Spring-fluenza and Chow on the Cheap #3: Lemon & Honey Water

Honey Lemon Water

If you’ve begun to wonder if I only post about food now, fear not! I’ve just been stricken with some sort of something. I’m unfocused, unmotivated, and lack general interest in just about anything! I’m calling it Spring-fluenza, and I’m giving it a week to clear up before I take additional measures. I described it to Matt as “I’m not unhappy, I’m just not sparkly about anything”.

In an effort to increase not just sparkly feelings, but also my overall health, Matt has been making me a drink of lemon and honey water every single morning. There has been some buzz about lemon honey water recently, and proponents affirm that drinking warm water with honey and lemon is said to aid digestive health, curb cravings, improve hydration, and boost your energy. Sounds good, right?

I’ve been on the lemon honey water regime for almost a month, and while I can’t say I’ve noticed a distinct effect, I have started to really enjoy my morning beverage. Stay tuned for further insights!

So, for this week’s Chow on the Cheap I’m sharing our recipe for lemon and honey water. It comes in at $0.50 per serving.

Lemon & Honey Water

Ingredients

  • 8-10 ounces warm water $0.00*
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon $0.25
  • 1-2 tablespoons raw honey $0.25 per tablespoon

A note about honey: I’m not an expert in all things honey, but it’s my understanding that all honey is not created equal. I’ve been advised that maximum benefits come from raw honey, therefore we use Nature Nate’s Raw and Unfiltered Honey. It’s available at our local Costco (score!)

*We do pay for our water consumption on a quarterly basis, but I really have no idea how to calculate the cost of 8-10 ounces of water.

Directions

  1. Pour water into mug.
  2. Stir in lemon juice and honey.
  3.  Wait until preferred temperature and enjoy!

Do you drink lemon and honey water? What about honey and lemon water? Anyone else have a case of Spring-fluenza?

Chow on the Cheap #2: Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

meal, plate

Thanks for all your nice words about my new series, Chow on the Cheap! Last week Crystal helped me launch Chow on the Cheap with her Turkey Burger recipe. Make sure to check it out!

Today, I’m highlighting one of my favorite food combinations. Black beans and shredded cheese. This duo always hits the spot as one of my go to comfort foods. I’m completely happy melting cheese over black beans and calling it a day, but to make it more of a meal I add the tortilla. And yes, my kids do like this meal, although they typically prefer everything as separate components (plain tortilla, pile of beans, pile of shredded cheese), and I typically supplement their dinner with another addition (broccoli, apple slices, etc.).

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

$4.82/recipe (Makes 6 quesadillas for our family of four) .

Note: we buy all these ingredients at Costco, so keep in mind the cost is reflective of bulk purchase price.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium flour tortillas $1.08
  • 2 cups Mexican blend cheese (shredded) $1.44
  • 1 can of  black beans $0.78

Toppings

  • 8 tbsp salsa $0.88
  • 4 oz. plain greek yogurt (used in place of sour cream) $0.64

Directions

  1. Cook black beans in microwave or on stove top.
  2. Warm a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Place tortilla in skillet and sprinkle desired amount of cheese and black beans on one side, fold over other half of the tortilla and cook until slightly golden brown.
  4. Using a spatula, flip quesadilla over and cook on other side.
  5. Repeat with additional tortillas and fillings.
  6. Serve with salsa and greek yogurt as toppings.

I would love to feature your Chow on the Cheap recipe! Email me your idea (thedailywhisk (at) gmail.com)

What are your favorite comfort foods?

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Chow on the Cheap #1: Turkey Burgers

meal, plate

I am thrilled to share the first post in a new series on The Daily Whisk, Chow on the Cheap! The idea for this series came to me after I shared my grocery bill from January, and decided I wanted to take a closer look at the cost of specific meals. Each week I’ll share a budget-friendly recipe of my own or from a featured guest. Along with each recipe I’ll include a cost breakdown per recipe and per serving.

The inaugural Chow on the Cheap duties belong to my sister in law, Crystal of Discovering Me in Them.

Take it away, Crystal!

I first want to say Thank You to my sister in law and fellow blogger for having me here. I am excited to be a part of this series! Being a SAHM, with a family of four, there are two things with meal planning that are important to me:

  1. Healthy meals for my family

  2. Meals that I can make without breaking the bank

This is not always easy to do and I am not one who likes to grocery shop. It is one of the tasks that I dislike the most. One thing that I always do is set a budget for my grocery shopping trip. I always bring a calculator to track what I am spending to be sure I do not go over. It also helps me evaluate what I am putting into my cart.

When I do my shopping I try to meal plan as I am picking out items. For example if I pick up ground turkey I am brainstorming what I will make for a meal with it. I do my best to make meals that my entire family will eat. I do not make separate meals for my children. If Mama is making a meal, then we will all sit down to eat it. Like it or not!

Chow on the Cheap 2

One of my four year old’s new favorite meals in the house is homemade turkey burgers. We prepare them together putting in spices and marinades to add a little pizzazz to our burgers. He even helps to make his own patty. Instead of using hamburger buns we use whole wheat bread. Ground turkey is an inexpensive yet versatile food. It is also healthy and nutritious packing in 21 grams of protein and under 200 calories per serving. Some of our other favorite meals to make with ground turkey are: meatballs, stuffed peppers, a pasta bake, and you can even add it to homemade pizza.

With one package of ground turkey at around $4.00 a pound that puts dinner at less than $2.00 per person, depending on the extras you put with it. If you look in your cupboards you may be surprised what you can find to pair with it. Be creative with cooking and try a new recipes. Meal time can be a drag with toddlers in the house, but cooking it is the fun part!

Turkey Burgers

$6.40/recipe $1.60/serving

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey $4.00

  • 8 slices of whole wheat bread (used as bun) $0.90

  • BBQ Sauce (up to 1 cup) $0.70

  • Worcestershire Sauce $0.15

  • Garlic (fresh or minced) $0.05

  • Pesto (homemade or from a jar) $.50

  • Pepper $0.05

  • Parsley (dried or fresh) $0.05

1. Combine ground turkey with BBQ and Worcestershire sauce. Add in garlic, pesto, pepper, and parsley to taste. I do not measure out any of this. Each time I may add something new or take something away. Cooking is truly an art!

2. Grill patties over medium heat flipping once (15-20 minutes for us).

Enjoy!

Since food costs can vary region to region, and sometimes I just have to make a wild guess about how much a sprinkle of salt really costs, please understand my breakdowns are estimates. 

Do you have a recipe for the Chow on the Cheap series? If so, send me an email thedailywhisk(at)gmail.com with your idea! I’d love to feature your recipe!

What is your favorite kind of burger?

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That Time I Paid 60 Cents for 5 New Sweaters

5 Sweaters for 60 Cents

Last week I went on a mission to buy some new clothes. I went armed with a $25 gift card, a $10 coupon, and the determination to spend very little. I ended up spending 60 cents, so I’d say it was a pretty successful trip!

Obviously, having a gift card and coupon contributed to my low total, but I also used a few other techniques that helped me to save big.

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

First, let’s not overlook the importance of doing a little research before heading out to the store. Nine times out of 10 I’m able to find a coupon or discount code. In this case I was able to get a $10 off coupon. Score!

Have a Plan. Stick to Your Plan!

I had a plan going in. Shop alone and take my time. Be patient and be willing to hunt. Try everything on, and only keep items that felt good, looked good, and were truly a steal. Also, as crazy as it may sound my goal was not to pay more than $10 per item.

Clearance Rack Gold

Once I discovered the clearance racks, I didn’t bother to look elsewhere. I got lucky because there were rows and rows of clearance racks marked 60-80% off. Here are a few clearance rack tips.

  1. Double checks prices. I found a sweater priced at $8, but then discovered the same exact sweater in a different size priced at $6. I made sure to double check every item in my pile to ensure it was priced correctly. When I brought this up with the sales associate she said they hand scan all their clearance individually so it’s easy to miss items here and there.

  2. Inspect the tag to see the percentage the item is marked down. Because I’m…well, because I’m a little extreme we’ll say,  I only purchased items marked down 80%. I found a sweater marked down 60% that I liked, but since I feel like it could get discounted further I held out. I might go back and see if it’s been further reduced at some point. We’ll see!

  3. Clearance TagLook at the actual item to confirm size. A few times the hanger size would be different from the actual size on the garment. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with saving money, but it saves you hassle. I thought I scored a medium sweater dress, and I was pumped, only to discover in the dressing room it was an extra large. Boo.

My items were $5.20, $5.20, $7.20, $7.20, and $10.80 (whoa splurge I know!) for a total of $35.60 (no sales tax on clothing in VT). Subtract my coupon ($10), and my gift card ($25) and boom. My total was .60 which I paid for in change because I am becoming my mother more and more every day.

The thrill of this hunt left me wanting more…savings! I used to think $19.99 was good price for a sweater, and $12.99 was a steal. However, after this trip I’m even more determined to become a clearance rack diva in 2015.

Are you a clearance rack shopper? Tell me about your latest find! What’s your max price for a sweater?

Bakery Fakery with The Thrifty Peach

sweet3I’m very excited to feature a guest post today from my girl, Robin! Robin was one of my very first blog friends, and we quickly bonded over having daughters named Brynn, frugal lifestyles, and probes (inside joke). 

Thank you to Kara for letting me post on The Daily Whisk today! I love this space because it combines two of my favorite things– finances and baking.

I love baking and anything to do with sugar. I have a serious problem with sweets, and with buying too many sweets, which is a problem for me since I’m all about saving money and living a frugal life.

I can’t stand to walk past a bakery, cupcakery, candy store, or even a cafe that has a dessert case without dropping in to check out the goods.

And don’t even get me started on a fudgery (they exist!)

Somehow in my rural town of 3,000 people, we manage to keep not one, but two bakeries in business.

Seriously– we don’t have a Walmart, but we can support two bakeries??!  I can’t figure that one out.

The cost of a few baked goods may not seem like a big deal, but it basically became a habit, like some people have a coffee shop habit. A couple of cupcakes, a half pound of fudge, and a dozen thumbprint cookies can get pricey!

It became my latte factor, so it had to go.

In my quest to frugalize my entire life, I set about giving up sweets altogether  figuring out how to create my own pastry goodness with zero skills and no fancy tools. I am definitely not a master baker, chef, or cooker (as my 3 year old says) by any means.  It’s merely my insatiable desire for baked goods that has lead me to take matters into my own thrifty hands.

My partner in crime, Brynn

My partner in crime, Brynn

I was blowing too much dough (get it?) on pricey bakery goods, so I set out to find recipes that match what bakeries sell so I could continue to indulge my sweet tooth while saving money.  (Win, win!)

These days, whenever I find something delectable at a bakery, I go home and scour my recipe books and the interwebs to figure out how to make it on my own without buying any fancy ingredients.

That last part is key, because I don’t want to have to buy a bunch of odd ingredients that I might not ever use again. My favorite dessert recipes use ingredients that I regularly have available in my pantry or are items that I can purchase to use with multiple recipes.

It’s a hard job taste testing so many different sugary concoctions to get the right recipe, but someone’s gotta do it. ;)

In the spirit of thriftiness, I wanted to share with you two of my favorite recipes. The best part is that these recipes are easy (I wouldn’t make them if they weren’t easy– I’m admittedly lazy), and there are no funky ingredients- just fresh, good for you ingredients like cream, butter, and sugar. Using the real stuff really does make a difference in the finished product. I’ve also learned a few tricks along the way to make my baked goods seem like they truly came from a bakery.

Tricks of the trade

  • For uniform cookies, use a cookie scoop. The one I use makes the perfect 3 bite cookies, which are great for toddler hands.
  • A cupcake scoop is not necessary– you can make uniformly sized cupcakes by using a small measuring cup to divide the batter into your muffin tin.
  • Using a pastry bag and tip to pipe on your cupcake frosting makes them look really fancy and gourmet. Don’t have any tips? Just cut the corner out of a sandwich Ziploc. It’s just as easy as frosting them with a knife, but people will think you bought them at a bakery.
  • Use cake flour for your cupcakes and cakes for great bakery texture.
  • When baking cookies, pull them out of the oven just before they look done. The cookies will continue to bake once you pull them out. Pulling them out early results in a deliciously soft, bakery-style cookie.

Bakery Fakery

Now on to the recipes!

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a tiny little cafe (the name of the cafe had “chocolate” in it– it was bound to happen), where I had the most delicious chocolate cobbler. I had never had chocolate cobbler before, so I found it to be a very delectable and exotic dish. (Turns out, it’s not exotic.) When I searched for a recipe, I only found one that gave me the same chocolate syrupy goodness that I was looking for, and I think what takes the cake (ha!) is the fresh whipped cream plopped on top. You could also put ice cream on it to make a delicious hot fudge sundae. Yum!

Easy Peasy Chocolate Cobbler* via AllRecipes.com

*This recipe seems a little odd with the hot water, but it works!

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Whipping cream (For delicious homemade whipped cream, which is much better than the bought kind, just whip it– whip it good.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in an 8×8 inch baking dish while the oven preheats.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Stir in milk and vanilla until smooth. Spoon this batter over the melted butter in the baking dish.
  3. Stir together the remaining cup of sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Sprinkle over the batter. Slowly pour boiling water over the top of the mixture.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Serve warm with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Who doesn’t love the fudge that you can buy at a fudgery? The problem is it always seems to cost $164 a pound! Ugh. This recipe uses real cream and butter, and that makes all the difference. You do need to use a thermometer for this to make sure you reach the correct heat for your sugar to fully melt.

Fudgery-Style Fudge from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup half and half or light cream
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, cut up
  • 1 tsp corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Line a loaf pan with buttered foil. Butter the sides of a heavy saucepan and combine sugar, cream, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue boiling at a steady rate, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reads 236 degrees. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla, but do not stir. Cool to 110 degrees (about an hour.) Beat mixture vigorously with a clean wooden spoon until fudge starts to lose its gloss.  Spread fudge into prepared pan and cool.

Save some for me!

So Long, Black Yoga Pants

black yoga pants

I had to say goodbye to an old friend yesterday. A trusty friend that got me through two pregnancies, and their accompanying postpartum bodies. A companion to me at the grocery store almost every week, and the first thing I couldn’t wait to change into as soon as I’d get home at night. My black yoga pants.

They weren’t very expensive to begin with, but they were very soft. They had faded over the years, but I didn’t mind. I still wore them. They were well traveled.

A few months ago I noticed the inseam on one side was starting to come apart, but since it was only evident when I would squat (and really how often does that happen?) I kept on wearing them. Then, a hole appeared in the crotch so I stopped wearing them in public. Mostly. The other day I noticed that in addition to the hole, the other inseam was giving up as well. It was time.

Although I describe myself as a minimalist there are certain things that are just hard to let go sometimes. I’ll miss you black yoga pants, you’ll be hard to replace (because this means I’ll actually have to go to a store and buy new ones). You’ll be glad to know my old yoga pants aren’t sitting in a trash can in vain. They are going to “a farm” to live with other clothing, and eventually will be recycled into something new.

If you entertained this post this far, thank you! I recognize the ridiculousness of this post. My schedule and work load has been a bit much lately and I haven’t been able to write or read and comment as much as I’d like. This is just a silly attempt to get back on the blogging train.

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing? Tell me about it!

How I Saved Money on My Cell Phone Bill

Hi! I’m here! Feeling a little Febru-weary! Anyone else? Work has been busy and side hustles don’t quit!

Moving on, let’s talk about cell phone bills. Ours is pretty obnoxious! We have four lines on our account. Two lines have 2GB of data each, and the other two are lines we added on so my parents could join the 21st century and have their own cell phones (they pay us monthly for their share). After taxes and fees our bill is just shy of $200/month. Excuse me while I dry heave after typing that.

You might be thinking..do you really need a data plan? Good question. No, we don’t. I’ve battled the idea of dropping at least my data plan plenty of times, but you know what? It’s a convenience I’m just not willing to give up right now. Also, since I’m the Grinch who stole cable, I need to balance out the give and take. You could also be wondering why I don’t shop a different provider, and that’s simply because in Vermont there aren’t many to choose from therefore prices are pretty comparable.

Once I heard Verizon had restructured their data plans I was ALL OVER getting the new discounted rate ($10/month). So, I  hopped on my computer to have a little e-chat with a Verizon rep. Imagine my eye roll when I discovered the program eligible for the discount wasn’t the same program in which I’m enrolled. The rep nicely explained I could switch to the eligible program, and quoted me a new rate a whopping $8 lower than I’m paying right now.

I almost took it. I figured $8 is better than nothing, right? But then I did something that’s pretty simple and effortless, but that I don’t do enough.

I asked if there was anything else they could do for me. 

Pretty obvious, right? Then, my new internet friend, “Daisy” took a few moments to hunt down a new deal for me…or just take a bite of her BLT because it’s all just big game of haggling and bluffing, and I’m just another sucker. Long story short, she offered me a new rate that is about $20 lower per month. She also told me that I was awesome and thanked me for my loyalty.

I don’t like the awkwardness that comes along with asking for things (maybe I’m weird like that), but as I step outside my comfort zone this year, I’m realizing that small steps can really add up…even save me money!

Do you ever feel awkward asking for a better deal or price?

Could you live without a smart phone?

January Side Hustle Income

Thanks to everyone who weighed in last month on whether or not I should continue to share my monthly side hustle income earnings. I’ve decided, for now at least, to continue to over share my personal financial details. You’re welcome!

January was my highest side hustle income earning month yet! It was also the busiest month I’ve had in a long time, and I sacrificed many a weekend days. You see in addition to writing for dollars, I’m also a gymnastics judge. Right now we’re in peak season, and I judged at least one meet every single weekend in January. So while it was a little tiring, and I got so sick of my navy judging jacket that I wanted to chuck it across the room a few times, I’m happy to make extra money by essentially watching my favorite sport.

As always, please think of me for your staff writing and balance beam judging needs.

So, let’s get to it! January’s pre-tax side hustle income total was… $756.50! It was a big month for me, and I’m very excited to see a side income total this high! Lest you think I’m going to run out and spend this money on shoes and Mike & Ike’s, I’ve very diligently funneled all side hustle earnings to my student loans.

Have a nice weekend!

 

January Budget: The Good, The Bad, and The Grocery Bill

I started 2015 off with a renewed motivation to budget and track our spending. That led to the idea to share the “good” and the “bad” with you each month as the year progresses. Fun! Budget-wise January was pretty low key for us. We didn’t have any major unexpected expenses, nor were we gifted with any bags of money.

The Good

The good is that I actually tracked our spending for the month. I’ve been known to start strong and then fade as the month goes on, so I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. Some other wins for the month included lower than predicted utilities. I’m sorry. That may have been one of the most boring sentences I’ve ever written.

The Bad

Gasoline! I completely underestimated how much we spend on gas for our cars. I guess that’s because I’ve never tracked it… Luckily the price of gas has been dropping across the country. Unlucky for us, the state of Vermont is still seeing some of the highest gas prices in the nation. That said, I did a lot of traveling as a gymnastics judging machine, and my mileage is yet to be reimbursed.

The Grocery Bill – $508

I set our January food budget at $500. “Food” includes groceries, take out (rare), dining out (super rare), and weak moments in convenience stores involving a box of Mike and Ikes. I, somewhat smugly, thought we’d spend much less than $500 on food in January. Oh, how wrong I was! Sure, we didn’t exceed $500 by much, but since I assumed it would be much lower, I was a little disappointed.

I’ve turned that disappointment into determination to spend even less on food moving forward. My initial thought was to slash our food budget and just make everyone deal with it. However, after thinking about it, I decided I need more information. So, my fun little experiment for February is to break down our most popular meals and figure out cost per person. From there I’ll determine how to adjust our overall monthly spending on food.

Tell me a good, bad, or anything else about your budget! Also, what is your favorite meal to cook at home?

3 Things Even This Minimalist Hoards

3 Items I Hoard

I used to think I was a little weird because I never had as much stuff as my friends – by choice. Their bathrooms were full of multiple bottles of shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. They always had three times the amount of shoes I had, twice the amount of kitchen utensils, and can we talk about winter coats? Everyone I know has an incredible amount of winter coats! I have two. Three if you count the one that’s not really warm enough for winter, but that I wear anyway.

I started to think that maybe I wasn’t measuring up, and maybe I needed more stuff. The problem is that the idea of collecting more stuff has never felt very natural to me. I could buy five different types of lotion, but I’d only use one. I could own three pairs of black heels, but I’d wear the same ones over and over.

Over the years I realized I’m not weird at all; I’m just a little more minimalist than others. I have one type of shampoo and conditioner in our bathroom. I use one type of lotion. I’m happy with one pair of black heels. I think about buying another winter jacket, but I probably won’t. I don’t like excess stuff, and I’m quick to get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose. I don’t even keep all my son’s artwork from school. I know, I’m a monster!

Given I’m so particular and simple it might surprise you to hear that I do actually hoard certain things. I’m not sure what it is about these items that makes me feel the need to stock up, but feel free to analyze my behavior in the comments.

Food

A few days ago I cleaned out and organized our pantry. I humbly realized that as much as I think I don’t stock up on unnecessary items, I sort of do. I pride myself on meal planning based on pantry inventory, but I found at least five items in our pantry I didn’t even know we had! I like to buy food in bulk, and Costco is my happy place. What can I say?!

Office Supplies

I’ve got a thing for office supplies, people. It’s at its worst at work where I have an entire drawer full of office supplies I’m hoarding. Sheet protectors, post-its, one inch binders, tab dividers, you name it! I don’t like running out of these valuables so I keep them close by and only share with worthy parties. My home supply consists of blank greeting cards, pens, and small pads of paper.

Greeting Cards

I save just about every greeting card (Birthday, Christmas, etc.) anyone in our family receives. I even have a huge box of wedding cards hanging around that have moved with us three times. I bought an organizer specifically for greeting cards so I could organize the most special ones, but I haven’t made much progress in the stacks that overtake our home office.

Pez Dispensers

Talk about timing! Just as I started to think about the different things that I hoard, my Mom finds my Pez dispenser collection. To say I was excited was an understatement! I collected Pez dispensers in my teen years and displayed them proudly in my bedroom. At some point I packed them away, and kind of forgot about them. Now they are home with me!

Pez

Oh, here’s a few of them….there are more…don’t worry about it!

 

Do you hoard certain things? How many winter coats do you own??