Monday, August 31, 2009

Bread Machine Mania

So last week I realized my husband and I spent close to $15 on bread products. Yes, we're carb addicts. But that's actually rather expensive. We're talking about $60 a month. Because we don't want to cut back on our lovely breads, I decided to come up with a way to make it cheaper. And that's when I decided I'd start to make my own. Now I am able to make it completely from scratch, but that's really time consuming. That's when I remembered my trusty breadmaker.

So I dusted it off (literally) and decided to try some new recipes. Now a bread maker does require some trial and error and I've had some really bad errors. But if you start by searching for a few basics, Italian and wheat for example and get those down, then you can start experimenting with more specialty breads.

Here are a few tips:

  • be sure to follow the ingredient order in your bread machine
  • make sure your ingredients are fresh and not outdated
  • use bread specialized for bread machines (yes it really does make a difference)
  • start using recipes that came with your breadmaker. These are most likely to be successful as they are optimized for your machine
  • when you do branch out to other recipes use Web sites where they have ratings and using feedback. I've found that using the feedback has led to a higher success rate

Also if you don't have a breadmaker, you can get some great refurbished ones at Amazon for around $70. If you're dedicated to using it, it can be a real money saver. Expect each homemade loaf to cost between 50 cents and a dollar, a bit more if you are using specialty ingredients.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Too Much Watermelon!

Not that I can complain about having one of my favorite summer fruits around, but after my husband and I went a little crazy buying a HUGE watermelon for just the two of us, I'm getting a little tired of it. But I found a great way to use up a large supply if any of you are in the same predicament: watermelon salad with mint leaves, courtesy of Paula Deen. I didn't want to buy a ton of ingredients to use up, and I had all the necessary things on hand. You may be a little skeptical of the use of goat cheese and watermelon, but let me tell you - it's fantastic!

I'd love to hear any ideas of creative ways to use up produce - what do you do when you have too much of a good thing?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

FREE Car Wash

Thanks to Joseph for pointing this out - FREE car washes at Brown Bear Car Wash today only from 8 AM - 8 PM! Check the website for details.

Monday, August 24, 2009

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch...

But bringing your lunch from home will save beaucoup bucks! I've read quite a few articles lately about how much bringing your own lunch will save THOUSANDS of dollars a year! Really! The Millionaire Mommy Next Door has a great post on how you can really have a million dollars by saving your lunch money! Seriously! And over at Wise Bread, contributor WC Porter wrote about how eating the same lunch for 3 years saved $2,000! Now, as I've mentioned in our first lunch post, I wouldn't be good at eating the same thing for 3 years in my lunch. But it definitely inspired me to figure out how much I spent per day packing my lunch this week. Here's my menu for the next four days:

Can of chicken noodle soup - $1.00/serving
Apple - 85 cents/serving
(that's it because I was feeling terrible)
Total - $1.85 lunch

Dinner leftovers (Trader Joe's phad thai with prawns) - $2.70/serving
Nonfat yogurt - 50 cents/serving
Homemade fruit salad - 80 cents/serving
Total - $4 lunch

Tuna sandwich with horseradish mayo - 65 cents/serving
Carrot sticks with hummus - 55 cents/serving
Nonfat yogurt - 50 cents/serving
Almonds - 25 cents/serving
Blackberries - free (from my backyard!!!)
Total - $1.95 lunch

Dinner leftovers (falafel sandwich and Greek salad) - $1.80/serving
Apple - 85 cents/serving
Cheese and crackers - 70 cents/serving
Total - $2.35 lunch

Peanut butter and sliced apple sandwich - $1.30/serving
Blackberries - free!
Carrots and cucumbers with hummus - 70 cents/serving
Nonfat yogurt - 50 cents/serving
Total - $2.50 lunch

If we estimate that people spend $7 for a takeout lunch (and that's cheap!), that would mean spending $35 every week. By eating leftovers and using things I have around the house, I'd spend under $13 every week, saving $22. When you think about that money over course of the year, that's a few car payments, a weekend away, some extra contributions to your savings really adds up.

How much are you spending on lunch? Does the time and energy of planning and making your lunch outweigh the savings? Any other good ideas for cheap lunches?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Retirement Freakout

Probably just like most 20-somethings I know, I'm freaked out about retirement. Okay, maybe not? But I had a moment on Wednesday when I was pretty sure I would be working until I was 85 because I need to up my retirement contributions.

Although there's a lot of different advice out there on how to come up with your retirement number, I think what stuck with me most was SAVE and DIVERSIFY.

- Put 15% of your income into a retirement fund(s). 15%? WHAT? Well, according to this article at MSN Money, it might not be as hard as you think. By taking advantage of pre-tax retirement and matching 401Ks, you're able to put away 15% without it all being your money.

- Currently, I have a 403B but after reading about more options for IRAs (individual retirement accounts, for those of us not so lingo savvy), I decided I'm also going to open a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is an IRA meant for ordinary folks. You have limited contributions if you're single and make more than $95,000/year or married and have a joint income of $150,00/year. The best part - it grows tax-free. You contribute with post-tax dollars. You won't be taxed on interest as your save and when you withdraw, you won't be taxed on your income! There are some rules - your money has to come from earned income (no large gifts or inheritances) and you can't contribute more than $5,000/year (at least in 2009 for people under 50). This is a great article from Kiplinger about Roths that definitely go into more detail. After reading it, I'm sold!

Bottom line: if you're not saving for retirement already, do so now. The earlier you start, the better off you'll be and the more money you'll have to see the Eiffel Tower or drive across the US in that RV. Compound interest anybody?

Does anyone already contribute to a Roth IRA? How about any other retirement saving advice?

Monday, August 17, 2009

FREE Sundaes on Mondays with Ben and Jerry!

Just when the temps are starting to climb again (well, here in the Northwest anyway), Ben and Jerry's has a very tempting and delicious offer. Every Monday in August (so today, the 24th and the 31st), they are offering a FREE sundae when you buy one at regular price. YUM! Enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Deals

Hey everyone! As we're nearing the weekend, here are some good deals and free things to put you in a good mood!

Like to make juice? Good! Here's a FREE juicer while supplies last!

Target is offering a Daily Deal. It changes daily (go figure) and there's always FREE shipping.

OfficeMax is also offering a Daily Deal. Check it out in time for back-to-school deals!

If you buy 2 books or calendars at, you get the 3rd for FREE. Hurry though - it's just online and just until Sunday.

Bath and Body Works released a new line of "American Grown" soaps - buy 1, get 1 FREE.

That's it! Remember, if you hear about a great deal you'd like to share, leave a comment or email us at! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Improving Your Credit Score

Hey all! I came across this wonderful article, courtesy of Real Simple, and I definitely wanted to pass it along to you. I can't seem to find the web article, but pick up the September issue for the complete list of 8 ways to save your credit score. Among what I thought was most interesting:

1. Use your credit cards - within the past year, inactive credit cards have had limits lowered or even canceled because they don't make a profit for the credit card companies. Using your card responsibly and then paying it off every month is a good way to improve your score. Obviously, spend reasonably and within your means. There's been a lot of debate whether or not to use credit cards, but here's something else to consider when you're deciding how to pay for things.

2. Don't close cards when they've been paid off - according to the article, 15% of your credit score is determined by the length of time you have been using credit. Canceling a card you have a long history with will shorten your credit history and thus, negatively impacting your score.

3. Pay off the lowest balance card first - this seemed counterintuitive to me, as paying off a card with a higher balance (therefore higher fees) will save you more money. Since a lower balance will be easier to pay off, focus your attention there instead of dividing out your monthly payments equally among all of your credit cards. Continue to pay the minimum payments on all of your cards, but pay more on your lowest balance card. When that card is paid off, move to the next lowest balance card and use the money you were applying to the recently paid off card to your new balance.

If I find the article, I'll be sure to link to it so you can see the full list, but for other great articles on money, go to

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Saving Money with Groupon!

Hey all! Apologies for the lack of posts recently - Frugal Femme and I have taken turns being on vacation, so the blog has taken a back seat. Anyway, back to life, back to reality...

So there's a great website I came across recently called What is it? It's a site that features deals in certain U.S. cities. You can get deals on restaurants, spa treatments, events, cooking classes, etc. There is a catch - to get the great deals, Groupon gets a GROUP (hence the "group" of Groupon) rate from the businesses participating. If enough people sign up for that day's deal, you can really score. If not, better luck tomorrow.

It's not yet available for all cities (17 cities right now), but check it out here!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

FREE Tacos at Jack in the Box

Thanks to Alysia for pointing this offer out:

Two FREE tacos today only (8/4) at Jack in the Box. You don't have to buy anything else...just free tacos! Here's the coupon!