So, I'm a little excited about fall. Here are a few frugal things I did this week:
1. Shopping: I spent $3.16 at Aldi this week (bananas, wheat tortillas, and a special treat for my wonderful husband). I also spent $12.00 on oat fiber (at Amazon) for some Trim Healthy Mama recipes. I've been slowly collecting some of the more expensive ingredients for their low-carb baking recipes. THM is not exactly budget-friendly in the sweets/baking department, but I'm doing my best to keep it affordable. Total cost for groceries this week was $15.16.
Hubs' had family home this week, so we had several meals shared with relatives. Other meals we had this week were chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, soup, French toast, turkey sandwiches and leftovers. Most of our meals this week were based on leftover hamburger/hotdog buns from last week's open house. I also made it a priority to use up fresh tomatoes from the garden and a hunk of cheddar cheese. We still have some bricks of cheese left in the fridge from my on-sale cheese buying spree this spring that need to be used by the middle of September. Oh, what hardships. :)
2. Gardening: Harvested fresh tomatoes and bell peppers from the garden. Some of the lettuce I planted last week is already coming up, which is exciting!
3. Cooking: Made 1.5 lbs. butter with frozen goat cream. I also used up most of our goat's milk to make cheese in the Instant Pot (worked like a charm!). Some of the milk had soured, so I froze it to use for baking. I also separated a dozen or so eggs and froze them to use later in THM recipes.
4. Thrifting: I went thrift shore shopping with my mother-in-law and some of my sisters-in-law last week. I didn't really need anything, but thought it would be a good chance to spend time with family. I was SUPER EXCITED to find something I actually needed: silicone muffin 'tins' for freezing eggs, milk and goat butter.
I also found several books to read in the coming months. Unfortunately we were one day ahead of the 50% off sale, so I paid full price for all eight books, at an average cost of $0.80 each. One of them was a soup cookbook from Williams Sonoma (one of my favorite stores that I never buy stuff from). Many of the books are practical books that will help save time, money and hassle in the future.
"Why? What took so long?"
"I signed up for another credit card," he replied. Oh dear... Hubs and his credit cards. If it were up to me, I wouldn't bother with credit cards at all, but he is pretty good at "card churning"; that is, finding sign-up incentives, spending the required amount in order to get the incentive and then cancelling the card. In this case, the card had a $20.00 off your first statement if you purchased X amount by X date. So he signed up for the card and bought the jeans. I don't remember all of the details, but he will probably fulfill the rest of the spending requirements by purchasing lumber for his construction business. He told me that the card gives a 3% cash back, which is better than the current one we use for business stuff. So I'm not sure if he'll cancel it or not. Regardless, he paid $38.14 on both pairs of jeans with tax. Minus the $20.00 incentive, the total cost for each pair comes to $9.07. Which is smashingly better than $20.00 per pair. So more power to Hubs for getting another credit card.
Note: Most of the time, credit card churning only works if you have large expenses. My husband spends thousands of dollars every month on supplies for his business, so cash back rewards add up and it is easy for him to fulfill the minimum requirements in order to get sign-up incentives.
If you are a normal family that has normal expenses (we spend far less than $1,000 on household purchases most months), it's probably not worth your time to sign up for a ton of different cards. It's dumb to buy stuff you don't need just to fulfill the minimum spending requirements by X date so you can get $20.00 back. In addition, people who don't pay off their cards every month need to stay FAR AWAY from credit cards or they're bound to get into a heap of trouble.
So I think for most frugal people (and I was one of those people before I married a business owner), credit card churning or credit cards in general are not worth your time. However, 3% cash back on a $4,000 inventory/supplies purchase is enough for us to buy groceries and all other miscellaneous household stuff for a month. So we have credit cards.
6. Shortly after we bought the pants, I found a Motherhood maternity store at the same mall and bought a shirt there. While the shirt itself wasn't frugal (it was $25.00 for a simple long-sleeve T-shirt), the checkout lady gave me a freebie bag with some samples and a bunch of coupons. Inside were some free wipes and a baby bottle. I probably won't use most of the coupons for myself, but I thought I'd save them to possibly use on gifts for others. There were two Shutterfly coupons in there that I plan on using to make a baby book or family album with.
Like the 32x32 jeans, I've had horrible luck finding maternity clothing at thrift stores. I found pants and jeans that were acceptable, but unfortunately spent over $30.00 (and this is THRIFT STORE money, people) on shirts that I only wore once or never at all. None of them were a good color or fit for me, and several were pilled, stretched out and very worn-out looking. A couple of weeks ago I finally broke down and bought all three of the maternity shirts that Walmart had in my size; one gray T-shirt, a black tank top and a white tank top. They were $8.00 each and totally worth the money. Even though colder weather is coming, I'll be able to layer the tank tops with my pre-pregnancy jackets and button down shirts to make lots of different outfits. Even so, the tank tops will only go so far and we have zero maternity clothing stores in our area. So when I saw the Motherhood store at the mall, I jumped at the chance to find something decent, even at a high cost. One of my biggest regrets of this pregnancy was not spending more money on nice maternity clothes. I only have a month or so left to wear my $25.00 shirt, but at this point I really would pay $5.00 for a day of not feeling like a hippopotamus in someone else's old pajamas.
7. Over the weekend we went on a last-hurrah "babymoon" of sorts to Grand Rapids and then Grand Haven. Most of the trip wasn't frugal (namely eating out and staying at the hotel) but we did find some free things to do. I printed out a walking tour of GR's Historic Heritage Hill. We probably spent a good three hours walking around, admiring and reading about the different historic homes. We also went to a concert that my brother and brothers-in-law were playing at, and in GH we toured their history museum and walked along the beach, which was free. The only paid activity I planned for the weekend was a trip to the zoo ($10.00 per person). The clothing purchases also happened on this trip.
My frugal Trim Healthy Mama projects for the week were 1) cooking radishes as replacement for potatoes, and 2) making a copycat baking blend.
Radishes vs. potatoes- I found radishes at Walmart for $1.00/lb. That is not a horrible price, but it's over twice the cost of regular white potatoes ($0.45/lb.). I cooked my radishes in the Instant Pot and then ate them with salt and a tiny bit of butter like you would regular potatoes. The flavor wasn't terrible, and I think the IP did a good job of cooking (5 minutes on manual for fresh radishes). While the taste was okay, the post-lunch burps were pretty awful. I think next time I will definitely mix the radishes with cauliflower or some other root vegetable to tone down the "aftertaste".
Copycat baking blend- instead of buying THM's special baking blend on Amazon ($16.99 w/Prime free shipping), I made my own blend with coconut flour, oat fiber, ground flaxseed, baking powder and salt. There are several recipes for this on the internet. I forgot which site I pulled my recipe from. I haven't actually tried the homemade version OR the "real" baking blend, so I will have to report on the taste/effectiveness later. However, I crunched the numbers and figured out that I can save $1.99 for every cup of baking blend that I make myself. So this week's three-cup recipe saved $5.97. In addition to that savings, I think it was worth it to buy the different flours separately just in case I find recipes that call for just coconut flour, etc., instead of the special baking blend.
The Cost of THM Cookies
After I mixed up the baking blend, I figured up the cost for two different THM cookie recipes. The "Chocolate Moisties" recipe cost $9.60 per recipe, or $0.48 per smallish cookie. And that is without the optional chocolate chips/chunks. The other recipe, "Believe It or Not" chocolate chip cookies, cost $9.25 per recipe, or $0.46 per smallish cookie without the optional walnuts.
One way I figured to cut cost on either recipe was to replace the Gentle Sweet/Truvia (a stevia/erythritol blend) with xylitol. That would bring the cost down to $7.00 and $6.61 per recipe, respectively ($0.35 and $0.33 per cookie). I really like this idea because not only is xylitol cheaper, but it is supposed to be good at fighting dental cavities as well.
If I want to stick to my $10.00/person/week grocery budget, I only have $1.43 per day to spend on groceries. Eating just two of the "plan approved" cookies would cut that daily allowance in half. I think most of THM can be implemented within your regular budget, but sweets/desserts/bread are going to cost a LOT more (200-300% increase in cost), and you have to make the switch from white rice to brown rice as well as from white potatoes to sweet potatoes (100% price increase for both).
I'm looking forward to trying more of the THM recipes on a very small budget. Any tips or tricks would be welcome. :)