Friday, February 27, 2009

Economical lunch - or dinner!

The humble potato has become a favorite lunch in this home. We split a (Costco-purchased) big bag of the oversized baker potatoes with friends and usually end up with about a dozen or so potatoes for about 4.40. One of these big potatoes is a meal for one person - sometimes, more than a meal! (For kids, I would definitely split one big baker potato between two people, or just use regular-sized potatoes purchased by the bag.)

Although I would definitely bake these in the regular oven IF I was already baking something else, it wouldn't be efficient to turn it on just to bake potatoes. My mom taught me how to end up with a great baked potato using the microwave. Cook on high in the microwave until soft and then wrap in a paper towel, so that two layers of the towel are covering most of the potato. (For my microwave, even though I have a turntable, I stop it midway through the cooking time and flip the potato on the plate from bottom to top. If I'm baking two at a time, I flip them end to end as well.) Wrap in terry cloth - kitchen towels, hand towels, washcloths. You want thick layers to keep the moisture in the potato. Let the potato steam inside these wrappings for five minutes. This results in a perfectly moist baked potato. ( I usually save these paper towels and use them for more than one baked potato.)

We like ours simple - sliced open, with a bit of butter and salt, or sour cream and chives, or grated cheese. Steamed broccoli and cheddar cheese is great too. If your hubby can't handle a meal without meat, try adding chili topped with grated cheddar cheese.

Aside from being the base of a hot, delicious meal, potatoes provide nutrients we need, one of which is potassium.

Let me know if you have any other topping ideas!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ebay for coupons and today's deals: Safeway and Raley's

Just a quick note for those of you who wonder where to get specific high-value coupons. I know coupon services are available, but I've never used one because I can usually find what I want quickly and easily on ebay. Coupons are usually available in lots of ten or twenty and a typical cost could be five to ten cents per coupon, although you could pay more if the coupons are high-value, "free item" or in high demand. For instance, I knew I needed to watch for a sale on Celestial Seasonings teas so that I could stock up again. I had recently gotten a coupon for .55/1 in the Sunday newspaper, so it was a good bet that these would be available on ebay. I happen to live in the North Bay Area, one of the areas in the country that gets fewer high-value coupons, so I had a hunch that there might be coupons "out there" with a higher value than .55. I was delighted to find that there were 1.00/1 coupons listed on ebay and I completed a sale on a "Buy It Now" lot with a reasonable cost for the combined price and shipping rate. The coupons arrived within four days and then I started watching for sales on Celestial Seasonings teas!

I ran to Raley's tonight before they closed to pick up some of the best deals I've seen advertised for a while. Those of you who have access to Aldi's or who don't live in California (!) may think these prices are high, but honestly, they're excellent for this area.

I got:

8 jars Classico pasta sauce @ 2/4.00 = 16.00
(one free box of Ronzoni pasta with every purchase of two jars, priced at 1.00 each on sale)
1 ten-lb. value pack of ground beef, 1.69/lb. if purchased in bulk = 16.88
10 boxes Celestial Seasonings teas, 3.19 and BOGO, minus 1.00 coupons on each box = .60 ea.

(minus 2.38 for tea for friend)
(minus 20 cents bag credit since I bring my own bags)

Total spent = 36.25

I could have gotten more tea at this sale, but like most people on a budget, I have a finite number of dollars that I can spend right now. The coupons are good through April 11, so chances are good that I'll find another sale before they expire. I did buy four boxes for a friend who drinks a specific variety that she can seldom find. She'll be happy to reimburse me for the tea and cost of the coupons at this price!

I do try to cook more and more from scratch, since that is the best way to save on costs (and to know what is going into our food!). However, I know from experience that in this household I have to have quick and easy options available for the times I'm rushed, or not feeling well, or hubby cooks dinner. Jarred pasta sauce is, for us, key to a healthier and less expensive option than the drive-thru or even most inexpensive frozen food. Sometimes the less frugal option at the front end (in this case, purchasing the jar of pasta sauce) leads to a far more frugal result at the back end (the dinner that ends up in our tummies on one of those rushed and harried nights).

I then stopped at Safeway for some of their "Dollar Deals" for the week. They were out of the Safeway Apple Juice (.99) but I got a rain check for four bottles. The tomatoes were .99/lb, but they didn't look very good, so I skipped those. Canned albacore was priced at .99, but I'm stocked up on that, so I skipped it. There were other value-priced items, but nothing that grabbed my interest.

I got:

7 jars of Ragu sauce @ .99 each
(daughter loves Alfredo sauce and Ragu has a "light" version that I'm okay with for occasional use)
2 cans Progresso Italian Wedding soup @ 1.25 each
(another quick meal option - this happens to be daughter's favorite)
(used .50/2 coupon)
1 loaf fresh bakery French bread @ 1.25 each

(minus 5 cents bag credit)

Total = 10.13)

Total spent at both stores = 46.38

Added these items to stockpile:

10 lbs. ground beef (to be split up and frozen in 1-lb. packages)
15 jars pasta sauce
4 1 lb. packages pasta
6 boxes herbal tea
2 cans soup

(And what was never intended for the stockpile, but would never have made it anyway - the fresh French bread - I'm afraid we got into that right away!)

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Well, I'm dipping my big toe in and testing the waters...

I've been wanting to set up a blog for a while and am frankly amazed at how easy it's been so far, especially since I'm nearly completely computer illiterate!

What I hope to do here is to share the little things that make life what it is. I have a love for decorating and happily spend time looking for ways to get the pulled-together results I love on a bare-bones budget. I'm also interested in many facets of frugal living - from freebies, bargains and coupons to second-hand treasures and inexpensive meals at home. Although I've learned so much about living well on less over the last many years, I WELCOME any new ideas, resources and creative solutions. I hope this will be an encouraging place to "set for a while", but ultimately, I want this blog to be a place where I can be "real" with you, and where you can be real as well.

I've got a lot to learn, including how to use the bells and whistles on my digital camera. (Baby steps, baby steps.) Be back soon!