application that makes finding the best deals and matching them to coupons easier than cheating on a diet.)

To wit:

1) Hot dogs. It's Memorial Day Weekend, of course there are hot dogs. Everybody is selling the Bar-S brand cheap, but the best price is at Albertson's - 59c a pack. Purchase 12 packs and purchase 10 ears of corn for a total of...wait for it...$12. Why 12 packs? Figure if you go through one package a week, you have a 3 month supply.

(disclaimer: I know hot dogs aren't healthy and I'm a very bad person for starting off with these, but let's face it, people like 'em, especially kids. Besides, a little unhealthy never killed anybody who wasn't already teetering on the brink.)

The corn is just for eating. Corn on the cob is a seasonal treat and best enjoyed in season. So go enjoy.

2) Basha's is selling Van Camp's Pork and Beans for 38c/can. I happen to like this brand and this is a rock-bottom price. I don't think I've seen it go lower in recent memory. 24 cans will set you back about $9. Why 24 cans? It's the number on the shrink-wrapped pallet. Makes it easy to get it out of the store and into your pantry.

Hot dogs, pork and beans...are you sensing a trend?

Add a 2 lb container of the strawberries for $1.99 to get you up over the $10 so you can use the 'in-ad' coupons (That means on the front page of the Basha's ad, available at the front of the store) to pick up a package of Kraft singles for 98c and a 24 oz container of Basha's sour cream for the same price. (Yes, the Kraft singles likewise play into the theme and sour cream is useful to have around).

You get all that food for about $13

3) Now it's off to Food City to pick up 10 pounds of Gala Apples for 50c/pound, 5 pounds of papaya for 50c/pound, and 10 pounds of Roma Tomatoes for 50c/pound. That comes out to $12.50.

You have to go tomorrow, Thursday, because the price on the Apples and the Papaya is only good then. Don't fret, I have great and easy ideas for what to do with all this fruit. One of the things involves pectin. Pick up a couple of boxes. It's usually in the baking area, or at the end of the canned goods aisle. Check each store and get a feel for how much it costs and who has it cheaper. Frys has a store brand that works beautifully. Don't be proud, buy it.

And don't get the vapors. Scary as the word pectin is, making stuff with it is way easier than makers of commercial jams want you to know. I thank my compadres at the CouponSense message board for teaching me that. The message board is an incredible resource, filled with friendly and knowledgable people.

But I digress. We've only spent $36 of the allowed $50. On to the next store.

4) At Fry's, pick up 5 of the Oscar Mayer Cotto Salami - the 12 oz pack. It's good to have around. Who doesn't like a nice salami sandwich? That's $5 total.

Now we're at $41. Where to spend that last $9? Hmmm...

5) Go to Sprouts. Pick yourself up 2 pounds of fresh broccoli crowns for $1.98 total. Steam it. Eat it. It's good for you.

6) Last store is Sunflower Market. The Bulk Bin Rolled Oats are 50c/lb. That's the same stuff you get all excited about if you can buy it in the canister for $1.00. It's also really good for breakfast when you make it with cinnamon and nutmeg, brown sugar and some of the apples I said to buy.

Buy 10 pounds. It won't go bad and is great for lots of stuff besides breakfast.

That's another 5 bucks away. Spend the last 2 bucks on 8 kiwi fruit for $2 total. They'll be great with the strawberries in a homemade strawberry-kiwi freezer.

More discussion re: why these particular items and why not other particular items.

I'll also point out that with coupons, the $10 in hot dogs from Albertson's would only cost $1.20 and that would give you an extra $8.80 to spend. You could spend some of it on Potato or Cole Slaw or Macaroni salad Sunflower Market is selling for $1/lb because Memorial Day Weekend is coming up and you already have hot dogs, pork and beans, and cheese singles.

This is a GREAT week for couponers because there's so much free stuff to be had. Today I 'purchased' 23 free items ranging from orange juice to salad dressings, bbq sauce, snacks, seasonings and other items that tend to suck the grocery budget right away from us. Tomorrow, I'm going back to the store to buy 20 other free items like toothbrushes and chewing gum and sports drinks, and pasta, and potatoes in a pouch.

The information on how to do it is right there on the CouponSense website. If you have questions, leave a comment. I'm happy to explain.

And if you decide to give it a trial run, mention Mindy Likes to Coupon. I got an 'in' with the management. They'll be sure to give you a really good table.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Random Musings - Tuesday

Today, I found an article on stockpiling that said grocers operate on the theory that most American families have a three day supply of food on hand.

That would last about a day and a half in my house.

I'll be back tomorrow with a stockpiling list.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What's for Dinner - Monday

In a fit of domesticity, I cleaned out and rearranged my garage freezer. I found some ground beef that's been lurking there close to a year if its 'Sell By' date of Jun 8, 2008 can be trusted. This ground beef is prior to my FoodSaver days so I should cook it now or risk losing it to freezer burn. The ground beef is from Basha's and claims to be 90% lean, but I can already tell that it's way fattier than the ground beef disguised as London Broil I told you about in yesterday's post. So time to get rid of it.

But didn't you feed the family ground beef last night, Mindy?

Why, yes, I did. And, to be honest, I served it the night before. Last night we ate leftovers of Saturday night. (All right, all right, and Friday night. I made too much of the ground beef/Mrs. Cubbison's Stuffing mixture, okay?) That makes my mission to disguise the almost year-old ground beef so my family doesn't realize they're eating more of it tonight, all the more important.

There's a reason for Google. I hop on, input, 'ground beef recipes' and click to find this:

Fontina-filled Burgers with Sun-dried Tomato.

I'd like to tell you that this is what I'm making, but I can't. I don't have any Fontina cheese nor sundried tomatoes and ain't no way I'm running out to buy any. That stuff's expensive! Also, no way in heck I'm going to poke holes into little portions and grate smoked fontina into it and cover over with ground beef to make those luscious-looking burgers. Judge Judy is on at four and I'm still working on edits for the project from my real life.

So this is how this recipe will be butchered um, REINVENTED, for the Mindy Likes To Coupon table tonight:

I'm mixing the ground beef with egg and Italian breadcrumbs, salt and garlic powder. Sundried tomatoes are reinterpreted with Kraft Sun-Dried Tomato Vinagrette mushed in with the egg and breadcrumbs. I smoosh the mixture out kind of flat, thin-slice mozzerella over it, then fold it in from either side, smoosh it into a loaf pan, and bake at 350 for about an hour until it's meatloaf. I'll pour some Hunt's roasted garlic and onion spaghetti sauce over the top before putting it into bake.

I'll serve it with more of those Green Giant Steamers that I got free a few months ago (see yesterday's post). If I'm feeling adventurous, I'll bake some Pillsbury breadsticks to go with. There's a Dump Cake baking in the oven now for dessert. I mostly more or less used THIS recipe minus the cherry pie filling because I didn't have it, plus canned fruit cocktail because I did, with extra walnuts and no coconut because the kids don't like it.

I'll be a hero, mostly because of that cake. Repeat ground beef dinners are forgiven when cake is involved.

So where did I get the ingredients?

1) I already told you about the ground beef. I should have used it long before this. I'm going to keep on top of my freezer contents better in the future.

2) The Italian breadcrumbs have been in my pantry a long time. Long enough that other than the fact they're Safeway brand, I've no memory of when or for how much I purchased it. In other words, they're probably older than the ground beef.

3) Told ya about garlic powder yesterday.

4) Picked up the mozzerella from Fry's about a month ago when they were selling various varieties of their store brand cheese for $1 for 8 oz. That's steal. My only regret is that I didn't buy way more than the 20 or so I did buy.

5) The spaghetti sauce is leftover from a spaghetti dinner last week and purchased some time ago for $1 for a 26-oz can. I'm pretty sure I had some coupons to make it even cheaper, but I don't remember. $1/can is a really great price for this stuff. The brand is Hunt's and they have a variety of flavors. In on sale at Albertson's until tomorrow for $1/can if you'd like to pick up a few.

6) Already told you about the free frozen veggies. Now let me tell you about the free or near-free Pillsbury breadsticks. Got 'em at Fry's with coupons when they were on sale for $1.

7) The cake mix for the Dump Cake was likewise free or near-free with coupons, the canned fruit was purchased at a 2 cans for a buck sale and the walnuts were $3.99/lb or less at Sprouts about a month ago. A pound of walnuts is a LOT of walnuts.

8) And the Kraft Vinaigrette? You guessed it - FREE with coupons.

How do I find all these great deals? It's my job. I'm an instructor at CouponSense. Check out the home page, kick a few tires. If you decide to give it a test ride, let 'em know that Mindy Likes to Coupon sent you so they can assign me to ride shotgun.

Gotta go, the first litigants are entering Judge Judy's courtroom.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What we had for dinner tonight - Sunday

The grocery store ads change again on Wednesday. I'll post my first stockpile post then. Until then, I thought I'd entertain you with tales of what I make for dinner. Tonight was ground beef browned with onions and sprinkled liberally with garlic powder. Into the ground beef I mixed a package of Mrs. Cubbison's stuffing that I had lying around in the pantry. I added some water to the mix for the stuffing to soak up because the ground beef was very lean. So here's where I got the ingredients:

1) The onions were 25c/lb at Food City last week. (Sorry, ad ends today, but Food City often has onions at a really good price. Typically, you can find them somewhere for 3 lbs/$1.

2) The ground beef is still available at Basha's. It's disguised as London Broil and is selling in the Family Pack for $1.77/lb. You're limited to two packs, so buy two. Have the butcher (that's the guy in the white coat behind the meat counter) grind one of the packs into ground beef. As I said, you're limited to two packs, but if you want to drive around the block and go back to the store and pick up another two packs, I won't tell on you. London Broil is very lean, so your hamburger will be very lean and lean is good, right?


3) The garlic powder was purchased someplace for about a buck. You know those spices I'm talking about. Everybody sells them - Italian Seasoning, Seasoned Salt, Poultry Seasoning, Onion Powder blah blah blah. Don't be proud. Buy 'em. Use 'em.

4) The Mrs. Cubbison's stuffing was also purchased at Basha's a while back. It was 77c for that big box with two envelopes in it.

You must be thinking it's pretty lame that not only can I remember where I bought the stuffing and approximately how long ago, but also exactly how much I paid for it.

I agree. It's lame. Beyond lame. Which means I'll probably do it again.

How long did it take me to make this meal?

How long does it take to brown ground beef? (answer for those who don't know - about 15 minutes). Just cover with a lid when it's pretty close to done and turn off the heat to let all the goodness permeate.

And for veggies? Some Green Giant Steamfresh (or maybe they're called Steamers?) that I picked up free a while back and tossed into the freezer. How did I get them for free? The veggies were on sale for $1.00 and I had a coupon for 50c that doubled. How did I know to put the coupon and the sale together? Well that's where CouponSense comes in. You know that thing I'm an instructor at? If you go and you decide to join, mention that Mindy Likes to Coupon and that I sent ya. They'll match us up.

You mean there are rules???

Of course. There are ALWAYS rules. And I'll put them up as I think of them. For now, here are some rules:

Rule No. 1) This is a subjective list. That means it's based on my likes and dislikes and what I think is a good deal. If I don't include something on the list that seems to be a good deal, I'll explain why I didn't include it. That leads to

Rule No. 2) If you know of a deal that I don't know of, please please PLEASE tell me. Preferably before I hit the grocery store.

Rule No. 3) Some rules are meant to be broken. You'll see what rules those are as we go along.

Rule No. 4) The $50 for the stockpile is money you'd spend aside from your normal grocery spending. The idea is that eventually, you won't be spending all that much on the 'normal' groceries because you'll already have most of what you need in your refrigerator and your freezer and in your pantry.

So, like, uh, who am I?

My name is Mindy and I like to eat three times a day. So does my husband. Our kids like to eat more. The problem: how to feed us and still have enough left over to open a college fund. Or pay the mortgage. Or buy a tank of gas.

I offer this blog as the solution.

What this blog is about

You want to eat. Your family wants to eat. And you'd really like it if the food on the menu wasn't chock full of chemicals and provided enough nutrition to keep everybody's toes from falling off.

The $50 stockpile is here to help. Every week, I'll comb the ads and tell you what *I'd* buy if I had an extra 50 bucks to spend every week. In general, the food will be basic, nutritious, store well, and not anywhere near as hard to prepare as convenience food commercials have led you to believe. What's best? After doing the $50 stockpile for a month or so, you'll find your Old Mother Hubbard days are gone, you'll have money left when the food budget month is over and your kids will say things like, 'You mean it's legal to cook a chicken yourself?'

This blog is best used by residents of Arizona, particularly the Phoenix area, but the principles and recipes can be applied by anybody.

And...we're off.