Frugal Guy Friday: Frugal Food, The Secret of Gardening

FGF gardening

My husband has been so kind and is back sharing some of his frugal thoughts for Frugal Guy Friday! This week he shares some money saving tips on food by gardening.

Food costs have been on the rise for years, higher than relative inflation on other goods. It is important for every frugally-minded person to try to find ways to circumvent this problem in order to make their money last. A simple, and enjoyable, way of making your food money stretch is to begin gardening vegetables on a part of land which is currently going unused. With some hard work and patience anyone can grow a successful garden to supplement their income.

 

Gardening is a very inexpensive way to make your money stretch. There are several ways you can begin and then expand your garden. The first step is to find a spot on your property which is well it, at least 6 hours of sun a day. This can area be in your yard if (you are so lucky to have one) or on a porch or balcony if you live in an apartment complex. If you have the land, then you need to till your area and mix in compost and sand if necessary for proper drainage. If you live in an apartment complex then you will need to purchase containers large enough to sustain the plants (5 gallon buckets are standard) and soil as well as compost and sand. The preparation of your garden area is by far the easiest part – and remember: if you have to invest in containers for your garden that this is a form of capital which can be used year after year to grow your garden and will far outpace your investment.

 

The simplest way to get started with planting is to go to a garden center or big box store in the spring and by plants that are established. Plant them in your selected area and make sure you pack the soil enough to not allow too much air to attack get to the roots, but not enough to not allow water and the right amount of air through. Plants will grow more quickly in this scenario and you will likely have a longer harvest period, which means more food.

 

The most cost-effective way is to simply buy a packet of seeds for whatever crops you wish to grow. Starting early in the season you can sprout the seeds in small pots and soil and then transplant them later. This obviously requires more work and diligence on your part but will result in an exponentially higher amount of plants and thus more possible harvest when the time comes.

 

Maintenance of the plants is dependent upon what you plant. Tomatoes and cucumbers are easily maintained and grow high amounts for vegetables for you to harvest throughout the summer but can easily get out of control if you are not diligent about pruning them. These two types typically require trellising as well, which can further enhance your initial investment, but it is necessary to keep your vegetables from rotting from ground contact. Other easy plants to grow are eggplant, zucchini, and beans (bush beans are preferable for a smaller area and can produce several harvest from a single plant).

 

Maintaining the garden from pests and disease is probably the most frustrating. It is certainly easier to go to the grocery store and buy tomatoes and be done with it knowing that if they rot it’s because they were not eaten by you fast enough. It does take work on your part to keep your garden healthy. Some gardeners use some form of natural or chemical pesticide to kill the nasty bugs that can devastate your crops, but pruning and picking bugs off is also very effective at keeping them healthy.

 

The best part of your investment in a garden is that you can find many ways to cut costs on how build it. Raised garden beds are a great way to build up a highly productive garden in your first year, especially if your soil is poor where you live. Finding compost on Craigslist for cheap or free is possible, it only takes a bit of searching. Along that same line you can find building materials for your raised beds, trellises, and containers for cheap or free, especially if you are willing to get creative (for example: This year I was able to build a 9 ft high trellis using a laundry drying rack and some electrical conduit that we obtained for free from Craigslist. We also came across old lumber, in the from of old fence boards and pallets to construct our raised beds: all free of cost).

 

If you have a green-mindset there is no better way of reducing your carbon footprint. Every day we are bombarded with phrases like “Local tastes best” and this is your way to involve yourself in that process. If you go the route of finding recycled materials to build your beds, containers, and trellises, you can be further reassured that you are keeping items that would go into the landfill from sitting without use. If you are even more adventurous, and you have the space, you can compost grass clippings, your dead plants, and food scraps to prepare your soil for the next year of gardening, further reducing the amount you contribute to the landfill.
Gardening is a lot of work, but it is great work. It is wonderful to see the fruits of your labor in action when so many of us never really get to see the end result of what we do in our day jobs. Happy will you be when your first cucumber is of the right size to be picked and you eagerly run in to slice it up and eat the freshest, and believe me, best tasting cucumber you have ever eaten. This, furthermore, is all accomplished with you knowing that you spent maybe a little more on an entire plant of cucumbers (or whatever your crop is) than you would have on a single vegetable at the grocery store. Be brave, and give it a try. Good luck and good gardening.

Earn $220 in FREE Gift Cards to Pay for Christmas Gifts

Earn $220 in FREE Gift Cards to Pay for Christmas Gifts

Christmas is coming and I know many of you are probably looking for ways to save a little money, but still buy nice and meaningful gifts for your family and friends. Right now is the time to start earning free gift cards to help with your expenses. There are tons of sites you can use to earn free gift cards, but I am going to share my 3 favorites and show you the breakdown of how much many you can make with minimal time and effort.

Swagbucks: Monthly goal = $25, total by December $100. Swagbucks is easy to use and you can rack up points pretty quickly. There is a slight learning curve, but if you do the daily poll, play the free games, and qualify for a few surveys it is easy to make $25 a month. Also if you shop online you can get cash back in the form of Swagbucks. Their $25 gift cards are also discounted, so it is like paying $22 for a $25 gift card. Plus they have tons of different gift cards to choose from.

Bing Rewards: Monthly goal = $5, total by December $20. This might not seem like a lot, but it definitely helps. They offer $5 gift cards and have a few options you can choose from. This is perfect for teacher’s gifts or stocking stuffers. Or you can save all the gift cards and use them towards your gift buying.

MyPoints: Monthly goal = $25, total by December $100. This is another easy site to use and you get points by clicking on emails they send you. I suggest setting up an email account just for this site. They also have different ways to rack up points on their website to help.

If you do just these 3 sites and stick with the goals you will have an extra $220 that you earned in free gift cards. You can either give the gift cards as gifts, or use them to buy gifts for people.

Do you have any other sites you enjoy using to score free gift cards?

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My $4 Giant Eagle Shopping Trip

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So we have been eating from the pantry this month so I have been staying away from grocery stores for the most part. But Giant Eagle is having an AMAZING sale this week so I did venture in there twice this past week. My brother has also been sending me coupons in the mail which has been such a blessing!

I used several coupons, took advantage of the eAdvantage freebie, and used SavingStar to get all the groceries for $4. I know the blog is called Too Busy for Coupons, but sometimes you just have to make time for coupons 🙂

 

Last Week’s Frugal Accomplishments

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

We are still eating from our pantry so we’ve been extra frugal lately. I would love to hear how you guys are saving/making money each week!

I picked up 3 secret shops last week. 2 provided dinner for us and the leftovers provided lunch for several days as well. The other shop was for a big box store and I got reimbursed for $12 worth of groceries. I was able to pick up a few things we need since I am trying to stay out of the grocery store this month.

We made another batch of dill pickles and were able to give some to our family and friends.

We also blanched and froze some beans from the garden, it will be nice to have our garden veggies this winter.

My parents gave us a half dozen of corn on the cob. It is nice to be able to split things with them!

I took advantage of some deals on the Amazon deal site I follow. If you are interested in reviewing products for free or cheap check out my post here.

I earned another Amazon gift card from Bing.

I rented a few TV shows from the library for free. Our local library is amazing and they have a HUGE assortment of DVDs and TV shows you can borrow.

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Schoola: Free $10 Credit for Back to School Clothes

Schoola Free $10 Credit for Back to School Clothes

Schoola is an amazing website that offers gently used clothes at a fraction of the cost, plus every purchase you make sends money back to schools… it is a total win-win for everyone, especially you! Right now, you can you my affiliate link and receive a FREE $10 credit towards your purchase.

They had children’s and woman’s clothes so feel free to browse and shop. They are also running a promo if you spend $30 you can use code BACK2SVGS to save an additional 30%.

They sell brands such as Columbia, Carter’s, Forever 21, Patagonia, and much more!

I have personally bought clothes from Schoola several times and have always been very happy with my purchases.

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Earn Amazon Gift Cards by Taking Pictures of Businesses

Earn Amazon Gift Cards by Taking Pictures of Businesses

CitySearch is a website that allows people to leave reviews of different businesses in your local area, similar to Yelp. What is so nice about CitySearch is that they reward their members with points when you leave reviews! They also give reward points when you upload pictures of businesses. This is such an easy way to earn Amazon gift cards, which is currently the only gift card you can redeem for.

Sign up for the CitySearch Reward program here.

Here are some ideas of how to take the most pictures in the shortest amount of time.

  1. Go to a plaza with several stores. Walk up and down the sidewalk and take a picture of each store front.
  2. Walk around the mall and take pictures of each store. What a great way to get some exercise and earn money.
  3. Snap pictures while you are a passenger in the car.

It can be difficult to remember to take pictures, but once you make it a habit to always take pictures when you are running errands it becomes an easy way to make a little extra money each month.

 

5 Frugal Meal Ideas When You Want to Impress Your Guests

5 Frugal Meal Ideas When You Want to Impress Your Guests

I really enjoy entertaining, I grew up in a big family and my parents often had parties or we hosted family gathers. Because of this I have kept the tradition going and love having friends over for game nights or just to get together to catch up. And just because we are a one income family that lives a frugal lifestyle, I want to provide fresh and exciting meals for my guests. So I am here today to share some of my favorite frugal recipes! Click on the titles to be taken to the website with the recipe.

Breakfast:

Tater Tot Casserole: This is a staple in our house and I love it! It is great because the main ingredient is eggs, which have been very inexpensive here lately. We also use about half the amount of meat to save more money and it does not disappoint. I usually add some fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt as a side.

Soup:

Copycat Zuppa Toscana Soup: This is another staple and again, I love it! I have served this soup on several occasions, and my guests always ask for the recipe. Serve it with simple salad greens and a fresh loaf of bread and you have a great looking meal.

Dinner:

Burrito Bowls: This is such an easy meal to put together and I always serve it buffet style when we have a large crowd over for game night or a few couples over to just visit and catch up. I always serve it without meat, but add both black beans and pinto beans for protein. I also make white rice and brown rice so people have more options. The chipotle cream sauce is an absolute must and I always have people ask me for the recipe.

Chile Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Rice: I have modified this recipe to make it frugal, but it still tastes amazing. It is a perfect fall or winter meal and can be made in large batches to feed a crowd. Here are the modifications I have made.

  1. I use chile powder instead of ancho chile powder
  2. I use paprika instead of smoked paprika
  3. I omit the coriander
  4. I omit the scallions
  5. I omit the jalapeno pepper
  6. I typically use homemade chicken stock for the rice

If you have the spices called for in this recipe in your cabinet, by all means use them, but seriously this meal still packs a serious punch with the slight modifications.

Drinks:

White Strawberry Lemon Sangria: this is an alcoholic drink, just a heads up! We served this at our wedding and it was a huge hit. I kept the recipe in my stash and have used it at several of our get together. If you are looking for a different drink idea, this is a nice light twist on regular sangria. I know alcohol is not always frugal, but making a sangria can help save money since you are mixing alcohol and nonalcoholic drinks together. I buy whatever 2L lemon lime soda that is on sale, and I add fruit that is on sale. Last time I made it I added wild black raspberries we picked from the yard.

A few other ways you can add a touch of “fancy” to your dinner party is by using your nice China, cloth napkins, and adding a few candles to the table.

What are your favorite frugal recipes that you use to impress your guests?

 

 

5 Reasons Why You Should be Shopping at Dollar Tree

I have been a big fan of the Dollar Tree for many years and I find myself shopping there almost on a weekly basis. When we lived down in North Carolina we had an absolutely amazing Dollar Tree in the plaza down the road, it was HUGE, well stocked, and carried so many name brand items for only $1. Now that we have moved back to Pennsylvania I still live close to a Dollar Tree, but it is usually a mess and the shelves are always half stocked. Even though my current Dollar Tree is not as good as the one I went to in North Carolina, I still love it. Plus there are several within a few miles so I can always make my way to another one if I really feel like it.

I wanted to share my top 5 reasons why you should be shopping at Dollar Tree, so here goes!
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  1. They stock name brand items. This is a no-brainer for me, I can buy name brand items I typically use for only $1. I recently bought a 100 count bottle of Excedrine, Mucinex cold medicine, and Suave Professionals spray lotion, each one was $1. The stock is always changing so be sure to look in the health and beauty, cleaning supplies, and food to find other name brand items.
  2. They accept manufacture’s coupons. Check out their coupon policy here, but it is pretty generous and I personally have never had issues using coupons there. I recently bought some name brand cleaning products and used coupons to get each one for only $.50.
  3. They get different weekly deals in. This past week they had different Webkinz for only $1. I bought my LO a frog and she absolutely loves it (it was going to be a Christmas gift, but she was so excited and talked to her new frog the entire car ride home). I have also seen Blu-Rays and DVDs for only $1 and the titles were popular movies. They also will carry different As Seen on TV products, which for $1 is a steal, especially if you have really wanted the product.
  4. They carry items worth more than $1. I recently purchased a few Scotch tape dispensers that are selling on Amazon for $8, they have books that are best sellers, party supplies, and much more.
  5. It satisfies my want to browse and shop without breaking the bank. Now hear me out with this one, I am not all for going and spending money you do not have on junk you do not need. But as a SAHM, I like to get out of the house and aimlessly walk around the store sometimes. If I go to Walmart or Target, I am going to spend way more money than I am at the Dollar Tree. I have a few staples I always buy at the Dollar Tree and when I visit I purchase those and if I find any other good deals I consider it a good day.