Friday, January 24, 2014

Frugal Friday: Ideas for Saving on Food

I think I was supposed to post this last week, but with the goat babies and the cold and snow and some other stuff, I didn't get it done. Oh well, better late than never!

Right now J and I spend about $120 a month on groceries for both of us. We still spend close to that on eating out a month as well, but we're working on cutting that down a little more. (that is our only weakness though so I'm not going to stress about it too much!)

So here is what we do. We eat reasonably healthfully by my standards. Not too much processed stuff, and a pretty good balance of things. There is always room for improvement but its not like we're eating ramen and hotdogs to make the grocery budget!

Without further ado, the suggestions!

  • Have 1 person responsible for the shopping, and go alone. Not as much fun, but its easier to get everything you need and not spend twice as much on treats and things you weren't planning on! Speaking from experience, folks...
  • DON'T SHOP HUNGRY. The same thing happens.
  • Try grocery outlets if you have one nearby. We have one about 10 miles from here, and it is totally worth just going every other week and making the longer trip compared to going to Food Lion which is 2 miles away. The only trouble with grocery outlets is they don't have everything all the time, so stock up on uncommon items when you have the chance.
  • Don't throw stuff out because it expired yesterday. It won't hurt you, trust me! The date is there mainly for inventory control, so if it looks and smells okay it probably is!
  • Grow a garden if at all possible! Its good for you to get outside and work, its a great learning experience for kids (if you have them) and if you don't use a bunch of fancy equipment and sprays from the store, you can have awesome produce for a fraction of the cost.
  • Then, learn to freeze or can the extras. DON'T throw them out just because you have too many! You'll love it come winter! Freezing is easiest, just wash, chop, and throw it in containers in the freezer. Canning is a little harder but then you don't have to worry if the power goes out and some things are better tasting canned. More on this come summertime!
  • Don't run to the store every time you run out of something. Make do, or make something else. If you're like most people, 1 thing will turn into 6 things and it adds up!
  • Use the crockpot! This is a glorious invention! Check out Pinterest for crockpot ideas, you can make just about anything in it. Need a couple baked potatoes? Throw them in the crockpot on high for a couple hours. They taste great and you didn't use nearly as much electricity.
  • Eat leftovers for lunch, or reinvent into something new for another day.
  • Change up breakfast and make muffins the day before to grab in the morning, or make grits or oatmeal. You can buy hot cereals in bulk and they're much cheaper (and have less sugar!) than the cold cereals. Plus they stick with you longer and you don't crash mid-morning.
  • This is controversial, but I'll say it anyway - make friends with a hunter! I never get the chance to hunt as much as I would like, but we love the meat. We have a friend who hunts all.season.long and he is tickled pink to bring us a deer or two and some squirrels. Game meat is lean, tasty, and about as "green" and "all-natural" as you can get! With a little instruction it's not hard to cut it up and freeze for later use. Then you can make sausage, burger, jerky, whatever!
  • If you raise chickens, consider raising out extra roosters for meat. When you butcher several, cook in the crockpot with water and some homegrown herbs. Then you'll have precooked chicken to use in recipes AND chicken broth.
  • Quail are the most economical egg and meat bird you can raise, though. While both come in smaller portions than the chicken variety, the feed to meat/egg ratio is much, much higher. Plus they are really easy to hatch and raise. 
  • If you find a bread machine on sale, buy it! I found one several years ago on sale at Ollie's for $32. It needed a part that cost $15 with shipping, so for $47 I have a great little machine that makes making breads and pizza dough SO much easier. Plus, it doesn't heat the house up like the oven does. And store bought breads tend to be very high in sodium, you can limit whatever ingredients you wish by making it yourself. And no "Its Sunday night and we don't have bread for lunches!" panic.
  • Speaking of lunches - eat leftovers like I said earlier, or sandwiches, or something else you packed. Get a cute little lunchbag if it makes it funner. I pack about 99% of the time, J eats out on Fridays and that's all. Even if you spend $3.50 on the Dollar Menu, that is about $875 a year on LUNCH for one person! You can make lunch cheaper than that, trust me.
  • Buy in bulk, and I don't just mean flour and oatmeal and "normal" bulk items. Buy bigger bags of chips and divvy them up in reusable containers for lunches. Same goes for applesauce, other fruits, yogurt, etc. 
  • Save the big yogurt containers, jars, etc. for freezing foods and for lunches. You can end up with quite a horde, trust me! But then you can get away from using plastic baggies.
  • Make your own jelly, spaghetti sauce, pancake syrup, cooking spray, cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise... if you can think it, you can make it. Check Pinterest. (I will try to post tutorials someday but this info is already out there!)
  • Pack snacks, breakfast, lunch... pack pack pack when you go on trips! We used to just get everything along the way but now we pack everything but one meal. Normally we get lunch out and eat packed stuff for supper because we're trying to get home by suppertime and lunch in an unfamiliar place is more interesting. Plus lunch is cheaper :)
  • Compost or feed the chickens whatever you truly cannot use. That way it isn't really going to waste. 
  • Eat seasonally. Of course I like a salad in the dead of winter, and lettuce and stuff is normally available and decent (I haven't figured out this 4-season gardening stuff yet.) But tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries - a lot of really warm weather produce is shipped in for long distances and so it costs more and doesn't taste as good. So stick with root vegetables, brassicas, and things from your freezer for the winter. You won't get scurvy, promise.
  • Ask! If someone has a fruit tree that's loaded and they aren't harvesting the fruit, ask them if you can pick some! Most people are just overwhelmed with how much the tree produces and would love some of the fruit cleared out. So get what you want, plus some to make them a pie or something in return.
  • On eating out: use coupons when you can find them, drink water (although J loves to get a beer so we still do that) split an entree, and don't order dessert. Be SURE to tip well though so its still worth your poor server's time! 
That's everything I can think of for now. I realize some of these are not new ideas. Actually, very few of them are, most of these have been around for years and its actually newer that we aren't doing them! True, its a lot of work sometimes, but would you rather spend some more time at home doing things that can be interesting and fun, (such as cooking more and gardening) or even more time at work to be able to eat?

I love my job, but I'll take the first option!

This post shared on: Farm Blog Hop

Monday, January 13, 2014


DISCLAIMER: This isn't the new and improved blog system... life has a way of messing with my awesome plans. Oh well.

In case you didn't know, baby goats are called Kids, just like people. My dad has a friend who came over one day to see the goats we had at the time and was a little confused.

"Whatcha call 'em, Hoss?" he asked. "Goatlets?"

So, it stuck and we've said Goatlets ever since.

 (By the way, if you say something weird around my family there is a chance you will change the way we talk to each other forevermore. Don't say you weren't warned!)

Without further ado, look at what were born between 7AM Saturday and 5AM Monday! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Frugal Friday - Budget Beginnings

Being frugal is something that just comes naturally to me. It probably has something to do with being a weird little kid who liked to read The Tightwad Gazette. The first time I talked to J he was extremely excited (J is either really kicked back or extremely excited) because he found a pair of gloves on clearance for a dollar, and I should have known then that we were made for each other!

Our propensity for good deals and saving money has served us well thus far, too. But up until a few months ago we didn't have an actual budget, and I felt like we weren't saving much compared to what we were making. I didn't think we could save too much more, but I figured a budget was in order. So, with a little trial and error and relying on all the financial information I've read over the years, we came up with one. Now most months we are saving about 30% of our income, and I'm still looking for different ways to save. (I'm a little obsessive, I freely admit!) We still have fun, too, its not like we're sitting home in the dark eating ramen. And before you decide we must make a lot of money, we both make under the average American hourly wage from what the All-knowing Internet tells me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Make it Monday - Feed Trough

So I'm going to try something new in an effort to keep things more organized on here - Mondays will be Make it Mondays with DIYs. Wednesdays will be Wacky Wednesdays and that'll be for all the random stuff I want to post (plus there was a book of that title that I loved when I was a kid.) And Fridays will be Frugal Fridays with money saving tips and ideas. I might not do all three each week but we will see what I can do!

Today's Make it Monday post is about the little goat feed trough we made a couple weeks ago. You could modify it and use something similar for bigger goats, sheep, llamas, a pack of dogs if you're into feeding packs of dogs... basically any smaller animal. If you got a really huge piece of pipe you could make one big enough for cows. 

Since the goat population explosion we needed something bigger than one pan to feed them all in. We were using several plastic dog bowls as a temporary solution but the bowls were getting busted up and it wasn't at all convenient. 

We went to TSC and they had a little goat feeder that hung on a wall, but it was $14.95 and I knew there had to be a cheaper way to handle this! Plus I knew what kind of feeders my dad had built for their sheep, using angle iron and PVC pipe, I figured we could do something close with scrap wood and PVC. So off we went to Lowes.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Farm Kids Can!

I consider it the best part of an education to have been born & raised in the Country

Not knocking "City Kids" but farm kids are just a different breed. We grew up a lot more self reliant and resourceful than some of our more urban counterparts, and when we're grown it shows.

I don't normally think about it much. I really didn't when I was still on my parents' farm. My dad, having two daughters, said we were "the sons he never had" and we carried and tossed hay bales, worked in the shop, and ran and brought tools just like the boys. We played in the creek and the mud and climbed trees and put in a lot of hard work around the farm and in town at the farmers' market.

I guess the market is where we started realizing we were different. I remember one day picking up at the end of the morning and this woman almost gasping when I grabbed the 2"X12"X8' that was the bottom shelf of the display. 

"Oh my God, you did!" she exclaimed. I grinned and shrugged and shoved the board into the trailer, just like every other market day. It was a board, for Pete's sake!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Easy Natural Chicken Cold Medicine

I'm not sure if its the wacky weather or what, but it seems like everyone I know has been having sinus trouble.

Chickens included!

Chickens are prone to a number of respiratory ailments, but, like people, the most common is a "cold". There are different causes for "colds",  and they range in severity from a sniffle to swelling the bird's eyes shut and even causing blindness and death. We lost a few really nice birds several winters ago due to a bad cold and us having a hard time keeping the ice off the water bowls. So when I saw them starting to sneeze and sniffle a couple weeks ago, I knew we needed to do something!

Sometimes antibiotics will help, but I really prefer to not use antibiotics if I can help it, just because I don't want to make the "bugs" more drug resistant and I don't like having to be concerned about messing up their digestion by killing off the good AND the bad. Plus, very few antibiotics are labeled for chickens, so you have to, A. try and figure out which one will actually help the problem your birds have, and B. figure out the dosage for a quart of water when it's packaged in a bag that makes 100 gallons. 

So, I decided to try the natural route first. I'd had a little success in getting rid of my own cold with garlic and cider vinegar, so that had to be in the mix. I didn't have any Oil of Oregano which a lot of health nut people swear by, but I assumed the oregano plant we had outside must have some curative properties. So I gathered all my stuff and embarked on an experiment!

Fresh Oregano, Garlic, Vinegar, Red Pepper Flakes
A lot of poultry old-timers swear by Red Pepper as a sort of cure-all for chickens. Its supposed to help with colds, get hens to lay, and "pep up" roosters. They do definitely enjoy it and it does seem to make them feel good. Plus if you get it at a bulk food store it's really cheap. (And good on pizza. But thats another story!)

So I put the handful of oregano that I hacked off the plant, a couple tablespoons of garlic, about 1 1/2 cups of vinegar and about a tablespoon of the pepper all in the blender and pulverized it.

Looks kinda gross
I pulled a soda bottle out of the recycling bin and rinsed it out and used a funnel to pour the concoction into it. 

It smells a little like salad dressing!

So then I filled the bottle up the rest of the way with plain water. Shook it up and put it in the fridge.

Finished "chicken tea"
Since most of our chickens are in smaller breeder pens, we use 1 quart bowls for their water. When we give the tea we pour in a little splash, just enough to tinge the water. The birds seem to enjoy it somehow!

They are still sneezing some, but we haven't been very consistent about giving it to them every day. They aren't ruffled like some were when I first noticed the problem, and they seem to be feeling pretty good! Originally a couple hens had some obviously swollen sinuses and they don't have that problem now!

I would definitely try this if your birds have a cold. It took about 5 minutes to make. Heck, it would probably work for people as well, but it doesn't taste good at all.

(Yeah, I tried it.)

What home remedies do you use for your birds? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Swiffer! How to Keep Things Clean & Cheap

My sister wanted to know how I make my own Swiffer supplies and I figured I'd share it here for everybody else as well!

Its really nothing terribly original, I've seen similar ideas all over Pinterest. But this is what works for me.

I first got a Swiffer WetJet the year I got hurt. I could get around well enough to mop but having to deal with a mop and a bucket seemed like it would require too much coordination. (In case you were wondering, relearning to walk is just as tricky as they claim!) So I got a WetJet, and loved it but I didn't love the price tag of the solution & the pads. Then I found out you can refill the bottles!

To refill a WetJet bottle, just twist the top off with a pair of adjustable pliers. (Of course you could get a man to do this part, but real Farm Chicks like using tools on projects. ;) ) After you use the pliers once, you'll be able to take the lid off by hand.

To make the solution, just mix water and white vinegar 50/50. It isn't as pretty smelling as the real Swiffer cleaner, but it gets the job done. 


Get a bottle of Gain Cleaner and mix 1 part to about 6 parts water. TA-DA! Smells just like the Swiffer stuff! Plus there's several different scents so you can mix it up.