Thursday, March 31, 2011

Homemade Beef and Vegetable Soup....A Rainy Day Classic

Well, the calendar says it's Spring...and I guess a lot of people are kind of disappointed and feeling out of sorts when they look out the window and see the dark gloomy sky and rain, rain and more rain.  Me, I see a perfect day to make a big pot of healthy, tummy-fulfilling, frugal-friendly soup! 

All of the ingredients in this recipe are included in the list from my previous blog, "The Well-Stocked Pantry", and this will make enough soup to serve at least two meals to at least four people.  I like to make soup in large quantities to be served for dinner the first night, and then use what is left for lunches at home or to take to work.  It's certainly much more frugal than eating lunch out and it's a nice change from the standard sandwich....and when your co-workers smell that wonderful homemade soup aroma wafting through the office they'll want your recipe.

This is the kind of recipe where you really don't need to be precise with the quantities of ingredients, and it's a good way to use leftovers for the meat, veggies or rice/pasta/potatoes.  So you might want to plan ahead to make soup after your roast dinner the night before, and be sure to check your refrigerator for plastic containers of leftovers before opening any cans of vegetables.

Prep time - 45 minutes
Cooking time - 1 1/2 hours

Needed - 6 quart kettle or larger, cutting board, large knife, large spoon, can opener

Ingredients -
  • 2 cups pre-cooked rice, small pasta (macaroni or shell) or potato chunks
  • 1 lb beef cut into small pieces, or ground beef
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups green cabbage cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can green beans
  • 1 can corn, or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 5 beef bouillon cubes (or 5 cups beef broth)
  • 8 cups water (3 cups if you've used broth rather than bouillon cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • Pepper
Preparation -

If you need to cook your rice/pasta/potatoes, start it first.

Cut up beef, onions, carrots and cabbage and open all cans.

Heat olive oil in the soup kettle on medium heat and add beef, onions and carrots.  Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons seasoning salt.  Stir to keep everything cooking evenly until beef is browned on all sides.  Add cabbage and cook for just a few more minutes until the cabbage is wilted.

Add all other ingredients, including the rice/pasta/potatoes, and simmer for about an hour to bring out all the flavors.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve with salad and bread...and enjoy!

This is the perfect kind of recipe to share with others....a sick friend, parents of a newborn baby or a family trying to make it til their next paycheck.  And you'll find there's something about sharing that makes it taste even better!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Well-Stocked Pantry...Stop Making All Those Trips To The Grocery Store!!

With the current cost of groceries and gas, no one wants to be shopping for food more often than absolutely necessary!  I've tried to make shopping a monthly excursion rather than the numerous times weekly that it had been in the past; and it really helps to keep me more organized and costs down.  There are a very few things (fresh fruit and veggies, milk, eggs and sometimes bread) we need to purchase more often, but now we can just dash in and right back out with those items and nothing more.  No longer do we get a chance to be distracted by snacks and new products as we wander haphazardly up and down the aisles...and that means we aren't eating things we don't need and spending money we'd really prefer to use elsewhere.  We are staying focused on saving for our designated goals and having more money available to give to charitable needs.

The following list will provide you with the basics you need to feed your family a multitude of great meals without having to make a special trip for ingredients.  You probably have many of these things already, but if you don't, pick up a few at a time until you've got everything; and then keep the list posted in your kitchen.  When you have less than a one-month supply of an item left, add it to your monthly shopping list.  And as you become accustomed to keeping these things stocked in your pantry you may find a few more that you use regularly and want to add to your personal list.  Give it a try and see if you can transition to doing most of your shopping on a monthly basis...and see how much you can save too.

Shopping Tips - Herbs and spices are much cheaper when purchased either in Costco or Sam's Club sizes or in the bulk food section of your local grocery store.  Many people will be surprised to see how long the shelf-life is for cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan and cheddar, yes, you really can purchase these things in a large quantity and use them for several weeks without needing to be worried about throwing them out.  The same is true for potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage.

The next blog will be a recipe for a healthy and hearty "Beef and Vegetable Soup". It's very simple and filling, and will go a long way when you're cooking on a budget. And in the mean time, make some copies of this list and see what you might want to be adding to your pantry shelves.

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Yeast
  • Shortening
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Vanilla
Canned and Dry Goods
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Corn (canned or frozen)
  • Olives
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Spaghetti Noodles
  • Macaroni Noodles
  • Rice
Produce and Refrigerated/Frozen Items
  • Potatoes (5-10lb)
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Green Cabbage
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Eggs
  • Butter (not margarine)
  • Cream Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Ground Beef
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Beef (anything inexpensive that can be cut into small pieces)
Seasonings and Condiments
  • Salt
  • Seasoning Salt (Johnny's or similar)
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Parsley - dried
  • Bay Leaves
  • Dill
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Beef Bouillon cubes
  • Chicken Bouillon cubes
  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Cooking Spray (Pam or similar)
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Lemon Juice
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Maple Syrup
Now you're ready to start cooking, and to start saving money and time! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goldstar Opportunity for Great Entertainment!!

This opportunity was too good to wait to tell you you can catch the blog "The Well-Stocked Pantry"  in a few days. is a website that offers discounted tickets for all sorts of entertainment across the U.S. and in Canada.  Currently, they have tickets available for "9 to 5: The Musical" at the 5th Avenue Theater, "Billy Elliott, The Musical" at The Paramount Theater and Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" at the Intiman Theater and Monster Energy Supercross at QWest Field.  I took a look at the prices on the theater websites for both "9 to 5" and "Billy Elliott", and prices were half the price, or less. 

Locally, there are usually a broad range of comedy shows, concerts and plays at either the smaller theaters throughout the Puget Sound area, or the larger theaters in Seattle.  They only offer these discounts for select shows at these prices, usually mid-week, and they are most likely limited in number, so it's a good idea to get on their e-mail newsletter so you won't miss out on anything.

You have the option of choosing what area you'd like to attend events at, so if you're planning a trip out of town and would like to include a night out on the town, you can see what might be available at a frugal price and purchase your tickets ahead of time.

As with any offer, be sure to read all the details before making your purchase.

Hope you'll find something just right for you...and have a great time!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Being Prepared for an Emergency is Being Frugal Because....

  .... it will save you energy, stress and probably money; but most importantly, it will allow you to take care of your family and others when time may be of the essence.  You will be able to help maintain calm in a frightening, and possibly hazardous, situation because you have already thought ahead, and won't have to try to assemble needed supplies and vital information in the middle of a crisis.

  We can't generally predict when an emergency situation such as a major power outage, earthquake, hurricane or volcanic eruption is going to occur, but we can predict what we might need to equip us to be able to cope with the circumstances that present themselves, when and if they do happen.

 Some websites I checked for recommendations would have you basically store away enough equipment and food for a year, but I don't think that's too practical for most of us.  So I've put together a list of things I think would be most useful for a few days of basic survival, and I am anticipating that if the emergency has caused enough damage that you need more, you will have to keep yourself busy finding them during those first days.  Another thing to consider is the portability of your emergency supplies.  If you need to leave the area, you may not be able to travel by car, and that will mean you are going to have to carry what you need.  You might also need to be carrying or pushing babies, young children or sick or injured people, so it is important to stick to the real essentials.  You should keep these supplies together in one place in water-proof containers.  They should be located in a place that is least likely to suffer damage in case of an event that may destroy parts of your house....under your bed, or any small room such as a closet, pantry or bathroom would be best. 

You will, of course, need to make quantity decisions based on the size of your household.  And, if you have the space, put some extra in for neighbors who may be in need.

Contact list - phone numbers and addresses for immediate family, including someone who lives out of the area if you aren't able to make contact locally
Medical info - lists all current prescriptions and allergies and any other existing conditions
Water - needs to be replaced every six months
Food - (non-perishable, requiring minimal cooking and water) - canned fruit and veggies, canned tuna and other meats, soup, granola bars, hard candies, crackers. If space allows, rice-a-roni type meals.
Lighter - maybe two, just in case
Hand crank can opener
Large stirring/serving spoon
Hot pad/mitt
Bowls and cups
Forks, spoons, knives
First Aid Kit - all the standard bandages, large gauze rolls, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, small scissors, feminine pads (make great bandages), hand sanitizer, latex gloves (ask a friend who works in a medical office for some of the free samples they receive) Benadryl for allergies, Tylenol, lip balm.
Sanitation supplies - toilet paper, baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, antibacterial
soap, feminine supplies, dish soap
Battery operated radio and extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
Screwdrivers - regular and Phillips
Folding saw
Duct tape
Utility knife and extra blades
Work gloves for everyone - even for the kids because they can help too
Gloves - one size fits all type, for warmth
Paper, pens and pencils
Aluminum foil
Ziplocs bags- large and small
Garbage bags - large, heavy-duty type
Socks, underwear and clean shirt - at least one per person
Backpack - not too big, and you can actually put many of these items inside for storage
Blankets or sleeping bags - if you have the space

Many of these items will be things you have around the house now and you can set some aside in your emergency kit.  Just be careful never to "borrow" from the kit and then not replace them immediately!  Other things, like the kettle, bowls and cups you can pick up at Goodwill or garage sales for next to nothing.  Every six months you should replace the water and at least the non-canned food items, so have a couple of semi-annual days set aside as "picnic" day and feast away on those you take out!  Remember those days in school?

Like I said in the beginning, we can't predict when these events may happen, but you will be far better prepared to help yourself,and your family and neighbors, if you have these supplies readily available.

Next blog - "The well-stocked pantry...more than a week's worth, but not quite hoarding"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bargain at Lowe's Ends Tomorrow!

Lowe's has a unique sale that I just found out about, called the "Tax Refund Card".  This promotion ends tomorrow, March 14th, so you better get right on it. You can purchase a gift card for yourself with a value of anywhere from $500.00 to $4000.00 and on March 18th they will credit an additional 10% to your card.  So if you buy a $500.00 card, on the 18th they will GIVE you another $50.00!  If you purchase the maximum value of $4000.00 you will be GIVEN $400.00!

The cards can be purchased in the stores or at  There are no fees or expirations, and the cards can be used either in the stores or online at  If you have purchases you've been planning, then you can buy this card now and wait until the items you want are on sale and really maximize your dollars.
We are planning to use our "bonus" money a little later in the Spring for a new gas barbecue...we know they'll be on sale around Memorial Day, so we'll wait patiently, and basically be able to go home with a free grill. Can't get much more frugal than that!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Being Frugal Can Be Fun...Really!!

Frugal and fun...sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it?  But it's not at all.  You really can have fun without blowing your budget within a couple of hours of cashing your paycheck.  And the thing is, when you have a great time, without feeling guilt over spending a lot of money, it feels like twice the fun.

Today, I'd like to suggest a couple of options for going out to the movies.  The first is the local Enumclaw theaters, the Enumclaw Chalet and the Enumclaw Cinema.  They show new releases as soon as the larger theaters, but at frugal-friendly prices.  Both are owned by the same people, and while the pricing is the same at each, the show times vary, as well as the decor and atmosphere.  The Chalet is my favorite.  You can still see many of the old Art Deco style features in the historic building, and while it's not huge, it is large enough to seat several hundred people in what really feels like a theater.  The Cinema is much newer and is similar in seating to most of the chain theaters, although smaller.

Both theaters show movies nightly and also have matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.  Regular ticket prices are $6.00 for adults and slightly less for kids and seniors, and the matinees are $5.00.  A real bargain compared to the prices at the large chain theaters.  The other big saving is in the pricing on snacks...about 1/3 to 1/2 that of other theaters...and that means you can sit back and enjoy the movie without thinking about the price of each popcorn kernel you crunch.  In addition, if you live in or very near Enumclaw, you will also save on gas and travel time by patronizing a local business, and you will be financially and environmentally frugal.

Another option is the Federal Way Gateway Theater....or, as we call it, "The 2-dollar Theater."  Tickets are $2.00 every day, except Tuesdays, when they are only $1.00!  Even 3-D movies are a bargain at $4.00.  The movies they show are generally still in the other theaters, or were within the last few weeks; so if you're feeling like you missed out because it would have been too expensive previously, this is the place for you.
Most snacks are a little less than the larger theaters, and hotdogs are only $1.00.  My daughter took her two kids to a movie the other night and paid a total of $6.00 for all three of them for tickets and a hotdog for each.  Another nice feature is that they have booster seats available for the younger kids so you won't have to be worried that someone 6'6" will choose to sit directly in front of your child. 

At these kinds of prices, you can probably afford to go out occasionally and enjoy some great entertainment with family or friends.  In fact, on a Tuesday you can probably find enough change in your couch or spare change jar, so you won't be putting any kind of pressure on your budget.  So go on...have some fun and no need to feel guilty!

Enumclaw Chalet Theater - 1721 Wells St, Enumclaw, WA 98022   360-825-3881
Enumclaw Cinema            - 258 Roosevelt Ave E, Enumclaw, WA 98022   360-825-3888
Gateway Theaters            - 2501 S. Gateway Center, Federal Way, WA 98003   253-946-9224 for showtimes

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's So Great About Being Frugal?

Frugal...I sounds like living a life of counting every penny, buying day-old bread, wearing hand-me-downs and always fretting over how your money is being spent.  Basically boring.  But it really doesn't need to be that extreme.

Our family lives a pretty modest middle-class lifestyle.  We "own" our home, but there's a mortgage still to be paid; and my husband and I share our house with our daughter and her two young children.  My husband is an interior finish carpenter, and, as is the case with so many others in the building industry, he hasn't had a lot of work this past year or so, and that means we have had to be cautious with our spending.

But, somehow, it all seems to be working out ok.  We've paid off our credit card and have a goal of never being in debt, because we want to save first and pay cash for everything, except possibly a new vehicle and our house.  And even with those large purchases, we are setting our goal to pay them off as soon as possible. We want to save for our retirement, give more to charity and take a few vacations...nothing to extravagant, really, but no more sleepless nights of worry.  So, I started searching the internet for resources on how to accomplish those things.  I wanted to have more ideas on how to save money and make better use of the things I do have so we would be in control of our money rather than it controlling us.  Unfortunately, most of the websites I found were addressing the situation of people who were already deep in debt...that's not our case.  We just don't have much money to spare at the end of the month, and we'd like to change that.  The other type of websites I found in abundance were providing tips on coupon clipping and how to make the most of them.  That's not a bad thing, but it just doesn't fit well with our situation either, because we don't tend to use most of the products coupons are printed for, and I don't have time to clip and organize and shop at more than one or two stores.

So, I've decided to write my own blog about frugality, and I'm planning to include ideas on everything from stocking your pantry with good buys, do-it-yourself projects, finding the best health insurance for your needs, having fun with your family without going broke and knowing which charities are responsible with the donations they receive.  I'm looking forward to input from other people too, so please feel free to share!

Next blog....Being Frugal Can Be Fun....Really!