31 July 2009


Are there any readers left out there??? I haven't disappeared! I promise. I'm almost ready to pick this blog back up. Our summer is winding down, we're getting our homeschool organized and we've been frugalling (mostly) all summer. How has your summer been? Any great yard sale finds?

09 June 2009

Hello Hello Hello

I just wanted to check in here to let you all know that I haven't forgotten about this blog. We have decided to start homeschooling our oldest son (will be in first grade) in the fall and lately my whole life has been consumed with curricula, manipulatives and figuring out how not to break the budget while getting everything we need!

I have a few great posts up my sleeve and I'm hoping to sneak some time away soon to get them posted.

See you soon!

20 May 2009

I went to the grocery store yesterday...

...and promptly forgot to take a picture of my loot before putting it away. OOPS. Sorry. Anyhoo, I purchased 18 packs of Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers and 10 (4) packs of Yo-Plus yogurt. Grand total: $4.00
WHAT?! How did I do that? Easy, my local grocery store often has deals through General Mills or other various manufactures where if you buys x amout of participating products you get $x back. This week it was a General Mills promotion and if you spent $10 you got $4 back.
The vegetables were 3/$5. Making them $1.00 if you bought 6 of them. The yogurt was 2/$5.00. Making them $1.50 each if you bought 4 of them.
I bought 18 vegetables and used 18 $1.00 off of 1 coupons.
I bought 10 yogurts using 10 $1.00 off of 1 coupons.
I also used 3 "double coupons" (my store's max limit per transaction). If I hadn't had the kids with me I would have broken up the transactions using more double coupons, but they were too wild yesterday for me to sit and figure out how many items I would have needed per transaction.
Now, here's a lesson. My coupons came in the mail yesterday and the sale ended yesterday. I didn't take the time I normally do to sit and figure out my total before leaving. I had 10 of the yogurt coupons ($1/1) but I also have a stack of the same coupon, only its worth $.50/1. I could have purchased two more yogurts and not changed my total. I had an odd number of yogurts in relation to the promotion. Buying two more (adding $5.00) to my bill would have netted me one more $4.00 off promotion. Which would have effectively only added $1.00 to my total. I then would have used two $.50 coupons, cancelling out that additional dollar.
Does this make sense at all? I hope so, taking a just a few moments a few times per week has allowed me to completely stock my pantry and freezers with food that I've literally paid penny's for. I can feed my family out of what we already own and only go to the store for those perfect sales.
Please let me know if you have any questions and I will answer them in another post.

18 May 2009

We're not dead

Phew...its been a rough couple of weeks. We aren't dead. I have some fun things to share with you guys, just gotta get unpacked from our weekend away with family and then I'll be back :)

29 April 2009

Here Piggy Piggy Piggy....

Well, for the last two weeks all of us monsters have been sick off an on. Nasty coughs, sore throat, raspy voice, wheezing, etc... My husband is conviced we've all got swine flu :-)

I'll be back to the frugal monster once I get our house steralized and all of the germs have been banished!

(I will share with you though, that I went to the grocery store yesterday and my total came to around $79. My total savings was: $153!! More on this later!)

The Frugal Monster

23 April 2009

The Clean Along is being postponed until further notice. Thanks to all who were planning to participate. For now, I'm going back to bed.
(regularly scheduled blog posts will resume once I get this sandpaper out of my throat).

22 April 2009

Won't You Join Us?

I am hosting a Spring Cleaning Clean Along on my other blog tomorrow morning starting at 8am PST. On the top of each hour I will post a quick task (15-20 min) to complete. Won't you join us?

17 April 2009

Successful Yard Saleing

There are lots of great deals to be had at yard sales and garage sales. They can be a Frugal Monster's dream, or nightmare. They can be a dream come true when you find that perfect score that you've been waiting for. They can also turn into the world's worst nightmare when you don't know how to pass up that great deal. Here are some tips that I've learned from my many years of scouring yard sales:
  • Its not a great deal if you don't need it (or love it). Only buy things you will use or that you need. Now, the one exception is if you resell things on ebay. But you have to know your prices in order for this to work. If you buy something at a yard sale for $3, but it will only sell on ebay for $3.50, is it really worth the time and effort?
  • If you collect things (I collect fabric and vintage pyrex) you must know when enough is enough. I'm struggling with this right now with my fabric stash. If I find a great deal its really, really hard for me to pass it up. But I am drowning in my fabric now so I must work through some of it before I can add any more.
  • Make a list of things you need. At the beginning of every yard sale season I make a list (either a mental list or an actual pen/paper list) of things I want to keep an eye out for that year. This year I'm looking for a few more crockpots in various sizes (easy to find at yard sales) and some supplies to get started in soap making. I'm also looking for a sturdy book case and dresser that I can refinish. My husband usually works on weekends and he will often arm me with a list of tools or other various "manly" items to look for.
  • Check craigslist on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings and list out the sales you'd like to check out. List them in the order you'd like to go. I try to do a circle hitting ones close to my house, going further out into town and then circling back towards home from the other direction. I also keep an eye out for signs on the way, as a lot of people don't post on craigslist, but rely solely on signs.
  • Take cash. Decide your budget for the day and only take that much cash. This will help keep your spending in check.
  • Don't be afraid to barter. Most people expect it. I'll admit that its outside of my comfort zone and I tend to do it more often if I'm purchasing multiple items. If I have 3 or 4 things in my hand that total $5.00, I'll usually ask them if they'd accept $4 for the lot. I only rarely have people come back and ask for more. Usually they just say "sure" and they're glad to get rid of the stuff.
  • I am in love with vintage, mid century stuff. So I have found that church rummage sales, estate sales and other networking groups (Eagles, Lion's Club, etc....) sales tend to be jack pots for me.
  • If you plan to make a day of it, pack a snack and some water. You can't focus and you lose interest if you start to get hungry. Most yard sales will sell bottles of water for $1.00. I can get several yards of fabric for that!!!!
  • If you are yard saleing with children (and they are old enough) give them a budget for the day also. I give my kids plastic baggie's and they throw some change from their piggy banks in them. In the past they have found treasures that they "had to have" but neither had enough money. They pooled their change together and both were happy. It teaches them valuable budgeting skills.

That's my basic list of things to keep in mind while yard saleing. Come back and let me know if you find any great scores this season ~ I'd love to hear about them!

~The Frugal Monster

11 April 2009

A few more tools worth mentioning...

These aren't really big investment items like my last post, but are handy to have on hand for any Frugal Monster.

A crockpot ~ these are a dime a dozen during yard sale season. I currently have one that I purchased two years ago for $5. My other one finally pooped out so I'm on the hunt again this year. My ultimate goal is to have a 2 qt. A 4 qt and a 6 qt. I also have an 18 qt roasting oven/slow cooker that I got for Christmas this year. I haven't used it yet, but I'm excited to try that one out.

A food scale. Again, these are hot yard sale items and come in handy when you buy in bulk and want to divide food up for the freezer.

Various sizes of pyrex/freezer dishes. When you freeze a casserole in a dish, once its frozen you can pop the food out of the dish and use the Food Saver to keep it in the freezer. Thus freeing up your dishes. When you remove the casserole and the Food Saver bag, just set the frozen meal back into the dish to thaw.

Extra Large Mixing bowl (or two)...again, when you buy and cook in bulk having room to mix things comes in handy.

That's about it for now. Stay tuned as I plan to share some recipes later this weekend. Yum.....

08 April 2009

A Few Tools of the Trade...

While one can just as easily live the frugal life with the basic common items found in every house and kitchen, there are a few tools that can streamline the process and make this just a little easier and convient for Frugal Monsters.

The FoodSaver has really been a long term penny saver for us. When I used to find a good deal on chicken, I would only buy enough to get us through two or three months because well, have you ever had freezer burnt chicken? I don't recommend it. Now, if I find a great deal (like the whole chickens I found at Costco for .50/lb or the boneless/skinless breasts for $1.17/lb) I stock up. The whole chickens I can throw in the freezer. When I cook one for dinner, I usually cook a whole extra chicken. I pull the meat off of the bones and stick it in a FoodSaver bag. Seal it up and freeze it. Now I have cooked chicken meat ready to be thrown into chili's, soups, salads, etc...and it stays fresh for up to 2 - 3 years!! When I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale, I trim them up and seal them into the sized portions that best suit our family. Sometimes I cube some up before sealing so a lot of the prep work is done for me already when I pull them out of the freezer. But we'll talk more about that when I get to freezer cooking.

Another BIG money saver for the Frugal Monster is a freezer. Chest freezers are more efficient than an upright. The one pictured above is the one we have. We started out with a 7 cu ft. freezer that we got for free and once we realized that a freezer is a tool that we just had to have, we sold an older fridge, sold the old freezer and used that money to purchase this one. Right now I have the freezer/fridge in my kitchen, another freezer/fridge in the garage and this chest freezer and all three freezers are packed FULL! And I didn't pay full price for anything in those freezers. When you find a once in a lifetime deal on meat (turkeys at Thanksgiving time, hams at Easter, etc...) you can buy several and use them throughout the year. We have Thanksgiving dinner about once a quarter. I then use the FoodSaver to keep the leftover meat fresh until I need it for casseroles, soups, stews, etc...

I had been asking my husband for YEARS for a fancy Cuisinart Food Processor. But when I finally sat down and determined why I need a food processor and what functions I most wanted it to have. We decided that an everyday joe would be the most economical option. So he bought me this one. And I love it. I'm glad we saved the $100 plus. There hasn't been a single thing that I've wanted my food processor to do that it hasn't delivered. I buy a lot of my food in bulk (cheese, veggies, meats, etc....). I also cook in bulk (more on that later). Having a food processor has literally cut my prep work by about 3/4. Making Jambalya? Need to cut up some onions, celery, green peppers and carrots? Not a problem. Put enough for about five batches and give it a whirl. Serve one for dinner and put the other four batches in your freezer for another day.

The stand mixer goes along the lines of the food processor. It saves time and time is money in this day and age. Are you making a batch of cookies? Why not make three batches and freeze the extras? You can easily do this with a stand mixer. And I will admit, I do have a commercial grade, 6 qt Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. It was a gift from my husband. However, we chose to buy a used/refurbished one directly from Kitchen Aid. It was about half the original price and now I'm not sure how I ever survived without it.
If you have some or all of these tools, well then you are a step ahead in the frugality game. If you don't, don't fret. You can find any one of these items at yard sales, on craigslist or keep your eyes peeled for great sales around Mother's Day and Christmas. And DON'T go out and buy all of these right now and say "The Frugal Monster told me to!!" I'm just giving you a list of things that you may want to look out for and purchase when you find that great deal!
Remember, take what you need and leave the rest!
~The Frugal Monster

04 April 2009

Do you Budget?

A lot people tell me they write down a budget every month but they just can't stick to it. Or that once they add everything up they just don't have anything left over for savings. This is a common challenge and I'll admit, one that I struggle with from time to time as well. Budgeting is a habit. Once you get the hang of it, it'll seem like a piece of cake and you'll wonder how you ever survived without one. But getting there can seem overwhelming at first. I've developed a system that seems to work for us, but remember ~ take what you need and leave the rest. You don't have to budget exactly like I do. Take this as a guide. Use what works for you (and don't expect it to all fall into place the very first month.)
The first thing I do is write down our essentials (the things we depend on for survival). So, mortgages first (and if you have a 2nd mortgage or a HELOC, include that here). Utilities next (I don't include the phone in utilities because it is not necessary to survival). Then transportation, then food. Everything else you prioritze and list in order accordingly. Some people think food should be listed above transportation, however the food budget is the most easily manipulated out of all of the necessities so I include that last just in case its a lean month, I can easily skim some off of there. So here is a sample budget list:
  • Mortgage ~
  • HELOC ~
  • Gas ~
  • Electric ~
  • Water & Sewage ~
  • Van Pymnt ~
  • Groceries ~

Now, take all of your other bills (phone, internet, cell phone, cable TV, gasoline, credit card, etc, etc, etc....) and list them in order of priority. This is a personal thing and everyone's priorities are different. For instance, our cell bill would probably cause some of you to have a coronary, but its a necessity for us because of my husband's travel schedule. Some may chose to put cable TV next on their list, we don't even subscribe. No one will judge you. You just need to decide what's most important to you and your family.

Now, list the rest of your bills and then start filling in the blanks. Go down the list in order. The first several should be fairly consistent and easy to predict. In the beginning you'll have to guestimate on some of the other bills, but they'll get easier over time, too. Add up all of your bills and then subtract that from your monthly income. The difference is what you put into savings. ON PAYDAY. No questions asked. You transfer it over the day your paycheck hits or the day you cash it. If your number is zero ~ then you need to look over that list of priorities again and see if you can cut back or cut some out entirely.

Because you have now transferred your "cushion" into savings, you will have to track your spending to make sure you don't go over budget. If you go over in a certain catagory, you find another catagory you can borrow from. Once that money is in savings, you don't touch it. If you have to take a few catagories out of your budget, that's ok. Its probably only temporary. You'll get back to it. Right now we're just trying to build a bit of a savings for a rainy day.

Can't find places to cut back or cut out? That's ok for now. Because we'll be covering all of the little random money suckers later. Its not as hard to get them under control as you may think. If you have some money suckers that you'd like specific help with, leave me a comment and I'll be sure to cover those as well.

~ The Frugal Monster

29 March 2009

Frugal vs Cheap

I hear the word "cheap" thrown around quite a bit when talking about my frugal ways. It doesn't bother me when my friends call me cheap, as most often its a term of endearment. And I'm ok with that. :-)

However, I've given a lot of thought to the two words and there is a difference. I'm frugal, but I'm not cheap. To me, cheap is spending the least amount of money, not matter what, at all times. And I don't do that. Frugal is prioritizing what's important to you and chosing wisely where to spend your money. For instance, I spend almost an extra dollar per gallon of milk because its important to my family that we drink organic, rBST free milk. Is this the "cheap" milk? No. Keeping my family healthy and strong saves us money in the long run. A frugal person understands this, a cheap person would have a heart attack!

**another frugal way to save money ~ TOYS!! Who needs blocks when you have old VHS videos?!? (I'm only kidding, my kids DO have blocks. Hundreds of them.....)***(oh, and just ignore the mess behind them. I'm supposed to be cleaning today, but I'm playing on blogger instead)

28 March 2009

The Frugal Monster

Hi. My name is Jessica and I'm the Frugal Monster. At least that's what my kids and my husband call me. Frugality is a way of life for me. A personal challenge. A game, if you will. I like to see how far I can make our family's dollar stretch each month. In these uncertain economic times I've had many people ask me for tips on how to save money on their grocery bill. How to balance the family budget more efficiently and how to squeeze a few more pennies out of their paychecks. Friends that used to roll their eyes at me are now asking for my advice. Grocery clerks that used to grumble when they saw me (with my large stack of coupons) in their lines are now asking me how they may be able to find such great deals.
I'm not perfect. I sometimes have to run to the store and pay full price for bread (gasp!). There are months where its all I can do to keep the family fed & bathed, much less worry about the latest sale. I have my own non frugal indulgences (as evidenced by my other blog ~ dedicated to my not so frugal hobby). But I do my best and honestly believe that every penny counts. Every new habit helps.
I'm blogging my frugal -ness for several reasons. As a family, my husband and I have many goals. Some of which are not attainable until we reach some other, smaller financial goals. This blog will keep me searching for creative ways to stretch those pennies. It will keep me accountable and I hope that along the way I can help you find your inner frugal monster.
There are many many different ways to shave some pennies (or even dollars!) out of your monthly budget. Rather than simply list all of the different ways to do so, I will show you how I live my life. There are plenty of "how to" websites out there in cyberspace. Readings lists of what to do is nothing new to those seeking new frugal habits. However, I hope by showing you how I live my life, some of these frugal tips will seem less intimidating. Maybe not so odd or extreme.
As with all things in life, there will be things here that totally click and make sense to you. There will be other ideas that make you scratch your head and think "this chic has totally lost it." Take what you need and leave the rest. I promise not to send the frugal police after you!
Welcome to my monster blog.
P.S. There is button over in my side bar. Feel free to snag it and post it on your blog!